The Wives of Henry Hamlin Slain

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 202-204.

The most puzzling enigma in this study of the Virginia frontier has been in trying to unravel the slaying of Henry Hamlin's wives. Hamlin was twice married, both wives were named Mary, both killed by Indians, and I have been unable to find any official record or document that gives the exact date of the slaying of either.

L. P. Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, page 365, states:

In 1781 the Indians visited the home of Henry Hamlin on Clinch River near Castlewood, and Mrs. Hamlin defended her home with a musket that wouldn't shoot, and again in the spring of 1782, they again visited the home, killing Mrs. Hamlin and all her children, except one little boy who was carried away into captivity.

In the above paragraph Summers is speaking of the first Mrs. Hamlin, who family tradition says was, before marriage, Mary Dickenson. I doubt that she was killed in the spring of 1782, and all her family was not destroyed. Certainly Champ and John Hamlin, her sons, were not. John Hamlin was born June 30, 1782. (1) I am rather inclined to believe that this Mary Hamlin was killed in 1783, during the attack on the fort at Hamlin's Mill in Castlewood. (2) Henry Hamlin lived in upper Castlewood until sometime after the slaying of his first wife.

Henry Hamlin married as his second wife, Mary, the daughter of Joseph Blackmore. This Mary had been married to Jessee Adams, who along, with ten of their children was killed by the Indians on Stock Creek in 1782. Certainly it was after this date that Henry Hamlin married her, and therefore Champ and John Hamlin could not have been her children. After leaving Castlewood Henry Hamlin lived for a while in Powell Valley and in 1788, (3) was living in Rye Cove in what is now Scott Co., VA.

In his pension claim for Revolutionary service filed in Floyd Co., KY, James Fraley states: About the same time (that Thomas Osborne was killed in 1790), or a few weeks after, they (Indians) killed Mary Hamlin, wife of Henry Hamlin. In this statement James Fraley is certainly referring to the second Mary Hamlin.

R. M. Addington, History of Scott County, page 92, reads:

The records and traditions preserved by the descendants of Henry Hamlin state that he was born March 25, 1740; that on coming to Southwest Virginia, he married a Miss Dickenson; that four sons, Francis, Charles, Champ and John, were born to this marriage; that Mrs. Henry Hamlin was killed by the Indians at Fort Blackmore, August 17, 1790; that at the same time, Champ, then a boy of ten years of age, was captured and carried west, but eventually was transported into Canada, where he was ransomed by a French trader and taken to Quebec, from which place he was sent by boat to Norfolk, and that from Norfolk he made his way back to his home near Ft. Blackmore; that two of the boys Charles and John, were saved from the Indians by a Negro slave, a giant in stature and weighing three hundred and fifty pounds; that for this act the slave was given his freedom and a small farm some six miles south of Jonesville; that Henry Hamlin died at Fort Blackmore in August, 1815. (J. S. Hamlin's letter, May 19, 1918.)

The above paragraph is referring to the children of the first Mary Hamlin, but the date of her death is that of the second Mary.

It is doubtful if the second Mary had children from her marriage to Henry Hamlin. She was the widow of Jessee Adams, as previously stated, an had twelve children by him, ten of which were slain along with Adams in 1782. She also had a daughter, Cynthia Chadwell, which must have been by a marriage previous to her marriage with Jessee Adams. To have been the mother of thirteen children prior to 1782, she certainly must have been well up in years when she married Henry Hamlin.

Henry Hamlin first settled on the north side of Clinch River in upper Castlewood in 1769. He lived here until after his first wife was killed in the early 1780s. He witnessed the probation of the will of James Coyle, who lived just east of the village of Blackford in Upper Russell County, on the 15th of August 1780, as did his brother, Daniel Hamlin. He most likely moved from this area sometime between 1783 and 1786.

(1) Lee Co., VA Death Register, page 5, line 16.
(2) See Letter of Capt. Daniel Smith, page 121, this MSS.
(3) Virginia State Papers, Vol. IV, page 442



This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson


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