Chronicles of Border Warfare

     At the time when Virginia became known to the whites, it was occupied by many different tribes of Indians, attached to different nations. That portion of the state lying north west of the Blue ridge, and extending to the lakes, was possessed by the Massawomees. These were a powerful confederacy, rarely in amity with the tribes east of that range of mountains; but generally harassing them by frequently hostile eruptions into their country. Of their subsequent history, nothing is now known. They are supposed by some to have been the ancestors of the Six Nations. It is however more probable that they afterwards became incorporated with those, as did several other tribes of Indians, who used a language so essentially different from that spoken by the Six Nations, as to render the intervention of interpreters necessary between them.
     As the settlements were extended from the sea shore, the Massawomees gradually retired; and when the white population reached the Blue ridge of mountains, the valley between it and the Alleghany, was entirely uninhabited. This delightful region of country was then only used as a hunting ground, and as a highway for belligerent parties of different nations, in their military expeditions against each other. In consequence of the almost continued hostilities between the northern and southern Indians, these expeditions were very frequent, and tended somewhat to retard the settlement of the valley, and render a residence in it, for some time, insecure and unpleasant. Between the Alleghany mountains and the Ohio river, within the present limits of Virginia, there were some villages interspersed, inhabited by small numbers of Indians; the most of whom retired north west of that river, as the tide of emigration rolled towards it. Some however remained in the interior, after settlements began to be made in their vicinity.
     North of the present boundary of Virginia, and particularly near the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela river and in the circumjacent country the Indians were more numerous, and their villages larger. In 1753, when Gen. Washington visited the French posts on the Ohio, the spot which had been selected by the Ohio company, as the site for a fort, was occupied by Shingess, king of the Delawares; and other parts of the proximate country, were inhabited by Mingoes and Shawnees. When the French were forced to abandon the position, which they had taken at the forks of Ohio, the greater part of the adjacent tribes removed farther west. So that when improvements were begun to be made in the wilderness of North Western Virginia, it had been almost entirely deserted by the natives; and excepting a few straggling hunters and warriors, who occasionally traversed it in quest of game or of human beings on whom to wreak their vengeance, almost its only tenants were beasts of the forest.
     In the country north west of the Ohio river, there were many warlike tribes of Indians, strongly imbued with feelings of rancorous hostility to the neighboring colonists. Among the more powerful of these were the Delawares, who resided on branches of Beaver creek, Cayahoga and Muskingum; and whose towns contained about six hundred inhabitants—The Shawnees, who to the number of 300 dwelt on the Scioto and Muskingum—The Chippewas, near Mackinaw of 400—Cohunnewagos, or 300, and who inhabited near Sandusky—The Wyandots, whose villages were near fort St.. Joseph, and embraced a population of 250—the Twightees, near fort Miami, with a like population—The Miamis, on the river Miami, near the fort of that name, reckoning 300 persons—The Pottowatomies of 300, and the Ottawas of 550, in their villages near to forts St. Joseph and Detroit, * and of 250 in the towns near Mackinaw. Besides these, there were in the same district of country, others of less note, yet equally inimical to the whites; and who contributed much to the annoyance of the first settlers on the Ohio, and its tributaries.
     There were likewise the Munsies, dwelling on the north branch of the Susquehanna, and on the Allegheny river—The, Senecas, on the waters of the Susquehanna, Ontario and the heads of the Allegheny—the Cayugas, on Cayuga lake, and
* The numbers here set down, and those given below, are as they were ascertained by Camp. Hutchins, who visited the most of the tribes for the purpose of learning their population in 1768.
Sapoonics, who resided in the neighborhood of the Munsies. In these tribes was an aggregate population of 1380 souls, and they likewise aided in committing depredations on our frontiers.
     Those who ventured to explore and occupy the south western portion of Virginia, found also in its vicinity some powerful and warlike tribes. The Cherokees possessed what was then, the western part of North Carolina and numbered 2,300—The Chicasaws, residing south of the Cherokees, had a population of 750—and the Catawbas, on the Catawba river in South Carolina with only 150 persons. These latter were remarkably adventurous, enterprising and courageous; and notwithstanding their remote situation, and the paucity of their numbers, frequently traversed the valley of Virginia, and even penetrated the country on the north branch of the Susquehanna, and between the Ohio river and lake Erie, to wage war upon the Delawares. Their success in many of these expeditions, is preserved in the traditions of the Delawares, who continue to regard them as having used in these wars, a degree of cunning and stratagem, to which other tribes have never approaches. *
     Such were the numbers and positions of many of the proximate Indians about the time settlements were begun to be made on the Monongahela river and its branches. Anterior to this period, adventurers had explored, and established themselves in various parts of the valley between the Blue ridge and the Alleghany mountain. That section of it, which was included within the limits of the Northern-Neck, was the first to become occupied by the whites. The facilities afforded by the proprietor for obtaining land within his grant, the greater salubrity of climate and fertility of soil near to the Blue ridge, caused the tide of emigration to flow rapidly towards the upper country, and roll even to the base of that mountain. Settlements were soon after extended westwardly across the Shenandoah, and early in the eighteenth century Winchester became a trading post, with sparse improvements in its vicinity.
     About this time Thomas Morlin, a pedlar trading from Williamsburg to Winchester, resolved, in conjunction with John Salling, a weaver also from Williamsburg, to prosecute an examination of the country, beyond the limits which had hitherto bounded the exploratory excursions of other adventurers. With this in view, they travelled up the valley of the Shenandoah, crossing James river and some of its branches, proceeded as far as Roanoke, when Salling was taken captive by a party of Cherokees. Morlin was fortunate enough to elude their pursuit, and effect a safe retreat to Winchester.
     Upon return of the party by whom Salling had been captivated, he was taken to Tennessee where he remained for some years. When on a hunting expedition to the Salt licks of Kentucky, in company with some Cherokees to kill buffalo, they were surprised by a party of Illinois Indians, with whom the Cherokees were then at war, and by them Salling was again taken prisoner. He was carried to Kaskaskia, when he was adopted into the family of a squaw whose son had been killed in the wars.
While with this nation of Indians, Salling frequently accompanied parties of them on hunting excursions, a considerable distance to the south. On several occasions he went with them below the mouth of the Arkansas, and once to the Gulph of Mexico. In one of those expeditions they met with a party of Spaniards, exploring the country and who needed an interpreter. For this purpose they purchased Salling of his Indian mother for three strands of beads and a Calumet. Salling attended them to the port oat Crevecoeur; from which place he was conveyed to fort Fontignac; here he was redeemed by the Governor of Canada, who sent him to a Dutch settlement in New York, whence he made his way home after an absence of six years.
The emigration from Great Britain to Virginia was then very great and at the period
* A tradition among the Delawares says that formerly the Catawbas came near one of their hunting camps and remaining in ambush at night sent two or three of their party round the camp with Buffalo hoofs fixed to their feet, to make artificial buffalo tracks and thus decoy the hunters from their camp. In the morning the Delawares, discovering the tracks and supposing them to have been made by buffaloes followed them some time; when suddenly the Catawbas rose from their cover, fired at and killed several of the hunters; the others fled, collected a party and went in pursuit of the Catawbas. These had brought with them, rattle snake poison corked up on a piece of cane stalk; into which they dipped small reed splinters, which they set up along their path. The Delawares in pursuit were much injured by those poisoned splinters, and commenced retreating to their camp. The Catawbas, discovering this, turned upon their pursuers, and killed and scalped many of them.
of Salling’s return to Williamsburg, there were then many adventurers, who had but recently arrived from Scotland and the north of England. Among these adventurers were John Lewis and John Mackey. Salling’s return excited a considerable and very general interest and drew around him many, particularly of those who had but lately come to America, and to whom the narrative of one, who had been nearly six years a captive among the Indians, was highly gratifying. Lewis and Mackey listened attentively to the description given of the country in the valley, and pleased with its beauty and fertility as represented by Salling, they prevailed on him to accompany them on a visit to examine it more minutely, and if found correspondent with his description to select it in situations for their future residence.
     Lewis made choice of, and improved, a spot a few miles below Staunton, on a creek which bears his name--Mackey on the middle branch of the Shenandoah near Buffalo-gap; and Salling in the forks of James river, below the Natural Bridge, where some of his descendants still reside. Thus was effected the first white settlement ever made on the James river, west of the Blue ridge. *
     In the year 1736, Lewis, being in Williamsburg, met with Benjamin Burden (who had then just came to the country as agent of Lord Fairfax, proprietor of the Northern Neck,) and on whom he prevailed to accompany him home. Burden remained at Lewis’s the greater part of the summer, and on his return to Williamsburg took with him a buffalo calf, which while hunting with Samuel and Andrew Lewis (elder sons of John) they had caught and afterwards tames. He presented this calf to Gov. Gooch, who thereupon entered on his journal, an order authorizing Burden to locate conditionally, any quantity of land not exceeding 500,000 acres on any of the waters of the Shenandoah, or of James river west of the Blue Ridge. The conditions of this grant were, that he should interfere with no previous grants—that he should settle 100 families, in ten years, within its limits; and should have 1000 acres adjoining each cabin which he should cause to be built, with liberty to purchase any greater quantity adjoining, at the rate of fifty pounds per thousand acres. In order to effect a compliance with one of these conditions, Burden visited Great Britain in 1737; and on his return to Virginia brought with him upwards of one hundred families of adventurers, to settle on his grant. Amongst these adventurers were John Patton, son-in-law to Benjamin Burden, who settled on Catawba, above Pattonsburg ** Ephram McDowell, who settled at Phobe’s falls—John son of Ephriam who settled at Fairfield, where Col. James McDowell now lives—Hugh Telford, who settled at Falling spring, in the forks of James river—Paul Whitley, who settled on Cedar creek where the Red Mill is now—Archibald Alexander, who settled on the North river, opposite Lexington—Andrew Moore, who settled adjoining Alexander—Sampson Archer, who settled at Gilmore’s spring east of the Bridge tavern, and Capt. John Matthews, who married Betsy Archer, (the daughter of Sampson) settled where Major Matthews lives, below the Natural bridge.
Among others who came to Virginia at this time, was an Irish girl named Polly Mulhollin. On her arrival she was hired to James Bell to pay her passage; and whit whom she remained during the period her servitude was to continue. At its expiration she attired herself in the habit of a man; and with hunting shirt and mocasons, went into Burden’s grant, for the purpose of making improvements and acquiring a title to land. Here she erected thirty cabins, by virtue of which she held one hundred acres adjoining each. When Benjamin Burden the younger, came onto make deeds to those who held cabin rights, he was astonished to see so many in the name of Mulhollin. Investigation led to a discovery of the mystery, to the great mirth of the other claimants. She resumed her Christian name and feminine dress, and many of her respectable descendants still reside within the limits of Burden’s grant.
*Lewis soon afterwards obtained leave from Governor Gooch to locate 100,000 acres of land in separate parcels on the waters of the Shenandoah and James rivers; and when he would go out in search of good land to locate, Mackey would accompany him to hunt buffalo. The former amassed a large estate, while the latter lived and died in comparative poverty.
** The daughter of John Patton subsequently became the wife of Col. W. Preston and the mother of James Patton Preston, late a governor of Virginia.
     When in 1752 Robert Dinwiddie came over as governor of Virginia, he was accompanied by many adventurers; among whom was John Stuart an intimate friend of Dinwiddie, who had married the widow of John Paul (son of Hugh, bishop of Nottingham). John Paul, a partisan of the house of Stuart had perished in the siege of Dalrymple castle in 1745, leaving three children—John, who became a Roman catholic priest and died on the eastern shore of Maryland—Audley, who was for ten years an officer in the British colonial forces,--and Polly, who married Geo. Matthews, afterwards governor of Georgia. Mrs. Paul (formerly Jane Lynn of the Lynns of Loch-Lyma, a sister to the wife of John Lewis) had issue by Stuart, John, since known as Col. Stuart of Greenbrier, and Betsy who became the wife of Col. Richard Woods of Albemarle.
     The greater part of those, who thus ventured "on the untried being" of a wilderness life, were Scottish, presbyterian dissenters; a class of religionists, of all other perhaps, the most remarkable for rigid morality. They brought with the, their religious principles, and sectional prepossessions; and acting upon those principles acquired for their infant colony a moral and devotional character rarely possessed by similar establishments. While these sectional prepossessions, imbibed by their descendants, gave to their religious persuasions, an ascendancy in that section of country, which it still retains.
     They were also men of industry and enterprise. Hunting, which too frequently occupies the time, of those who make the forest their dwelling place, and abstracts the attention from more important pursuits, was to them a recreation—not the business of life. To improve their condition, by converting the woods into fertile plains, and the wilderness into productive meadows, was their chief object. In the attainment of this, they were eminently successful, Their individual circumstances became prosperous, and the country flourishing.
     The habits and manners of the primeval inhabitants of any country, generally give to it a distinctive character, which marks it through after ages. Notwithstanding the influx of strangers, bringing with them prejudices and prepossessions, at variance with those of the community in which they come; yet such is the influence of example, and such the facility with which the mind imbibes the feelings and sentiments of those with whom it associates, that former habits are gradually lost and those which prevail in society, imperceptibly adopted by its new members.
     In like manner, the moral and religious habits of those who accompanied Burden to Virginia, were impressed on the country which they settled, and entailed on it that high character for industry, morality and piety, which it still possesses in an eminent degree.
     At the time of the establishment of this settlement, all that part of Virginia lying west of the Blue ridge of mountains, was included in the county of Orange. At the fall session, of the colonial legislature, in 1738 the counties of Frederick and Augusta were formed out of Orange—the country included within the boundaries of the Potomac river, on the north, the Blue ridge , on the east, and a line, to be run from the head spring of Hedgman, to the head spring of Potomac, on the south and west was to be the county of Frederick; the remainder of the state west of the Blue ridge, to the utmost limits of Virginia to constitute August. Within its limits were included not only a considerable portion of Virginia as she now is, but an extent of territory out of which has been already carved four states, as massing great natural advantages, and the extreme fertility of whose soil, will enable them to support perhaps a more dense population, than any other portion of North America of equal dimensions. As the settlements were extended, subdivisions were made, ‘till what was once Augusta county south east of the Ohio river, has been chequered on the map of Virginia, into counties with an aggregate population of 289,3612 . *
     About the year 1749 there was in the county of Frederick, a man, subject to lunacy, and who, when laboring under the influence of this disease, would ramble a considerable distance into he neighboring wilderness. In one of these wanderings he came on some of the waters of Greenbrier river. Surprised to see them flowing in a westerly direction, on his return to Winchester he made known the fact,
* The following table exhibits a list of the several counties west of the Blue ridge – the counties from which each was taken – when established – their area in square miles – population in 1830, and amount of taxation for the same year.
Counties From what taken
Harrison Monongalia 1784 1095 14,713 1.669
Hampshire Augusta & Frederick 1754 989 11,279 2,402
Hardy Hampshire 1786 1156 5,700 2,633
Jefferson Berkeley 1801 225 12,927 4,721
Kanawha Greenbrier & Montgomery 1789 2090 9,334 1,453
Lewis Harrison 1816 1754 6.241 630
Logan Giles, Kanawaha, Cabell & Tazwell 1824 2930 3,680 245
Lee Russell 1793 512 9,461 789
Monongalia District of West Augusta 1776 721 14,056 1,492
Monroe Greenbrier 1799 614 7,798
Morgan Berkeley & Hampshire 1820 271 2,702 546
Montgomery Fincastle 1777 1089 12,305 1,666
Mason Kanawha 1804 904 6,534 915
Nicholas Kanawha, Greenbrier & Randolph 1818 1431 3,338 373
Ohio District of West Augusta 1776 375 15,590 1,968
Preston Monongalia 1818 601 5,144 441
Pendleton Augusta, Hardy & Rockingham 1788 999 6,271 1,120
Pocahontas Bath, Pendleton & Randolph 1821 794 2,542 405
Randolph Harrison 1787 2061 5,000 644
Russell Washington 1786 1370 6717 739
Rockingham Augusta 1778 833 20,663 5,506
Rockbridge Augusta & Botetourt 1778 680 14,244
Scott Lee, Russell & Washington 1814 624 5,712 503
Shehandoah Frederick 1772 767 19,750
Tyler Ohio 1814 855 4,308 757
Tazewell Russell & Wythe 1799 1305 5,573 727
Washington Fincastle 1777 1754 15,614 2,918
Wythe Montgomery 1790 1998 12,163 2,178
Wood Harrison 1799 1223 6,418 1,257
and that the country abounded very much with different kinds of Game. In consequence of this information two men, recently from New England, visited the country and took up their residence on the Greenbrier river.
     Having erected a cabin and being engaged in making some other improvements, an altercation arose, which caused Stephen Suel, one of them, to forsake the cabin and abide for some time in a hollow tree not far from the improvement, which was still occupied by his old companion. They were thus situated in 1751, when John Lewis, of Augusta and his son Andrew were exploring the country; to whom Suel made known the cause of their living apart, and the great pleasure which he experienced now in their morning salutations, when issuing from their respective habitations; whereas when they slept under the same roof, none of those kindly greetings passed between them. Suel however did not long remain in the vicinity of Martin, the other of the two adventurers; he moved forty miles west of his first improvement and soon after fell a prey to Indian ferocity. Martin is said to have returned to the settlements.
     There was no other attempt made by the whites, to improve the Greenbrier country for several years. Lewis and his son thoroughly examined it; and when permission was given to the Greenbrier company (of which John Lewis was a member) to locate 100,000 acres on the waters of this river, they became agents to make the surveys and locations. The war between France and England in 1754 checked their proceedings; and when they, on the restoration of peace, would have resumed them, they were interdicted by a royal proclamation, issued in 1761, commanding all those who had made settlements on the western waters to remove from them; and those who were engaged in making surveys to desist. Sound policy requiring, that a good understanding should be maintained with the Indians (who claimed the country) to prevent a further co-operation on their part with France.
     Previous to the issuing of this proclamation, some families had moved to Greenbrier and made two settlements – the one on Muddy creek, the other in the Big-Levels. These, disregarding the command of his royal majesty and rather regardless of their own safety, remained until they were destroyed by the Indians, in 1763. From this time ‘till 1769 Greenbrier was altogether uninhabited. Capt. John Stuart and a few other young men, then began to settle and improve the country; and although attempts were subsequently made by the Indians to exterminate them, yet they ever after continued in possession of it.
     In the year 1756 settlements were also made on New river and Holstein. Among the daring adventurers who effected them; were Evan Shelby, William Campbell, William Preston and Daniel Boone, all of whom became distinguished characters in subsequent history. Thomas Walden, who was afterwards killed on Clinch river and from whom the mountain dividing Clinch and Powel rivers derived its name likewise one of them. The lands taken up by them, were held at "corn rights" each acquiring a title to an hundred acres of the adjoining land, for every acre planted in corn.
     Nearly contemporaneous with these establishments, was that at Galliopolis, on the north western bank of the Ohio, and below Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Great Kenhawa. This was made by a party of French Jesuits, by whom the Indians were incited to make incursions, and commit the most enormous barbarities on the then frontiers. This place and the mouth of Great Sandy were the chief points of rendezvous for the Ohio Indians. From the former of these places they would ascend the Kenhawa and Greenbrier rivers and from thence crossing the mountains enter into Augusta; or after having ascended the Kenhawa, go up the New river, from which they would pass over to the James and Roanoke. From the mouth of Great Sandy they would ascend that river, and by the way of Bluestone falls over on the Roanoke and New river. From those two points, expeditions were frequently made by the Indians, which brought desolation and death into the infant settlements of the sough west, and retarded their growth very much. In the spring of 1757 nearly the whole Roanoke settlement was destroyed by a party of Shaeanees, who had thus made their way to it.
     That portion of the valley of Virginia in which establishments were thus begun to be made, was at that time one continued forest; overspreading a limestone soil of great fertility; and intersected by rivers affording extensive bottoms of the most productive alluvial land. Indeed few rivers of equal size, are bordered with as wide and fertile levels of this formation of earth, as those which water that section of country; the Roanoke particularly affords large bodies of different kinds of grain usually grown, In the country generally, every species of vegetable, to which the climate was congenial, grew with great luxuriance; while the calcareous nature of the soil adopted it finely to the production of that kind of grain, to which European emigrants were mostly used.
     The natural advantages of the country were highly improved by the persevering industry of its inhabitants. Its forests, felled by untiring labor, were quickly reduced to profitable cultivation, and the weeds which spontaneously sprang from the earth, were soon succeeded by the various grasses calculated to furnish the most nutritious food, for the lowing herds with which their farmers were early stocked; these yielded a present profit, and laid the sure foundation of future wealth. Some of the most extensive and successful graziers of Virginia, now inhabit that country; and reap the rich reward of their management and industry, in the improved and more contiguous marked of Richmond.
     In the infancy of these establishments, their only market was at Williamsburg. Thither the early settlers packed their butter and poultry, and received in exchange salt, iron, and some of the luxuries of life; their beef and other stock were taken to the same place. In the process of time, as the country east of the Blue ridge became more improved, other markets were opened to them; and the facilities of communication were gradually increased. Their successes have already derived great advantage from those improvements; and the present generation will not only witness their farther extension; but most probably see the country first tenanted by Lewis and his contemporaries, a great thoroughfare for the produce of several of the western states – a like of communication between the Chesapeak bay and the Gulph of Mexico.
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