DUNKARDS BOTTOM (MAHANIAM)
of the early settlements in the valley along the west bank of
New River was Mahaniam, meaning "two camps", in what
is now Pulaski County and now lies beneath the waters of Claytor
Lake. The settlement was founded about 1745 by three Germans from
a group, which had crossed the Atlantic seeking religious freedom
and were called Sabbatarians and later became known as Dunkards.
From this latter name came the identification of the settlement
as Dunkards Bottom. It is reported that 900 acres of rich river
bottomland was chosen and surveyed for the colony, which later
had the only mill west of New River. However, many of the Dunkards
became unhappy with their lot in the wilderness on the frontier
of a new nation. They were said to be "odd" people who
were very clannish and shunned by other settlers.
In 1749 the Moravian missionaries noted that in the region of
Dunkard's Bottom they found a "kind of white people who wore
deer skins, lived by hunting, associated with the Indians and
acted like savages." Once the Dunkard's got to America they
changed their ways to fit the lifestyle of the American Frontier.
John BUCHANAN, agent for Colonel PATTON's Wood's River Company
and assistant surveyor of Augusta County, made his exploratory
trip to the region in the fall of 1745. He found inhabitants already
in the New River area. These inhabitants were German eccentrics
of German Seventh Day Baptists from the Ephrata Society of Lancaster
County, Pennsylvania and were called Dunkers Dunkard's. (Many
people incorrectly refer to this sect of the Anabaptists as Dunkard's.
The word "Dunker" was actually a anglicized corruption
of the German Word "Tunker", which means "dipper"
or immerserer referring to the mode of baptism practiced by this
Being pacificists, the Dunkards became discontented and fearful,
realizing their helplessness if attacked by Indians. So just five
years after being established, Mahaniam disappeared as a budding
settlement. Some of the settlers returned to Pennsylvania and
other parts of Virginia with a few remaining in the immediate
To fully understand the "Dunkard's" we must trace back
to the place where they came from, Pennsylvania and neighboring
regions. Before they came to Pennsylvania they traveled from Germany.
Going to Germany for a start, researchers found a little group
of serious-minded citizens situated about Strasburg chafing under
the Catholic rule of the Province. Alexander MACK, reader of the
bible, Conrad BIESEL, a salesman, and Michael ECKERLING, a member
of the city council, made up the group of independent worshippers,
then called "Pietists", and held secret services at
private homes until they were hounded out of the country to become
citizens of America.
In Germany, the Dunkard's wore long beards and were highly skilled
in many trades as well as agriculture. The Dunkard's were also
pacifists. They were ill suited for life on Virginia's wild frontier.
Thomas Walker describes the Dunkard's as:
"A Sect of People who call themselves of the Brotherhood
of Euphrates, and are commonly called the Dunkard's, who are the
upper Inhabitants of the New River....The Dunkard's are an odd
set of people, who make it a matter of Religion not to Shave their
Beards, ly on beds, or eat flesh, though at present, in the last,
they transgress, being constrained to it, they say, by the want
of a sufficiency of Grain and Roots, they have not long been seated
here. I doubt the plenty and deliciousness of the venison and
turkeys has contributed not a little to this. The unmarried have
no property but live on a common stock. They don't baptize either
Young or Old, they keep the Sabbath on Saturday, and hold that
all men shall be happy hereafter, but first must pass through
punishment according to their Sins. They are very hospitable."
When John BUCHANAN made his trip to the New River, he noted the
individuals here. These people were; Israel LORTON and Adam HARMAN
of Tom's Creek, Jacob HARMAN at the Horseshoe, Charles HART on
Back Creek, William MACK on Reed Creek and a group of German eccentrics
on the Dunkard's Bottom. Three more Dunkard's also came to the
New River area: Alexander MACK, Conrad BIESEL, and Michael ECKERLING.
Conrad BIESEL came first in 1720 joining the congregation at Germantown.
In 1725 the ECKERLINGs, four sons and mother, came after the death
of their father Michael. Alexander MACK followed in 1729.
BIESEL of the new congregation held out for the observance of
the seventh day as the Lord's Day and established a monastic society
with buildings suitable for the solitary life the members desired
to live. With the help of the ECKERLING brothers, Israel, Emanuel,
Samuel, and Gabriel, the colony prospered until it became the
well-known institution at Ephrata. In the year 1740 there were
36 single brethren in the cloister, and 35 sisters. At one time
the society numbered nearly 300.
The ECKERLING brothers, (Israel and Samuel), and Alexander MACK
chose a site on the banks of the New River. Soon a third ECKERLING
brother, Gabriel, joined them. Other Dunkard's of the Mahanaim
settlement included: William MACK, Gerhart ZINN and his wife,
George HOOPAUGH, Henry ZINN, Peter SHAVER, Jacob HOHNLY, John
NEGLEY and others.
The ECKERLINGS were interested in expanding the activities of
the group to include more industries along with religious practices
and in building an institution of some reputation. When they were
caught in unauthorized transactions, it became clear to them that
they should leave the area. In September of 1745 Israel and Samuel
ECKERLING and Alexander MACK Jr. set out for the wilderness. They
traveled by way of York until they were beyond all settlements
and arrived on the west side of the New River. In October, Buchanan
found them with a cabin which they had built.
Several of the known leaders left Mahanaim to a new settlement
on the New River. They found John MILLER in possession of parts
of the bottom land, and a roadside store site of 37 acres, which
he had purchased from Peter SHAVER, located on the Sinking Spring
or Mill Creek, now called Dublin Branch; Garrett ZINN who purchased
the ECKERLING land; John NEGLEY and John STROUPE, probably associates
on a branch of Peak Creek; William MACK on Reed Creek; and John
Bingaman on the New River. Sometime in 1746 Gabriel ECKERLING
and Jacob HOHNLY joined the others at their new settlement in
the New River.
In 1750 the ECKERLINGs returned to Ephrata and the land holdings
were transferred to Garrett ZINN who obtained the patent.
In 1754 George HOOPAUGH, one of the Dunkard's, said that the previous
May 60 "Norward Indians" came to his house and burned
it and the stable. Before that, the Indians had threatened him,
burned his corn and killed his best dogs. In May of 1755 Henry
ZINN was killed on the New River by the Indians. This was probably
one of the reasons for the sudden and premature dispersal of the
remaining Dunkard's. To keep from being murdered by the Indians,
Garrett ZINN moved to Carolina, where he died in 1765. Recorded
in the chronicles of the Cloisters: "They fled as if they
were chased by someone, for justice persecuted them for the spiritual
debts which they had contracted in the Cloisters, until they reached
a water which is running toward the Mississippi, called New River,
beyond all Christian government. There they made their home among
riffraff, the dregs of human society who spend their time murdering
wild creatures. With such people they had communion instead of
their Brethren whom they left." Eventually, the Dunkard's
moved back to their settlement in the New River. In a letter written
by Annie CHRISTIAN, William CHRISTIAN's wife, to Ann FLEMING,
her sister-in-law, dated Dec. 3, 1770, we learn that the CHRISTIAN
family had moved back to the "new location" on the New
River. It stated that the Christians were delighted with Mahaniam.
In 1772, the Christians had built a new home in the Dunkard's
In 1774 William CHRISTIAN and friend James McCORKLE agreed on
an operation of a store at New Dublin. This partnership was to
last until 1776. In the spring and summer of 1774, William was
a colonel of the Fincastle County troops and prepared for action
against the Indians.
In the summer of 1784 William CHRISTIAN and his wife Annie moved
to Kentucky where he received a military grant and where his father
had claimed lands. William sold 400 acres of the Dunkard's Bottomland
to James McCORKLE that year.