Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Saga of Polly Phipps

By OMER C. ADDINGTON

     In 1776, the year President Washington made his farewell address to Congress and the nation, a baby girl was born to a Phipps family in Grayson County, Va. The baby was named Polly Ann. During Polly’s lifetime she was to see many changes take place in the United States. To name a few, the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the assassination of President Lincoln, the reconstruction of the south, the growth of the nation from thirteen original colonies to thirty one states, and the western migration of which she was a part.

     In late winter, while Polly was very young, the Phipps family joined a wagon train going west to Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. The Phipps wagon was pulled by a yoke of oxen. Why this wagon train chose to come down Big Moccasin Valley instead of Holston Valley and through Moccasin Gap is not known. One can only speculate that the Holston River may have been at high tide at this time of year and there was no way to cross. Friends and relatives may have joined the wagon train as it came down the valley, or they may have felt safer from Indian attack by taking this route.

     When Mary Fannon Francisco, widow of George Francisco of Russell Count migrated to what is now Scott County, she brought with her seven children, Lewis, James, Elizabeth, Mary, Milton, George and William. It was Mary’s son Lewis who was to become Polly’s husband.

     As the wagon train passed by Mary Francisco’s home, the Phipps wagon stopped. Polly was very ill with flu and pneumonia and was unable to travel any farther. The Phipps family ask Mary Francisco to take Polly and care for her and nurse her back to health or if she died to give her a decent Christian burial. The Phipps family told Mary that they would return and reimburse her for taking care of Polly.

     The Phipps family had to hurry on to Kentucky, for it was now early spring. If they were going to have food for the following winter, they needed to plant their crops soon.

     After the wagon train left Mary Francisco’s it was never heard of again, and it is surmised that Polly’s family and all of the others were massacred by the Indians before reaching Cumberland Gap, or soon after they arrived in Kentucky. The Shawnee and other Indian tribes were known to be on the warpath at this time.

     With Mary’s nursing and tender loving care, Polly survived the sickness, and on August 18, married Mary’s eldest son Lewis.

     When Lewis and Polly were married, they, like the early settlers of this part of Scott County, settled at the foothills of Clinch Mountain. Here, overlooking beautiful Moccasin Valley, they built their humble home. It was a log cabin, the doors of which were always open to travelers, to eat a meal or spend the night. Lewis and Polly both knew what it was like to travel and be hungry and homeless.

     Lewis and Polly reared ten children on their mountain farm. All of the children, but one, left Scott County. William stayed on lived and died near the old home place.

     Polly may have been with the women who killed marauders when they wee looting and robbing people in Moccasin Valley in the spring of 1864. Her son Bryan was in the Confederate Army and she had a great dislike of Yankees and looters.

     When Polly died in 1878 she was buried near the old home place in an open field where there was no cemetery. In a short time a lone maple tree came up and stood as a sentinel at the head of her grave.

     Many years were to pass before anything was done to her grave. Her son, William, hired Ustus Fugate to hand-hew rock for the base of a heavy galvanized wire fence and gate.

     This writer, along with one of Polly’s great-grandsons, George Francisco, and a friend, Pat Starnes, visited Polly’s grave in the autumn of 1985. After a two-hour search we eventually found the grave. The lone maple tree that has stood as a sentinel at the head of Polly’s grave is in a rapid state of decay. A large cedar tree has fallen across the wire fence and destroyed it. The gate was long ago carried off by thieves, but the lone rock that marks Polly’s grave still stands with the inscription very plain.

In Memory

Of

Polly Francisco

Born

April 15, 1796

Died

Oct. 21, 1887

Age 82 yrs 6 mo 9 da

     The entire old home place is now over towered with tall popular and other trees, with brush and briers so thick one can scarcely get through it.

     No one places flowers on Polly's grave or visits anymore, only the animals of the mountain, and occasionally a hunter, whom stares in amazement at what he is seeing.

     Polly's husband Lewis at the age eighty-four left his log cabin in Clinch Mountain to visit his sons, George and Samuel, who lived in Pike County, Kentucky. When he left his home in early autumn, the weather was warm. After he had walked for several days the weather turned very cold. He walked to the foot of Pine Mountain near the Kentucky state line, where he took pneumonia and died before reaching the home of his sons. He was buried at the foot of Pine Mountain in the Rose Cemetery, north of Clintwood, Va. He died in 1887.

     Many miles separate the graves of Lewis and Polly, but their souls rest together in that Celestial City, that home not made with hands eternal in the heavens.

     Many thanks to Kern and George Francisco, great-grandsons of Lewis and Polly, for their help and interviews.

 

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