Indian Tragedies Against the Walker Family

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers.

John Walker and his wife Katherine Rutherford, first lived at Wigton, Scotland, later moving to Newry, Ireland, from whence they sailed from Strangford Bay in May 1726, landing in maryland in August of that year. Soon he was settled in Chester Co., PA, where he died in 1734. His wife, Katherine died the same year. Most of the family of John Walker, the immigrant, moved from Pennsylvania and settled in Augusta and Rockbridge Counties in Virginia, and from there they scattered westward.

Among the children of John and Katherine Walker was John Walker, Jr.; who settled on Clinch River in what is today Russell Co. and Jane Walker who married James Moore and settled in Rockbridge Co.

John Walker, Jr., born 1705, married Ann Houston in 1734. He first settled in Augusta Co., and later with the Hays family moved to Rockbridge Co. and settled on a stream still known today as Walker’s Creek. From Walker’s Creek he moved to Clinch River in present Russell Co., VA, where he settled in 1773 at the "sink" of Sinking Creek on a 300 acre tract of land which he named "Broadmeadows". This land was surveyed and entered for him in old Fincastle Co., April 2, 1774. At this time he was a man of some 68 years and surely must have followed his children in their wanderings to the Virginia frontier. In spite of his advanced age he still lived to see a son and son-in-law killed by Indians, and a daughter and grandson carried away into captivity, dying in 1778 before their return.

Ann Walker, daughter of John and Ann Houston Walker, had married Samuel Cowan, and they settled on a 284 acre tract of land in lower Castlewood on both side of McKinney’s Run, now called Cowan’s Creek, which was surveyed for them on April 3, 1774 in Fincastle Co., VA.

In June or July of 1776, news reached the frontier that the Cherokee were planning to attack Houston’s Fort on Big Moccasin Creek. Samuel Cowan rode from Castlewood to warn of this impending attack. Charles Bickley who filed his Revoutionary War pension claim in Russell Co. In 1836 tells of Cowan’s death in this manner:

Information reached the fort (Rye Cove Fort where Bickley was stationed) through Captain Daniel Smith that the Indians were upon the waters of Moccasin Creek, whereupon Captain (John) Montgomery with his company, joined Captain Smith, and his company and marched in pursuit of the Indians, and pursued their trail within a short distance of Houston’s Fort upon Moccasin Creek, where from their apparently having separated, were unable to prosecute the pursuit further is that way and marched on the last named fort. Upon arrival at the fort they found no assault had, as yet been made upon it by the Indians and found there a man from Castlewood of the name of Samuel Cowan, riding as this declarant now remembers, a stud horse belonging to one Deskin Tibbs.

Cowan proposed to leave the fort and return to his family, but was admonished of the danger of an attempt to do so, as the Indians were in the neighborhood, but he persisted in his determination and set out, but proceeded but a short distance when the firing of guns was heard in the fort and the forces sallied out to attack. When they soon came upon the body of Cowan, shot from his horse and scalped, and although still alive, was taken to the fort and died the same evening.

Mrs. Samuel Scott of Jessamine Co., KY, whose family was refugeeing in Houston’s Fort tells the reason for Cowan’s presence at the fort and generally corroborates the story told by Charles Bickley. She told her story years later to the Rev. John Shane (Draper Mss) and referred to him as "Matthew" instead of Samuel, with a question mark after Matthew in the original manuscript as though she wasn’t sure of his first name. She states:

Matthew (?) Cowan brought the express from Moore’s Fort to Houston’s Fort that 300 Indians were coming to attack Houston’s fort. The next morning he would start to go back and thought he could get through, but was shot. His horse got in safe (to Castlewood). His wife fainted when she saw the horse - a stud horse, all in a ‘power of sweat’. He was brought in wounded and died. There my father, John McCorkle was at the time. There were 300 Indians to 21 families (in the Fort). I think the men did not exceed 30. The Indians stayed there about eight days killing cattle. They were Cherokees. None of the people in the fort were killed. Relief came in from Holston and then they left.

The last record directly referring to the death of Cowan in a letter written from Tennessee to Dr. Lyman C. Draper by Captain John Carr, who as a small child, was with his family in the fort at the time. He writes:

We forted in Houston’s Fort in Washington Co., VA, on a creek called Big Moccasin Creek, about 10 or 15 miles north of Clinch River. The Indians made an attack on the fort. They killed a man by the name of Cowan. After firing upon the fort for about half a day they were driven off. I recollect that my father sat me up so as to enable me to see through the port holes the Indians as they were firing upon the fort.

In May of 1778 a group of people were traveling from David Cowan’s Fort (Upper Castlewood) to Moore’s fort in lower Castlewood, a distance of approximately two miles. They were attacked by Indians and Samuel Walker, son of John and Ann Houston Walker was killed, and Ann Walker Cowan, widow of Samuel Cowan, and her nephew William Walker were carried away as prisoners. Ann remained a prisoner for about seven years, and her nephew William Walker never returned. For details of how they were captured we go again to Mrs. Samuel Scott who lived on the Clinch from 1772 to 1783, and who was again present when this event occurred. She states:

One year while we lived on the Clinch we did not fort, and did not need to fort. Cowan’s Fort was about two miles from Moore’s Fort. We went to it (Cowan’s) one year, but it was too weak; but seven or eight families. The Indians attacked it. Miss Walker - then the widow Cowan, was taken, going from it to Moore’s. Her and her sister’s son, William Walker were taken - her sister married a Walker (???). Her brother Matthew (really Samuel) Walker that went with her was killed, and the other man was shot at, but escaped and got into the fort. This Mrs. Cowan had just gotten back from this captivity as we passed the Crab Orchard (Lincoln Co., KY) coming out to Kentucky. (It was 1783/84 that Mrs. Scott went to KY) Captain John Snoddy, William and Joe Moore’s wives were sisters to her (Mrs. Cowan). They (Snoddy and the Moore brothers) were forted there (Crab Orchard) where they had moved from the Clinch. NOTE by ELH: Capt. John Snoddy’s wife, Margaret, really was a sister to Ann Walker Cowan, but I doubt that William and Joseph Moore’s wives were her sisters, but in some other way the Moore’s might have been related.

The will of John Walker, Jr., was probated in Washington Co., VA, November 17, 1778, and in this will he mentions his grandson William Walker, who was perhaps the same who was captured by the Indians. The will perhaps having been written before the capture occurred.

Judge M. B. Wood, of Estilville (now Gate City, VA) wrote to Draper in 1883, 9 MSS 4 C 26(2), that Ann Walker Cowan was held captive for 7 years, when she was ransomed and brought to Philadelphia, and that Patrick Porter went there and brought her home. This story seems questionable since Mrs. Scott says she was at the Crab Orchard in 1783/84, with her relatives the Snoddys and Moores, and at which time Patrick Porter was still living in Washington Co., VA.

William Walker who was captured by the Indians was a son of John Walker III, and his wife who was a Miss Long. He was born around 1770/71 and would have been about eight years old when captured. William Walker, the captive, after growing up among the northern Indians married Katherine Rankin, the daughter of John Rankin of Tyrone, Ireland, and his wife Mary Montour. William died at Upper Sandusky, Ohio, January 22, 1824.

William Walker, son of the captive, handed down the story of his father’s capture by the Indians, as generally outlined below:

William Walker and his uncle, Samuel were in a field plowing corn, young William riding the horse and his uncle hold the plow. When coming out at the end of a row, and in the act of turning they were fired upon by Indians from behind the fence, wounding Samuel in both arms. The boy sprang from the horse and both fled, but he was captured before getting out of the field and his uncle Samuel was overtaken and killed. Then the Indians retreated and after traveling four or five miles halted in a thick wood and a reconnoitering party returned to the invaded spot. In the afternoon the reconnoitering party returned laden with plunder and accompanied by another party of Delaware which the prisoners had not seen before, and with them, as a prisoner was his aunt Ann Walker Cowan. Mrs. Cowan had been captured as Mrs. Scott details while traveling between Cowan’s and Moore’s Forts by the second party of Delaware Indians. While being the same group the Indians had split into two separate raiding parties.

Then commenced the march toward Ohio, which was attended by many, many privations, hardships and hunger. The captives were looking backward and hoping and praying for a rescue party of whites, but none came. After crossing the Ohio River all hope of rescue vanished and to add to their grief the Indians again separated into two parties, each taking their own prisoners. Young William Walker never again saw his aunt.

The part having young Walker proceeded directly to the Indian town on the Scioto River, and after resting here a few days proceeded to their own settlement on the Whetstone, now Delaware, Ohio, where young Walker was forced to run the gauntlet. He was then adopted into an Indian family with who he lived some four or five years.

While attending a council at Detroit with his Delaware friends, they met with a large group of Wyandottes, among which was an adopted white man named Adam Brown, who had been captured in Dunmore’s War, and who had married an Indian woman and was influential in the tribe. The youth attracted his attention and a conversation in English occurred, young Walker not having forgotten his native tongue. Brown negotiated for his release and he was permitted to go with the Wyandottes after many obstacles were ironed out through the idea of kinship of the two tribes. No reason was required and none given for his transfer since the exchange was through brothers and sale of a child was forbidden through brotherly ties. With Brown he lived until he was 21 or 22 years old, when he was then married to Miss Eatherine Rankin, daughter of a Trader formerly connected with the Hudson Bay Co. Whose name was James Ranking and whose wife was Lay Montour, half French and half Wyandotte Indian.

After marriage he settled near Gibraltar, Wayne County, Michigan, about 1790. He later became a very important personage in working for the United States among the Indians. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 he was appointed Special Indian Agent and was successful in keeping the Indians as allies of the U. S. His service to the U. S. Government was outstanding and honorable, and with much grief and misfortune to himself, including that of being a prisoner and a daring escape from the British. His son William Walker, Jr., became the first Governor of the Kansas Territory.

Jane Walker, daughter of the immigrant John Walker and his wife Katherine Rutherford, and sister of John Walker of Broadmeadows, married James Moore in April, 1734. They had a son James Moore who married Martha Poage, and moved from Rockbridge Co., VA, to Abbs Valley in present Tazewell Co., VA, built a cabin in that lonely, isolated valley and moved his family there in 1772. In 1777 he was appointed a Lieutenant and in 1778 a Captain of Militia by the Court of Washington Co., VA, and from this time until 1786 the Commandant of Davidson’s Fort on Cove Creek of Blue Stone River.

In July 1784 the depredations by Indians began on the family of Captain James Moore, when his fourteen year old son, James Moore was captured by the Shawnee Black Wolf, his son and another Indian, when he went to a field to get a horse to ride to the mill. He was carried to the Shawnee Towns in Ohio, and did not return until September 1789. The only source I know for details of this capture is Pendleton’s, History of Tazewell County, and Pendleton lifted much of his material from Bickley’s, History of Tazewell, published about 1853. Pendleton states:

In 1785 he was so fortunate as to get away from the Indians, and several years after his return related the following incidents in connection with his captivity:

When we returned from hunting in the spring the old man (Indian) gave me up to Captain Elliott, a Trader from Detroit. But my mistress, Black Wolf’s sister, on hearing this became very angry, threatened Elliott, and got me back. Sometime in April (1785) there was a dance at a town about two miles from where I resided. This I attended in company with the Indian to whom I belonged. Meeting with a French Trader from Detroit, by the name of Batest (Baptiste?) Ariome, who took a fancy to me on account of my resemblance to one of his sons, he bought me for fifty dollars in Indian money. Before leaving the dance, I met a Mr. Sherlock, a trader from Kentucky, who had formerly been a prisoner with the same Indians, who had rescued a lad by the name of Moffett, who had been captured at the head of Clinch, and whose father was a particular and intimate friend of my father, I requested Mr. Sherlock to write my father, through Mr. Moffett, informing him of my captivity, and that I had been purchased by a French trader and was gone to Detroit. This letter, I have reason to believe, father received, and that it gave him the first information of what had become of me.

It was on one of these trading expeditions (with Mr. Ariome) that I first heard of the destruction of my family. This I learned from a Shawnee Indian with whom I became acquainted when I lived with them, and who was of that party on that occasion. I received the information sometime in the summer after it occurred.

In the following winter (1786/87) I learned that my sister Polly had been purchased by a Mr. Stagwell, an American by birth, but unfriendly to the American cause. He was a man of bad character - an unfeeling wretch and treated my sister with great unkindness. At the time he resided a great distance from me. When I heard of my sister, I immediately prepared to go and see her; but it was then in the dead of winter, and the journey would have been attended with great difficulties. On being told by Mr. Stagwell that he intended to move to the neighborhood where I resided in the following spring. I declined it. When I heard that Mr. Stagwell had moved, as was contemplated, I immediately went to see her. I found her in the most abject condition, almost naked, being clothed only by a few dirty and tattered rags, exhibiting to my mind, an object of pity indeed. It is impossible to describe my feeling on the occasion; sorrow and joy were both combined; and I have no doubt my sister’s were similar to my own. On being advised, I applied to the Commanding Officer at Detroit, informing him of her treatment, with the hope of effecting her release. I went to Mr. Simon Girty, and to Colonel McKee, the Superintendent of the Indians, who had Mr. Stagwell brought to trial to answer the charges against him. But I failed to procure her release. It was decided, however, when an opportunity should occur for our returning to our friends, she should be released without remuneration. This was punctually performed on application of Mr. Thomas Evans, who had come in search of his sister, Martha, who had been purchased from the Indians by a family in the neighborhood, and was, at the time, with a Mr. Donaldson, a worthy and wealthy English farmer, and working for herself.

All now being at liberty, we made preparations for our journey to our distant friends and set out, I think sometime in the month of October, 1789; it being a little more than five years from the time of my captivity, and a little more than three years after the captivity of my sister and Martha Evans. A trading boat coming down the lakes, we obtained passage for me and my sister to the Moravian Towns, a distance of about two hundred miles, and on the route to Pittsburg. There, according to appointment we met with Mr. Evans and his sister, the day after our arrival. He had, in the meantime procured three horses, and we immediately set out for Pittsburg. Fortunately for us a party of friendly Indians, from these towns, were about starting on a hunting excursion, and accompanied us for a considerable distance on our route, which was through a wilderness, and the hunting ground of an unfriendly tribe. On one of the nights, during our journey, we encamped near a large party of these unfriendly Indians. The next morning four or five of their warriors, painted red, came into our camp. This much alarmed us. They made inquiries, but did not molest us, which might have been the case, if we had not been in company with other Indians. After this nothing occurred, worthy of notice, until we reached Pittsburg. Probably we would have reached Rockbridge that fall, if Mr. Evans had not, unfortunately got his shoulder dislocated. In consequence of this, we remained until spring with an uncle of his, in the vicinity of Pittsburg. Having expended nearly all of his money in traveling, and with the physician, he left his sister and proceeded on with Polly and myself to the house of our Uncle William McPhaetus (McPhaeters) about ten miles southwest of Staunton, near the Middle River. He received from Uncle Joseph Moore, the Administrator of father’s estate, compensation for his services, and afterwards returned and brought his sister.

On July 21, 1786, Walter Crockett, County Lieutenant of Montgomery Co., VA, wrote Governor Patrick Henry, the following:

I am sorry to inform your Excellency that on the 14th instant, a party of Indians supposed to be about 40 or 50 in number, came to the house of Captain James Moore on Bluestone, in this county, and killed himself, and his whole family, eleven in number, and carried off his whole stock, which was very valuable. They likewise burned the house and fencing, and left several war clubs and arrows and to all appearances are for continuing hostilities.

On October 25, 1970, this writer, and Mr. L. F. Addington, President of the Southwest Virginia Historical Society, visited the spot in Abb’s Valley, in Tazewell Co., VA, where Captain Moore and his family were captured and massacreed on that fateful July 14, 1786. Our conductor was mr. William Taylor Moore, great-great-grandson of Captain Moore, who explained the details of the attack thusly:

Captain Moore had gone across a small ravine some three or four hundred yards to salt his stock. The Indians came running down the hill above him and also down the hill behind his house, thus cutting him off from the house. He was shot down near a large uprooted oak, and when the soldiers came they wrapped his body in a sheet and buried him where the tree had uprooted, not having tools for digging a proper grave. The soldiers found the remains of two of his children and buried them beside him. Mr. Moore has three pieces of native sandstone marker that someone had carved and erected at Captain Moore’s grave. They fit the remaining portion still at the grave. Carved into the stone was:

Captain James Moore killed by Indians 1786

One of the small graves nearby Captain Moore’s grave has a small stone at the head with no markings. The second little grave is not marked at all and its location would be only a guess. The head and foot stones of Captain Moore’s grave are now separated by a large oak tree growing out of his grave.

Down the draw a short distance from the graves, where a small fish dam now is, was once a miniature waterfall where the Moore family obtained their household water, and here two of the children were slain as they were returning to the house with water. Some fifteen or twenty feet below the fall is an overhanging rock under which Martha Evans was hiding when she was captured.

After Mary "Polly" Moore returned from captivity she married Rev. Samuel Brown of Rockbridge Co., VA, and in that county at New Providence Church is a marker which reads:

In memory of Rev. Samuel Brown, 1766 - 1818, Pastor of New Providence Church, 1796-1818, Mary Moore, his wife, 1776-1824

Captain James Moore had first come to Abb’s Valley in 1771, according to Mr. William Taylor Moore, and had lived the winter of that year in a cave with Absalom Looney, a sort of hunter and ginseng digger, and who had inducted Captain Moore to settle in the valley. He returned to Rockbridge Co. and moved his family out the following year of 1772.

Abbs Valley then was a very isolated and lonely spot, two miles long and less than a half mile wide, being many miles from the nearest fort, which was Davidson’s Garrison on Cove Creek, a tributary of Bluestone River. The descendants of Captain Moore in 1928 erected a large and impressive monument of gray sandstone and placed upon it a large bronze placard engraved with the following:

Erected to the memory of Captain James Moore, a soldier of the Revolution having commanded a company at Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse and Kings Mountain Killed by Indians, July 14, 1786
TO
Martha Poage and Jane Moore, wife and daughter who were captured and taken to Chilicothe, Ohio, and burned at the stake.
TO
William, Alexander, Margaret, John and infant children of Captain Moore who were massacred.
TO
James and Mary Moore, son and daughter who were captured and to Martha Evans, who were captured and carried to Canada, held captive for five years. Were rescued by Thomas Evans, brother of Martha Evans.
Though he slay me yet will I trust him.
Erected by their descendants
1928
Pendleton, in his History of Tazewell County, gives the following story, probably taken from the earlier Bickley history:

In July, 1786, a party of 47 Indians of the Shawnee tribe, again entered Abbs Valley. Captain Moore kept five or six loaded guns in his house, which was a strong log building, and hoped by the assistance of his wife, who was very active in loading a gun, together with Simpson, a man who lived with him, to be able to repel the attack of a small party of Indians. Relying on his prowess, he had not sought refuge in a fort; as many of the settlers had; a fact of which the Indians seemed to be aware, from their cutting out the tongues of his horses and cattle, and partially skinning them. It seems they were afraid to attack him openly, and sought rather to drive him to the fort, that they might sack his house.

On the morning of the attack, Captain Moore, was at a lick bog, a short distance from his house, salting his horses, of which he had many. William Clark and an Irishman were reaping in front of the house. Mrs. Moore and the family were engaged on the ordinary business of house work. A man named (John) Simpson was sick upstairs.

The two men who were in the field at work, saw the Indians coming at full speed, down the hill, toward Captain Moore’s who had at this time discovered them and started in a run for the house. He was, however, shot through the body and died immediately. Two of his children, William and Rebecca, were returning from the spring, and were killed at the same time. The Indians had now approached near the house and were met by the fierce dogs, which fought manfully to protect the home of their master. After a fearful contest, the fiercest one was killed and the other subdued.

The two men who were reaping, hearing the alarm, and seeing the house surrounded, fled, and alarmed the settlements. At that time the nearest family was distant six miles. As soon as the alarm was given,, Mrs. Moore and Martha Evans, barred the door, but this to no avail. There was no man in the house, at this time except John Simpson, the old Englishman, already alluded to, and he was in the loft, sick and in bed. There were five or six guns in the house, but having been shot off the evening before, they were empty. It was intended to have loaded them after breakfast. Martha Evans took two of them and went upstairs where Simpson was and handing them to him, told him to shoot. He looked up, but had been shot through a crack and was then near his end.

The Indians then proceeded to cut down the door, which they soon effected. During this time, Martha Evans went to the far end of the house, lifted up a loose plank, and went under the floor, and requested Polly Moore (then eight years old) who had the youngest child, called Margaret, in her arms, (which was crying) to sit the child down, and come under. Polly looked at the child, clasped it to her breast, and determined to share its fate. The Indians having broken into the house, took Mrs. Moore and the children, viz: John, Jane, Polly, and Peggy prisoners, and having taken everything that suited them, they set it and the other buildings on fire, and went away.

Martha Evans remained under the floor a short time, and then came out and hid herself under a log that lay across a branch, not far from the house. The Indians having tarried a short time, with a view of catching horses, one of them walked across the log, sat down on the end of it, and began to fix his gun lock. Miss Evans, supposing that she was discovered, and that he was preparing to shoot her, came out and gave up. At this he seemed pleased. They then set out for their towns.

Perceiving that John Moore was a boy weak in mind and body, and unable to travel, they killed him the first day. The baby they took two or three days, but it being fretful, on account of a wound it had received, they dashed its brains out against a tree. They then moved on with haste to their towns. For sometime it was usual to tie, very securely, each of the prisoners at night, and for a warrior to lie beside each of them, with a tomahawk in his hand, so that in case of pursuit, the prisoners might be speedily dispatched.

Shortly after they reached the towns, Mrs. Moore and her daughter Jane, about sixteen years old, were put to death, being burned and tortured at the stake. This lasted some time, during which time she manifested the utmost christian fortitude and bore it without a murmur, at intervals conversing with her daughter Polly, and Martha Evans, and expressing great anxiety of the moment to arrive when her soul should wing its way to the bosom of the Saviour. At length an old squaw, more humane than the rest, dispatched her with a tomahawk.

Polly Moore and Martha Evans eventually reached home, as described in the narrative of James Moore.

It is said that Mrs. Moore had her body stuck full of light wood splinters which were fired, and she was thus tortured three days before she died.

The killing of James Green by the Indians also touches on the Walker family, for his wife was Jane Porter, the daughter of Patrick and Susanna Walker Porter, and Jane Porter Green was a granddaughter of John, Jr., and Ann Houston Walker.

James Green and two other men from Scott Co., VA, had gone to the Pound River in present Wise Co., VA to hunt. They were surprised by Indians at their hunting camp, and James Green and one other hunter was killed, while the third man escaped. He returned to the settlement in Scott Co. and let a searching party for the bodies, found them, and according to tradition buried them in a hollow tree, near the mouth of Indian Creek, the creek probably being named for this occurrence.

That James Green was killed by the Indians is proven by two sources. The first of these is a letter written by Colonel Arthur Campbell to the Governor of Virginia, dated January 29, 1783, stating:

On Christmas day last (1782) the Indians attached the house of John Ingles (English) on Clinch, in this county, scalped and otherwise grievously wounded a young man of the name of Cox, overtaken in ye field. The second day afterward, as the Indians were making off toward the head of Sandy River they came on three hunters, two of whom they killed.

The second proof came from Russell Co., VA, Court Order Book 3, page 266, dated December 27, 1803, and reads:

Ordered that it be certified to the Registrar of the Land Office that it is proven to this court that James Green is the son and heir at law of James Green, who was killed by the savages on the 31st of December, 1782, and that the said James Green was born on the 12th of February, 1783.

That James Green, Jr., was born posthumously and the only child of James Green, Sr., proves that his father was a young man, and had been married only a short time when he was killed. In fact, his mother, Jane Porter, was born in 1751, and at the time her husband, James Green was slain, she was twenty-one years old. The son, James Green, Jr., grew to manhood in Scott Co., VA, and married Dulcena Stallard, and many of their descendants live in Virginia and Kentucky. Not only the Greens, but Stuarts, Todds, Prices, Porters, and many other families of Virginia and Kentucky are descendants of the Walker family.



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