The Slaying of John Douglas at Little Moccasin Gap

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell, and Holston Rivers, pages 28-30.

This incident has perhaps suffered more abuse as to correct date than any event on the frontier. L. P. Summers, in his History of Washington County, has John Douglas and William Benham chasing the Indians who had captured the wife and children of Capt. Isaac Newland, near Abingdon in 1789, thirteen years after young Douglas had been killed. Just what age John Douglas was when slain is unknown, but he must have been a fairly young, unmarried man, yet, old enough to have served in the militia as a Sergeant under Capt. William Cocke, August 5, 1774. (1)

Captain William Russell Wrote to Colonel Preston, on July 7, 1776, (2) saying:

Dear Colo. - I wrote you yesterday in great haste intendent to send of the express immediately, but he, being disappointed, shall enclose that one in this. I omitted giving the account of two men (no names Given), being killed at Blackmoreís Fort last week, and since I left Fort Chiswell, poor John Douglas got killed in Little Moccasin Gap, on his way to Clinch. Captain Daniel Smith saw his bones yesterday (July 6th) arriving over here.

As evidenced by Captain Russellís letter, John Douglas was probably killed either on July 5th or 6th. Tradition has it that Douglas was accompanied by his friend William Benham, and that they, as was customary of most people traveling from Abingdon to the Clinch settlements, had stopped in Little Moccasin Gap, and were seated on a large flat rock, eating their lunch when a rifle cracked and Douglas was killed. A bronze plaque has been placed on the rock, probably by the D. A. R., and just east of the spot a wayside has been built, known as the "John Douglas Wayside", perpetuating the memory of this incident.

It has been written that John Douglas was living in the vicinity of Abingdon at the time, but of this I can find no confirmation. He, at the time, was a young unmarried man, and his parents, Edward and Sarah George Douglas were living on a 400 acre tract of land on both sides of Clinch River at the Flour Ford in Scott County, VA, where they had settled in 1776. The Douglas family and that of Captain John Blackmore had intermarried. Sarah Douglas, a sister of the slain John, having married Thomas, a son of Captain John Blackmore, and Almore Douglas was married to a daughter of Captain John Blackmore to the Nashboro settlement when he rafted down the Clinch to that place in 1779.

There was a connection between the Douglas, Benham and Hobbs families which may account for John Douglasí friend William Benham being with him at the time of the slaying. For the foregoing data I am indebted to Gordon Aronhime, of Bristol, VA.

A man named John Benham settled on the north side of the North Fork of Holston River in 1769. William Benham was likely his son. He, the elder Benham owned about a thousand acres of land along the Holston River, about four miles or less below the village of Holston. John Benham was evidently a brother-in-law of the elder Vincent Hobbs. Benham had a son named Vincent, and the Benhams and Hobbs lived next farms to each other, coming to the area about the same time. John Benham (died 1800) had a fort between those near Saltville (that of Jeremiah Harrison) and the Anderson Blockhouse near Big Moccasin Gap. Benham had built his fort before the Revolutionary War. William Benham married Mary Kendrick.

John Douglas had probably been visiting with his friends and kindred, Benhams and Hobbs over at Holston, and was returning to the Clinch, along with William Benham when he was slain.

At a court held for Washington County, VA, on September 30, 1777, Edward Douglas (his father) was granted administration of the estate of John Douglas, deceased, with his securities being William Wilson and Richard Stanton, the latter living on Stantonís Creek, below Dungannon, in Scott County, VA. The appraisers of the estate were John Blackmore, Blackmoreís Fort, Andrew Davis who lived at the mouth of Stoney Creek, near Blackmoreís Fort, and Alexander Ritchie, Sr., who lived on Clinch River, below Dungannon in Scott County.

Who were the two men that Captain Russell says were killed at Blackmoreís Fort?

(1) Shelby Family Papers, Vol. I, Item 412, Library of Congress
(2) Draper Mss 4 QQ 53.



This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson


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