Fort Frederick




Copyright and all Rights Reserved
Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
November 13, 2014
Big Stone Gap, Virginia

Updated Feb. 5, 2015

No river crossing on the entire Wilderness Trail had such historic significance as the New River Crossing at present Radford. The fort that guarded it, though of significant use during three wars, is little known. This original article explores that river crossing, and the fort that guarded it.

The New River cuts south to north through the Alleghanys, and thus provides passageway through the mountains of the east where the rivers otherwise flow generally either east or west. It furthermore transects the Great Valley of Virginia, and naturally forms a hub of Indian trails that connect the Seneca of the Buffalo, New York area, the Shawnee of Ohio, the Delaware of Pennsylvania, and the Cherokee of the Smokeys. It was, therefore, natural that when the Indians of the Ohio Valley began to resist the pressure of English settlement into the Mississippi watershed, that the intersection of the Great Warrior’s Path (the Wilderness Trail) and the New River at present Radford, Virginia should become the hub of frontier warfare.

This situation is accentuated by the existence of the Little River (in earlier times called the Middle River), which provides a natural corridor connecting the lower Roanoke River Valley of Southside Virginia with the New River. By 1654 the English settlement around the mouth of the James River had stabilized and expanded to the point that there was an official legally designated trading center set up at present Petersburg for commerce with the Indians in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, and beyond. It was that year that Col. Abraham Woods sat a coarse west from Petersburg to seek out new opportunities of commerce to the west. Coming to the west from present Floyd County he crossed the Blue Ridge at Wood’s Gap, and thus passed to the head of the Little River. Following this river to its mouth into the New River at Radford, he became the first European to see that river. He named it Wood’s River, a name that the upper reaches of that river carried for many years.

According to Major Jed Hotchiss of Staunton, Virginia, a man named “New” maintained a ferry on the Wilderness Trail near Radford in the days before the Ingles family became involved in that business. The upper reaches of Wood’s River became known as the New River, while its lower end which was accessed from the Ohio River was called the Kanawha.

In 1749 German Moravians, Sabbatarians, and Brethren from Pennsylvania were settling Dunkard’s Bottom (Radford, Virginia) on the New River, and found there a “kind of white people who wore deer skins, lived by hunting, associated with the Indians and acted like savages.”

Early references note the “Cherokee” village at Dunkard’s Bottom. The ‘Dunkers – Dunkards’ were a variety of German Brethren, who practiced baptism by total immersion. The settlement at Dunkard’s Bottom had close ties with Brethren communities in Pennsylvania and in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina. The word ‘dunken’ is the old German form of the modern German ‘tunken’, which has come into American English as ‘dunk’. The Brethren called their settlement on the New River at Radford ‘Machaniam’, which is a place name taken from the Book of Genesis. The ‘Cherokee Village’ and the Dunkard’s Bottom community of Machaniam seem to have become one and the same place.

Dunkard’s Bottom is usually said to have been covered by the lower reaches of Claytor Lake, whose dam is just upstream (south) on the mouth of Little River. The land patent of 1753 to Garratt Zin (also spelled Garrett Zinn) LO 32-148 covered 900 acres on the west bank of the New River opposite the mouth of the Little River, and extended north to include what was to become the western side of the Ingles Ferry / Bridge operation. The patent for this land specified that the place was called ‘Machaniam’, thus proving that the community of Brethren extended further north along the New River than is generally accepted. Title to this land was clouded by the Royal Proclamation, which was the implementation of the treaty that ended the French and Indian War in 1763, and which annulled all the land patents west of New River. Exactly how it passed to the Ingles Family is unknown.

In the 1740’s and early 1750’s King George II had set up large land companies, such as the Ohio Company and the Loyal Company, to encourage settlement in the Mississippi Valley. This was English policy to counter the French claims to the area. The settlements included Reedy Creek to Kingsport, the Valley of Virginia, the Valley of the Greenbriar, and the New / Kanawha River settlements. In July 1755 the main British army under General Braddock was wiped out near Pittsburgh by the French and Indians. This disaster opened up the Virginia frontier to raids by the Shawnee Indians of Ohio, who felt that the New River Valley was theirs. Later that year numerous settlers were killed, and the old trader Samuel Stahlnacker of Chilhowie, and Mary Draper Ingles were kidnapped and taken to the Ohio villages. Mary had been living at Draper’s Meadows, or present Blackburg, and was involved in the Draper’s Meadows Massacre. Her mother had been killed. Upon making her escape, Mary was taken to the “fort at Dunkard’s Bottom, on the west side of New River, near Ingles Ferry.” It is very improbable that there were two forts so close together. It is very likely that the “fort at Dunkard’s Bottom” and “Fort Frederick” were one and the same.


#1 - Engles ferry topoA – Ingles House B – Wilderness Road C – Mouth of Little River D – Claytor Lake & Dunkard’s Bottom E – Ingles Inn & Tavern F – Ingles Ferry G – ford


In Feb. 1756 the Augusta County Militia mounted “The Shawnee” campaign to pacify the Shawnee Indians who were running amok in western Virginia. It is not known when it was built, but likely it was in response to the Draper Meadows Massacre. Fort Frederick was built “opposite the mouth of the Little River”. Otis Rice quoting the Draper Manuscripts further states that Fort Frederick was “near Ingles Ferry, and “was up river from Ingles Ferry at Little River”. This is all that is known of its location, but it is a reasonable supposition that it lay on the Wilderness Road, and guarded the western approaches to the ford which was just to the north of the mouth of the Little River. It is not known for whom it was named, but Capt. Archibald Alexander of Rockbridge County is a likely candidate, as he was a part of the militia party from Fort Alexander that became known as the Sandy River Expedition.

Overall command of the expedition was under Major Andrew Lewis of Salem, Virginia. Capt. William Preston and Capt. Archibald Alexander were part of its officer corp. The expedition consisted of about two hundred militiamen, and one hundred Cherokee (actual total said to have been 340). William Ingles, husband of Mary, was in the party. They took 27 packhorses. The plan was to avoid the customary routes in order to avoid detection. They left Fort Frederick the 18th or the 19th, and cut across Burke’s Garden and into Abb’s Valley. They reached the headwaters of the Big Sandy River Feb. 28th. The rivers were flooding, and on March 12th Major Lewis’s canoe, and also another, sank with many of their provisions lost. Game was more scarce than they had imagined. Their provisions were cut in half. They refused the order to kill and eat their horses, and on March 13th there was something of a mutiny, as the men refused to go further. They had gotten as far as the general vicinity of Logan, West Virginia. They boiled and ate the rawhide laces that held their harnesses together. These strips of rawhide were called ‘tugs’, and thus the place where they ate their tugs became known forever more the ‘Tug Fork of the Big Sandy’.

The party broke up into small units, and on the way home many froze to death, and many were killed by Indians. They returned to Fort Frederick. The House of Burgesses held a formal hearing, but cleared Lewis of any wrongdoing.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 placated the Shawnee for a while, but when the settlers began to creep back into the country west of the New River, the Shawnee again made a bid to clean out the New River Valley. The result was Lord Dunmore’s War of 1774, and its single battle, the Battle of Point Pleasant.

Indeed, part of that resettlement of the western bank of the New River was made by the Ingles family, who in 1762 opened up a ferry on the Wilderness Road, which is still named as such, and whose State # is 611.

In 1774 the Shawnee made no secret of their plan to invade Virginia and to enforce the terms of the Royal Proclamation. Once again the Western Virginia Militia under Andrew Lewis and William Christian congregated at Fort Frederick (“the New River Ford, later known as Ingles Ferry”). Lord Dunmore and the Eastern Virginia Militia marched to the fort at the forks of the Ohio at Pittsburgh. It was the old French Fort Duquesne, which Dunmore renamed after himself. It later became known as Fort Pitt.

In recent years, Claytor Lake was drained in order to effect repairs to the dam. During this event a modern archeological evaluation of the community of Dunkard’s Bottom, including the home of William Christian, was made. No remains of a fort were found under Claytor Lake.

Sept. 12, 1774 Andrew Lewis and his militia left Fort Frederick for Lewisburg, W. Va. (Camp Union), where the general muster was to take place. The force mustering at Fort Frederick included companies from East Tennessee, Clinch Valley, Powell Valley, and Holston Valley. No exact count of the number of men involved was kept, but a reasonable estimate would be 300-400. This is the last mention of Fort Frederick in the available historic documents.

In July 1776 William Christian, who was married to Patrick Henry’s sister, led the New River Militia to the rescue of the Holston Valley Militia after the Great Cherokee War. It is likely that Fort Frederick was the site of the muster of the New River Militia. The result of this effort was Christian’s Campaign against the Cherokee in the fall of 1776.

The operation at Ingles Ferry prospered through the years. It is known that the Ingles family started a commercial ferry operation at the ford of the New River made by the Wilderness Road in 1762. The acquisition of the Zin land on the west side of the ferry has been discussed. The Ingles did not gain title to the land on the east bank of the ferry / ford until 1782. This time lag was not unusual. The Virginia Land Office was closed from 1774 until 1778. Even then people were afraid to register their land with the Rebel Land Office, for fear that their claims would be nullified if the British won the war. When Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, there was a flood of claims for land title filed with the Land Office.


#2 - Ingles' House

The Ingles House on the East Bank

Note that there are two Additions to the Original House on its Left



In 1782 William Ingles filed claim to 300 acres (LO G–230) located on the east bank of Wood’s River (New River) below (north) the mouth of the Middle River (Little River). This was based on an assignment made by Dr. Thomas Walker of the Loyal Company, which was later tied up in the estate of his son, and who failed to pay quit rent (real estate taxes). Ingles paid these taxes, and gained title to the land. Both the Zin and Walker lands are still in the Ingles family.

This ferry was one of several at Radford. If one were travelling toward the Narrows, one was likely to take Pepper’s Ferry located on the northern side of Radford. However, if one were taking the main Wilderness Road and its parallel route, the Island Road, which started at Fort Chiswell, on to the Holston Valley, one used the ford at Fort Frederick, later Ingles.

In 1842 the Ingles family built a large covered bridge between the ford and the ferry. A period drawing shows the bridge to have been of three arched spans supported by cut stone abutments on either bank, plus two pylons in mid stream. There was a ‘bridge house’, which functioned as a tollbooth, in the northern corner of the western abutment.


#3 - Ingle's Ferry Bridge by Lewis MIller in 1850's

Lewis Miller’s Sketch of the Ingles Home and Covered Bridge looking Upstream (south)

Note that the Original House is Missing its later two Additions, which were Evidently Built After the Bridge was Built in 1842



The family built an inn on the western bank just opposite the ferry landing, and a couple of hundred yards down stream from the bridge, which was a couple of hundred yards down (north) from the ford.

#4 - Ingle's Ferry tavern

Ingles Ferry Inn & Tavern

#5 - west abbuttment upstream

West Abutment and the Foundation Rubble of the Bridge House, or Toll Booth

Looking Upstream to the South




In May 1864 Union General George Crook burned both the railroad and turnpike (Ingles Ferry) bridges at Central Depot (Radford). This was part of Grant’s campaign to starve Lee out of his positions at Petersburg by denying him substance from Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee. He was opposed by Confederate General John McCausland, who commanded invalid units from Washington County, Virginia.


#6 - east abbutment







#7 - shoals & fordThe Shoal &
Ford from the
West Bank –
The Wilder-
Ness Road
Crossed here and Entered the Mouth of the Hollow just off the right Edge of the Photograph


#8 - GeneralCrook_photo


Union General George
Crook, who Burned the Ingles Ferry Covered Bridge in 1864




After the burning of the Ingles Bridge the ferry was reopened, and operated until 1948, when it sank with a truck on board. Today, both US 11 and I-81 have modern bridges across the New River at Radford.

#9 - bg mccausland


Confederate Brigadier General John McCausland, Whose Brigade of Invalids from Washington Co., Va. Opposed Crook





This remarkable constellation of historic artifacts is viewable from a public road, State 611 (officially named ‘The Wilderness Road’, which in historic fact it is). To get there EXIT I-81 at the interchange just west of the Ingles Ferry Bridge over the New River at Radford. The distance is approximately two miles. This exit is labeled as access to Claytor Lake State Park, and as State 660. Turn north onto State Park Road (State #660) and proceed about a half mile to its intersection with the Wilderness Road (State # 611). Turn east onto the Wilderness Road and proceed to its dead end, which is about three miles. You will pass the Claytor Dam Road, which is the pioneer road to Dunkard’s Bottom. It is the author’s speculation that the most likely site for Fort Frederick is the two hundred yard stretch from this intersection to the collapsing log cabin on the south side of the Wilderness Road, right where the field turns into a deep hollow which contains the old Wilderness Road that approached the ford on the river. The beaten dirt of the old road still can be seen in the bottom of this gorge like hollow, and observed to disappear into the river at its edge.

#10 - Wilderness Rd. cabinLog Cabin Made with V – joints – Located Beside the Wilderness Road on the West Approach to the River – Its Spring was Likely the Spring of Fort Frederick

Note two physical attributes of this hollow. It ends on the only shoal of rocks crossing the river all the way from the dam to well past the site of Ingles Ferry, there being deep pools of water both above and below this rock ledge. It is the only possible site for a ford. Secondly, note that the western river bank is too steep to allow horse or buffalo passage in all places except here at the head of this hollow, and at the ferry site downstream, where the water is too deep to allow fording. The State highway on both sides of the river is currently named ‘The Wilderness Road”.

Also note that the hollow is too deep to make it possible to have built a fort down in it until one comes to the head of the hollow at the collapsing log cabin. Note that the corner joints of this cabin are V – notched, and not half dove tailed. This dates the construction of the cabin to before 1820. The only spring on this stretch of road that runs between the head of the hollow and the intersection with the road to Dunkard’s Bottom is the spring that supplied this old cabin. It is the only possibility for the Spring of Fort Frederick, and is located as close to the ford as practical.


The Battle of Point Pleasant – A Battle of the American Revolution

Manufactured History – Refighting the Battle of Point Pleasant
Lewisburg – The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Lewisburg as the intersection of two Indian Trails –

Camp Union due to muster of militia in 1774,_West_Virginia

Yellow Creek

pro Dunmore Book

Treaty of Fort Stanwix 1768

Ohio’s Hx Lord Dunmore’s War

State Park at Point Pleasant

list of participants

Fort Savannah and Lewis Spring and Pontiac’s Rebellion,_West_Virginia

Pontiac’s Rebellion’s_War

Cherokee town at Fort Frederick


Dunker’s (Dunkard’s) Bottom

Simon Girty

Blue Jacket

Simon Kenton


Andrew Lewis & Fort Frederick

Tug River

Big Sandy Expedition

Dunkers & Machaniam
Johnston, David E. – A History of the Middle New River Settlements & Contigious Territory

Library of Virginia Land Grants –

Caucasians and Indians at Dunkard’s Bottom
“Dunkard’s Bottom”

Mary Draper Ingles
Annals of Augusta County, Virginia From 1726 to 1871 pg. 115

The burning of the Ingles Ferry Bridge
Walker, Gary C. – Hunter’s Fiery Raid Through Virginia Valleys pg. 11

USGS topographic map prepared by Edgar A. Howard

Waddell, Joseph A. – Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, From 1726 to 1871 pg. 115

Rice, Otis K. – Frontier Kentucky page 15
West Virginia, a History page 149

Jones, Heather & Harvey, Bruce – “Dunkard’s Bottom: Memories on the Virginia Landscape, 1745-1940”

“Virginia Historical Markers”

Kegley, Mary – Finding Their Way From the Great Road to the Wilderness Road 1745-1796
Special thanks for the help so freely given by Mr. Scott Gardner, Curator of the Glencoe Museum at Radford

Scott’s Station



By: Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Dale Carter
Copyright Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Big Stone Gap, Va. Dec. 2001
Retranscribed in ‘Word’ 7-8-15


A significant amount of history has occurred within the semicircle of Powell’s Mountain where it forms the head of Wallen’s Creek in eastern Lee County, Virginia. The Great Warrior’s Path, later known as the Boone Trail or the Wilderness Road, passed through here. The militia party conduction the infamous Governor of Upper Canada, Henry ‘Hair Buyer’ Hamilton, into captivity spent the nighnt of April 28th, 1779 camping at “Scott’s Improvement” (1). The famous massacre by Chief Bob Benge of its first settler, Archibald Scott and his children, and the carrying off into captivity of his wife, Fannie Scott, occurred here in 1785. In 1793 the famous confrontation between Ensign Moses Cockrell and the same Chief Benge occurred here. The Holston Militia of The State of Virginia maintained a blockhouse garrison named after Scott here during this period. Scott’ home, and the later Scott’s Station are often blended in people’s minds into one, but were, in fact, different structures said to have been located ”near” the same site.

Further complicating the conceptualization of this basin as it existed in the last decde of the Eighteenth Century is the confusing evidences concerning the location of the above mentioned trail / road after it left Kane Gap atop {Powell Mountain on its way trough the basin at the head of Wallen’s Creek. The trail started off as a buffalo path, and ended up as a vehicular road. Not surprisingly, the topographic requirements of each are different, leading to different locations of what in reality were two different routes.


The basic framework of the research is one of land grant analysis joined with the analysis of later deeds covering the same land, using the associated data from their surveys to locate the historic sites on a modern topographic map. Other data, such as from historic narratives, will be used to flesh out the survey data. The process will be spelled out step by step, and the underlying documents will be supplied, both to serve as a complete historic resource for future use, and to allow the reader to follow the process step by step. Scans of the resulting topographic maps, and a bibliography of sources will be attacked.

The Early Land Grants

Archibald and Fannie Scott had married at Castlewood, Russell County, Virginia. She was the sister of Humphrey Dickenson, who settled in Castlewood in 1769 (2). The 28th and 29th of October 1783 Scott had a 400 acre, a 336 acre, and a 396 acre tract surveyed. They had sometime earlier fulfilled the legal requirements of having “settled” on the land, which were that they had lived there long enough to have planted an acre of corn for each ten acres granted. The planting need not have been much more than ceremonial, and they did not have to continue to have “lived” here to have gained the right to a land grant for the nearly 1000 acres of land. The 400 acre tract was officially designated as the “settlement right”, but this does not necessarily imply that this is where they settled after they had been granted the land, as they were June 20,1785.

These land grants are available on the internet form the Library of the State of Virginia, and they and all other related grants will be designated by the system used by that source (3). The reference numbers for the three Scott grants are R-99, P-709, and Q-336. June 29, 17895 Archibald Scott and all his children were murdered by Chief Benge’s war party at their home on this land, and Fannie was carried off into captivity (4). She escaped and returned to the settlements August 11th, but may have been declared dead, as the land at the head of Wallen’s Creek passed to Archibald’s brother, James, who was listed as Archibald’s “heir-in-law. In July 1790 he sold these tracts to Thomas Johnson who became Fannie Scott’s second husband is unknown, as this Thomas Johnson for 220 Pounds (what relationship he may or may not have had to the Thomas Johnson who became Fannie Scott’s second husband is unknown, as this Thomas Johnson’s wife is listed as “Susannah” on the deeds (5). Thomas Johnson sold this land to Robert Duff (date unknown) (6). The texts of the land grants adjoining this property that list it as being Duff’s “settlement right” are an error.

Robert Duff, who had been born in Ireland 6-23-1755, and his wife Mary “Polly” Dickenson, settled on this land, and had ten children. Polly was Fannie Scott’s niece. After his death 6-20-1820 his estate, which consisted of the 978 acres of Archibald Scott’s land that he had bought, plus an additional 150 acres he had been granted from the State (Land Office 65-237), was divided among his ten children, with his son Thomas D. Duff getting a one tenth share, or 110 acres (7). Coale’s Wilburn Waters page 201 states, “Archibald Scott’s cabin was near the book was written in 1878, less that a hundred years after the Scott massacre, the information would seem to have reasonable likelihood of being accurate. With this being the case, the problem of identifying the site of the Scott slaying becomes one of locating on the topographic map the land of Thomas D. Duff.
This process begins with locating the three land grants of Archibald Scott on the topographic map. As all the descriptions of the metes and bounds of these three tracts are notated in terms of trees that have long since gone, the process becomes one of charting the adjoining land grants to those of Scott in an attempt to construct a ‘grand block’ of contiguous grants which would stand a greater chance of being situated on a modern map. Grants 65-237, 79-431, Q-336, 82-20, 112-490, and 81-330 are adjoined to the grants of Scott’s, but still not enough information exists to plot this block of grants on a modern map.

The Steel Tracts

About 1911 Fred R. Steel began to buy up the basin at the head of Wallen’s Creek. In 1934 he mortgaged the land, and a modern survey (9) was done, and one of the corners of this survey mentions the fact that it is a corner of the old Archibald Scott grant. Due to this property’s outer metes and bounds being the ridge crest of Powell Mountain, and due to the fact that this crest makes a horseshoe around the head of Wallen’s Creek, it is easily accurately postioned on a modern topographic map, thus locating a specific corner of the Archibald Scott block of grants in the process. (Steel Tract #1 point ‘A’ is the old Scott corner, or LO R-99 point ‘F’).

As the Steel land did not include the land formerly owned by Thomas D. Duff, the title analysis for the Steel land does not include a description of the Thomas d. Duff land. However, retrogressive deed analysis from the Steel title abstract shows earlier surveys of tracts that conveyed land from the Duffs to Steel (10), and which contain three survey references to the land of Thomas D. Duff. By this means the land of Thomas D. Duff can be topographically related to that of Archibald Scott.

The Jan. 18, 1884 deed from G. C. Duff to William P. Duff is accurately plotted on a topographic map not only because, it too contains the mountain crest rim of the horseshoe of Powell Mountain, but it contains a point at Kane Gap, a known entity. Point ’W’ of this survey is a common corner with one of Thomas D. Duff’s. It also shares common metes and bounds with the March 16, 1841 William Carnes to Thomas P. Carnes tract, which contains a point and a line with Thomas D. Duff. Using these geographic points of reference, one can approximately localize the tracts of Thomas D. Duff.

The Tracts of Thomas D. Duff

The records in the Lee County Court House at Jonesville contain the deeds of four tracts of land owned by Thomas D. Duff, and they are as follows:

A) John Crabtree to Thomas Duff et al, fifty acres, Oct 15 1839 DB #8 pg. 202
B) Polly Duff to Thomas D. Duff, 110 acres, March 23, 1840 DB #15 pg. 38-39
C) Robert Duff to Thomas Duff, 50 acres, Feb. 18 1841 DB #8 pg. 354
D) Polly Duff to Thomas Duff, 110 acres, Jan. 29, 1842 DB #8 pg. 452
The first tract contains a common corner and a line with Archibald Scott’s land, while the second is from the estate division of his parents, William P. and Elizabeth (Polly) Duff. The Scott and the Steel title abstract corners help locate the tracts of Thomas D. Duff on the topographic map.

The modern farm owned by Lawrence Tankersley contains the traditional site of Scott’s death and of the later station (11). Its location comes very close to the calculated location of the 110 acre tract sold to Thomas Duff by Polly for $100 and “love and affection”. It would seem likely that this tract was the site of the home of William and Polly Duff, and the widow in her old age was turning the homeplace over to tom, possibly in exchange for his caring for her. The metes and bounds of the Tankersley survey contains references to the “corner to the Polly Duff line” and to “Thomas D. Duff’s line”. Correlating these metes and bounds from the old and the modern surveys proves that the northern part of the current Tankersley farm is cut out of the northern part of the 110 acre Polly to Tom Duff tract, plus some of the land from the Duff tract to its west. This proves that the traditional general sites of Scott’s home and Station are correct.

There are other substantiating evidences to support this conclusion. The topographic map (12) identifies the creek coming from the northwest and joining Wallen’s reek at the Duff Cemetery located north of LO P-709, as being “Scott’s Branch”. The current road map of Lee County that is painted on the wall of the Clerk’s Office in the Jonesville Court House labels the intersection of Scott’s Branch and highway #612 as being “Scott’s”. The Duff Cemetery located on this tract is said to have been started by the graves of Scott and his children.

Until very recently, springs were critical in the location of people’s homes. Even more importantly, it was an invariable requirement that a good reliable spring be located within easy rifle shot from every frontier fortification. This was to insure that an individual going out of the fort for water could be covered by rifle fire from within the fortification. As a practical effect, every frontier fortification in the region was located no more than about 75-100 yards from a good spring. The spring located to the northwest of the current log Duff house (presumed to have been the home of Thomas D. Duff) and on the eastern bank of Scott’s Branch, is now dried up, but was the source of water to this house, as well as to the houses cross the road to the south, and to the Powell Academy School which was located across Scott’s Branch to the west, well into the last half of the Twentieth Century. (13)

This is as far as present information will take us. Only an archeological examination of this site is likely to produce greater documentation.

The Location of the Daniel Boone Wilderness Road
From Kane Gap to Scott’s Cabin

The evolution of the Trail or Road is, in general, well known. It started of as a buffalo trail, passed through a prolonged phase as a human foot trail, and for a brief period as a vehicular road.

The first improvements were made by Daniel Boone in 1775 when he and his party of axmen improved the old Indian Trail all the way to Boonesboro, Ky. It is known that the only earth moving that they did was on the “Dug Road” segment on Pine Mountain’s eastern face at Moccasin Gap. Soon, however, the trail was improved to the point that it would accommodate darts as far as Martin’s Upper Station at Rose Hill, Virginia. Bishop James Madison’s official map of the State of Virginia of 1807 (14) (see Madison’s Map file) shows that the Kane Gap route had been abandoned in favor of the current passage of US 58 and 421 through Eller’s Gap near Pattonsville.

There is ample evidence of two routes for the Great Warrior’s Path – Wilderness Road – Boone Trail from Kane Gap to Archibald Scott’s. Coal’s Wilburne Waters pg. 153-154 says that Ensign Moses Cockerell ran two miles from Kane Gap to Scott’s Station to escape Chief Benge. Pusey gives that distance as recorded in a pioneer’s journal as having been three miles (15). Well into the Twentieth Century mail was carried from the depot at Duffield across Kane Gap by horseback. The trail used by the mailman on horseback came down the western bank of the head of Wallen’s Creek which states right at Kane Gap, and came straight on down the slope of the mountain to the road designated on the topographic map as running east from Thomas D. Duff’s home parallel to Wallen’s Creek to the foot of the mountain. Wagons were unable to use this bridal path due to its grade (16). The wagon road leaving the northern lip of Kane Gap takes the eastern bank of the head of Wallen’s Creek and uses the curving slope of Powell Mountain to make a near 180 degree turn as it slowly descends to the basin at the head of Wallen’s Creek Valley, and to rejoin the foot trail at Thomas D. Duff’s estate division.

Inspecting the roads from Kane Gap, itself, one can see lots of evidences of the foot trail, and vehicular trail is still very much in use by horses and all terrain vehicles, and is marked on the topographic map.

Buffalo spilling over the Gap to the north would have paid no attention to grade, and would have taken the shortest route to the valley floor, just as the deer trail of today does. The trail to the left (west) of the head of Wallen’s Creek and Kane Gap is easy to see and to follow for its first couple of hundred yards. There are no signs of excavation. However, one can see trough like depressions created by a mix of centuries of foot traffic and by erosion. Going through a hillside of stones, one notes that there are none down one of these linear depressions for the ground on both sides is littered with them, and notes further that the deer make current heavy use of this line of travel, just as surely did the buffalo and the Indian and pioneer foot travellers that followed them. The trail gets lost as the mountain gets steeper, and it can no longer be followed to the valley floor. The grade is close to the maximum practical limits that a horse and rider can negotiate, and exceeds what an be accomplished by a horse drawn vehicle.

The mileages noted above are significant. It is two miles from Kane Gap to the traditional site of Scott’s Station by the foot trail, and three if one were to take the vehicular road. This observation explains and ratifies the two distances noted in the historic documents above.

The survey contained within the deed of the tract of land sold by James J. Dickenson to William P. Duff on May 21, 1877 defines a leg of that tract running N62W from Kane Gap with “an old road” (17). This is the bearing of the foot trail as it leaves Kane Gap to the north along the left hand bank of the head of Wallen’s Creek.

Incidently, the western leg of this survey is along “the old wagon road” which was called earlier the Great Kentucky Road and later the Fincastle Turnpike, and demonstrated that the road then took a northeastern rather than a northwestern course out of Eller’s Gap. This routing replaced the foot trail and the vehicular road through Kane Gap before 1807.

In summary, there are ample evidences of both the earlier foot trail, and the later vehicular trail running from Kane Gap to the floor of Wallen’s Creek Valley.

1) The Bear Grass, a History – by Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr. pgs. 56-59
2) “The Killing of Humphrey Dickenson” by Emory Hamilton
3) http:image.vtls. com/collections/LO.html
4) Benge! – by Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
5) Russell County, Virginia Deed Books 1-131, 1-126, 1-129
6) Russell County, Virginia Deed Books 1-168, 1-69
7) Title Abstract entitled “Duff / Steel Property” made by the law firm Irvine & Morison Feb. 1911, owned by Eunice and Mary Ruth Laster
8) Published originally in the 19th century by the editor of an Abingdon newspaper, and republished separately, or as part of Summers’ Annals of Southwest Virginia vol. II by the Overmountain Press
9) Lee County Deed Book 87 pg. 463; a cp[u os om a compilation of related material entitled “Duff / Steel Property” owned by Eunice and Mary Ruth Laster
10) Pgs. 39 and 48 of #6 – G. C. Duff & Mary E. Duff to William P Duff Jan 18, 1884; survey descriptions of tracts 7 & 8 of a law suit between John W. Carnes V. Eliza A. Carnes (Lee County 1866)
11) Lee Co. Deed Book 421 pg. 771
12) US Dept. of Interior Geologic Survey 7.5 Map, Duffield Quadrangle
13) Mrs. Lawrence Tankersley, owner of this tract today; and Mr. Jim Young, who lives in the house south of the road, and who used to get his water from the spring until it went dry
14) Located in the Rare Book Room of Alderman Library at the University of Virginia
15) Pusey, The Wilderness Road to Kentucky – pgs. 26-114
16) Communication to the author by Mr. Eunice Laster, who has spent his life in the head of Wallen’s Creek
17) ibid #6 above, pg. 38 – Lee Co Deed Book 18, pg 66


As if there were not enough pathos already associated with Scott’s Station, while looking over the Duff Family Cemetery at the site of Scott’s Station, I became immersed in the tragedies of the next generation of Duffs. Three of Robert P. Duff’s grandsons died in the Civil War. In the center of the grave yard is a single shaft engraved on four sides. It looks at first like a tomb stone, but it is rather a memorial to family members buried elsewhere. On the one side is a memorial to Robert Duff, Jr., who had moved east to Staunton, Virginia. The monument records that he died and was buried in Staunton in 1888. On a second side of the shaft is an inscription to his son William Washington Duff, “born April 12, 1844 and who died June 5, 1864: buried at Point Lookout, Md.” The stone says no more.

Point Lookout was opened by the Union Army after the Battle of Gettysburg and became on the largest of the Confederate Prisoner of War camps. It came to imprison over 52,000 Southern soldiers and southern sympathizers, of whom over 14,000 died. The camp was built at the tip of the peninsular formed by the junction of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. The land was marshy and the conditions were over crowded. The Confederate prisoners were made to suffer for the conditions t the confederate POW camp at Andersonville. The prisoners at Point Lookout were purposefully deprived of rations, causing them to eat rats. Diarrhea, malaria, scurvy, tuberculosis, and exposure killed prisoners at a rate at a rate as great as many of the bloody battles. The Union officials were in a state of denial over this, as they were in process of executing the commandant of Andersonville for having presided over much the same obscenity, and the government only admitted to 3,384 deaths at Point Lookout. Among those modern records list as being among the unadmitted victims buried at the prison cemetery at Point Lookout is listed “Duff, W. W., CO H 5th Va., P/W Died while P/W At Pt. Lookout, Md.”

“The Bloody Fifth” Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was organized April 13, 1861 in Augusta County, of which Staunton is the largest town. Company ‘H’ was called the “Augusta Rifles”. The Fifth became part of the Stonewall Brigade, and no unite saw heavier combat. Few survived the war. We do not know when W. W. Duff was captured, but in less than a year after the Battle of Gettysburg, in which the Stonewall Brigade played a prominent role, William Washington Duff was dead at Point Lookout.

Another side of the stone shaft in the Duff Cemetery at Scott’s Station memorializes another of Robert Duff, Jr.’s sons, Thomas Jefferson Duff. He was “born 7-31-1842 and died May 5, 1864; CSA: Killed in the Battle of the Wilderness – God defends the right.” We do not know his unit, but it is possible that he also had joined the Fifth Virginia along with his brother William Washington. The Stonewall Brigade played a prominent part in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Nearby is the monument to “Our Soldier Boy”, Robert Duff III, who it notes was born in 1844, the same year as his cousin William Washington, and who was “killed at Chancellorsville 5-2-1863: CO G 50th Reg., Va. Volunteer Line.” Toward the end of the War, the remnants of the Stonewall Brigade were combined with what was left of other units, the 50th among them.

So, here in this seemingly most isolated and peaceful valley lie recorded events of tragic violence unimagined by the passer by of today. Archibald Scott killed in his bed, his daughter’s brains dashed out as she was being held in her mother’s arms; and to the grandsons of this first generation we see memorials of their deaths in distant places, buried far from home, and mourned in absentia by those who remained.

Bibliography to Postscript:

1) The tombstones of the Duff Cemetery
2) Robertson, James I. – The Stonewall Brigade

#1 - Archibald Scott's Grants #2 - Steel Tracts #3 - Thomas D. Duff Tracts #4 - site of Scott's murder #5 - Wm. P. Duff's tracts #6 - Bishop James Madison's Map #7 - Three versions of the Wilderness Road in Wallen's Creek

Price’s Turnpike


Copyright and all Rights Reserved
Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Big Stone Gap, Va.

The Federal Government and the individual states have been designating driving tours of many of the old trails in the country. Perhaps the most outstanding example is the Lewis and Clark Trail. Perhaps the next most important effort being made by both the Federal Government and Commonwealth of Virginia is the Wilderness Trail running from Philadelphia to Boonesboro, Kentucky.

The only segment of the Wilderness Trail that is a single trace without alternative routes is the portion that runs from Middlesboro to Pineville, Kentucky. Virginia contains the longest parts of the trail, and it presents itself in numerous variations. The main variant runs the length of the Valley of Virginia to Reedy Creek at Bristol in Tennessee before it reenters Virginia via Moccasin Gap and on to Cumberland Gap. The main alternative to this route runs to the north of the Valley of Virginia along the Virginia – West Virginia border. Its most modern incarnation was the Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike completed it 1841.

The legislation of 1832 that enabled the surveying of the Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike is enigmatic, in that it specifies that this survey start at New Castle at “Price’s Turnpike”. References on-line document that there is legislation on record in Virginia authorizing Price’s Turnpike, and that it ended up in the Kanawha Valley of what is now West Virginia. Nothing else seems to be documented in modern literature. This essay’s goal is to do just that.

New Castle is an ancient road hub on Craig’s Creek on State 615 in Botetourt, County, Virginia. 615 continues west and is the route of the Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike as far as US 460 near Pearisburg. In 1833 the Commonwealth of Virginia passed legislation for improvements on this route, which it called ‘The Cumberland Road’. That year it published a map of that route as it ran from Cumberland Gap to the Town of Fincastle, the county seat of Botetourt County, which is just south of the mouth of Craig’s Creek into the James River. This map shows Price’s Turnpike leaving the Cumberland Road in the middle of New Castle, and proceeding north up State 617 following Barber’s Creek. It also documents that this intersection is mile post #6 of Price’s Turnpike. It is six miles to the mouth of Craig’s Creek.

The New River starts near Boone, North Carolina, and flows north through Virginia by Radford and passes into West Virginia at Narrows. Its first major tributary in West Virginia is the Greenbrier River, which comes in from the East. Its major city is Lewisburg. This town is situated on an ancient Indian Trail intersection of the Seneca Trail that ran from Buffalo, New York to the Narrows. The other trail is the Midland Trail that ran from Charlestown, West Virginia to Hampton Roads, Virginia. It is important to note that the New River changes names in its course through West Virginia, and becomes the Great Kanawha River.


excerpt 1833 map - New Castle


It is said that the Midland Trail more of less follows US 60. It is doubtlessly true, but it seems that its route across the Alleghenies from the Valley of Virginia to the Greenbrier Valley went to the south of present US 60 and its modern version – I-64. Price’s Turnpike was most likely the route of the Midland Trail across the Allegheny Mountain.

Oral tradition, widely held, in Botetourt County is that the ‘old road from Lexington’ came in a direct line following State 612, which is named ‘the Blue Grass Trail’ today. This same name is applied to State Highways of various numbers to a route that lies all the way to the Valley of the North Fork of the Holston River in Washington County. This route represents yet another variant of the Wilderness Trail, and which lay between the Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike and the main trail down I-81 in the Valley of Virginia.

The route turns to the west to the right off of 612 onto State 622, the Mill Creek Road. Both these routes are today obscure gravel roads, but 300 years ago they passed significant iron works, such as Jane and Rebecca Furnaces, which still stand today. Rebecca Furnace still has its iron master’s house standing. Mill Creek overlays a deep crack, or fissure, in the earth’s crust. Warm mineral water flows up this fissure for the entire length of Mill Creek. In the early 19th Century there were spas at Dagger’s Spring and at Gala at the intersection of 622 and US 220. The ancient route follows the combined State 622 and US 220 for about a mile, and turns off on Price’s Bluff Road, which carries the number of State 622 beside the James River to Price’s Bluff. The old trail fords the river near this point.

Price's Turnpioke


The first name of the Price who lived at Price’s Bluff and at the start of Price’s Turnpike is unknown. Review of the existing records, including land patents, shows a strong concentration of Prices in this area. One would suspect one of the numerous William Prices or the son Samuel. Descendants migrated both into the Greenbrier Valley and down the Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike. No one knows if the namesake of Price’s Turnpike and of Price’s Bluff are one and the same.

At any event, Price’s Turnpike started at the mouth of Craig’s Creek, and followed current State 615 to New Castle. There is turned northwest up Barber’s Creek on State 617. It went around the western end of Rich Patch Mountain to State 616, and then down the north side of the Allegheny on State 18 to rejoin US 60 and I- 64 at Covington. We do not know its western terminus, but it likely was modern White Sulfur Springs (the old name was Blue Sulfur Springs), where it joined the Lewisburg to Blue Sulfur Springs Turnpike.





1 – Virginia’ Turnpikes – specifically the Greenbrier Valley Lewisburg & Blue Sulfur Springs Twp.

2 – Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike

3 – Act authorizing survey of Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Twp. & notation that it was to meet Price’s Twp. at Newcastle – Johnson’s History of Wise County’s%20turnpike%20virginia&f=false

4 – Google Maps

5 – Google Earth

6 – “Map of Cumberland Road of 1833” – Library of Virginia

7 – “Map of the Internal Improvements of Virginia” of 1848 – Claudius Crozet – U. Va. Library System

8 – Junior Clark of Eagle Rock, Virginia

9 – Midland Trail

10 – Fleenor, Lawrence J. – Athawominee, the Great Warrior’s Path

11 – Fleenor, Lawrence J. – “The Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike”

12 – Fleenor, Lawrence J. & Howard, Edgar A. – Elk Garden

13 – The Prices of Price’s Bluff

Tangier Island, Max Meadows, The German Brethren, and the Wilderness Road


By: Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Copyright and All Rights Reserved
March 2015

Significant assistance from Edgar A. Howard

In 1745 a most pregnant comment was made by Col. John Buchanan. Buchanan was chief surveyor for the Loyal Company of Virginia, and was travelling west down a version of the Wilderness Trail to examine the lands he, in the name of the land company, had jurisdiction over along its course. He stopped at William Mack’s home at today’s Max Meadows, which –though transliterated – were named after him.

Buchanan’s entries in his Wood’s River (old name for the New River) Land Entry Book for October 16, 1745 states “…. Buchanan road on to William Mack’s place at present Max Meadows. Mack was probably from the noted Mack milling family in Schriesheim, Germany, whose father Yost Mack founded the German River Baptist (Dunkard) faith.

“Buchanan found Mack dead in his cabin but with him several “Long Beards” or Siebentangers from Ephrata Cloister, Lancaster, County, Pennsylvania. Newly arrived, they would build a settlement called Mahanaim.”

“The next day Buchanan with Adam and Jacob Harmon appraised Mack’s estate agreeing with the “Long Beards” to gather the crops ….”.

The Harmons (Hermann) were also German, but seemed to have come to the New River Valley before the Dunkards. They settled on the Northern side of current Radford by 1738.

Col. Buchanan’s facility with German is all the more surprising given his use of the spelling “road” for “rode”.

The Wilderness Road

Buchanan had been born in Ireland, and settled in the ‘Irish Tract’ in present Augusta County (Staunton), Virginia. The entire tract was named ‘Beverly Manor’. His notations in the Land Entry Book indicated that he had started his October 1745 trip in the Upper James River, which is that part that lies to the north of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Buchanan had patented the ‘Cherry Tree Bottoms’ along the James River right where the James burst through on the northwest side of the Blue Ridge. The main branch of he Wilderness Trail crossed the James there at Looney’s Ferry. A town later grew up there that is named after him.

The Wilderness Road (Trail) was the main Indian path in the Eastern United States. It ran from the Hudson River Valley to the Blue Grass of Kentucky. Through out the Great Valley of Virginia it had several variants. The main trail, more or less followed by US 11, had the disadvantage of a precipitous climb up Christiansburg Mountain. Many pioneers took either of the two alternatives to the main route from Buchanan to Draper’s Meadows (Blacksburg / Christiansburg), which were either up Catawba Creek or Craig’s Creek. Buchanan noted that he had taken the Catawba Creek Trail.

If the traveller had taken the main route of the Wilderness Trail, he would find himself facing a crossing of the New River at southwest Radford, at Ingle’s Ford / Ferry / Bridge. This today is close to the route of I-81. If he had taken either of the alternative routes, he would have found himself on the road to Pepper’s Ferry, which crosses the river just north of US 11. Buchanan correctly records that he was on the road that led to Max Meadows, which is on the Pepper’s Ferry route. The two routes come together at Wytheville, which is one of the reasons for that town’s existence.

Just south of Max Meadows by State 121 lies Fort Chiswell on the main Wilderness Trail (US 11 & I-81). US 52 runs from there to (Winston-Salem). It also was the Lead Mines of Austinville’s face to the world. The fort was built in 1761 as part of the French and Indian War as a wintering quarters for the expedition of Col. William Byrd III, which had been dispatched to the relief of Fort Loudoun on the Little Tennessee River. That November Major Andrew Lewis built a military road from Fort Chiswell to the Long Island on the Holston (Kingsport Tennessee), which is called “the Island Road”, and is followed today by I-81.

The Berbers

The Berbers are the indigenous Caucasian people of Northwest Africa. They had been forcibly converted to the Muslim faith by their Arab conquers. In 711 the Berber Governor of Tangier, Morocco was invited to intervene in a Spanish civil war. He took his Berber army with him to Spain, and after winning the war, assumed possession of the Iberian Peninsular. Hundreds of years of warfare between the Christian Spaniards and the Berber Spaniards ensued. In 1492 the Christian forces won, and started a genocide of the Muslim Berbers. Tens of thousands were murdered, or sold into slavery in the New World. Many wound up in Virginia and in North Carolina. Some converted to Christianity (Conversios) and were sent as settlers into the New World. North Carolina, along its border with Virginia, had a string of fortified settlements of these people. In 1588 Spain abandoned most of its North Carolina settlements in the withdrawal to St. Augustine, Florida caused by the planned invasion of England by the Spanish Armada.

Some Conversios, joined by some Caribbean French Huguenots, became pirates, praying upon the Spanish treasure galleons as they passed up the Carolina and Virginia coasts on their way to Spain. The Spanish term for these pirates was ‘Picaroons’.

Tangier Island

Tangier Island lies in the Chesapeake Bay just south of the Maryland / Virginia line. It had long been used as a base of operations against English shipping in the Chesapeake Bay area, and was finally settled by the Picaroons. They named the place Tangier Island, in memory of their homeland, Tangier Morocco. Among the first settlers were the French Huguenots, the Crocketts. This surname remains the most common surname on the Island.

The German Brethren

In the early 1700’s in the lower Necker River Valley around Heidelberg a small group of Pietists broke away from the Lutheran Church. They were esthetics, and did not believe it state religions. They are closely related to other similar German Pietist sects, such as the Amish and Mennonites, and are all theological descendants of John Huss. Some of them considered Saturday to be the Sabbath, and some did not baptize, and some required total immersion. The men never shaved their beards, hence Buchanan’s having referred to them as “the Long Beards”. They never numbered more that 200 in Germany. They organized in 1708. They were persecuted, and scattered to the four winds. Records of all of them do not exist. The group easiest to follow is that led by Alexander Mack, Sr. of Schriesheim, who led a group to the Brethren community of Ephrata Cloister in Pennsylvania in 1729. It is significant to note that there were already unspecified groups of them there when Mack got there. Alexander Mack died in 1735, and the Brethren community began to fragment.

Is should be noted that Buchanan gave all the correct information about this individual, including the fact that he had come from a family of millers in Germany. However, he gave his common name as ‘Yost’.

There is a common confusion over the given names of German Americans because of the difference in the naming traditions of the Germans and of the British. In Britain the common name is the first name, but in Germany in the majority of cases the first name was the name of the Saint on whose day the infant was born, and the elective common name is the second name. This second name is the name the individual’s family used to call them by, and the one used by friends who were close enough to have used his “calling name”. Their British American neighbors often thought that their common name was their first name, and often wrote this second name down in records as the first name. Likely Mack’s name was Alexander Yost Mack.

Alexander Mack, Jr. led a portion of the Ephrata Cloister community “into the Wilderness” “beyond Christian civilization” to Dunkard’s Bottom on the New River in Virginia. He had a son named ‘William’ who is often confused with the William Mack that Buchanan had found dead in his cabin at Max Meadows in 1745. William, the son of Alexander Mack, Jr., was not born until 1747, and served in the Revolutionary War. No other William Mack can be identified in this family cluster. Quite likely we are dealing again with the naming pattern problem, and are confusing first names with given names. No one knows who this William Mack was, or whether “William” was his first or second name.

Incidentally, this pattern of using the second name as the common name still exists in Southwest Virginia.

When the Dunkards first came to the New River bottom land that would be named after them, they found living there “a kind of white people who wore deer skins, lived by hunting, associated with the Indians and acted like savages”. The only likely source of these white people living with the Cherokee was the Berbers.
The Siebentanger

The most startling aspect of Buchanan’s comments about the events in William Mack’s cabin on Reed Creek at Max’s Meadows is his having called the seven Long Beards present at the wake as “Siebentanger” from Ephrata Cloister. This German term translates as “seven men from Tangier”. Note that this term does not differentiate between Tangier Island, and Tangier, Morocco. Also note that Buchanan equated the two slang references “Long Beards”, and “Tangers”, at the same time acknowledging that they were from Ephrata Cloister, Pennsylvania, and hence German Brethren.

The implication of this is significant. Buchanan felt that his readers throughout Virginia would equate the terms “Tanger, Long Beards”, and Brethren or Dunkards. How could this be so? Why would the term ‘Tanger” be term that would first occur to a Virginian for a Brethren?

Histories of Tangier Island do not mention the Brethren. However, the first cases of Maple Syrup Urine Disease ever discovered were discovered around Tangier Island. It is a genetic disorder among members of the German Pietist sects, specifically the Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren. In fact, another name for this condition is “Tangier Disease”.

The churches on Tangier Island are mostly either Baptist or United Methodist. In both cases, these specific churches on Tangier Island say that they are descended from Churches of the Brethren. Early on in America the Churches of the Brethren split into divisions that were described as being either “like the Baptist” or “like the Methodist”. In fact, the current United Methodist Church nationally is the result of the union of the Evangelical United Brethren and The Methodist Church.

Similarly, there are concentrations of Brethren Churches in Tangier, Ohio, and in Tangier, Indiana. There are even Brethren churches in the vicinity of Morocco, Indiana. This last reference is all the more tantalizing because the Berber Picaroons who first founded a settlement on Tangier Island were originally from Morocco.

An affinity between Brethren and Tangier Island and of Tangier, Morocco is further documented by the fact that the Brethren maintained a church mission in Tangier, Morocco in the mid 19th century.

The Midwest was settled soon after the Revolutionary War. There is no documentation, either direct or indirect, of the Brethren being on Tangier Island after their exodus to Ohio and Indiana. They emigrated to the Midwest, leaving only their religion, and Tangier Disease, behind. None of the German Dunkard’s surnames remain on Tangier. However, this data brackets the time period of Brethren residency on Tangier Island, which would have been roughly 1730 to 1800. This represents three and a half generations.

Col. John Buchanan’s 1745 comment in Max Meadows calling the seven Brethren gentlemen from Pennsylvania “Tangers” shows that to that generation of Virginians, Brethren were equated with Tangierians.

But the mindset of Virginians even extended further back into history than that. Recall the Picaroons? During the American Revolution, Tangier Island remained a Loyalist bastion. A small navy of Loyalist Tangierians preyed upon Rebel shipping in the Chesapeake. The rebels of Maryland and Virginia referred to these people, and to their fleet, as the Picaroons. Maryland and Virginia attacked the Picaroon Fleet in what has been called the largest naval battle of the Revolution, and destroyed it.

This state of affairs may have been the event that sent the pacifist Long Beards fleeing from Tangier Island. There are no German names listed among the participants in this fighting. Yet, after 3½ generations on Tangier Island, the Brethren seem to have acquired a pleasant sense of identity with the place, as they carried its name to their new homes in the Midwest. The related issues of their naming one of their new homes in Indiana “Morocco”, and their decision to establish a mission in Tangier, Morocco raise the question of whether or not their association with the Berbers of Morocco may not have been of longer standing than their sojourn on Tangier Island, Virginia.

It is a fact that the French and Indian War pushed the Dunkards out of Dunkard’s Bottom and into the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, where they continued to live with the Berbers they had met in the New River Valley of Virginia and on Tangier Island.

Johnson, Patricia Givens – The Early New River Settlement
Buchanan and the Siebentanger –

White Savages of Dunkard’s Bottom

Fort Chiswell, Island Road, and Maj. Andrew Lewis
Fleenor, Lawrence – The Bear Grass, a History

Berber Conquest of Spain

Berber Picaroons of the Cheasapeake Bay and of Tangier Island
Shores, David – Tangier Island – Place, People, and Talk

Ephrata Cloister

Dunkard’s Bottom

Brethren of Tangier Island

Tangier Disease (Maple Syrup Urine Disease)

Brethren Churches in Tangier, Ohio and Indiana

Brethren Churches in Morocco, Indiana

Brethren mission to Tangier, Morocco – NOT WORKING

Revolutionary War and the Tangier Island Picaroons
Rhoads, James – Somerset County

Allen’s Way Station


Copyright 11-16-13
Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Big Stone Gap, Va.

Earlier this fall Mr. Eunice Laster, of the head of Wallen’s Creek, told me that there was an existing way station from the Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike yet in existence in Stickleyville. Yesterday I followed his directions, which was to go past the Stickleyville fire station and that it would be there. I turned west onto the Middle Fork of Wallen’s Creek Rd. in the south side of Stickleyville on State 612, and immediately turned left onto the old loop of US 58 & 421 that used to be the main street of town. The fire station was 50 yards on the left. Passing that I crossed Wallen’s Creek, and followed the now dead end of the loop as it approximated the current US 58 & 421. On the left at the end of the now cut off loop of old road stood an old wood house with a strikingly familiar, yet odd, upper front porch. After thinking a moment, I realized that it was the same unique design as that of the known Fincastle Turnpike Way Station that used to stand just to the south of Rose Hill. I had a photograph of it in Bear Grass. Comparing the two, they seem to have been made from the same design. The tightness of the overhand over the upper front porches, and the bannister designs are the same. There was no trouble believing that Mr. Laster was right.

However, a photograph of the Allen Station house from 1904 shows that that front porch was added after 1904, the date to that picture. It would seem likely that the Rose Hill way station also had its front porch added in the same time frame as Col. Allen’s.

Review of the CD (second image) of the 1833 official map of the postal route version predating the 1844 Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike that I have from the Library of Virginia showed that this way station was mile post 50, starting where the road entered Virginia from Tennessee near Cumberland Gap. It was labeled as belonging to “Col. Allen”.

Review of page 903 of Bales Early Settlers of Lee County, Virginia and Adjacent Counties shows the following the information:

James Allen came up the Powell Valley from Claibourne Co., Tennessee, and married Hannah Hanger. They bought land on Wallen’s Creek from John and Susannah Eller (recall Eller’s Gap where US 58 traverses Powell Mountain).

James Allen represented Lee Co. in the House of Delegates in 1824, and served two terms. In 1833 (the date of the map) he obtained a license to keep “a house of private entertainment”. This would indicate that his way station was also an inn, as was common among the better way stations. The lesser ones, such as the Carter House of Rye Cove, and now reassembled in Natural Tunnel State Park, were used only as places where the horses were changed on the stage coaches.

James Allen was High Sheriff in Lee Co. in 1834, and died in 1840.

The evidence therefore shows that this way station was also an inn, and was built in 1833 as part of the improvement in the Postal Road that followed the old Wilderness Road. It, therefore, predated the Fincastle to Cumberland Gap Turnpike by 11 years. It’s owner is documented. The way station passed to his son, John Hanger Allen 1839, apparently in anticipation of Col. James Allen’s death. Therefore, it likely served the Turnpike after the Col.’s passing.


1833 map map Allen way station The Sage Homeplace in Stickleyville about 1904Stickleyville Fincastle way Station #1  Rose Hill Way Station

Baker’s Flats



Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.

Big Stone Gap, Virginia

June 2014

Revised April 2016


Baker’s Flats is a plateau located in Virginia, but touching the Kentucky state line.  It is where Black Mountain, Indian Mountain, and Pine Mountain come together, and is the take off for Roger’s Ridge, which separates Roaring Fork from Black Creek.  It is about a mile north to south, its long dimension.  It overlooks the origins of Roaring Fork, Guest’s River, and both the South and North Forks of the Pound River at Fox Gap and at Flat Gap.  Just off its northern edge, and into Kentucky, the head spring of the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River starts at the head of Robert’s Branch Hollow.  The spring is just under the level of the flats.


A few hundred yards to the east, after having passed the state line back into Virginia, is the start of the South Fork of the Pound River, one of the head waters of the Big Sandy River.  It also starts in a spring coming from a coal seam lying under Baker’s Flats, in this instance at the head of Phillips’ Creek.  There is a massive ancient rock house built into the face of the bluff by the spring.  Baker’s Flats, and the land under the bluff, have been heavily strip mined, but the bluff has not been disturbed because of its massive near vertical positioning.  The spring and the rock house have thusly been preserved.


Access to Baker’s Flats is best obtained by way of Roaring Fork in Virginia.   From Business US 23 pick up State 603 at Kent Junction and proceed to the old mining camp of Roaring Fork, and proceed north off of the paved road that turns to the left, and go up the dirt mining road officially called The Roaring Fork Road.  Many people today have come to refer to this road as the Pine Branch Road.  Staying as close to the creek as possible, follow the road to the headwaters of the creek, and then follow the road up the face of the mountain toward the current wind gage in the center of the flats.  To get to the rock house, proceed north on ATV trails not suitable for 4-wheel drive highway vehicles, and go to the edge of the strip mine.  You will have to poke around a bit to find the spring and rock house, but there is an ATV trail that comes up from Phillips’ Creek Hollow that accesses Baker’s Flats that you can follow from the Flats to the rock house and spring.


Before it was strip mined, the flats were the site of active farming well into the mid Twentieth Century.  The name “Baker’s Flats” is widely known in the community of Flat Gap, and formerly so among the people of Dunbar.  No one recalls a family of Baker’s having lived there, and the name of the place seems to go back to forgotten times.


Roaring Fork was much favored by long hunters, as were the other long sheltered hollows on both sides of Black Mountain.  Buffalo, elk, and deer spent their summers in the open meadows on top of the mountain, and sought shelter in the deep hollows in the winter.  Access from Virginia was gained by coming up the Big Stoney Creek trail and over High Knob and across Little Stone Gap to the top of Little Stone Mountain, where the trail dropped off to Kelly View and current Kent Junction, where the mouth of Roaring Fork is.


The name Pot Camp Creek is a living testament to the long hunters having frequented the current locations of Dunbar and the former Pardee.  Bold Camp, near Pound, Virginia, was settled primarily by people coming up Roaring Fork and dropping down into the head waters of the South Fork of the Pound River, which they followed to the mouth of Bold Camp.


Just who were Baker’s Flats named after?  The most likely candidate is Captain John Baker, who was a documented long hunter from Ashe County, North Carolina.  Ashe County is a very common site of origin for the earliest inhabitants of far southwest Virginia, especially the region about Black Mountain.  These settlers came down the New River through Mouth-of-Wilson.


Baker was born in 1758.  In 1769 at age 11 he joined a party of about 40 long hunters led by James Knox.  Following common operating procedure, the party went as a group before dispersing at Flat Lick just west of present Pineville, Kentucky.  All that is documented is that they were gone for over a year before they met each other again at Flat Lick, and then returned to Ashe County.


It would seem likely that Baker followed the Cumberland River to its head spring, and there found his own private mountain top meadow filled with game.  He built a combination blind and living quarters over the major spring used by the game, and just waited for dinner to come to him.


The presence of the many carefully placed large stones within the structure of the rock house show that its builder was there for a long time.


Modern DNA evidence has shown that this ‘historic’ John Baker really was more than one individual of that name.  Assignation of the various bits of information to a particular one of them is still a work in progress.


However, quite by accident, a land grant (LO 110-665) on file at the Library of Virginia, and available on line, has been found, and which contains an 1853 survey call for a line that is identified as “passing Baker’s Rock House”.  This proves that the structure in the accompanying photograph, and which is known traditionally locally as ‘Baker’s Rock House’, is the same one identified by this survey.


This grant is of further historic interest for several reasons, among them is the fact that the recipients of this grant were William Carnes and Loring Tyler.  Carnes had also bought a grant in this vicinity in partnership with William D. Duff.  Duff was the son of Robert Duff and his wife Polly.  Polly was the niece of Fannie Scott.  Fannie Scott was the famous survivor of the Chief Bob Benge’s raid at Scott’s Station at the head of Wallen’s Creek on the Wilderness Trail of 1779 in which her children and husband, Archibald, were murdered.  The Duffs had acquired all the Scott land after that massacre.


The calls of LO 110-665 also note that the last survey corner was “70 poles north of Gabriel Church’s house”.   This comes to about 300 yards.  This notation is remarkable in its uniqueness of calling attention to a house located at that great a distance from the survey.  Church (1802-1875) was a well known character in what was to become Wise County.  He was born in Wilkes Co., North Carolina, and was highly regarded as a musician.  He lived on Gabe’s Branch, which was named after him.  It was said to be a tributary of Roaring Fork, but its exact location has been lost to record.  This survey call places it on the eastern slope of Fork Ridge just to the west of the southern end of Baker’s Flats.


Church was well known for having written the ballad “Poor Goins” about the murder of Alexander Goins at Mud Lick on Callahan Creek in 1844, which is on the western side of the Nine Mile Spur directly across from Gabe’s Branch.  It is intriguing that Goins’ sister, Elizabeth Jane, lived with her husband Michael Peter Craiger one hollow to the east of Gabriel Church, on Black Creek.  Craiger served with the “Yankee Catchers” in the Civil War.  This group was one of the Confederate bushwhacking outfits.  Elizabeth Jane’s descendent who wrote about her says that the Goins and Craiger families were from Wallen’s Ridge in Lee County, Virginia.





1 – Peyton, J. Lewis –  History of Augusta County

2 – Chestnut, David – “Long Hunters” –

3 – Hamilton, Emory – “The Long Hunter” – printed in the Spring 1984 “The  Mountain Empire Genealogical Quarterly”

4 – Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants / Northern Neck Grants and Surveys

5 – Fleenor, Lawrence J. – Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Assn.  – “Scott’s Station”

6 – Fleenor, Lawrence. J. – Black Mountain, the Mother of Today pgs 56-64

7 –

8 –


Baker's Rock House

The stone wall to the left is part of the original structure.  The sawed lumber frame in the front is from the more modern era when the shelter was still inhabited.  The head spring of the Cumberland River is to the right of and down about 20 feet from the structure.


The Location of the Massacre of James Boone and Henry Russell

copyright November 2006
All rights reserved

Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Big Stone Gap, Va.

The site of the 1773 massacre of the son of Daniel Boone and of the son of William Russell – James Boone and Henry Russell – is the subject of a long and continuing controversy in Lee County.  The state historical road side marker commemorating this event was originally placed along side US 58 in Eller’s Gap on Powell Mountain between Pattonsville and Stickleyville.  A rival claimant later developed in western Lee County, and roadside marker was dug up in the middle of the night and replanted near Kaylor.  In recent years a new road side marker was erected by the State in the center of Sticklyville.

Local traditions still abound, especially near the various springs that head up Wallen’s Creek north of Duffield and east of Stickleyville, and down Wallen’s Creek all the way to its mouth.  The following is a review of the murders, and of the evidence on the location of the site.

The Great Warrior’s Path was the most significant of the numerous Indian trails in the eastern United States.  It connected the Northeastern and Midatlantic regions with Kentucky and the region between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  Daniel Boone’s name is indelibly stamped upon it, and it is also known by the names The Wilderness Road and the Great Kentucky Road.

There are several variations of this trail in western Scott County and eastern Lee County.  The Hunter’s Trace skirted the southern face of Powell Mountain from Pattonsville to Blackwater, where it crossed Powell Mountain at Hunter’s Gap, and passed on a mile and a half west of the mouth of Wallen’s Creek on Powell River, which it crossed at White Shoals.  Another route crossed Powell Mountain via Kane Gap between Duffield and the head of Wallen’s Creek, which it followed to Stickleyville.  Here one version crossed Wallen’s Ridge to the head of Station Creek, and on to the west to the northern end of the White Shoals ford.  Back at Stickleyville, another variation continued on down Wallen’s Creek for 2 ½ miles to Fannon’s Spring, and crossed Wallen’s Ridge via Slagle’s Gap to the mouth of Station Creek.  The last version continued down Wallen’s Creek and for a mile and a half past its mouth, where it joined the Hunter’s Trace.

In 1773 the western extent of pioneer settlement was Castlewood in Russell Co. and the Blockhouse in Carter’s Valley in Scott County, near Kingsport, Tennessee.  Daniel Boone had decided to move his family from the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina to Kentucky, and had persuaded Capt. William Russell of  Castlewood to do so also.  On September 25, 1773 the Boones and five other families sat out, and upon reaching Wolf Hills at present Abingdon, Daniel dispatched his seventeen year old son, James, and the Mendenhall brothers, John and Richard, to leave the main party and to go to Upper Castlewood to pick up Capt. Russell and his party at Russell’s Fort.  Daniel continued on down the main Wilderness Trail to east of Kingsport, and then on up old US 23 to Duffield.  There is no record of whether he accessed Powell Valley by way of Kane Gap, or of Hunter’s Gap.  Once in Powell Valley the Boone Party joined the party of William Bryan, which contained about forty people.  We know that he camped that night on the northern side of Wallen’s Ridge, which itself is north of Wallen’s Creek.

James followed present US Alt. 58 to Castlewood and found that Russell and his party of about forty pioneers were not ready to leave.  To carry this news to Daniel, Russell’s seventeen year old son, Henry, and James Boone along with Isaac Crabtree, the Mendenhall brothers, and two slaves, Adam and Charles, were dispatched on Oct. 8th ahead of the main Russell party.  Also among the emigrants from the Russell Party were the Hargis brothers – Samuel, Whiteside, William, James, John, Benjamin, and their families.  They left Russell’s Fort with James Boone and his party, which traveled down the Clinch Valley branch of the Wilderness Trail until they regained the main Wilderness Trail just north of Natural Tunnel.

Daniel and his party camped along the Wilderness Trail on the north side of Wallen’s Ridge somewhere in Powell Valley, and waited for the Russell party to catch up.  It was, of course, the party of James Boone that was trying to catch up with Daniel, and not that of Russell.  Somewhere James’ party lost the trail, and night fall caught them somewhere on Wallen’s Creek, three miles east of Daniel’s camp.

James could have lost Daniel’s trail either at Duffield or at Stickleyville, depending whether Daniel had taken the Hunter’s Trace, or the Warrior’s Path over Kane Gap and then on to the head of Station Creek.

It is at this point that the speculation begins.  The Wilderness Trail at this time was just a foot path.  Horses were usually led as pack animals, and not ridden.  The Trail from Kane Gap was a corridor rather than a single path, as it followed a branching network of buffalo trails.  At times of low water the travelers tended to stay on the flat northern bank of Wallen’s Creek, but during muddy and wet times they took the ridge line further to the north of the creek bank.

There are three variations of the Wilderness Trail leaving Stickleyville to the west, and we do not know which versions were being traveled by James, and perhaps Daniel.  All three versions enter Wallen’s Creek Valley via Kane Gap, and proceed down Wallen’s Creek to present Stickleyville.  There is a fork in the trail at this point, with one following present US 58 on across Wallen’s Ridge into the Valley of Station Creek, which runs parallel to Wallen’s Creek, both emptying into Powell’s River.

Another variation of the Wilderness Trail continued on west down Wallen’s Creek to Fannon’s Spring, which is about two and a half miles west of Stickleyville.  Implicit in the circumstances of this story is the fact that the party would have camped by a spring.  The pioneers did not usually drink out of creeks anymore than we do.  Fannon’s Spring lies between the road and the creek, and its flow is so great that it boils in a mushroom shape up out of the ground.  Its fresh cold water attracts fish as it empties into the creek.  It is simply the best spring for miles around.  It was at this point that the trail began its ascent of Wallen’s Ridge on its way to Slagle’s Gap, and joined the trail on Station Creek at its mouth on Powell River.

A third version continued on down Wallen’s Creek to its mouth on Powell River, and crossed to the north side to rejoin the versions of the Wilderness Trail coming west from the ford at the mouth of Station Creek.

The militiaman John Redd, who had gone with Joseph Martin in 1775 to Martin’s Upper Station at Rose Hill by way of the Wallen’s Creek route, stated that “the old Kentucky Trace crossed Walden’s ridge at the head of Walden’s Creek”.  This is the current route of US 58 west of Stickleyville.  It implies that Redd believed that Daniel would have gone this way, but Redd admitted that his first trip to Kentucky was in 1780, some seven years after the massacre, a situation that gave plenty of time for the route of the trail to have changed.

Tradition does say that Daniel Boone changed the route of the trail after James was killed.  In 1884, Col. Auburn Pridemore, CSA, of Jonesville, wrote a treatise entitled “Routes East”, and which now is MS 4.8.12 within the Draper Manuscripts.  A transcription of a portion of this document is as follows:

“I have mentioned that Boone after this (the James Boone massacre) changed his rout, that was told me by Genl. Peter C. Johnston, brother of
General Joseph E. Johnston of Confederate memory, he had it from a Mr.
Fleener whose father Camped at the top of Walden’s ridge at Stickleyville;
when Boone and Gov. Dunsmore’s surveyors located the road, and he gave
the Killing of Boone’s Son as the reason for the change of route.  This was
told me incidentially as Genl. Johnston (who had a great fund of Indian tales
and Border adventures) was relating a very thrilling story of a contest of the elder Fleener with an Indian at the same place.”

The location of the murder of James Boone depends on which version of the Wilderness Trail Daniel was traveling, and which route James took in the process of getting lost.  We know that nightfall of October 8th caught the party of James Boone and Henry Russell still on Wallen’s Creek.

“Wolves” howled all night around the camp of the James Boone party.  The Mendenhall brothers paced up and down all night.  At dawn, a mixed party of Shawnee and Cherokee Indians attacked, and shot James Boone and Henry Russell through the hips so that they could not escape.  They were tortured with knives.  Boone recognized his torturer as Big Jim, a Shawnee who had been a guest at Daniel’s home in the Yadkin.  Boone resisted for a while, but with his hands shredded from fending off the knife, he pleaded with Big Jim to kill him and to put him out of his misery.

Russell was clubbed, and his dead body shot full of arrows.  The Mendenhalls, and Whiteside Hargis were also killed.

It is not clear how Crabtree made his escape, but he returned to the settlements in the east.  Adam hid under a pile of drift wood on the bank of Wallen’s Creek, and witnessed the massacre, and later returned to the settlements where he spread the news.  He and Crabtree were the sources of the information that was written into the dispatches of the Holston Militia that wound up as part of the Draper Manuscripts, which are today’s documentation of this event.  Charles was carried away toward captivity.

The story varies somewhat at this point.  One tradition says that the massacre was discovered by a deserter from Daniel’s party.  Another source says that Capt. William Russell’s party came upon the scene, and dispatched a runner to Daniel.  The party of Daniel Boone returned, and Rebecca, James’s mother, wrapped the bodies of James and Henry up together in a linen sheet, and they were buried in a common grave.  The Boone and Russell parties returned to Castlewood.

The Indians, taking Whiteside Hargis’ wife, John and William Hargis, and John’s son who was named after his Uncle Whiteside, along with the slave Charles, made their way back up Wallen’s Creek to Dry Creek at Stickleyville, and thence to Kentucky, probably by way of Lovelady Gap, and either Olinger Gap or Eola Gap to the head waters of the Cumberland River.  Somewhere along the trail, John Hargis and his wife and daughter made their escape, and settled back in Castlewood.  Young Whiteside was adopted by the Shawnee, and later in life joined Chief Benge in his raids against the settlers in the area of his capture.

The Indians along their way began to argue about the ownership of Charles, and the issue was resolved by his being tomahawked.

These events are documented by the Draper Manuscripts 6 C 14; 6 C 7-20; 6 S 79-83; 11CC 12; 13C 133; which are well collated in the book Indian Raids and Massacres of Southwest Virginia by Luther F. Addington and Emory Hamilton.  The Fannon’s Spring data is contained in an article in the “Powell Valley News” written by J. M. Moseley and published in 1958 or 1959.   Moseley had frequented the Fannon home at Fannon’s Spring a little over a hundred years after the massacre, while the oral
traditions were still fresh and widely held.  The Hargis information is obtained from Henrietta Hargis Reynolds’ article in The Heritage of Russell Co. vol II.

The most persuasive information concerning the location of the murders of the James Boone Party is the testimony of Adam, whose story was recorded by militia officers at the time.  Adam said that he hid under a pile of driftwood beside Wallen’s Creek beside the Wilderness Trail.  Wallen’s Creek is too small to build up such a large pile of driftwood much above Fannon’s Spring, so the reputed sites upstream from
Stickleyville are impossible.  This is especially true of those sites at the head of Wallen’s Creek, which is so small there that it can be stepped across.

We know that Daniel and James took different trails, as James “got lost”.  Since James was on Wallen’s Creek, and was lost from Daniel’s trail, this means that Daniel had taken either the Station Creek version of the trail, or the Hunter’s Trace.  If the Russell Party was the one that discovered the massacre of the James Boone Party, and since we know from several sources that the massacre occurred on Wallen’s Creek, then it would seem that Russell had known to follow the parties of Daniel and of James down Wallen’s Creek.  It is important to note that at its nearest point, the Hunter’s Trace passes 1 ½ miles to the west of the mouth of Wallen’s Creek.  Therefore Russell in his following of the Boones had known that they were not to have traveled on the Hunter’s Trace.

If one discounts the Fannon’s Spring tradition, and discounts Russell having discovered the massacre, there are only two possibilities for these events to have unfolded.  The first is for Daniel to have camped north of Powell River (which is north of Wallen’s Ridge) somewhere in the Flatwoods or White Shoals area, and for James to have camped near the mouth of Wallen’s Creek.  The Wallen’s Creek Trail and the trail that had come from Station Creek come together at White Shoals.  This would have placed James about three to four miles east of Daniel, and also would have allowed the deserter from the Daniel Party to have backtracked to the east on a different trail from the one he had followed with Daniel.

The other possibility is for Daniel to have camped at the mouth of Station Creek, and James to have camped at Fannon’s Spring.  The distance between these two sites is also about three miles, and would have also allowed the deserter to have taken a different route back east and to have stumbled upon the massacre.

However, if one credits either the Fannon’s Spring tradition of Mosley, or the tradition that Russell discovered the massacre there is only one possibility.  The preponderance of evidence points to Daniel’s having camped at the mouth of Station Creek, and James at Fannon’s Spring.  It is, after all, about fifteen miles from Fannon’s Spring to the mouth of Wallen’s Creek and to the Flatwoods segment of the Wilderness Trail.

The Wallen’s Creek location documented by the Draper Manuscripts excludes the tradition locating the massacre in western Lee County near Kaylor.  Also, the western Lee County site is over a hundred miles from Castlewood, easily twice the distance that the James Boone party could have made in the one day that they travelled.

After burying their dead, the Boone and Russell parties returned to Castlewood.

Benjamin Sharp


Commentary Copyright: Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.

All rights reserved

January 2001

Big Stone Gap, VA

Following below is a letter written by Benjamin Sharp in 1842 to the editor of a history magazine entitled “The American Pioneer”, and which was published in Cincinnati, Ohio by John S. Williams. The letter was printed in the June 15th issue of that periodical. It tells first hand accounts of the Battles of Long Island Flats at Kingsport, and of the Indian fighting around Black’s Fort in Abingdon, both during the early phases of the Cherokee War that started as a part of the American Revolution. Following the text of the letter will be a summation of what little biographical material exists on Benjamin Sharp, himself.

Warren County, Missouri, June 15th, 1842
Dear Sir – In the year 1776, about the time American independence was declared, all that part of West Virginia now contained in the counties of Wyth, Smyth, Washington, Russell, Lee, and Scott, with the adjoining counties in North Carolina (now Tennessee) of Sullivan and Washington, were broken up and the inhabitants driven into strongholds. About the last of June or the first of July, the traders fled from the Cherokee nation with the alarming news, that the Indians were coming in great
force, and in a few days would break into the settlements. A few of the
militia, perhaps one hundred and fifty or two hundred, hastily assembled
under the command of captains James Thompson, James Shelby, and William
Cook and proceeded to the frontier house, about fifteen miles in advance
of the settlement, and begun to build a kind of stockade fort with fence
rails; but before they could finish their fort their spies gave them
notice that a large Indian force was within a few miles. It was then
debated, which would be the most prudent, to await their coming in their
crazy fort or march out boldly and meet them in the woods. The latter
proposition prevailed, and before they had proceeded more than five
miles, they discovered nine or ten Indians, who threw down their budgets
and fled. This threw the men into disorder, curiosity drawing them
around the Indian plunder in a crowd; but presently they heard a noise
like distant thunder, and looking round they saw the whole Indian force
running upon them at full speed – they made a hasty retreat to a rising
ground, where they rallied; and the Indians came running up with savage
yells, as if intending to rush among them with their tomahawks. A sharp
engagement ensued, lasting from one-half to three-quarters of an hour,
when the Indians disappeared, as if by magic, leaving the white men
masters of the ground. Of the whites none were killed and only four
slightly wounded. Eleven or twelve Indians lay dead upon the field and
many trails of blood were found where the dead were carried off or the
wounded had escaped. My oldest brother and a brother-in-law were in the
A curious incident occurred during the engagement. An Alexander Moore,
a strong, athletic, active man, by some means got into close contact
with an Indian of nearly his own size and strength; my brother-ion-law,
William King, seeing Moore’s situation, ran up to his relief, but the
Indian adroitly kept Moore in such a position that King could not shoot
him without shooting Moore. The Indian had a large knife suspended at
his belt, for the possession of which they both struggled, but at length
Moore succeeded and plunged it into the Indian’s bowels; he then broke
his hold and sprung off from Moore, and King shot him through the head.
The victorious party now returned to the fort, and instantly dispersed
to take care of their own families and concerns. In the meantime the
whole settlements were breaking up and the people fleeing from every
quarter. We had collected some horses and loaded them with such
necessaries as we could hastily pack up, and about the middle of the day
my father, an old man, set off with them and the females of the family
to seek a place of safety, he know not where. I was dispatched on foot
to accelerate the escape of a brother’s and sister’s families, the one
living four and the other six miles directly toward the point of
danger. I was a little turned of fourteen years of age; the day was
warm, but I was light and active and had no encumbrance but my gun and
shot-pouch, and I traveled rapidly.
On my arrival I found the families had fled, and I turned to pursue my
father. I had twelve miles to go to gain the great road, which I did as
the day was nearly closing. In my whole route I not seen a human face,
but here the road was full of people moving hastily along; they were all
strangers to me, but learning my situation one man generously proposed
to carry me behind him till I could regain my friends or hear some
intelligence of them. This offer I gladly embraced, and after some time
we came to the farm of a captain Joseph Black, where Abington now
stands, where we found four or five hundred souls of all descriptions
collected together to build a fort, and here I found my connections.
The next day, when all hands were engaged in procuring materials and
building fort Black, we received the news of the battle of long Island,
which gave us much encouragement, and business was suspended till a
prayer of thanksgiving was offered up by the Rev. Charles Cummings, a
Presbyterian minister. Not more than two or three days after this a
captain James Montgomery, who lived about eight miles off, came to the
fort; he had concluded, with two other families, to defend his own
house, but not knowing what was going on he had rode out to try to find
some people or get some intelligence. He was earnestly beset to bring
the families instantly to the fort, and men and horses were sent to
assist him. They soon returned with the families and some of their
effects, and went back for more, but to their surprise they found the
houses plundered and all in flames. They retreated hastily to the fort,
and spies were appointed and sent out – but for several days they made
no discovery, but at length they came in one night after dark and
reported that they had discovered afire on the bank of the river above
Mongomeies, which they supposed to be the Indian camp. An express was
sent off to another fort, requesting their men to meet our men at a
certain place at a certain hour that night. A party set off with the
spies and was met by the men from the other fort according to
appointment, and the spies conducted them to the spot. They cautiously
surrounded them from the river below to the river above them with strict
injunctions to preserve a profound silence till the report of the
captain’s gun should give the signal for a general discharge, and in
this position they waited for day. As soon as day had fairly dawned
the Indians arose and began to move about the camp, when the crack of the
captain’s rifle was followed by a well directed fire from every quarter;
the Indians fled across the river, exposed all the way to the fire of
the whites, if any fell or sunk in the river it was not known, but if I
recollect right eleven lay dead at and around the camp. The men crossed
the river and found various trails of blood, one of which they traced up
to where the fellow had crept into a hollow log; they drew him out by
the feet and found him mortally wounded: he requested them by signs to
shoot him in the head, which request they granted.
When the men returned all safe, with the Indian spoils and scalps,
there was great rejoicing, and the scalps were suspended to a pole and
fixed as a trophy over the fort gate. But we did not enjoy this triumph
long, for shortly after a different scene took place. One morning three
parties prepared to go out; one in which were my father, my two
brothers, and two brothers-in-law, went early and was unmolested, they
went to visit some plantations twelve miles off, and knew of nothing
that had happened behind them, and did not return till late at night.
Of the other two, one went to a field about a mile off, I think to
secure some flax, and the other about the same distance to the house of
the Rev. Charles Cummings, to bring his books, and some of his effects
to the fort. Both these parties were attacked at the same time in full
hearing of the fort; and here an undescribable scene of disorder took
place, the women and children screaming, wives clinging to their
husbands, mothers to their sons, and sisters to their brothers, to
prevent them from going out, and crowding the fort gate, so that the men
could hardly pass or repass. However a number of the men broke through,
and ran to the rescue as fast as possible, but before they could arrive
the Indians had done their work and were gone; one man was killed and
one wounded in each party. A man by the name of Blackburn, was shot,
tomahawked, and scalped, and yet was found alive, brought in, and
recovered of his wounds. He was a long time an object of compassion.
The gallantry of two young men in this affray deserves to be recorded
here. William Casey had a sister, a beautiful little girl, about
sixteen years of age, along with the party at the field; and as he was
running for his life, discovered the Indians in close pursuit of his
sister; and at that moment his eyes falling upon another young man, by
the name of Robert Hasold, he called to him to come and help him to save
Nancy; Hasold obeyed, and although there were four or five Indians in
pursuit, (some said seven,) they rushed between them and the girl, and
by dexterously managing to fire alternately, still keeping one gun
loaded when the other was discharged, they kept the Indians at bay till
they gave up the pursuit, and they brought the girl in safe. Such acts
of generous bravery ought at all times be held up as examples to our
youth. Ever after, these two young men stood prominent in society.
During the summer several murders were committed; two men were killed
almost in sight of the neighboring fort, who had gone out to bring in
their horses. Of two men who went with an express from fort Black, one
was killed and the other made his escape. It had been early determined
to carry an expedition into the Indian country: and troops begun to
assemble at the long Island, the place of rendezvous, and build a fort,
which was called fort Henry. A company was enrolled at fort Black, and
taken under pay, to guard the fort and escort the provision and baggage
wagons going to, and returning from the rendezvous. In this company I
engaged, which was the first of my military service.
I think some time in November, the army, one thousand five hundred, or
two thousand strong, under the command of colonel William Christian, of
Virginia, moved on the Indian towns. I cannot recollect that this army
killed any Indians, or took any prisoners; but they burned down all
their villages, destroyed their corn, and every article of subsistence
they could find, which reduced them to such a state of starvation, that
before spring they sent in a flag for peace, which resulted in the
treaty of the Long Island, in 1777.
I attended this treaty only one day, and that before the conferences
begun and can report nothing of my own knowledge; I will only mention an
oratorical figure in a speech of the Raven, the principal Indian chief.
A great many Indians with their squaws and children had collected, and
were quartered in the island, surrounded by a guard to prevent improper
intercourse with the whites; but notwithstanding this precaution, some
abandoned fellow shot across the river and killed an Indian. This
produced great confusion; the Indians thought they were betrayed, and
prepared to fly, and it was with much exertion the officers and
commissioners could convince and pacify them. Afterwards when the
council met, the Raven opened the conference on the part of his people
by a speech, in which he reverted to the case of the murdered Indian.
He said, least that unhappy affair should disturb the harmony and
sincerity that ought to exist at that time between the white and red
brethren, each party ought to view it as having happened so long ago, as
if when the Indian was buried an acorn had been thrown into his grave,
which had sprouted and grown, and become a lofty spreading oak,
sufficiently large for them to sit under its shade, and hold their
talk. This speech was much talked of at the time, and many thought it
equal to any thing in the celebrated speech of Logan. Thus ended the
first Cherokee war.
I am, with much esteem &c.
Benj. Sharp
Benjamin Sharp is a phantom of our regional past, a sense of whose importance to our heritage needs to be regained. The only widely known reference to him in our historic literature is his cryptic commentary on the death of Chief Bob Benge recorded in Summer’s History Southwest Virginia and of Washington Co. and in the author’s Benge!
Benjamin was born in Lancaster County Pennsylvania on January 23, 1763. He was the son of John Sharp, who was born in Scotland about 1720, and who died in Sullivan County Tennessee July 1796. John’s home, where Benjamin was raised, was on the South Fork of Holston River, a few miles above the present dam.
Benjamin acquired excellent social and business contacts by his and his family’s’ marriages. He married Hannah Fulkerson, who was the daughter of James Fulkerson, and the niece of Abraham and sister of Peter Fulkerson. Her mother was Mary Vanhook, whom his father had married when this assortment of families were living in North Carolina. The Fulkersons were Dutch Huguenots, and were part of that group that migrated across America to finally settle in Washington County, Virginia, after having first settled in Elk Garden, Russell County. Other clan names that were in that group of wandering Huguenots were the Dyes and the Vanhooks.
The Fulkersons were high up in the social structure of Washington Co, and Abraham became a Colonel in the Holston Militia, a rank usually reserved for the Scots-Irish. The Fulkersons seemed to serve as intermediaries between the Scots-Irish community and the sizable German one. As a ranking officer in the Holston Militia, Abraham had been a special target of Chief Benge on his last raid in 1794, when Benge sought to attack Abraham’s house near Hiltons, Va.
The Fulkersons were aggressive and prosperous land speculators in Washington, Scott, and Lee Counties, Virginia. Benjamin would profit much from this connection.
Benjamin was also the brother-in-law of one of the several William Kings, whose family is connected with the salt works at Saltville, King College, Kingsport, and Steel Creek in Bristol. They were easily the wealthiest family in the region at that time.
Early records of Benjamin’s activities in the Holston Valley are sketchy. He got a land grant in Elk Garden amongst his wife’s relatives, he got land on Beaver Creek, and moved to the Mendota Community on the North Fork, according to the historian Goodpasture. This made him neighbors with the Livingstons, Benhams, and the Hobbs, all of whom were to be swept up in the infamous last raid of Chief Benge.
Virginia made money in two ways off of its land sales on the frontier. First of all, it issued land warrants which entitled the holder to claim a specified acreage of unpatented land. These warrants were traded for cash on the secondary market. Then, of course, the Virginia Land Office charged a fee for the land itself, after the purchaser had presented a warrant and a survey of his claim. The land could, then, be sold on the secondary market. The Fulkersons were aggressive traders of both Land Warrants and of Land.
About 1790 several families from the Mendota community moved to Turkey Cove (Dryden) in Lee County. Their motives involved land speculation, hunting, and community defensive needs. The Cherokee War had raged in sanguine passion since 1776, and in 1777 the Cherokee had run all the settlers out of Lee County save for the eastern most garrison at Rocky Station. Late in that war the Holston Militia decided to deploy a rapid deployment force of rangers at Yoakum’s Station in Turkey Cove. Among those settlers of the Mendota Community that relocated to Dryden were the brothers Absolum and Vincent Hobbs, Jr, and likely Vincent Hobbs, Sr., John Benham, and Benjamin Sharp, who bought 620 acres as the assignee of his brother-in-law Peter Fulkerson. The land was next to Absolum Hobbs.
This started a process that was oft repeated. He either bought warrants or the land itself from Peter Fulkerson, all through Lee County. The land was spread throughout the county, and often was the less desirable left overs after wealthier speculators had gotten the cream. Before the process was over he had acquired 2,622 acres in Lee County in his own right, and was part owner of 1,083 more. He also bought 273 acres on the North Fork of the Clinch near Duffield in Scott County.
He followed the common pattern of that era, and sold his Lee County holdings so that he could reinvest his profits in land further west, and wound up dying in Warren County, Missouri on January 1, 1844.
His only claim to lasting fame is his commentary on the actions of the Yoakum’s Station Militia in the killing of Chief Bob Benge in Wise County in 1794. That party was composed of his neighbors Absolum and Vincent Hobbs, Jr., and James Huff and others of the Turkey Cove community. His narrative is written with such authority that one could think that he was one of the members of that party whose name James Huff could not remember half a century later, when he told of that event to a Louisville Newspaper.
Sharp’s narrative of the Benge killing is rumored to be somewhere in the same periodical that this letter of his was published in. “The American Pioneer” is on microfilm at Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, the source of this narrative. Perhaps someday someone will be able to locate it. In the meantime, this article will serve to restore the memory of Benjamin Sharp to its rightful place in local history.
special thanks to Dale Carter for his help on this article, and to the
Lonesome Pine Regional Library for its help in procuring a photocopy of
the microfilmed Sharp document.

The Wilderness Trail

On September 9, 2000 Gov. Don Sundquist, state of Tennessee, Congressman Rick Boucher – Virginia, Congressman Bill Jenkins -Tennessee, and Delegate Terry Kilgore – Virginia signed the following proclamation during a ceremony at Netherland Inn in Kingsport;

“Whereas, on March 10, 1775, Daniel Boone led his band of trailblazers from Long Island of the Holston near this spot through 200 miles of wilderness to the Cumberland Gap of Virginia; And Whereas, the trail he established allowed hundreds of thousands of pioneers to settle the American frontier and help build this great nation; And Whereas, the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association, Inc. has undertaken to identify, preserve and promote the Wilderness Trail from it’s origin in Kingsport, TN to the Cumberland Gap of Virginia; Now, Therefore,We, the undersigned, on this 9th day of September, in the year of our Lord, 2000, do hereby rededicate the Wilderness Trail as a catalyst for growth and development in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.”

Long before the first white man came to the Holston, Watauga, Clinch, Powell and Cumberland valleys a network of trails had been developed by the eastern Indians of the North American continent. The Indians called the trail system Athawominee. Settlers translated that term as The Great Warrior’s Path and later applied the term Wilderness Trail. Two of the most important of the trails in the system were the Path from the upper Ohio Valley through Kentucky and the Cumberland Gap into Georgia and the Path from the Northeast Six Nation Confederacy through Virginia and the Holston valley into Tennessee. These two great trails came together at Chota, the major Cherokee town, on the Little Tennessee River. The Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia presented a major barrier to movement from the Ohio Valley in the west to the Hudson Valley in the East. However, in the south, the Indians, following the buffalo, had discovered three great gaps in the Appalachians and the trail that joined them. The Cumberland Gap lay on the western leg of The Great Warrior’s Path and Moccasin Gap, the only water level gap, lay near to The Great Warrior’s Path in the East. In between was Kane Gap in Powell Mountain. These three gaps in the Appalachian Mountains defined the most direct route from the Ohio Valley to the Holston and Watauga Valleys. Thus the trail from Cumberland Gap across Southwest Virginia through Kane Gap and Moccasin Gap became a primary route of The Great Warrior’s Path leading to the Holston and Watauga valleys.

Gabriel Arthur, young indentured servant, was the first white man of record to travel through Cumberland Gap. Arthur was sent along the trail in 1674 by the Shawnee Indians to secure a trade agreement with settlers.

In the early 1750’s Dr. Thomas Walker led a scouting expedition into the area and although he eventually passed through Cumberland Gap (he gave the gap the name Cumberland in honor of the Duke of Cumberland) he failed to recognize the trail connecting the Cumberland Gap and the Holston Valley. Further exploration of the area was sharply curtailed because the wars with the Indians and the French kept the frontier closed. Relative peace came in 1761 with pacification of the Cherokee following the bloody uprising during which Fort Loudoun was taken and it’s occupants massacred. That same year long hunter Elisha Wallen led a group of hunters into Southwest Virginia and they roamed the area for eighteen months. Wallen’s group crisscrossed the Indian trail in Southwest Virginia several times and named various streams and ridges for members of the party – Wallen’s Ridge, Wallen’s Creek, Newman’s Ridge. They also probably changed “Beargrass River” to “Powell River”, the former name given by the Dr. Thomas Walker expedition in 1751.

News of Wallen’s adventure spread and other wandering long hunters followed. In 1767 Daniel Boone came from the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina and got as far as the Big Sandy River before turning back. In 1769 John Finley, with whom Boone had served in Braddock’s army during the French & Indian War, visited Boone’s home and told Boone of “a big gap in the mountains that the Indians use”. Boone was familiar with the trail in Southwest Virginia and thus knew the route to take to get through Moccasin Gap, Kane Gap and on to “the Big Gap”. In March of that year Boone, Finley and four others made their way along the Wilderness Trail to Kentucky. Just before reaching Cumberland Gap, much to their surprise, Boone’s party came upon a group of 20 men busily building a settlement, in what is now western Lee County, Virginia, under the direction of Joseph Martin. Moving on, Boone spent two years hunting and trapping in eastern Kentucky. When he returned home in March 1771 Boone probably knew more about eastern Kentucky than any other white man and he knew the most direct route to get there from the Holston Valley.

In February 1775 Col. Richard Henderson of North Carolina arrived at Sycamore Shoals, the ancient treaty grounds of the Cherokee. On behalf of the Transylvania Company, a group of land speculators, he purchased 20,000,000 acres from the Cherokee tribes for a price of 10,000 pounds worth of trade goods. (The purchase was later nullified by Virginia’s Governor.) The purchase included most of Eastern Kentucky and a portion of Middle Tennessee. In order to settle the land and sell land parcels there needed to be a clearly marked trail so travelers would not get hopelessly lost in the wilderness. For this task Henderson hired Daniel Boone. Boone was to select the most direct route from existing trails and “blaze” that trail from the Holston Valley to the Kentucky River. Boone chose to follow The Great Warrior’s Path from the Holston Valley through Southwest Virginia to Cumberland Gap.

Boone assembled 30 axemen at the John Anderson Blockhouse which was located on The Great Warrior’s Path about 4 miles north of Fort Patrick Henry. On March 19, 1775 Boone led his party toward Moccasin Gap to follow The Great Warrior’s Path to the Cumberland Gap and Kentucky. Crossing the north fork of the Holston River near the Anderson Blockhouse he followed Little Moccasin Creek through Moccasin Gap. Boone’s party crossed a low divide to Troublesome creek and followed it due west. Just before reaching the Clinch the trail turned south and away from the narrow valley of Troublesome Creek. Crossing the Clinch River at a point where Speer’s Ferry was later established Boone followed the Clinch to a ford on Stock Creek. The group followed Stock Creek past Natural Tunnel, across Horton’s Summit and into the Little Flat Lick valley (Duffield). From here the Boone party crossed over Powell Mountain through Kane Gap and down to Wallen’s creek. They followed Wallen’s Creek valley past present Stickleyville and moved on toward Powell River. After crossing Powell River the group passed through Glade Spring, present Jonesville, and on deeper into Powell Valley. About 20 miles before reaching the Cumberland Gap Boone once again encountered Capt. Joseph Martin who was rebuilding the settlement, near present Rose Hill, he had been forced to abandon in 1769. From this point on to Boone’s selected settlement site on the Kentucky River the going would be easier for they were now on a more frequently used portion of the Warrior’s Path.

The Boone party did not record the exact location of the trail as they blazed it. We are forced to rely on later documentation to define the location of the route. The route outlined above is the oldest version of the trail that can be documented after Boone blazed it.

In 1784 John Filson’s The Discovery and Present State of Kentucke was published. Part IV of the book’s appendix listed the stages and distances on the ROAD from Philadelpia to the Falls of the Ohio by land. Distances along the Wilderness Trail portion of the ROAD in Southwest Virginia are given as follows: Blockhouse to Powell Mountain – 33; to Wallen’s Ridge – 3; to Valley Station – 4; to Martin’s cabins – 25; to Cumberland Mountain – 20.

British attempts to use the Shawnee as allies during the Revolutionary War did little to deter the flow of pioneers moving along Boone’s Wilderness Trail to Kentucky and by the end of the war over 10,000 had passed through. Kentucky was admitted to the Union in 1792 and by then more than 100,000 persons had used the Wilderness Trail to gain access to the Bluegrass. Traffic steadily increased and by 1810 as many as 300,000 hardy pioneers had passed through Moccasin, Kane and Cumberland Gaps. As the population in Kentucky grew so did the eastern movement of farm production along the Trail headed from Kentucky homesteads back to seaboard markets. By 1840 the use of the Trail had fallen into decline. Engineering technology had brought forth improvements in waterway travel such as the Erie Canal and the great riverboats that made the Ohio Valley more accessible, but the Trail had opened the West.

Today the network of trails used by early eastern Indians is a major eastern transportation network. Interstate 81 follows the eastern leg of The Great Warrior’s Path. Interstate 75 and US 25E follow the western leg of The Great Warrior’s Path. US 58, laid down on top of the Wilderness Trail portion of The Great Warrior’s Path from Moccasin Gap across Powell Mountain near Kane Gap to Cumberland Gap, is a major thoroughfare between the I-81 corridor and the I-75 corridor. In 1995 a twin bore tunnel was completed under the Cumberland Gap to handle the flow of traffic. A major highway interchange is planned for Moccasin Gap to handle the high traffic volume there. The Great Warrior’s Path – Wilderness Trail continues to play a vital role in the ongoing saga of the Appalachian Mountains and Southwest Virginia.

The Economic Engines That Fueled The Far Southwest Virginia Frontier

By: Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr. & Edgar A. Howard

copyright- all rights reserved
Big Stone Gap, Va.
Dec. 1999

No society exists independent of its economic structure, and the economy of the frontier of far Southwest Virginia and adjacent parts of Kentucky and Tennessee has not been extensively studied. The frontier period was surprisingly short. A trickle of settlers began to take up land patents in Washington County and Scott County, Virginia in the mid 1760’s, and the settlement of the larger region of far Southwest Virginia was in full swing by a decade later. Land purchases by outsiders immigrating from the East had almost stopped by 1800, as by then the frontier had moved on to the West. Most of the land exchanges in these counties began to be between the original settlers and their children and their neighbor’s children. The last Indian raid into Virginia was the April 1794 Livingston raid by Chief Benge of the Chickamauga Cherokee. That year Col. James King started his iron works at the mouth of Steele Creek in Bristol. He shipped iron products “throughout the South” by boat from Kingsport, and paid his teamsters in cash. In 1803 James King, brother of William, started the Saltworks in Saltville. It was an industrial operation, with exports throughout the South, and with its commerce being conducted across a toll road running between Abingdon and Saltville, with tolls payable in cash only.

So the frontier period of this region ran roughly from 1765 to 1794, or 1800 at the latest. What was the economic structure that supported this frontier society, and how did it evolve so rapidly into a cash based farming and industrial one?

Even though original land patents and grants averaged around 150 acres, a number of the settlers were able to amass considerable estates consisting of thousands of acres of land, and of slaves. Neither were cheap. Land sold for an average of $3.00 – $5.00 an acre. Estates of 2,000 – 3,000 acres were not rare. Slaves cost $300 – $500 each, and even though most settlers did not own any, the large estates might average about a half dozen or so. Therefore, some settlers were able to amass estates worth about $14,000 in land and in slaves alone. (3,000 acres of land X $4.00 = $12,000 plus 6 slaves @ $400 = $2,400.)

In order to give some means of reference to understand the magnitude of this wealth in terms of that era, consider the value of the following items, taken from estate appraisals of that time and place:

wagon $65.00
woman saddle and gear 7.00
cow 7.00
horse 50.00
rifle gun 5.00
maple sugar per pound .10
hog 1.00
sheep 1.00

The life story of the typical settler was that he had arrived in North America either near penniless or in significant debt. After working out their indebtedness, they frequently hired on as farm hands in the East, where half a generation might pass before they had acquired enough cash to buy a land warrant from the government, to buy a little farming gear, and to support themselves and their family until they could make a home on their new land on the frontier. Once this was done, few had any extra cash left over.

The commonly held view of the frontier is that it was a cashless society, economically disconnected from the East, functioning on a barter economy based on an industry of hunting and gathering, and of marginal agriculture. If this were true, where did the cash come from to pay for the rapid build up of those wealthy estates, events that occurred with startlingly little passage of time?

Another question to be answered is why was it so common for some settlers to choose forested hilly or mountainous land for themselves, rather than the already cleared Indian fields in the river bottoms? Some of the first settlers did so, even when rich bottom land lay close at hand. Examples are the drainages of Cove Creek and of Smith Creek in Washington and Scott Counties, which were acquired early on by both settlers and by local land speculators. And then there is the widely held tradition that the settlers came looking for good land to grow tobacco. What evidence is there that tobacco was a significant factor in the local pioneer economy?

The local economy generated no cash within itself. All cash had to come from the East. The original settlers arrived with little disposable cash left over after they had established their homes on the frontier. So, by what means did they bring in all that cash from the East? Certainly, in the beginning, additional settlers from the East brought in cash with them, which they exchanged with the earlier settlers for land. But, as we have seen, this process had ended by approximately the year 1800, as settlement moved on to the West as the frontier rolled on. Where did the prospering large estate builders and the children of the original settlers get the cash to buy their land after the infusion of money brought in by the late arrivals dried up? It could have only come from the production and export and sale to the East of some transportable commodity which was in demand in the East, and which could be transported the four hundred miles or so to the cities and ports there. Could the forested hilly, mountainous, land so often sought by the original settlers have been part of the answer?

The hills of Far Southwest Virginia contained no valuable minerals, except for coal, which was not yet in commercial demand, and was too bulky to transport in the pioneer period. The hill crests were covered with a chestnut dominant hard wood forest. The lumber was too bulky to transport, and too common in the east to have been valuable. Whisky and tobacco are sometimes mentioned as export commodities by those few people who believe that the frontier had any economy other than one of local barter. But even whisky was bulky and wooden barrels difficult to transport on a trip that took a season to complete. Tobacco was even more bulky, and required weather proof transport in giant wooden hogsheads over impassable muddy roads. Tobacco’s value was waning by this time, and even the giant plantations of the Tidewater estuaries, such as Mount Vernon, were abandoning it in favor of bulk grains. What evidence is there of significant whisky or of tobacco exporting?

Perhaps the ethnic history of the settlers might contain some clue. Most of the English stayed east of the Blue Ridge. The settlers of Far Southwest Virginia were mostly from either Scotland, Ireland, or Germany.

The Scots-Irish are known for their habit of making whisky. But they had also been sheep herders in the old country. Long distance cattle and sheep drives had been a cultural hallmark for them, as well. Could the production and export of either live sheep, or of mutton, or of wool have been the answer to the economic riddle? The Virginia and Kentucky frontier is the wettest region of the contiguous United States, except for the coast of Washington and Oregon States. Sheep get a disease called ‘foot rot’ when they are raised in wet regions, and they also tolerate the summer’s heat in this region poorly. Sheep also need lots of grassy pasture to live on, and in the early years there was not much of that around. Tax records and estate appraisals of that era show that, while many settlers had some sheep, most did not keep more than they needed themselves for wool. In fact, the rapidity with which the Scots-Irish dropped their traditional sheep herding ways once they arrived in this country is startling.

The Germans, on the other hand, had lived in Europe on an economy based on raising hogs by letting them run loose in the woods, where they ate the wild nuts – primarily acorns. German cuisine was pork based. Is there any evidence that the commodity that generated the cash that supported the frontier economy was pork?

A History of Kentucky by Thomas D. Clark provides the first key. He states “By 1812 Kentuckians were driving 800,000 hogs a year eastward along the trails across the mountains.” The economy of Eastern Kentucky was similar to that of neighboring Southwest Virginia twenty years earlier.

The key to this economy was the American Chestnut. In the fall the forest floor was covered with these highly nutritious nuts. The settlers let their hogs, which were similar to today’s razor backs, run free in the forests, where they fattened on chestnuts. After having been branded by a system of notches and slashes carved into their ears (for example “a notch on top of the left ear, a slash on its bottom; two slashes on the top of the right ear, and a slash on its bottom”) which identified their owners, they were turned loose and reverted to the wild. Later they were hunted with dogs like wild animals, before being driven on foot to the markets on the East Coast. The drovers passed through Southwest Virginia, and would have picked up additional swine as they went. The hogs not only transported themselves to market, but ate off of the land while on the way. In the East they were shipped to the Caribbean, or to New England, or were converted to salt pork for the shipping chandler’s trade. Thus the Old World life style of the Scots-Irish continued on the frontier, but they abandoned the large scale sheep raising and driving in favor of their German neighbor’s hog.

This practice, without the hog drives to the East, continued till living memory, when the chestnut blight of the late 1920’s destroyed the American Chestnut and the economies and food chains based on it.

What evidences do we have that the counties of Far Southwestern Virginia that were near to Kentucky also practiced hog exporting? In The Civil War in Buchanan and Wise Counties; Bushwhacker’s Paradise, the author tabulates the stock owned in these counties. The county furtherest removed by the droving routes to the eastern markets, Buchanan, had 3,882 hogs, or 13.7 per farm. Wise County, located closer to, but not on, the droving routes, had 10,847 hogs, or 20.8 per farm. (These numbers are for the year 1860). As a comparison the comparable populations of sheep were 6.2 & 8.2 per farm; and the same figures for cows were 8.7 & 7.9 respectively.

These numbers represent well over one hog per person (including children) per year, an obvious excess. This excess had no local market, as everyone had their own hogs reproducing and fattening for free in the woods. The only possible destination for this documented excess was the Eastern Market.

The comparable figures for Scott and Washington Counties have not been tabulated, but we do know that among the most prominent land acquirers, and those who had bought much of the non tillable hilly land (think chestnuts), large scale hog ownership was extraordinarily common.

Consider the case of settler M. F., who started off owning nothing, but died having owned much of the Valley of the North Fork of the Holston from Pine Grove to Mongle Springs, a distance of about fifteen miles. Records have been found showing that at least 3,849 acres passed through his hands, and that he retained ownership of 1,807 acres at the time of his death. Further analysis shows that he acquired this estate at a net cash cost of about one fourth the going rate, the other three fourths of the cost having been his profit in his land speculation. He had to come up with the one dollar per acre that he did not make in land speculation from somewhere else. The answer to this question is in the analysis of his taxable assets. One year’s records show that he owned 180 hogs, while his household did not exceed about a dozen people. He owned no tobacco or evidence of distilling.

Settler H. R., of Washington County, lived a little after the pioneer period, but his estate in 1860 showed that he owned 2440 acres, and 100 beef cattle, 60 sheep, 68 swine, and 70 lb. of maple sugar, but no tobacco.

The back counties of Buchanan and Dickenson showed little difference in economic activity. To be sure, the farms were not of the large estate size sometimes seen in Washington and Scott Counties, but the ratio of stock owned was about the same. Settler J. M. owned 46 hogs and 31 cattle. Farmer A. V. owned 6 cows, but had 65 sheep and 50 swine and no tobacco nor evidence of distilling. Other farmers in these counties showed similar patterns. None owned over 50 pounds of tobacco, with those few who did own any usually having about 20 pounds.

The 70 pounds of maple sugar owned by H. R. is of obvious significance. That much maple sugar was a great deal more than he and his family needed for a condiment for their own table, or for the curing of hams for their own use, and would suggest a commercial venture. Table sugar, as we know it today, would not become readily available for another half a century. Making maple sugar required a tremendous effort. A gallon of sap will make only about a tablespoon or two of sugar, and the labor to saw and split the firewood necessary to convert the sap to sugar was awesome. Maple sugar is not to be found in the estate records of most of the pioneers, but a large minority made significant quantities. By in large, these maple sugar producers owned slaves. So, here we have evidence of commodity specialization on an industrial scale. Doubtlessly, some was sold or bartered locally, but was maple sugar the export commodity that we are looking for?

A review of the estate appraisal of N. F., M. F’s brother, and who settled in Washington County in 1773, gives further insight into these issues. He, also, had immigrated in near poverty, but had amassed around 900 acres by the time of his death. He did not engage in land speculation. Where did he get the money to buy this land? He owned no tobacco, only 14 cattle, 26 sheep, and 39 hogs. He had a household of about 15 people. What he did own was 93 pounds of maple sugar!

We also find a wealthy neighbor of his, C. C., who owned about 2,000 acres of very good land, being in the large scale production of maple sugar at “Sugar Hollow” in lower Rich Valley.

The key to the maple sugar issue is a review of the other items in N. F.’s estate. He owned twenty three still tubs, 26 crocks with strainers, an apple press, and a still (the researchers have found only two stills documented among the estates of his neighbors). Not listed were his orchards of peaches and of apples, and he also had 54.5 bushels of rye. This is the only rye the researchers have found documented.

N. F. was a commercial distiller of apple and of peach brandy; and of rye whisky. The maple sugar was used in this process. The ardent spirits were put into large hogsheads, and were sledded to Lynchburg, where they were loaded on board a boat for export. Brandy making was a German cultural trait, while rye whisky is the hallmark of the Scots-Irish.

So, here, we have evidences of the Frontier economy. As far away as Eastern Kentucky, and certainly including Far Southwest Virginia, the economies from almost the beginning were not isolated, and were tied in with the East. The counties of Washington and of Scott had some large estates, while the back counties had only small farms. Doubtlessly much local bartering went on, but there was a large cash commerce with the East, and there is evidence of differences of emphasis within the region, and of specialization of production bordering on the industrial level in Washington County.

Most of the farmers through out the area were engaged in significant hog production for export. Others, primarily in Russell and Dickenson Counties, did raise some excess sheep, even though there hogs were the main commodity produced. There was little tobacco raised, and none in quantities sufficient for export. Distilling was not wide spread, and no evidence of corn whisky production on a commercial scale is found. Two large commercial enterprises of brandy manufacture with a little rye whisky also, are documented, and a major part of that industry was the related production of maple sugar on a comparatively large scale. Traditionally these large distilling enterprises were licensed with the Federal Government, but in some instances they also hid a larger local illegal moonshining operation.

In summary, the frontier economy of Far Southwest Virginia and adjacent areas of Tennessee and of Kentucky was not in complete isolation from the East. While land speculation was a significant endeavor for a few, commodity export to the East for cash, mostly of hogs, was nearly ubiquitous, and had existed almost from the beginning. Specialization of production of commodities developed early on, and led seamlessly into industrial production, beginning even as Indians were still raiding the region. Large estates and small fortunes rapidly developed from the beginning. There was cultural borrowing from among neighbors of different ethnic origins. This view of the local frontier economy is much different from the conventional ideas so firmly believed. The frontier was not cashless, tobacco and bourbon whisky were not significant items of export, and large scale specialized commercial manufacture of maple sugar involving the use of slaves was common. One even sees evidence that there was more cash on the frontier than there was in the same region in the period of devastation following the Civil War more than half a century later.


Armentrout, Janet – communication to the authors

Clark, Brad – conversation with one of the authors

Clark, Thomas D. – A History of Kentucky

Fischer, David H. – Albion’s Seed

Hearl, G. Lee – communication to one of the authors

“National Geographic” – vol. 196, no. 6 pg. 126

O’Donnell, Mabel – Singing Wheels

Robertson, Rhonda – The Washington County Surveyor’s Record 1781-1792 –
tract analysis extracted by the authors

Rolston, Fielding – communication with one of the authors

“Smithsonian” – January 2000 issue’s article on George Washington

Summers, Lewis Preston – History of Southwest Virginia and of Washington

Washington Co. Historical Society’s on line records of wills, estate
appraisals etc.

Weaver, Jeffrey – The Civil War in Buchanan and Wise Counties –
Bushwhacker’s Paradise