The Killing of the Phillip Phillips Family Near Hunter’s Ford

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 72-74.

Nothing of a personal nature has been found concerning this family who were very early settlers in that section of Scott Co., VA, lying between the villages of Dungannon and Clinch along the banks of Clinch river. Only the name of the father is known. What the christian names were for the five (5) members of the family who were slain, and the sixth member who escaped remain a fact lost to history. They may have been emigrants to the section from North Carolina as the father was away in North Carolina when his family was slain. The details of how they were slain are also unknown and the story has been pieced together from several fragmentary records.

That the Phillips family lived in the area above indicated, may be proven from two land grants, the first entered in Fincastle County (1), and reading as follows: "Surveyed for Phillip Phillips 320 acres of land lying in Fincastle County, on the north side of an island of Clinch river...bounded as follows: Beginning at a double sugar sapling at the lower point of the island, thence up the south side thereof to the upper point and across to the mainland (north side of river); thence up the river according to its several courses, etc., etc., to pointers on the river bank just below the mouth of a gut; thence up the river according to its meanders, etc." This tract was surveyed on the 31st of march, 1774, by Col. Daniel smith, when the first surveys were made along the Clinch. Just how long the Phillips family had been living on this land before the survey was made is not known, as the entry does not give a settlement date. The "island" mentioned in the survey could be none other than what is today known as "Gray’s Island" (error - it was the island above the old Dungannon Bridge) and so listed on the TVA quarter maps. To further pinpoint the location of this land an entry made on August 9, 1781, in Washington Co., VA, surveyed for Martin Dunkin (Duncan), heir-at-law to John Dunkin, deceased, reads: "...That Martin Dunkin, heir-at-law of John Dunkin, deceased, is entitled to 400 acres of land by settlement made in the year 1772, lying in the county of Washington, on the north side of the Clinch River, known by the name of Hunter’s Ford, a little below Phillip Phillips." the Duncan land also lay along Clinch River, on the north side of Dungannon.

Mrs. Samuel Scott, who lived on Clinch River for eight years with her father, John McCorkle, prior to her removal to Kentucky, in 1784, related the following story to Rev. John Shane (2), in Jessamine Co., KY:

We moved to Clinch (3) - at Moore’s Fort. Was wintering at our place 8 miles off from the fort, and about a mile from the river. One Phillips family was killed between us and the river, near to the river. Mamma was gone up with a neighbor, Mr. and Mrs. Kilgore (4), to Castlewood, near the fort, to buy some sheep at a sale. He (Phillips) was away in North Carolina at the time. One boys escaped, I think, by crawling under the bed. All the rest of the family were killed. About two years after this we moved over to the Holston (5) to get rid of the Indians. Had lived on Clinch 8 years. Went on to Holston to spend one year and get ready to come to Kentucky.

Further on in her narrative Mrs. Scott tells of the death of her father on July 12, 1780, and says that he bought land, but never got it. From the records of Russell Co., VA, comes this very interesting land entry:

Surveyed 19 September, 1794, for Joseph McCorkle, heir-at-law to John McCorkle, deceased, 320 acres of land by virtue of a certificate from the Commissioners of the district of Washington and Montgomery counties and agreeable to an Act of the Assembly entitled "an Act for adjusting and settling claims to unpatented lands under the present and former governments previous to the establishment of the Commonwealth’s land offices. Lying in Russell Co., near the Hunter’s Valley on the waters of Stanton’s Creek, and on the slopes of Buckner’s Ridge." (6)

The above entry locates the land upon which Mrs. Scott must have lived during her stay on the Clinch. It will be noted that Stanton’s Creek empties into Clinch River near Gray’s Island and Buckner’s Ridge and Hunter’s Valley lie to the north of the Island. Mrs. Scott says she lived a mile from the river and that the Phillips family were killed between them and the river, "near to the river."

The second direct reference to the killing of the Phillips family came from the pension statement of Alexander Ritchie, Jr., (7) whose home was on the south side of Clinch River, in this same general area, where the Ritchie family had settled in the year 1772. He says:

That he moved from the fort (Blackmore’s) in the fall of 1778 to his father’s plantation where he continued to live until the 12th day of March, (1779) the next ensuing, and early in the morning of the 12th the news reached this applicant that the Indians had broke out and had killed six (6) persons belonging to the family of a man by the name of Phillips. Ritchie gives the number killed in this family, but no names, and by his statement the killing must have occurred during the day or evening of the 11th or early morning of the 12th of March, 1779.

(1) Fincastle County Plat Book A, page 71
(2) Shane’s Historical Collection, Draper MSS 11 CC 224.
(3) Mrs. Scott moved to Moore’s Fort in 1772, from the Haw River section of North Carolina. At one time they were living in Augusta Co., VA, also.
(4) Undoubtedly Charles Kilgore and wife who lived on Fall Creek in Scott Co., VA
(5) The date of their removal to Holston was 1780.
(6) Russell Co., VA, Survey Book 1, page 203
(7) Pension Claim R-8784, filed Claiborne Co., TN, 26 April, 1836.



This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson


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