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Joshua Butcher and Son and Samuel Pepper Killed in Powell Valley

By Emory L. Hamilton

On February 28, 1781, Colonel Arthur Campbell wrote to the Governor of Virginia, thusly:

Your Excellency’s orders of the 15th of February came to hand the 23rd, and on the 25th a few odds of 100 men under Colonel Campbell set out to join the militia of Botetourt and Montgomery (counties) on their march to join the Southern Army, previous steps having been taken, on hearing the enemy was marching towards Virginia, to have them in readiness. A large number would have gone were it not for the daily apprehensions of attacks from the Northward and Southern Indians. The latter (Cherokee) last week killed three men in Powell’s Valley and carried off a considerable number of horses. (1)

Campbell does not say who the three men were that were killed, but most likely it was the father and son, Samuel Butcher, Senior and Junior, and Elisha Pepper. His letter places their slaying in the latter part of February, 1781, and by the Cherokee Indians.

These men seem to have lived in the Turkey cove settlement of Lee Co., VA. Joshua Butcher, probably Senior, had 970 acres of land on Powell River in Powell Valley surveyed and entered (posthumously) in Washington Co., VA, on November 17, 1783. The younger Joshua seems to have owned no land, although married, and may have lived with or on the lands of his father, Joshua, Sr.

In a land lawsuit in the High Court of Chancery of Augusta Co., VA, Simon Ely vs James Thompson, one deponent makes this statement:

The settlement made by James Arbuckle was 14 or 15 miles down from the head of the valley, and Butcher’s settlement was between Arbuckle’s and the head of the Valley. (2) Since we know that Arbuckle’s settlement was in Turkey cove that places Butchers settlement someplace between the village of Dryden and the Wise County line.

Their lands joined the lands of Thomas Campbell, General Evan Shelby and his son-in-law James Thompson. Neither Shelby or Thompson ever lived upon their lands, but pastured cattle on them in the summertime in Turkey Cove. The land of Campbell and Joshua Butcher was located near the "Wagon Ford", which is probably the same place later known as "Litton’s Ford" of Powell River near Dryden.

There were several tracts of land in present day Lee County that was owned by the Butchers, but what relation they were to Joshua is not certain, except for William, who was undoubtably a son. The first of these entrys from the Washington Co. Land Survey books is dated August 14, 1781, and reads:

We the Commissioners certify that William Bucher, heir-at-law of Joshua Bucher, deceased, is entitled to 400 acres by settlement made in the year 1775, on the mouth of Sugar Run in Powell’s Valley to include his improvements.

On November 10, 1783, William Bucher entered 350 acres on the waters of Trading Creek, a branch of Powell River and beginning at the foot of Poor Valley Ridge. Again on March 27, 1786 he entered a third tract of 240 acres on Trading Creek, north branch of Powell River, and this was entered as assignee of Joseph Bucher. Joseph Bucher is believed to have been a brother of Elisha, Sr.

On march 27, 1786, one Richard Bucher entered 100 acres on the south side of Glade Spring Creek, an eastern branch of Rock House Creek, waters of Powells River.

The two widows of the Joshua Butchers were appointed administratrix of their husbands estates by the Washington Co., VA court on August 21, 1782. The widow Katherine, wife of Joshua, Sr., had as her security Samuel Newell and Charles Cocke, and the appraisers were William Blackmore, William Cowan, Josiah Payne and Thomas Campbell.

The widow Susanna had as her security Thomas Campbell and Josiah Payne. Appraisers of the estate were Charles Cocke, John and James Campbell and James Price. The widow Susanna later married a second husband, William Fork.

One of the Joshua Butchers, whether Senior or Junior is not known, was recommended for a Lieutenant in the Washington Co. Militia on June 20, 1780, and one of the two served under General (then Captain) Joseph martin in the militia from the 1st of February to the 31st of March 1777. Also one appears at Fort Lee (Rye Cove) from May 1st to June 30, 1777, as does one with Martin in rebuilding Fort Lee at Rye Cove from the 9th of February to the 9th April, 1777. Katherine, the widow of Joshua, Sr., only appears on the 1782 tithable lists of Washington Co., VA.

Elisha Pepper, thought to have been the third person killed by the Indians, however there is no proof, owned 306 acres of land on Roaring Branch, entered in the Washington Co., VA Land Entry Book, on February 3, 1783, (posthumously if he was killed). Also at a court held on the same day as the appraisals of the Butcher estates, John Campbell was appointed Administrator of the estate of Elisha Pepper, deceased, with Samuel Newell and William Cowan as security, and Charles Cocke, William Blackmore, Josiah Payne and Thomas Campbell as appraisers. It will be noted that these were the same men who handled the estates of the slain Butchers.

One Elisha Pepper was killed at the battle of Kings Mountain, but is listed as being from Montgomery Co., where there was a large family of this name, who owned and operated Pepper’s Ferry in that county. No details are known as to how the Butchers and Pepper met their fate at the hands of the Indians, and seemingly no descendants are left in the area where one might pick up a traditional story. The name Butcher is variantly spelled as Butcher, Bucher, and Boucher, the latter probably being the correct spelling as the name if probably of French origin.

(1) Draper Mss

This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson

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