Massacre of Joseph Johnson's Family

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, page 178-180.

John Anderson writing to Lt. Col. Arthur Campbell, regarding the killing of Joseph Johnson's family: (1)

Blockhouse, May ye 17th, 1789
Dear Sir: I wrote you a few days ago, wherein I informed you respecting Mr. Wallen's being driven from home. Wallen lived at the mouth of Stock Creek. I seen (sic) a certain Mr. Joseph Johnson a few hours since, who informed me that on the 15th instant he had his family, which consisted of his wife and eleven children, all killed and taken, except two. He found his wife and youngest child about three quarters of a mile from his house. He lived on Clinch, where the path crossed the same between here and Rye Cove. They burnt his house, and he found the bones of one of his children in the ashes. The others he allows they took prisoner. I am fully persuaded from the many and late hostilities committed in that quarter that the inhabitants will move off if they don't get some assistance shortly. I am surprised to think we guarded our frontiers in the time of the late war, when we were attacked on both sides, and now can get no help. I am doubtful the government has false representatives, or else none at all. You may depend the people in our situation, in this quarter, are much alarmed by the many and late acts committed. Please write me the first opportunity.

I am your affectionately, John Anderson

Lt. Col. Arthur Campbell, writing to Governor Randolph, on July 20, 1789, relative to the Indian depredations on the frontier, states that sometime ago I received the enclosed. The enclosed being a letter to Campbell from Alexander Barnett, County Lieutenant of Russell Co., VA. (2) as follows:

Russell, May 20, 1789.
Sir: On Friday last, the Indians fell on the family of Joseph Johnson in the Rye Cove settlement, it being twelve in number, of which but three in number, himself and two sons escaped. His wife and one child was found about one quarter of a mile from the house, killed and scalped, the bones of one child burned in the house, and the others I have not been informed whether killed or taken.

After reporting the incidents of the Johnson family, Barnett goes on to make a plea for assistance similar to that made by John Anderson, although lacking the bitterness of Anderson's letter, he begs:

Attempts have been made by voluntary enlistment to raise the number of fifty men in our county, but to no purpose, it appears they cannot be got. I request you in behalf of our county to furnish us with the number of fifty men and their proportion of officers, to be continued on duty until the 1st of September, or longer, if needed, and provisions to supply until that time. Present necessity requires part for the Rye Cove and the remainder in Powell's Valley.

The two Carter boys, Elijah and Morgan, sons of Thomas Carter, had been taken out of Rye Cove and had been restored to their parents through the friendly offices of Governor Simcoe of South Carolina, and William Fatham in a letter to the Governor of Virginia, under date of July 26, 1793, asks that an effort be made to restore the Johnson children, and furnished the Governor with the following facts concerning them. (3)

Joseph Johnson, living now upon Flat Lick (Duffield area), had his wife and three children killed on May 15, 1789, and five others taken by the Indians on the road leading to the Flour Ford, near the Rye Cove on Clinch.

[1} Isabel, now 21 years old; [2] Matthew, now 15; [3] Elizabeth, now 13 years; [4] Rebecca, now 10; [5] Joseph, now 8 years old.

Isabel was carried by the Cherokees near to the Guyandot Nation, where she was sold and brought back to the Cherokee nation, and was there purchased and sent to her father. Elizabeth is now in the possession of the Otter Lifter (a warrior of that name near John Meton's, a trader on Cheakonskie in the Cherokees). The other three are said to be in the Guyandot Nation, together with Mary Ann and Elizabeth Carter, and a boy called Cooper, who were taken from the neighborhood.

We know according to the letter of William Fatham, that one of the Johnson children, Isabel, was returned to her father, but the records are silent as to the fate of the others, as well as the two Carter girls, and Cooper. It might be reasonable to assume that they were eventually returned as the whereabouts of all seemed to be fairly well known.

Mary Ann and Elizabeth Carter were the daughters of Joseph Carter of Rye Cove, and Cooper was a slave boy belonging to some of the Carters. He was probably the same who was taken out of Rye Cove with Morgan and Elijah, the sons of Thomas Carter.

(1) Virginia State Papers, Vol. IV, page 442.
(2) Virginia State Papers, Vol. V, page 4-5.
(3) Virginia State Papers, Vol. VI, pages 463-4.



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