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Early Settlers of Kanawha County


The Peytona Herald, Peytona, Boone county, West Va May 31, June 14, 21 and 28, 1894

EARLY SETTLERS The Trials and Troubles They Encountered While Exploring The Wilds of What is Now Boone, Kanawha and Mason Counties (By Thomas Upton Cobbs)

In the Herald of November 30, 1893, I saw something said about Fleming Cobbs. I will now, at this late date, tell you something about him, some other pioneers of this part of the country, and, also concerning the origin of the name of certain creeks, and etc..

Fleming Cobbs was born in Buckingham county, Virginia, near the Court-house. The date I do not know. His mother died when he was small. When he arrived to the age of fifteen years he enlisted as a soldier in the revolutionary war and served ninety days. He was a substitute for a man by the name of McIntosh. When the war was closed he came home.

Fleming's father's name was Thomas Cobbs. He was an Englishman. He married a second time, so when Fleming came home he and his stepfather disagreed. He met Thomas Upton at his father's home. Mr. Upton was a surveyor and an old bachelor. He had received a land warrant from Governor Dunmore previous to the revolutionary war. Governor Dunmore was the last colonial governor of Virginia. This land warrant was, presumably, for services in the Indian Wars. He (Upton) went and spent a winter at old Fort Donald, on Muddy creek, in Greenbrier county, now West Virginia and from there moved further west to Lewis' fort at Point Pleasant, where he had to pass another winter. Indian hostilities were plenty, in which he participated.

He laid his warrant on the South side of Kanawha river, two miles below Charles Clendenen's fort, where the city of Charleston now stands. he died and was buried in a hollow walnut log within the confines of the fort. In those days the early pioneers had no coffins to bury their dead in and had to dig the graves with clapboards, and when William Goshorn dug the basement of his fine house he threw the hollow log out with Thomas Upton's bones in it. The log was sound as a dollar.

When Upton had laid his warrant he went back east to Thomas Cobbs', who was his brother-in-law, Cobbs having married Upton's sister for his first wife.

Fleming Cobbs was greatly dissatisfied with his stepmother, so Upton told his nephew he would take him to another part of the country where he would be out of the reach of his tormentor. So he told Fleming he would start west, one evening and would stop at a certain place in the mountain and Fleming should come to him and they would proceed to Donald's fort. Fleming accepted the proposition, and his father sent him to feed the cattle some distance away. He started off merrily whistling. He left without hat, shoes or coat and he did not stop till he arrived at the hiding place of his uncle, who took him to Donald's fort, and from thence he worked his way to Lewis' fort at Point Pleasant. The next I heard of him he was employed by Colonel Charles Clendenen as a spy.

John Morris, John Young, Ezekiel Drawdy and Daniel Boone were similarly employed one season. In the history of Daniel Boone the season he was employed as a spy in Kanawha Valley is not stated, but John L. Cole and Thomas Matthews, of Charleston, supplied the facts in their history.

Fleming Cobbs spied five years for Colonel Charles Clendenen, who was stationed where Charleston now stands, in which is the Capitol of the most noble little state of West Virginia.

Fleming was six feet two inches in height, he weighed 180 pounds, well muscled and had blue eyes.

John Morris was a small man, weighed 145 pounds, was a keen shrewd man.

John Young was tall, being six feet two inches in height, with black eyes, straight hair black as a raven. It was said of him that he was gifted with the sense of smell in an extraordinary degree, so he could smell an Indian an eighth of a mile.

Daniel Boone weighed 160 pounds, was round shouldered, and a little on the corpulent order.

As to Ezekiel Drawdy, I do not remember Fleming Cobbs ever saying what sized man he was.

When Fleming Cobbs and the other men were on a spying expedition they spied against the wind to keep the sound of any noise behind them, and if there was any noise they could hear, even if they could not see what made it.

Well, now, as to the origin of the names of the different creeks. When the above named spies were on duty they had certain places designated at which to meet, and the mouth of Drawdy creek, was one of those places. So Ezekiel Drawdy got there first on one account. While he was waiting he heard a herd of buffalo coming. They had been stampeded on the Kanawha river whence they resorted to lick the brackish water.

A buffalo could not be killed by shooting it in the head. One had to shoot it behind the shoulder. Drawdy drew a bead on one and felled it. When Cobbs and Young came to the appointed rendezvous they found Drawdy skinning his game, and since then the creek has borne his name.

Bull creek obtained its name from a curious circumstance. Fleming Cobbs and John Young spied together; John Morris and Ezekiel Drawdy were companions in spying. Cobbs and Young were going up the creek. The buffaloes had a big trail up it. Those men heard the animals coming, so they stepped out of the way, for when buffalos are scared, they do not mind anything in their path, but trample men and animals under their feet. They are always led by an old and powerful male. This old fellow had his head down, as usual smelling along, at the same time making a low noise like an English bull. So that stream was named Bull creek, and bears the name to this day.

The way Rush creek obtained its name was, on account of the buffalos, when stampeded, instead of taking time to go two miles further up the Kanawha to go west through the Guyan country they would rush for the creek known as Rush creek. Hence its name.

The creek above was old Leonard Morris' creek, who settled at its mouth. The buffalo went up this creek when they were left to go quietly their own way.

And this is how Indian creek got its name: A party of Indians stole some horses of Leonard Morris, from his fort on Rush creek. The news reached the Clendenen fort. Fleming Cobbs, John Young and John Morris got into a canoe, and rushed for Coal river, which they ascended till they came to an Indian trail across the river at the mouth of this creek. They knew that the Indians would come that way to cross the Coal river. They landed their canoe a distance below on the lower side and went up against the mouth of the creek on the top of the bank and concealed themselves. In a short time the Indians put in an appearance accompanied by the stolen horse.

They swam the horses across and then hurriedly constructed a raft on which to cross them selves. As soon as the Indians had pushed their raft from the bank of the river the white men commenced to fire upon them. There were seven Indians, all of whom the whites killed, and as they fell they pitched into the river. The whites then swam the horses back to the other side of the river and took them in safety to Leonard Morris'. After that the stream went by the name of Indian creek.

Tacket's fort stood on the lower side of the mouth of Coal river. The Indians captured it, as it was a weak fort, yet there were forty five women, children and men in it. They took one man, Thomas Tays, prisoner. A man by the name of Young put his wife in a canoe, and pushed for Clendenen's fort. The next day the woman gave birth to a child. She laid in the canoe on the water till her husband pushed her to Clendenen's fort, twelve miles from Tacket's fort.

The child was named Joseph Young. I have seen him as a man. It was three days after the fort was taken and the people massacred before the people could bury the dead.

Fleming Cobbs, John Morris, John Young and Ezekiel Drawdy went to the heart-rending scene to bury the dead. The ravens and crows had picked out the eyes of the dead. They had nothing but paddles to dig the graves with.

They crossed on the upper side of Coal river near its mouth, and dug a hole in the sand some fourteen feet long;. They placed the women and children in one end and the men in the other end, feet to feet. Fleming Cobbs showed me where they buried the dead. The stench was so powerful that they could not handle the corpses, so they braided a rope of leatherwood bark and made a running noose which they threw over a corpse and dragged it through the water and up the bank and tumbled it in its resting place.

Cobb's creek got its name after Fleming Cobbs. After Mad Anthony Wayne made peace with the Indians at the Maumee river in Ohio, which gave peace to the country east of the Mississippi river, Fleming Cobbs chose this creek for his hunting grounds. He had a man employed to pack his game to camp. His name was John Casa or Casey. He had a large wen on the back of his neck. The horse which he used to pack with was turned out to graze around the camp and strayed away one night, to what is now known as Horse creek, where he was found, and this incident gave it the name. Fleming Cobbs afterwards moved his camp to Turtle creek. John Casa, the game packer, came into camp one day, with two turtles which he had caught. He was fond of turtle meat and thought Cobbs was also, so he cooked them, intending to give Cobbs a rare treat. But what was his astonishment when he found that Cobbs did not like seven kinds of meat in one (for a turtle is a perfect ollapodrida, having meat which tastes like beef, veal, pork, venison, fish, mutton and chicken): So Cobbs poured the precious mess into a trough and cooked what he did like to eat, for he had the fat of the land at his command. John liked turtle and had the whole feast to himself. But this simple incident gave the name to the creek it now bears.

The first man in this section of the country who brought a hog west of the Allegheny mountain was Dr. John Cipher. He died six miles west of Paris, Monroe county, Missouri. I have slept in his house in that state.

Hail's branch took its name at the expense of a man's life. There was a spring up the branch which afforded a cool and refreshing drink when the water was obtained. A sick woman was in the fort who longed for a drink of this cooling beverage. A man by the name of Hail frequently crossed the Kanawha river to this branch to furnish the woman the desired water. The Indians learned the fact and watched for the approach of the unsuspecting man, and shot and killed him. So his memory is kept green in giving the name of Hail to this branch. I heard Fleming Cobbs say he was in the fort at the time and heard the fatal shot.

Briar creek obtained its name from a trivial circumstance. I do not recollect so well about how it got its name, but the best of my recollection is that I heard Fleming Cobbs say that when he and John Young were spying for the Clendenen fort, on that creek, they found a large buck with ample horns which had got them entangled in a lot of grapevines and bamboo briers, and died there.

Now some reminiscences of Fleming Cobbs. When he was spying for General Andrew Lewis and he was with him two years--At Point Pleasant, West Virginia, he pushed a canoe to Clendenen's fort, sixty miles in one day, to take ammunition to save that fort from capture by the Indians. An account of this may be seen in the History of the Valley of the Kanawha.

The last red man killed in the valley of the Kanawha was killed by Fleming Cobbs, where the Blackband tipple now stands. He shot the Indian across the Kanawha river.

The last elk killed in the valley was shot near the mouth of Elk river, on Two Mile creek. He was killed on a Sunday by John Morris.

Fleming Cobb died four and a half miles west of the city of Charleston, on the south side of Kanawha river.

John Young died on Elk river about the mouth of Falling Rock creek, Kanawha county.

John Morris died in Missouri, in St. Charles county, and was buried where St. Charles city now stands.

I do not know if I ever heard Fleming Cobbs say what became of Ezekiel Drawdy.

Daniel Boone was the first white man who looked over the bow of the timber of Kentucky, and Fleming Cobbs and John Young were the second and third.

Now, I will tell you who it is who has done this writing. My name is Thomas Upton Cobbs, a son of the above mentioned Fleming Cobbs. I was born four and a half miles west of Charleston, on the south side of the Kanawha river, on 20th day of May 1817. I am the last one of the old family of Fleming Cobb who is living. All I have written I have heard from my father's lips.

There are many other things I could tell of concerning the doings of the first settlers of the valley of Kanawha, which I heard my father tell concerning the wars Leonard Morris and my grandfather were engaged in

T. U. Cobbs


Submited for your benefit by Gerald Ratliff and Kanawha Valley Genealogy Society.
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