The Historic Environment of the Forts of The Holston Militia

Copyright and All Rights Reserved by:
Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Big Stone Gap, Va. March 2005

Three battles or military campaigns that shaped modern America were fought by the settlers of Southwest Virginia and Upper Northeast Tennessee.  They fought as units of the Virginia Militia, a formally organized arm of the Commonwealth.  At the time, they were usually referred to as “The Holston Militia”.

The American Revolution is generally said to have run from 1775 to either 1781 or 1783.  However, in the Valleys of the upper Holston, Clinch, and Powell Rivers the conflict lasted from 1774 to 1794, and was fought against the Mingo, Shawnee, and Cherokee, as well as the British.  During the years 1775 to 1781, these Indian tribes were both instigated and armed by the British to fight the Americans as a major strategic campaign by the British government as part of its efforts to subdue the insurrection.

The Revolution had its origins in the settlement of the French and Indian War. While it is true that in the Northern Colonies issues of the tea tax, and the Stamp Act were of paramount importance, the issue of greatest importance in the South was the British closing of the frontier.

In Virginia settlement was to be confined to east of the New River.  At the time of the French and Indian War, there were permanent settlements already established in the Holston Valley, and there were semipermanent hunting camps in the Valleys of the Clinch and Powell.

Nevertheless, both settlement and land sales within the lands west of the New River proceeded, even with the active connivance of the Royal Government of His Majesty’s Colony of Virginia.

The Shawnee, and their allies, the Mingo, owned the New River Valley.  In 1774 they launched a military effort to clean this region out of its illegal settlements.  In response to this threat, Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, ordered the frontier to be fortified.  Following their invariable practice of carrying the war to the enemy, rather than passively waiting for him to invade their homes, the Militia marched down the New River, and collided with the Shawnee at its mouth, where on October 10, 1775 the Battle of Point Pleasant, the only battle in Lord Dunmore’s War, was fought.  The fighting was intense, and lasted all day long.  It could have gone either way, but in the end the Shawnee returned to their towns on the Scioto River in Ohio.  The militia followed and laid waste to their towns.

In 1775 Daniel Boone started leading immigrants into Kentucky, which was also Shawnee territory.  Theodore Roosevelt, in his two volume history, The Winning of the West, sagely observed that if the Militia had lost the Battle of Point Pleasant, the United States’ western border would today be the Alleghenies.  There would be nothing American west of Cumberland Gap.  As it was, the settlement of Kentucky and of the Old Northwest Territory was a very close thing, and almost failed.  However, due to the punishment taken by the Shawnee in Lord Dunmore’s War, they were too shaken to have opposed these western settlements to any significant extent for two years after the Battle of Point Pleasant, and by the time they began their campaigns against these settlements, they were too deeply seated to be uprooted.

The same proposition can be made for the Great Cherokee War of 1776.  The British armed the Cherokee, and sent them against the settlements in the Holston, Clinch, and Powell Valleys.  To meet this threat, new forts were built.  The Cherokee did succeed in driving all the settlements out of Lee County and forced the evacuation of all of their forts except for the one at Rocky Station.  The Holston Valley was evacuated all the way back to Black’s Fort at Abingdon, and after a number of attacks, Fort Rye Cove was evacuated in Clinch Valley.  This severed the Wilderness Road that sustained the Kentucky settlements.  Before its evacuation, the garrison at Rye Cove Fort saved Kentucky, and its settlements barely held on.  But, again, it was an extremely close thing.  If one lone militia messenger from the Kentucky settlements had not succeeded in penetrating the Cherokee pickets at Rye Cove, the USA would never have made it west of Cumberland Gap.  On at least three occasions, the garrison of Rye Cove sent relief forces on the run to relieve Shawnee sieges of Boonesboro, Kentucky.

In the fall of 1780, again the Holston Militia fought a battle that saved America.  The British had given up on trying to win the Revolution in the North, and had invaded the South by Charleston, South Carolina.  Lord Cornwallis was marching north toward Virginia, and had a unit of crack American Loyalist troops under Col. Ferguson screening his movement from possible attack by the Holston Militia.  Indeed, the Holston Militia fell upon Ferguson’s command at the Battle of King’s Mountain in South Carolina on October 7, 1780.  Ferguson was killed and his troops nearly annihilated.  This battle set in motion a series of events that in the end forced Cornwallis to take his army to the coast at Yorktown, Va., where they could receive the protection of the British Fleet.  The rest is history.

The British forgot to tell the Cherokee to quit attacking the frontier when they, themselves, quit fighting.  The Cherokee maintained a bloody warfare against the frontier settlements until April 1794.  Indeed, the two decades that the Holston Militia fought for its existence was the bloodiest and longest war with the Indians in the United States.

This era of American history can be best understood by a study of the system of forts constructed by the Holston Militia in the Valleys of the upper Holston, Clinch, and Powell Valleys.  The book, The Forts of the Holston Militia, details the location of 36 of these structures, and gives period narratives concerning them to provide context.

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

The Long Hunter

The Long Hunter

by Emory L. Hamilton, p. 29, The Mountain Empire Genealogical Quarterly, Spring l984.

The Long Hunter was peculiar to Southwest Va., only and nowhere else on any
frontier did such hunts ever originate. True, there were hunters and groups of
hunters on all frontiers in pioneer days, but they were never organized and
publicized as the long hunts which originated on the Va. frontier. Most, if not
all of the long hunts originated on the Holston in the vicinity of present day
Chilhowie, but were made up of hunters who lived on both the Clinch and Holston
rivers. The idea of this manuscript is to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that
these long hunters were native to the area and were land owners, or residents
along the waters of these two rivers.
Perhaps no group in history, who contributed so much to the knowledge of the
topography of our county, have been so nearly completely by-passed by historians
as have the long hunter of the late colonial days. In almost every instance when
the pioneer settler moved toward the extreme frontier, he had long since been
proceeded by the long hunter. When the first settlers were arriving at Wolf
Hills (Abingdon) and Cassell’s Woods in l768 and l769, the long hunters had long
ago by-passed these points and were then hunting far away in the Ohio and
Cumberland river basins of Ky. and western Tenn.
Most of the rivers and streams, gaps, salt licks, mountains and valleys had long
ago been named by these hunters. When the lst settlers arrived, they, in most
cases, adopted the names bestowed by the long hunters on natural land marks,
with very few changes, and we are still using most of them after a lapse of
nearly two centuries. Dr. Thomas Walker, on his trip to the Ohio, entered in his
Journal on April 9, l750, this statement: “We traveled to a river, which I
supposed to be that which hunters call Clinchís river, from on Clinch a hunter
who first found it.” This entry was made almost twenty years before a settlement
was made on the Clinch River and leaves little doubt as to how the river got its
In the annals of American history there is no braver lot than these early
hunters. Not only did they endure the rigorous winters in crude shelters, but
the danger of sickness, privation, exposure, hunting accidents, and the very
real and ever present danger of being scalped by the Indians. They were
especially disliked by the Indians, being looked upon as robbers of their
hunting grounds, which they truly were, and also, as forerunners of the
ever-spreading, land-clearing, soil-tilling settler.
Just why was this particular group of men given to hunting, instead of tilling
the soil as most settlers? Perhaps there are three answers to this question;
first, the spirit of adventure born in some people which they are unable to
quell, among whom were James Dysart and Castleton Brooks who were quite
well-to-do, as well as Colonel James Knox, who is referred to as the leader of
the long hunters and who later became very wealthy. Secondly, there were those
who enjoyed, above all else, the spirit of the hunt, among whom were Elisha
Wallen, William Carr, Isaac Bledsoe, and others, who, all their lives were
hunters and nothing but hunters. The last answer, but certainly not the least,
was the profit derived from these hunts. it was not uncommon for a hunter to
realize sixteen to seventeen hundred dollars for his seasonís take, and this was
far in excess of what he could earn in almost any other lucrative endeavor. The
hides and pelts were sold along the coast, where animals were not longer
plentiful, and in England, for making leather, especially buffalo skins. The
British market was lost at the outbreak of the Rev. War and the long hunts were
never again pursued after the Rev. War began.
The long hunter today would be called a scientist, naturalist, explorer, or some
other high-sounding name, for he had to be master of many arts. He knew the sky
and what a sunset foretold; he knew the wind and could tell it by smell, as to
weather dry or moist, and could wet his finger with spittle and tell in which
direction it was blowing. He could, in numerous ways, tell the seasons, predict
the weather, and by the stars he could tell the time and direction. He knew the
plants and where they grew, and by feeling the moss and shaggy bark of a tree,
determine the north and find his direction by night. He knew the medicinal
properties of plants and how to treat his wounds and ailments there from.
He knew his rifle, how to use it, repair it, and even in some instances how to
make one. He knew the use of the hunting and skinning knife, the tomahawk, and
other tools and weapons of the hunt and the kill, which was often times the kill
of an Indian whose skill and cunning he was forced to match and outwit in order
to survive. He was aware of , and knew the habits and animals and birds and was
able to distinguish the true call of such from the imitation by an Indian. He
received his training from masters of natural history to survive. The very toys
of his childhood were imitations of his future life.
The long hunters usually went out in Oct. and returned the latter part of March,
or early in April. Their winter’s take consisted of both fur pelts and hides,
especially the hides of buffalo which were want only slaughtered for the hides
only, the carcass left to be devoured by animals and vultures. There are
recorded events where hundreds and, a few times, where thousands were slain, and
certainly the Indian was justified in his feelings that his hunting grounds were
being robbed.
The best descriptions of the long hunters have been left to us by John Reed, who
knew many of them intimately, both in his native Pittsylvania Co., and also in
Powell Valley when he came to Martin’s station in l775.
According to Reed, the long hunters seldom hunted in parties larger than two or
three men. their reasons for this were two-fold: first, larger parties were more
apt to scare game away, and secondly, the Indians were less likely to become
suspicious of a small group robbing their hunting grounds, not to mention that
smaller parties were less likely to be discovered by the Indians. Redd tells a
very interesting story about Powell Valley that was related to him by the long
Hunter, William Carr.
“Twelve miles south of Martin’s Station on Powell River, there was a very rich
piece of bottom land call “rob Camp”. In this there was the remains of an old
hunting camp from which the land took its name. Some five years before Martin’s
Station was settled (Martin first came to Lee county in l769, explored the
valley, but stayed only a few days. He returned in l775 and established his
Station, hence the referred to event must have taken place in l770), three men,
with two horses each, and with their traps, guns and other necessary equipment
for a long hunt, settled down in the bottom above alluded to; built a camp and
spent the fall, winter and part of the spring there in hunting.”
At that time peace existed between the whites and Indians. These hunters were
very successful in killing game and lived in perfect harmony with the Indians,
who frequently visited the hunters and congratulated them upon their success in
taking game. This intimacy continued until the spring, at which time, the
hunters concluded that they had as much fur and skins as they could conveniently
carry home. Accordingly, they commenced packing loaded their horses and were in
the act of setting off for home, with the earnings of their successful hunt,
when twelve or fifteen Indians came up, took possession of their horses, furs,
guns, and in fact all the hunters had, and in exchange gave them three of their
old guns, and told the hunters that the land they were hunting on belonged to
the Indians, and also the game, that they would spare their lives that time, but
cautioned them never to return.
Reed tells of another interesting camp he saw in Powell Valley. He states: ” I
was b. on the 25th day of Oct. l755. In Jan. l775, when we were on our way out
to settle Martin’s Station in Powell’s valley, in going down Wallen’s Creek,
near its junction with Powell river, where the hills closed in very near the
creek, was found the remains of an old hunting camp, and in front of the camp
the bones of two men were lying bleached. they were said to be the bones of two
men who went out hunting in the fall of l773 and never returned. their names I
have forgotten.
In another letter to Dr. Lyman C. Draper, Redd has this to say in his answer to
a query made by Draper: “The remains of the camp I saw in Powell Valley were on
its north side; and as well as my memory serves me, were within forty or fifty
yards of the mouth of Wallen’s creek at the ford of Powell/s river. The camp was
built beside a large limestone rock which served for the back of the camp. The
names of the persons whose bones I saw there I should be unable to accurately
distinguish were I to hear them. This may be possibly the camp pitched by
Bonne’s war party. The bones I saw were not known certainly to be those of the
two long hunters having gone on a long hunt in Powell Valley in l773, who had
not returned. The camp was eight or ten miles from Martin’s Station.
Redd’s reference to “Boone’s war party” must be a reference to the spot where
Daniel Boone’s party camped in l773 to await the party coming to join them from
Castlewood, which was ambushed and massacred near the head of Wallen’s Creek on
Oct. l0, l773. the location described by Redd also fits the general location of
Elisha Wallen’s hunting camp of l76l.
Redd says the long hunters set out with two pack horses each a large supply of
powder and lead, a small hand vise and bellows, a screwplate and files for
repairing their rifles, and while he makes no mention of it, they also carried a
supply of flour and bread. In fact, on the way out they could carry quite a lot
of supplies as each hunter had two pack horses.
The long hunters went out together in large parties, built a station camp, then
fanned out in twos and threes to range and hunt over large areas. The first
known station camp established in Powell’s Valley was that of Elisha Wallen in
l76l. It is thought his party consisted of eighteen or nineteen men, but since
no list has been preserved, only the names of a very few are known certainly to
have been in the party. Wallen’s station camp, set up at the mouth of Wallen’s
Creek, was probably like other station camps, built of poles, sometime only
eight-ten feet, covered with puncheions or bark, walls on three sides the front
open, along which a fire was built for warmth. Upright poles were set up—often
a forked pole was driven into the ground, with a cross pole on which the bark or
pucheons were laid, sloping toward the back in order to drain melting snow or
rain away from the fire. This type of shelter was known as “Half-faced” camps.
Other times an extra large already-fallen tree or large rock was used for the
backwall of such a camp shelter. Some of Wallen’s party are said to have seen
the eleven-year-old carving of the name of Powell and so named the valley, river
and mountain. Ambrose Powell had been a member of Dr. Thomas Walker’s exploring
party of l750.
Redd says that when he knew Wallen on Smith’s river in Pittsylvania Co. in l774,
he was then some forty years old and had been a long hunter for many years
before. that he usually hunted on a range of mountains lying on the east of
Powells’ Valley and from Wallen to the mountain took its name. Wallen described
the ridge and surrounding country on which he hunted as abounding in almost
every known specie of game. The animals and birds had been intruded on so seldom
that they did not fear his presence, but rather regarded him as a benefactor,
but soon learned to flee from his presence.
Wallen, along with Blevins and Coaxes, who were connected by marriage, lived on
Smith’s river in Pittsylvania Co. in l774. they owned no land, but were
squatters. During the Rev. War, the Va. Legislature passes a law that British
subjects who owned land must come in and take the oath of allegiance or their
lands would be confiscated. Redd says that some in Pittsylvania Co. did this,
and Wallen, the Blevinses and Coxes, packed up “enmass” and moved to the
frontier for fear they would have to pay many years back rent as squatters. He
states that the Blevins and Cox families settled on Holston River, above Long
Island,, (now Kingport) and that Wallen settled on the Holston about eighteen
miles above Knoxville, and that in l776 he stopped by to see him, and was
informed by Wallen’s wife that he had then been on a hunt for two months. Redd
further states that Wallen later moved to Powell Valley, lived there a short
time and then moved to Mo.
Redd’s statement of Wallen’s movements is borne out by a letter written to Dr.
Draper by F.A. Wallen, a nephew to Elisha, from Fairlan, Livingston Co., Mo.,
dated Oct. l5, l853, in which he says: “He (Elisha) moved from Va. to Tenn.
thence to Ky., thence to Washington Co. Mo. at a very early date.”
That Elisha Wallen lived for sometime in Powell Valley, near Martin’s Station is
further proven by a letter to Col. William Martin, son of Gen. Joseph Martin who
built Martin’s Station. This letter is dated Dixon Springs, (Tenn.) 7 July l842,
and is also to Dr. Draper. In the letter William Martin tells of going on
hunting trips with Wallen who lived near his father’s station in Powell Valley.
He said Wallen told him of going back and forth to Pittsylvania Co. where he
lived, of his helping col. (William) Byrd establish fort Chiswell (l76l) of
being at fort Loudon, and of building a fort at Long Island of Houston. Col.
Martin says that he was intimately acquainted with Wallen in his latter days.
The time col. Martin knew Wallen was in l785 and thereafter, as he did not come
out to his father’s station in Powell Valley until l785.
In Wallen’s party of l76l, some were known to hunt as fart away as the
Cumberland river in western Tenn. Among those known to have been in this party,
besides Wallen, there was his father-in-law Jack Blevins, his brother-in-law,
William Blevins, Charles Cox, William Newman, William Pitman, Henry Scaggs,
Uriah Stone, Michael Stoner; James Harrod and William Carr. At this time,
William Pittman was in his early twenties, six feet tall and of fine appearance.
There were several Pittmans and more than one named William.
Of this William Pittman, John Redd says; “In the latter part of Feb.l776,
Pittman and Scaggs came to Martin’s Station in Powell Valley. They were
returning from a long hunt they had taken in the “Brush” on the northwest side
of Cumberland Mountain. They returned earlier than usual and their reason for
doing so was that they had seen a great smoke some distance off which they knew
was Indian “ring-hunting”, and besides, they had seen Indian tracks through the
woods, where they were hunting; whereupon they set out for home. They spent some
eight to ten days at the Station. While they were with us, they showed some
silver ore they had found on top of a little hill in their hunting ground.
They said that while they were hunting, a snow fell some twelve to eighteen
inches deep. Scaggs and Pittman went out through the snow to kill some game.
after going a short distance from their camp, they discovered that on top of a
certain hill, there was no snow, while all the surrounding hills were covered
with it. This led them to go upon the hill and see the cause of its not being
covered with snow like the rest. On arriving at the summit of the hill, they
discovered that it was covered with a very heavy kind of ore. Each of them put
some of the ore in their shot bag and returned to camp.”
“When they arrived at the camp, they took some of the ore, and by means of their
hand bellows and some thick oak bark, it was melted and they found it to be
silver ore. They brought it back with them to Martin’s Station—the silver they
had extracted and some of the ore. The silver was pronounced by all who saw it
to be very pure.”
“Scaggs & Pittman were said to be men of a very high sense of honor and very
great truth. By the next fall the war with the Indians broke out and they went
no more on their long hunts.” He further states that in l776 Scaggs and Pittman
lived on New river.
In Washington Co., Va., Land Entry Book I, p. 86, dated Nov. 8, l782, I find
where William Pittman once owned the land on sugar Hill, overlooking St. Paul.
Va. This is the land upon which John English settled in l772, where his wife and
children were killed by Indians in l787, and which he sold to the Bench Baron
Pierre De Tubeuf in l79l, and the site where the Baron was murdered in l795. The
land had changed hands many times by assignment of warrant before the Baron
bought it. English obtained it from Henry Hamlin who had obtained it from Joseph
Drake, another long hunter, and Drake had gotten it from William Pittman, who in
turn had received it from Thomas Pittman and Joseph Drake. Just what relation
Thomas was to the long hunter, William Pittman, is unknown.
Henry Scaggs left the area and moved on into Ky., dying on Pittman’s Creek in
Taylor Co., Ky., about l808 or l809, upwards of 80 years old. Collins, in his
“History of Ky.”, says: “He was six feet tall, dark skinned, bony, bold,
enterprising and fearless. He and his brother (Perhaps Charles) were noted
hunters, and nothing but hunters. It was from Scaggs that Scaggs Creek in
Rockcastle Co., Ky., got its name.
In l779 Henry Scaggs wads living on the Clinch in Tenn. He had been hunting for
twenty years on the other side of the mountain, and this fall in addition to a
party of upwards of twenty men, with extra pack horses, he took his young son.
In Powell Valley, his party had the not-very-unusual luck of being attacked by
Indians, who, though they killed no man, took eleven of their horses. All the
hunters turned back except Scaggs, his son, and a man remembered only by the
name of Sinclair (undoubtedly this was Charles Sinclair who lived on New river
at Sinclar’s Bottom). Scaggs’ young son sickened and died on this trip and
because of the severe winter of l779-80, the ground was so frozen he had to bury
him in a hollow tree.” the severity of this winter is attested in many Rev. War
pension claims.
Of William Carr little is known, except the little left to us in the
Reminiscences of John Redd, who says: “He was raised in Albemarle Co., Va., and
at a very early age removed to the frontier. In l775 I became acquainted with
him in Powell’s Valley. He lived on the frontier for twenty years or more and
had spent the whole time hunting, Carr hunted over in Ky., beyond the Cumberland
Mountains to the right of Cumberland Gap in a place called “the bush”. Carr
always returned with his horses laden with furs and skins. He described the game
as being so gentle the animals rarely run from the report of his gun.”
“Carr was the most venturesome hunter I ever knew. He would frequently go on
these hunting expeditions alone. After the breaking out of the Indian War of
l776, few men ventured on these long hunts. Carr determined to take one more
long hunt, and as no one would go with him, he determined to go alone.
I do not know just where Carr resided on the frontier. it is hard to trace the
name since the records show both a William Carr and William Kerr, and whether
they are one and the same I do not know. In a land suit in Augusta Superior
Court in l809, (Fugate vs. Mahan) with the land in question lying on Moccasin
Creek, Agness Fugate Mahan, widow of Francis Fugate, said: “that in l77l,
Francis Fugate purchased the land in question from William Carr, a “Negro man of
color”, and that Carr was supposed to have bought the land from John Morgan, one
of the first settlers in that area.”
In the same suit John Montgomery, another witness said: “William Carr is
supposed to be a near relation to Gen. Joseph Martin.”
In connection with Agness Fugate Manhan’s statement about William Carr being a
Negro man of color, John Redd tells this intriguing story:
“William —–was b. in Albemarle Co., Va. He was the first son of his mother;
notwithstanding his mother and her husband were both very respectable and had a
fine estate, yet when William was born he turned out to be a dark mulatto. the
old man being a good sort of a fellow and withal, very credulous, was induced by
his better half to believe the color of his son was a judgment sent on her for
her wickedness. William was sent to school and learned the rudiments of an
English education and, at the age of eighteen he was furnished with a good
horse, gun and some money and directed by reputed father to go to the frontier
and seek his fortune and never return.”
“In the early part of the spring of l775, I became personally acquainted with
William at Martin’s Station in Powells valley. He was then about forty years of
age; he never married, and had been living on the frontier something like twenty
years. He lived in the forts and stations and lived entirely by hunting.
Notwithstanding his color he was treated with as much respect as any white man.
Few men possessed a more high sense of honor and true bravery than he did. He
was possessed of a very strong natural mind and always cheerful and the very
life of any company he was in. He had hunted in the “brush” for many years
before I became acquainted with him. He was about the ordinary height, little
inclined to be corpulent, slightly round shouldered and weighed about l60 to l70
pounds and very strong for one of his age.
One William Carr was in Capt. Robert Doak’s militia company June 2, l774, and a
William Carr was also in the Cherokee campaign under col. Christian in the same
year. Beckley, in his “History of Tazewell Co.”, tells of a hunter named Carr
making an early settlement in Tazewell Co., Va.
Another long hunter, who was in the Clinch area for sometime, was Uriah Stone,
and it seems he made land improvements in many places where he hunted, probably
with the hope of selling them as he did one in the present Tazewell Co., as
shown by a land suit in Augusta Co. Superior Court, Maxwell vs. Pickens, filed
l807. In this suit James Maxwell stated:
“In l772 I went from Botetourt co. where I lived to present Tazewell Co. to make
a settlement. I was in company with Samuel Walker. found a tract with some
improvements, viz.: the foundations of a cabin, some rails split and some trees
deadened. That night we fell in with a party of hunters, among them Uriah Stone,
who claimed to have made the improvement, and I purchased it.”
In the same land suit Lawrence Murray stated: “Thirty-three years ago (l774) I
was in Wright’s Valley at Uriah Stone’s cabin.”
Another land suit in the same court, Wynn vs. Engle’s heirs, the same Samuel
Walker referred to in the other case, stated that he came to the head of the
Clinch in l77l, and the following year he came again with Robert Moffett.
Shortly thereafter two men came out, viz.: Uriah Stone and John Stutler.
Note from Ida—-You will note how often Martin’s Station is mentioned. I found
where Cherokee Rose or the Beloved Woman went to Martin’s Station and warned
them that the Indians were going to attack. I started wondering why an Indian
woman would go to a station and warn them. What I found was that Joseph Martin
was living with one of her daughters and he had a wife back in Va. The wife in
Va. knew about the Indian woman. She died and he went back to Va. and Md.
another white woman named Graves. Note that one line of Skaggs tie in with the
Graves family. Cherokee Rose had another daughter living in the Martin’s
station. She did not want her daughters killed. Now who was Cherokee Rose. She
was also know as Nancy Ward. There is a film that you can get at LDS about Nancy
Ward. Nancy Ward was lst married. to an Indian. She went to battle with her
husband against another tribe of Indians. Her husband was killed and she picked
up his gun and continued to fight, because she did this she was given the title
of Beloved Woman or Cherokee Rose. She later maried a man from England. Nancy
Ward was given lot of power after she fought with her husband. She was given the
right to decided who was to be burned at the stake and who wasn’t. She saved a
Mrs. Bean from being burned at the stake. The Nancy Ward film give all of her
descendants. There are many Martin’s listed. Apparently if you can tie in with
the Nancy Ward lines you don’t have any trouble getting a number.
James Smith, a Pennsylvanian, left his home in the fall of l765, and the
following spring of l766 found him in the Holston country of Va. Where
settlement was thickening in the general vicinity of Samuel Stalnaker’s place.
There, Smith, in company with Joshua Horton, William Baker, Uriah Stone, for
whom Stone’s river in Tenn. was named, and another James Smith from near
Carlisle in Pennsylvania, had gone west.
Stone returned to middle Tenn. again in l767, and at this time, or soon after,
Stone made an improvement on a claim to “A certain place known as Stoner’s Lick,
on the east side of Stone’s river. Stone was a juror in the Fincastle court of
July 7, l773, and on this same date, he, along with Obediah Terrell, Gasper,
Mansker and Castleton Brooks were witnesses in the case of John Baker versus
Humphrey Hogan, all of whom were long hunters. Then again in the Fincastle court
of Nov. 3, l773, there was a motion by Uriah Stone to stay the proceedings of a
judgment obtained against him by Obediah Terrell. The last mention of Stone in
the Fincastle records was on Dec. 6, l774, when Gasper Mansker was a plaintiff
against Uriah Stone and Jacob Harmon.
Michael Stoner, whose real name was George Michael Holsteiner, along with Isaac
Bledsoe, Gasper Mansker, John Montgomery and Joseph Drake were on the Cumberland
in l767 and are said to have had a station camp in l768 on what is now Station
Camp Creek, north of Cumberland in middle Tenn.
A group of hunters from South Carolina, who were on the Cumberland in l767, make
mention of meeting James Harrod and Michael Stoner on Stone’s river, who were
from Fort Pitt by way of the Illinois.
This is the very same Michael Stoner who was at Castlewood and went with Daniel
Boone in l774 to Ky. to warn the surveying parties of Indian dangers just prior
to the outbreak of Dunmore’s war, and without proof, there is every evidence
that Stoner was much better acquainted with Ky. than was Boone, for Boone’s
first trip through Cumberland Gap was in l769, and after having missed finding
the gap on previous trips, he was at this time led through the gap by John
Findley, another long hunter and settler on the Cumberland River in Tenn.
While trying to find someone to send to Ky. to warn the surveying parties, on
June 22, l774, Col. William Christian wrote to Col. William Preston that he was
thinking of sending out a certain Crabtreee to search for the surveyors, having
him do this as a sort of atonement for his late achievement in murdering some
friendly Cherokees. Having some doubt about the ethics of this, however, he next
thought of sending out Joseph Drake, who, as one of the long hunters, was
tolerably well acquainted with Ky.
Col. Preston wrote Captain William Russell of Castlewood about this matter, and
Russell, on the 26th of June, l774, answered Preston saying: “I have engaged to
start immediately, on the occasion, two of the best hands I could think of,
Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner, who have engaged to search the country as low
as the Falls (Louisville), and to return by way of Gasper’s Lick on Cumberland,
and through Cumberland Gap.”
Michael Stoner went to Ky. with Boone when he made his settlement at Boonesboro,
and Cotterill, in his “Ky. in l774” implies that Stoner was with Boone’s party
when they made their unsuccessful attempt to settle in Ky. in l773, and that he
had been a close associate of Boone for several years before, Boone and Stoner
having first met on the New River, and that, when Booneís party was turned back
in l773, he had probably been living with the Boone family on the Clinch.
Stoner, born about l748, was also a member of Boone’s road-cutting party through
Cumberland Gap and was still alive in l80l, when he made a deposition in Wayne
Co., Ky.
He married a doughtier of Andrew Tribble. He was wounded at the siege of
Boonesboro, fainted from loss of blood after he had refused to let anyone come
to him, for he was outside the fort walls. His wounds were only flesh wounds,
one in the hip and another in the arm. After losing his land grants he settled
with his father-in-law near Price’s Station.
Two other long hunters of Powell Valley were William Crabtree and James
Aldridge, both of whom were probably in Wallen’s hunting party of l76l. Of these
two, John Reed, says:
“I have seen them both frequently, but know nothing of interest connected with
their long hunts. More of an Indian scout and hunter than a farmer, William
Crabtree was a real backwoodsman, tall, slender and with slightly red hair.
The Crabtrees lived on the Holston, a numerous family, with many of the same
name, therefore it is hard to distinguish which William was the long hunter, but
it is believed he was the William who was a son of William and Hannah Whittaker
Crabtree whose residence was at the Big Lick near Saltville. If so, he was born
in Baltimore Co., Maryland, circa l748. His first wife was Hannah Lyon, sister
to the long hunter, Humberson Lyon. After her death he was married in l777 to
Katherine Starnes and she died in Tazewell Co. in l8l8. The father of William
Crabtree, whose name was also William, lived near the Salt Works (now Saltville)
where he died in l777. -Note the name Humberson Lyon. Remember Aaron Skaggs was
taken into court for cohabitation with Sarah Lyon. No one knows who Sarah Lyon
was. Was she the wife or daughter. of Humberson Lyon. Also Humberson stole a
bunch of furs from James Skaggs).
Redd says: “I know not where Crabtree was from originally. In l777 he was living
on Watauga, not far above its junction with the Holston. I know not what finally
became of him. He was about thirty years of age.”
Of the long hunter, James Aldridge, this writer has been unable to recover any
data of significance, as he seems to be mentioned in none of the court records.
Some writers have said that he lived on the New River, but John Redd says he
lived in the neighborhood with the Crabtrees on Holston. He is described as
being about 30 years of age, a dark haired, heavily built man, stoop shouldered,
but with a sprightly mind.
Humberson Lyon, was another of the long hunters who early hunted on the
Cumberland. He was a brother-in-law to Willaim Crabtree, having married his
sister, Hanna Crabtree. (Note from Ida—will if he was a brother-in -law of
William Crabtree then he could not be the husband of Sarah Lyon as many think.
Many say that Crabtree started the Rev. War when he killed the Indian. A good
paper back book is, “The Last Frontier” by Alan W. Eckert. You can purchase this
book at your local book store and it is not high. It give you a lot of back
ground as to what was going on in that day & time.) Humberson will was exhibited
in Washington Co., Va. court on March l6, l784, and proven by the oaths of
Isaac, Job, and Hanna Crabtree, and who, along with William Crabtree were wit.
to the will. Abraham Crabtree was administrator & his securities were William &
James Crabtree. The will was probated march l6, l784, and he left his estate to
his wife and sons, William, James, Stephan and Jacob, and daughter Susanna.
Humberson Lyon was a Juror in Fincastle Co. in l773, & was recommended Captain
in the Washington Co., Va. militia, Oct. 9, l780.
In l769, a party of approximately forty hunters, with James Knox as their leader
spent more than a year in the Cumberland country. Many conflicting account of
this party of l769 have been written. Much of the confusion because the party
split into several parties, each going in a different direction. Everybody is
pretty well agreed that they went in a body over the Hunter’s trail to Flat Lick
(near Stinking Creek, about eight miles north and a little west of Cumberland
Just about all the long hunters heretofore mentioned in this manuscript were on
this hunt, and those not mentioned previously being the Bledsoe brothers,
Anthony, Abraham & Isaac, John Baker, Thomas Gordon, Jacob Harmon, Castleton
Brooks, John Montgomery, James Dysart, Humphrey Hogan, David and William Lynch,
Christopher Stoph, William Allen, Joseph Brown, and Ned Cowan.
The Bledsoe brothers, Antohony, Abraham, and Isaac were tall men of fair
complexion and of English origin. Their parents had come from England to
Culpepper Co., Va. Their mother died and they left home because of an unkind
step-mother. They came about l767 to the New River country. Anthony, the eldest,
married Mary, the daughter of Thomas Ramsey, a noted Indian fighter and active
in the French and Indian War.
Abraham Bledsoe became a professional hunter, but Isaac and Anthony were
interested in land. Both settled in middle Tenn. about l784. Isaac, at this time
about twenty-four years old, and after surviving years of border warfare in Va.
and Eastern Tenn. spent two or three years in Ky., and, when that was safe from
the Indians, went back to Bledsoe’s Creek, and there he was killed , as was his
brother Anthony, by the Indians.
Isaac Bledsoe was a Captain in the Cherokee Campaign in l776. He lived on
Highway 58, between Bristol and Gate City, about five miles outside of Bristol.
His land is now the property of the Saphr family who bought from him in l782.
A very interesting letter is to be found in the Draper Collection written by
General William Hall, of Lucustland, Tenn. , to Dr. Draper, dated 2lst. of July
l845, wherein he says:
“Sir, you wish to know something about Col. Bledsoe’s discovering Bledsoe’s Lick
and the route of the long hunters, and Col. Mansker’s killing the buffaloes at
Bledsoe’s Lick for the tallow and tongues.
“The long hunters principally resided in the upper country of Va., and North
Carolina, on the New River and Holston River, and when they intended to make a
long hunt, as they called it, they collected near the head of Holston, near
where Abingdon now stands. Thence they proceeded a westerly direction passing
through Powell’s valley crossing the Cumberland mountain where the road now
crosses leading to the Crab Orchard in Ky. Then crossing the Cumberland River
where the said road now crosses Rockcastle, and leaving the Crab Orchard to the
right and continuing nearly the said course, crossing the head of Green River,
going on through the Barrens, crossing Big Barren River at the mouth of Drake’s
Creek; thence up Drake’c Creek to the head, crossing the ridge which divides the
waters of the Ohio river from the waters of the Cumberland, and the hunters,
after crossing the ridge, either went down Bledsoe’s Creek, or Station Camp
Creek to the river and then spread out in the Cumberland ready to make their
The first trip that the long hunters made was about l772 or l773. There were
several very enterprising, smart, active members along. I will name a few: Col.
Isaac Bledsoe, Col. John Montgomery, Col. Gasper Mansker, Henry Scaggs, Obediah
Terrell, two Drakes (this would be Joseph and Ephraim), and a number of other
could be named.
When the hunters crossed the dividing ridge first named, they fell on the head
of Station Camp Creek, and went down it about three miles and from Cumberland
river, came to a very large, plain, buffalo path, much traveled, crossing the
creek at right angles north and south. The south side of the creek was a pretty
high bluff and a beautiful flat ridge made down to the creek. The hunters
pitched their camp on the bluff and on the buffalo path, and they made that
their Station Camp from which the creek took its name.
Col. Bledsoe and Col. Mansker, the first night they pitched their camp, agreed
that the buffalo path that ran by their camp must lead at each end to Sulphur
Licks or springs, and they made an agreement that night for Col. Bledsoe, in the
morning, to take the north end of the path, and Col. Mansker to take the south
side of the path, and each to ride one half day along the path to see what
discoveries they could make and give themselves time to return to camp that
night and report what they had seen.
They were both successful in their expectations. One found Bledsoe’s Lick at the
end of thirteen miles, and the other found Mansker’s Lick at about twelve miles.
They both returned that night, with great joy, to their companions at the camp,
and made known their discoveries of the two licks.
Col. Bledsoe told me when he came to Bledsoe’s Creek, about two miles from the
lick, he had some difficulty in riding along the path, the buffaloes were so
crowded in the path, and on each side, that his horse could scarcely get through
them, and when he got to the bend of the creek at the Lick, the whole flat
surrounding the lick of about one hundred acres was principally covered with
buffaloes in every direction. He said no only hundreds, but thousands.
The space containing the Sulphur springs was about two hundred yards each way
across, and the buffalo had licked the dirt away several feet deep in that
space, and within that space there issued out about a dozen Sulphur springs, at
which the buffalo drank. Bledsoe said there was such a crowd of buffaloes in the
Lick and around it, that he was afraid to get off his horse for fear of getting
run over by the buffaloes, and as he sat on his horse he shot down two in the
lick and the buffaloes tread them in the mud so that he could not skin them. The
buffaloes did not mind the sight of him and his horse, but when the wind blew
from him to them they got the scent of him, they would break and run in droves.”

(Note from Ida—Note the following info. Apparently this is Dr. Denumbreun
family. Remember he is the one that has written books about Aaron Skaggs. He
recently died.)
The same year that Bledsoe discovered the lick, a Frenchman by the name of
Denumbre, who lived at Kaskaski on the Mississippi river, with a party of French
hunters, in a keel boat, came up the Cumberland river to the mouth of Bledsoe’s
Creek, and came to Bledsoe’s Lick and killed at the Lick, and around in the
vicinity of the Lick a sufficient number of buffaloes to load their boat with
tallow and buffalo tongues. The second year after, when Bledsoe and the long
hunters returned, when they crossed the ridge and came down on Bledsoe’s Creek,
in four or five miles of the Lick, the cane had grown up so thick in the woods
that they thought they had mistaken the place until they came to the lick and
saw what had been done. Bledosoe told me that one could walk for several hundred
yards around the lick, and in the lick on Buffalo bones. They then found out the
cause of the canes growing up so suddenly a few miles around the Lick which was
in consequence of so many buffaloes being killed.
Sir, you was mistaken in thinking that I told you that Col. Mansker was the
person that had killed the buffaloes at Bledsoe’s Lick for tallow and tongues.
The Frenchman referred to as Denumbre, in the foregoing letter, was really
Demunbreun, and of him Willims, in his “Dawn of Tennessee History”, states:
“Some long hunters about l766 or l767 observed on the bluff near French Lick, a
hut or trading post—evidently that of Timothe Demunbreun who, about that time
arrived at that place in a sail boat and began to trade with Indians and
In a long footnote, Williams tells a lot about this Frenchman. The Footnote says
in part: “He and his family for some time lived in a cave on the banks of the
Cumberland between the mouth of Mill Creek and Stone’s river. A marker at the
cave has been erected by the Daughters of the American Rev. Demuenbreun had a
lineage and a career more remarkable than our historians conceived. His name in
full and correctly was Jacques Timothe Boucher de Montbrun, descendant of Pierre
Boucher who was the first French Canadian to be raised (l66l) to the rank of
nobility in recognition of his work in bringing colonists into Canada.

Timeline for the Wilderness Road Migration Route





Fess Green

Bob McConnell
For more than two centuries, a long corridor of travel in the eastern United States was alternately used by migrating buffalo and elk, Native Americans, Colonial Europeans, armies, speculators, hunters and settlers. Over time, this corridor became known by different names in different sections. Portions were referred to as the Great Road, the Philadelphia Wagon Road, the Valley Pike, the Long Gray Road, and the Wilderness Trail. This time line portrays a chronological picture of significant events along the early migration route westward.


1600s – The Great Warpath – Beginning as an animal path, this trail connected two major Native American kingdoms, the powerful Iroquois Confederacy of five nations in the north and the Cherokee/Catawba empires in the South. The Iroquois Confederacy originally composed of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga and Seneca, and later the Tuscarora.
1654 – Abraham Wood made his first trip into the Southwest region of Virginia from Fort Henry, traveling 120 miles to the chief town of the Occaneechi at the junction of the Roanoke and Dan Rivers.
1669-70 – Dr. John Lederer, a German physician journeyed to the top of the Blue Ridge chain at Front Royal.


1671 – Abraham Wood sent an expedition led by Captain Thomas Batts and assistant Robert Fallam. This is first report of explorers reaching the Appalachian divide and finding the Indian trail known as the Great Warpath. The Totero nation of native people was encountered on this journey.
1673 – Abraham Wood sent James Needham and his assistant Gabriel Arthur to the Cherokee capital at Chota (Tennessee). They followed the “Path of the Armed Ones.” Arthur was left with the Cherokee to learn the language and customs while Needham returned to report at Fort Henry.
1674 – Gabriel Arthur traveled along the trail through the Cumberland Gap on the Warriors’ Path of Kentucky that led into Ohio. Arthur was later captured by the Shawnee but was released in hopes of promoting trade with the English.
1681-1698 – Colonel Cadwallader Jones established trade with Indians beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains even though such contact was discouraged by the Crown (of England) at that time.
1700 to 1749:
1706 – Franz Ludwig Michel of Bern, Switzerland undertook an early exploration of the Shenandoah Valley coming as far as present day Edinburg.
1716 – Governor Alexander Spotswood led his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe to the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains and into the Shenandoah Valley.
1738 – Augusta County was formed with settlements following almost immediately.


1739 – A British Crown land grant of 92 thousand acres was given to Benjamin Borden to bring settlers into the area that is now Rockbridge County.
1742 – Iroquois Indians resisted European settlers during a significant skirmish near present day Buena Vista.
1742-1745 – Colonel James Patton received two large land grants of 100 thousand acres each to encourage settlement in the Roanoke River and New River valleys.
1744 – The Treaty of Lancaster with the Iroquois Confederacy affirmed the use of the Warriors’ Path and allowed English settlements west of the “Great Mountains.”
1745 – The first settlement west of the New River was called Dunkards Bottom due to the practice of full immersion baptism by the religious community.
1749 – Augusta Academy was founded in Lexington eventually becoming Washington and Lee University. The institution continues to receive dividends on stock donated by George Washington.
1750 – 1799:


1750- Dr. Thomas Walker partnered with Peter Jefferson (father of Thomas) to form the Loyal Land Company and find 800 thousand acres in far southwest Virginia. Walker kept a detailed journal of rivers, salt licks, Indian trails, mountains and valleys. He and his men traveled through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky where they built a small cabin.


1751- Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson published a map listing several names for the route, including “Indian Road by Treaty of Lancaster” and the “Great Road… thro Virginia to Philadelphia.” The map indicates the Carolina Road splitting off the Wilderness Road at the town of Amsterdam near Fincastle and traversing toward North Carolina.
1754 – French and Indian War began. Many inhabitants fled eastward to escape Indian raids. Others “forted up.”
1755 – Draper’s Meadow in present day Blacksburg was attacked by Shawnee who captured Mary Draper Ingles and killed Colonel James Patton.
1755-1756 – Fort Vause was established near Shawsville along the Wilderness Trail in response to Indian attacks and the return of Mary Draper Ingles from captivity. Fort Vause was then captured and burned by the Indians and French.
1756 – Colonel George Washington oversaw the reconstruction of Fort Vause, near Shawsville and was almost captured and killed by Shawnee warriors traveling northward on the Wilderness Trail.
1758 – The road became known as the Valley Road in the Shenandoah region, also the Pennsylvania Road or the Irish Road.
1758 – Fort Chiswell (near Wytheville) was built by Colonel William Byrd, III as a staging point for the “Cherokee Wars.” The fort was then managed by Colonel John Chiswell who founded the lead mines in the area.
1758 – Three companies under Major Andrew Lewis improved and widened the Wilderness Trail into a wagon road from the crossing on the New River to the Holston River at Long Island (TN).
1758-1765 – During the French and Indian War, George Washington commanded the Virginia regiments from his headquarters in Winchester.
1760 – Fort Loudoun in present day Vonore, TN, was attacked by Indians. Most inside the fort were massacred or taken prisoner.
1761 – Elisha Walden and a party of long hunters departed Fort Chiswell (near Wytheville) to explore and establish hunting camps in the area west of the Cumberland Gap. Their success stimulated more hunting parties to travel to the far reaches of Virginia’s “caintuck” ( Kentucky) region.
1761 – William Ingles received license to operate a ferry “over the New River to the opposite shore” to aid Wilderness Road travelers. This ferry operation continued for many years.
1763 – French and Indian War peace treaty was concluded and the British got most of the French land in North America. Because of the expense of the conflict, the British began taxing the colonists to pay for the war.
1769 – Joseph Martin was recruited to settle Powell Valley. He built Martin’s Station along the Wilderness Trail within a few miles of Cumberland Gap.
1769 – Daniel Boone arrived at Martin’s Station with his group of long hunters bound for the Kentucky hunting grounds. Boone followed the Indian path into Kentucky where he established a hunting camp and continued exploring for nearly two years. His father and brothers made trips back to their homes in North Carolina.
1770 – Botetourt County was formed from Augusta County, the largest county in Virginia at that time. Both counties extended to the Mississippi River.
1773 – Six men became separated from Daniel Boone’s company of Kentucky bound settlers. They were captured by Indians, tortured and killed, Boone’s son James among them. Further travel into Kentucky was abandoned at that time.
1773-1774 – Daniel Boone wintered in Montgomery County as he prepared for another excursion through the Cumberland Gap. A warrant was issued for Daniel Boone’s arrest for an unpaid bill totaling more than 45 English pounds. The warrant is still outstanding.
1774 – Natural Bridge, a geologic wonder along the Wilderness Road, was purchased by Thomas Jefferson to be preserved as a mountain retreat.
1774 – Smithfield Plantation was founded by Colonel William Preston in present day Blacksburg. He served as a member of the House of Burgesses and held the offices of County Lieutenant, Sheriff, and County Surveyor for Fincastle County.
1774 – Lord Dunmore ordered the building of seven forts along the Clinch River, later to become the Fincastle Turnpike route.
1774 – During Lord Dunmore’s War, Colonel Andrew Lewis led officers and troops at the battle of Point Pleasant in present day West Virginia. Although the battle was largely a stalemate, this conflict effectively ended war with the Indians (for a time) and paved the way for the settlement of Kentucky.
1775 – Colonel Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Land Company sought to obtain a large portion of Kentucky from the Cherokee Indians through a questionable land purchase at Long Island (Kingsport, TN). He employed Daniel Boone to blaze a path through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.


1775 – William Preston and William Christian gathered a group near Fort Chiswell to

write and sign the “Fincastle Resolutions,” a document calling for freedom, liberty and popular sovereignty (a precursor to the Declaration of Independence).


1775-1810 – An estimated 200 to 300 thousand people passed through Virginia on their way to Cumberland Gap and Kentucky.


1776 – The American Colonies declared their independence from Great Britain while the forts along the Wilderness Road were held by the British. The road became a military route.
1778 – The Commonwealth of Virginia officially recognized Rockingham County which was formed from part of Augusta County.
1779 – Thomas Harrison deeded land for public buildings for a community known as Rocktown which became a refuge for Brethren and Mennonites. The town later became the city of Harrisonburg.


1780 – The Overmountain Men mustered at Abingdon, then marched to Kings Mountain. The battle that followed was one of the was the turning points of the American Revolution.
1783 – Great Britain and three other countries recognized the independence of the 13 United States at the Treaty of Paris.
1784 – Teacher and explorer John Filson wrote about the Wilderness Road and the exploits of Daniel Boone in his book The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke published in Philadelphia. The book inspired many to pack up and head to Kentucky along the Wilderness Road.
1796 – The Kentucky portion of the Wilderness Road was improved and opened to wagon travel.
1799 – Davy Crockett worked at a haberdashery in Christiansburg along the Wilderness Trail before returning to his native Tennessee and beginning his achievements as an adventurer and statesman.


1800 to 1850:
1804–1808 – Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame) courted local women near Fincastle before setting out as leaders of the Corps of Discovery. Both men traveled the Wilderness Road on their return to Virginia. Clark married his fiancée, Julia Hancock, after naming a river for her on the epic journey.
1831 – Cyrus McCormick demonstrated the first successful mechanical reaper near his farm at Steeles Tavern, thus beginning the age of farm mechanization.
1834 – The Virginia Assembly passed legislation allowing the incorporation of the Valley Turnpike Company to improve the road from Winchester to Harrisonburg. Legislation was also passed to develop the Fincastle – Cumberland Gap Turnpike.
1838 – The Valley Turnpike charter was expanded to include the road from Harrisonburg to Staunton.
1840-1850 – With the opening of the National Road and other avenues westward, the Wilderness Road declined in importance. It was partially abandoned and later absorbed into the national highway system.
1850 – The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad edged ever closer to the Wilderness Road , eventually reaching Roanoke two years later.

Snodgrass Pension Affidavit

Revolutionary War Pension Affidavit
William Snodgrass

State of Virginia
Washington County

Personally appeared before me Robert Stewart one of the acting Justices of the peace in and for said County Jonas Smith and Edward Smyth & made oath that they have been acquainted with William Snodgrass upwards of fifty years & know of him serving in the years 1775 & 1776 about six months each year under the command of Capt. George Adams for the purpose of guarding the inhabitants of the frontier of Washington County we were kept constantly on duty in guarding the women & children in the forts & the men when laboring in the fields on their farms they also state that the said William Snodgrass was on the Chickamauga campaign against the Cherokee Indians, we were on the King Mountain Campaign Edward Smyth continued in the service a long time after the other troops were discharged their tour was not less than four months also we understood that William Snodgrass & Samuel Meek were in the service in the year 1781 from early in the spring until about the first of December following we understand they were engaged in dispersing Toryes in different parts of the country we also know of his serving several tours o the frontiers of the Clinch settlement the Militia were generally called out from two to three months a time we also understood that William Snodgrass was one of the guard with the wagon that was sent to the lead mines for Lead to supply the troops during the Revolutionary War we also understood William Snodgrass was with a partie of men who was sent to apprehend a man by the name of Cummings who was suspected for setting the Cherokee Indians on the white inhabitants they further state that they have been acquainted with the said William Snodgrass ever since he was a small boy and know that he has always supported a good character as to his credibility and varsity we have never heard it doubted by any person.

Jonas Smith
Edward Smyth

Sworn to & subscribed before
This 28th day of January 1833
Robert Stewart, J.P.

Atta Kul Kulla – Peace Chief of the Cherokee Nation

Atta Kul Kulla

Peace Chief of the Cherokee Nation


Robert K. Rambo as Atta Kul Kulla

Atta Kul Kulla (c. 1715-1780) was the Peace Chief of the powerful Cherokee Nation from 1758 until his death. Called the “most important Indian of his day,” Atta Kul Kulla was a skilled and sophisticated diplomat. His policies and actions are still controversial, but he did unite his people and lay the foundation for the long-term survival of the Cherokee Nation on a continent that was rapidly filling up with European immigrants.

In 1775, Atta Kul Kulla played a key role in the famous land transaction known as the Transylvania Purchase. The Cherokees were depleted after a war with the Chickasaw.  In return for much-needed arms and ammunition, he made the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals with the Transylvania Land Company, headed by Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina, who used the agreement to claim purchase of what is now Kentucky.

Unlike Henderson, Atta Kul Kulla did not regard the treaty as a sale. The legislatures of North Carolina and Virginia termed the treaty illegal and annulled it, but Virginia still used it to claim state ownership. Kentucky was lost to the Cherokee forever and sold to a flood of settlers from the east.

Atta Kul Kulla died around 1780, but the unity and sense of identity he had forged allowed the Cherokee to prosper until the 1830s, when the U.S. government forcibly removed them to the west from their homelands in the southeast. Atta kul kulla’s legacy is that Cherokees still seek and cherish the separate identity he did so much to establish.

Information provided by Kentucky Chataqua and the Kentucky Humanities Council.