Ginsang Diggers Killed on Black Mountain

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 173-174.

Thomas Carter, Henry Dickenson, and David Cowan, of Russell Co., VA, wrote to Governor Edmund Randolph, on June 24, 1788, (1) the following letter:

Laying before the Executive Council an account of Indian depredations upon the counties they represent. They have reliable information that the savages have lately killed 16 persons on the French Broad, and that the news had reached them of 80 Indians being on their way against the Holston and Clinch. That 4 men had been killed in their county, (Russell) and the Cherokees had joined the Creeks, which combination no force the people could raise to resist. Three men had been killed on the Black Mountain and David Campbell and his family, and Hugh Berry and his family, particular acquaintances of theirs, had also been killed, and the Station on French Broad with many horses from Powell’s Valley had been captured. Although some of these depredations were not in their immediate neighborhood, nor even in this State, yet, from the enterprising character of these savages, their operations were never confined to localities or even States. They, therefore, considering their part of the country in great danger, and especially as Russell County is the barrier to Washington and Montgomery, beg that Scouts and a force of Rangers be authorized to go out from these two counties to act in concert with the few who can be raised in Russell. This latter county has a frontier of 150 miles in advance of Washington and Montgomery, and on account of the scattered condition of the inhabitants they are obliged to live in forts, totally to the neglect of their crops, etc. By enclosed letter they hear that Colonel Joseph Martin is a prisoner with the Cherokees and may not get out of their hands in safety. That men who had gone to the Black Mountain (2) to dig ginseng had found a camp when one of the Elimes (Elams) and three of the Breedings of New Garden, and Neal Roberts, had been about the same employment, several of whom lay killed and scalped. The Cherokees evidently bent on war, and unless means are taken at once to protect that county, great suffering and disaster must follow soon.

I have not been able to recover any data on just how the Elam, Breedings and Neal Roberts met their fate while digging ginseng on Black Mountain. The only record I can find on a Neal Roberts was one, who, among others, had his property restored to him by the Court of Montgomery County, on November 7, 1780, which property had been confiscated by the Militia of Washington and Montgomery counties on suspicion of the parties being enemies of the State, and whether this was the same who was killed is not known.

I find in the court of Washington Co., VA, where on the 20th of August, 1783, one John Breeding was appointed a Constable in Captain John Duncan’s Company. This John Duncan lived in the New Garden section of Russell Co., VA.

(1) The range of Mountains separating Virginia and Kentucky.
(2) Virginia State Papers, Vol. IV.



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