Scott’s Station



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


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

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


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

The Early Land Grants

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

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

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

The Steel Tracts

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

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

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

The Tracts of Thomas D. Duff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography to Postscript:

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

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