Two Sons of Captain Robert Moffett Captured

By Emory L. Hamilton

Colonel William Preston wrote to the Governor of Virginia, on April 10, 1782, saying:
I am sorry to inform your Excellency that the savages have begun their usual depredations upon the unhappy inhabitants of our frontiers. They have this spring killed and scalped two girls, the daughters of Captain James Maxwell, on the head of Clinch and at the same time taken nine prisoners; and I am well informed yesterday, that about eight days ago two children of Captain Robert Moffett's were taken in the same neighborhood. Parties of militia were sent out, but could not overtake the enemy. Major John Taylor who has the command of militia in that quarter writes me that the people are in the utmost consternation and talk of removing their families unless some militia are stationed there for their defense, and that they are in great need of ammunition. (1)

Waddell, History of Augusta County, says that George and John Moffett were returned to their father after Wayne's Treaty in 1794, and Pendleton, History of Tazewell County, says: Whether the boys ever got back is unknown. This is a rather strange assertion for Mr. Pendleton to make for in his own history while writing of the capture and release of James Moore, by the Indians, he has Moore making this statement:

I met a Mr. Sherlock, a Trader from Kentucky, who had formerly been a prisoner with the same tribe of Indians, and who had rescued a lad by the name of Moffett, who had been captured at the head of Clinch, and whose father was an intimate and particular friend of my father.

Mrs. Samuel Scott of Jessamine Co., KY, the same county in which Capt. Robert Moffett lived, and who had lived on the Clinch prior to her removal to Kentucky in the same caravan with Capt. Moffett, years later told the Rev. John Shane, this about the Moffett boys:

Two of old Robin Moffett's sons got in, after we come to this country (Kentucky). They were taken from a "sugar camp" sometime in those wars. (2)

Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, page 176, says:
John Moffett, the ancestor (of Captain Robert) was amongst the first settlers of the county. His wife's maiden name was Mary Christian, and his children were George, Robert, William, John, Mary, Kitty and Hannah. At some time prior to 1749, - probably as early as 1742, he left his home in Augusta to go to North Carolina, and was never heard of afterwards. In the course of time he was presumed to be dead, probably killed by the Indians, and his widow, Mary Moffett, qualified as his Administratrix, February 28, 1749, with her brothers Robert and William, as her securities. Mrs. Moffett contracted a second marriage with John Trimble, by whom she had one son James Trimble. (3)

Two of Colonel George Moffett's brothers moved to Kentucky in 1783, with their half brother, James Trimble, and many other Augusta people. Robert and John, who were captured by the Indians soon after their arrival in Kentucky. The ages of the boys were about six and eight years, respectively. They were taken to the Indian town of Piqua, on the Miami River, in Ohio, and John was adopted into the family of Tecumseh's mother. At Wayne's Treaty in 1794, both prisoners were given up, and their father was present with the Kentucky troops to receive back his long lost sons. George, the youngest of the two was eager to return home; but John was reluctant to leave his Indian mother and friends. He went back however, with his father, but was restless and unhappy and finally returned to Piqua. There he remained with the Indians till they sold their reservation and removed west of the Mississippi river.

The late John A. Trimble, of Ohio, in a letter dated march 31, 1881, and addressed to Dr. George B. Moffett, of West Virginia, says that when he was a child, in 1807, he saw John Moffett, who was then on his return from a visit to Kentucky. He was in the vigor of manhood, dressed in Indian costume and traveling on foot. Mr. Trimble saw him again in 1828, at his home near Piqua. He had lived during his boyhood and youth with Tecumseh, the celebrated Indian Chief, and seemed much attached to him. At the time of Mr. Trimble's visit, Moffett had recently married an elderly lady and settled down to civilized life. But in his early life he had an Indian wife.

In the foregoing narrative Mr. Waddell says that Robert Moffett went to Kentucky, with many other people in 1783, and that his sons were captured after their arrival in Kentucky. Captain Moffett did emigrate to Kentucky, in 1783 or 1784, but he certainly did not go directly from Augusta Co., having left that county long before that date. In the records of Botetourt Co., on August 10, 1774, Robert Moffett, and his wife, Jane, sold 170 acres of lan din the Forks of the James River to William Taylor, and on October 9, 1771, he was a Juror in Botetourt Co.

In a land suit in the High Court of Chancery of Augusta Co., in the case of Wynn vs Inglish, (4) on the 30th of May 1805, Samuel Walker made a deposition, saying:
In 1771 he come to the head of the clinch and the following fall he came again with Robert Moffett, and the spring following, said Moffett, moved his family out.

After the formation of the county of Montgomery, (1776) Robert Moffett was appointed a Justice of the Peace for that county on October 9, 1779. I also find that his half brother, James Trimble, was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Botetourt Co. at the first court held for that county on Tuesday, February 13, 1770, and the following day, February 14th, he was appointed a Commissioner to treat with the court of Augusta Co. about the dividing line between Augusta and Botetourt counties.

Kitty Moffett, the sister of Robert, who had married as her first husband Benjamin Estill, and who was the mother of Judge Benjamin Estill, Jr., was also living in Southwest Virginia. Benjamin Estill, Sr., owned 1400 acres of land at the present site of Hansonville, in Russell Co., VA. After the death of Benjamin Estill, his widow, Kitty married a second time to Samuel Edmondson, who was a brother of Colonel William Edmondson.

Neither were the sons of Capt. Moffett taken after his arrival in Kentucky, but were taken at a "sugar camp" near the head of Clinch River while Robert Moffett was living in the present bounds of Tazewell Co., VA, and he removed to Kentucky while the boys were still prisoners of the Indians.

Pendleton, History of Tazewell Co., page 464, states:
Captain Moffett lived on clinch River, on a plantation now (1910) owned by Hezekiah Harman. Two of his children were attending to a "Sugar Camp", when they were captured and carried off to the Indian towns in the west. Whether the boys ever got back is unknown, as Captain Moffett soon afterwards moved to Kentucky, where some of his descendants still reside.

Pendleton does not give a date for the capture of young George and John Moffett, but in a letter written by Colonel Walter Crockett, Militia Officer for Montgomery Co., to Colonel William Preston, dated April 15, 1782, (5) he states:
The Indians have taken two of Captain Moffett's sons of the 5th instant.

Colonel William Preston wrote to the Governor of Virginia, on April 10, 1782, saying: (6)
...They (Indians) have this spring killed and scalped two girls, the daughters of Capt. James Maxwell, on the head of Clinch, and at the same time took 9 prisoners; and I am well informed yesterday, that about eight days ago, two children of Captain Robert Moffett's were taken prisoner in the same neighborhood...

Waddell says that George and John Moffett were returned to their father after Wayne's Treaty in 1794, and Pendleton says: Whether the boys ever got back is unknown. This is a rather strange assertion from Mr. Pendleton for in his own history, while writing of the capture and release of James Moore, by the Indians, he has Moore making this statement:

I met a Mr. Sherlock, a Trader from Kentucky, who had formerly been a prisoner with the same tribe of Indians, and who had rescued a lad by the name of Moffett, who had been captured at the head of Clinch, and whose father was an intimate and particular friend of my father.

Mrs. Samuel Scott of Jessamine Co., KY, the same county in which Capt. Robert Moffett lived, and who had removed to Kentucky in the same party with Capt. Moffett in 1783 or 1784, and who had witnessed many Indian attacks while living in the forts on Clinch and Holston rivers, related this about the Moffett boys:

Two of old Robin Moffet's sons got in, after we come to this country (Kentucky). They were taken from a "Sugar Camp" sometime in those wars. (7)

James Moore, a son of Capt. James Moore, who had his whole family massacred by the Indians in Tazewell Co., on July 14, 1786, was captured by the Indians in September, 1784, and released from them in 1785, although he did not return home until after the massacre and capture of his family. He was purchased by a French Trader and taken to Detroit. The incident of his meeting with the hunter, a Mr. Sherlock from Kentucky, as quoted by Pendleton took place in April, 1785, and the Moffett boy had been purchased and released from the Indians prior to this, so the release must have occurred in late 1784 or early 1785. James Moore does not give the name of the Moffett boy purchased and makes no mention of the second Moffett boy. If he was purchased by a Kentucky Trader in 1784 or 1785 it seems hardly likely that he would have been given up at Wayne's Treaty ten years later. Both boys may have been released at the same time, or at different time, the writer being unable to find any official record of their release.

In Wythe Co., VA, Deed Book 2, page 249, dated 1796, may give an inkling of the location of Robert Moffett's home on the Clinch:

Robert Moffett and Jane, his wife, of Woodford Co., KY, sell for 46 pounds, to Lawrence Murray of Wythe Co., land on the head branch of Clinch, an old station, and joining lines with John Peery and Robert Whitley. Witnesses to the deed were: Henry Harman, Sr., Jacob Waggoner, William Clark, William Wynn, Sr., Samuel Walker and Joseph Moore, Jr.

(1) Virginia State Papers, Vol. III, page 126.
(2) Draper Mss 11 CC 224
(3) See Draper Mss 8 ZZ 17, for the capture of Kitty Moffett and James Trimble by the Indians while the family lived in Augusta Co., VA.
(4) Augusta Court Causes Ended, Wynn vs Inglish, O. C. 48; N. S. 16.
(5) Draper Mss S-1, 132
(6) Virginia State Papers, Vol. III, page 126.
(7) Draper Mss 11 CC, John D. Shane Collectin, Vol. 1.



This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson


4560 visitor since May 17, 1998


Back to Russell VAGenWeb