Henry Hamilton’s Journal

Henry Hamilton’s Journal
Hamilton’s Journal is taken from Henry Hamilton and George Rogers
Clark in the American Revolution with The Unpublished Journal of
Lieut. Gov. Henry Hamilton, edited by John D. Barnhart and published
by R. E. Banta, Crawfordsville, Indiana, 1951.
Clark Recaptures Vincennes, February 22, to March 5, 1779
A Prisoner of War, March 8 to June 16, 1779.

8tn. The Oak Boat in which we had brought a Brass six with ammunition
&c. was allotted to us, we had rowed her with 14 Oars, but they
concluded such stout fellows as we, could row her against the current
of the Ohio with 7– so at length on the 8th March we took leave of
our poor fellow Soldiers who had tears in their eyes some of the
wounded got to the water side to bid us farewell, and Colonel Clarke
who generosity should not pass unnoticed when he had seen our Pork and
flour embarked, and we were ready to push off asked us aloud if we
wanted anything– We fell down the stream and encamped three leagues
below white River, the current very swift–
9th. continued our route & encamped at l’hyvernement de Bonepart, at
this place the little attention of our guard was such as to give some
among us an idea of seizing their arms in the night and getting down
to the Natchez, but we were checked by thinking what would be the fate
of those we left behind–
10th. As we approached the Ohio we conceived that river to be
amazingly raised as the waters of the Ouabache were backed for at
least three miles before we reached the mouth– At half past three in
the afternoon we got into the Ohio, & rowed up the stream 9 miles– By
the driftwood lodged in the trees we perceived the waters had been 12
feet higher than at present, tho’ now 18 feet above the steep banks of
Ohio–There was no sight of land, and as far as the sight could extend
a violent current swept thro’ the wood, so night coming on we made our
boat fast to a tree, and lay as well as we could contrive which was
not very conveniently as it rained most part of the night, and our
Tarpaulin was rather scanty– our bodies were miserably cramped being
so crowded, & one of our party in a blankett tyed in form of a
harmmaque one end to a bough of a tree, the other to the boats mast–
11, 12, 13th. rowed up against stream & encamped, tho ill at our ease
everything being wet and the ground little better than a swamp
14th we set off and not having got terre firma we lay again in our
boat a little above green river– (258)
15th. fair wind, got about 30 miles against stream & encamped
16th The current exceeding strong, we worked hard & could make but 9
miles all day–encamped–
17th Our work had made us so keen, & the weather being still very cold
it will not appear surprizing that this day our provision was entirely
expended– Our Guardians sent out some hunters to procure us Buffaloe,
in which they succeeded–
18, 19, 20th. nothing remarkable happend– we were a good deal impeded
by the large rafts of driftwood, brought down by this extraordinary
flood which was occasiond by a general thaw of the Snow in the upper
country accompanyed with a heavy rain– We are told that the banks of
the Ohio are subject to inundations from its conflux with the
Mississipi to the distance of 300 miles upwards, so that the settling
of tnat country is not likely to take place in many centuries–
21st. Rain– 22d. no. ex– (259) 23d Snow, lay by– 24th. passed the
25th. contrary wind we could advance but 7 miles– 26th. nothing
27th. I landed with Major Hay and Mr. Bellefeuille on the east side of
the river to get a view of the ravages occasioned by a Whirlwind or
Hurricane– We had some difficuty in scrambling to the top of the
cliff, great craggs and large trees tumbled together in confusion
obliging us sometimes to creep and sometirnes to climb– when we got
to the top we saw the progress of this vein of wind which was in a
straight line across the River, and thro the wood which was mowed down
at about 20 or 25 feet from the ground, the vista open’d being as
regular as if laid down by a line–
28th. rain–
29th. Captain Harrod the officer commanding the fort and settlement at
the falls came down in a boat of 18 oars, shortly after which we
encamped a little above salt River– (260)
30th. We proceeded with our new guide to the falls– the River at the
falls may be about 800 yards across and divided in the middle by an
Island on which there had been a fort, which was at that time deserted
from the uncommon rise of the waters, which the people here told us
had been above 40 feet higher than the usual level–
We were put into a log house, and received the compliments of the
people on our arrival, expressed by discharging their pieces almost
all day long, this joy of theirs at our capture made us recollect what
C.C. (261) had told us, that we should run the risq. of our lives in
passing the Frontier–
31st. We procured some bread for our ensuing march, for the baking of
which I was obliged to give the lady baker my quilt– as to provision,
our hunters were to find it on the route if they could–
Two horses were all that we could get to hire so we prepared to set
off the next day, not in the best humor imaginable–
The people here had not got intelligence of our having taken Fort
Sackville, till the day before we were brought Prisoners to the falls,
so well had the Indian parties scoured the country–
April 1st. We set off from the falls about 11 a m. without a single
days provision furnished by our captors, two horses were with
difficulty procured for hire, so that we were obliged to carry our
packs, which indeed were not very heavy, A Bearskin and blankett being
the common burthen, I the Chief, had a small portmanteau and a box of
folio size (that is this folio) in which I carried a few papers–
Those of any moment (thinking I might be searched unexpectedly) I had
kept copies of, and carried in an inner pockett of my waistcoat– we
got some bread baked & purchased a small quantity of Indian corn of
the settlers at the falls–
set off about 11 o’Clock a m. marched 10 miles–
2d. 12 miles– 3d. 15 miles rain– a hilly road– 4th. hilly road rain
20 miles.
5th. Had a very fatiguing march, our guides lost themselves and misled
us. One of our hunters killed a she bear about 3 years old, very fat,
which was a great resource as we had not a morse1 of flesh among us
all at setting out– This Creature must have just quitted her winter
habitation for tho so fat, she had nothing in her Stomach, or
intestines– We got 30 miles this day–
6th. We fell into the path of the Shawanese warriors, which they use
to go against the Cherokees– The country pleasant, the verdure very
luxuriant, passed some log houses which appeard to have been lately
deserted, the enclosures being in good repair– A great relief to us
was the frequency of plentiful springs of fine water breaking through a
limestone– Two horses were sent from Harrodsburgh to assist in
carrying the baggage– We reached that place about dusk having marched
25 miles– It is called a fort and consists of about 20 houses,
forming an irregular square with a very copious spring within its
enclosure– (262)
At the time of our arrival, they were in hourly apprehension of attacks
from the Savages, and no doubt these poor inhabitants are worthy of
Their cattle were brought into the fort every night Horses as well as
Cows– They dared not go for firewood or to plow without their arms,
yet in spight of this state of constant alarm a considerable quantity
of land had been cleared, and as their numbers are increasing fast,
they will soon set the Savages at defiance, being good marksmen and
well practiced in the Woods– A Water mill had been built on a branch
of Salt river which runs by the fort, but the frequent inroads of the
Indians had rendered it useless, and they subsisted by the use of 2
On my taking a survey of this place, I recollected perfectly the plan,
of it given me by a Savage who had been there with a party and had
been on the point of being taken by a well laid plan of the Officer at
this post who knowing where the Savages were, sent out two or three
men with Scythes as if to mow, who drew the attention of the Savages,
while a Party sent by a circuit into their rear through the woods,
unexpectedly fired on them killed some on the Spot & put the rest to
shifting for themselves–
Our diet here was indian corn and milk for breakfast & supper, Indian
bread and Bears flesh for dinner, yet we were healthy & strong
We were delayed here much against our will thinking we held our lives
by a very precarious tenure, for the people on our first coming looked
upon us as little better than savages, which was very excusable
considering how we had been represented, and besides that they had
suffered very severely from the inroads of those people– One Man in
particular had last year lost his son, and had had four score of his
horses & mares carried off, yet this man was reconciled upon hearing a
true state of facts, and Colonel Bowman acted as a person above
prejudice, by rendering us every service in his power–
11th. William Moyres, Colonel Clarke’s messenger with letters to the
Govr. of Virginia, was killed on the road from the falls to this place
the letters and prisoners as we supposed carried off to Detroit–
17th. Col. Bowman having sent to Logan’s fort for horses, they
arrived this day. He was so obliging as to let me have one of his own–
19th. We set out for Logan’s fort 20 miles distant, where we arrived
at 7 p m. tis an oblong square formed by the houses making a double
street, at the angles were stockaded bastions– the situation is
romantic, among wooded hills, a stream of fine water passes at the
foot of these hills which turns a small grist mill– They had been
frequently alarmed & harrassed by the Indians, Captain Logan the
person commanding here had had his arm broken by a buckshot in a
skirmish with them, & was not yet recoverd– the people here were not
exceedingly well disposed to us, & we were accosted by the females
especially in pretty coarse terms– but the Captain and his wife, who
had a brother carryed off by the Indians were very civil and
hospitable– (265)
20th. We marched to Whitley’s fort 7 miles distant where we made a
halt and where a small ox was purchased for our subsistence, which
with 3 bags of Indian corn, one of Indian meal and some dryed meat was
to serve 50 of us for 14 days, in which time we expected to reach some
habitations– (266)
This little post is often visited and much infested by the Savages–
21st. Set forward on an Indian path, & forded Craggs creek forty
times– (267) the difficulty of marching thro’ such a country as this
is not readily imagined by a European– The Canes grow very close
together to the heighth of 25 feet and from the thickness of a quill
to that of ones wrist, as they are very strong and supple the rider
must be constantly on the watch to guard his face from them as they
fly back with great force, the leaves and the young shoots are a
fodder horses are exceedingly fond of and are eternally turning to the
right & left to take a bite– The soil where they grow is rich and
deep, so you plod thro in a narrow track like a Cowpath, while ehe
musketoes are not idle– the steep ascents & descents with rugged
stony ways varied with Swamps and clayey grounds completely jaded
horses and riders– we began to cross the blue Mountains this day–
22d. Very bad swampy road or way rather– at 10 am. passed a small
river called rock Castle branch which falls into Cumberland river–
(268) The scene is very beautiful! the trees being in high beauty, the
water bright, the weather clear, so that tho in no pleasant
circumstances otherways I could not but enjoy this romantic prospect
of which I took a hasty sketch while our poor fatigued packhorses were
towed thro’ the rapid stream by their wearyed hungry leaders– we
encamped about 7 p.m. when we were joined by a Colonel Callaway (269)
who took upon him the charge of the prisoners and their escort
hitherto commanded by Captn’ Harrod– The Colol. made new
arrangements, new dispositions, talked of Grand division manoevres,
and made a great display of military abilities, posting a number of
sentries, & fatiguing our poor Devils of frontiers [men] who would
willingly have trusted their prisoners in this desert, not one of whom
could have made use of his liberty, without Guides, provision and
shoes being found them– It rained all night, which did not set our
disciplinarian in a favorable light–
23d. St. Georges– We were very hearty in our wishes for the honor and
success of the Patrons countrymen, and tho the water was very good,
did not exceed the bounds of moderation in our potations–
The road was exceedingly difficult, lying over very steep hills which
from last nights rain were so slippery, our wretched cattle had much
ado to scramble up and slide down–
24th. forded stinking creek, and some others– at 4 p.m. passed the
great War path of the Shawanese, (270) which at this place crosses a
remarkable Buffaloe salt lick– several of the trees here bear the
marks of the exploits of the Savages, who have certain figures and
Characters by which thq can express their numbers, their route, what
prisoners they have made, how many killed &ca—- they commonly raise
the bark & with their Tomahawks & knives carve first and then with
vermillion color their design–
25 Forded Cumberland or Shawanese river, which is about 200 yards
26th. passed Cumberland Mountain, enterd Powel’s valley– (271)
Provision being expended we killed a Cow from a herd probably left
here by some Sellers, who were probably intercepted on their March, &
killed by the Indian—-
27th. Came to a very pretty halting place called the Spring cave,
otherways rocky bridge a curious romantic work of Nature–
A very copious Stream of fine water breaks out of the Ground in a
beauty full valley well cloathed with clover, skirted with rising
grounds ornamented with variety of timber trees, evergreens & Shrubs–
at about 150 yards from its source it passes under a rocky ledge which
serves for a bridge being about 60 feet wide at top and coverd with
trees– The road passes over the natural Bridge, which is hollowed
into several arched cavities, some of a considerable dimension. This
pretty stream and cheerfull scene would have engaged me a considerable
time but I had no allowance and just took two slight sketches on
In the Evening we arrived fatigued & wet thro’, and encamped near
Chrisman Creek– it pourd rain so hard that we could scarce make a
fire– I went to see the cave from which the Creek (as ’tis improperly
called) issues, it is arched over naturally and the coving is really
very smooth and even, a tall man may stand upright in it and walk
about 70 yards, a breach in the top letting in light sufficient, I
thought it singular enough to take a view of it– (272)
28th. Our horses straggled to a great distance among tbe canes, and
tho they were hoppled, and had Bells, we could not collect them before
12 o’Clock– crossed Powell’s Mountain– (273) halted at Scots
29th. Crossed the north bran.ch of Clinch river, forded stock creek 6
times, forded Clinch river with great difficulty, some of the men were
near being drownd, it fell sleet and hail with an exceeding sharp
wind– a very small canoe took over some of us, after making a fire &
getting well warmed we proceeded on our march thro’ cane brakes, the
ways crooked steep & miry– I felt the gout flying about me and as it
would have been dreadfull to have him fix while in such a country, I
dismounted & walked the whole day in Moccassins which dissipated the
humor and enabled me to keep up–
30th. Forded Moccassin and leather creeks several times also the north
branch of Holston river, (274) which being very rapid, I did not chose
to trust my horse and rather than attempt it had a raft made & was
ferryed over by two who could swim the raft being only large enough
for one–
May 1st. Pass Mocassin gap, a pass thro’ the Mountains, which afford
some very bold and magnificent viewss– a little fort called Andross,
built in 1753 but now in ruins is situated on the left hand as you
come out of the Mountain near which we fell into a Waggon road, &
shortly after were accosted by Mr: Maddison, A Gentleman of a liberal
way of thinking, who received us with genuine hospitality and gave us
such a wellcome as we could not have expected from one whose life and
property were in continual danger from the Indians who had made
inroads much farther into the country than his habitation–
The sight of a pretty cultivated farm, well cropped, with a large
garden orchard, & convenient buildings, set off by the lofty & rugged
Mountains we had just passed, formed a pleasing contrast to our late
situation– the cheerfull conversation of a very agreeable old man,
with a plentyfull meal, (what we had long been strangers to) rest
after our fatigues, and a very clean bed to conclude were real
luxuries, to people who had not lain in sheets for 7 months–
2d– Our kind host accompanyed us to General Lewis’s, where Major Hay
and I were accommodated with beds– we had stoppd at Major McBeans–
3d. We lay at a Major Bletsoe’s farm, where we were told the country
people had designed to assemble & knock us on the head– (275) Tho we
considered this as only meant to prevent our having any conversation
with them, we thought it adviseable to stay within– we breakfasted at
Colonel Shelby’s plantation, where we were very frankly entertained–
The Farm in extraordinary good order and condition, we were shown a
black Stallion one of the first creatures of his sort I ever saw– at
night we slept at a Captain Thompsons, where riches could not keep
penury out of doors. we did not get our dinner till eleven at night,
and this made us see economy in no faverable light–
4th. Arrived at Washington court house–
5th. & 6th. Halted at Colonel Arthur Campbell’s where we repaired
ourselves with sleep– Our Host was very civil to us, but from the
difficulty of procuring Provisions in this part of the Country, some
of the prisoners who were pressed with hunger and fatigue broke out
into very injurious language, and even threatned to be revenged at a
future day for the little attention payd to their necessities– //
some time after my arrival in Virginia, I received a letter from C.C
in which he lamented my having engaged in the Indian war, & mentioned
his father having been in my grandfathers family as Steward, and
having saved my father from drowning in the Boyne at the age of 13
7th Set out from Colonel Campbells where Mr: Dejean stayed, and lay at
the plantation of Mr: Sayer–
8th. Passed Rail’s fort, where the poor people saw us with some
horror, as being of kindred manners with the Savages– A remarkable
sized Stallion– forded Peeks creek and some others, and in the
Evening crossed over in a ferry the new river or great Canhawa, and
were kindly and hospitably received at the house of Colonel Ingles–
here we rested for an entire day– a beautyfull Girl his daughter sat
at the head of the table, and did the honors with such an easy and
graceful! simplicity as quite charmed us– the Scenery about this
house was romantic to a degree the river very beautyfull, the hills
well wooded, the low grounds well improved & well stocked, I thought
his tecum toto consumerer &ca– Mrs: Ingles had in her early years
been carryed off with another young Woman by the Savages, and tho
carryed away into the Shawanes country had made her escape with her
female friend, & wonderful to relate tho exposed to unspeakable
hardships, & having nothing to subsist on but wild fruits, found her
way back in safety, from a distance (if I remember right) of 200
miles– however terror and distress had left so deep an impression on
her mind that she appeard absorbed in a deep melancholy, and left the
management of household concerns, & the reception of Strangers to her
lovely daughter.
10th. We entered into Botetourt County
11th. Crossed the Roanoak seven times.
12th. reached Mr: Howard’s, where notwithstanding the wretched estate
of the Country the Mistress of the family in the absence of her
husband showed all the dispositions imaginable to make her house
agreeable to us–
13th. forded great Otter Creek– crossed otter creek six times, and
Otter river once– The Peeks of Otter make their appearance in various
points of view, and terminated many of our prospects very agreably–
(276) A Gruff Landlord–
14th. Arrived at Bedford in the County of the same name– a tolerably
well built but now nearly a deserted Village, the situation well
chosen and healthy– We halted here the 15th but could scarcely keep
our selves warm within doors, so ranged about to keep ourselves warm–
to get a plentyfull meal was now a rarity, and what we were not to
expect– Heard a coarse German girl play on an instrument of one
string, which she managed tolerably–
16th We arrived at Lynche’s ferry on the head of James’s river, and
set forward the day following on a raft composed of two canoes lashed
together, and lay at the plantation of a Colonel Bosville on the North
side of the river in Amherst County– 18rh 19th proceeded–
20th Made a halt about breakfast time, to get some water that of the
river being very hot and distastefull, to our great surprize found
Brigadier General Hamilton and Major Kirkman of the convention army
who received us with all imaginable cordiality and politeness– In the
Evening reached the plantation of a rich old Chuff a Colonel Lewis,
who demanded or rather exacted fourscore dollars for our scant
supper– While I was walking in the garden I saw three Officers in
British uniforms ride by, and saluted them tho’ little imagining I
could know or be known, but Captain Freeman aid de Camp to General
Riedesel knew me thro’ the disguise of a slouched hat & very shabby
cloathing—— After some conversation he took his leave promising to
see us in the morning before our departure– he was so good, and very
obligingly took charge of a letter for Genl. Haldimand, and one for
Major General Philips, enclosing a copy of the capitulation, and
giving him an account of our situation–
21st reached Goochland Court house– a brutal Landlord, exchanged for
a civil one–
22d The Officers were orderd to Beaver Dam, the men remained– We had
been left without any guard excepting Lieutenant Rogers from the time
of our getting into Washington County– At the house of Mr: Thos.
Pleasants we were hospitable entertained, with all the humanity,
candor and simplicity of a sensible Quaker free from the ostentation
of sanctity but possessed of a liberal and generous spirit– Tho a
number of his family were crowded under one roof, there appeard as
much neatness in their persons and as much good humor in their manner
as if they had been perfectly at ease in their circumstances, and not
subjected to the odious tyranny of their new Masters, who obliged them
(at that time) to pay treble taxes– We expected to have remained at
the house allotted for us about one mile from Mr: Pleasants, and as
the time of our exchange was uncertain we had some thoughts of
employing ourselves in the Garden, but on the
26th A Captah Upshaw, a curious Original, arrived with an order for
our removal to Chesterfield, and on the 28th having taken a reluctant
leave of our kind and sensible Quaker, we set out for Richmond–
As I have a great propensity to strike out of the common road, and
dont always take the necessary precautions for getting into it again,
I this day followed my inclination and having the Surgeon with me we
got into a bye road which we followed, and not getting sight of people
or dwellings for a long time, added 13 miles to our days march, & did
not reach Richmond till one o’Clock the next Mornhg– The out Sentries
would not suffer us to go into town, nor would they call to the guard
so we lay on the ground till the relief came–
31st Having passed our time disagreably at Richmond from the
prepossession of people against us, and the curiosity to see how such
a set of Infernals carryed themselves who had each been more
bloodthirsty than Herod the Tetrarch, we were marched to Chesterfield,
where we were kept under a jealous guard–
June 15th An Officer arrived who had a written order signed by Govr.
Jefferson for William La Mothe Captain of the Volunteers of Detroit,
and myself to be taken in irons and layd in Goal [sic] at
Williamsburgh– The Officer acquitted himself of this commission with
reluctance and behaved very civilly–
Howeva we were mounted with some difficulty being handcuffd, and I
found a days journey of only 30 Miles tired my patience and wearyed my
body exceedingly not having as yet repaired the uncommon fatigues of a
March Route of 1200 miles from Fort Sackville, most part of the time
but half fed, iill cloathed, menaced and reviled, but as Sancho says,
This was spice cake and gilt gingerbread to what was to come– We lay
I cannot say rested at James City Court house that night, we had
stopped at a Village on the way to have the rivetts of my handcuffs
taken out, and newly set, for riding had so swelled my wrists that the
rings chafed the skin too much and my conductor kindly attended to my
The next day it raind, the road was bad, and my legs were sore with
several boils produced by heated blood at this hot season– I was
permitted to walk– at Chickahomoney ferry met the Quarter Master of
the 46th Regiment–
16th About Sunset reached Williamsburgh,

George Rogers Clark

Colonel John Anderson, Builder of the Blockhouse

Colonel John Anderson, Builder of the Blockhouse

by William Anderson

The Wilderness Road Blockhouse in Natural Tunnel State Park is a reproduction of the original blockhouse built by an early pioneer, John Anderson, in 1775. Anderson’s eventful life included not just his role as the Blockhouse proprietor, but also service as a regional militia leader and judge.

Born in 1750, Anderson was the son of one of the first settlers of the Shenandoah Valley, William Anderson, who farmed several thousand acres near Staunton, Virginia. The Andersons were part of a group of immigrants known as “Scots-Irish” because they were Scottish in ancestry but came to America from Northern Ireland. The Scots-Irish were hardy and stubborn people, qualities Anderson would need to survive first the French and Indian War in his youth and later the long conflicts in the Holston region.

Anderson first explored the Holston area in 1769, when it was still a wilderness, and moved to the area in 1773 with a wave of new settlers. Anderson did not build the Blockhouse, however, until two years later. In the meantime, he nearly lost his life. During Dunsmore’s War, a short-lived conflict with the Shawnee in late 1774, Anderson served as an ensign in the local militia attached to Blackmore’s Fort left behind to protect against attacks on the settlements. When a raiding party caught the fort defenders outside the fort, Anderson and another defender left the security of the fort under fire to try to rescue a downed comrade who was about to be scalped. The militia colonel in charge of the region reported that “the Indians like to had done Anderson’s job, having struck into the stockade a few inches from his head.” Daniel Boone led a rescue party to the fort the day after the attack and served as captain over the local fort defense for the rest of Dunsmore’s War. Boone and George Rogers Clarke were two of the heros of the era Anderson undoubtedly new and worked with in the defense of the western frontier.

When he was discharged from his militia duty, Anderson married his fiance, Rebecca Maxwell on January 12, 1775. Needing a place to raise his family, he selected a piece of land at the end of Carter’s Valley, the farthest settlement into the Holston wilderness. This location, wittingly or not, placed Anderson squarely in the path of any native raids coming across Big Mocassin Gap from the west. On this spot he build the famous Blockhouse in the spring of 1775. For the next twenty-five years, Anderson’s Blockhouse served as the starting point for parties crossing the Wilderness Trail to Kentucky.

Anderson is best known for his role as the Blockhouse owner, but he was also a successful farmer and one of the area’s leading citizens. Following his service at Blackmore’s Fort, Anderson likely fought in the Battle of Long Island Flats, one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. In early 1777 Governor Patrick Henry of the new state of Virginia appointed Anderson as one of the first members of the county court of newly formed Washington County, and as captain of the County militia. After 1779, due to a boundary dispute, Anderson and the Blockhouse became part of North Carolina, where he served as Lieutenant Colonel in the Sullivan County militia. Anderson is believed to have participated in at least two campaigns into native territory during the Revolutionary War. He may also have fought in the key Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780 but the records are unclear. In Virginia, he is often referred to as “Captain John Anderson,” his rank in the Virginia militia, but several researchers refer to him as “Colonel John Anderson” based on his later rank.

When his state affiliation shifted to North Carolina, Anderson continued to serve as judge on the Sullivan County Court. In 1783, a group led by John Sevier tried to establish a new State of Franklin that would have encompassed the Blockhouse. Anderson found himself on the side of the supporters of the new state and even served for a short time as one of three state justices. Many residents of the area opposed the state, and the dispute reached violent proportions on occasions. At one point the opponents raided Anderson’s court, drove the justices out, and took all their records. Anderson’s brother-in-law, George Maxwell, led the military forces of the opponents.

In the 1780s the Blockhouse became important in the defense of Kentucky, the “dark and bloody land” where the Shawnee and Cherokee fought bitterly to stop the settlement of their hunting grounds. George Rogers Clark and other leaders used the Blockhouse to store ammunition destined for Kentucky, and Anderson provided hospitality to various officers and government agents traveling back and forth. In 1789 native raids increased in the region, in one instance resulting in one local individual losing his wife and all of his ten children to death or capture. Anderson’s status among the military leaders made him the logical choice to write to Col. Arthur Campbell seeking assistance. In this letter, the only known surviving example of Anderson’s handwriting, Anderson reports on a Mr. Johnson who “had his family, which consisted of his wife and eleven children, all killed and taken except two.” Anderson rather searingly questions why the region’s residents “guarded our frontiers in the time of the late war, when we were attacked on both sides, and now can get no help.”

In the 1800s, due to shifting state boundaries, Anderson found himself back in Virginia. In a mark of the high respect area residents held Anderson, the citizens of new Scott County elected him Sheriff, the first officer appointed, even though he was 65 years old at the time. He died two years later while trying to bring cool water from a distant spring to his ill wife. His son Isaac became a leader of the new county. Anderson and his wife raised eight children and had sixty-four grandchildren. One of those grandchildren, Joseph R. Anderson, founded Bristol, Tennessee. The Blockhouse burned in 1876.

Anderson never held political office and never followed the adventurists like Boone into new territory in Kentucky and elsewhere. Instead, he settled into his life at the Blockhouse, the only home he and Rebecca ever knew, and provided a life of dedicated service to his local community. The many descendants of the travelers over the Kentucky road can thank him in part for the lives their ancestors were able to create.

Readers who would like more information on Anderson or the sources of the information in this article should see Anderson, W., John Anderson, Blockhouse Proprietor and Early Frontier Leader, in Appalachian Quarterly 9:57-67 (Dec. 2004), located at _____.

The Wilderness Road Controversy

by Fess Green
Author of Wilderness Road Odyssey

Speculation about the location of the original Wilderness Road continues. Mary Kegley argues that this historic trail did not pass through Montgomery, Pulaski, and Wythe Counties. Her article in the 2004 Journal of the New River Valley Historical Society (Vol. 17, No. 1) states on page 1 that “it began in far southwest Virginia at the Block House which was located in present Scott County.” From that point it passed westward across the Cumberland Gap and through eastern Kentucky.

If she is correct in this assertion, then how did the Wilderness Road become associated with Christiansburg, Radford, Newbern, Fort Chiswell, Wytheville, and even Roanoke and Salem? Some sources agree and place the start of the Wilderness Road in Virginia at or near Weber City close to the Tennessee border. But curiously, some say the start was in Bristol; others say Fort Chiswell; and still others claim Roanoke or Buchanan. William O. Steele’s book, The Old Wilderness Road: An American Journey (1968), places the start at the Blockhouse near Weber City where Daniel Boone set out with his group of axmen to cut and blaze the trail in 1775. Yet neither of the authors cited in the journal article, Robert Kincaid and Thomas Speed, limited their descriptions of the Wilderness Road solely to the section blazed by Boone and company. In fact, there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Kincaid, for instance, made specific reference to the Wilderness Road in the Roanoke Valley on page 144 of his book, The Wilderness Road (1955).

There are numerous references to the Wilderness Road in various parts of Virginia that go back decades, even centuries. They are not, as suggested, mere ploys for marketing purposes. In pioneer times, these trails or paths had no road signs. There were no route markers like we see on today’s interstate highways. Sometimes, the name given to a road depended on the direction in which one was headed. Travelers going northeast to major cities would refer to the path as the Philadelphia Road or the Baltimore Road. When heading southwest, they would say that they were on the road to the wilderness or the road to Kentuck. In time, it was easier simply to refer to the entire stretch as the Wilderness Road.

Park Rouse Jr. in his book, The Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to the South (1992), has the Wilderness Road breaking off from the great Philadelphia Wagon Road at present-day Roanoke, with the wagon road going south into the Carolinas and the Wilderness Road continuing west.
Gene Crotty’s book, The Visits of Lewis and Clark to Fincastle Virginia (2003), refer to the post expedition journey of these famous explorers in the fall of 1806 as traveling the “Wilderness Trail from the Cumberland Gap through Southwest Virginia. The route led to Amsterdam [near present-day Buchanan] before joining the Great Valley Road to Philadelphia.”

Nearly fifty years ago, Charles Crush writing the history of Montgomery County referred to the historic path through Christiansburg when he described the paving or McAdamizing of the “old Wilderness Road” in 1850. Daniel Howe wrote the history of Lovely Mount Tavern, formerly located in present-day Radford, and described the well-traveled turnpike nearby as the only means of travel from the Valley of Virginia and the north through southwest Virginia. He goes on to say that “oxcarts and covered wagons developed it further and it became the Wilderness Road.”

In my book, Wilderness Road Odyssey (2003), I begin the first chapter by acknowledging some of the various names that have been applied to portions of this historic route: “the Great Road, the Philadelphia Wagon Road, the Valley Pike, the Long Grey Road, and the Wilderness Trail. My  total interest at the time was to follow as closely as possible the original route described by John Filson in his book, The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of  Kentucke (1784). This manuscript is now long out of print, but Thomas Speed describes the Filson route on pages 16 and 17 of his book, The Wilderness Road (1971), as going “from Philadelphia through the valley of Virginia and Cumberland Gap, and… the interior parts of Kentucky to the Falls of the Ohio.” a total distance of 826 miles. Filson’s itinerary specifically mentions identifiable places in Virginia including Winchester, Woodstock, Staunton, Roanoke, New River, Fort Chissel [Chiswell], and other points west including the Blockhouse and Cumberland Mountain.

More important than the name of this traveled way is the fact that it became, in the latter half of the 1700’s, the primary migration route westward for tens of thousands of settlers seeking that faire land of Kentucke. It preceded the trade routes and migration paths well known in the west, namely the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the Mormon Trail. It’s important to preserve that history and give it an identity exemplified by the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in Newbern, the Wilderness Road State Park near Ewing, and several restored forts and traces in Kentucky.

In Virginia, there is currently an effort underway to gain state recognition of the Wilderness Road migration route and have it become a designated historic trail on state maps and tourist brochures. Some may see this as exploitation and a means of attracting visitors for economic gain. That’s exactly what it is and it makes perfect sense. When travelers come into the region, as many no doubt will during Virginia’s Jamestown Quadra-centennial, communities along this historic path will have an opportunity to interpret, educate, and entertain in a most positive way.

The Cumberland Gap

Amended from an article
Dr. Barry Vann

Nestled in the shadows of the Cumberland Mountain, Lincoln Memorial University shares a unique location with a world famous natural feature that serves as a boundary for Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia.  The Cumberland Gap, made famous by its historic role in providing a western passage for early European pioneers, is actually a low place in the Cumberland Mountain, which forms the north wall of the Powell Valley.   The mountain pass was formed by geological processes over eons of time.   Deer, bear, and other animals were forced south by advancing sheets of ice during the last ice age (10,000 to 40,000 years ago).  They wore a trail through the pass as they searched for hunting and foraging lands.  For similar reasons, Cherokee and Shawnee hunters and warriors later followed the well-worn path through the mountain.  As western European societies emerged from the medieval times, population pressures coupled with political and religious conflicts and economic inequalities forced millions of their seed to seek a new and better life in America.  The Cumberland Gap, as a migratory path, and Lincoln Memorial University, as an illuminating institution of higher learning, continue to assist Americans of all ethnicities to open doors of opportunities and go across a multitude of barriers in their pursuit of a better life.
A towering outcrop called the Pinnacle has historically provided armies, bandits and hunters with an excellent vantage point to watch the intermittent flow of animals and people passing through the Cumberland Gap.  At 2440 feet above sea level, the rocky overlook is 800 feet above the Gap.   Cumberland Mountain is exceedingly steep, and because of many decades of heavy timber harvesting in the area, the soil became shallower as its denuded slope gave up its precious soil to the forces of gravity and running water.  Because early pioneers moving through the Gap were easy prey for bandits and vengeful natives, they were keen to clear the mountain of its refuge-providing, woody cover.  Today, however, the mountain is protected by the United States National Park Service.  Through changes in local land-use patterns and sound conservation measures used by the Park Service, the slopes are once again sheltered by a lush covering of oaks, hickories, and maples.

Cumberland Mountain is the southern-most of two parallel ridges that form the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky and Tennessee.  Pine Mountain forms the northern ridge.  The upland area was formed some 245 millions years ago as the North American plate collided with the African plate, causing a folding and faulting of the earth’s crust in eastern North America.   From the Pinnacle, it is easy to see the result of this collision.  The view to the south and east reveals a landscape that resembles a crumpled carpet or the rippling waves that spread forth from the place where a pebble fell into a tranquil pond.   There are ridges and valleys running in a northeast-southwest direction across the great valley of East Tennessee.

Before that collision, some 320 million years ago, there was another collision.  That time it was between the North American and European plates.  This impact forced the North American plate downward below sea level.  Much of the area known as southern Appalachia was under a shallow ocean.  Animals with calcium-rich shells died and fell to floor of the sea and over time, their crusty remains formed limestone rock.  Other sediments fell to the floor and hardened into shale and sandstone layers.  When the most recent plate collision occurred, those pliable rock layers were folded, and in some places cracked, creating the beautiful landscape we see today.  The pressure and heat resulting from the impact transformed the core of the mountains into dense, sturdy metamorphic rock.

e scholars have argued that the Cumberland Gap was formed by water flowing over the area during the era of plate collisions.  As the North American plate buckled under the immense pressure generated by tectonic forces, the Appalachian Mountains rose slowly.  It is argued that as the uplift occurred an existing river cut the gap into its present shape.  There is new theory that offers an explanation for the formation of the Cumberland Gap.  Barry Vann, who is a historical geographer at Lincoln Memorial University, agrees that running water played a role in shaping the gap, but he thinks a violent impact removed the bulk of the soil and rocky material that once filled the void in Cumberland Mountain.  There is little debate among scholars that the bowl-shaped depressed area located to the northwest of the gap was created by a meteorite impact.   The city of Middlesboro, Kentucky, sits in the crater today.  Vann argues that the expulsion of debris during the meteorite impact blew out part of the Cumberland Mountain leaving the gap in its wake.    Research, however, needs to be conducted to test Vann’s theory.

In addition to its interesting geological history, the Cumberland Gap area is a visually striking place.  It is also one of the most significant places in American migration history.  Early pioneers could have crossed Cumberland Mountain at Pennington Gap in Virginia, but because Pine Mountain did not offer a low place to traverse it near that location, settlers were forced to travel 40 miles on to the Cumberland Gap where an old, well-worn path stretched northward through a pass in Pine Mountain some fourteen miles away.  To accommodate migrating families in search of western lands, Daniel Boone and 38 Woodsmen employed by Richard Henderson’s Transylvania Company blazed the Wilderness Road along the route in 1775.   The next section tells us how and why the old path was formed.

Before hunters and gatherers from Asia came into North America during the Pleistocene some 10,000 to 40,000 years ago, wooly mammoths and other animals that would become extinct lived in the region and traveled to and fro through the Gap, leaving a well-marked trail.  Bison, black bears, beavers, deer and elk made good use of the regional flora and were plentiful when the Cherokee, Shawnee, and Europeans first came to the area.

The Cherokee came to southern Appalachia (western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia) from the northeast where other tribes spoke similar Iroquoian languages.   They came to the region in the middle of the fifteenth century and established a capitol at Chota in Monroe County, Tennessee.

The Shawnee, whose name means “southern people of the Algonquin”, were pushed out of their villages in New York and Pennsylvania by rival Iroquois in the late seventeenth century.  Like the Cherokee, the Shawnee built small towns on river banks and were good at farming low-lying, fertile fields.  The Cherokee and Shawnee were conflicting rivals, and, as such, the country north of the Cumberland Gap was described as a “dark and bloody ground”.   The Great Warriors’ path, which ran from the Cherokee capitol at Chota (located in Monroe County, Tennessee), extended north through the Cumberland Gap following meandering hollows filled with canes and thorns.   The path also crossed rapidly flowing creeks and rivers until reaching the rolling “blue grass” area north of the Kentucky River.  This region, like its subsequent state name, was Kentucky.  Over time, the two nations came to use Kentucky primarily as a hunting ground.  Most of the Shawnee who had an interest in Kentucky lived in towns located near the Ohio River in the north.  Shawnee settlements such as Mekoche, Piqua, Chillicothe, Kispoko and Hathawekela were independent, patrilineal villages.

The Cherokee and migrating herds of buffalo used the relatively low-lying Powell Valley as a route to the Gap and into Kentucky.  The trail that they wore into the landscape extended eastward through the Powell Valley of Virginia to Moccasin Gap, near modern-day Johnson City, Tennessee.  There a trail split off to the north through the Shenandoah Valley.  That trail was called the “Great Indian Warpath”.   To the south of Moccasin Gap, a trail cut through East Tennessee to Chota and other paths provided routes across the mountains of western North Carolina all the way to the piedmont, the lands of the Catawba nation.  The Powell Valley in Tennessee was also marked by foot paths worn down by natives and wild game alike.

As will be seen in the next section, those ancient paths were widened into roads by Europeans as they pushed both the Native people and the frontier westward.   Although the Cherokee had sold Kentucky to the Transylvania Company in 1775, some among them, Dragging Canoe in particular, resisted giving up their hunting grounds to the settlers.  Adding fuel to the looming conflicts, French emissaries made an alliance with the Shawnee, who of course, disputed the Cherokee claim of ownership of their long-contested hunting grounds in Kentucky.  Those disputes and the fighting that resulted from them added greatly to Dragging Canoe’s declaration to Daniel Boone on the day of the sale that the whites would find Kentucky to be found to a “dark and bloody ground”.   During those turbulent years, the descendants of colonial settlers in the Cumberland Gap area began seeing themselves not as British subjects but as part of a new nation of Americans, although much their belief system and ways of life had changed little since their grandparents boarded overcrowded ships in European harbors

The Wilderness Road Blockhouse

The original Blockhouse, built by John Anderson near the North Fork of the Holston River in what is now Virginia’s East Carter’s valley, was where the Wilderness Trail began. It was the last safe haven for those migrating toward Kentucky, except for a chain of forts, most of which were evacuated during the height of the Indian Wars. The Blockhouse was specifically designed to be easily defended and virtually impenetrable by Indians. There are no known images or detailed surviving descriptions of the Anderson Blockhouse. However, such information does exist for blockhouse structures of the 1775 era and there is no evidence to suggest that John Anderson did not follow the established blockhouse construction practice. John Anderson built the Blockhouse about 1775 and lived at the site until his death in 1817.

Following the death of Chief Bob Benge in 1794 the Indian threat in Scott County disappeared and Anderson constructed a new two-story house. The Blockhouse was converted to a loom house and was used for that and related purposes until 1876. In that year the main house was destroyed by fire and the fire spread to the Blockhouse and it was destroyed also.

The Blockhouse was an important landmark for frontier travelers and served as the gathering place for hundreds of pioneers traveling the Wilderness Road to Kentucky between 1775 and 1800. It sat near the intersection of the pioneer roads coming down the valley of Virginia, trails up from the Carolinas and the Great Warriors Path connecting the Holston and Watauga Valley with the Ohio Valley. Various pioneer journals, the earliest being Brown’s (1782) and Filson’s (1784), identify the Blockhouse as the starting point for the Wilderness Road and provide distances from the Blockhouse to each of the stations between the Blockhouse and Philadelphia to the east and to Crab Orchard Kentucky in the west, where the Road ended. A monument was erected adjacent to the original Blockhouse site in 1921.

In 1998 the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association received, with Congressman Rick Boucher’s assistance, a special Congressional appropriation from TEA-21 funding of $285,000 for construction of a replica of the Anderson Blockhouse.

The DBWTA was not able to negotiate a fair market price for the original Blockhouse site in East Carter’s Valley and other suitable property in that area was not available so it was necessary to look elsewhere for a site on which to construct the Blockhouse replica. As project planning progressed security, long term site care and sustainability of the developed site were addressed. With these issues in mind and the need for a suitable construction site Craig Seaver, Manager of Natural Tunnel State Park, was approached about the possibility of placing the Blockhouse at an appropriate site within the park. Craig was supportative and a presentation was made to the Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Director approved the proposal and a unique, one-of-a-kind partnership was created with the Commonwealth of Virginia – a private non-profit organization using Federal funds to construct a privately owned permanent structure on State Park property. This partnership proved to be highly successful and will be used as a model for similar projects in the future. The grant received required a 20% local match, cash or in-kind. DCR provided A&E services pro bono to the project and that along with the surveying services provided pro bono by Saxon & Associates, legal services provided pro bono by Lisa Ann McConnell and architectural services provided pro bono by Kingsport engineering firm Spoden & Wilson covered the entire required 20% match. In addition, supporting monetary contributions were received from EASTMAN Chemical Company, Kingsport Times-News, Cox Ford Tractor and the Scott County Chamber of Commerce as well as private individuals.

Area historian, Dr. Lawrence Fleenor, and members of the DBWTA did historical research to determine the most probable historically correct design for the Blockhouse.  The final architectural design was produced by Hal Spoden who has extensive experience in the design of historic structures. Construction began in early 2003 and the Blockhouse was dedicated on October 27, 2003.

The Blockhouse site is accessible daily for public visitation. Outdoor interpretative panels enhance the visitor experience. During the spring, summer and fall the DBWTA presents living history events throughout the season, host visitors on Saturday and Sunday and conducts educational programs for area schools at the Blockhouse. In 2005 the Overmountain Men Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, with generous contributions from the Scott County Tourism Committee, the Scott County Chamber of Commerce the Manville Ruritan Club and the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association placed a Revolutionary War Patriots memorial at the Blockhouse site.
The Wilderness Road Blockhouse received the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association regional Merit Award-Historic Preservation Division for 2004.

Fort Blackmore

Written by Sally Kelly

The site of Fort Blackmore can be reached from Gate City, Virginia. At the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail sign in front of the Scott County Courthouse, proceed East (right) on Jackson Street/Rt. 71. After approximately two miles, turn left onto Rt. 72, following signs for the present day community of Fort Blackmore. After about ten miles, you will cross over the Clinch River on a large bridge. Historical Fort Blackmore was on the north bank (far bank), to the left of the bridge. The site is on private property. At the north end of the bridge, on your left, is a monument erected by the DAR which tells about Daniel Boone and his connection with Fort Blackmore. To return to the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail, turn around and retrace the route.

John Blackmore settled on land at the mouth of Stoney Creek on the Clinch River in 1773. He purchased 518 acres from the Loyal Land Company, and his acreage was surveyed on March 25, 1774 by Captain Daniel Smith, deputy surveyor for Fincastle County. At about the same time, surveys were entered for Isaac Crisman, John Thomas, Dale Carter, and John Blackmore, Jr.

At this time, Daniel Boone and his family had been living on land owned by David Gass, near Castle’s Woods, some dozen or more miles east; ever since Boone’s son James was killed by Indians as a party of settlers made its attempt to go to Kentucky in October, 1773. Young Boone, on that occasion, was traveling separate from the main party, in company with Henry Russell and others. Russell, son of Captain William Russell, “a Gentleman of Some distinction.” according to Royal Governor Lord Dunmore, was the organizer of that attempt, and Boone was the logician. After the murder, the immigration effort was aborted and some of the settlers returned to the Yadkin, and a few stayed on in the Clinch and Holston settlements.

In the aftermath of the murder of the boys, one of the survivors, one Isaac Crabtree killed an innocent Cherokee at a horse race near what is now Jonesborough, Tennessee. This event, and another brutal slaying by white frontiersmen of the nine members of the Mingo tribe on the Ohio in April of 1774 had stirred the tribes along the frontier into a war-like mood. Those few men taking up land on the Clinch were brave souls for many “families on the river had moved back to safety” according to surveyor Smith.

Much of the detail that is known of Fort Blackmore comes from the correspondence of officers of the militia during the following months, in what became known as “Lord Dunmore’s War.” The commanding officer of the Fincastle County Militia was Colonel William Preston, who resided near what is now Blacksburg, Virginia, on the New River. Officers reporting to him included Captain Russell on the Clinch; Major Arthur Campbell, Fort Shelby – at what is now Bristol; and Captain Daniel Smith, mentioned above. In a letter dated May 24, 1774, Colonel Andrew Lewis, of Augusta County, advised Preston that “Hostilities are actually commenced on the Ohio below Pittsburg.” In a War Council in June at the Lead Mines, near Fort Chiswell on the New River, it was decided to send militia under Colonel William Christian, Augusta County, to aid William Russell; and “at Preston’s instigation, William Russell sent Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner to tell John Floyd and other surveyors to come in from Kentucky. These two left for Kentucky on June 27, 1774.” This mission would first bring the previously obscure Boone’s name to widespread public attention.

It was a tense time among the scattered settlers along the Clinch River. On July 12, Colonel Christian wrote Preston that “four forts [are] erecting in Capt. Russell’s Company; one at Moore’s, four miles below this, another at Blackmore’s 16 Miles above this Place [Castle’s Wood] I am about to station 10 Men at Blackmore’s.” On the 13th, Captain Russell notified Preston “there are four families at John Blackmore’s near the mouth of Stoney Creek, that will never be able to stand it, without a Commd. Of Men, therefore request you, if you think it can be done, to Order them a supply sufficient to enable them to continue the small fortification they have erected.” Thus the fort took the name of the man on whose land it was built. Captain James Thompson was the first officer put in command of the little fort.

Men in the community were quite eager to join Lord Dunmore’s expedition to stop the Indians on the Ohio before they could come into the frontier settlements. Col. Preston had stated, “the plunder of the Country will be valluable. . . . it is said the Shawnese have a great Stock of Horses.” Those in command along the Clinch and Holston had difficulty manning the local forts with many eligible men wishing to go. On August 27, Daniel Boone returned from his mission to Kentucky; and almost immediately begged of Major Campbell to be sent on to Point Pleasant on the Ohio. Lord Dunmore had agreed to meet the forces from back country counties there with men he brought along from Tidewater. Boone set out, but was called back by Captain Russell to help defend the little Clinch River community as officer in command at Moore’s Fort. On September 21, Captain Thompson went out with those Ohio-bound forces, and Captain David Looney was put in command at Blackmore’s Fort.

On September 23 or 24, it was reported that “2 negroes [were] taken prisoner at Blackmore’s Fort, on waters of Clinch River, and a great many horses and cattle were shot down.” Captain Looney was absent, visiting his family on the Holston. Major Campbell wrote Col. Preston on the 29th that “Mr Boon is very diligent at Castle Woods and keeps up good Order. I have reason to believe they have lately been remiss at Blackmores, and the Spys there did not do their duty.” Two days later he wrote “Mr. Boone also informs me that the Indians has been frequently about Blackmores, since the Negroes was taken; And Capt. Looney has so few Men that he cannot venture to go in pursuit of them, having only eleven men.”

On the sixth of October Campbell wrote to say that Indians had attacked at Shelby’s Fort without success; and the day after that, he said, was the attack at Fort Blackmore. An alarm of their presence was given by Dale Carter, crying “Murder, Murder!” Ensign John Anderson and John Carter ran out of the fort to help, but Dale Carter was killed and scalped; and the slaves were taken. After this, the people of the area were feeling that they needed a commander who lived on the Clinch. October 13, Captain Smith wrote Col. Preston that he had been shown a paper signed by inhabitants requesting the appointment of Daniel Boone to be Captain and take charge of the Clinch forts. Smith endorsed this request and stated “I do not know of any Objection that could be made to his character which would make you think him an improper person for that office.” Preston immediately promoted him. Boone treasured his commission and carried it with him always until he was promoted again during the Revolution.

Meanwhile, information was beginning to be received in these frontier parts that a battle had been fought at Point Pleasant on the Ohio between the forces of Colonel Andrews and the Indian tribes on October 10. Those forces met up with the Indians before they could join up with Lord Dunmore’s men, and fought a very successful engagement. Shortly thereafter, Dunmore negotiated a peace agreement ending the hostilities at Camp Charlotte. Some portion of the Shawnee nation agreed to give up it hunting rights in Kentucky if settlers would remain below the Ohio River. Local militias were disbanded, and November 21, Daniel Boone was dismissed from his duties.

The Cherokee now were the only force with which to be reckoned for the settlement of Kentucky. Again, Daniel Boone would support a prominent man in a Kentucky settlement venture. Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina, in late 1774, negotiated with Cherokee chiefs to purchase a large plot on land in Kentucky, irregardless that he could not do so legally; and that the Cherokee had no real claim to the land they sold to him either. He engaged Boone to go among the Cherokee during late 1774 to encourage them to meet at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga in March, 1775, for the formal agreement and transfer of the goods that would pay for the purchase. Boone returned to the Clinch in early February and gathered some twenty men there to help him blaze the path through Cumberland Gap to the land Henderson wanted. Not all are known, they included Michael Stoner, David Gass, William Bush, and William Hays. It is not unlikely that this group included some of the men from the Fort Blackmore area. Squire Boone brought others from North Carolina and the combined band of trail blazers set out from John Anderson’s Blockhouse, on the North Fork of Holston, on March 10.

Boone left the new Kentucky settlement, named Boonesborough in his honor, on June 13, 1775, enroute once more for the Clinch. “Boone set off for his family.” Henderson wrote in his journal. When Daniel arrived there, he found Rebecca about to give birth. In late July, she gave birth to a son, William, who did not survive. In mid August, Boone and family, and a party of some 50 immigrants set off for Kentucky. Probably some of them were men from the Fort Blackmore area; and the party would certainly have passed the fort, perhaps stopping overnight, in their westward journey. This ends Boone’s association with Fort Blackmore. But the fort continued as a place of refuge for many more years.

1775 was a relatively peaceful year east of Cumberland Gap, but hostilities with the Cherokee came again in 1776. Warriors who did not agree with the chiefs who treated with Richard Henderson, led by one Dragging Canoe, began attacks along the frontier. And there were many Indian attacks in Kentucky that caused large numbers of immigrants to flee back over the Cumberlands to the Clinch, Holston, and Watauga settlements. One such Kentuckian, William Hickman, arrived at Fort Blackmore on the Clinch, where he found other refugees “sporting, dancing, and drinking whiskey in an attempt to forget their fears.” “Things could get pretty rancid.” he said, “after a long period of confinement in a row or two of smoky cabins, among dirty women and men with greased hunting shirts.” In June, two men were killed at the fort. And in September one Jennings and his slave met death at the hands of Indians. Other forts had been erected along the Powell River, west towards Cumberland Gap, during 1775, including Priests, Mumps, and Martin’s. Col. Joseph Martin’s station was erected in January of that year, and he noted in his journal the stopover of the Henderson party of Kentucky settlers about the first of April. Col. Martin left in May to visit at his home in Virginia. Soon the people from Mump’s and Priest’s were driven out. When there were no more than ten left alive at Martin’s, those men fled to Fort Blackmore, where they found most of the people from the Mump’s and Priest’s forts.

In July, 1776, Cherokees in force attacked at the fort at Sycamore Shoals on the Watuaga, and battled local militia at the Battle of Long Island Flats, near present Kingsport, Tennessee. About the same time, one Ambrose Fletcher, living near Fort Blackmore, had his wife and children killed and scalped. Colonel William Christian was again called upon by Col. Preston, this time to put down the Cherokee uprising. Jonathan Jennings of Fort Blackmore, and father of the Jennings who was killed, mentioned above, accompanied that expedition to the Cherokee towns on the Middle Tennessee River.

After that, mention of Fort Blackmore in the known historical record becomes scanty. There is one famous story, dating from 1777, that may or may not be true. Men in the fort heard a turkey gobbling. They wanted to go out hunting, but were prevented by a knowledgeable backwoodsman, one Matthew Gray. He convinced them that they were hearing Indians. He directed the men to create a distraction on the bank of the river, while he snuck across the Clinch. He was able to get where he could see the Indian warrior perched in a tree, making the turkey noises. Mr. Gray dispatched the “turkey” and fled back into the fort with the others.

In 1779, John Blackmore and his family left the area to travel with the Donelson party, traveling by flatboat, to settle in middle Tennessee. Donelson mentions meeting up with the Blackmore group at the mouth of Clinch where it joins the Holston, so John Blackmore’s band must have gone down the Clinch by flatboat. Perhaps not all Blackmores left the Clinch – or possibly some came back – for they are mentioned again in April, 1790 in the journal of Methodist Bishop John Asbury. “We rode down to Blackmore’s Station, here the people have been forted on the north side of Clinch. Poor Blackmore had had a son and daughter killed by the Indians. The are of the opinion here that the Chrokees were the authors of this mischief.” Asbury goes on to say he had heard of two families being killed and of one woman being taken prisoner, but retaken by neighbors A few days later, the Bishop traveled on, noting that he “Crossed the Clinch about two miles below the fort. In passing along I saw the precipice from which Blackmore’s unhappy son leaped into the river after receiving the stroke of the tomahawk in his head . . . this happened on the 6th of April 1789.”

Indian attacks on settlers along the Clinch, Holston, and Watuaga Rivers did not cease until after 1794, when a half breed, Benge, who had led many of the forays, was killed near what is now Big Stone Gap. Benge committed his last crimes near what is now Mendota, Virginia, on the North Fork of the Holston. He fled, with two captive women, over the Clinch Mountain, Copper Ridge, and, finally, High Knob Mountain before being caught up with. This route probably took him very near Fort Blackmore. And so, it was right in the middle of Indian unrest from its beginning to its end. Just exactly when it was abandoned as a fort is not known. The land owner believes he is able to point out where the fort stood; but, for the most part, it has disappeared from sight. Its little cemetery is still findable, below the current highway bridge over the river, and to its right, near the bank of the river. Scott Countians who care for old cemeteries keep it cleaned and accessible. Many of it graves are unmarked.

Virginia Indian Tribes


When Jamestown was founded, the Chickahominy Tribe lived in established villages along the Chickahominy River, from the mouth of the river near Jamestown to the middle of the current county of New Kent. Because of their proximity to Jamestown, the Chickahominy people had early contact with the English settlers, helping the settlers survive during their first few winters.


The Mattaponi Indian Reservation which stretches along he borders of the Mattaponi River in King William County, dates back to 1658.  As one of the oldest reservations in the country, the Tribe traces its history to the paramount chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, who ruled most of Tidewater Virginia when Europeans arrived in 1607.


The Monacan Indian Nation culture dates back more than 10, 000 years and the original territory of the Tribe comprised roughly half of the state of Virginia, including most of the Piedmont region.  The Monacan Nation is one of the oldest groups of indigenous people still existing in their ancestral homeland, and the only group of Eastern Siouans in Virginia.


At the time of their earliest English contact in Virginia, the Nansemond tribe lived in several villages along the Nansemond River centered near Chuckatuck, in the current city of Suffolk.  The arriving English raided the Nansemond villages in 1608, burning their houses and destroying their conoes to force them to give up their corn, thus beginning the open hostilities between the two communities.  As increasing numbers of Europeans poured into the Nansemond River area, tribal members had to relocate their tribal lands and reservation on several different occasions, losing their last known reservation land in 1792.


The Pamunkey Tribe dates back ten to twelve thousand years.  Two major treaties with the King of England (in 1646 and 1677) established the Articles of Peace and a land base for the Tribe, later referred to as a reservation.  Listed as one of the six or more districts inherited by Chief Powhatan, evidence indicates that the Pamunkey district itself was the center among those core districts.  In 1607, Powhatan moved east to Werowocomoco in an effort to aid in the consolidation of his rapidly expanding chiefdom.


The Rappahannocks’ first documented encounter with the English occurred in 1608 when Samuel Mace sailed into the Rappahannock River, killing the Chief and taking men back to England. In the summer of 1608 John Smith mapped fourteen Rappahannock villages on the north side of the river. English settlement in the Rappahannock River valley began in the 1640’s. After Bacon’s rebellion, the Rappahannock consolidated at one village and in November 1682, the Virginia Council laid out 3,474 acres in Indian Neck, where their descendents remain today.


For centuries, the ancestors of the Upper Mattaponi People have lived in villages along waterways of Virginia, the land known as Tsenacomocco. Like neighboring tribes, they spoke the Angonquian language and when the British came in 1607 they were prosperous people under Chief Powhatan. John Smith’s map of 1612 indicates the present location of the Upper Mattaponi corresponds correctly with a village marked on his map as Passaunkack.

Powhatan and Pocahontas

Powhatan was the paramount chief of the Tidewater region when the English arrived at Jamestown in 1607 thus, he was never referred to as chief Powhatan but rather as Powhatan. His tributaries (tribes that paid tribute to him) did not constitute a “confederacy” or “nation” but were a paramount chiefdom. These tribes were not sub-tribes but individual nations.

Virginia Algonquian cultures were matrilineal. The status of the mother, not the father, determined the child’s status. The English knew Powhatan’s high status wives by name, but the mother of Pocahontas was never identified. Thus Pocahontas, Powhatan’s daughter, should not be referred to as a “princess”. Also, her age is uncertain as well as many events of her life. Opinions vary widely on the alleged “rescue” incident at Werowocomoco in 1607. Some accept the event as Smith described it in his 1624 writings even though it was not mentioned in his earlier accounts. Others believe the incident occurred but that it was an “adoption” ritual that Smith misunderstood. Still others believe it never happened.

Condensed from information provided by the Virginia Council on Indians

Daniel Boone and the Blockhouse’s Beginnings

Daniel Boone and the Blockhouse’s Beginnings

Contributed by William L. Anderson

January 2007 How did the Wilderness Blockhouse end up playing such a vital role in the Wilderness Trail to Kentucky? The answer lies in the location chosen by its builder, John Anderson, and when he built it – right at the critical point when Kentucky opened up for settlement. And Daniel Boone probably played a part as well.

In 1775 the land that would become the state of Kentucky belonged to the Cherokee and Shawnee as a sort of demilitarized hunting ground between the two tribes. Kentucky was off limits to whites due to a royal proclamation of the British government. The proclamation, however, did not stop Richard Henderson, an aggressive land speculator, from negotiating with the Cherokee to purchase a large portion of Kentucky for his own private resale and settlement.

The legality of Henderson’s purchase was questionable, and ultimately he lost his right to most of the land. He is nevertheless credited with opening the door of Kentucky, for better or worse, to white settlement.

After his purchase, Henderson immediately hired Daniel Boone to blaze a “waggon road” from Long Island, near today’s Kingsport, Tennessee, all the way to the proposed settlement area in Kentucky. In March 1775 Boone put a party of about 30 men together, and they marched north from Long Island. Boone’s team “blazed” their way over an already existing trail through two key gaps in the mountains – Big Mocassin Gap near present Gate City, Virginia, and Cumberland Gap on the Kentucky-Virginia border – and from there to the new settlement of Boonesborough. In reality, Boone’s party covered ground so fast they probably did little more than mark the trail. Nevertheless, this trail quickly became famous as “Boone’s Trace” or what we know today as the Kentucky Wilderness Trail. Henderson and a larger party of settlers followed right behind Boone to organize the Kentucky adventure and solidify Henderson’s control over it.

At the very point Boone organized his trail blazing party, John Anderson, a young newcomer to the Holston region, was looking to start a home with his new wife, Rebecca, whom he had married in January of that year. For reasons unknown to us, Anderson decided to put down roots at the end of Carter’s Valley, in what was then the remote edges of the new Holston settlement. This area was nearly a complete wilderness only a few years before, and it was still very isolated and exposed to attack
The land Anderson selected was a mile or so north of the current Virginia/North Carolina border and only five miles from Big Moccasin Gap. The Blockhouse he built at this site was the last habitation before the gap, essentially marking the end of white civilization and beginning of the treacherous wilderness.
The primary reason the Blockhouse became so critical to the Wilderness Road was its location at the start of what would be the only realistic overland route to Kentucky and the west for the next twenty years or more. Travelers headed to Kentucky (or later to Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, or Missouri) would have to travel to the Long Island area by one of two roads, one of them the Great Wagon Road that carried travelers south from Pennslyvania to Long Island, and the second the road coming up through North Carolina that also converged on Long Island. Boone’s new Kentucky trail to Big Moccasin Gap traveled north from this Long Island intersection and passed right by the Blockhouse location. Thus, for a quarter of a century, almost every overland traveler to Kentucky went right by the front door of the Blockhouse. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people made this journey, including 80,000 in 1784 alone – a rate of over eighty people a day. Because of its location, the Blockhouse also came to play a serendipitous role as the gathering point for parties going over the Wilderness Trail. The trail crossed some very dangerous territory, particularly the sixty miles between the two gaps. Apart from the bears, wolves, wild creeks, and impassable mountains, bands of Cherokee, Shawnee, and other tribes routinely attacked and killed travelers on this stretch in a futile attempt to save their hunting grounds. As early as 1782, journals from this period record how travelers camped near the Blockhouse until enough armed men showed up to lead a party safely over the trail. The site was so well known that these journals refer to it simply as “the Blockhouse” or “the Blockhouse on the Holston.” Apart from its location, the other reason the Blockhouse became so critical to the Wilderness Trail was the timing of its construction. The Blockhouse likely already existed, or at least was under construction, by the time Boone’s and Henderson’s parties passed by in March 1775 to open the Kentucky settlements. This evidence comes from the journal of a man named James Nourse, who returned from Kentucky shortly after Boone and Henderson arrived there. During his overland return by way of the new Boone path, Nourse tried to stop at “the block-house” (he missed it by one valley). Nourse could only have known the Blockhouse existed, and how to find it, if one of the earlier parties going to Kentucky knew about it and told Nourse where to look for it The very earliest travelers following Boone’s trail were thus aware of the Blockhouse and spread word of it as the best stopping point either before entering the wilderness, or as the welcoming landmark of safety and civilization for those returning from Kentucky. Every traveler after that knew to look for the Blockhouse, and many of them wrote about it in their journals. One enduring and unanswerable question is whether the Blockhouse, and especially its location and role as a point of protection for Wilderness Road travelers, was the result of chance or design. Perhaps Anderson simply wanted a quiet home for his family and settled at the next available piece of unclaimed land in Carter’s Valley. If so, he may have come to regret his choice of location when he had to cope with hordes of unwanted strangers on his doorstep for the next twenty-five years. On the other hand, Anderson may have actually cooperated with Boone’s plans in building the Blockhouse where he did. Even before Henderson’s purchase, Boone had already tried several times to take settlers to Kentucky, the last time (in 1773 when he lost his oldest son James to a Shawnee ambush. Boone and Anderson also knew each other from serving together in the Virgnia militia during the fall of 1774 in the recent Dunmore’s War. Boone likely spoke of his Kentucky plans around Anderson, since Boone was obsessed with opening the land and constantly promoted it. It is certainly a possibility that they discussed the need for a fort or blockhouse near the start of the trail Boone planned to mark. Such a plan might explain why Anderson chose the much more difficult blockhouse design, rather than a simple one-story log cabin like almost every other settler. It may also explain in part why Anderson put the Blockhouse up around March 1775, at the very point Boone blazed his trail and settlers began pouring across the new trail. Regardless of Anderson’s intent, the Wilderness Blockhouse could well have been just one more home in the wilderness but for the convergence of the Blockhouse’s location and timing of its construction. Those factors instead transformed it into a major landmark in the late 1770s, a role we are rediscovering today through the efforts of the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Society.

General Joseph Martin

By:  Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
copyright January 2001
All rights reserved
Big Stone Gap, Va.

Largely forgotten today, Joseph Martin played a role in the late
Eighteenth Century events of Southwest Virginia and in East Tennessee
unequaled by any other person.  He was an explorer, trader, land
speculator, soldier, politician,  Indian agent, national scape goat, and
the first settler of Lee County, Virginia.

He was the second of three men of that name, his father having settled
in present Albemarle County in 1729 as a neighbor of Dr. Thomas Walker,
Ambrose Powell, Peter Jefferson, James Madison, and the Lewis and Clark
clans.  He had come from Bristol, England a few years earlier, aboard
the ship ‘Brice’, and had married Susanna Childs.  The couple’s first
child was Joseph Junior, born in 1742.

The boy did not take to schooling very well, and his father apprenticed
him out to a carpenter.  He was too wild for this, and at age sixteen he
ran away and joined the British Army during the French and Indian War.

After the war, he returned home and married Sarah Lucas (Lewcas) in
1762.  Martin worked as a fur trader, as a farmer, and as a land
overseer for his wealthier neighbors, and became more closely connected
to Dr. Thomas Walker.

At this stage in his life he was later described by his son, William,
as having been “large of stature, six feet high, weighed 200 and one of
the finest figures of a man you ever saw, with prepossessing, commanding
appearance, courteous, intelligent, knew no fear …”

Walker was chief land agent for the Loyal Company which owned 800,000
acres of undeveloped frontier land in western Virginia.  Despite future
Lee County’s location in Indian land protected from white settlement by
the Royal Proclamation, Walker and his co-investor in the Loyal Company,
the Royal Governor of Virginia, were encouraging settlement of their
land, not withstanding that the Governor was responsible for the
enforcement of the Royal Proclamation.  Walker offered Martin 21,000
acres if he would become the first settler on Company land in present
Lee County.  Martin jumped at the chance.  Walker had actually made the
same offer to another group lead by the Kirtley brothers and by a
Captain Rucker, with the first to arrive taking all.  Martin’s group,
which included his brother Brice, left on mach 1, 1769 and was the
second to get away.  Martin pushed relentlessly, and after getting lost
“in the cane break and laurel” between the Valleys of the Holston and
the Powell (named after Ambrose Powell), and describing himself as being
“completely exhausted, weak from hunger, and very discouraged’ he found
the Hunter’s Trace on their arrival in present Lee County March 26th.
The competing group did not arrive until April 15th.

Martin’s party quickly cleared land and built cabins on their claim,
which was at present Rose Hill.  Martin wrote a letter describing the
area.  “The place we are now settled in is waters of Beargrass, called
by the hunters Powell’s River about a mile from the foot of a large
ledge of mountains called Cumberland much resembling our Blue Ridge only
considerably larger, much steeper and running the same course.”

One evening, a party of Indians came in to Martin’s camp.  One brave
grabbed Martin’s long rifle and a scuffle developed and Martin wound up
with the rifle.  The Indians left in a surly mood, and Martin’s party
fearing a vengeful retaliation, packed up and returned to Eastern
Virginia.  Martin had satisfied the stipulations for acquiring the land,
and retained ownership through several treaty and legal problems.

With his earnings from this adventure Martin bought a large tract of
land in Henry County and built an estate there on the banks of the Smith
River.  He called the home “Scuffle Hill” in recollection of how he had
earned the money to pay for it in that scrape with the Indian at far
away Rose Hill.

In 1775 Martin was made agent for the Transylvania Company and was
given specific authority to control the settlement of Powell Valley.
Actually, the Loyal Company and the Transylvania Company had legally
competing claims to the ownership of the land in Lee County, an issue
not settled in the courts until the next century.  Martin and another
group of settlers returned to his “Station” at Rose Hill.  Between
January and June they built a fort which was described by John Redd, a
member of the party:  “Martin’s Fort was on Martin’s Creek.  The fort
was located on the north side of the creek.  There was some 5 or 6
cabins; these built some 20 feet apart with strong stockades between.
In these stockades there were port holes.  The station contained about
half an acre of ground. Their shape was a parallelogram.  There were two
fine springs near the station on its north side.  The station was not
reoccupied after 1776, or during the Revolutionary War.”  In fact, the
indians ran the party out of Powell Valley a second time soon after they
had finished building their settlement.

Soon thereafter, Martin joined the Holston Militia as a captain.
Virginia’s governor, Patrick Henry, appointed him as Virginia’s agent to
the Cherokee, and during the winter of 1776-77 he was stationed at Fort
Patrick Henry near Long Island in both capacities.  He built a stone
house to store the goods sent by the government for distribution to the
Indians.  The Cherokee customarily expected any outsider doing
significant buisness with them to marry one of the tribe.  This
funcitoned as an insurer of good behavior on the parties concerned.  The
British Indian agents had usually complied.  Martin married Betsy Ward,
who was the daughter of the most prominent woman of the Cherokee Nation,
Nancy Ward.  Nancy was called “The Wild Rose of the Cherokee” and had
the authority of a Chief in council.  She was the daughter of Chief
Oconostota, who was the brother of Emperor Attakullakulla, or Little
Carpenter.  Attakullakulla was the father of the famous defiant chief of
the Chickamauga Cherokee, Dragging Canoe.  By an earlier marriage to
Chief Five Killer, Nancy had had a son named Little Fellow.  These
family connections were important in the unfolding relationship between
Martin and the Indians.  Martin’s wife, Sarah Lucas, knew of and
sanctioned this polygamous relationship.

Despite these tangled responsibilities and relationships, Martin was
ordered to take eighty men from that garrison to the Rye Cove Fort
following the murder by Indians of Isaac Crisman and his family.
Apparantly the Cherokee had the direct route from Fort Partick Henry to
Rye Cove closed at Moccasin Gap, as Martin took the indirect route via
Black’s Fort at Abingdon.  While the company was crossing Clinch
Mountain by Little Moccasin Gap strung out in single file, they were
fired on by Indians, who fled after the single volley which wounded one
militiaman with five musket balls.

Martin proceeded to Rye Cove, where he remained until the first of
May.  His stay at Rye Cove was eventful due to an attack lead by Little
Fellow.  Martin and Little Fellow fought each other in hand to hand
combat, though neither was harmed.  Their being brothers-in-law probably
explains this exceptional outcome.  It was also during this tour of duty
that messengers from the Kentucky militia were dispatched to Rye Cove to
seek aid in the relief from the attacks on the Kentucky settlements.
The Indians surrounding the fort killed one of the messengers, but one
of the Indians was wounded and crawled off into a came.  Martin himself
went in after him and killed him.  When he and his garrison were ordered
back to Long Island.  He stayed at Fort Patrick Henry until the peace
treaty was signed with the Cherokee July 1st.

Throughout 1778 he engaged in counterespionage against the British
Indian Agent.  Martin wrote John Stuart, the British Superintendent for
Indian Affairs, Southern Department, and feigned turning traitor.  The
British were not fooled, and Stuart commissioned a white man named Gray
and a party of Chickamaugans to assassinate Martin.  They found him in
the home of his Grandfather-in-law, Chief Oconostata, who refused to
give him up.  The hit team skulked around for a while, but upon
reflection they returned home.

The Chickamauga Cherokee did not sign the treaty of peace when the
other Cherokee had done so, and they continued to make war on the
Holston, Clinch, and Powell Valleys.  In April 1779 Col. Evan Shelby
lead an amphibious expedition against the Chickamauga towns, an event
that caught Indian Agent Martin in these villages. Shelby had sent
warning to Martin but the messenger drowned in route.  It is not
recorded how Martin got out of that scrape.

In 1780 the Revolutionary War was coming to a climax.  The British were
rampaging at will throughout the South, and they had the Mingo, Shawnee,
and Cherokee ravaging the frontier.  The British threatened to cross the
mountains and to hang the leaders of the settlers. The militia’s
customary military strategy was to carry the war to the enemy, so they
resolved to cross the mountains themselves and to attack the British.
However, the fear that the Indians would attack the settlements in the
militia’s absence resulted in a complex rear guard aciton.  The militia
of the Clinch Valley forts would remain in place to defend against the
Shawnee and Mingo.  There was no milita to spare to defend the Holston
and French Broad settlements, so Martin was given the task to neutralize
the Cherokee diplomatically during the militia’s absence.  This,
perhaps, was his finest hour, because he did succeed in this effort, and
by so doing he made the vistory at the Battle of King’s Mountain

The Cherokee began to attack the settlements again and in January 1781
when the militia had returned from King’s Mountain Martin was part of
the expedition against the Overhill Cherokee in the area of Tellico and
Hiwassee.  He met with outstanding success, and was able to dictate
peace terms requiring the chiefs to meet with him as Indian Agent at
Long Island on the Holston.  Despite this newest peace treaty with the
Cherokee, British Indian Agents succeeded in provoking more raids into
Powell Valley and against Fort Blackmore.  Martin, now a Colonel, was
dispatched with a company of militiamen into Powell’s Valley where they
chased the Indians all the way into Tennessee, to the junction of the
Powell with the Clinch.

Sarah Lucas Martin died in 1782, and two years later Martin married
Susannah Graves, who also accepted his relationship with Betsy Ward.
Indeed, Martin took his Indian son back to Eastern Virginia to get an
education., and Susannah graciously received Betsy when she visited
Scuffle Hill.

After the end of the Revolution pressures for settlement of the
Cherokee land greatly increased, and Martin gradually saw his role as
one of finding a formula to protect the Cherokee.  Oconastota actually
charged him with the task of finding an equitiable settlement for the
Cherokee.  Martin had some temporary seccesses and negotiated boundary
lines and payment in trade goods for the Cherokee.  Hatred of Martin by
the settlers began to become an open sore.

About 1783 Martin became a North Carolina State Senator representing
Sullivan County (now Tennessee).  Somehow he kept his commission in the
Virginia Militia, and even was promoted to general.  He conducted
campaigns against warring Indians who did not quit fighting when the
British did at the signing of the treaty ending the Revolutionary War.
He also served on road commissions in Virginia during this period.

In 1783 the Governor of Virginia directed that a fort be built at
Cumberland Gap and that fall Martin returned to Powell Valley and built
his “New” or “Lower” Station on Station Creek (the westernmost of the
two Sttion Creeks in Lee County) two miles from Cumberland Gap.  It was
constructed as a blockhouse, rather than as a palisaded fort like the
“Old” or “Upper” Station at Rose Hill.

In 1784 Georgia appointed him commissioner to deal with settling the
status of the Cherokee lands around Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Irreconcilable conflict arose when North Carolina opened its land
office and began to distribute land in the French Broad Valley to
Revolutionary War veterans.  Martin was still that State’s Indian agent,
and was not informed of the change in policy.   He was also still
Virginia’s Indian agent to the Cherokee, and that State continued to
pursue the policy of keeping settlers out of Indian treaty lands,
specifically the French Broad.  At this point, the Congress of the
Confederation took Indian affairs out of the hands of the States, and
appointed a commission that included Martin to deal with the Cherokee.
The Treaty of Hopewell was the result, and was the first treaty between
the United States of America and the Cherokee.

The practical effect of the treaty was to infuriate the settlers, who
felt that they had been sold out by the national government.  In 1784,
East Tennessee seceded from North Carolina and formed the State of
Franklin, with the old Indian hater John Sevier as governor.  Far
Southwest Virginia was invited to join.  Martin clearly saw that the
intent of the new State was to take by force all the Cherokee lands, and
that the only way he could prevent this from happening was to ally
himself with the national authority and with North Carolina, which
opposed the secession.  The governor of North Carolina ordered the
arrest of John Sevier, and the Franklinites surrendered in 1788.  This
would seem to have been a great victory for Martin, but it was the
beginning of the end of his role on the frontier.  Even though he
received more promotions for his successes, he was so alienated from the
settlers that he became unable to function.

His son William was killed on his way to Georgia by a Creek Indian in
1786.  As late as 1787 the Cherokee were still raiding Powell Valley and
in the fall of that year Virginia removed him as Indian Agent, possibly
because he had been unsuccessful in stopping the Indian raids.

In 1788 Martin sold his Lee County holdings, and in 1789 he returned to
his Scuffle Hill family, never to return to far Southwest Virginia and
Northeast Tennessee.  His commission as United States Indian Agent was
allowed to expire.  What happened to Betsy Ward is not recorded.  His
Old and New Stations were still garrisoned by militia as late as 1792
when Powell Valley was threatened by an invasion of 1000 Cherokee

In 1793 Martin was elected to the Virginia General Assembly, a post he
kept for twelve years.  In 1795 he helped negotiate boundary disputes
between Virginia and the States of Tennessee and of Kentucky.

In 1808 the British were again inciting the Cherokee to warfare, and
the aged Martin was commissioned one last time to make peace. He
returned from the trip to Tennessee worn out, and died of a stroke on
December 18, 1808.

His white children included Brice, John, Joseph, Lafayette, and
William.  His children by Betsy Ward are not documented, but the William
that was killed by a Creek Indian likely was one of them, as the white
William was a well known attorney in Henry County, and lived to write a
biography of his father.  Who the William Martin that owned land on
Indian Creek and who died in Lee County in 1821 was is not known.
Neither is it known if the Brice Martin that owned land among Joseph’s
holdings between Rose Hill and Ewing was his brother or his son.

Today, the irreconcilable Indian fighters like John Sevier, William
Blount, and the Shelby brothers are well remembered.  Towns, schools,
and other things of importance are named to commemorate them.  Joseph
Martin, the peace maker, is best remembered by the creek which starts at
the spring that supplied his Upper Station and which bears his name.
Perhaps it is fitting, as it is a favorite of trout fishermen, who
pursue their peaceful passtime in its cool waters.


The constellation of Martin’s properties centered around his Lower or New Station near Shawnee, Tennessee, and his Upper or Old Station properties around Rose Hill and Ewing.  There was a total of 1,349 acres running from US 58 in Virginia to Harrogate, Tennessee that was the Lower Station tract.  The state line between Tennessee and Virginia at that time ran south of Harrogate, and all these properties were entirely in Virginia.

The Upper Station properties owned by Joseph Martin total 2,775 acres,
including 365 acres that Joseph sold his right to James Campbell before
he registered them with the State Land Office.  In addition there are
two tracts in the middle of this string of tracts that belonged to Brice
Martin which totalled 1,220 acres.  It is not known if this Brice Martin
was the son or the brother of Joseph.

In addition Joseph Martin owned four tracts of land down Martin’s Creek
near its mouth and in the watershed of Four Mile Creek, which totaled
1,126 acres.  He also owned 291 acres at Dot next to the Rocky Staton
tract of Isaac Chrisman, Jr.  This brings the total land holdings of
Joseph Martin within the historic bounds of Lee County, Virginia to
5,541 acres.


1)  Addington, Robert M. – HIstory of Scott County, Virginia

2)  Summers, Lewis P. –  History of Southwest Virginia and Washington

3)  Hamilton, Emory –  “Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia”
publication #4

4)  Bristol Herald Courior”  June 1, 1980

5)  Morrison, Denise Pratt –  Joseph Martin and the Southern Frontier

6)  Laningham, Anne W. –  Early Settlers of Lee County, Virginia and
Adjacent Counties

7)  land grant research by  the author and by Dale Carter

8)  Virginia State Library

Cherokee Footpaths

The following article, by William Harwood, appeared in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, and is used here by their permission:

“The exercise will do them good.” The statement seems benign enough until you consider its source – a decidedly corpulent General Winfield Scott referring to the Cherokee’s forced exodus from the Southern Appalachians.

The year was 1838, and the white-folks-in-charge had decided it was time for the Cherokee to go. Despite opposition from some – Ralph Waldo Emerson, for instance, who urged his countrymen not to inflict “so vast an outrage upon the Cherokee Nation” – the removal at gunpoint proceeded and became known as the infamous “Trail of Tears,” a national disgrace in which thousands died on a forced march west. As wicked as it was, the crime would have been even worse had it not been for an extensive network of trails which cut through the gaps and ran along the ridge lines of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Several hundred Cherokee used them to evade Scott’s troops, helping to form what is now the Eastern band of the tribe. Many of today’s most popular trails – including sections of the Appalachian Trail – are former Cherokee trails.

These trails were originally blazed by the “buffalo,” the North American bison. Back in the day, these big bovines – six foot plus at the shaggy shoulders and a ton of chunk on the hoof – thrived in the thick forests of the Southeast. Migrating across millenia between seasonal feeding grounds on opposite sides of the Appalachians, the bison bulled their way through the Blue Ridge, leaving in their wake a network of pathways which, for the first Cherokee who finally came along, was nothing less than the information superhighway of its day. Its existence allowed for various forms of communication over distances and landscapes that otherwise would have been impossible. Since the first horse would not be seen in the Blue Ridge until Hernando de Soto came clopping along in the sixteenth century, all communication would have proceeded at the speed of feet. Champion Cherokee trail runners must have been treated like some combination of rock star and FedEx delivery guy.

By the time the settlers barnstormed their way in, punctuating the equilibrium with their pigs and cattle, gunpowder and iron, whiskey and exotic diseases, the Native Americans had developed the trails into a web of continental proportions. Archaeologist William Myer documented dozens of such trails. One of the most important, the Great Indian War Path, linked what is now upstate New York to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama. Along the way, this spinal column of a trail intersected major east-west routes which connected the Carolinas to Tennessee, and Virginia to the Ohio Valley. If you could travel back in time to 1492, it would have been possible to run for years east of the Mississippi without ever having to step off a trail. Even the mighty Appalachian Trail can only gaze upon such well-endowed mileage.

But things fall apart and centers cannot hold. Almost nothing of the original Cherokee trail network remains. In fact, its very existence facilitated its destruction as it provided a convenient avenue of entry for all those settlers with their wagons full of stuff. Some stretches, to be sure, remain in use to this day, but those tend to be the valley sections and are now state highways with big trucks and SUVs zooming over them.

Then there’s Warrior’s Path State Park in Tennessee, named for the Cherokee section of trail that once cut through the Holston River Valley and reached all the way north into Iriquois country. The park is lovely, but its 12 miles of trail fail to measure up to the original trail by almost three orders of magnitude.

Still, a few of the Southern Appalachian trails today are based on previous Cgerokee trails, including sections of the Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina. One of the most popular stretches is the “Bull Gap” section, which got its name when, in 1799, a settler by the name of Joseph Rice shot the very last buffalo in North Carolina.

— William Harwood