Welcome to West Virginia Genealogy Trails!

Part 6

village by name was passed; but the reverse of this state of affairs can be shown conclusively by the proceedings of the early justices and documents extant. Tradition places the nucleus of a town where Winchester now stands as early as 1732, for it is related that two of the best known families now residing in the city named had their origin in two cabins located on what is now known as the town run. The name of one of these families occurs among the records of land transfers as early as 1743, the other not until many years after. The following  documents copied from the first Deed Book, and bearing date March 9, 1743, gives the first glimpse of what is now Winchester, but what was called, as will be shown, for several years, Frederick Town.
KNOW all men by these presents that I, James Wood, of Frederick county, am held and firmly bound unto Morgan Morgan, Thomas Chester, David Vance, Andrew Campbell, Marquis Calmes, Thomas Rutherford, Lewis Neill, William McMachen, Meredith Helms, George Hoge, John White and Thomas Little, gents., Justices of the said county and their successors, in the sum of one thousand pounds current money of Virginia, to be paid to the said Morgan Morgan, Thomas Chester, David Vance, Andrew Campbell, Marquis Calmes, Thomas Rutherford, Lewis Neill, William McMachen, Meredith Helms, George Hoge, John White and Thomas Little, and their successors. To the which payment well and truly to be made, I bind myself, my heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents, sealed with my seal, and dated this 9th day of March, 1743.
THE CONDITION of the above obligation is such that whereas the above bound James Wood having laid off from the tract of land on which he now dwells at Opeckon, in the county aforesaid, twenty-six lots of land containing half an acre each, together with two streets running through the said lots, each of the breadth of thirty-three feet, as will more plainly appear by a plan thereof in the possession of the said Morgan Morgan, Marquis Calmes, and William McMachen. And whereas the said James Wood, for divers good causes and considerations him thereunto moving, but more especially for and in consideration of the sum of five shillings current money to him in hand paid, the receipt whereof he doth here acknowledge, Hath bargained and sold, on the conditions hereafter mentioned, all his right, title, interest, property and claim, to twenty-two of the said lots to the aforesaid Morgan Morgan, &c., his Majesties' Justices of the said county for the time being and their successors, to be disposed of by them for the use of the said county as they shall judge most proper, the said lots being numbered in the beforementioned plan as follows, viz: Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26, on the following conditions, viz: that they, the said Justices or their assigns, shall, within two years from the day of the sale of the said lots, build or cause to be built on each lot one house, either framed work or squared logs, dovetailed, at least of the dimensions of 20 feet by 16, and in case any person in possession of a lot or lots fail to build within the time limited, the property of the said lot or lots to return to the said James Wood, his heirs or assigns. And whereas the said James Wood not having yet obtained a patent for the said land can only give bond to warrant and defend the property of the said lots to the said Justices, their successors or assigns. Now if the said James Wood, his heirs, executors and administrators, shall from time to time at all times hereafter maintain, protect and defend the said Justices, their successors and assigns, in the peaceable and quiet possession of the beforementioned lots of land from all persons whatsoever, Thomas Lord Fairfax, his heirs, or any other person claiming under him or them only excepted. And further, if the said James Wood, his heirs, &c., shall hereafter obtain either from His Majesty by patent or from the said Thomas Lord Fairfax or his heirs, a better title to the land of the said lots, than what he is possessed of at present, that then the said James Wood, his heirs, &c., shall within one year, if required, make such other title for the said lots to the said Justices or their successors, as their council learned in the law shall advise so far forth as his own title shall extend. Now if the said James Wood, his heirs, executors and administrators, shall well and truly perform all and singular the above conditions, then this obligation to be void, otherwise to be and remain in full force and virtue.
J. Wood.
Sealed and delivered in the presence of
 Wm. Jolliffe,
 Jno. Newport,
 Thos. Postgate.
At a court continued and held for Frederick county, on Saturday, the 10th day of March, 1743, James Wood, gent., in open court, acknowledged this his bond to His Majesties' Justices, which is ordered to be recorded.
        Test: J. Wood, Cl. Ct.
The entire district for a circuit of ten miles was called "Opeckan District," which included Frederick Town.  Wood, it appears from the above documents, did not at that time own the land, but he acquired title to it, possibly, upon the arrival of Lord Fairfax. That the town was called Frederick Town appears in an order laying off a road, which reads, in  part, as follows: "A road from Frederick Town to the mouth of the South Branch," and another from "The town to Dr. Briscoe's."
Among the proceedings of the court, August 7, 1747, is to be found the following: "On motion of John Hopes it is ordered that no person or persons presume to strain, either by pacing or racing thro' the street by the court house in the time of holding court, or at any other public time whatever, under the penalty of a severe fine, and it is further ordered that the sheriff give public notice of the said order."
The above confirms the idea that the court house stood upon Water Street and that that street was the first one laid off. The street now known as Loudon, at least from its junction with Water southward was known as the "great road." A road was laid off, as stated, "from Opeckan to the court house," which shows that the court house was not near the Opequon Creek as some have supposed.
March 8, 1748, the following occurs as a portion of the business transacted by the justices: "On the motion of James Wood setting forth that the prison bounds for the county as now laid off including the town, is detrimental to the creditor. It is ordered that the surveyor of this county lay off ten acres adjoining the prison and including the court house, beginning on the south side the run, running with the front of the houses on the west side the street, till a square course will take in Mrs. Humphrey's house and back of the court house for the complement, and that Isaac Perkins, gent., agree with workmen to set up posts at each corner of the said bounds, or more, if needful." This arrangement was repealed the following year at the request of Robert Lemon and others, for reasons not stated, and the original bounds restored.
"Prison bounds" was an institution that obtained in those early days and even extended far into the lives of persons who are now living. When a person became involved in debt and refused to pay he could be arrested and imprisoned, but his "imprisonment" did not necessarily mean being locked up, if he could give bail that he would not escape. If he happened to reside within the laid off "prison bounds" he could go about his business as usual, live at home, and no change would take place in his condition, but if he stepped one foot from the allotted bounds his bail would be forfeited. On those conditions, it is said, a citizen of Winchester of some prominence lived at his home and transacted his business for a number of years, but he was so located that he could not go to his stable, an alley lying between his residence-lot and that building, said alley being the dividing line between "incarceration and liberty."
The above order of the Court shows that there was considerable of a settlement here at the date stated; so that when James Wood petitioned the General Assembly, three years later, for the lawful establishment of his town, he had a population to justify his request. Following is the act passed in February, 1752:

An Act for Establishing the Town of Winchester and Appointing Fairs therein.
I. WHEREAS, it hath been represented to this General Assembly, that James Wood, gentleman, did survey and lay out a parcel of land, at the court house in Frederick county, in twenty-six lots of half an acre each, with streets for a town, by the name of Winchester, and made sale of the said lots to divers persons, who have since settled and built, and continue building and settling thereon; but because the same was not laid off and erected into a town, by act of Assembly, the freeholders and inhabitants thereof will not be entitled to the like privileges, enjoyed by the freeholders and inhabitants of other towns in this colony;

II. BE it enacted by the Lieutenant Governor, Council and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, that the said parcel of land, lately claimed by the said James Wood, lying and being in the county of Frederick aforesaid, together with fifty-four other lots of half an acre each, twenty-four thereof to be laid off in one or two streets, on the east side of the former lots, the street or streets to run parallel with the street already laid off, and the remaining thirty lots to be laid off at the north end of the aforesaid twenty-six lots with a commodious street or streets, in such manner as the proprietor thereof, the right honourable Thomas Lord Fairfax, shall think fit, be, and is hereby constituted, appointed, erected and established, a town, in the manner already laid out, and described to be laid out, to be called by and retain the name of Winchester, and that the freeholders of the said town, shall forever hereafter, enjoy the same privileges with the freeholders of other towns, erected by act of Assembly, enjoy.

III. And whereas allowing fairs to be kept in the said town of Winchester, will be of great benefit to the inhabitants of the said parts, and greatly increase the trade of that town, Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, that for the future, two fairs shall and may be annually kept, and held, in the said town of Winchester, on the third Wednesday in June, and the third Wednesday in October, in every year, and continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares, and merchandizes, whatsoever; on which fair days, and two days next before, and two days next after, the said fairs, all persons coming to, being at, or going from the same together with their cattle, goods, wares, and merchandizes, shall be exempted, and privileged, from all arrests, attachments, and executions, whatsoever, except for capital offenses, breaches of the peace, or for any controversies, suits, or quarrels, that may arise and happen during the said time, in which case process may immediately be issued, and proceedings thereupon had, in the same manner as if this act had never been made, anything herein before contained, or any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary thereof, in any wise, notwithstanding.

IV. Provided always, That nothing herein contained, shall be construed, deemed, or taken, to derogate from, alter, or infringe, the royal power and prerogative of his majesty, his heirs and successors of granting to any person or persons, body politic and corporate, the privileges of holding fairs, or markets, in any such manner as he or they, by his or their royal letters patent, or by his or their instructions, to the governor, or commander in chief of this dominion, for the time being, shall think fit.

Having established our town of Winchester, it may be interesting to know the origin of the name. James Wood, of course, named his town, and many persons suppose that he selected the title in honor of Lord Winchester, but it is altogether probable that such was not the case. Wood was an Englishman and it is very likely a city-bred man, for he was a good penman and hand eminent business and clerkly acquirements, which facts pointed him out to the early justices as the proper person for clerk of their court. People removing from their homes to distant sections are in the habit of naming the new localities where they settle after those which they have left. What more natural, therefore, than that Clerk Wood should name his town after the city where he had spent his youthful days? So the ancient city of Winchester in England was, doubtless, the original home of the founder of the county seat of Frederick; therefore, as to the history of that city and its name a few facts may be interesting. "Reese's English Cyclopedia" says under the head Winchester:

"An ancient and eminent city, in Hampshire, or the county of Southampton, in England, eleven miles north northeast from Southampton, and sixty-two and one-half west southwest from London. The buildings are disposed on the eastern declivity of a low hill which gently slopes to the valley of the river Itchen, the chalky cliffs of which, and the chalky soil of the surrounding heights, in the opinion of Camden, occasioned the ancient name of the city, Caer-Gwent, signifying the "White-city." The latter portion of the name, under the Romans, became Venta, with the addition of Belgarum, from its situation in the country occupied by the Belgae, by which it was distinguished from Venta Silurum, now Caerwent in Monmouthshire, and Venta Icenorum, now Castor, near Norwich, in Norfolk. From Gwent or Venta we have the first part of the name, and Chester, the last part, is a corruption of Castra, the Roman term for encampments of different kinds: a frequent name, or appendage of a name, of various places in England, and perhaps invariably an indication that such places owe both their origin and their primitive form to the military stations of the earliest conquerors of Britain."

The origin of the English Winchester, remote as it unquestionably is, has been carried back to an epoch far beyond belief, even a century and a half anterior to the foundation of Rome. Without referring to such remote and uncertain time, it may safely be inferred that that spot was occupied by the Belgae, a Germanic tribe who, passing from Gaul, took possession of the country bordering the southern coast of England. (Vid. Caesar's Bel. Gal. ii. 4.) Previous to their occupancy. it is conjectured that Winchester was the Caer-Gwent, or white city, of the aboriginal Britons. After the Romans had subdued the Belgae and the Britons they took possession of this town, and fortified it with ramparts and walls. These were disposed on the sloping side of a hill, and in the usual form of a parallelogram. After the Romans left the Island in 446, Gortheryn, or Vortigern, was elected chief of the western district, and he fixed his seat of government at Winchester. This ancient city as well as the whole island was destined soon to experience a total change of polity, customs and manners, by the introduction and domination of the Saxons in 519. On the advent of these, our hardy progenitors, the name of the city was changed from aboriginal Gwent-Caer and the Roman Venta-Castra, to another of equal import, Wintan-ceaster, from which the modern name, Winchester, has easily, gradually and imperceptibly been formed.

The first event of importance in the history of Winchester after its establishment by law was the arrival in the primitive village of a young gentleman, scarce twenty-one years of age, who was destined twenty-five years later to lead the armies of his country to victory, give peace and prosperity to a land the fairest upon which ever shone the sun of a beneficent creator, whose name and whose fame has gone abroad to the utmost bounds of civilization, and whose patriotic deeds and military valor will go ringing down the ages till time shall be no more. Having been a resident of Winchester for nearly four years, and a member of the General Assembly of Virginia from the county of Frederick in 1758-61, a short sketch of the origin of this illustrious man is appropriate in this work.

George Washington was born in the parish which bears his family name, in the county of Westmoreland, Va., on February 22, 1732. He was the third son of Augustine Washington, a planter of respectable talents, distinguished integrity, and large estate; descended from an ancient family of Cheshire, England, one of whom removed to Virginia about the middle of the seventeenth century, and became the proprietor of a large tract of land in King George's County. Inhaling the pure mountain air, and accustomed to the healthful occupations of a rural life, his limbs expanded to a large and well proportioned size, corresponding with his majestic stature. His education was suited to the business of the country. His classical studies were not pursued beyond the rudiments of the Latin tongue, but his knowledge of the most useful branches of mathematics, and particularly in relation to surveying, was extensive, for the many tracts of land surveyed for Lord Fairfax in Frederick County, show his attainments in this regard. He came to this section when he was but seventeen years of age, as the list of lands laid off by him and printed in a previous chapter of this work attest. At the age of ten years, his father dying, the charge of a numerous family devolved on young Washington's eldest brother, Lawrence, a gentleman of fine attainments, who held a captain's commission in the provincial troops, and who was with Admiral Vernon in the celebrated attack on Carthagena. Lawrence married the daughter of William Fairfax and settled on the patrimonial estate, calling it through respect for his former commander, Mount Vernon. Lawrence was afterward made adjutant-general of the militia of the colony, but he did not long survive his appointment. He left a daughter who died young, and his second brother having died without issue, George succeeded to Mount Vernon. At the age of fifteen he was entered as a midshipman in the British navy, but his mother, then a widow, unwilling that he should be employed at so great a distance from her, induced him to forego that profession, and he began life as a surveyor.

The French, with their Indian allies, had for many years gradually been making encroachments from the direction of Louisiana and Canada. They were endeavoring by a series of fortifications and military posts to unite these two far distant sections of the continent. The English, on the other hand, claimed the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific between the two points named, and gave a grant of 600,000 acres of land to the "Ohio Company," who carried on large traffic in furs with the Indians. This company, pressing forward into what the French deemed their own domain, the fact was brought to the notice of the governor of Canada, who wrote to the governors of New York and Pennsylvania protesting against the inroads of the Ohio Company, and claiming the entire country east of the Ohio River to the Alleghanies. Several of the traders of the company named were carried off and the Indians were encouraged by the French to active hostilities against the English on the frontiers. Many atrocities were committed by the savages until the matter became unbearable, and action was decided upon by the governor of Virginia, along the borders of which nearly all the barbarities were committed. Gov. Dinwiddie, who had arrived in Virginia in 1752, at the ensuing session of the General Assembly, laid the complaints and protests of the fur company and frontier people before that body, who authorized the governor to despatch a messenger to the commandant of the French fort, on a branch of French Creek about fifteen miles south of Lake Erie. George Washington, then but twenty-one years of age, and a major of militia, was intrusted with the delicate and hazardous enterprise. Maj. Washington started from Williamsburg the last day of October, 1753, came to Alexandria and thence to Winchester, where he supplied himself with horses, baggage, etc. At that period Winchester was the outpost of the frontier villages or towns, for beyond the mountains not far distant lurked the savage foe ready, from behind every tree, to slay without mercy any unfortunate white person who should cross his path. And what an undertaking for a young man of his age! But the future father of his country had within him those qualities to make him surmount all obstacles, where good was to be the result. The party was composed of eight persons in all: an Indian interpreter, a French interpreter, a guide, and four others besides himself. The journey required experience in the modes of traveling through the woods, and a knowledge of the Indian character. The distance was about 550 miles, over rugged mountains and mostly through a howling wilderness. After much toil in an inclement season, in marching over snow-covered mountains and crossing rivers on frail rafts, they at length reached the junction of the Monongahela with the Allegheny. Washington made a careful examination of the location, for it struck him as an eligible site for a fort, and by his recommendation the fortification was erected there that afterward became so celebrated. Twenty miles below the forks of the Ohio, at a place called Logstown, he had a conference with some of the Indian chiefs, to whom he delivered a message from the governor, soliciting them to furnish a guard to the party to enable them to reach the French fort. The principal sachem was Tanacharison, the Half-King, as he was called. Having met in council Washington addressed them, explaining the object of his mission. The chiefs made a pacific reply, and Tanacharison and three others accompanied the young ambassador to the French fort. The commandant, M. de St. Pierre, received Washington cordially, who presented his commission and letter from Gov. Dinwiddie. The letter claimed that the lands on the Ohio belonged to the British crown, and requested a speedy and peaceful departure of the French. The reply of St. Pierre was respectful, but stated that the letter should have been addressed to the French governor in Canada, and that it was his duty to remain where he was until ordered elsewhere by his superiors. Washington and his party were politely entertained, yet the French commandant used artifice to detain the Indians. The whole company, however, left and proceeded down the river as far as Venango, which they reached after six days. The trip was full of perils from rocks and drifting trees. They found their horses, which they had left, in an emaciated condition, and to relieve the animals Washington and Messrs. Gist and Vanbraam, the guide and French interpreter, proceeded on foot with gun and knapsack each. After many trials they reached the Allegheny River, but found no means of crossing. Washington said in regard to this portion of the journey: "There was no way of getting over except on a raft, which we sat about making with but one poor hatchet, and finished just after sun-setting. This was one whole day's work. We next got it launched, and went on board of it; then set off. But before we were half way over we were jammed in the ice in such a manner that we expected every moment our raft would sink and ourselves perish. I put out my setting pole to try to stop the raft that the ice might pass by, when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so much violence against the pole that it jerked me out into ten feet of water. But I fortunately saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft-logs. Notwithstanding all our efforts we could not get the raft to either shore, but were obliged, as we were near an island, to quit our raft and make to it." The night was passed in great suffering from the intense cold, the island being desert. In the morning, the river being frozen over, they passed in safety, and after sixteen weeks absence Washington arrived at Williamsburg.

The failure of the mission of Maj. Washington to accomplish the result desired by the governor of Virginia revealed the intentions of the French, and active measures were instituted to oppose the encroachments of the enemy. A regiment was raised by Col. Joshua Fry, with Washington as lieutenant-colonel, and Capt. Trent's company was hastily sent forward to commence the building of a fort at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, but a company of French and Indians, under Capt. Contrecoeur, arrived and drove off the Virginians, and built Fort Duquesne. Washington, who was posted at Will's Creek (afterward Fort Cumberland), with three companies awaiting the arrival of Col. Fry with the remainder of the regiment and the artillery, wrote for reinforcements, and pushed rapidly forward to the Monongahela. His intention was to gain a point somewhere above the forks of the two rivers, await the arrival of Col. Fry, and then drop down to Fort Duquesne, but learning that the French were coming out to meet him, he hurried forward to Great Meadows, and threw up an intrenchment. The French had come out with a considerable party, for the double purpose of giving battle where they would have the advantage, and, in case of necessity, of making it appear that they came as an embassy to request the English to depart. This battle, a description of which is not necessary here, was recited by French writers at the time much to the prejudice of Washington. The French historians, in fact, afterward called the killing of one of their principal officers, M. Jumonville, an assassination. But that the skirmish and its disastrous results were due to the superior foresight and skill of Washington there is no doubt; he simply outgeneraled the Frenchman, and they in their chagrin at defeat at the hands of a few raw backwoodsmen, endeavored to cover the disgrace by misrepresentations to their government. Washington, in his report to the governor, says, after relating the circumstances leading up to the engagement: "When we came to the Half-King (a friendly chief), I counseled with him, and got his consent to go hand-and-hand and strike the French. Accordingly he, Monocawacha and a few other Indians, set out with us, and when we came to the place where the tracks were, the Half-King sent two Indians to follow their tracks, and discover their lodgment, which they did at half a mile from the road, in a very obscure place surrounded with rocks. I thereupon formed a disposition to attack them on all sides, and after an engagement of about fifteen minutes we killed ten, wounded one, and took twenty-one prisoners. The principal officers taken are M. Drouillon and M. La Force, of whom your honor has often heard me speak, as a bold, enterprising man, and a person of great subtlety and cunning. With these were two cadets. We have only one man killed and two or three wounded (among whom was Lieut. Waggoner, slightly), a most miraculous escape, as our right wing was much exposed to their fire, and received it all."

In his journal Washington, writing of the above affair, says: "They pretend that they called to us as soon as we were discovered, which is absolutely false, for I was at the head of the party in approaching them, and I can affirm that as soon as they saw us they ran to their arms, without calling, which I should have heard if they had done so."
Washington sent his prisoners taken in this action to the governor, and proceeded to erect a stockade which he called "Fort Necessity," from its temporary character, expecting that the defeat at Great Meadows would arouse the French at Fort Duquesne and his conjectures were realized, for M. de Villiers soon appeared with a strong detachment, and after an investment of a few hours Fort Necessity was surrendered. The entire garrison was to be permitted to leave with the honors of war and to surrender the prisoners taken at Great Meadows, all of which was performed, and Washington and his brave companions took their weary way back to Will's Creek. From thence Col. Washington, who was now in command of the forces, Col. Fry having died some time previously, returned to Winchester, had a consultation with Lord Fairfax, county lieutenant of Frederick, and then proceeded on his way to Williamsburg. As soon as the House of Burgesses assembled they passed a vote of thanks to Col. Washington and his officers for their bravery and gallant conduct. The young commander, as yet a mere youth, inexperienced and unskilled in warfare, save from his own natural resources, was present, and a word or two of acknowledgment was looked for from him, but he hesitated for lack of words, seeing which the speaker relieved him by saying: "Young man, sit down; your modesty is equal to your valor, and that surpasses any language I can express." Washington shortly after this episode came to Winchester, being entertained, tradition has it, by Lord Fairfax and Col. James Wood.

The population of Virginia at this time, 1754, was estimated by Franklin to have been 85,000-the whole population of the English colonies being but 1,046,000. The entire colony of New York was only 100,000. The valley of Virginia, according to the best ascertained estimates, contained less than one-third the population of the colony, say 25,000, from which deduct about 5,000 for the settlements above the line of Shenandoah, and 20,000 is left as the population of the lower valley, including all settlements westward of what is now Frederick and Berkeley Counties. It will be seen from this sparse population that the early settlers were necessarily located at long distances apart, and therefore, liable at any time to the incursions of the hostile savages who had become, under the incitement of the French, doubly bold in their relentless attacks upon the defenseless homes of those of the pioneers whose humble habitations were situated amid the wilds of the mountain districts, or isolated in the verdant vales far from any friendly fort or sympathizing neighbors who could rally to their assistance.

Such a state of affairs existing, when man, woman nor child dared venture scarce one hundred yards from their homes; when neither age, sex or helplessness, afforded the least shield from the rifle, the tomahawk and the scalping knife; when the terrible yell of the brutal red skins and the destructive firebrands of the heartless foe might be expected at any moment, is it any wonder that a general rejoicing pervaded the settlements when it was rumored during the winter of 1753-4 that the Indians contemplated removing west of the mountains in the spring? And can their joy be imagined when it was found that by the latter part of March they had left the valley almost to a man? What caused the sudden exodus of the savages was not certainly known, nor did the settlers care what produced it; enough for them to know was that they had gone. The vigorous operations of Washington in the preliminary contests had shown the French that they had no trifling foemen to deal with, and they, therefore, concluded to concentrate all their resources for the conflict that was shortly to decide the supremacy of the two nations along the Ohio. The Indians were important allies to the Frenchmen, so they called them in from the valley, and although the riddance was not total and permanent, yet the result of the struggle at Fort Duquesne a few years later decided that the white man should be the ruler of this beautiful Shenandoah Valley. But even after this blow to France and the curbing of the Indians, many valuable lives were lost at the hands of predatory bands of the marauding red devils.

One of the stipulations at the surrender of Fort Necessity was that Washington should return the French prisoners taken at the battle of Great Meadows, which was done as soon as the commander arrived at Winchester, where they were held and guarded by a small detachment of soldiers and citizens. That the prisoners were in Winchester appears from the proceedings of one of the justices' courts held in September, 1754, where several parties are arraigned before the authorities for "refusing to guard the French prisoners," and fined for neglecting to fulfill that duty. Washington's name appears on the records of Frederick County for the first time on October 1, 1754, in a case instituted by John Harrow against the afterward father of his country, but what the charge was doth not appear, as the suit was dropped by the court, and nothing further was done in regard to it. Washington resided in Winchester, or had his permanent headquarters there, during the larger portion of two years, as is amply shown by his name appearing in connection with various local matters in the proceedings of the justices for a period covering the time stated, and particularly where, in a year or two later, he requests to be placed upon the list of tithables of the county.

In August, 1754, Gov. Dinwiddie having resolved to prosecute the war against the French on the western frontier, wrote to Washington at Winchester to fill up the companies of his regiment by enlistment and lead them without delay to Will's Creek, where Col. Innes, with some troops from the Carolinas and New York, were building Fort Cumberland. The governor was totally ignorant of military affairs; knew nothing of the country to the west of the mountains, and his preliminary measures were supremely injudicious, not to say ridiculous. From Fort Cumberland it was Dinwiddie's project that the united forces should immediately cross the Alleghanies and drive the French from Fort Duquesne, or build another fort beyond the mountains. Col. Washington, astonished at the absurdity of the scheme, contemplated at a season when the mountains would be covered with snow, and the army enfeebled and destitute of supplies, made such strong protests that the project was abandoned. The General Assembly, who would not yield to all the demands made by the governor, opposed the plan, and His Excellency never ceased to charge that body with being "republican in their way of thinking." He had lately prorogued them, to punish their obstinacy, and wrote to his royal master across the water that he was satisfied that the French would never be effectually opposed unless the colonies were compelled, independently of assemblies, to contribute to the common cause. Fifty thousand pounds, partly raised by the colony of Virginia and partly sent from England, enabled the governor to enlarge the army to ten companies of 100 men each. They were established as independent companies, by which arrangement the highest officers in the Virginia regiment would be reduced to captains. The high spirit of Washington revolted against this degradation; so he resigned his commission and retired from the service, leaving the doughty governor to fight his own battles with the Frenchman. Little dreamed Dinwiddie when he attempted to reduce that young colonel to a captain how soon his flashing sword would sweep from the colonies not only the French, but King George and all royalty, "pride, pomp and circumstance" of thrones and principalities.

The mother country, realizing the importance of speedy and effectual measures for the removal of the enemy on the frontiers of her valuable colonies, dispatched to their assistance in the spring of 1755, Maj.-Gen. Edward Braddock, who was in command at Cork, Ireland, with two regiments, the Forty-fourth, Col. Sir Peter Halkett, and the Forty-eighth, Col. Dunbar. The general with his two well-equipped and disciplined regiments of English regulars arrived in Alexandria in March, and April 14 he held a consultation with Com. Kippel. There were present Govs. Dinwiddie, Sherley, Morris, Sharp and Dulany from Williamsburg. At this conference Braddock promised to be beyond the Alleghanies by April, and it is charged that he even prepared expresses to be sent back to announce his victories. He proceeded from Alexandria across the mountains to Winchester, where, it is thought, Washington offered his services as aid-de-camp to the general, which was accepted, and where, also, according to tradition, Franklin, then postmaster-general of the colonies, met the English officer. It is, also, almost a certainty that Daniel Morgan joined the command at Winchester as a wagoner, for he was then just twenty years of age, and followed wagoning for a livelihood. Braddock was a brave and experienced officer in European warfare, but entirely unfit for the services upon which he was engaged; he simply knew nothing of the habits of the Indians and their mode of fighting, and the savages were the most important branch of the French service in America. He looked upon the colonial troops as the rudest and crudest militiamen, and considered his lowest subalterns the superiors of the highest officers of the Virginia regiments placed at his disposal at Winchester and Will's Creek (Fort Cumberland). He formed extravagant plans for his campaign. He would march forward and reduce Fort Duquesne, thence proceed against Fort Niagara, which, having conquered, he would close a season of victories by the capture of Fort Frontignac, but l'homme propose, et Dieu dispose. After much delay in consequence of being encumbered with baggage, the day of starting arrived, which was the 8th of June, but they soon came to a halt and decided to divide the force. Washington asked permission to take the advance and scour the woods with his provincial troops, but was refused. The general with 1,200 chosen men, under Sir Peter Halkett, Lieut.-Col. Gage, Lieut.-Col. Burton and Maj. Sparks, started on their unfortunate trip, and proceeded through that wild savage-haunted region without the precautions so well known to Washington and his Virginian Borderers. The French, who were kept advised of every movement, made ample preparations to receive them. Washington fell sick in the meantime and was left with Col. Dunbar, who remained in command of the reserve left in the rear, but he managed to regain the side of Gen. Braddock the day before the disastrous defeat.

The army crossed to the left bank of the Monongahela, a little below the mouth of the Youghiogheny, being prevented by the rugged hills from continuing along the right bank to the fort. Washington was heard to say many times afterward that the most beautiful spectacle he ever beheld was the display of the British troops on this eventful occasion. Officers and men were equally inspirited with cheering hopes and confident anticipations, but they knew not the wiles of the enemy who were leading them into the jaws of death.

"In this manner they marched forward until about noon, when they arrived at the second crossing, ten miles from Fort Duquesne. By the order of march a body of 300 men under Col. Gage made the advanced party, which was immediately followed by another 200. Next came the general with the columns of artillery, the main body of the army and the baggage. At one o'clock the whole had crossed the river, and almost at this moment a sharp firing was heard upon the advanced parties, who were now ascending the hill, and had proceeded about a hundred yards from the termination of the plain. A heavy discharge of musketry was poured in upon their front, which was the first intelligence they had of the proximity of the enemy, and this was suddenly followed by another on the right flank. They were filled with the greater consternation, as no enemy was in sight, and the firing seemed to proceed from an invisible foe. They fired in turn, but quite at random, and obviously without effect."

All was in the utmost confusion; Braddock hastened forward to the relief of the advanced parties, but it was all in vain. a panic seized the regulars, who were unused to such warfare, and they fled, as Washington afterward wrote, "like sheep before dogs." The Virginians were the only ones who seemed to retain their senses; they behaved with bravery and resolution and deserved a better fate. An officer who witnessed the engagement said that Col. Washington behaved with the utmost coolness and bravery, that he was everywhere on the field, and seemed to bear a charmed life. Washington himself, said in a letter to his brother: "By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation, for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet I escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me."

So bloody a contest has rarely been witnessed. The number of officers in the engagement was eighty-four, of whom twenty-six were killed and thirty-seven wounded. The general himself was shot in the early part of the action, and died a day or two after. In this connection, it is said that one of the provincials, partly in revenge for Braddock's striking his brother, and partly to save the rest of the army from death by the obstinacy of that general, shot him from behind a tree. The remnant of the army being put to flight, Washington returned to Col. Dunbar, who ordered up horses and wagons for the wounded. The enemy did not pursue, as the Indians refused to leave the rich field of carnage and plunder, and the French were too few to act without their aid.

Col. Dunbar, succeeding to the command of the troops, after the defeat of Braddock, marched them to Philadelphia, and Col. Washington repaired to Williamsburg to await events. He was given the command of all the forces raised and to be raised in Virginia, with the privilege of selecting his own field officers. He chose as his next in command Lieut.-Col. Adam Stephen and Maj. Andrew Lewis, and made Winchester his headquarters. The General Assembly voted him 300; each of the captains, Adam Stephen, Thomas Waggoner and Robert Stewart, 75; each of the lieutenants, William Bronaugh, Walter Stewart, Hector MacNeal and Henry Woodward, and James Craig, surgeon 30; and to the privates who survived, 5, in addition to their wages, which was quite a liberal proceeding on the part of those old law-makers.

The victory of the French and Indians greatly emboldened them, and they made constant raids upon the settlements, and to such a pass had matters come that Washington hastened from Winchester in the ensuing spring to Williamsburg, to prevail upon the governor to augment the forces by additional men, and to build a fort at Winchester. He was deeply concerned at the situation of the defenseless people on the border, and with that kindness of heart which at all times seemed to be twin attribute to his valor, he wrote the woes of the hardy and long-suffering pioneer in the following letter, which deserves to be printed on silver and framed in gold:

"I see their situation, I know their danger, and participate their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain promises. In short, I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants now in forts must unavoidably fall, while the remainder are flying before the barbarous foe. In fine, the melancholy situation of the people, the little prospect of assistance, the gross and scandalous abuses cast upon the officers in general, which is reflecting on me in particular, for suffering misconduct of such extraordinary kind, and the distant prospect, if any, of gaining reputation in the service, cause me to lament the hour that gave me a commission, and would induce me, at any other time than this of imminent danger, to resign, without one hesitating moment, a command from which I never expect to reap either honor or benefit; but, on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helpless families may be laid to my account here. The supplicating tears of the women and moving petitions of the men melt me with such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people's ease."

It seems almost impossible that this magnificent letter, breathing the mature ideas of the patriot, the martyr and the father, should be the production of one who was scarce out of boyhood, being but twenty-four years of age! This production was written in the town of Winchester, and forwarded to Gov. Dinwiddie, whose indifference to the sufferings of the frontier colonists was so flagrant as to be cowardly and brutal.

War having formally declared by France, 1756, the spring of that year witnessed increased barbarities on the part of the Indians. Massacres were occurring on all sides, scouting parties were ambushed, forts were attacked, and serious apprehensions were felt for the safety of Winchester. The number of troops were wholly insufficient for the protection of that village, which had become quite respectable in size. What the number of houses were is impossible to ascertain at this late date, but there were five or six taverns, or ordinaries, as they were termed, in operation, for licenses were granted to Robert Lemon, Jacob Sower, John Lindsey, John Stuart, Peter Wilt and Henry Heath, a couple of years prior to 1756. There were two stores, for the sale of all kinds of goods, one being kept by the same Robert Lemon mentioned above, and another by Robert Rutherford. There are indications of still others than those mentioned, as well as a number of other businesses, and it is very likely that Winchester at this time presented quite a busy appearance, with its court house and prison and whipping-post and stocks, to say nothing of that ingenious piece of mechanism, evolved from the brains of our forefathers, for the purpose of soothing our glib-tongued foremothers-the gentle "ducking-stool." [See Webster's Dictionary.] This apparatus, the "pit" being dug by William McMachen, and the "stool" furnished by Marquis Calmes, was located, it is thought, on that portion of the block north of the town run,m bounded by Loudon, Water and Cameron Streets. There were soldiers here nearly all the time, and one can imagine the stately and handsome young colonel, Washington, standing by the tavern door of Henry Heath, or riding along Loudon Street, just named, on his way to give directions to the workmen at the fort on the hill, just being built. and let one picture to himself the joy of the inhabitants during the building of that fort; how they would congregate on the old hill out north yonder and watch the soldiers and workmen throwing up the bulwarks that would protect their wives and little ones from the ferocity of the savage. And is it any wonder that these people, as well as all others who ever came in contact with him, loved this man Washington for erecting this defense? Did he not appear to them, as he did twenty years later to the oppressed colonists, a very shield and sword? Happiness it was, indeed, to have looked upon the face of that illustrious man, and for whom our best words of praise fall but tamely. Old Parson Weems, in his little "Life of Washington," has outstripped all the grandiloquent biographers of that wonderful man, for his simplicity and childlike enthusiasm not only voiced his own sentiments, but gave expression to a feeling that pervaded all American patriots at the time it was written. Even the delightful "little hatchet" incident (appearing no where else than in Weems) had a meaning far deeper than is now apparent.

There must have been a little stir in the village on January 6, for at the recommendation of Washington a number of officers were appointed by the justices, at a session of the court held on that date. George Mercer, Robert Stewart, Thomas Cock, William Bronough, Joshua Lewis, John Mercer, William Peachy and David Bell, were appointed captains in the Virginia regiment. Walter Stewart, John Williams and Augustine Brockenbrough were made lieutenants, and Charles Smith, Lehaynsius DeKeyser and William Crawford, ensigns. Dennis McCarty, William Beckley, James Ray and Robert Johnson, four gallant frontiersmen, came up and volunteered their services in the same regiment. they all took the oath to his majesty. At this same session of the court the justices passed an order "for reasons thought proper" to adjourn to the house of Enoch Pearson. The "reasons" for this action was that the French and Indians were expected to pay the village a visit at any moment, and the cautious old magistrates did not feel it their duty to run the risk of having their official scalps dangling to the belt of some painted and indiscriminating savage. Just where Enoch Pearson dwelt doth not appear, but it was, presumably, in some comparatively safe spot. Shortly after this the following may be seen among the proceedings of the justices: "A grand jury being summoned, were called and did not appear, being occasioned by the commotions in the county on account of the Indians." shortly after the above dates, on June 1, 1756, Washington's name in connection with three others, appears as a witness against James Knap for forging or counterfeiting a treasury note of the colony, which shows that rascality is not a peculiarity of the present time, by any means.

There having been some controversy in regard to the date of the building of the old fort at the north end of Winchester, the author has made search of the enactments of the General Assemblies of Virginia, and has been rewarded by the discovery of the following clause of chapter II, Hening's Statutes at Large, Vol. 7, p. 33; passed March, 1756:

XVI. And whereas it is now judged necessary that a fort should be immediately erected in the town of Winchester, in the county of Frederick, for the protection of the adjacent inhabitants from the barbarities daily committed by the French and their Indian allies, Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the governor, or commander in chief of this colony for the time being, is hereby impowered, and desired to order a fort to be built with all possible dispatch in the aforesaid town of Winchester, and that his honor do give such orders and instructions for the immediate erecting and garrisoning the same, as he shall think necessary for the purposes aforesaid. And the governor, or commander in chief of this colony, is hereby impowered, and desired to issue his warrant to the treasurer for the payment of so much money, as he shall think necessary for the purposes aforesaid, not exceeding the sum of one thousand pounds, who is hereby required to pay the same in treasury notes, to be emitted by virtue of the said act of Assembly, For raising the sum of twenty-five thousand pounds, for the better protection of the inhabitants on the frontiers of this colony, and for other purposes therein mentioned.

The erection of the fort was begun as soon after the above appropriation was made as possible. It was named by Washington Fort Loudon, in honor of the Earl of Loudon, who had succeeded Gen. Sherley in the command of the colonial forces. The location was admirably selected, commanding, as it does, a large extent of country. There was not an approach to it whereby any foe could gain its sides from any point, without being exposed to the rifles of those within the fort, which accounts for the fact that it never was attacked, there being no evidence, traditional or otherwise, that it ever was, although it is related that a French officer once reconnoitered it. but went away satisfied that it was impregnable, at least so far as any force that he could bring to bear against it. It was erected by the soldiers of the First Virginia Regiment, and Washington is said to have brought some workmen from Mount Vernon to construct the iron work necessary in some portions of it. It was about 125 feet in length on each of its four sides, square, and with a bastion at each corner. It was what is known as a field-work, or redoubt, with curtains ninety-six feet in length, the bastions projecting twenty-five feet and with faces twenty-five feet, set at angles against each other. It had a very deep well inside the walls, said originally to have been over 100 feet in depth, which still supplies as much water as is desired. It is cut through the solid limestone, and the water is almost as cold as ice. The fort when finished was well garrisoned, and mounted six eighteen-pounders, six twelve-pounders, six six-pounders, four swivels and two howitzers, a pretty formidable armament in that primitive time. This fine array of war-dogs convinced the Frenchman that whoever should attempt to take that fort would meet with a tolerably warm reception. In fact, the capture of that old fort, if it existed to-day, garrisoned with that old regiment of Virginia riflemen, commanded by a Washington, assisted by his able captains, would be a tough job even for any of our high-flying "Century-article-generals," with any but an overpowering force. Loudon Street, more than a century ago, was cut through the fort, and all that remains of it now is the southwestern bastion, fortunately preserved by the present proprietor of the property, although a cistern has been sunk into it. This old bastion looks grimly across to the earthworks on the hills to the westward, erected during the late war, and seems to say, after his sleep of one hundred and thirty-five years, "Who are you?"

History is continually repeating itself. A few years ago people were arrested and fined, or their licenses revoked for selling liquor to soldiers. Now here is an "instance" that is not so "modern." In the recorded proceedings of the justices on August 4, 1756. during the building of the fort, may be found this: "On the complaint of George Washington, Esq., against John Stuart, ordinary-keeper in Winchester, for entertaining soldiers contrary to order, the arguments of the parties being heard, it is ordered that the complaint be dismissed." Another entry reads: "On motion of John Lindsey for leave to renew his license to keep an ordinary, the motion being objected to by Col. George Washington, the arguments of the parties being heard, ordered that certificate be granted him and that his license be dated from May court, he having performed what the law directs and entered into bond, with Jacob Stickley his security."

The only difference between the freedom of twenty-five years ago and the tyrannical times of one hundred and thirty-five, is that the old justices did not propose to let the military overrun, or run the civil power, whilst our modern Washingtons had a way of handling refractory magistrates and judges that was at least effective, is not esthetic.
November 4, 1756, claims were laid before the court for public services by Capts. Thomas Swearengen, William Cocks, John Funk,

Back to Genealogy Trails Main Site

Back to

			 the Main Index Page

Back to Genealogy Trails

Back to WV Genealogy Trails

2013 Genealogy Trails