Killing of Joseph Ray & Family Samuel Hughes and Scalping of Ann Neece

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 121-123.

Joseph Ray settled on Indian Creek in now Tazewell Co., VA, in 1775, on a 400 acre tract of land that was surveyed and entered in Washington Co., Va, August 8, 1781.

Pendleton, History of Tazewell Co., page 465, writes:

I have been unable to learn anything of the slaying of Joseph Ray’s family, more than the bare facts, that Ray and his family were killed on Indian Creek in 1788 or 1789.

This date is completely in error, the occurrence having taken place on Wednesday, prior to the 19th of May, 1783, as proven by a letter written by Colonel Daniel Smith to Arthur Campbell, on that date, wherein he states:

On my return from Cumberland, I came through Cassells Woods just after the Indians had been at the Fort at Hamlin’s Mill. (1) The people were greatly distressed: half of them had moved away, and the remainder ready to go, should the Indians make their appearance again. This was due, to their not having any assistance or protection from the interior...Last Wednesday the Indians murdered Joseph Ray, and several members of his family, also one Samuel Hughes, who happened to be there. Mr. Ray was a neighbor to Major (Thomas) Mastin. They have killed and made prisoner eight persons.

Just who this Samuel Hughes was is unknown and the records are silent as to his identity, the only record being that of the appraisal of his estate filed in the Washington Co. Court on September 16, 1783.

Neither Daniel Smith, or any of the past historians have given names to the other members of Ray’s family who were slain, or names of the persons taken prisoner. Certainly Mrs. Ray, and her son, John Ray, were not killed for John Ray, heir at law to Joseph Ray, sold the land of his father on Indian Creek in 1794, and in 1799 he lived in Kentucky, and on February 18, 1806, he was living in Clermont Co., OH. His mother, the widow of Joseph Ray, was living in Kentucky in 1803, when she made a deposition in Madison Co. (2)

L. P. Summers, History of Washington County and Southwestern Virginia, page 367, has the correct year of this occurrence, but ties the killing of the Ray family and Samuel Hughes in with a raid on the Fort at Castlewood. It is possible, and seems true, from Smith’s letter, that after killing the Ray family the Indians did travel down the Clinch and attack the settlement at Castlewood.

Summers’ says:

The Indians first appeared at the house of Joseph Ray, whom they killed and scalped, along with several of his family, and a neighbor by the name of Samuel Hughes, who happened to be at Ray’s house at the time; besides killing these persons they made several others prisoners before they reached the fort. As they approached the fort they met a young woman by the name of Ann Neece, whom they tomahawked, scalped and left for dead. They approached the fort and were discovered by Simon Oxer, Charles Bickley, and Henry Dickenson, who happened to be working at a mill nearby. The Indians observing them about the same time and the white men being unarmed, their situation was a fearful one. It was now a struggle which party should get to the fort first. (The fort was several hundred yards away up a steep hill). They started for the fort at full speed, the Indians halting to fire upon them. They reached the fort unhurt through a shower of balls. There were but two guns in the fort, and with these Oxer and Dickenson, each killed an Indian. The balance of the savages, knowing nothing of the strength of the fort, and their guns being empty, hastily picked up their fallen companions and fled into the woods.

Meeting with a colored man who was hunting sheep, and who belonged to Henry Dickenson, they captured him, and he was never heard of afterwards.

After the Indians had gone, Ann Neece, who had been tomahawked and scalped was seen staggering toward the fort with blood streaming from her head. She was taken in, survived and reared a family after this.

In the year 1780, this same Ann Neece, along with her sister Mary, who were the daughters of James Bush were captured and rescued by a party of militia in what is now Floyd Co., KY, and at this time Ann was tomahawked, but survived.

Just who the eight persons were that were made prisoners by the Indians remains still unknown, or what their ultimate fate, for none of the correspondence of that date mentions any of their names.

According to tradition handed down through the descendants of early settlers of Castlewood, there were 17 Indians in the attack on the fort at the time Ann Bush Neece was scalped. I have been unable to find any official confirmation of this scalping, except in the pension statement of James Fraley, who was of the party that rescued Ann Bush in 1782. Charles Bickley, one of the three men who supposedly defended the fort against this attack, died in the year 1839, and his grave in the family cemetery at Castlewood, bears this inscription:

To the Memory of Charles Bickley, Sr.
Born in Amherst Co., VA, July 27, 1753
Died at Bickley’s Mills, Russell Co., VA,
June 1, 1839.
He was Captain of Militia and one of the three
men who defended Bush’s Fort, against 17
Indians.

(1) Hamlin’s Mill was just above the Bickley Mill on Mill Creek in Castlewood. This was the Mill first owned by one John Lynch, probably built by Frederick Fraley and sold around 1780 to Henry Hamlin. The Fort was that referred to as Russell’s, Bush’s, Castlewood and Bickley’s.
(2) Augusta Court Causes Ended, Christian vs Ray.



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