The Killing of James Coyle

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 81-83.

James Coyle was killed while acting as a member of a possee that pursued an Indian war party who had captured Ann and Mary Bush, daughters of James Bush of Castlewood. James Fraley, who was a member also of this pursuing party tells the story in his Revolutionary War pension statement (1) in these words:

Our company lost in the running fight only one man, James Coyle. When the Indians retreated from the camp he followed, and as he now recollects, shot only one (Indian). One Indian stopped behind a tree top, fired, and mortally wounded him (Coyle). He was carried back to (the) Clinch, and died in Moore’s Fort. The father of this applicant was the Surgeon (2) that extracted the bullet (from the dying Coyle).

To Gordon Aronhime, of Bristol, VA, I am indebted for the biographical sketch of James Coyle, prepared September 3, 1964.

Whether the James Coyle mentioned in the Augusta Co. records is the same as the Clinch James Coyle cannot be certainly established, but it is very likely that they are identical. Some proof of it rests in the pension statement of Patrick Coyle (3), son of the Clinch James, in which the affiant states he was born in "the Western part of Virginia which he thinks not to have been in the bounds of any laid out county". The action of James Coyle in Augusta does not greatly concern us, but it is of some passing interest that he served in the militia in the French and Indian Wars under some of the Augusta county leaders, as it seems from the William Preston papers of the Draper Manuscripts. Also, he bought land from the estate of Colonel James Patton, as the books of Augusta county will show us, living on some of Col. Patton’s land in the Valley of Virginia in the preiod around the close of the French and Indian War.

According to the Survey book (4) of Washington Co., VA, the land on which James Coyle settled he first improved in 1773. This land is located on the south side of House and Barn Mountain and on the south side of the Clinch River. It is thus somewhat to the east of the village of Blackford.

James Coyle was probably married twice, though perhaps not. His wife, Judith, had first married one Pickett and had, by Pickett, a son Jeremiah. By James Coyle, she had three sons - John and Patrick and the youngest, James, Jr. Neither the three sons nor Jeremiah, the stepson, were of age when James Coyle made his Will on 9th August, 1779 (5). We know from the pension statement of Patrick Coyle that he, Patrick, was born in 1763, and since John was apparently the older brother of Patrick, the marriage of James Coyle, Sr., to Judith Pickett could not have taken place prior to 1760, and certainly Jeremiah Pickett was born by 1759. Jeremiah could not have been born earlier than this or he would have been of age when the will was made.

The death of James Coyle is dramatically told in the pension statement of James Fraley (who was then present). James Coyle also served in the Glade Hollow fort under Sergeant John Dunkin in August, 1774 (6). It is possible that he had other military service, but there is no positive record of such.

After the death of the elder James, Jeremiah Pickett was married on 2 January 1786, to Aggy (Agnes) Willoughby, (7) daughter of John Willoughby of Clinch, and a few months later, on 29 April 1786, he took up 74 acres of land on both sides of Sinking Creek, also on the back side of House and Barn Mountain near that of his stepfather. Both James and John married women whose first names were Elizabeth, and Patrick’s had the resounding name of Lewcretia (Lucretia), but who they were is not a matter of record. (8) Judith, also called, as was the custom "Juda", Coyle was twice summoned by the Grand Jury for failure to declare all her taxable property, once on 22 December 1787, (9) and again on 21 September 1790. (10)

We can only be certain of the fate of Patrick, who moved to Smith Co., WV, 1803, remaining there but three years when he moved to Wayne Co., KY, where he was still living in 1834. Patrick served a year under Captain (probably Aaron) Lewis, and a Lieutenant James Hawkins on Dumps Creek (a north branch of the Clinch) and was in the militia service in late October 1781 to December 1, 1782. We have no record of the military service of the other boys, or of the stepson, Jeremiah Pickett.

An interesting sidelight on James Coyle, Sr., his will was witnessed by Henry Hamlin, but such was the reputation of Hamlin that the Court would not accept his oath alone that the will was authentic and made it lie over for further proof. (11)

The will of James Coyle, dated August 9, 1779, probated August 15, 1780, (12) leaves his estate to his wife, Judith, and his children, Patrick and John. Executor: Judith Coyle. Witness: Daniel and Henry Hamblen and Ezekiel Able.

(1) Filed in Floyd Co., KY, June, 1834
(2) Frederick Fraley, a German immigrant who settled at Castlewood in 1769, and father of James, was not a medical doctor, but simply removed the bullet through expediency for lack of a Surgeon.
(3) Filed in Wayne Co., KY, 26 August, 1833.
(4) Survey book, page 78
(5) Washington Co., VA, Will Book l, page 11.
(6) Draper MSS 6 XX 106
(7) Washington Co., VA, Marriage Register
(8) Russell Co., VA Deed Book 3, page 439: Order Book 3, pages 99 and 212
(9) Russell Co., VA Order Book 1, page 85
(10) Russell Co., VA Order Book 1, page 210
(11) Summer’s Annals of Southwestern Virginia, page 1061.
(12) Washington Co., VA Will Book 1, page 11



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