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A History of The Middle
New River Settlements
and Contiguous Territory.

By David E. Johnston (1906).


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Chapter IV.  1775 - 1794 (Part 5)


Mitchell Clay and his family removed to New River, and purchased from the executors of Captain William Ingles a part of the farm which is now owned by J. Raleigh Johnston, Esq., across the river from the Norfolk & Western Railway station at Pearisburg, Virginia, and Clay built his house on very nearly the same spot on which Mr. Johnston's house now stands.  This Clay house was removed several years ago to a point on the same farm, about one-half mile north of where it originally stood.  It still remains, and in the logs may yet be seen the port holes.  A photograph of this house built in 1783, as it now appears will be inserted in the appendix to this work.

Mr. Clay and his wife, whose maiden name was Phoebe Belcher of Bedford, later Franklin County, Virginia, had fourteen children.  His sons were Henry, Charles, Mitchell, David, William, Bartley, and Ezekiel; his daughters, Tabitha, Rebecca, who married Colonel George Pearis, Patience, who married George Chapman, Sallie, who married Captain John Peters, Obedience, who married John French, Nannie, who married Joseph Hare, Mary, who married William Stewart, and whose descendants, now compose a large part of the population of Wyoming County, West Virginia.  Mitchell Clay died on his New River farm in 1812, having sold his Clover bottom tract to Hugh Innes and to his son-in-law, Colonel Pearis.    The facts and circumstances connected with this Clay tragedy  and the battle fought with the Indians on Coal River is taken from the Clay MSS., written out by Mitchell C. and John Clay, grandsons of the said Mitchell.

In 1783 Captain George Pearis being out on his farm with his rifle and near the lower point of the island just north of his house discovered an Indian standing on the high cliff of rocks opposite the lower point of said island.  He fired at and killed the Indian.

In the spring of 1782, a marauding party of Indians made an incursion into Abb's Valley, and attacked the house of James Poague, a brother-in-law of Captain Moore, at night, broke open the door, but finding there were several men in the house (there were three besides Mr. Poague) they did not attempt to enter the house, but after watching it for some time went off; and the next morning killed a young man by the name of Richards, who had been living for some time at Captain Moore's.  This incident is related by Kercheval, the Historian of the valley.  It seems that this party of Indians on entering the valley divided, a part going to Burke's Garden and attacking Thomas Ingles' family as hereinbefore related, and another part the Maxwell's and others.

James Moore, a son of Captain James, and who was only fourteen years of age, was in September, 1784, captured by three Indians.  The boy had been sent for a horse, by his father, to the  plantation of Mr. Poague, which was now deserted, as Mr. Poague had left some time before.  The boy was taken by the Indians across the Ohio, and remained a prisoner for about five years, then returned, finding, in fact hearing before he reached home, that his father's family had been destroyed by the Indians.  This James Moore was the father of the late William T. Moore, of Abb's Valley, and who lived to about the age of ninety years, one of the most honored and respected citizens of Tazewell County, Virginia.  Before his death he erected, largely at his own expense in Abb's Valley, near the place where his grandfather and family were destroyed by the Indians, Moore's Memorial  (Methodist) Church.

Many important events transpired during the years of 1784-5.  The border land or frontier was rapidly filling up with a restless, energetic people, largely free from governmental restraints, with no other  special duties to perform than that of preparing homes, providing food and clothing and fighting savages.  These people west of the Alleghanies, on the waters of Wautauga, Holstein and upper New River section, seemingly dissatisfied with the state governments of North Carolina and Virginia, sought what they conceived to be better.  The people living in Washington, Sullivan and Greene Counties, North Carolina, set up a new government, created and organized a new state which they named Franklin.  The interests of the people living in these counties, as well as on the head waters of the Holstein and upper New River country, were so closely identified, that a scheme was discussed to enlarge the territory of the new state, and to make a great independent Commonwealth.  Colonel Arthur Campbell, of Washington County, Virginia, seems to have been at the head of the movement, and in 1785 he proposed the enlargement of the boundaries of the new state as follows, viz;    "Beginning at a point at the top of the Alleghany or Appalachian Mountains so as a line drawn due north from thence will reach the banks of the New River, then called Kanawha, at the confluence of the little river, which is about one mile above Ingle's Ferry, down the said river Kanawha to the mouth of Roncevert ( or Greenbrier )    River, a direct line from thence to the nearest summit of the Laurel Mountain, and along the highest point of the same to the point where it is intersected by the parallel of thirty seven degrees north latitude; west along that latitude to a point where it is met by a meridian line that passes through the lower part of the Rapids of Ohio; south along the meridian to Elk Run, a branch of the Tennessee, down said run to it's mouth, and down the Tennessee to the most southwardly part of the bend in said river; a line from thence to that  branch of the Mobile, called Donbigbee; down said river Donbigbee to its junction with the Cossawate River, to the mouth of that branch called the High tower, thence south to the top of the Appalachian Mountain at its highest land that divides the stream of the eastern from the western waters; northwardly along the middle of said heights, and the top of the Appalachian Mountains to the beginning."

This new state composed of the three counties mentioned, lived and lasted with John Sevier as its governor four years, and then ceased to further exist; its territory having been finally absorbed or embraced within the limits of the state of Tennessee.  This brief mention of the state of Franklin is only made to show that if it had continued its existence with the enlarged territory added as proposed by Colonel Campbell, the counties of Mercer and Tazewell would have been embraced therein.

A raiding party of Indians in 1785 entered the Upper Bluestone and Wolf Creek sections, stole horses and gave great alarm to the settlers.

The general assembly of Virginia in October, 1785, passed an act to take effect May first, 1786, dividing the county of Washington by the creation of the county of Russell; which Act reads as follows: "All that part of said county lying within a line to be run along the Clinch Mountain to the Carolina line, thence with a line to the Cumberland Mountain, and the extent of the county between the Cumberland Mountain, Clinch Mountain and the line of Montgomery County, shall be one distinct county, called and known by the name of Russell.  Court to meet at the house of William Robinson in Castlewoods."

In the early morning of July 14,1786, a band of forty Shawnee Indians attacked the family of Captain James Moore in Abb's Valley, killed Captain Moore, two of his children, a man by the name of Simpson, captured Mrs. Moore, and her four remaining children, and a Miss Evans who was living with the family, plundered, and burned the house, and then made off to the Ohio with their prisoners and booty.  Two men in the harvest field just south of the house, one by the name of Clark, the other an Irishman, fled and gave the alarm.  Clark ran directly to the Davidson-Bailey Fort at the Beaver Pond spring, the Irishman to a settlement on upper Bluestone.  A messenger was forthwith dispatched to Major Joseph Cloyd, on Back Creek, who with a party of men reached the scene of the tragedy the second day after its enactment, but too late to overtake the Indians.    They secured the bodies of the dead and buried them.  They found the body of Captain Moore about two hundred yards north of the house.  His body had been horribly mutilated by the savages.  It was buried where he fell and it still reposes there.   The spot where the two small children were buried, remained unknown to the Moores until about fifteen years ago Mr. Oscar B. Moore, the great grandson of Captain James, while plowing or having plowing done in a field near where the cabin had stood, turned up the bones of these children and not far away under the edge of a shelving limestone rock the bones of a man of very large frame was plowed up, supposed to be those of the Indian that the horse Yorick killed.  The story of the destruction of Captain Moore and his family, has been given by several writers, and it is not deemed necessary to repeat it here in full.  The reader for further information is referred to "Abb's Valley Captives:"  Kercheval's His. Val.: Trans Alleghany Pioneers: Summers His. South-west Virginia.

The Federal Convention, which assembled at Philadelphia on the 17th day of September completed its work, and submitted the same to the states for their action.  The Virginia convention convened to consider the ratification or rejection of this Federal constitution, assembled in the city of Richmond on the 2nd day of June, 1788.  The representatives from the county of Montgomery, of which the territory of Mercer was then a part, were Walter Crockett and Abraham Trigg.  Washington County was represented by Samuel Edmiston and James Montgomery.  The opposition to the ratification of the constitution was vigorous, being led by Patrick Henry, while James Madison and Governor Randolph earnestly supported ratification.  It was ratified with sundry amendments, recommendations and conditions added, by a vote of 89 to 79, the representatives from west of the Alleghanies voting against ratification.  And thus with perhaps two exceptions, the people living west of the Alleghanies have almost invariably opposed and voted against every constitution presented to them, and the last heard from they were still voting along the same lines.  It is true they voted for the ratification of the Underwood constitution of 1769 but this was a matter of self-preservation, to avoid political disabilities, disfranchisement, and negro domination, all of which had practically been incorporated into the constitution, but several of the obnoxious features thereof were by authority of President Grant voted on separately and defeated.  But the stronger reason that impelled them to vote for this constitution, was the fear of carpetbag and scalawagism, as well as negro domination.

Captain Henry Harman, who was a German, but born on the Isle of Man, first settled in North Carolina near the Moravian town, Salem, and there married Miss Nancy Wilburn, and from thence removed about the year of 1758 to the New River valley, and settled on Buchanan's bottom, the Major James R. Kent farm.  Some years later Captain Harman settled on Walker's Creek, but soon removed to the north branch thereof, known now as Kimberling Creek (the name believed to have been given from Jacob Kimberline).  This farm on which he settled on the Kimberling, and now known as Hollybrook, remained in his family for long years.  The last Harman that owned and occupied it was Colonel William N. Harman, a grandson of Captain Henry, a lawyer by profession, and who commanded a battalion of confederate Calvery during our civil war. Colonel Harman with his family recently removed to the territory of Oklahoma.

Captain Henry Harman very early in the morning of November 12th, 1788, started out on his usual fall hunt, taking with him two of his sons, George and Matthias, and a man by the name of George Draper.  They had with them their bear dogs and pack horses, with the latter to transport their game.  Starting early and traveling the mountain trails by the shortest route, they reached a point on the Tug Fork of the Sandy below the junction of the North and South forks thereof a little more than two miles below said junction on the right bank of the main Tug fork, where they selected their camp, the construction of which was left to the Captain, who desired it arranged to suit his taste.    George and Matthias had started to the woods to look for game, while Mr. Draper was looking after the horses.  A short distance from the stopping place George Harman found a camp in which a fire was still burning and a pair of leggins, which Captain Harman decided from the odor had been with the Indians, and had formerly belonged to Captain James Moore, who had been killed and his house plundered by the Indians a little more than two years before.  Captain Harman satisfied that he was in near proximity to the Indians, and night rapidly approaching, decided to retrace his steps, knowing if he remained he would be attacked, and to get out was safer, and would also enable him to give notice to the settlers; he thereupon called in Matthias, caught up the horses and moved out; he and Mr. Draper in front, the horses next, and George and Matthias to bring up the rear.  They had proceeded but short distance, when they were fired upon by the Indians, some six or seven in number.  Draper retired at the fire of the first gun, and hid himself in the branches of a fallen tree, a little to the rear of the scene of conflict, so that the Harmans were left alone to contend with at least, if not more than double their own number.  The fight was close and bloody, Captain Harman receiving one severe, and other slight wounds from arrows.  George had a hand to hand conflict with one of the savages, whom with the help of Matthias, he succeeded in dispatching.    Two of the Indians being killed, and two wounded, those still unhurt with the wounded ones, beat a retreat, and the Harmans pursued their way safely homeward.    Draper from his hiding place had observed the retreat of the Indians, crept out, hurried into the settlement, and reported the Harmans killed.  This brief account of the affair taken from a copy of the "Harman Ms", in possession of the author.   A much fuller account of this fight will be found in Bickley's History of Tazewell, and in Summers' History of Southwestern Virginia, to which the reader is referred, and attention is called to the correct date upon which the fight took place, the other publications having the dates wrong by four years.  About twenty years ago some gentlemen in McDowell County, West Virginia, (this fight took place in what is now the territory of McDowell County), on a hunting tour over the side of a mountain nearby the battle ground and under a cliff of rock, found the skeleton of a human being, and brought away the skull, and presented the same to Mr. Hiram Christian, of McDowell.  It was very peculiarly shaped, and all who saw it pronounced it the skull of an Indian.

Capt. Henry Harman wrote some verses on this battle which are herein inserted, which are as follows:


"Come all ye bold heroes whose hearts flow with courage,
With respect pay attention to a bloody fray
Fought by Captain Harman and valiant sons,
With the murdering Shawnees they met on the way.

This battle was fought on the twelfth of November,
Seventeen hundred and eighty and eight,
Where God of his mercy stood by those brave heroes,
Or they must have yielded to a dismal fate.

Oh! nothing would do this bold Henry Harman
But down to Tug River without more delay,
With valiant sons and their noble rifles,
Intending a number of bears for to slay.

They camped on Tug River with pleasing contentment,
Till the sign of bloodthirsty Shawnees appears,
Then with brave resolution they quickly embark,
To cross the high mountains and warn the frontiers.

Brave Harman rode foremost with undaunted courage
Nor left his old trail those heathen to shun;
His firm resolution was to save Bluestone,
Though he knew by their sign there were near three to one.

The first salutation the Shawnees did give them,
They saw the smoke rise from behind some old logs;
Brave Harman to fight them then quickly dismounted,
Saying, "Do you lie there you savage, murdering dogs?"

He says "My dear sons stand by me with courage,
And like heroes fight on till you die on the ground;"
Without hesitation they swiftly rushed forward;
They'd have the great honor of taking their hair.

At first by the host of the Redskins surrounded,
His well pointed gun made them jump behind trees;
At last all are slain, but two, and they wounded,
Cherokee in the shoulder, and Wolf in the knees.

Great thanks to Almighty for the strength and the courage,
By which the brave Harmans triumphed o'er the foe;
Not the women and children, they intended to slaughter,
But the bloody invaders themselves are laid low.

May their generation on the frontiers be stationed,
To confound and defeat all their murdering schemes,
And put a flustration to every invasion,
And drive the Shawnees from Montgomery's fair streams."

In the early spring of 1789, James Roark and family lived at the gap of the ridge, dividing the waters of Clinch and Sandy Rivers, and near the head spring of the Dry fork of Sandy, and on and near the line dividing the counties of Russell and Montgomery.    A raiding party of Indians had come up the Dry fork of the Sandy, and unexpectedly to them, quite a snow had fallen and they took shelter or camped under a large overhanging rock opposite the mouth of Dick's Creek, of Dry fork.  It was while under this rock, waiting for the snow to disappear, that they discovered William Wheatley, who lived in Baptist Valley, in search of his lost dog, killed him, mutilated his body, tore out his bowels, stretched them upon the bushes, his heart being found in one place, his liver in another.  On a large beech tree near the place where Wheatly was killed, the Indians cut the figure of a man, which was plainly visible a few years ago.   After the killing of Wheatley, and the snow had disappeared, they moved up Dry fork and fell upon the family of Roark, killing his wife and several children and then retired down the Sandy.



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