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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 V.  1795 - 1836  (Part 1)

Marriages, by  whom celebrated prior to the passage of Toleration Acts--Real civilization begun--Monroe County created, its boundaries, brief history of--Formation of Tazewell County, its boundaries, brief history of--Formation of Giles County, its boundaries, and brief history thereof.

As has already been noticed, the early preachers who came across the Alleghanies, were Dissenters, and not authorized by law to celebrate marriages, and therefore all marriages solemnized by these Ministers were by law illegal, but by subsequent acts of the Legislature such marriages were not only legalized, but certain acts were passed authorizing a limited number of these Dissenters to celebrate the rites of matrimony.

After the close of the Indian wars in 1794 the country not only filled up rapidly, but real civilization began in earnest, the people built houses, opened farms and roads, elected officers, prepared and carried on civil government without hindrance or molestation.

The people living along the New River to the northeast thereof and north of the Narrows of said river, in what is now Giles County, were inhabitants of Greenbrier County and lived many miles from Lewisburg, their county town.  They therefore determined to apply for the creation of a new county, and by an act of the Legislature of Virginia passed January 14th, 1799, the County of Monroe was created out of the territory of Greenbrier, with the following boundaries as set forth in the said Act, viz:    "Beginning where the ridge dividing the eastern from the western waters joins Peter's Mountain, and with said eastern ridge to the ridge which divides Howard's and Second Creek, thence with the said ridge westwardly, including the waters of Second Creek to the Wagon road at Robert Knox's, thence with the said creek to Thomas Nichols' Spring branch, thence a straight line to Alderson's ferry landing on Greenbrier River, thence down the said river to the mouth of Muddy Creek, thence crossing the same to the ridge which divides the waters of Muddy Creek and Griffith's run, and with the said ridge to Keeney's Knobs and with said Knobs, including the waters flowing into Greenbrier River to New River, and up the same to where it breaks through Peter's Mountain, thence with said mountain an east course to the beginning."

From Lewis' History of West Virginia the following information is given concerning the organization of said county.  "At one mile east of the present town of Union at the house of George King on the 21st day of May, 1799, the first County Court was held.    William Hutchison, James Alexander, Isaac Estill, William Haynes, John Hutchinson, John Gray, John Byrnside, William Graham, James Hanley, and William Vawter holding commissions from the governor of Virginia, composed the members of the first court.   John Hutchison was appointed clerk, and John Woodyard Commonwealth's Attorney.   Isaac Estill having been by the Governor commissioned as sheriff, entered into bond as such, with James Alexander, William Haynes, and John Byrnside as his bondsmen.   John Byrnside was recommended for appointment as surveyor of lands.   John Arbuckle was appointed Deputy Sheriff.

The second day of the term was taken up largely in putting the military establishment on a proper footing, whereupon James Graham was recommended for appointment as Colonel for the county; John Hutchinson and John Hanley for Majors; and for Captains, Isaac Estill, John Byrnside, James Jones, Robert Nickel, William Graham, Samuel Clark, Henry McDaniel, and Watt Farley.  For Lieutenants, Nimrod Tackett,  John Hanley, Jr., George Swope, James Gray, William Maddy, David Graham, Tollison Shumate, and Thomas Wyatt; and for Ensigns, Alexander Dunlap, Charles Keenan, James Young, James Byrnside, James Miller, James Gwin, James Thompson, and John Harvey.

James Graham was recommended for appointment as Coroner, and Thomas Lowe, Robert Dunbar, John Cottrell, William Dison, George Foster, Enos Halstead, and Joshua Lewis were appointed Constables.

On the 19th day of May, 1800, Honorable Archibald Stewart,  Judge of the District composed of the counties of Greenbrier, Botetourt, Montgomery, Kanawha, and Monroe held the first court for the county, at Sweet Springs.  John skinner was appointed to prosecute for the Commonwealth, and Samuel Dew to discharge the duties of clerk.

A grand jury was empanelled, composed of William Royal, foreman, Dennis Cochran, John Matthews, Samuel Todd, Hugh Caperton, Joseph Snodgrass, Isaac Snodgrass, William Howell, John Peck, Joseph Cloyd, (the latter two citizens of Giles County.)  John Lewis, William Vawter, Jacob Persinger, John Byrnside, and James Byrnside.  Two indictments found at the term, parties tried same term and acquitted.

The second term of the court held at the same place on the 18th day of October, 1800, at which Judge Paul Carrington presided.

In 1799, the County Court selected the present site Union, for the County town on twenty-five acres of land the property of James Alexander, and was laid off into lots and streets, and the same was subsequently, to wit: January 1800, established as a town by the General Assembly, and  William Haynes, John Gray, John Byrnside, James Hanley, Michael Erskine, John Hutchison, Isaac Estill constituted trustees thereof."

The territory now embraced in Monroe County was visited by white people as early as 1760.  John Alderson and William Morris visited the county about 1777.    Christian Peters, an American Soldier, who served in General LaFayette's Corps at Yorktown, came to what is now Petestown in 1783.  In the year of 1770, came the Manns, Cooks, Millers, Alexanders, Nickels, Campbells, Dunsmores, Hokes, Lakes, Calloways, Sweeneys, Haynes, Erkines, Grahams, and Hutchinsons, largely from the Virginia Valley.

The early history of this people is the same substantially as those of the Greenbrier and New River Valleys, which has already been given in this volume.

The military history of the people of Monroe is in a measure written in the chapter devoted to that subject in this volume, as her citizen soldiers served largely with the New River Valley men, with the exception of one company, which was led to the war by Captain Hugh Snidow Tiffany, who fell in the first battle of Manasses.  His company belonged to the 27th Virginia Regiment of the Stonewall brigade.

In both civil and military life, Monroe has furnished a number of distinguished men, among them Hugh Caperton, Andrew Beirne, Allen T. Caperton, A. A. Chapman, John Echols, Frank Hereford, John M. Rowan, Judge A. N. Campbell, Rev. J. P. Campbell, and others.

Among her valued citizens, are Campbells, Hansbargers, Swopes, Johnsons, Johnstons, Symns, Clarks, Ballards, Fleshmans, Pecks, Aldersons, Nickels, Rowans, Becketts, McClaughertys, Osborns, Harveys, Pences, Adairs, Packs, Thrashers, Karnes, Spanglers, Shanklins, Vawters, and numerous others.  Its population is steady, industrious, and as little crime is committed in the county of Monroe as any county in the state.

Adam Mann, Jacob Mann, and others as early as the year 1770, built a fort on Indian Creek, some ten miles west from the present town of Union.   The Cooks, also built a fort on Indian Creek some three miles from its mouth.

This Mann family was of English origin--from Kent.  They came at an early day to America, and that branch of the family, the ancestor of the present New River Valley families of that name was William, who settled in Augusta in 1778.  It is a numerous family, some of them attained to prominence in the revolutionary, border and civil wars.    From Mann MS. it appears, that two of this family, Thomas and William, were soldiers on the Ohio at fort Randolph shortly after the battle of Point Pleasant, and while there, on the south side of the Kanawha, appeared one Simon Girty, who gave to Thomas and William Mann the sign of distress, and urged them to cross for him as he was pursued by the Indians; yielding to his entreaties, they with others crossed the river in a canoe, and as they approached the shore a party of Indians in hiding fired upon them, killing Thomas Mann, and badly wounding William, who escaped but died in what is now Fayette County, while trying to make his way to Donnally's Fort, in Greenbrier (Mann MS.).    Of this family are Isaac T. and Edwin Mann, prominent and successful business men of Mercer County.  Mr. James E. Mann of this same family, a most useful, intelligent citizen, and successful financier lived for a number of years in the city of Bluefield, where his widow and children still reside.  Mr. Mann died a few years ago, a highly respected and esteemed citizen.

The territory of Tazewell County as it formerly and now exists, has a history much in common with that of the Counties of Monroe, Giles and Mercer.  It is not intended in this work to do more than give a general outline history of this county, for to write it in full and that of its people would within itself fill a volume.  So far as can be ascertained, with anything like accuracy, the first white man that put his foot on the soil of this county, was the man Castle hunting with the Indians in what is now known as the Castle's wood section, now in Russell County; and the second white man in the territory referred to was the hunter Clinche. These two men traversed the Clinch Valley section prior to 1749 and from the latter the river Clinch took its name, as hereinbefore related.

The next in order was Doctor Thomas Walker of Albemarle, and his companions Ambrose Powell and others, who in 1750, traversed the ridge country, a few miles north of the present town of Tazewell, passing the site of the present town of Pocahontas, and following the Water Shed dividing the waters of Bluestone, Sandy, Guyandotte, and Piney, to the New River near where the town of Hinton, in Summers County, is located.

According to Summers' History So. W. Va., Christopher Gist, agent for the Ohio Company, on his return from the Kentucky section and the Ohio River, in 1751, came through what is now the county of Wise, giving name to a river, Gist's, and a station where he camped, called Gist's Station. (Note: Now, Coburn, in Wise County, Virginia.)  He also passed along the Water Shed above referred to.

In the year of 1753, James Burke and stepson, Morris Griffith were in what is now known as Burke's Garden, situated in the south-eastern part of this county.  Burke was one of the Draper's Meadow Settlers, who crossed the Alleghanies in 1748 and made settlement near the present town of Blacksburg in Montgomery County.  His adventurous disposition and love of the forest led him to the vicinity of the spot called Burke's Garden, into which, through the gap since known as Hanshue's, he followed the Elk which he had wounded.

The evidence is not only persuasive, but may be regarded as conclusive, that Burke removed with his family from Draper's Meadows into this beautiful land in the year of 1754.  He had  cleared out some land, and in the spring of 1755 had planted a crop of potatoes which were found in the ground unharvested by Lewis's men in February, 1756.  Colonel Preston in his Journal, describing Burke's Garden says among other things that the soldiers gathered potatoes in the waste plantations; therefore it is certain that in February, 1756, the place was known as Burke's Garden, and that there were potatoes found there in "Waste Plantations."  Again it is true, that neither Burke nor his family were at Draper's Meadows on the 8th day  of July, 1755, when the settlers were attacked by the Indians, captured or destroyed, as no mention is made of Burke or his family, while all others are accounted for, and we see from Preston's Journal, that Lewis' men met Burke west of New River in February, 1756, hence it appears as most likely and no doubt true, that Burke for fear of the savages  left Burke's Garden with his family in the fall of 1755, and the tradition that the Indians followed him to Sharon Springs is no doubt correct.  At any rate Burke discovered a magnificent body of most valuable land which was appropriated by other people.

Major Andrew Lewis with about 340 men on his way to the Ohio, in February, 1756, passed through the territory of Tazewell, camping in Burke's Garden, and on the head waters of the Clinch, and from there passed over the eastern and northern branches of that stream near by or through the farm owned by the late William G. Mustard, Esq., and thence on to Horsepen Creek of Jacob's Fork of Tug of Sandy.  We hear nothing from 1756 to 1766 of any white people in the territory of the county; this is accounted for from the fact that the French and Indian war was occurring during this period, and in fact did not end on the border until the year of 1765, after Johnson's Treaty--the result of Bouquet's expedition into Ohio that year.

It appears from Bickley's History of Tazewell, that two men, Butler and Carr with others from about Carr's or Kerr's Creek in the Rockbridge country, were in this territory about the head waters of the Clinch in 1766, engaged in hunting and trapping, and that all of said hunting party, except Butler and Carr, left on the close of the hunting season.

Butler and Carr erected them a hunter's cabin at the Crab Orchard, about three or four miles west of the present Court House of Tazewell.  In the spring of 1767 they opened up a small field and planted a small crop of corn, the seed of which they obtained from the Cherokee Indians, and a new supply of ammunition of another company of hunters that came out to hunt with them.

The territory of Tazewell, very much like that of Kentucky, was a kind of middle ground between the northern and southern Indian tribes, between whom a war was waging in 1766, and which was not finally ended until about the beginning of 1774.

As stated by Bickley, in the early summer of 1768, a band of Cherokee warriors camped near the cabin of Butler and Carr; they had come to spend the season in hunting around and near the Lick.  Very soon there appeared a large body of Shawnees, men and women.    These had long been open and deadly enemies, and could not long remain near each other on terms of peace.  The Shawnees ordered the Cherokees to evacuate and to look for other hunting ground. This order, the latter refused to obey, and took position on the top of Rich Mountain which they fortified with rude breastworks.  The Shawnees attacked that evening, and continued the battle on the next day; Butler and Carr furnishing the Cherokees with ammunition.  The Shawnees were forced to retire, retreating to the head of what is now known as Abb's Valley, and  there on the farm owned by the late Jonathan Smith, erected a rude stone fort, which stood until a few years ago.  The place where they built this fort is the gateway to the head of the Tug fork of  Sandy;  the latter one of the highways when on their way out and return from incursions into the white settlements along the upper waters of the Clinch and the Bluestone.  The dead left on the battlefield were buried in one common grave, and shortly the Cherokees departed for their homes in the south, leaving Butler and Carr lords of all they surveyed.

Peace and quiet being restored, Butler and Carr separated, the latter making settlements on the Clinch about two miles east of the present county town, while Butler seems to have removed  near the Elk Lick.  More hunters coming out, and returning with glowing descriptions of the country, induced others desiring to make permanent settlements in this new wilderness country, to emigrate hither.

In the spring of 1771 came Thomas, James and Jerry Witten (Note: The Wittens first halted at a large spring on Walker's Creek, near where the late William B. Allen resided, in what is now Giles County, where they remained for one year before moving to the Clinch.) and John Greenup, the former from the Fredericktown section of Maryland.    Thomas settled at the Crab Orchard, purchasing Butler's claim, whatever that was, but there were none to dispute it.

James Witten and John Greenup settled on the Clinch near where Pisgah Church now stands, and Jerry Witten settled on Plum Creek.  On the authority of James R. Witten it is stated that a son of this John Greenup became governor of Kentucky.

In the same year of 1771 Absalom Looney, from Looney's Creek in the Virginia Valley, made his way into the section of this county now known as Abb's Valley, where he hunted and trapped for three or four years, having a cave near what is now Moore's Memorial Church, as his hiding place and refuge from the savages and wild beasts.

Looney, on returning to Looney's Creek, met Captain James Moore, and so impressed him by his description of this wonderful valley which he had discovered as to induce Moore to make a journey to see it.  The statement that Captain James Moore settled in Abb's Valley in 1772 is incorrect, for more reasons than one.  Moore had gone from the valley to the Alamance in North Carolina, to join his countrymen  (the Scots), in their struggle against the tyranny of Governor Tyron, and having united with the Regulators, was in the battle of the Alamance fought on the 16th day of May, 1771, in which the Regulators were defeated and scattered by the forces of Governor Tyron.    Captain Moore returned to his home on Moore's Creek in the Virginia Valley, now in Rockbridge County, where he remained until 1775, when he raised a company of valley men, and marched at their head, joining General Washington's army then engaged in the siege of Boston.  It was at the head of this company of volunteers that he won his title of Captain.  He and his men had entered the service for one year, upon the expiration of which they returned to their homes. Their return was in 1776, and there is no evidence to be found that Captain Moore visited the territory of Tazewell prior to 1776, but in the fall of that year he came to spy out the land and prepared for the removal of his family, which took place the next year, together with the family of his brother-in-law Poague.

Prior to the year of 1776 one Peter Wright, an old hunter, had traversed the valley known since his day as Wright's Valley, which no doubt led him into the present territory of Tazewell County.

In the year of 1772 Mathias Harman, and his brothers Jacob and Henry, settled at Carr's on the Clinch, John Craven in the Cove, Joseph Martin, John Henry, and James King in Thompson's Valley, and John Bradshaw in the valley two miles west of the present county town.  The Harmans came from North Carolina.

In 1772 William Wynn, John Taylor and Jesse Evans settled on the upper Clinch waters, and Thomas Marshall, Benjamine Joslin, James Ogleton, Peter Harman and Samuel Ferguson on the upper Bluestone, William Butler on the south branch of the north fork of Clinch above Wynn's.  William Webb about three miles east of the present Court House, Elisha Clary near Butler, John Ridgel on the Clear fork of Wolf Creek, Reece Bowen at Maiden spring, David Ward in the Cove, and William Garretson at the foot of Morris' Knob.



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