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Botetourt County
History of Botetourt County 1770-1773
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SOUTHWEST VA-BOTETOURT COUNTY  1770-1773 Published 1903; Author: Lewis Preston Summers. contributed by Andrea Stawski Pack

The first County Court of Botetourt County met at the house of Robert Breckenridge, near the location of Fincastle, Va., on Tuesday the 13th of February, 1770.  The justices composing the court were:
William Preston
George Skillem
Richard Woods
Benjamin Hawkins
Benjamin Estill
John Bowyer
David Robinson
James Trimble
John Maxwell
William Fleming
Israel Christian
Robert Breckenridge

A number of the members of this court were not present on the first day of the court, but were subsequently qualified.  The Following officers qualified on that day:
County Court Clerk, John May.
Sheriff Botetourt County, Richard Woods.
Deputy Sheriffs Botetourt County, James McDowell and James McGavock.
County Surveyor, William Preston.
Escheator, William Preston.
Coroner, Andrew Lewis.
Colonel of Militia, William Preston.

The attorneys qualifying to practice in the court were:
Edmund Winston
Luke Bowyer
John Aylett
Thomas Madison

On the 14th day of February, 1770, the following magistrates qualified and took their seats:
John Bowman
William Christian
Robert Doach
William Herbert
Philip Love
John Montgomery
William Matthews
James Robertson
Stephen Trigg
Anthony Bledsoe
Walter Crockett
John Howard
William Inglis
Andrew Lewis
James McGavock
William McKee
Francis Smith
Andrew Woods

Virginia, in 1768, and the county seat were fixed at the present location of Fincastle, Va., upon forty acres of land presented to the county for a town seat by Israel Christian.  Fincastle was name for the county seat of Lord Botetourt in England, and was established as a town by law in 1772.

Of the members of the County Court of Botetourt County, James Robertson, Anthony Bledsoe and James Thompson had their residence upon the waters of the Holston and the Watauga. 

On the second day of the court, being February 14, 170, Frederick Stern and Robert Davis were appointed constables upon the Holston River.

On the 12th of June, 1770, William Pruitt was appointed a constable upon the waters of the Clinch, and Arthur Campbell was appointed surveyor of the roads from the State line to the Royal Oak, and James Davis from the Royal Oak to his house.

On the 13th of March, 1770, Arthur Campbell obtained permission from the County Court of Botetourt County to erect a mill at Royal Oak, on the Holston, and there can be no question that this was the first mill erected upon any of the waters of the Holston or Clinch River.
On the same day Francis Kincannon was appointed surveyor of the roads from Stalnaker’s to Eighteen Mile Creek; Thomas Ramsay from said creek to Beaver, or Shallow, creek, and David Looney from said creek to Fall creek.

On the 10th of May, 1770, Anthony Bledsoe was appointed to take the tithables from Stalnaker’s to the lowest inhabitants.

The next order of the County Court of Botetourt County, of any importance in the history of this county, was made on the 14th of August, 1771, when the County Court ordered that Andrew Colvill, George Adams, George Tiller, George Baker, David Ward and Alexander Wilie, or any three of them, being first sworn to view the way from the head of Holston River to the Wolf Hill Creek, both the old and the new way, make report to the next court of the conveniences thereof.  The records of Botetourt county fail to show that this report was ever made or that the road was established, but there can be but little doubt that the road was established and used, and, if so, this was the first public road established upon the waters of the Holston or Clinch River.  The forgoing is all the information that the records of Botetourt county give of any of the people living upon the waters of the Holston and Clinch rivers.

The one matter of supreme importance to the inhabitants of this section of Virginia at that time was the extinguishment of the claims of the Cherokee Indians to the lands which they were settling and occupying, and, pursuant to instructions, John Stuart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, assembled the Indian chiefs at Lochaber, S.C., October 18, 1770, and on Monday, October 22, 1770, he succeeded in concluding a treaty with the chiefs and warriors of the Cherokee Nation, by which George III, King of England, became the owner of all the lands lying east of a line beginning at a point where the North Carolina (now Tennessee) line terminates at a run, thence in a west course to Holston river, where it is intersected by a continuation of the line dividing the Province of North Carolina (now Tennessee) and Virginia, and thence in a straight course to the confluence of the Great Canaway river, the treaty being here given in full:

 

TREATY
At a meeting of the principal Chiefs and Warriors of the Cherokee Nation with John Stuart, Esq., Superintendent of Indian Affairs, etc., Lochaber, South Carolina, Oct. 18th, 1770.
Present Colonel Donelson by appointment of his Excellency, the Right Honorable Lord Botetourt, in behalf of the Province of Virginia:
Alexander Cameron, Deputy Superintendent;
James Simpson, Clerk of his Majesty’s Council of South Carolina;
Major Lacy, from Virginia;
Major Williamson;
Captain Cohoon;
John Caldwell, Esq.;
Captain Winter;
Christopher Peters, Esq.; besides a great number of the back inhabitants of the province of South Carolina, and the following chiefs of the Cherokee Nation:
Oconistoto;
Killagusta;
Attacallaculla;
Keyatory;
Tiftoy;
Terreaino;
Encyod Tugalo;
Scaliloskie Chinista;
Chinista of Watangali;
Octaciti of Hey Wassie; and about a thousand other Indians of the same Nation.
Interpreters:
John Watts,
David McDonald
John Vans
Treaty, Monday, 22nd October, 1770.

At a Congress of the principal chiefs of the Cherokee Nation, held at Lochaber, in the province of South Carolina, on the 18th day of October in the year of our Lord 1770, by John Stuart, Esq., his Majesty’s agent for and Superintendent of the Affairs of the Indian Nation in the Southern district of North America.
A Treaty for a cession!  His most sacred Majesty, George the Third, by the grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc., by the said Nation of Cherokee Indians, of certain lands lying within the limits of the Dominion of Virginia.

Whereas by a Treaty entered into and concluded at Hard Labor, the 14th day of Oct. in the year 1768, by John Stuart, Esq. his Majesty's Agent for and Superintendent of the affairs of the Indian Nations, inhabiting the southern district of North America, with the principal and ruling Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation, all of the lands formerly claimed by, and belonging to the said Nation of Indians, lying within the province of North Carolina and Virginia, running in a N. B. E. course, to Colo. Chiswell's mine on the Eastern bank of the Great Canaway, and from thence in a straight line to the mouth of the said Great Canaway river, where it discharges itself into the Ohio river, were ceded to his most sacred Majesty, his heirs and successors. And whereas by the above recited Treaty, all the lands lying between Holston's River, and the line above specified were determined to belong to the Cherokee Nation to the great loss and inconvenience of many of his Majesty's subjects inhabiting the said lands; and representation of the same having been made to his Majesty by his Excellency, the Rt Honorable Norborne, Baron de Botetourt, his Majesty's Lieutenant and Governor General of the dominion of Virginia.

In Consequence whereof, his Majesty has been generously pleased to signify his Royal pleasure to John Stuart, Esq., his Agent for and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Southern District of North America, by an instruction contained in a letter from the Rt. Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough, one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, dated the 13th of May, 1769, to enter into a negotiation with the Cherokees for establishing a new boundary line beginning at the point where the North Carolina line terminates, and to run thence in a west course to Holston's River, where it is intersected by a continuance of the line dividing the province of North Carolina & Virginia, and thence a straight course to the confluence of the Great Canaway and Ohio Rivers. Dec. 12, 1770.

Article 1st.
Pursuant therefore to his Majesty's orders to & power and authority vested in John Stuart, Esqr. Agent for and Superintendent of the Affairs of the Indian Tribes in the Southern District: It is agreed upon by the said John Stuart, Esqr. on behalf of his most sacred Majesty, George Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc., and by the subscribing Cherokee Chiefs and Warriors on behalf of their said Nation in consideration of his Majesty's paternal goodness, so often demonstrated to them, the said Cherokee Indians, and from their affection and friendship for their Brethren, the Inhabitants of Virginia as well as their earnest desire of removing as far as possible all cause of dispute between them and the said inhabitants on account of encroachments on lands reserved by the said Indians for themselves, and also for a valuable consideration in various sorts of goods paid to them by the said John Stuart, on behalf of the Dominion of Virginia that the hereafter recited line be ratified and confirmed, and it is hereby ratified and confirmed accordingly: and it is by these presents firmly stipulated and agreed upon by the parties aforesaid that a line beginning where the boundary line between the province of No. Carolina and the Cherokee hunting grounds terminates and running thence in a west course to a point six miles east of Long Island in Holston's river and thence
to said river six miles above the said Long Island, thence in a course to the confluence of the Great Canaway and Ohio rivers, shall remain and be deemed by all his Majesty's white subjects as well as all the Indians of the Cherokee Nation, the true and just boundaries of the lands reserved by the said Nation of Indians for their own proper use, and dividing the same from the lands ceded by them to his Majesty's within the limits of the province of Virginia, and that his Majesty's white subjects, inhabiting the province of Virginia, shall not, upon any pretense whatsoever, settle beyond the said line, nor shall the said Indians make any settlements or encroachments on the lands which by this treaty they cede arid confirm to his Majesty; and it is further agreed that as soon as his Majesty's royal approbation of this treaty shall have been signified to the Governor of Virginia or Superintendent, this treaty shall be carried into execution.

Article 2nd.
And it is further agreed upon and stipulated by the contracting parties, that no alteration whatsoever shall henceforward be made in the boundary line above recited, and now solemnly agreed upon, except such as may hereafter be found expedient and necessary for the mutual interest of both parties, and which alteration shall be made with the consent of the Superintendent or such other person or persons as shall be authorized by his Majesty, as well as with the consent and approbation of the Cherokee Nation of Indians, at a Congress or general meeting of said Indians, to be held for said purpose, and not in any other manner.
In testimony whereof, the said Superintendent, on behalf of his Majesty, and the underwritten Cherokee Chiefs on behalf of their Nation have signed and sealed this present treaty at the time and place aforesaid.
John Stuart, L.S...
Oconistoto, Y.C., L.C...
Kittagusta, O., L.C...
Attacallaculla, X., L.C...
Keyatoy's mark NG. L.C..
Unkayonla, C., L.C...
Chuckamuntas, C., L.C...
Kinalilaps, NG. L.C..
Skyagusta Tucelicis, S., L.C...
Wolf of Keewees, G., L.C...
Skyagusta Tiftoy, L.C...
Terrapino, L.C...
Ency of Tugalo, L.C...
Scaliluskey of Sugar Town, L.C...

Thus all claim asserted by both the northern and southern Indians to any of the lands located within the present bounds of Washington county was extinguished, and the settlement of these lands was greatly expedited thereby. This portion of Virginia now opened to settlement was one vast forest overspreading a limestone soil of great fertility and excellently watered, and this, accompanied by the comparative security and quiet succeeding the French Indian war of  1763, contributed greatly to the rapid settlement of Southwestern Virginia.

In the year 1770, Col. James Knox,* accompanied by about forty hunters from the settlements on New river, Holston and Clinch, passed over the Cumberland mountains for the purpose of hunting and trapping, and penetrated to the lower Cumberland.

They were equipped with their rifles, traps and dogs, and the usual outfit of backwoods hunters, and thus originated the name Long Hunters. The usual mode of hunting followed by what were known as the Long Hunters, in those days, was for not more than two or three men to go in one company, each man having two horses, traps, a large surplus of powder and lead, a small hand vise and bellows and files and screw plates for the purpose of fixing guns, if any should get out of fix. They usually set out from their homes about the first of October and returned the latter part of March or first of April. The most noted Long Hunters were Elisha Walden, William Carr, William Crabtree, James Aldridge, William Pitman and Henry Scaggs. During the season above mentioned, large numbers of hunters visited the valleys of the Holston, Clinch and Powell's rivers, and oftentimes penetrated into the very heart of Kentucky.

In the year 1771, Absalom Looney settled in Abb's Valley, Tazewell county, Virginia, and from him the valley received its name. Thomas Witten and John Greenup settled at Crab Orchard, a few miles west of Tazewell. C. H. Mathias, Jacob and Henry Harmon settled a few miles east of Tazewell C. H., and John Craven, Joseph Martin, John Henry, James King and John Bradshaw settled in Tazewell county, on the headwaters of the Clinch.

In the year 1771, a company of about twenty men from near the Natural Bridge in Virginia and from the New river settlements met about eight miles below Fort Chiswell on New river, whence they traveled to the head of the Holston, and thence down the Holston Valley, and on into Kentucky, where they continued to hunt for about nine months.

The Holston settlements received during this year a large number of emigrants from North Carolina. The government of North Carolina was in the hands of a class of people who were very haughty and oppressive in their manner towards the poorer classes of citizens, which caused great numbers of the people of North Carolina to organize themselves into bands called Regulators.

They petitioned Governor Tryon for relief, which was denied; tumult and violence succeeded, the courts were prevented from sitting and the laws were disobeyed. The principal ground of complaint was that the people were taxed without the right to vote and send representatives to the House of Commons of North Carolina. About three thousand Regulators banded themselves together, and on the 16th of May, 1771, a battle was fought at the Alamance, between the Regulators and the forces commanded by Governor Tryon.

The Regulators, being undisciplined and poorly armed, were defeated with the loss of nine killed and many wounded, the Governor's forces having lost twenty-seven killed and many wounded. And thus it is said was fought the first battle of the Revolution, and thus was shed the first blood for the enjoyment of liberty.

The Regulators being thus defeated and dispersed, many of their number found homes on the waters of the Holston and Clinch rivers. At this time the settlements extended down the north side of the Holston river as far as Carter's Valley, about fourteen or fifteen miles above Rogersville, Tenn., and that portion of the country being supposed to be a part of Virginia, it was soon settled by people from the Wolf Hills in Virginia.

A settlement was made on the Watauga as early as the year 1770, upon the idea that the lands were in Virginia, and that the settlers would be entitled to take up the lands given to settlers under the laws of Virginia, to-wit: ‘To each actual settler who should erect a log cabin and cultivate one acre in corn, four hundred acres, located so as to include all improvements, with the right to buy a thousand acres adjoining at a nominal price. Most of the early settlers on the Watauga came from near the Wolf Hills and, being loyal Virginians, they did not contemplate establishing a residence in the State of North Carolina, but thought they were near the boundary between the two States.”

In the fall of the year 1771, Anthony Bledsoe ran the boundary line between the Colonies of Virginia and North Carolina; far enough west to ascertain that the Watauga settlement was in North Carolina, and Alexander Cameron, the British agent, immediately ordered the settlers on the Watauga to move off of the Indian lands. James Robertson and John Sevier, two of the leading members of the Watauga settlement, immediately set about to devise ways and means by which they could avoid the order of the British agent. They could not buy the lands from the Indians, because the purchase was prohibited, but there was no law prohibiting the lease of the land, and in the year 1774, the Indians leased to the settlers on the Watauga the lands in the Watauga Valley and all was peace once again.

The stream of emigration that poured over the mountains extended along the Holston as far as Carter's Valley and on the lands belonging to the Indians. They were all from Virginia and of Scotch-Irish descent, their wealth consisting of strong arms and stout hearts.

1772
James Moore and James Poage settled in Abb's Valley;
William Wynn at Locust Hill;
John Taylor and Jesse Evans on the north fork of Clinch;
Thomas Maxwell, Benjamin Joslin, James Ogleton, Peter and Jacob Harmon, Samuel Ferguson and William Webb, near Tazewell;
C. H.; Rees Bowen, at Maiden Spring;
David Ward in the Cove;
William Garrison at the foot of Morris' Knob.

William Wynn erected a fort on Wynn's Branch;
Thomas Witten at Crab Orchard;
Rees Bowen at Maiden Spring.

The early settlers of Southwest Virginia came principally from the Valley of Virginia, western Pennsylvania and Maryland, some of them coming directly from Ireland. They were of a mixed race, and a large majority was Scotch-Irish. In studying the nationality of the early settlers of Southwest Virginia, it must be kept in mind that there was a great difference between the people inhabiting the eastern shores of Virginia and the early settlers in the mountains of western Virginia. They differed both in their ancestry and in their religion.  The early settlers of Eastern Virginia were English by birth and Episcopalians in religion; while the early settlers of Southwest Virginia were Scotch-Irish by birth and Presbyterians in religious belief.

The government of the Colony of Virginia, early in the eighteenth century, adopted the policy of offering inducements to the dissenters from the established church to settle and make their homes in the Valley of Virginia and in the Southwest, and thereby sought to establish a barrier between the Indian tribes and the settlers east of the mountains.

In the adoption of this policy the government of the Colony of Virginia was actuated by selfish motives; they little dreamed that they were thus giving a foothold to a vigorous people, who were destined to play a strong part in the future history of their country.
The people thus invited to settle the garden spot of Virginia were the sons of the men who followed Cromwell. They were men who regarded themselves, according to Macaulay, as "kings by the right of an earlier creation and priests by the interposition of an Almighty hand." King James I, when speaking of a Scotch Presbytery, said, "Presbytery agreed as well with monarchy as God and the devil." They were Protestants and detested the Catholics, the enemies of their forefathers, and they despised the Episcopalians, their oppressors.

They constituted the outposts of our earlier civilization, their homes being in the mountains. A distinguished writer, in speaking of these people, says: "That these Irish Presbyterians were a bold and hardy race is proved by their at once pushing past the settled regions and plunging into the wilderness as the leaders of the white advance. They were the first and last set of emigrants to do this; all others have merely followed in the wake of their predecessors. But indeed they were fitted to be Americans from the very start; they were the kinsfolk of the Covenanters; they deemed it a religious duty to interpret their own Bible, and held for a divine right the election of their own clergy. The creed of the backwoodsmen who had a creed at all was Presbyterianism, for the Episcopacy of the tidewater lands obtained no foothold in the mountains, and the Methodists and Baptists had but just begun to appear in the west,* before the Revolution broke out." •The Winning of the West, Vol. I., page 138.

Governor David Campbell, who lived and died at Abingdon, in speaking of these people, says: "The first settlers on Holston river were a remarkable race of people, for their intelligence, enterprise and hardy adventure.*' The greater portion of them had emigrated from the counties of Botetourt, Augusta and Frederick, and others from along the same valley and from the upper counties of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and generally, where they had any religious opinions, were Presbyterians.  A very large proportion was religious, and many were members of the church.

It is generally supposed that the motive actuating the early explorers and settlers of this country was the acquisition of wealth, and while such motive may have had its influence on some, we cannot believe that such was the real motive of the great body of our early settlers. The early settlers and forefathers had been persecuted in their homes across the Atlantic because of their independent spirit and their undying fealty to the doctrines taught by Calvin and Knox; and when they crossed the waters they were driven, by the intolerant spirit of the established church, beyond the lowlands to the very mountains, where they sought a place and opportunity to exercise their religion according to the dictates of their consciences.

The important part played by this people in the early history of our country cannot be overestimated.
Our forefathers were inspired and governed by the same sentiments that actuated the founders of our nation. The theology of Calvin, the founder of the republic of Geneva, combined with the sturdy independence of the Scotch-Irish settlers of the American colonies, gave birth to our republic. "The first voice raised in America to destroy all connection with Great Britain came from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians.*"

The Hon. Wm. C. Preston, of South Carolina, a native of Washington county, in speaking of the resemblance between the constitution of the Presbyterian Church and the constitution of our country, said: "Certainly it was the most remarkable and singular coincidence that the constitution of the Presbyterian Church should bear such a close and striking resemblance to the political constitution of our country."!  Not only were they the first to demand the separation of the colonies from the mother country, but they were the first to demand religious liberty and the separation of Church and State.

Hanover Presbytery, of which the Rev. Chas. Cummings was an honored member prepared a petition with this object in view and presented it to the General Assembly of Virginia on the 24th of October, 1776, the petition being as follows:

"A memorial of the Presbytery of Hanover was presented to the House, and read:
{1}Setting forth that they are governed by the same sentiments which have inspired the United States of America, and are determined that nothing in their power and influence shall want to give success to the common cause.
{2}  That Dissenters from the Church of England in this country have ever been desirous to conduct themselves as peaceable members of the civil government, for which reason they have hither to submitted to several ecclesiastic burdens and restrictions, that are inconsistent with equal liberty, but that now when the many and grievous oppressions of our mother country have laid this continent under the necessity of casting off the yoke of tyranny, and of forming independent governments, upon equitable and liberal foundations, they flatter themselves they shall be freed from all the encumbrances which a spirit of domination, prejudice or bigotry hath interwoven with most other political systems.
{3} That they are more strongly encouraged to expect this, by the declaration of rights, so universally applauded for the dignity, firmness and precision with which it delineates and asserts the privileges of society and the prerogatives of human nature, and which they embrace as the Magna Charta of the Commonwealth, which can never be violated without endangering the grand superstructure it was destined to support. 
{4}  Therefore they rely upon this declaration, as well as the justice of the Legislature, to secure to them the free exercise of their religion, according to the dictates of their consciences: and that they should fall short in their duty to themselves and to the many and numerous congregations under their care, were they upon this occasion to neglect laying before the House a statement of the religious grievances under which they have hitherto labored, that they may no longer be continued in the present form of government.
{5} That it is well known that in the frontier counties which are justly supposed to contain a fifth part of the inhabitants of Virginia, the dissenters have borne the heavy burdens of purchasing glebes and supporting the established clergy, where there are very few Episcopalians either to assist in bearing the expense or to reap the advantage.
{6} And that throughout the other parts of the country there are also many thousands of zealous friends and defenders of the State who, besides the invidious disadvantageous restrictions to which they have been subjected annually, pay large taxes to support an establishment from which their consciences and principles oblige them to dissent, all which are so many violations of their natural rights, and in their consequences a restraint upon freedom of inquiry and private judgment.
{7}  In this enlightened age, and in a land where all are united in the most strenuous efforts to be free, they hope and expect that their representatives will cheerfully concur in removing every species of religious as well as civil bondage. That every argument for civil liberty gains additional strength when applied to liberty in the concerns of religion, and that there is no argument in favor of establishing the Christian religion but what may be pleaded for establishing the tenets of Mahomet by those who believe in the Alcoran.
{8}  Or, if this be not true, it is at least impossible for the magistrate to adjudge the right of preference among the various sects which profess the Christian faith, without erecting a chair of infallibility which would lead us back to the Church of Rome. That they beg leave farther to represent that religious establishments are highly injurious to the temporal interests of any community, without insisting upon the ambition and the arbitrary practices of those who are favored by government, or the intriguing seditious spirit which is commonly excited by this, as well as every other kind of oppression.

Such establishments greatly retard population and consequently the progress of arts, sciences and manufactures: witness the rapid growth and improvement of the Northern provinces compared with this. That no one can deny the more early settlement, and the many superior advantages of our country, would have invited multitudes of artificers, mechanics and other useful members of society, to fix their habitation among us, who have either remained in the place of their nativity, or preferred worse civil government, and a more barren soil, where they might enjoy the rights of conscience more fully than they had a prospect of doing in this: from which they infer that Virginia might now have been the capital of America, and a match for the British arms, without depending upon others for the necessaries of war, had it not been prevented by her religious establishment. Neither can it be made appear that the gospel needs any such civil aid: they rather conceive that when our Blessed Savior declares his kingdom is not of this world, he renounces dependence upon State power, and as his weapons are spiritual and were only designed to have influence upon the judgment and heart of man, they are persuaded that if mankind were left in the quiet possession of their unalienable privileges,

Christianity, as in the days of the Apostles, would continue to prevail and flourish in the greatest purity by its own native excellence, and under the all-disposing providence of God. That they would also humbly represent, that the only proper objects of civil government are the happiness and protection of men in the present state of existence, the security of the life, liberty and property of the citizens, and to restrain the vicious and encourage the virtuous by wholesome laws, equally extending to every individual: but that the duty they owe their Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can only be directed by reason and conviction, and is nowhere cognizable but at the tribunal of the universal judge, and that therefore they ask no ecclesiastical establishments for themselves, neither can they approve of them when granted to others, and earnestly entreating that all laws now in force in this Commonwealth which countenance religious denominations may be speedily repealed, that all and every religious sect may be protected in the full exercise of their several modes of worship, and exempted from the payment of all taxes for the support of any church whatever, farther than what may be agreeable to their own private choice, or voluntary obligations."*

But few of the inhabitants of this beautiful country at the present time have even a slight idea of the dangers and privations endured by the early settlers, the dim shadows of which are vanishing like the tints in a dissolving scene. The men who worked their way from the settlements in the valley to their future home, groping through the forest without a road and with nothing to guide them in their course, except the trail of the Indian and the buffalo; at night resting on the ground with no roof over them save the branches of the mighty oak or the broad expanse of heaven; exploring an unknown wilderness, surrounded by insurmountable obstacles and momentarily threatened with assault from their deadly enemies, the rattlesnake, the Indian and the wild beast of- the forest, but always accompanied by a trust in their God, came, "with the Bible in one hand and a cross in the other, treading the somber shades of these dark old woods and often with a boulder of granite for a footstool, and the eternal cataracts thundering amid the everlasting solitudes for an organ, these devout men worshipped their God according to the dictates of their consciences." Each emigrant brought with him some clothes, a little bedding, guns and ammunition, cooking utensils, seed corn, an axe, a saw and the Bible. Such were the men and the manner of their coming, which cleared the forests and opened the beautiful and rich farms that are now spread out upon our hills and mountain sides and grassy plains.

The early settlers in their intercourse with others were kind, intelligent and disinterested extending to all the most generous hospitality that their circumstances could afford. That selfishness which prompts to liberality for the sake of remuneration and professes the civilities of life with an eye to individual interest was unknown to them. They were kind for kindness' sake and sought no other recompense than the never failing concomitant “if good deeds, the reward of an approving conscience.”

There existed in each settlement a perfect unison of feeling. Similitude of situation and community of danger operated as a magic charm and stifled in their birth those little bickering which are so apt to disturb the quiet of society.* 
* Journal Va. House of Delegates, 1776. This petition preceded Jefferson resolution by many years.

Ambitions of preferment, the pride of place, too often hindrances to social intercourse, were unknown among them. Equality of condition rendered them strangers alike to the baneful distinctions of wealth and other adventitious circumstances, a sense of mutual dependence for their common security, linked them in amity and they conducted their several purposes in harmonious concert; together they toiled and together they suffered. Such were the pioneers of the Southwest; and the greater part of mankind might now derive advantage from the contemplation of their "humble virtues, their hospitable homes, their spirits potential, noble, proud and free, their self-respect grafted on innocent thoughts, their days of health and nights of sleep, their toils, by dangers dignified, yet guiltless, their hopes of cheerful old age and a quiet grave with cross and garland over its green turf and their grandchildren's love for an epitaph."*

The early settlers of this section of Virginia were a strong, stern people, simple in their habits, God-fearing in their practices, imbibing the spirit of freedom, such as is usually found among the
inhabitants of a mountainous country, kind in their disposition towards the well-disposed and unmerciful in their dealings with their enemies. They were upright in all their dealings, fearless advocates of the right and undying lovers of their country.

Dr. Dodridge, an author who wrote from his personal knowledge, says that "linsey coats and bed-gowns were the universal dress of the women in the early times." The weed, now known among us as the "wild nettle," then furnished the material which served to clothe the persons of our sires and dames." It was cut down while yet green and treated much in the same manner in which flax is now treated.

The fibrous bark, with the exception of the shortness of the fibers, seemed to be adapted to the same uses. When this "flax," if I may so term it, was prepared, it was mixed with buffalo hair, and woven into a substantial cloth in which the men and women were clothed. It is a true maxim, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

"The furniture of the table, for several years after the settlement of this country, consisted of a few pewter dishes, plates and spoons; but mostly of wooden bowls, trenchers and noggins. If these last were scarce, gourds and hard-shelled squashes made up the deficiency. Iron pots, knives and forks were brought from the East, with the salt and iron on horseback."

"In our whole display of furniture, the delft, china and silver were unknown. It did not then, as now, require contributions from the four quarters of the globe to furnish the breakfast table, viz., the silver from Mexico, the coffee from the West Indies, the tea from China and the delft or porcelain from Europe or Asia. Yet, a homely fare, unsightly cabins and furniture produced a hardy race, who planted the first footsteps of civilization in the immense regions of the West. Inured to hardship, bravery and labor from their early youth, they sustained with manly fortitude the fatigue of the chase, the campaign and scout, and with 'strong arms turned the wilderness into fruitful fields,' and have left to their descendants the rich inheritance of an immense empire blessed with peace, wealth and prosperity."*

"For a long time after the settlement of this country, the in habitants in general married young. There was no distinction of rank and very little of fortune. On these accounts the first impression of love resulted in marriage, and a family establishment cost but little labor and nothing else.
"A description of a wedding from beginning to end will serve to show the manners of our forefathers and mark the grade of civilization which has succeeded to their rude state of society, in the course of a few years.

"In the first years of the settlement of a country, a wedding engaged the attention of the whole neighborhood, and the frolic was anticipated by young and old with eager expectation. This is not to be wondered at when it is told that a wedding was almost the only gathering which was not accompanied with the labor of reaping, log-rolling, building a cabin, or planning some scout or campaign. On the morning of the wedding day the groom and his attendants assembled at the house of his father for the purpose of reaching the home of his bride by noon, which was the usual time for celebrating the nuptials and which, for certain reasons, must take place before dinner.

"Let the reader imagine an assemblage of people without a store, tailor or mantua-maker within a hundred miles, and an assemblage of horses without a blacksmith or saddle within an equal distance. The gentlemen dressed in shoepacks, moccasins, leather breeches, leggings, linsey hunting shirts, and all home-made. The ladies dressed in linsey petticoats and linsey or linen bed-gowns, coarse shoes, stockings and handkerchiefs and buckskin gloves, if any. If there were any rings, buckles, buttons or ruffles, they were the relics of olden times; family pieces from parents or grandparents. The horses were caparisoned with old saddles, old bridles or halters, and pack-saddles with a bag or blanket thrown over them; a rope or string as often constituted the girth as a piece of leather.

"The march, in double file, was often interrupted by the narrowness of our mountain paths, as they were called, for we had no roads, and these difficulties were often increased by the good and sometimes the ill-will of neighbors by felling trees and tying grapevines across the way. Sometimes an ambuscade was formed by the wayside, and an unexpected discharge of several guns took place, so as to cover the wedding party with smoke. Let the reader imagine the scene which followed this discharge; the sudden spring of the horses, the shrieks of the girls and the chivalrous bustle of their partners to save them from falling. Sometimes, in spite of all that could be done to prevent it, some were thrown to the ground. If a wrist, elbow or ankle happened to be sprained, it was tied up with a handkerchief, and little more said or thought about it.

"The ceremony of the marriage preceded the dinner, which was a substantial backwoods feast of beef, pork, fowls, and sometimes venison and bear meat roasted and boiled with plenty of potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. During the dinner the greatest hilarity prevailed. The table might be a large slab of timber, hewed out with a broad-axe, supported by four sticks, set in auger holes; and the furniture, some old pewter dishes and plates; the rest, wooden bowls and trenchers: a few pewter spoons much battered about the edges were to be seen at some tables. The rest were made of horn. If knives were scarce the deficiency was made up with scalping knives which were carried in sheaths suspended to the belt of the hunting shirt. Every man carried one.

"After dinner the dancing commenced and generally lasted until the next morning. The figures of the dancers were three and four handed reels, or square sets and jigs. The commencement was always a square form, which was followed by what was called jigging it off; that is, two of the four would single out for a jig, and were followed by the remaining couple. The jigs were often accompanied with what was called cutting out, that is, when either of the parties became tired of the dance, on intimation, the place was supplied by some one of the company, without any interruption to the dance. In this way the dance was often continued till the musician was heartily tired of his situation. Toward the latter part of the night, if any of the company through weariness attempted to conceal themselves for the purpose of sleeping, they were hunted up, paraded on the floor, and the fiddler ordered to play, 'Hang out till to-morrow morning.'

"About nine or ten o'clock a deputation of young ladies stole off the bride and put her to bed. In doing this it frequently happened that they had to ascend a ladder, instead of a pair of stairs, leading from the dining and ball room to a loft, the floor of which was made of clapboards lying loose.
"This ascent, one might think, would put the bride and her attendants to the blush; but the foot of the ladder was commonly behind the door, which was purposely opened for the occasion, and its rounds at the inner ends were well hung with hunting shirts, dresses and other articles of clothing. The candles being on the opposite side of the house, the exit of the bride was noticed but by few.

"This done, a deputation of young men, in like manner, stole off the groom and placed him snugly by the side of his bride. The dance still continued; and if seats happened to be scarce, as was often the case, every young man when not engaged in the dance, was obliged to offer his lap as a seat for one of the girls; and the offer was sure to be accepted. In the midst of this hilarity the bride and groom were not forgotten. Pretty late in the night some one would remind the company that the new couple must stand in need of some refreshments. Black Betty, which was the name of the bottle, was called for and sent up the ladder; but sometimes Black Betty did not go alone. I have sometimes seen as much bread, beef, pork and cabbage sent along as would afford a good meal for half a dozen hungry men. The young couple was compelled to eat and drink more or less of whatever was offered.
"But to return: it often happened that some neighbors or relations, not being asked to the wedding, took offence, and the mode of revenge adopted by them on such occasions was that of cutting off the manes, foretops, and tails of the horses of the wedding company.

"On returning to the infare, the order of procession and the race for Black Betty was the same as before. The feasting and dancing often lasted several days, at the end of which the whole company were so exhausted with loss of sleep that many days' rest were requisite to fit them to return to their ordinary labors."
Source:  History of southwest Virginia, 1746-1786: Washington County, 1777-1870; Published 1903;
By Lewis Preston Summers; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack


The first court met at the house of Robert Breckenridge in said county on Tuesday, the 13th day of February, 1770. William Preston and Jamea Trimble administered the oath.
Arbuckle, Matthew, June 11, 1771.
Breckenridge, Robert February 13, 1770.
Bowyer, John February 13, 1770.
Bowman, John, February 14, 1770.
Bledsoe, Anthony February 14, 1770.
Christian, Israel, February 13, 1770.
Christian, William, February 14, 1770.
Crockett, Walter, February 14, 1770.
Doage, Robert, February 14, 1770.
Estill, Benjamin, February 13, 1770.
Fleming, William, February 13, 1770.
Hawkins, Benj., February 13, 1770.
Howard, John February 14, 1770.
Herbert, William, February 14, 1770.
Inglis, William February 14, 1770.
Love, Philip, February 14, 1770.
Lewis, Andrew, February 14, 1770.
Montgomery, John February 14, 1770.
Maxwell, John, February 13, 1770.
McGavock, James, February 14, 1770.
Matthews, William, February 14, 1770.
McKee, William, February 14, 1770.
Preston, William, February 13, 1770.
Kobinson, David, February 13, 1770.
Robertson, James, February 14, 1770.
Robinson, John, June 11, 1770
Skillem, George, February 13, 1770.
Smith, Francis, February 14, 1770.
Stewart, John, Junc H, 1771
Trigg, Stephen, February 14, 1770.
Trimble, James, February 13, 1770.
Thompson, James-on-Holston, June
Woods, Richard February 13, 1770.
Woods, Andrew, February 14. 1770.
Van Bebber, John, June 11, 1770
Source:  History of southwest Virginia, 1746-1786: Washington County, 1777-1870; Published 1903;
 By Lewis Preston Summers;  Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack


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