Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia
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Historical Sketches

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Historic Sketches of Southwest Virginia

 

PATRICK PORTER:
AN EARLY PIONEER OF THE CLINCH


By Omer C. Addington

The family name, Porter, is derived from the Latin verb "portarious" (to carry). Portarious goes back to the time when the Roman legions invaded Britain. They were the ones who carried supplies and equipment and were gate keepers. When the verb portarious was made to conform to English usage, it became Porter.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, some of the Porters moved from Britain to Ireland.

A historical note states that the Porters moved from County Down, in Ireland, to Pennsylvania about 1726. Benjamin and Ann Campbell Porter were among the immigrants that came to Pennsylvania. Their son, Patrick, the early pioneer on the Clinch, was born in Pennsylvania on May 1, 1737. The HISTORY OF SCOTT COUNTY states he was born in Ireland, but we now know that he was never in Ireland.

The Porters moved to the upper Yadkin Valley in North Carolina. There they met the Walkers. Patrick married Susanna Walker in 1756. He was living in Orange Co., NC, when he and others petitioned that a new county be formed to be called Guilford. He must have lived in Guilford County for some time. His prayer book lists his children as being born in Guilford Co., NC.

Patrick and some of the Walkers visited Castlewood (Moore's Fort) and part of the Clinch River Valley in 1769. He was looking for free land, and plenty of game and water. He returned to North Carolina to get his family. He had been given a land grant of 214 acres by old Fincastle Co., VA. He and his family moved to the Clinch in October, 1772.

He built his forthouse on Fall Creek (then called Falling Creek) near the present site of Dungannon. Just below the falls of the creek he built his grist mill in 1774. Permission to do so was granted by the court of old Fincastle County, bearing the date of March 2, 1774. The court order to build the mill is as follows: "On motion of Patrick Porter, leave is given him to build a mill on Falling Creek, the waters of the Clinch."

The mill house was a two-story log building with a chimney. Many stories have come down to us concerning this mill.

The story is told that the first Masonic Lodge held west of the Blue Ridge Mountains was held in the loft of Porter's Mill, and that they got the charter from Ireland. The Grand Lodge of Ireland tells us that no charter was ever granted for a Masonic Lodge to Patrick Porter, or any other person on the Clinch. Porter and his three brothers-in- law may have been Master Masons and formed a lodge without a charter, wishing to enjoy the rights and benefits of Masonry on the frontier.

Why was a grist mill so important on the Virginia frontier to the pioneers? It was because corn was the main food of the pioneers. Cornmeal in some form was used at every meal as mush, hoecake, Johnnycake, or cornbread. All these were made with cornmeal, salt (if salt was available) and water. It was the way they were cooked that made them different. The only dish that may have contained anything, besides these basic ingredients, was cornpone, which had small pieces of sliced bacon or rinds of meat in it, and was baked in the hot ashes of the fireplace. Hoecake was cooked on a hot griddle, and was sometimes made on a flat stone. The pioneers probably learned this method from the Indians. When the dough was baked on a smooth board before the fire it was called Johnnycake.

At the time that Patrick Porter came to the Clinch, there was neither law nor gospel on the frontier. He and a few other settlers were alone in the wilderness, over a hundred miles from the court at the lead mines, in the county seat of old Fincastle County. It was only natural that they take the law into their own hands now and then, when they had to deal with horse thieves, Indians and renegade whites. Unfortunately, punishments were not always mild.

Most of the pioneers were reverent. They believed as Daniel Boone did. He said, "All the religion I have is to love and fear God, do all the good to my neighbors and myself that I can, and do as little harm as I can, help and trust God's mercy for the rest."

While living on the Clinch, Patrick Porter lived in the counties of Fincastle, Washington and Russell, without ever moving from his original home. According to court records he was very active in the affairs of all three counties. He is listed on the roster of troops at Moore's Fort as a sergeant in 1777, when all the frontier of Southwest Virginia was under attack by the Cherokee and Shawnee Indians.

When Patrick and Susanna Walker Porter came from North Carolina and settled on Fall Creek, the waters of the Clinch, they brought with them eight children, namely:

Samuel, who was born in Guilford Co., NC, in 1757. He died in what is now Scott County around 1800. His wife's name was Mary. Some think her maiden name was Alley and that she was a sister to John Alley, who married Patrick's daughter, Mary. If the wife of Samuel Porter was Mary Alley, then she was the Polly Alley who was captured by the Indians in 1777. The Indians, on their way northward, also captured Jane Whittaker near Moore's Fort, and took them as prisoners to their town at the present site of Sandusky, Ohio. Their escape and arduous journey back home has become on of the classic stories of Virginia's last frontier.

A court order in Russell County dated February, 1803, reads:

"Ordered that the overseer of the poor bind Elizabeth, Jane, Samuel, Jr., Joseph and Alexander Porter, infant orphans of Samuel Porter, Sr., deceased." There were two other children who were not minors, James and Susanna.

John Walker Porter was born in Guilford Co., NC, April 19, 1759. He married Martha (Patsy) Hutchenson. They moved to Floyd Co., KY, where they lived and died. He served on the Virginia frontier as an Indian fighter and scout.

Jane Porter was born in Guilford Co., NC, September 7, 1761. She first married James Green in 1781. James was killed by the Indians while on a hunting trip near the mouth of Indian Creek, in what is now Wise Co., December 31, 1782. Jane married again in 1785 to Robert Kilgore, who in 1786 build the Kilgore Fort House.

Patrick Porter, Jr., was born in Guilford Co., NC, February 1766. He married Elizabeth Pendleton on April 3, 1814. He moved to Floyd Co., KY.

Katherine Porter was born in Guilford Co., NC, June 9, 1768. She married Dale Carter, the son of Norris Carter, who with his two brothers. Thomas and Joseph, built the Rye Cove Fort. Dale and Katherine lived and died in the Rye Cove section of Scott County. Both are buried in the Carter cemetery.

Mary Porter was born in Guilford Co., NC, February 25, 1771. She married John Alley. They were married by Bishop Whatcoat, a traveling companion of Bishop Asbury, the noted circuit riding Methodist, on their first visit to Southwest Virginia.

Ann Porter's birth date was not listed in Patrick Porter's prayer book as the other children are, and her date of death is not know. She married Samuel Ritchie. Ritchie was a very prominent man in his day. He was one of the commissioners selected to determine a site for the courthouse, when the act to form Scott County was passed November 14, 1814. He was also the first presiding justice of the Scott County court.

Ann and Samuel separated and he asked the Russell County Court to annul the marriage. The annulment was not granted, so he took a common law wife, Frances Kendrick.

Ann and Samuel had no children. Samuel died sometime in 1818. No one knows what became of Ann. Patrick Porter and his wife, Susanna, are known to have more than sixty grandchildren.



Up ] 5-Confederates ] Kilgore Ft. House ] Catholicism ] Rafting ] Long Hunters ] Dr. McConnell ] Spartan Band ] Hanging Sheriffs ] W.D. Smith ] Frontier Forts ] Chief Benge ] James Boone ] Old Mills ] Whites Forge ] Whiteforge Post Office ] Samuel Smith ] James Shoemaker ] Jane and Polly ] Indian Missionary ] [ Patrick Porter ] Phillips Killing ] Boone Trail ] Stoney Creek Baptist ] Methodism ] Daniel Boone ] Estil Cemetery ] Scott Co. Names ] Confederate Soldiers ] Drayton Hale ] Reids Normal School ] Dr. N. Stallard ] Indian Forays ]