The Killing of Humphrey Dickenson

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 55-56.

Humphrey Dickenson, son of Henry Dickenson, Sr., of Prince Edward Co., VA, and a brother to Henry Dickenson, Jr., first Clerk of Russell Co., VA, settled on 310 acres of land on the north side of Clinch River, just up river from Castlewood in the year 1769. The old two-story log house where he settled in still standing (1950s) in a fair state of repair and is now the property of Mr. Donald Gray, of Castlewood.

This acreage was surveyed for Humphrey Dickenson on May 26, 1774, being the first surveys made in what is now Russell County, and was entered in the records of the now extinct Fincastle Co., VA, and was reentered in Washington Co., VA, on August 23, 1781, in the name of John, spelled "Dickerson", heir-at-law to Humphrey Dickenson, deceased.

The tradition in the Dickenson family is that Humphrey Dickenson was killed by the Indians. They say he was found in Gist's Ford of Clinch River on a rock and had been shot by the Indians. This is another of the Indian killings, as there were many, which has not been documented and no factual evidence of the killing has been uncovered to date. The actual date of his death can be proven to have occurred sometime between 26th of August, 1777 and 17th of November, 1778, for on the latter date the Court of Washington Co., VA, entered this order: "On motion of Elizabeth Dickenson, and Thomas Brown, administration is granted them on the estate of Humphrey Dickenson, deceased, who made oath thereto and entered into and acknowledged their bonds in the sum of two thousand pounds lawful money with Archealous Dickenson, (brother of Humphrey) William Cowan, and John Anderson, their securities for the faithful administration of the said decedents estate."

"Ordered that John Dunkin (1), John Kincaid, Sr., and Samuel Porter (1), Zachariah Abel, and Archibald Scott (1), or any three of them, being first sworn to appraise the estate of Humphrey Dickenson, deceased, and make return to the court."

Humphrey Dickenson had four children at the time of his death, as proven by the Washington Co. Deed books (2) , wherein Henry Dickenson, father of the slain Humphrey, leaves a Negro slave to John Dickenson, son of Humphrey Dickenson, deceased, "for the love and affection I bear my grandchild." The order goes on to say that John must pay a fourth of the value of the Negro to each of his brothers and sisters; Humphrey Dickenson, Jr., Eliza Dickenson Crump, and Nancy Dickenson. Elizabeth, the widow of Humphrey Dickenson, later married a Mr. George Crump.

In Washington Co. Survey Book, page 192, is this entry:

Surveyed for John Dickerson two hundred and eighty six acres of land in Washington county, lying on the north side of Clinch River and beginning on the bank of the same below Gist's Ford; running thence up the meanders of the river, etc...Surveyed 15 March, 1783.

We the Commissioners, etc...do certify that John Dickerson, heir-at-law to Humphrey Dickerson, who was assignee of Joseph Blackmore, who was assignee of Nathaniel Gist is entitled to 310 acres of land lying in Washington county on the north side of Clynch River in Cassell's Woods, to include his improvement. Surveyed the 28th day of May, 1774.

(1) Later captured by the Indians.
(2) Archibald Scott who had married Humphrey Dickenson's sister, Frances (Fanny) was murdered on Wallens Creek in 1785, along with all his children, and his wife was taken captive, later escaping.
(3) Deed Book 1, page 30, dated 17 July, 1790, Washington Co., VA.



This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson


Note, 16 Aug 2002: It is stated above that "This is another of the Indian killings, as there were many, which has not been documented and no factual evidence of the killing has been uncovered to date." There is new evidence which now does support and document this killing. It comes in the form of the Revolutionary Pension Application statement of Edward Dorton in Floyd Co., KY in 1833. Edward Dorton's statement further links the killing of Humphrey with that of Solomon Kendrick. Below is the statement of Edward Dorton:

Revolutionary War pension record from National Archives

Edward Dorton

State of Kentucky

Floyd County

On the 12th day of December 1833, personally appears before the distingushed Justice of the Peace for the county aforesaid now sitting, Edward Dorton a resident of Kentucky in the county of Floyd, aged eighty two years: who being first duly sworn according to the law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed June 7, 1832; that he entered in the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein atated; that in the spring of 1776 the Indians became troublesome in the western part of Virginia so much so that it prevented a band of immigrants from proceeding to Kentucky. Said applicant was then residing in Washington County, Virginia and on the waters of Powell's River in Powell's Valley. Col. William Campbell the Col. of the county ordered that a volunteer company should be raised to supress the Indians: which company this applicant states he enlisted in as a volunteer for "six months" in the month of March 1776, the day of the month not recollected.

Under Capt. Bickley and Lieutenant Cowan, Ensign Robinson the company immediatley commenced their march down Powell's Valley to "Cumberland Gap" and there we were fired upon by the Indians. The firing was continued warnly by both sides for some time and the Indians gave way and fled. From their painted appearance we apprehended a more formidable band against us and accordingly retreated in all possibe speed to the stellements and ascertained that the Indians we fought was the Cherokees. We remained but a short time and being joined by more volunteers we again marched to the frontier. We got back on the last of July 1776. Having been back but a short time we was attacked near Cumberland Mountain by about forty Indians. We outnumbered them a few. The fighting commenced first by the Indians who lay concealed behind old logs and rocks. The skirmish lasted for three hours in which a few Indians were killed. Our company lost several--Dickenson, Humphery and Solomon Kendrick. We remained here till August (the last part) and went back to the settlement all broke up and forted as they had done for six years before. We guarded the fort till late in November. We all recieved discharges certifying our service.

On the first day of April next year 1777 the Indians again returned to Clinch and Powell's Valley and commenced murdering and plundering the settlements in that region. A volunteer company was raised by Capt. John Snoddy and Lieutenant Robinson (my ensign the year before) this pursant to Col. Campbell's orders, who was our Col., I volunteered for six months again. The fort was useless unless a force was kept in the field against the Indians, the settlements had no security. Col. Campbell did not accompany us but gave us his orders.

About this time the Tories in North Carolina continued their operations and they were aided by a few from the South Fork of the Holston who frequently stole horses belonging to the Whigs and carried them to the Tories in Carolina. Our company marched down to the mouth of the North Fork of the Holston and took a western direction for Powell Valley on the frontiers. Here we remained scouting till August 1777, when we was attacked by a band of hostile Indians at day break. After an hour skirmish and running fight we was forced to retreat. The brother of this applicant was killed and skelpt by the Indians, also a man by the name Michael Auxier and another by the name of Litton and one William Priest was killed and several wounded. The Cherokee Indians was assembling in large numbers down Holston to commence war. They had painted themselves and had the war dance and for fear of being cut off we retreated to the settlements.

Cocke of Carolina and Christy of Virginia marched to beat down the Cherokees. The Indians formed a plan to fall on the settlements on the Clinch and Gen. Christy sent one Martin to inform the fort of it. We all broke up and went to Abingdon. Not long after this Christy made peace with the Indians at the Long Islands which according to the applicants recollection in June 1777.

He wishes to be understood that he cannot be positive as to dates but knows it was sometime before Col. Campbell went to Carolina when the applicant and his brother went with him. He then received his discharge from duty for his "six months". In the spring of 1778 the Shawnee Indians from over the Ohio broke out in the Clinch settlements in March 1778. The applicant enlisted for one year to scout and spy under Capt. Lewis and Lieutenant Hawkins. This was the manner in which the company was engaged. Col. Campbell states he was authorized to run the company for the purpose and that each man should recieve pay. The company divided in two's and four's and we ranged and spied all that summer and winter and until April 1779.

We crossed frequently behind Cumberland Mountain down on the Kentucky and Big Sandy Rivers. They would generally leave the country for Kentucky or thier nation in November to hunt and return early in the spring.

This applicant served out his time and applied for his pay and Governor Patrick Henry stated that the state was not bound to pay; this applicant never got his pay. In July 1780 the day of the month not recollected this applicant and one of his brothers was prevailed on by Col. Campbell to accompany him against the Tories and British in the Carolinas and they did so and enlisted as new volunteers for no certain time. Something prevented us from starting immediately.

Col. Campbell got word from Col. Cleveland that the Tories had fled from the Haw River and many from PeeDee and they had joined Ferguson (Major or Col.). We started from Abingdon all on horses and our Capt. was by the name of Looney. He thinks Col. Campbell's brother was a Capt. also. We crossed the Catawba high up in Burk's County, N.C. and came up with the British at a place called King's Mountain. Campbell was joined by Col. Cleveland and Major Shelby and Col. Sevier. There was a Frenchman there also by the name of Malmaday (this applicant thinks he was a Major) and Gen. McDowell were all on horses. When we got within one mile of the mountain we all hitched our horses and left them in care of some militia companies.

The whole of us was divided; part of Campbell's men fell under Cleveland and one Sevier and Wilson. This applicant was one of them and marched up. They were on the side of the mountain. The firing commenced on the right wing (commanded by Campbell) and Shebly on the left, Cleveland in the center. The British with bayonets charged upon Cleveland's men and forced us to give back, but we all took turns. The battle lasted for some time and we made them all prisoners. The troops, or part, went over to Charlotte and we took some of the prisoners along. Gates' army was at Charlotte. From there we went to Hillsboro, N.C. and remained there but a few days and again went back to Charlotte where we all ------. Gen. Greene took command, this was in December 1780 or 1781.

In January I hired my horse to the Government of N.C. and belonged then to the light infantry. Our whole army went to Cheraw Hills, after the battle of the Cowpens we all retreated to Virginia. In February or March we gave the enemy battle at Guilford where we was defeated. A few days after this I left the service and returned home. I knew many officers during the service, to wit: Col. Washington, Capt. Charles Y. Wilson, Gen. Gates, Gen. Huger, Gen. Davis and Col. Davidson, Maj. Malmady, Col. Sevier, Maj. Shelby, Col. Wilson, Capt. Thomas H. Davis, and Lieutenant Hinner, Col. Hogan, Gen. Rutherford and many others. I have no documentary evidence in my favor. I received three discharges, the last time I did not receive a discharge but a recommendation. I do not know what has become of them. The fact was I cared nothing about them for it has been more than fifty years since. He hereby relinquishes his every claim whatever to a pension or annuity except the present one. He declares his name is not on the pension roll of the agency of any state: Sworn and subscribed the day and date aforesaid:

Edward Darten



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