Masscare of Captain James Moore and His Family in Abbs Valley

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 149-152.

Captain James Moore moved from Rockbridge Co., VA, to Abbs Valley in Tazewell Co., with his family in 1772. Prior to the massacre of his family his young son James Moore, Jr., had been taken captive by the Indians in 1784, and had not returned from captivity when the family wre so brutally massacred.

James Moore, was appointed a Lieutenant of Militia for Mongomery Co., on February 26, 1777, had a Captain of Militia on August 4, 1778. William Davidson says in his Revolutionary War Pension claim filed in Tazewell Co., VA, that James Moore was commander at Davidson’s Fort on Bluestone from 1777 until slain by the Indians. The Montgomery Co. Court, August 23, 1786, "George Peery appointed Captain in place of James Moore, deceased." The court on August 22, 1786, appointed Joseph Moore as Administrator of the estate of James Moore, deceased, with Andrew Moore, David Sayer, James Simpson and James Coulter, as his securities. On the same date, and with the same men as security he was also appointed Administrator of the estate of John Simpson, deceased.

Walter Crockett, County Lieutenant of Montgomery Co., wrote to Governor Patrick Henry, on July 21, 1786, (1) saying:

I am sorry to inform your Excellency that on the 14th instant, a party of Indians supposed to be about 40 or 50 in number, came to the house of Captain James Moore on Bluestone, in this county, and killed himself, and his whole family, eleven in number, and carried off his whole stock, which was very valuable. They likewise burned the house and fencing, and left several war clubs and arrows, and to all appurtenances are for continuing hostilities.

Another letter written by Alexander Barnett, County Lieutenant of Russell Co., VA, to the Governor, dated August 12, 1786, (2) states:

The late attempt of the Indians on Bluestone, when destroying Captain Moore’s family (which I expect you have been informed of), from the best account I can get, was the Cherokees, and not exceeding 10 or 12 in number. Upon receiving report of it, I issued orders to send out spys, three pair, one for the upper part of the county; one for the center, and one for the lower end. The two in the center, that went from Castlewoods, discovered a trace of moccasin tracks and horses that had sometime before traveled along the top of Cumberland mountain. They reported they followed them about 10 miles, still on the Cumberland mountain. They say the Indians, as they suspect them to be, had about 7 or 8 horses, and 4 or 5 on foot. It is assumed that they are the same that was at Moore’s on Bluestone, as it appears that is the number of horses taken from there at that time.

Pendleton’s, History of Tazewell County, page 451, states:

In July, 1786, a party of 47 Indians of the Shawnee tribe, again entered Abb’s Valley. Captain James Moore kept 5 or 6 loaded guns in his house, which was a strong log building, and hoped, by the assistance of his wife, (Elizabeth) who was very active in loading a gun, together with Simpson, a man who lived with him, to be able to repel the attack of a small party of Indians. Relying on his prowess, he had not sought refuge in a fort; as many of the settlers had; a fact of which the Indians seem to have been aware, from their cutting out of the tongues of his horses and cattle, and partially skinning them. It seems they were afraid to attack him openly, and sought rather to drive him to the fort, that they might sack his house.

On the morning of the attack, Captain Moore, was at a lick bog, a short distance from his house, salting his horses, of which he had many. William Clark and an Irishman were reaping wheat in front of the house. Mrs. Moore and the family were engaged int he ordinary business of housework. A man, named Simpson, was sick upstairs.

The two men, who were in the field, at work, saw the Indians coming at full speed, down the hill, toward Captain Moore’s who had ere this time discovered this and started in a run for the house. He was, however, shot through the body and died immediately. Two of his children, William and Rebecca, who were returning from the spring, were killed about the same time. The Indians had not approached near the house and were met by two fierce dogs, which fought manfully to protect the family of their master. After a severe contest, the fiercest one was killed, and the other subdued.

The two men who were reaping, hearing the alarm, and seeing the house surrounded, fled, and alarmed the settlement. At that time the nearest family was distant six miles. As soon as the alarm was given, Mrs. Moore and Martha Evans (who was living in the family), barred the door, but this to no avail. There was no man in the house, at this time except John Simpson, the old Englishman, already alluded to, and he was in the loft, sick and in bed. There were five or six guns in the house, but having been shot off the evening before, they were empty. It was intended to have loaded them after breakfast. Martha Evans took two of them and went upstairs where Simpson was and handing them to him, told him to shoot. He looked up, but had been shot in the head through a crack, and was then near his end.

The Indians then proceeded to cut down the door, which they soon effected. During this time, Martha Evans went to the far end of the house, lifted up a loose plank, and went under the floor, and requested (Mary) Polly Moore (then 8 years old) who had the youngest child, called Margaret, in her arms, (which was crying), to set the child down, and come under. Polly looked at the child, clasped it to her breast, and determined to share its fate. The Indians having broken into the house, took Mrs. Moore and her children, viz: John, Jane, Polly and Peggy (Margaret) prisoners, and having taken everything that suited them, they set it and other buildings on fire, and went away.

Martha Evans remained under the floor a short time, and then came out and hid herself under a log that lay across a branch, not far from the house. The Indians, having tarried a short time, with a view of catching horses, one of them walked across this log, sat down on the end of it, and began to fix his gun lock. Miss Evans, supposing that she was discovered, and that he was preparing to shoot her, came out and gave up. At this he seemed much pleased. They then set out for their towns.

Perceiving that John Moore was a boy weak in body and mind, and unable to travel, they killed him the first day. The baby they took two or three days, but it being fretful, on account of a wound it had received, they dashed its brains out against a tree. They then moved on with haste to their towns. For sometime, it was usual to tie, very securely, each of the prisoners at night, and for a warrior to lie beside each of them, with tomahawk in hand, so that in case of pursuit, the prisoners might be speedily dispatched.

Shortly after they reached the towns, Mrs. Moore and her daughter Jane, about 16 years old, were put to death, being burned and tortured at the stake. This lasted sometime, during which time she manifested the utmost christian fortitude, and bore it without a murmur, at intervals conversing with her daughter Polly, and Martha Evans, and expressing great anxiety for the moment to arrive when her soul should wing its way to the bosom of the Saviour. At length an old squaw, more humane than the rest, dispatched her with a tomahawk.

Polly Moore and Martha Evans eventually reached home, as described, in the narrative of James Moore.

It is said that Mrs. Moore had her body stuck full of light wood splinters which were fired, and she was thus tortured three days, before she died.

James Moore’s first home was near Natural Bridge in Rockingham Co. (VA). His wife was Elizabeth Poage, and his eldest sister married Major Alexander Stuart of Rockbridge. His cousin, Samuel Walker visited Southwest Virginia, and from his glowing reports, Captain Moore, moved with his family to Abbs Valley.

Martha Evans and Mary (Polly) Moore were ransomed in 1787, by Thomas Evans, brother of Martha. Mary Moore married Rev. Samuel Brown of Rockbridge Co.

(1) Virginia State Papers, Vol. IV, page 159.
(2) Virginia State Papers, Vol. IV, page 163.



This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson


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