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Blazing A Wilderness Trail

By: Angela M. Ruley

Rockbridge County, Virginia was formed in 1778 from Augusta and Botetourt counties. The Southern portion of Rockbridge was a part of Botetourt County for only eight years, as Botetourt was formed from Augusta County in 1770. The dividing line between Augusta and Botetourt County from 1770-1778 was the present Maury River, (then called North River). The area south of the Maury River was in Rockbridge, all areas north of the Maury River were in Augusta. Augusta County was formed in 1745 from Orange County, which was formed in 1734 from Spotsylvania. Little should be needed in this particular area before 1734, as the first settlement in Staunton was in 1732,1 and 1737,2 for the area which is now Rockbridge. Most of the early settlers of Rockbridge were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. There were some German, Dutch, Irish, English, and other nationalities who settled here over the years as well. The early churches were predominately Presbyterian. Baptists, Methodists and other religions did not thrive until the mid 1800's. As the Ulstermen came into Rockbridge, they soon began erecting their homes, planting their crops, and the many other chores which go along with running a farm, the most common profession. The early court records of Augusta, Botetourt, and Rockbridge are vital clues to the lives of our ancestors and should not be overlooked. One can nearly be assured their Scotch-Irish ancestor came to this area from Pennsylvania. Lancaster County being a general stopover.3 Most of the Ulstermen who came to this area left Ireland from Londonderry,4 bound for Philadelphia. As William Penn's colony allowed for free religion, the Presbyterians found they could worship as they wished and generally settled there for a while before seeking out a new frontier with their countrymen. Virginia did not allow for free religion, however the Anglican Church was mostly in the tidewater region and the Presbyterians found themselves relatively unmolested on the wild frontiers of Virginia.5 The Ulstermen often settled in Rockbridge for a generation or so, then the family traveled westward. Many settlers of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Ohio came from Rockbridge County. Southwest Virginia was settled by many people who had stopped in Rockbridge. There was some traffic over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Tuckahoe (east of the Blue Ridge) region was settled first by people of English origin. The Scotch-Irish didn't seem to have a lot in common with them and the traffic across the Blue Ridge was not common early. Over the years the people from Amherst, Nelson, Albemarle, Bedford etc. began to trickle through the mountain gaps and one soon finds Baptist Churches coming with them. The German element seems to have drifted into the region by way of Rockingham, Shenandoah, and of course Pennsylvania. With them came the Methodist and Lutheran churches. Years of war had left ruins in the Palatine region of Germany. By 1725, many had emigrated via Rotterdam to Philadelphia. By 1731, many of those immigrants left Pennsylvania and headed to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia seeking cheap land. As the Rockbridge area became settled, landmarks began to take names. Often a stream was named for a family who lived along it, or perhaps ran a mill along the stream.6 Other landmarks were named for descriptive reasons. Broad Creek because it was wide; Battle Run for the first Indian/Settler battle in Rockbridge which occurred along its banks. The House Mountains looked like houses. Many other examples abound.7 Animals probably signify some of the game found along the creeks on which the settlers hunted and lived. Elk Creek and Buffalo Creek would seem to indicate this. But Elephant Mountain most assuredly did not have elephants trampling about. Directions also held a part in naming landmarks. North Mountain, South Mountain, North Buffalo Creek, South Buffalo Creek, etc. As the settlements began to expand roads became necessary. The first settlers had only been able to travel by packhorse on narrow trails, in single file lines. The later settlers traveled in four-wheeled ox-carts, and later in horse drawn wagons. Soon stages could travel over the roads. The canal system and bateau boats took crops to market in Richmond. Then came the trains, and travel became much easier. One can but imagine boarding a train and moving the entire family to Indiana, when only a few years previous the same trip would have required many horses and wagons, not to mention the time it would have taken. These new transportation systems also brought jobs to the area. Laborers were engaged in building canal locks and dams, as well as railroad work. The first settlers had used road work as a sort of tax on the men over age sixteen. As the plantations began to flourish, settlers had seen the need for schools. The Scotch-Irish were strong believers in education, as they felt people should read God’s word and interpret it themselves. Teachers were sought out, quite often in the form of indentured servants. One room schools began to spring up on many plantations. Eventually, Augusta Academy, then Liberty Hall Academy were founded. These were the mothers of Washington College, which is today known as Washington and Lee University. Soon after the settlers arrived in the Rockbridge area, it became a necessity to erect forts in many of the communities. The blockhouse forts were generally used here. The gristmills were among the first order of business for many of the early comers, and the roads leading to them were among the most important. The road to the courthouse was usually the first to be improved. The gristmills allowed the settlers to turn their corn into cornmeal, or their wheat into flour. The settlers soon had enough excess crops to sell in larger markets to pay off their farms. A common item on a Scotch-Irishman’s farm was a still, and distilleries sprang up along many of the plantations.8 In one account of the 1840’s era, it was reported there were six distilleries in the neighborhood.9 Brown Betty, as the product was often called, was a common item at weddings and other social events. The church was, however, the mainstay of the early settlers social life. Little contact was made with the neighbors, except in the churchyard on Sundays. It should also be noted that all of the early churches were Presbyterian (Associate Reformed Presbyterian included). The predominant Scotch-Irish influence still carries on today. These early settlers had a difficult life. The roads were mere trails, the courthouses were few and far between, and the land was previously untilled, rocky and hilly. One can but imagine the hardships they endured as they struggled to clear the land, raise the crops, feed and clothe the family, and strive for a better way of life. It is very important to understand a little of the history of a people, before undertaking research on them, for without this understanding, they are merely statistics.

The First Settlement In Rockbridge John Lewis and his family settled in Augusta County, in what is now known as Staunton in 1732.10 For five years their settlement remained a western frontier, but more Scotch-Irish immigrants continued to seek land. Some business minded individuals began to speculate that by obtaining Land Grants from the Colonial Government, they could begin new settlements and become wealthy in the process. Benjamin Borden was one of these land speculators. He had requested and received a grant of about 100,000 acres along James River. In 1737, he set out to locate his lands, but soon found that without a trained surveyor he would have very much difficulty. He trekked onward in hopes of finding a surveyor upon reaching Lewis’ settlement. The McDowell family had left the port of Londonderry, Ireland in the ship “George and Ann”. They arrived in Philadelphia, PA in 1729, where they stopped for a time. After a while, they headed for the wilds of Virginia, having decided John Lewis’ settlement would meet their needs.11 En route, Benjamin Borden came upon the McDowell camp. They invited him in, and conversation soon led to his large land grant and the need of a surveyor to locate it. Without any fanfare, John McDowell informed Mr. Borden that he was trained as a surveyor. Mr. Borden had mentioned he would give a surveyor 1,000 acres of land if he could locate his land grant. Upon acknowledging McDowell’s occupation, Mr. Borden asked for proof. John McDowell took his surveying equipment from his saddle packs and exhibited them. He then requested proof from Benjamin Borden regarding the land grant. Mr. Borden showed the papers which clearly stated his right to the land. The next day the entire party continued on to John Lewis’ settlement where a written agreement was drawn up. It stated John McDowell was to locate Borden’s Grant and blaze a packhorse trail through it, in return, he was to receive 1,000 acres of good land.12 John McDowell chose his 1,000 acres near what is now the village of Fairfield. He then set about the task of locating the grant and blazing a trail. Land was cleared, and construction began on his house. Unlike many settlers, John McDowell took the time to peel the bark off the logs as he built his home. He then took red berries and stained the logs. His home became known far and wide as the Red House. The McDowell party consisted of John, his father Ephriam, his brother James, his sister Mary, and her husband James Greenlee. There may have been others traveling with them, if so their names have not come down to the author. James and Mary Greenlee settled near what is now known as Timber Ridge. Here they ran a Tavern until James’ death in 1763.13 Mary Greenlee was known far and wide as a crazy lady, or even sometimes referred to as a witch. Since the Indians regarded crazy people as untouchable, she was allowed to move easily in and out of their camps.14 This proved to be a valuable asset to Mary. When Alice Lewis was captured and scalped by a band of Indians, all hope was lost by John Lewis and his wife Margaret. Mary Greenlee offered to go into the Indian camps and rescue her. Her price was a horse upon which to bring the girl back and which she could keep on return. The Lewis’ were elated, and Mary was able to perform the rescue.15 Contradiction occurs when one tries to decide if Mary was actually crazy, or merely feisty. The author concurs on feisty and intelligent. At age 97, the county courts called upon Mary Greenlee to give depositions regarding land ownership. They again requested her testimony three years later. Mary amazed the Justices of the Peace with her astonishing memory, giving many details of the early settlers. Her depositions left us much history which would have otherwise been lost to time.16 Mary moved near Natural Bridge to live near her son in 1780, she died on his farm at age 102. Her grave is located on his farm and marked by a larger marker.17 John McDowell lived in Borden’s Grant for only five years. He was killed in the first Indian/settler altercation within the present bounds of Rockbridge in 1742. Depositions given many years later by his son Samuel McDowell, have also been preserved among the Augusta County, Virginia Court records.

End Notes

1. Oren F. Morton. History of Rockbridge County, Virginia. org. pub. 1920, reprint, Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1980, p. 20. John Lewis and his family settled near Staunton in 1732. Hereinafter cited as Morton, History of Rockbridge.

2. Morton, History of Rockbridge, p. 21. The McDowells came to Borden’s Grant in that year. They had come from Ulster in the “George and Ann”, landing in Philadelphia 4 Sep 1729, they stopped briefly in Pennsylvania before coming to Virginia.

3. Robin Brownstein and Peter Guttmacher. The Scotch-Irish Americans: The Peoples of North America. NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988, pp. 57-60.

4. Richard F. Welch. “Life In Early America: The Scotch-Irish.” Early American Life, August 1979, p. 33. The primary ports were Belfast, Derry and Newry.

5. Park Rouse, Jr. The Great Wagon Road From Philadelphia to the South; How Scotch-Irish and Germans Settled the Uplands. Richmond: The Dietz Press, 1992, pp. 21-24.

6. Examples: Hays Creek, Woods Creek, Allen Creek, Bordens Run, Bennetts Run, McClung Mountain, Adams Peak, Green Hill, Short Hill, Sallings Mountain, Colliers Creek, Todd Run, Kerrs Creek, etc..

7. White Rock Mountain, Big and Little Hellgate Creeks, Warm Run, Dry Run, Big Hill, Brushy Mountain, Whistle Creek, Cedar Creek, Ragged Mountain, Hog Back Mountain, Natural Bridge, etc.

8. Richard F. Welch. “Life In Early America: The Scotch-Irish,” Early American Life ,August 1979, pp. 66,68.

9. Clementine Brown Railey. The House of Ochiltree, Sterling, KS: Bulletin Printing Company, 1916, pp. 193-195. Ms. Railey gives a sketch of Samuel Miller (1805-1891), son of Samuel and Margaret (Lackey) Miller of the Natural Bridge community, Rockbridge County, VA. Ms. Railey cites “family records of Samuel Miller’s” passed down to his son, J. W. Miller, and J. W. Miller’s recollections of conversations with his father as her sources. She states that in his youth Samuel Miller took a pledge of abstinence from alcohol and “stayed by it, altho’ there were six distilleries in operation within two and one-half miles of his home.”

10. Morton, History of Rockbridge County, Virginia , p. 20.

11. Morton. History of Rockbridge, p. 21.

12. Morton. History of Rockbridge, pp. 22-23. An agreement (filed in Orange County) was signed on 9 Sep 1737 by Benjamin Borden and John McDowell which said that McDowell was to go with his father and his brothers and make four settlements in Bordens Grant. McDowell was to blaze a good road for horses loaded with common luggage, and blaze the trees along the way, in return McDowell was to get 1,000 acres of land, the other three settlements were to receive six hundred acres of good land.

13. Morton. History of Rockbridge, p. 255, and Lyman Chalkley . Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia: Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, Virginia, 1745-1800. (org. pub. 1912, reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1980). v. II, p. 76 cites Augusta County, Virginia Will Book 3, p. 210. 12 February 1763, Mary and John Greenlee on bond as administrators of James Greenlee deceased.

14. She may have pretended to be crazy to gain easy entrance to Indian camps, the author prefers to believe she was merely somewhat eccentric.

15. Rockbridge County News, “The Valley Manuscript” 26 February 1891, 5 march 1891, and 12 March 1891. It was said to have been taken from The Land We Love in January 1869 and was prepared by Fanny Fielding of Norfolk, VA. Ms. Fielding said it was “from a collection of archives known in our household by the above title from which I have been making extracts.” Much doubt exists upon these works, and the author tends to lean toward disbelief that the entire Valley Manuscript was actually taken from Margaret (Lynn) Lewis’ family papers. Much of it is believable, however if examined fact by fact much of it may be disproven. The author has never seen any actual documents from the manuscript, only typescript.

16. Morton. History of Rockbridge, p. 255, and Edmund Pendleton Tompkins. Rockbridge County, Virginia: An Informal History (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1952), pp. 25-36 provides extracts from Mary Greenlee’s Court depositions which are filed in Augusta County, Virginia. John Lewis Peyton’s History of Augusta County, Virginia (Staunton, VA: Samuel Yost & Son, 1882) fully transcribes her depositions beginning on p. 69.

17. Tompkins. Rockbridge County, Virginia: An Informal History, p. 25 notes that Mary’s grave was marked in 1944 by the Association for Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Sallie (Locher) Letcher is the present owner of the farm upon which Mary Greenlee lays to rest.

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Cornstalk and Rockbridge

by: Angela M. Ruley

17 December 1991

Dispelling a common myth. Contrary to popular belief, Rockbridge county was not formed to save the life of Captain James Hall, and others for the killing of Cornstalk. Cornstalk's death occurred 11 Nov 1777, the act authorizing the formation of Rockbridge was passed in October 1777. The two had nothing to do with each other. Legends have abounded that Rockbridge was formed so that Captain James Hall could be tried by a group of his neighbors, who would be more symphatheic to him than a group of strangers from Greenbrier. To put the record straight, Cornstalk's death had absolutetly nothing to do with the formation of Rockbridge. The first Rockbridge Order Book shows in Apr 1778, Court was held for examination of Captain James Hall on suspicion of felony, concerning the murder of the "Cornstalk" Indian, his son Ellinipsico, Redhawk, and another Indian chief. James Hall appeared, but no witnesses for the Commonwealth appeared. James Hall was placed on trial and acquitted. Hugh Galbraith, Malcolm McCown, and William Rowan were each tried on the same charges and acquitted. These were the first trials held in Rockbridge County, but not the first Court. The first Court held in Rockbridge was on April 7th. Captain James Hall's trial began on April 18th, and he was acquitted on April 28th of the same year.

The Shawnee. The Shawnee were an intelligent race, it was an ordinary occurence for a member of a Shawnee tribe to be able to converse in five or six languages, including English and French. The Shawnee were generous livers, and their women were superior housekeepers. Shawnee boasted that they could cause the white people ten times as much loss as they recieved. The most eminent war leader of the Shawnee nation was Cornstalk. It is not likely he led the raid on Kerrs Creek in 1759, although the warriors may have been of his tribe. Cornstalk was the leader of the Kerrs Creek raid in 1763, as well as the raids on the Greenbrier settlements, Jackson River, and the Cowpasture settlements. In those raids Cornstalk's warriors received very little damage to themselves, but created great havoc upon the settlers. In the battle of Point Pleasant, the Shawnee were the backbone of the Indian Army, and Cornstalk was the Commander-in-Chief. After the battle, Cornstalk's Army effected an unmolested retreat across the Ohio River, his warriors had inflicted a much heavier loss than they had taken, but his men were discouraged and gave up the campaign. Cornstalk had not been in favor of the War, but was overruled by his tribe.2 During the short peace that followed the Battle of Point Pleasant, he from time to time returned horses and cattle which had been lost or stolen to Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant.

Events at Point Pleasant. In 1777, the Shawnee were again restless. They had been worked upon by British emissaries and white renegades. Cornstalk, along with Red Hawk, a Delaware Chief, and another Indian visited Fort Randolph under what was virtually a flag of truce. He warned Captain Arbuckle, the commandant, of the feeling of the tribesmen. Cornstalk's mission was to avert open hostilities. According to the Indian standard, Cornstalk was an honorable foe, and he knew he ran a risk in putting himself in the power of the whites. Capt. Arbuckle thought it best to detain the Indians as hostages in hopes of preventing the Indian nation from joining the British. On November 9, 1777, while Cornstalk was drawing a map on the floor of the blockhouse, to explain the geography of the country beyond the Scioto and on to the Mississippi, his son Ellinipsico hallooed from the other bank of the Ohio and was taken across. Ellinipsico had come to the fort to check on the well being of his father, they embraced upon meeting. The following day, two men of Captain William McKee's Company, a Gilmore and a Hamilton, went over the Kanawha to hunt for deer or turkeys. Upon returning toward camp, Gilmore was killed by some lurking Indian along the river bank, and his body was carried back. The spectacle made his comrades wild with rage. They raised a cry, shouting "Let us kill the Indians in the fort," and without taking a second thought, they rushed the door of the blockhouse. Capt. Hall was the leader. The Militia men refused to listen to Captain Arbuckle, and threatened his life. "Cornstalk encouraged his son not to be afraid, for the Great man above had sent him there to be killed and die with him. A woman in the fort, the wife of an Indian intrepreter, had been a prisoner among the the Indians and felt much affection for their well being. When she heard the uproar outside the fort, she ran to the cabin and warned Cornstalk and the others that the men were coming to kill them because Gilmore had been killed by an Indian across the river. Ellinispsico said that he knew nothing of this, apparently one of the Indians who had accompanied him to the fort had done the shooting. When the door was forced open, Cornstalk stood erect before his executioners and fell dead, pierced by seven or eight balls. His son and other companions were also killed, Ellinipsico had been shot as he sat upon a stool, and Red Hawk had attempted to go up the chimney, when he was shot down. The other Indian did not receive an instant death but suffered some time from his wounds before he finally died. Cornstalk was about 50 years old at the time of his death. He was large in figure, commanding in presence, and very intellectual. Cornstalk and the others were first buried by Captain Stuart and Captain Arbuckle not far from camp, (near the intersection of present Viand & Kanawha Streets, Point Pleasant, WV). In 1840, when the Viand and Kanawha Streets were opened the remains of Cornstalk and the others were moved to the courthouse enclosure. They were buried with military honors.

Some reasons for Captain Hall’s rage. The people of the Kerrs Creek community remembered the Indian raids in their valley with much horror. They remembered how homes had been burned, families partially or wholly wiped out. Women and children had been tomahawked and scalped, friends and relatives had been carried away, and some had never returned. The men who had participated in the killing of Cornstalk were from Rockbridge. Captain James Hall was related to Gilmore (Captain Hall's wife was Martha Gilmore, and the Gilmore family had suffered in the Kerrs Creek Raids). These men felt justified in killing Cornstalk, Gilmore's death brought back all of the horrors they had witnessed from the Indian raids. There was nothing to show that Cornstalk had anything to do with the killing of Gilmore, or that any member of his tribe was involved. Had Cornstalk been a British officer, his government would have pronounced his murder as an inexcusable assassination, and would have avenged it by executing some American captive officer.

Frontierman vs. Indian points of view. To the frontiersmen of America, the Indians were not only heathens, but were deemed inferior. The comparatively humane treatment to which the frontiersman thought the French and British were entitled, he felt justified in withholding from the Indian. It was more often that the white man was responsible for the cause of border trouble than the Indian. The Indian's version is much less familiar to us than our own version. The Indian kept his word, he respected bravery. The children spared in the raids, were adopted into the tribe and loved. Women were never violated by the Indians east of the Mississippi, rape was not the Indian way. When a child was born in captivity to a white female, the mother was looked after as though she were one of their kind. Quite frequently adult captives were unwilling to return to their own people.

What others have had to say. Patrick Henry, the Governor of Virginia, denounced the murders in vehement words. He regarded it as a blot on the fair name of Virginia, and announced that as far as he was concerned, the perpetrators should be sought out and punished. In a letter to Colonel William Fleming, dated 9 February 1778; Governor Patrick Henry stated he blushed for the occasion of this War with the Shawanese. "I doubt not but you detest the vile assassins who have brought it on us at this critical time when our whole Force was wanted in another quarter. But why are they not brought to Justice? Shall the precedent establish the right of involving Virginia in War whenever any one in the back Country shall please?"......"I desire it may be remembered, that if the frontier people will not submit to the Laws, but thus set them at Defiance, they will not be considered as entitled to the protection of the Government, and were it not for the miserable condition of many with you, I should demand the offenders previous to every other step. For where is this wretched Business to end?..... If the Shawanese deserved death, because their countrymen committed hostilities, a Jury from the Vicinage will say so and acquit the accused who must be judged by his neighbors feeling the same resentments and passions with themselves. But they are traytors I suspect and agents for the enemy, who have taken this method to find employment for the brave back Woodsmen at home, and prevent joining Genl. Washington to strike a decisive stroke for Independency at this critcal time." ..... "In the Confidence that What I now press, I mean the bringing of the Murdered to Justice, will be done, government will loose no time in lending its best Aids to protect your Country."...In a letter dated 14 March 1778 from Col. William Preston and Col. William Fleming to Governor Patrick Henry, the following was said: ..."We fortunately had an oppotunity of taking Capt. Arbuckle & Col. Skillern's Depositions relative to the Murder of the Indians at F. Randolph which we transmitted to your Excellency by Mr. Barnet. As it appears by these Depositions the Agressors live in Augusta, Rockbridge, and Greenbrier Counties, we imagine you will send Orders to the Commanding Officers of these Counties concerning them. As we think it would be necessary to have a printed copy of your Proclamation for Apprehending the Guilty and bringing them to Justice, that it may be transmitted with any letter we send by the Grenadier Squaw to the Shawness Nation, it may tend to convince them the murder is had in abhorences by the Government and give authenticity to our letter."....13 Years later, Colonel Roosevelt (later President) called the killing of Cornstalk "one of the darkest stains on the checkered pages of frontier history."14

The Indian Revenge. In an attempt to avenge the death of Cornstalk, the Shawnees beseiged Fort Randolph in the spring of 1778. An Indian woman known as the Grenadier Squaw, and who was said to have been a sister of Cornstalk, had come to the fort with horses and cattle. She had gone out of the fort and overheard the natives plans. She told these plans to Captain McKee, then commandant. Captain McKee offered a furlough to any two men who would make speed to the Greenbrier to warn the people of the settlement of the Indians plans to attack. John Insminger and John Logan undertook the errand, but after starting out, they found they could not get past the Indians and returned the same evening. John Pryor and Phillip Hammond then agreed to go. The Grenadier Squaw painted and disguised the men to look like Indians. The two messengers travelled day and night, but reached Donally's fort a few hours ahead of the Shawnees, and though a severe battle took place, the foe was repulsed and the settlement saved. In the attack on Donally's Fort John Pritchet, James Burns, Alexander Ochiltree, and James Graham were the only whites killed. The Indians suffered a greater loss, seventeen were counted lying dead on the ground and others had been carried off. There had only been twenty-one men at Donally's fort, but Col. Stewart and Col. Lewis' troops arrived as re-inforcements, just before the end of the battle.15 The Greenbrier settlements remained unmolested until 1780, when a party of twenty-two warriors raided the country near the house of Lawrence Drennon, above the Little Levels. Henry Baker and Richard Hill were shot, Baker was killed, but Hill escaped and made his way to his house. Drennon sent a messenger to the Levels for assistance, and he soon returned with twenty men. The next morning as they saw nothing of the Indians they decided to bury Baker and head for the Levels. Two Bridges brothers decided to take a short cut and save time, they were both killed by Indians who were awaiting some of the whites to come that way. The next house attacked was that of Hugh McIver, he was killed and his wife taken prisoner. The Indians then came upon John Pryor, his wife and child. Pryor was shot through the breast, but stood still for fear of the fate of his wife and child, until one of the Indians took a hold of him. Pryor proved too strong for his opponent, even though he had been wounded, and was able to free himself. He then walked off without any attempt to stop him being made. His wife and child were taken prisoner. Pryor made it back to the settlement and related the incident, he died of his wounds that night. His wife and child were never heard from again. This same party of Indians next went to the house occupied by Thomas Drennon and a Mr. Smith, here they captured Mrs. Drennon, Mrs. Smith, and a child. On returning towards their homes they wounded Captain Samuel McClung, and killed an old man named Monday. About the same time William Griffith, his wife and daughter, were killed, and his son taken prisoner. These are thought to be the last Indian invasions on the Greenbrier.

End Notes

1. Rockbridge County, Virginia. Clerk of Circuit Court Office. Order Book 1.

2. Oren F. Morton. History of Rockbridge County, Virginia. (org. pub. 1920, reprint, Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1980), p. 79.

3. Virgil A. Lewis. History of the Battle of Point Pleasant. (org. pub. 1909, reprint, Harriaosnburg, Va: C. J. Carrier, 1974). p. 104, cite’s Capt. John Stuart’s Memoirs of the Indian Wars and Other Occurences, pp. 16-20.

4. Lewis, op cit., p. 105.

5. Lewis, op cit, p. 104, cites, Stuart’s Memoirs.

6. Ibid, p. 105. Capt. Stuart stated that he and Captain Arbuckle met them and tried to stop the men from entering, but the men cocked their guns and threatened Stuart and Arbuckle with death if they did not let them pass. Captain Hall led the men as they rushed the fort and killed the Indians.


8. Lewis, op cit., p. 105.

9. Lewis, op cit, p. 106. Capt. Stuart said that it pained him to see the other Indian so “shamefully mangled, and I grieved to see him so long in the agonies of death.”

10. Lewis, op cit., p. 107.

11. Lewis, op cit. p. 105, cites Col. John Stuart’s Memoirs.

12. F. B. Kegley. Kegley’s Virginia Frontier: The Beginning of the Southwest: The Roanoke of Colonial Days, 1749-1783. (org. pub. 1938, reprint Roanoke, VA: Southwest Virginia Historical Society). pp. 636-638.

13. Ibid, p. 639.

14. Virgil A. Lewis. History of the Batle of Point Pleasant. : Fought Between White Men and Indians at the Mouth of the Great Kanawha River (Now Point Pleasant, West Virginia) Monday, October 10th, 1774. The Chief Event of Lord Dunmore’s War. (org. pub. 1909, reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: C. J. Carrier, 1974.) p. 102a, cites Roosevelt’s Winning of the West, V.1, p. 24.

15. Hale, Trans Alleghany Pioneers.

For further reading:

Doddridge, Joseph A. The Settlement and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1763-1783. (org. pub. 1824, reprint, Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1988). pp. 180-184. Hale, John P. Trans-Alleghany Pioneers. (org. pub. 1886, reprint, Charleston, WV, The Kanawha Valley Publishing Co., 1931), pp. 210-224. (Col. John Stewart's account of events is cited). Kegley, F.B. Kegley's Virginia Frontier. (Roanoke, VA; Stone Press, 1938), pp. 622-624, 636-649. Lewis, Virgil A. History of the Battle of Point Pleasant. (org. pub. 1909, reprint, Harrisonburg, VA; C.J. Carrier Co., 1974), pp. 103-109, quotes Captain John Stuart’s “Memoirs of the Indian War and Other Occurences”, pp. 16-20. Morton, Oren F. History of Rockbridge County, VA. (org. pub. 1920, reprint, Baltimore, MD; Regional)Publishing Co., 1980), pp. 78-84.

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Lexington in the 1830’s

By: Angela M. Ruley

11 September 1995

Traveling in Lexington in the 1830’s was not an easy task, particularly if entering the town from the north end. The streets had not been graded and were very steep. In bad weather (spring and winter particularly), the clay streets were covered with mud and nearly impassable. Merchants from the Valley of Virginia hauled their goods in large covered wagons to Southwest Virginia and Tennessee. These more remote areas depended on the products from the more settled regions. The huge wagons were pulled by six horse teams, many of whom had bell teams. On a bell team, five of the six horses were outfitted with bells tied onto their hames. These made lovely sounding music as they moved along the streets and roads. If a bell team got their wagon stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out, their bells were given to the team which towed them from the mire. In foul weather, horses pulled in mud up to their knees, and sometimes up to the axles of the wagons. With mud up to the axles, they often got stuck. A team stuck in the mud could be rescued by another team by adding two horses and a driver to the ill fated wagon. The two drivers would crack their whips and often cursed a good deal as the horses pulled out the stalled wagon. Many of the wagons carried a bulldog along. The bulldog rode on the front gate of the wagon and barked as they came up the streets.

There were about four or five hundred residents in the town at that time, many of them were manufacturers of one type or another. At the Point, John Jordan ran a merchant and chopping mill, a sawmill, a tilt hammer, smith shop, and wagon making shop. There were two other blacksmiths in the town, Mr. McCaleb near the corner of Jefferson and Washington Streets, and Joshua Parks who lived near where the Old Main Street Mall is now located. Mr. Parks was known as one of the best horseshoers of his day. His shop was underneath his house. If one was in need of a horse for hire, David McKinley, who lived near the present Mayflower, could fix you right up. He kept many fine horses. Many of the farmers simply could not understand how he kept so many horses in such fine shape. If one cared to own a horse, “Old Man Bailey” was the man to see. He not only traded horses, but would fill in as a jockey if need be, even though he was a very large man. For the horse, one might need a saddle or some new harness, if that was the case there were two places to visit, both located on Main Street. James Kerr kept a saddle and harness shop before moving to Fairfield to farm and Jacob Fuller also kept a saddle and harness shop in an old frame building.

Perhaps a wagon was necessary. If that were the case two choices existed. Mr. McFaddin made wagons and plows on Jefferson Street, or one could visit Jordan’s Point. Perhaps a place to keep one’s horse was needed, there were liveries available. Alexander Sloan kept a stable with his hotel on Main Street near the present Robert E. Lee building, a livery stable was available at the Burton Hotel just down the street, and another was run by Isaac Clyce on the opposite side of the street near the present Deaver’s Alley. Isaac Clyce’s was the site of all animal shows and circuses. On his lot, the first agricultural fair in Rockbridge County was held. The McDowell Hotel also kept a livery. If the horse became ill and was in need of a doctor, an old negro man named Caesar could be found at the Burton Hotel. Caesar was a man of many peculiarities, but was “well mannered, full of witty sayings, and was loved and respected by all.” Once the horse had been well taken care of, it was time to purchase a new suit of clothes.

There were four tailors and two mantaumakers (dressmakers) residing in Lexington. John McClelland down near lot # 1 of the original town of Lexington could make a new suit of clothes, or Hughey Laughlin, who lived on the corner near the Presbyterian Church and his two sons Samuel and James could fix you right up. Hughey’s two daughters were dressmakers and helped to outfit the ladies of Lexington. Mrs. Huffman and her daughters also sewed and knitted for the townsfolk. If it was weaving that must be done, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson of Nelson Street could get the job done. One shouldn’t get a new suit of clothes without a proper hat. There were hatteries in the town as well. John Ruff ran the largest “manufactory” in the Valley of Virginia. His hattery employed from eight to twelve journeymen and apprentices. It was located on Main Street, just above the current Old Main Street building. Wagon loads of his hats were sent on a yearly basis to Tennessee and West Virginia. These wagons never returned empty, they brought back “dried peaches, feathers, maple sugar, furs of all kinds, pelts, and sometimes some good old peach brandy, such as you do not see or smell now.” Sam Pettigrew ran a hattery on up Main Street, across from Alexander Sloan’s Hotel. Mr. Kurts who lived on Jefferson Street worked for Sam. One must be on their toes when visiting Sam as he just might play a prank. Also on Main Street was Charles Varner, a hatter, across from the McDowell Hotel. For the ladies, Mrs. Moody could make just the right headpiece as she was a milliner.

Although shoes were not always considered a must, they were quite useful. There were four shoemakers to prepare the footwear. Of these, Mr. Curry was considered the best. His shoes wore so long that one tired of them before they wore out. He and his wife later moved to Richmond where they were quite successful. Father Burgess, a Methodist and librarian for the Franklin Society and his two sons George Wright and Morgan could also take care of one’s foot covering needs.

For those in need of jewelry, Jacob Bare’s brick establishment on Main Street could fit the bill. Mr. Bare was a silversmith. Those searching for cooking pots and other such items could visit Thomas Wade’s tin and coppersmith shop on Main Street. He and his family lived on the first and second stories of his home and he worked from his basement. Mr. Wade’s humor helped to keep Main Street interesting, especially when combined with that of Alexander Sloan and Samuel Pettigrew. Another tin shop was located further up Main Street and was run by Cooney Henson.

Those with a sweet tooth would stop by Horace Melcher’s candy factory where the County News Office building later stood. His candy factory was in his back yard. He made candy and baked cakes. If one were in need of refreshment, the cake and cider shops were available. Patsy Blunt kept a cake and cider shop on Jefferson Street in a frame house. Jennie Bailey kept a cake and cider and/or beer shop near Preston Street. Jennie married Johnny Rails and they both died in their “old log cabin in ‘Possum Hollow.” On Main Street, Mrs. Samuel Carter also kept a cake and cider shop.

Another form of refreshment could be found at the hotels of which there were four in Lexington. The McDowell Hotel was located up Main Street. Alexander Sloan’s hotel was down Main Street near the courthouse. He was a bachelor. Mr. Sloan was another character who kept Main Street fun. It is said that once a stipend ticket was sent him by the Presbyterian church. When the deacon came around for collection, Mr. Sloan replied that he did not attend services. The deacon noted that the church was always open and was free to everyone. Mr. Sloan settled the ticket by making out one for the preacher good for drinks at his bar. The deacon protested, but Mr. Sloan replied that his bar was “open to all who might want to imbibe.” Then came the Burton Hotel which was operated by John S. Leech for a couple of years after the Burton family moved south. Next came Isaac Clyce’s Hotel on down Main Street and across Henry.

If one were in need of a physician, there were two in Lexington. Dr. Paine had a large practice and lived in a two-story frame house on Main Street. He was known for bleeding his patients and giving them pills when needed. Dr. Marshall lived near the present Wilson-Walker house and was at one time the college president. John Curry, son of Mr. Curry the Englishman and shoemaker, became a physician and moved to Brownsburg. After having visited the doctor, one might need an apothecary or drugstore. James Dunkun ran such an establishment on Main Street .

There were eleven mercantile or dry goods stores where supplies could be purchased. James Compton ran a mercantile on Main Street. Dick Morris had a dry goods, grocery and candy store. He was a kind hearted old bachelor and rarely did a child leave his business without a stick of candy in hand. Robert White operated a store selling dry goods and groceries. He was also a magistrate and represented the area in the legislature. Matthew White was a successful merchant and farmer. William Stevens ran one of the largest dry goods, grocery, hardware and queensware establishments in town. He became quite wealthy. John S. Cummings dry goods and grocery store did a good deal of business. Near the Burton Hotel was located John F. Caruther’s dry goods, grocery, hardware and queensware store. Hugh Barclay's dry goods store was located nearby. The Dold store and the Leyburn building both contained dry goods and grocery stores. On Jefferson Street, Thomas S. Moore and Mr. McCue ran a mercantile. If one were in need of a good book, Mrs. Paine, wife of Dr. Paine ran the only bookstore in town. She had a cash only policy.

Then as now, there were a number of lawyers in the town of Lexington. William F. Taylor was Commonwealth Attorney, Charles Dorman, John Letcher, Mr. Michie of Staunton, Samuel McD. Moore, James B. Davidson, and John W. Brokenborough all made up the Lexington bar. Charles Dorman was considered one of the best orators of his day and also one of the best criminal lawyers in Lexington. David Curry also became a member of the bar. John Letcher was later a congressman and Governor of Virginia. He was known in Congress as “Honest John, or the Watch-dog of the Treasury.” Also helping to run our court were judges and clerks. The Circuit Judge was Lucas P. Thompson. Colonel Samuel McDowell Reid served many years as clerk of the court. “Colonel Reid was regarded as one of the most reliable men of the county, not only as clerk but as one of the best farmers and counselors, always ready and willing to give good advice.” David Hutchinson lived on Main Street and served as assistant Clerk of Court for many years. Charles Chaplin taught at the Academy and served for a while as Clerk of Court. Helping to keep law breakers in order were the constables. John Fuller was a constable and also served as librarian of the Franklin Society. He was a son of Jacob Fuller the saddle and harness maker. James Metheny also served as constable.

Cornelius Dorman was the jailor. He was a very stooped old man with long gray hair reaching down to his waist. He was the father of Charles Dorman and Mrs. Andrew B. Davidson. Joseph Huffman lived on Jefferson Street near McCaleb’s smith shop. He was a butcher and a tanner. His pump which stood in front on Washington Street supplied much of the town’s water. His children moved West. Daniel Huffman lived in a large brick house across from the present Wilson-Walker house. He operated a tanyard where the Sheridan ice plant later stood. His two sons, John and William moved West. John Perry owned the entire corner at Main and Henry Street where the Fraternities currently stand. He ran a tanyard. An old negro worked for him who was known as “Daddy Buck.” Daddy Buck was also the sexton of the Presbyterian Church and a grave digger. He was known and loved by many.

If a home or building was to be erected or improved, there were people who could take on the task. Mr. Moody was a carpenter. Samuel Carter was a carpenter and fence builder. Isaac Clyce, the hotel and livery owner, was also a carpenter. William Letcher was a carpenter and house builder. He was the father of John Letcher, later Governor of Virginia. They were Methodists and their home served as a rest stop for the circuit riders. If the house needed to be painted Mr. Dorsey could get the job done. If brick were the choice material it could be obtained locally. John Todd was a brickmaker. Samuel Darst was also a brickmaker and a brick mason. He built many fine homes in Lexington.

If one were in need of furnishings for the home, Lexington had it all. Matthew Kahle was a fine cabinetmaker on Main Street. Thomas Chittum was a very busy cabinetmaker. James Richwood was a cabinetmaker who lived in a two story frame house on Main Street. He had two sons, John and James. John lived in Galveston, TX in 1852. Samuel Smith was a chairmaker. Chairs made by him were said to be very strong and endured for many years. Many auctions took place, then as now. The auctioneers available were James Metheny and “Old Man” Bailey with his resounding voice. They called many of the sales of Lexington.

The editor of the town paper was Alphonso Smith, son of Samuel the chairmaker. He volunteered in the Rockbridge Rifles and died from wounds received in battle during the Civil War. His brother Jacob Henry was a preacher. During the 1830’s, George Baxter, James Douglas, and William Cunningham served as the Presbyterian ministers. John Miller was the Methodist preacher . He lived in an old frame house with a very high porch on Main Street. He, his wife and five daughters moved from Lexington. Then as now, mail was important to the townsfolk. Captain Wilson, who lived at the current Wilson-Walker house, was the postmaster. He and his wife had a fine carriage and a pair of beautiful bay horses. Their driver was Levi Todd, father of John Todd the brickmaker. Education was important. Jacob Fuller, son of Jacob Fuller the saddle and harness maker, taught grammar school in town. Charles Chaplin taught at the Academy. Reuben McNutt later taught a school in the old McFaddin wagon making shop. Dr. Ruffner was president of the college. Professors Calhoun, Dabney, and Armstrong lived on the ridge which is now Jackson Avenue. The Ann Smith academy was run by Misses Graham and later by a Mr. Bradshaw. In a little white house on the bank at the corner of the Letcher lot, lived John Simms a negro. He was called “Professor” by the students. John “carried all of the water for the college from Back spring, in two buckets at a time, kept off of him by a hoop, and he made up the beds and cleaned up the rooms. He was liked and respected by everyone that knew him.” He was a good Christian man.

Source: Rockbridge County News. “Reminiscences of Lexington 65 and 70 years Ago” by William A. Ruff. A series, running 3 April 1902- 1 May 1902.

(C) The works herein are the sole property of the author, you may not reprint them with out the express authorization of the author. Angela M. Ruley

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