FRONTIERS OF FINCASTLE COUNTY INVADED BY INDIANS
In the spring of 1774 Captain William Russell went to Williamsburg to acquaint Governor Dunmore with the serious condition of affairs on the borders of Fincastle County; and he returned with instructions from the governor, directed to Colonel Preston and the other officers of the county, to take proper steps for protecting the borders, and to urge the inhabitants not to abandon their homes on the frontiers.
On the 25th of June, 1774, a council of the militia officers of Fincastle County was held at the county seat, the Lead Mines, and at this council it was determined that Lieutenant Colonel Christian should march with several companies of militia to the settlements on Clinch River, and from thence send out ranging parties to discover and attack any parties of Indians that might possibly come up Sandy River to distress the settlers on the Clinch. This action was taken in compliance with orders from Governor Dunmore, who seemed anxious to protect the inhabitants of the Holston and Clinch valleys from incursions by the Cherokees and Shawnees. In pursuance of this plan of action, Colonel Preston, who was then at Fort Chiswell, in the present Wythe County, on June 27th 1774, sent the following instructions to Colonel William Christian: "I have given Orders to six Captains to raise twenty men out of each of their Companies either as Volunteers or by Draught; which with what men can be engaged from other companies, will make up the party One Hundred & fifty men besides Officers.
"You are to take the Command of this party, Captains Crockett & Campbell will go with you & each will have fifty men beside the Necessary Officers, the remaining fifty will be under your Immediate Command as a Company, and as one subaltern will be enough I am in hopes Ensign William Buchanan will answer that purpose.
"You will endeavor to procure ammunition and Provisions for this service. I expect a good many of the soldiers will take their Horses to carry the provisions, for which they ought to be made an allowance, this allowance & the value of the provisions or what ever else may be necessary for this Service you will please to have settled by two honest men on Oath. * * * *
"I have appointed the Soldiers to meet you at the Town House on Holston early next week, from whence you are to begin your march to Clinch & from thence over Cumberland Mountain by any Gap or pass you think proper that Leads to the head branches of the Kentucky & there Range together or in separate parties & at such places as you judge most likely to discover and repulse the Enemy on their Approach to our Settlements. It is believed there is a large party of Cherokees on their way to or from the Shawnees Towns, if you should fall in with this Company & know them I must leave it to your own Prudence in what manner to treat them, though it is generally Said that these Indians are about to Join our Enemies, yet as this Report is not reduced to a Certainty, I cannot give any Particular orders herein. You will probably be able to Judge by the Manner of their approach or rather Circumstances that cannot now be foreseen, what Indians they are & then you will act accordingly, but upon the whole I would earnestly recommend the utmost caution and Discretion in this very nice & important part of your duty. Should this party of Cherokees, which is generally said to be about Seventy in number, come in a Hostile manner there is no doubt but they will be Accompanied by a number of Shawnees or rather Enemy Indians which may render them formidable to your party.
"I would therefore Recommend your keeping out some active men on the right & left, in the front & Rear even to the distance of a mile on Your march and at Camp to keep out a number of Centennials, to prevent a surprise which is too often attended with fatal Consequences, this above all things ought ever to be Guarded against, nor Should this Part of the duty be Neglected or Relaxed on any occasion whatsoever."
Colonel Preston then recommended that Colonel Christian should consult his officers in connection with important matters connected with the expedition; and expressed the hope that the officers, who were required and commanded to obey their commanding officer, would be alert and obedient in the performance of duty. He also directed that the officers should keep good order and discipline in their companies, and "be unanimous and Friendly amongst themselves that every Intention of Sending out the Party may be fully answered." Colonel Preston closed these orders with the following stirring appeal to the patriotism and military spirit of the officers and men of the expedition: "As it is expected that you will have none but choice officers & men on this little Expedition: therefore the Eyes of the Country will be upon you: So that I have no doubt but every person in his station will exert himself to answer the wishes & expectations of his Country, and serve it as much as in his power lies.
"That Heaven may give you Success & Safety it is the Sincere wish of Sir your most Humble Servant; Wm. Preston. Colo. William Christian"
These military orders, issued by the county lieutenant of Fincastle County, will be read with interest, no doubt, by all persons who are descendants of the pioneer settlers of Tazewell County; and should be interesting to those who care to acquaint themselves with its early history. It will be observed that the first military expedition sent to the Clinch Valley, in the first war in which its inhabitants were to take an active part, was ordered to march to the lower sections of the Valley, though the three principal passes used by the Indians when they came by the way of the Sandy Valley were at the headwaters of the Louisa, the Dry Fork, and Tug River. All of these passes were in territory that was subsequently embraced in Tazewell County. This indicates that the inhabitants of the Lower Clinch Valley were more seriously threatened, or were more alarmed than the people on the headwaters of the Clinch, or that they were not as well prepared to resist savage invasions as were our pioneer ancestors.
The exhortation of Colonel Preston to the officers, to be "unanimous and friendly among themselves," warrants the belief that jealousies and rivalries had previously existed, or were then being cultivated, among the officers connected with the expedition. In fact, such a feeling had been manifested by and between certain of the officers from the Holston Valley, and possibly by some of those from the New River and Reed Creek sections. There was nothing of this kind shown among the Tazewell pioneers. None of them were concerned about holding official positions. Their chief concern was the protection of the homes they had struggled to erect in the wilderness country. In a letter written by Captain Russell to Colonel Preston after the arrival of the expedition at Castle's Woods, he showed some feeling, because he thought he and others in the Clinch Valley had not received proper consideration in being appointed to commands and regularly enlisted in the service. He said: "I am sorry to find Sir, I can't be indulged to serve my Country with a Captain's Command, as early as others; who are but new Hands." In another part of the letter he said: "Was I to Keep a Commission, in hopes of Benefiting my Country, or self, and my hopes was, from a set of Gentlemen; who, were all desirous to serve as well as my self; I am assured against such powerful Connections, as are upon the Holston, and New River Waters, It wood be useless for me to mention one Word about it."
Captain Russell was not much of a speller, and he was ill versed in the art of punctuation and the proper use of capital letters; but he knew how to politely rebuke what he believed to be favoritism and nepotism. Possibly he had been wrought to this temper by remembrance of the manner in which the county offices had been distributed when the county of Fincastle was organized. Certain families "upon the Holston and the New River Waters" were apportioned all the offices of honor and profit; and Colonel Preston was, at the time Russell wrote him, county lieutenant through appointment by the governor, and both sheriff and surveyor of Fincastle County by election by the county court, of which court he was also a member. In those days certain families in Virginia, under a royal government, were potential in most of the counties, and such has been the case in nearly all the counties of the Commonwealth since a republican form of government was established in 1776. This was a very natural condition, and it always obtains where organized society is found. The organization of what we call civil government has ever been brought about by the energy and zeal of a few dominating spirits, who necessarily become self-constituted leaders of the government, or are made such by the people. This was the case when our Federal and State governments were formed, and the records show that it was the same when the great county of Tazewell was organized as a distinct civil and military community.
The first week in July, 1774, in obedience to orders, Colonel Christian assembled his command of three companies, of fifty men each, besides officers, at Town House. At this point lived Captain James Thompson, who was a grandson of Colonel James Patton. Thompson had a small private fort and the name of his home, "Town House," was given because it had been selected by Colonel Patton as a suitable place for a settlement or town, just as he had selected Draper's Meadows for such a purpose. Captain William Campbell was in command of one of the companies, Captain Walter Crockett of another, and Colonel Christian, in compliance with orders, took charge of the third company. Campbell then lived at Aspinvale, the present Seven Mile Ford, and Crockett lived on the headwaters of the South Fork of Holston River, both living within the limits of the present Smyth County.
Soon after commencing his march from Town House for the Clinch, Colonel Christian deemed it expedient to make a departure from the specific orders of Colonel Preston to march with all his force "to the Clinch and from thence over Cumberland Mountain * * * to the head branches of the Kentucky." From a point somewhere near Abingdon, on the 9th of July, Christian sent a messenger, with a written report of the movements of his command, to Colonel Preston. Among the important matters reported, the following is found: "On Thursday last Mr. Doack's letter to Crockett was shown to me at Cedar Creek about 9 miles on this Side of Stalnakers. I thought it best to send Crockett off with 40 men to the head of Sandy creek, that the reed creek and head of Holston people might know where to Send to him in case any attack should be made, that he might waylay or follow the enemy. * * * Yesterday I heard a report that 50 Indians were seen at Sandy creek but as it came thro several hands it may not be true."
There were several causes for this change in the disposition of the men under his command. The day previous, the 8th of July, Captain Dan Smith, who had a fort at Elk Garden, and who had charge of the line of defense in the Upper Clinch Valley, wrote to Colonel Preston, reporting an alarming condition at the head of the north fork of Clinch and Bluestone. He said: "The constant Rumor of the Indians being just ready to fall on the Inhabitants hath scared away almost the whole settlement at the head of the north fork of Clinch and Bluestone. I am sorry to find that the people are so scary and that there are so many propagators of false reports in the country."
Captain Smith then reported that the false rumors were causing "timorous people to run away." He said: "This the people at the head of the river did before I got the least notice of their intention to start. The men have said they will return again after carrying their wives and children to a place of safety; if they do 'twill be more than I expect. They allege as an excuse for their going away that there was no Scout down Sandy Creek." Captain Smith admitted the charge was true that there had been no scout down Sandy Creek, but tried to place the responsibility for this neglect upon James Maxwell, to whom he said he had entrusted the duty. Smith charged that, instead of looking after the matter, James Maxwell had "gone down to Botetourt to see his family,- ”and whose return is not expected shortly;" and that James Maxwell had left the scouting matter in the hands of his brother, Thomas Maxwell. It seems that James Maxwell had notified Smith of the arrangement with his brother and that Smith had acquiesced, for he further reported to Colonel Preston about James Maxwell's non-performance of duty: "As he lived most convenient to the head of Sandy Creek I consulted him with regard to scouts that should go down that water course. His brother Thomas was the one pitched upon. On their return from the first trip, although they brought no accounts of Indians, As your letter of the 20th ult. came to hand about that time I sent two scouts down a river called Louisa, and at the recommendation of Mr. Th. Maxwell appointed one, Israel Harmon to act with him down Sandy Creek, for it was natural for me, as I reposed much confidence in Mr. James Maxwell to pay regard to what his Brother Thomas advised. I am now to inform you that Mr. Thomas Maxwell proved Highly unworthy the confidence I reposed in him, so much so that I think his behavior requires that he should be called to account at the next court martial, as I've just been informed there really is a militia law yet subsisting; for instead of going down Sandy Creek as I strictly charged him to do he went to the head of the river, reported the danger they were in, and assisted Jacob Harmon to move into the New River settlement."
There is no doubt but that Captain Dan Smith entirely misunderstood the character and quality of the men he was censuring so bitterly, and thoroughly misapprehended their real worth. They had no garrisoned fort at hand, as Captain Smith had at Elk Garden, in which they could easily place their wives and children for safety; and they were living along one of the most frequented and most dangerous trails the Indians used when they made hostile visits to the settlements. The pioneer Maxwell's and Harman's were as brave and true as any of the splendid men who were of the first settlers in the Clinch Valley. At least, one of them, the one Smith most severely condemned, Thomas Maxwell, by his future actions heroically disproved the aspersions Smith cast upon his character. Smith was reputed to be a very courageous man; and it may be that he was so fearless that caution and prudence in others to him had the appearance of cowardice. But if Smith ever came in contact with hostile Indians, there is nothing of record to show it.
Thomas Maxwell was no "timorous" man. Dressed in hunting shirt, with tomahawk and scalping knife in belt; and with his trusty mountain rifle on his shoulder, he marched to and fought at King's Mountain. After the battle at that place, which was fought on the 7th of October, 1780, Thomas Maxwell settled on the North Fork of Holston River, near Broad Ford, in the present Smyth County. In the spring of 1781, a small band of Shawnee Indians made an inroad into Burke's Garden and made the wife and children of Thomas Ingles captives. Ingles went immediately to the North Fork of Holston, where he found Captain Thomas Maxwell engaged in drilling a squad of fourteen militia. Maxwell and his men went with Ingles to Burke's Garden, and from that place trailed the Indians until they overtook them on Tug River. In the attack that was made to rescue the captives Captain Maxwell was the only one of the white men killed. The pass where the encounter took place has ever since been called Maxwell's Gap, where the "timorous" man rests in a hero's grave.
In this letter to Colonel Preston, wherein Smith accuses the Maxwell's and other settlers "at the head of the north fork of Clinch and Bluestone" with cowardice and neglect of duty, he makes confession that his own men, in the Elk Garden settlement, were alarmed and asks that a company of soldiers be sent there to relieve their fears. He says: "As the spirits of the men that are yet left in my company Are not in very high flow, I do think that a Company of men stationed on the river if there was not over 20 would greatly encourage the settlers, if they did nothing but Assist to build forts in this busy time of laying by Corn. I really shall be greatly pleased if you should be of the same Opinion." Captain Smith was a little inconsistent, to say the least, in rebuking the Maxwell's and Harman's for showing anxiety for the safety of their families, and expressing no condemnation for the timid settlers of his own community.
Subsequent events proved that the pass at the head of Sandy Creek was the most important and dangerous one on the frontier west of New River; and that the Maxwell's and Harman's had not been mistaken when they decided it was too dangerous to let their families remain in its vicinity. Consternation prevailed among the inhabitants in Rich Valley, on Walker's Creek, at the head of the Middle Fork of Holston and in the Reed Creek Valley. Captain Robert Doack, who was an officer in the Fincastle militia, and who was then living in the neighborhood of old Mt. Airy, in the present Wythe County, had been ordered to draft a company of men and march them to the heads of Sandy Creek and Clinch. On the 12th of July, 1774, four days after the letter was written by Captain Smith reporting the supposed delinquencies of the Maxwell's and Harman's, Captain Doack addressed a letter to Colonel Preston, from which the following is quoted:
"Sir- ”Agreeable to your Order I Drafted men & was in Readiness to March to the heads of Sandy Creek & Clinch, When some tracts were seen in this neighborhood supposed to be Indians which Colo. Christian hearing sent Capt. Crockett to where I was, Ordered & Directed me to range near the Inhabitants. We were informed, that sixteen Indians were seen on Walkers Creek which I went down with 25 men but not finding any Signs & hearing the News Contradicted Discharged them. The people were all in Garrison from Fort Chiswell to the Head of Holston & in great Confusion. They are fled from the Rich Valley & Walkers Creek. Some are Building forts they have Began to build at my Father's, James Davis', & Gasper Kinders. I think they are not strong enough for three forts but might do for two. If you thought proper to Order that a Sergeant Command might be Stationed at each of these places on Mischief being Done Or at any two of them I think it would Keep this part of the Country from leaving it & would enable them to save their Crops this I humbly Conceive would be a protection & encouragement & on an alarm when people fled to the forts with their Families those men would always be Ready to follow the Enemy."
With such conditions of alarm and confusion existing in the more populous settlements of the Holston and Reed Creek valleys, because of the apprehension of Indian raiding parties by way of the Sandy Creek passes, it was the duty of the men on the extreme frontier to remove their families to places of assured safety. At this time there was no reported disquietude or fear in the localities where the Tazewell pioneers had grouped themselves in communities and built forts. The men in the neighborhoods where the Wynne, the Witten and the Bowen forts were located were not calling for help or protection. The Harman's, Peery's, Wynne's, Taylors, Evans' and other settlers in the vicinity of Wynne's fort had confidence in their ability to meet and defeat any Indian bands that came to their neighborhood; the Witten's, Greenup's, Peery's, Marrs', and the Cecil's, grouped near Witten's fort; and the Bowens, Wards, Martins, Thompsons, and others about Maiden Spring, seem to have been inspired with the same confidence.
In compliance with the orders which Colonel Preston had given him, Colonel Christian marched promptly, with ninety men, to Russell's fort on the Clinch, at Castle's Woods. From that place, on the 12th of July, 1774, he wrote Colonel Preston that he thought it his duty to send Captain Walter Crockett and his company "to cover the inhabitants that lie exposed to Sandy Creek Pass." He further suggested that it was the opinion of the officers of his command that an expedition of 150 or 200 men should be sent to the Ohio, at the mouth of the Scioto, and thence on forty-five miles to destroy the "Shawnese Town."
On the 12th of July, the same day that Colonel Christian wrote to Colonel Preston suggesting that an expedition should be sent to the Shawnee towns in Ohio, Governor Dunmore forwarded an order to Colonel Andrew Lewis, directing him to assemble a force of men from Botetourt, Fincastle and other counties, to go on an expedition to the Ohio Valley for the purpose of bringing the Indians into subjection. Colonel Lewis forwarded Dunmore's order to Colonel Preston, accompanying it with a letter in which he said, in part: "The governor from what he wrote us has taken it for granted that we would fit out an Expedition & has acted accordingly. I make no doubt but he will be as much surprised at our backwardness, as he may call it, as we are at ye precipitate steps in ye other quarter. Don't fail to come and let us do something. I would as matters stand use great risquÃ© rather than a miscarriage should happen." Colonel Lewis ordered Preston, as county lieutenant of Fincastle, to enlist two hundred and fifty men, or more, if they could possibly be raised, to go on the expedition. This of course made an end of Christian's proposition for an expedition to the mouth of the Scioto River; and immediate steps were taken to comply with the orders of Governor Dunmore. Colonel Preston on the 20th of July, 1774, sent by special messenger from his home at Smithfield, a circular letter to Colonel Christian, in which he said:
"Enclosed you have a Copy of Lord Dunmore's Letter to Colo. Lewis of the 12th Instant, In Consequence of which, the Colo., has Called upon me to Attend on the Expedition, with at least, two hundred & fifty Men, or more if they can Possibly be raised; This Demand if Possible must be Complied with, as it is not Altogether our Quota; & indeed it appears reasonable, we should turn out cheerfully On the present Occasion in defense of our Lives and Properties which have been so long exposed to the savages. We may Perhaps never have so fair an Opportunity of reducing our old Inveterate Enemies to Reason, if this should by any means be neglected. The Earl of Dunmore is deeply engaged in it. The House of Burgesses will without all Doubt enable his Lordship to reward every Volunteer in a handsome manner, over and above his Pay; as the plunder of the County will be valuable, & it is said the Shawnees have a great stock of Horses. Besides it will be the only method of settling a lasting Peace with the Indian Tribes Around us, who on former occasions have been urged by the Shawnees to engage in a War with Virginia. This useless People may now at last be Obliged to abandon their Country, their towns may be plundered and burned, their cornfields destroyed; & they distressed in such a manner as will prevent them from giving us any future Trouble; Therefore I hope the men will Readily & cheerfully engage in the Expedition as They will not only be conducted by their own Officers but they will be Assisted by a great number of Officers & soldiers raised behind the Mountains, whose Bravery they cannot be Doubtful of, while they Act from the same Motive of Self Defense."
This circular letter must be authentic, as it was one of the Preston papers turned over to Lyman C. Draper by the descendants of Colonel William Preston; and which is now possessed and preserved by the Wisconsin Historical Society as a valuable and precious document. The spirit of the paper is not of a character that should win the approval of the descendants of the pioneer settlers of Southwest Virginia. It breathes too much of the spirit of the Celtic Rob Roy's and the Saxon Cederics, who thought it not immoral to plunder and kill their weaker neighbors. The paper also shows that Colonel Preston and, possibly, a number of the Trans-Alleghany pioneers, still held to the idea that there were no good Indians; and were in sympathy with the policy, which started at Jamestown, of exterminating the aborigines. If the proposed unrighteous features of the expedition induced any of our ancestors to accompany it, we should not be proud of the fact. It was an invitation to go with an expedition to Ohio to drive the benighted aboriginal inhabitants from their lands, to plunder and burn their homes, destroy their crops, and massacre their women and children. Fortunately these cruel designs were thwarted by the peace which was made with the Indians by Lord Dunmore immediately after the battle of Point Pleasant was won by the gallant Virginia mountaineers.
The year 1774 was a very eventful and trying one to the Tazewell pioneers. Though the population west of New River was sparse and very much scattered, the inhabitants soon became intimately associated in making preparation to repel invasions of the hostile Indians. Excitement was intense at a most important period of the year, when the settlers were busily occupied in making and saving their crops of grain, chiefly corn, upon which their families were dependent for subsistence during the ensuing year. Small scalping parties of Shawnees began to invade the regions along and west of New River; and in making these incursions they showed a strong disposition to use the passes at the headwaters of Sandy River, all of which fronted on the Upper Clinch Valley in Tazewell County.
In compliance with the orders of Colonel William Preston, five companies were in process of enlistment and organization to join the expedition of Colonel Andrew Lewis to Ohio. These companies were ultimately organized and marched under command of Captains William Campbell, Evan Shelby, arid Walter Crockett, of the Holston Valley; Captain William Herbert of the Upper New River Valley; and Captain William Russell of the Clinch Valley. While these companies were being enlisted and assembled, a small band of Shawnee Indians came up Tug River, crossed over to and down Wolf Creek to New River, and went up the latter stream to the homes of Philip Lybrook and John McGriff on the east side of New River, just below the mouth of Sinking Creek, in the present county of Giles. On Sunday, the 7th day of August, 1774, they made an attack upon a group of children who were playing on the bank of the river. Three of Lybrook's children one a sucking infant, a young woman by the name of Scott, and two little girls of Mrs. Snidow were killed; and Lybrook, who was at a small mill he had built near his home, was wounded in the arm. The children were scalped and mangled in a very cruel manner. McGriff shot and mortally wounded one of the Indians. Some years later the remains of the Indian were found under rocks at a cliff near the scene of the tragedy. Three small boys, Theophilus and Jacob Snidow and Thomas McGriff, were made captives and taken away by the Indians. On the following Wednesday night, while camping at Pipestem Knob, in the present Summers County, West Virginia, two of the boys, Jacob Snidow and Thomas McGriff, made a daring and successful escape. Judge Johnston, who gives a very interesting account of the tragic incident in his History of the New River Settlement, says: "Theophilus Snidow, the other captive boy, was carried by the Indians to their towns north of the Ohio, and when he had reached his manhood returned to his people, but in delicate health with pulmonary trouble from which he shortly died."
Colonel Preston had sent Major James Robertson, with a scouting party of twenty men to Culbertson's Bottom, now known as Crump's Bottom, in Summers County, West Virginia, to build a fort and give warning to the settlers on the river above. Robertson wrote to Colonel Preston on the 1st of August, 1774, reporting, in part, as follows: "About three hours ago John Draper came here with thirteen men, which makes our number 33." He then reported that he was keeping scouts out continually, and had seen no fresh signs of Indians for four or five days; but said: "as John Draper came down yesterday he surely seen the tracks of five or six Indians, he says, on Wolf Creek, and they made towards the settlements." This was evidently the same party that made the attack upon the Lybrooks and Snidows, as Colonel Preston reported to Lord Dunmore that there were but six Indians in the band that killed the Lybrook and Snidow children. The Indians had knowledge of the scouting station at Culbertson's and had adroitly avoided Robertson's scouts, by traveling up Tug, crossing over to Wolf Creek and reaching New River about twenty miles above where Robertson was stationed. On the 12th of August he again wrote Colonel Preston from Culbertson's, sayings: "This morning our scouts met with a couple of poor little boys between this and Blue Stone, one a son of John McGriff's, the other a son of Widow Snidows at Burks fort, that made their escapes from the Indians, last Tuesday night about midnight away up towards the Clover Bottoms on Blue Stone or between that and the lower war road on Blue Stone."
Robertson was very much impressed with the danger that threatened the inhabitants of the Upper New River settlements and of Reed Creek, on account of the ease with which the Indians could come up the Sandy route and slip between the outposts on New River and those on the headwaters of the Clinch. This caused him to communicate his fears to Colonel Preston as follows: "Unless you keep your own side of the mountain well guarded there them straggling little parties will do Abundance of Damage. Where People is gathered in forts there ought to be men under Pay Just Ready on any Occasion these Small party's passes Scouts and Company's without Possibly being Discovered."
Fearing that he might be censured for not discovering and driving back the scalping party that murdered the Lybrook and Snidow children, Robertson declared that if his own life and honor, and the lives of all his relations, and the lives of all his well wishers had been at stake he could have done no more than he did do to prevent the horrible catastrophe at Lybrook's. He saw that all the border settlements were greatly endangered, and knew the importance of strengthening the defenses on the line from New River to Cumberland Gap. That he and his men were anxious for the safety of their own families, who lived in the Upper New River settlements, was shown by his writing Colonel Preston: "I suppose my helpless family is in great fear, and indeed not without reason."
Major Arthur Campbell, who was in charge of all the military forces and defenses west of New River, was so solicitous for the safety of the settlements on the Clinch that, as soon as the news reached him of the Sinking Creek massacre, he sent express messengers to Captains Russell and Smith bearing duplicates of the following urgent orders:
"Royal-Oak August 9, 1774
Dear Sir- ”I have this moment Received intelligence of several people being killed last Monday by the Indians on Sinking Creek about 10 miles from Colo. Preston's. This makes it necessary that we should be strictly on our guard lest some straggling party should visit us. Therefore endeavor without loss of time to get the inhabitants in your Company collected together in 2 or 3 convenient places for forts, and let them keep up strict and regular Duty until more men can be sent over to assist them which I will endeavor to have done with all possible speed. This alarm will retard the expedition at least a week, therefore all young men that chooses to do regular
duty may be taken into pay. I expect an Express tomorrow from Colo. Preston after which you shall have further Instructions. Pray do everything in your power for the safety of the Inhabitants.
I am Dr. Sir, very sincerely yours Arthur Campbell
On his Majesty's service To Captain Daniel Smith on Clinch."
It seems that Captains Russell and Smith proceeded without delay to execute the orders sent them by Major Campbell. On the 24th of August, two weeks after transmitting the said orders to Russell and Smith, Major Campbell notified Colonel Preston that he had received a petition from the inhabitants of the Clinch Valley requesting that they be regularly employed in the service and also asking that the number then on duty be enlarged. Campbell wrote Colonel Preston that he declined to grant the petition "without orders from you;" but reported: "I let the Gentlemen know, that the inhabitants that strictly did regular Duty might be continued on the Lists until a sufficient Number of Draughts might arrive to complete the Company's and then I would recommend it to the Officers to keep the best Woodsmen of ye Inhabitants in pay for the purpose of ranging in preference to any that might offer themselves from Holston or New River."
Major Campbell's apprehension that the Sinking Creek massacre would delay the march of the Lewis expedition to Ohio was well founded. The enlistment of the number of men called for from Fincastle County had been greatly retarded by jealousies and rivalries among the militia officers of the Holston Valley. These dissensions had given much trouble to both Major Campbell and Colonel Preston; and when they had about succeeded in getting the trouble under control the massacre of the Lybrook and Snidow children occurred. This horrible incident made many of the frontiersmen reluctant to go with the expedition and leave their families exposed to the scalping bands of Indians. The men of the Upper Clinch Valley had been doing much volunteer scouting and ranging service without compensation for such service, other than the protection of their own settlements, while the ranging parties sent out from the New River and Holston settlements had been receiving pay for their service. The war which was on hand involved the protection and welfare of all the settlements west of New River; and the men of the Clinch Valley very justly held that they should be regularly employed in the service, with compensation, as were the men of the more populous settlements on the Holston and New River.
On the 16th of August, Captain William Russell, who had given his fort at Castle's Woods the name of "Fort Preston," wrote to Colonel Preston from that place, notifying him that he was ready and anxious to march with his company "to the appointed place of rendezvous" for the Lewis expedition. Captain Russell also said in his letter to Colonel Preston: "I hope Sir you will think it absolutely necessary to have two Captains to Command on Clinch at this Critical season that ought to be ranging, besides those in the Forts, as Constant Guards to the Inhabitants."
Captain Russell clearly saw that the passes at the heads of the several branches of Sandy River were not being properly guarded at a time which he pronounced a "critical season." And he suggested that Captain James Thompson, who had been appointed to command a company stationed at Fort Blackmore, in the present Scott County, should be transferred to a command "towards the head of the River." The anxiety of Captain Russell for the protection of the inhabitants at the head of the Clinch was so great that he made the following personal appeal to Colonel Preston: "Should I be granted a Command, and it be agreeable to you and Capt. Thompson, should be proud if it could be your pleasure to appoint him towards the head of the River, as that will give him a more Immediate opportunity of securing the Inhabitants about his Father's, and even his own."
Captain Thompson was a very near and dear kinsman of Colonel Preston. Thompson was the grandson of Colonel James Patton, and Colonel Preston was nephew of Patton. But this strong personal appeal to the county lieutenant of Fincastle County did not procure two Captains with companies for the head of the Clinch; and Captain Daniel Smith was retained in command of the upper stations in the Valley.
Colonel Preston surely must have believed that the pioneers had settled on the headwaters of the Clinch with a resolute purpose of remaining there; and that they would not only be able to take care of themselves, but would also afford a strong barrier against Indian incursions into the Holston and Reed Creek settlements. Captain Russell's letter of the 10th of August was well calculated to strengthen this conclusion in Preston's mind. When Russell gave the number he would take with him on the Ohio expedition he said: "There are about thirty that will certainly go with me; and Capt. Smith says Wm Bowen has four that will go with me." These four were, William Bowen and his two brothers, Reese and Moses, and David Ward; and the four made good by going and doing valiant service on the expedition. There were others from the Upper Clinch Valley who were at Point Pleasant, whose names will be mentioned in succeeding pages.
In the meantime Captain Daniel Smith proceeded to carry out the orders of Major Campbell to gather the inhabitants in the forts, and to enlist men regularly for the several stations in his charge. Lists of the garrisons at the Maiden Spring Fort and Thomas Witten's fort at the Crab Orchard were left among the papers of Colonel William Preston; and they are worthy of a place of honor in a history of Tazewell County. I copy them from Thwaites' Dunmore's War:
At The Maiden's Springs Station 26th. Aug1 1774.
Mr. Robt. Brown, Sergeant till 23rd Sep1 then Joseph Cravens.
James MClehany discharged 19th. Oct. 55 days
John Jameson listed 29th Aug. 1 disch. 19th Octo 53 days
Thomas Brumly listed 22nd Aug. 1 disch. 19th Oct. 60 days
Andrew Lammy listed 16th. Aug. 14th Sep. 1 Saml. Fowler came in his room
John Flintham listed 14th. Augt. disch. 19th. Oct. 68 days
James Douglas M. S.
John Newland W. 1
Samuel Paxton W. listed Sept 14th. discharged 22nd. 8 days
Philip Dutton W.
John Cravens 23rd. Sept. M. S.
Rees Bowen Aug. 26- Sept. 2
David Ward Aug. 26- Sept. 2
Robt. Cravens Nov. 1st. - Nov. 18
Rees Bowen and David Ward were discharged on the 2nd of Sept. so that they could go with Captain Russell on the expedition to Ohio; and Robt Cravens enlisted as a member of the Maiden Spring garrison after he returned from Ohio. At The Upper Station (This was Witten's Fort. - ” Auth.)
Mr. John Campbell Ensign listed 15 Augt.
Isaac Spratt 1 Sergeant 25th. Sept. went away
George Dohorty without leave
Andrew Steel Oct. 18th disch 64 davs 29th Augt.
John Hambleton disch 18th Oct. 64 days
Alexr. Grant deserted 8th. Sept.
David Bustar (Bruster) Wm. Thompson Edward Sharp 7th. Sept. listed, disch. 21st. 14 days Michael Glaves. 6th. Sept. went away without leave 7th. Octr.
James Fullen 5th. Sept. disch. 21st. 16 days
James Edwards 5th. Sept. went away without leave 30th. Sept.
John Williams 7th. Sept. disch. 16th. 9 days
Thomas Potter 5th. Sept. went away without leave 7th. Oct. came back.
Levi Bishop 8th. Sept. Dec. 22d. Sept.
Robert Manford (Moffett) 8th. Sept.
Alexander Henderson 15th. Sept. went away 12th. Oct.
Francis Hambleton 15th. Sept. went out without leave 25th.
Sept. came back John Crafford 15th. Sept. discharged 24th. 10 days
Isiah Hambleton 15th. Sept. 22nd. Sept. went away without leave
Benjamin Rediford 15th Sept. 25th. Sept.
George Vant 15th. Sept. 26th. went away, came back Oct. 1st.
Andw Branstead 15th. Sept. 26th. Do
James Mitchell 15th. Sept. 26th. Do
Rowland Williams Do
Mr. Thomas Whitten senr. appointed Sergeant 20th. Sept.
Thomas Whitten jur Octo. 1st.
John Grinup Do.
Francis Hynes Do.
Samuel Doack listed Octo. 1st. went away 12th. Oct.
Thomas Rogers Do. Do.
John Lashly Do. Do.
Wm. King Octo. 1st.
Thos Meads Do.
Jacob Kindar Do.
Jonathan Edwards in his brothers room 6th. Oct.
Christian Bergman 5th. Oct.
Michael Razor 24th. Octo.
Jeremiah Whitton 27th. Oct.
It may seem strange that so many of the men who were stationed at the Witten Fort "went away without leave." here was but one man marked as a deserter; and it is, no doubt, a fact that all those who absented themselves from the post did so because it was necessary to save their corn crops. The officers at the station were evidently without authority to grant leaves of absence, but, knowing the necessity for the men going home, acquiesced in their departure and did not class them as deserters. This conclusion is supported by the fact that some of the absentees returned to duty without reproof from their officers.
Along with the lists of the men who were stationed at the Maiden Spring and Crab Orchard forts, was a list of the persons who acted as scouts in the Upper Clinch Valley during the summer and fall of 1774. This list was also found among the papers of Colonel William Preston, and is as follows:
William Bo went Aug. 12th
Thos Maxwell 10 days June 11th
John Kingkeid 17 days
Wm. Priest 7 days
John Sharp 10 days
Robt. Davis 15 days of his time to go to Robt. Moffet.
William Wynne's fort at Locust Hill was not garrisoned by a regularly enlisted force. However it was protected by a volunteer garrison, composed of the Wynne's, Harmans, Peerys, Butlers, Evans', Carrs, and other settlers of the neighborhood. This was at that time the most thickly settled community within the bounds of the present Tazewell County; and the fort was so favorably situated that its defense was easy.
[History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia: 1748-1920; By William Cecil Pendleton; Pgs.225-406; Publ. 1920; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]
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