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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 4)


The following extracts are taken from the records of Montgomery County Court: John French qualified as Lieutenant in the eighty-sixth regiment.  John Chapman appointed ensign at March Court, 1778, in Captain Lucas' company.  On the eighth day of April, 1778, the following order was entered: "The court proceeded to vote for a place for the Court House.  John Montgomery, Walter Crockett and James McGavock having made the several proposals and the question being put, a majority were of the opinion that it should be at Fort Chiswell, Mr. McGavock giving the county twenty acres of land on the hill above the house on the north side of the road to within ten poles of the mill, thence down the branch and binding thereon so as to make the same nearly square, with the use of the spring in common with himself; also twenty acres of wood land to begin at the corner near his and extend eastwardly along the line ninety poles, and then such course and distances as will include the said twenty acres; likewise the use of any quarries on the Fort Chiswell tract for building, which lands and privileges he is to convey to the court for the benefit of the
County in fee simple without any consideration other than the advantage of having a Court House located on his land; and a reservation of one half acre lot in said land, such as he shall choose after the ground for the public buildings is laid off."

At September Court, 1785, John Chapman was appointed one of the Viewers to view a route for a road from Big Crossing of Walker's Creek by Thomas Shannon's and Sugar Run, at Taylor's land to Captain Pearis'.  At November Court, 1790, John French was recommended for ensign and John Chapman for Lieutenant.  At the June term, 1804, Isaac Chapman was recommended as Lieutenant in the eighty-sixth regiment and John French recommended as Captain in the second Battalion of the eighty-sixth regiment, and David French a Lieutenant in the same,  At the October Court, 1795, William Dingess was appointed Deputy Surveyor.  At the June term, 1801, the following order was entered:    "Henley Chapman Gentl., having produced a license under the signature of the Honorable Richard Parker, Paul Carrington, Jr., and Archibald Stewart permitting him to practice as attorney in the Superior and Inferior Courts within this Commonwealth, and having taken the oaths required by law, he was admitted to practice in this court.

Our second war with England, usually called the war of 1812, drew from the population of Giles County a considerable number of men, who served at different periods during its existence.  Among those who served were James Straley, John Straley, Daniel Straley, Captain John Peters, Julius Walker, Berry Blankenship, James Sarver, John Spangler, Captain C. H. A. Walker, William Oney and many others whose names the author has not been able to secure.  Near the close of the war Andrew Johnston, as Captain, marched with a company of men from Giles County, who were ordered to report at Norfolk, Virginia.  On their way thither, on reaching Liberty, now Bedford City, they received information that a treaty of peace had been signed and that their services were not needed, and they were ordered to return to their homes.

There came into the County of Giles, at quite an early date, a family by the name of Lucas, who became very notorious on account of their crimes.  There were other families of Lucas' in the New River Valley, and some in the county of Giles, who were people of standing and repute, and in no wise related to this criminal gang generally known a the Randall Lucas Tribe.  Jeremiah Lucas, a son of Randall on May 28th, 1814, was hanged in the public square of Pearisburg for the murder of Julius Walker, committed on the 9th day of April preceeding.  Walker was a soldier of the war of 1812, and during his absence, Lucas became intimate with his, Walker's, wife, and on his return Lucas determined to kill him, and in order to accomplish his purpose he feigned friendship for him, and invited him home with him, and on their way along the New River Cliffs not far from the Eggleston Springs, Lucas struck Walker with a club and continued to beat him over the head until he supposed him dead and then hid him away, and went on to Walker's house and stayed that night, and as is not uncommon with a murderer he went back the next morning to visit the spot where he had left his victim, and found him sitting upright against a tree, unable, however, to move or get away.  Walker begged Lucas to spare his life and told him if he would not kill him that as soon as he was able to leave the country he would go and never return, and would say nothing about Lucas' assault upon him.   Lucas was unrelenting-brute-like and clubbed the unfortunate man to death.,    So soon as the murder was discovered, the murderer fled, taking refuge in the great Butt or Salt Pond Mountain.  There was snow on the ground at the time and a posse of citizens pursued Lucas and finally ran him down and captured him.  His captor was John Marrs, who died only a few years ago in Fayette County, West Virginia.   Lucas was promptly indicted in the month following his capture, quickly tried, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on the 28th of the May following.  The names of the jurors who tried Lucas are, viz:  Joseph Canterbury, John Eaton, Joseph Hare, John Chapman, Isaac McKinsey, Philip Peters, Edward Hale, Isaac French, Thomas Clark,, James Emmons, William Tracey, and John, (name not legible.)  William Chapman, Deputy for John Chapman, Sheriff of the County, carried the sentence into execution.  After his sentence and while awaiting execution the jailer of the county, George Johnston, had confined his prisoner in what they call the dungeon, and on giving him food on one occasion, Lucas, who was a physical giant, struck Johnston over the head with his handcuffs, felling him to the floor, then sprang out and started on a run to escape; Johnston, , the jailer, had an old musket loaded with powder and buck shot, which he kept in an adjoining room, and as soon as he could recover himself he seized the musket and ran out into the street; but by this time Lucas had gone more than 150 yards away, when Johnston pulled down on him and wounded him in one of his legs, which brought him to the ground, and the jailer soon had him back in the dungeon.

Michael Montgole and family, in 1821, lived on the end of the Little Mountain, just below the mouth of Wolf Creek, in a small hollow, a few hundred yards west of the late residence of the late Joseph Hare, Esq.  Montgole was accused of the murder of his wife, by shooting her with a rifle gun, on June 16th, 1821.  He claimed that the shooting was accidental, and insisted upon his innocence.  He was arrested and promptly indicted by the Grand Jury of Giles County.  Feeling against him was so strong that he was enabled to procure a change of venue to the Circuit Court of the County of Montgomery, wherein he was tried and convicted in May, 1822, and executed on the 21st of June, 1822.  He died protesting his innocence.

Dave Lucas, another son of Randall's, was more than once in the Virginia penitentiary for larceny and other crimes, and finally, in 1841, he murdered John Poff, of Franklin County, Virginia, and being suspected of the murder, he ran away into Botetourt County, where he was arrested and brought back, indicted and on the 13th day of May, 1842, was tried by a jury composed of Robert Farris, Robert Caldwell, Christian Simmonds, Olliver C. Peters, Tobias Miller, Edward Nelson, Reuben Hughes, St. Clair French, Samuel Thompson, Joseph Fanning, Charles Miller, and Hiram Pauley, who found him guilty of murder and on the 16th day of the same month he was sentenced to be hanged.   The sentence was carried into execution June 24th, 1842, by Abalsom Fry, deputy for John Peck, Sheriff of the County.  Mr. Fry often related the incidents connected with the execution of this man, and among others the funeral sermon preached by Rev. Mr. Harris, a Methodist minister, on the day of execution, and that the text from which he preached was "As the lord liveth and my soul liveth there is but a step between me and death."

Thomas Berry Farley was the principal witness against Lucas, and upon his testimony he was convicted.  Farley was born in 1795, on Gatliff's bottom on New River, in what is now Summers County, West Virginia, and died in Giles County. Virginia, in 1903.  He was the grandson of Thomas Farley, who settled on Culbertson's bottom now in Summers County, about the year of 1755.

John, a third son of Randall Lucas also killed a man and was tried for his life; the jury however found him guilty of murder in the second degree and fixed his punishment in the penitentiary at nine years.

The only other execution for murder in Giles County (Note: On March 23rd, 1906, Morris Cremeans is to hang for the murder of one Kidd) was that of Mahala Mason, a negro woman who was hanged May 14, 1852 for the murder of Sallie, a negro woman the property of W. B. Mason.  The murder was committed on the 15th day of January, 1852.  The funeral of this colored woman was preached by a negro preacher by the name of Harry Chapman, from the text:  "Put thine house in order, for thou must die and not live."

In the early history of Giles County there were some very interesting characters, both wags and wits, among the number one John Conley.  On an occasion Mr. Conley was passing over the old County road across Cloyd's Mountain, and meeting Mr. Frank Wysor riding in a two wheeled vehicle, Conley accosted Mr. Wysor, who had a very large nose, saying to him, Stranger turn your nose to one side until I can get by it."   Mr. Wysor did as requested, and after he had passed Mr. Conley in the road, he stopped his horse and called to Conley, saying, "Old man, wouldn't you like to have a drink this morning?" to which Mr. Conley replied he would.  Mr. Wysor dismounted from his vehicle, taking a bottle therefrom and placing it on the ground, told Mr. Conley to help himself, and as Mr. Conley stooped down to reach for the bottle Mr. Wysor with his fist struck him on the side of the head, knocking him over the bracing of the road, and when Mr. Conley recovered himself Mr. Wysor was in his vehicle and several hundred yards away.

One Chrispianos Walker, a young man at that time who lived with his father on New River, opposite the mouth of Wolf Creek, had fallen in love with a young lady, a Miss Peters, whose parents lived nearly two miles above Walker's, on the river.They were engaged to be married, but the match was vigorously opposed by the girl's parents, and Walker was forbidden the house and the girl put under watch, but Mr. Walker succeeded through some one in informing his betrothed that at a given time he would be at his father's house, have the necessary papers and the preacher on hand, and for her to attempt to make her escape at the time he had indicated.  So early one morning, the young lady suddenly disappeared from her home, her absence soon being detected she was pursued by two of her brothers, but out ran them, reaching Mr. Walker's house, and her lover "now or never."  Her intended husband was still in bed when she reached the door, but he immediately sprang out, having on but one garment, the preacher then and there said the ceremony, at the conclusion of which the brothers appeared, but too late.

About the year of 1829, there appeared in Giles County (Note: The first newspaper , called "The Southwest," was published by John Sower, about 1858, and the first picture gallery by Bushong, in 1860.) a quaint eccentric man, about thirty years of age, by the name of Norman Roberts, who came from Massachusetts, and many interesting stories are told of his peculiar doings and sayings.  A gentleman driving a wild cow met Roberts at the forks of a road, and the cow taking the wrong road, the one on which Roberts was approaching, called out to Roberts: "head that cow."  Roberts replied, "She is already headed." He then said to Roberts "Turn that cow," to which Roberts replied "She already has the right side out," and the man then said to Roberts "Speak to that cow," whereupon Roberts said "Goodbye, cow."  Roberts wore long hair, lived in caves, and often hid himself from his fellowmen.  the young girls were afraid of him, as he pretended to make love to all he met with.  He died in Mercer County, West Virginia, about 1854.

A brief history will be given of the general laws, Legislative and Constitutional, bearing upon the subject of suffrage which will lead up to the assembling and action of the Virginia people in holding various Constitutional conventions.  Sir George Yeardley, governor of Virginia, arrived in April, 1619, he was the first to summon a General Assembly to be held by the inhabitants, every free man voting, and which was to make laws for the government of the country.  He issued his summons in June, and on July 30th, 1619, the first Legislative body that ever sat in America assembled at Jamestown, the then capital of Virginia.  This was a notable event, and portended radical changes in the form of government.  Popular right in America had entered on life and the long struggle to hold its own.  Whatever might be the issue, the fact remains that at least it had been born.  Here commenced the question of popular and restricted suffrage which has agitated the body politic from that time to the present.    In 1670 suffrage was restricted to free-holders and housekeepers.  From the first years of the colony to 1655 all the settlers had a voice in public affairs, first in the daily matters of the Hundreds, and after 1619 in  electing Burgesses.   In the year 1655 the Burgesses declared that none but, "Housekeepers, whether freeholders, leaseholders or otherwise tenants should be capable to elect Burgesses."    In the year of 1656 the ancient usage was restored and all freemen were allowed to vote.  In 1670, the first act restricting the suffrage was restored, and this it seems, was thenceforth the determinate sentiment, with the exception of the year, 1676, when Bacon's Assembly changed it and declared that freemen should again vote.   This however, was swept away by the general abrogation of all Bacon's Laws, and the freehold restriction was thus restored, and was in operation when the Virginia convention assembled in 1776.  That convention provided in the Constitution which it framed that "the right of suffrage in the election of members for both Houses shall remain as exercised at present;" and this remained the law until the assembling of the convention of 1829-30.

On the 5th day of October, 1829, a convention of delegates from the senatorial districts of the Commonwealth of Virginia began its session in the city of Richmond.  James Monroe, Esq., ex-president of the United States, was elected president of the convention, but on account of ill health served only for a short time, being succeeded by Philip P. Barbour.

From the 15th senatorial district, composed of the counties of Montgomery, Giles, Wythe and Grayson, the following gentlemen were elected as delegates to said convention, viz:  General Gordon Cloyd, of Montgomery, Henley Chapman, of Giles, John P. Matthews, of Wythe and William Oglesby, of Grayson.

The Constitution framed by this convention made many radical changes in the organic law of the state, and enlarged or rather extended, the right of suffrage to persons who had not theretofore exercised the same; but it failed to give satisfaction to the people west of the Alleghanies.

The vote in the convention on the adoption of the Constitution as engrossed, and as a whole, was taken thereon on January 14th, 1830, and stood 55 for and forty against.  Of the forty votes cast against the adoption of the instrument, twenty were by delegates from west of the Alleghanies, and whose names are as follows, viz:  Andrew Beirne, William Smith, Fleming B. Miller, John Baxter, William Naylor, William Donaldson, John B. George, Andrew McMillan, Edward Campbell, William Byars, Gordon Cloyd, Henley Chapman, John P.Matthews, William Oglesby, Edwin S. Duncan, John Laidley, Lewis Summers, Adam See, Alexander Campbell, and E. M. Wilson.  The constitution was adopted by the people by a majority if 10,492 votes.

About 1832 and for some years subsequently the incorporation and building of turnpike roads gave great impetus to the trade  of the century; among these roads Price's Mountain and Cumberland Gap turnpike, Wythe, Raleigh and Grayson and Giles, Fayette and Kanawha. (Note: The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad extended west of New River about 1856 and the C. & O.  Ry. about 1872.)



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