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Sandy Creek Expedition – Tug Fork

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See this link on the Sandy Creek Expedition for an overview.

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The Journal

We are still following the journal kept by Capt William Preston’s journal of the Sandy Creek Expedition

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Headwaters of the Sandy

This is the watershed of Sandy Creek. Two major forks of the Sandy merge at Louisa to become the Big Sandy at Louisa. The fork followed in this journal by Captain Preston is the Tug Fork. Touch or Press to Enlarge.

Saturday 28, 

Passed several branches of Clinch and at length got to head of Sandy Creek, where we met with great trouble and fatigue, occasioned by heavy rain, and driving our baggage horses down said creek, which we crossed 20 times that evening.    Killed three buffalos and some deer.

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Origin of Tug Fork

The head of Sandy Creek at this point is now called the Tug Fork.

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Tugs are hides cut into thin strips.  That could be the origin of the name Tug Fork.

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Another source for the origin might be the Cherokee’s word for a fork in stream: “Tug,” or an area of multiple forks of a stream: “Tugulu.”

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This source has dates and ranks of the Sandy Expedition wrong, but it offers on page 460 the origin of the name , Tug Fork.

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Hatfield McCoy Feud

This area, years later, is the site of the Hatfield McCoy feud (1863-1891).  The richer Hatfields lived on the WV side of the Tug Fork.  The McCoys lived on the KY side of the Tug Fork\

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Sunday 29  (Feb 1756)

In 15 miles passed the creek 66 times,  Sundry horses were left, not being able to carry loads any further.  Encamped at a cane swamp.  This creek has been much frequented by Indians both traveling and hunting on it, and from many late signs I am apprehensive that Starnicker–the prisoners taken with him were carried this way.  See source.  

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Cane Swamp

On February 29, Capt. William Preston recorded  —  See Source.

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“We followed down the several courses of that Crooked Creek passing branches which came in on both sides until we came to a Cane Swamp where we encamped.” 

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Read about this Cane Swamp.   We quote from that source:

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The cane swamp once located at the mouth of Kewee Creek gave its name to the community of Canebrake, West Virginia, the second point-of-interest on this driving tour.  The cane is now gone from the community after a century of farming and then a century of coal mining, but Arundinaria gigantea still grows in small stands along the route of the expedition.  Look for it along the banks of Tug Fork below Iaeger.

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Map of the Cherokee Towns. See Keowee in SC. See source of this map in wikipedia. Touch or Click to Enlarge.

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Kewee Creek may have been named in deference to Round O, one of the three Cherokee war leaders on the campaign who received military commissions from Governor Dinwiddie.  Round O hailed from near Keowee, the head town of the Lower Cherokee settlements in western South Carolina.  Lower Cherokees were often referred to as Keowee Indians.  It is likely that the camp at the mouth of this stream was named after Round O’s head town.  Ostenaco and Yellow Bird (Chesquoterone), also received commissions from the Virginia Governor.

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Berwind Gap

Monday 1st, of March (1756)

Marched at 9 o’k.  In 4 miles left the Creek to Eastward, passed a gap in high ridge, and came upon a branch, where we camped in a large bend in a prominent place.    Sent Abrim Bledsher to hunt.

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Source

http://www.kinyon.com/westvirginia/midnewriver/chapter2a.htm

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See topo map of Berwind Gap.

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Capt. William Preston recorded of the army’s passing through Berwind Gap:

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Monday 1st of March (1756). 

This morning I see Lightning at nine oClock.  We marched & in four miles we left the Creek to the eastward passed a gap in a high Ridge & came upon a Branch which we encamped upon in a Large Bent & in a very Inconvenient place.”   

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Source

http://www.sandycreekexpedition.info/DT4WarCreek.html

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Coal Country

This journal entry below mentions coal land.  See more about Coal in this area.   See a  coal country tour.

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“Tuesday 2,

Discovered recent signs of enemy Indians hunting camp: our Cherokees ranged the woods.  Moved down the branch and came to the main creek where we camped.    Put on half rations.  Came into the Cole (Coal) land:  crossed the river 8 times.

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Source

http://www.kinyon.com/westvirginia/midnewriver/chapter2a.htm

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Captain William Preston recorded the excitement that accompanied the discovery of a recently abandoned enemy camp at War Creek:

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“Tuesday [2nd of March]

a number of the Indians went out early to make what discoveries they could of ye Enemy.  At about 10 oClock some of them returned & bespoke that they had seen a large camping place of ye Enemy where they had been about 3 days ago with many signs of horses which had been stolen by them.” 

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Source

http://www.sandycreekexpedition.info/DT4WarCreek.html

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Dry Fork is Sandy Creek

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The following in purple is from this excellent source:

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www.sandycreekexpedition.info

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This source examines the Sandy Creek Expedition does not cover today’s Virginia side. This  source starts only on the modern WV side.

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Touch or Click to Enlarge.

Dry Fork was called “Sandy Creek” by the Virginians familiar with it, receiving its current name later in the 18th century.  However, on the expedition, Dry Fork was anything but dry.

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 As Lt. Thomas Morton recorded in his journal of the expedition during the first days of March.

Wednesday, 3rd we cross’d the Creek 19 times in about 8 miles.  thursday, 4th, we march’d 4 miles, and cross’d the Creek 14 times.  Friday, 5th, we march’d 12 miles, and cross’d the Creek 24 times.  The Creek is now in General about 45 or 50 yards.”

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Starving Begins

Back to Captain Preston’s Journal:

“Wednesday 3, 

Marched only 8 or 10 miles being much retarded by the river and mountains which closed in on both sides, which made our marching very difficult, and more so as each man had but  half pound of flour and no meat but what we could kill and that was very scarce.

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Source

http://www.kinyon.com/westvirginia/midnewriver/chapter2a.htm

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“Thursday 4,

Lost many horses that wandered off and could not be found.    Marched 6 miles.  Hunters had no success, and nothing but hunger and fatigue appears to us.

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“Friday 5,

With great difficulty marched 15 miles: the river being very deep and often to cross, nearly killed the men, as they were in utmost extremity for want of provisions.  My fourth horse expired.

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Starving Continues

Mutiny mumbled

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“Saturday 6, 

As we encamped nigh the forks of the river, we only crossed the S. E. fork and encamped.  The Cherokees made bark canoes to carry themselves down the river.  Major Lewis had a large canoe made to carry the ammunition and small remnant of flour.  The men murmured much for want of provisions and numbers threatened to return home.

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Source

http://www.kinyon.com/westvirginia/midnewriver/chapter2a.htm

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Capt. Preston’s recorded on March 6:

“The Cherrokees proposed to make bark canoes to cary themselves down the river which was imediatly put in practice.  Major Lewis set men to work to make a large canoe to cary down the ammunition & the small remains of our flour which was thin [then] almost exhausted.”

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Source

http://www.sandycreekexpedition.info/DT6SandyCreekForks.html

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Cherokee spirits high

As the Sandy Creek Expedition wore on, hunger and desperation began turning into mutiny among the Virginians. Their Cherokee partners, however, kept their spirits high:

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“The conduct and concord that was kept up among the Indians might shame us, for they were in general quite unanimous and brotherly.

– Lt. Thomas Morton

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Source

http://www.sandycreekexpedition.info/DT7JohnnycakeBranch.html

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“”Sunday 7,

Marched to a place 6 miles below the forks of the river.    Mountains very high and no appearance of level country, which greatly discouraged the men.  The men were faint and weak with hunger and could not travel the mountains and wade the river as formerly, there was no game in the mountains, nor appearance of level country, and their half pound of flour would not support them, and that would soon be gone, and they intended to leave next morning and go home.  I proposed to kill the horses to eat, which they refused.  They said that might do to support them if they were on their way home,  but it was not a diet proper to sustain men on a long march against the enemy.  They finally agreed to make one more trial down the river.

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Source

http://www.kinyon.com/westvirginia/midnewriver/chapter2a.htm

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Capt. William Preston:

“Sunday 7th 

That morning rained yet the men continued to work at the canoes.  It was agreed upon by the officers that Capt. Smith Capt. Brackenridge Lt. Morton Capt. Dunlap & myself with our Comp. & part of Mountgomeries vollonteers 130 in number should proceed down the creek 15 miles & no further in search of hunting ground.  We marched at nine oClock & the horsemen (for we took down almost all ye horses) was oblidged to leave the creek some distance for a passage through the mountains which we found very difficult…”

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Source

http://www.sandycreekexpedition.info/DT8WarBranch.html

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The Sandy Creek Expedition goes by today’s Panther State Forest.

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Capt. William Preston recorded:

“We encamped at the river to which place one elk was brought & divided to the no small joy of every man in Company for by that time hunger appeared in all our faces & most of us were got weak & feeble & had we not got that releif I doubt not but several of the men would have died with hunger.  Their cries and complaints were pitiful & shocking & more so as the officers could not give them any help, for they were in equal want with the men.”

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“Monday 8,

Proceeded down the river about 3 miles, where the mountains closed so nigh the water that we could not pass: went up a branch, crossed a very high mountain, and down another branch to the river, where we met a party of men who had been at the river and could not get down any further.  Crossed another mountain to the head of another branch which we followed several miles to the river and camped.  Some of the volunteers killed two elk, which they divided with us.

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Sources


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Sources

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http://www.sandycreekexpedition.info/index-2.html

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http://www.kinyon.com/westvirginia/midnewriver/chapter2a.htm

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On March 8, after turning away from the river again and crossing two mountains, the pack train reached what was to become its furthest camp on the expedition.  Lt. Morton recorded the pitiable condition of the pack train men:

“Our case grew more and more lamentable as the way was now much worse than ever, and the Creek now impassable by Horses, and the mountains higher and worse than ever on all accounts and lying in larger Clifts on the river”

On the hunt

Hunting parties were sent out from this camp located at present-day Wharncliffe in Mingo County, WV.  To reach Wharncliffe, turn right in Wyoming City on McDowell CR-1/1 and follow up Fourpole Creek through the village of Isaban to the road’s junction with Mingo CR-13.  Remain right, following the combined routes to the head of Fourpole, then down Gilbert Creek on Mingo CR-13 to its junction with CR-10 (Right Fork of Bens Creek Road).  Turn left and follow CR-10 over Bens Creek Mountain and down Bens Creek towards Wharncliffe.  At the junction of CR-10 and CR-10/3, Spring Fork enters Bens Creek from your left.  This tributary is likely where the pack train first came onto Bens Fork after having crossed the mountain divide between Fourpole and Turkey Creek, and the divide between the latter stream and Bens Fork.  Watch for wider bottoms than you passed through on Fourpole Creek, for Lt. Morton recorded that this small creek:
“…made more low grounds than usual…”

Caption

A few elks and buffaloes were killed, but shared among 130 men over a period of five days, this merely kept the soldiers’ gaunt faces from becoming permanently frozen in death grimaces.  Both Preston’s and Morton’s journals have a tellingly large proportion of their words dedicated to the lack of food or the pursuit thereof. The Cherokees were under the same hardships, but such difficulties were part and parcel to the Indian manner of war in eastern North America, so the warriors were able to withstand them better than were the Virginians.

Mutiny reared its ugly head in the horse camp, so Capt. Preston and the other officers had great difficulty keeping the men together while awaiting the arrival of Major Lewis in the canoes.  On March 12, Major Lewis walked into camp after his canoe capsized and he nearly drowned.  Much of the food, tents, and ammunition in the overturned canoes were lost.

A few scouts had gone further down Sandy Creek (Tug Fork) on March 8 and returned a few days later to tell conflicting stories of the terrain and the game populations.  Andrew Lynam and William Hall apparently went the furthest, probably to the vicinity of present-day Thacker.  These two men reported the terrain eased and the game became abundant at the point they turned back.  They also had found an Indian hunting camp, a sure sign that game was more abundant further downstream.  Capt. Preston hoped this good report would encourage the men, but it had the opposite effect.  On the 13th, Major Lewis stepped off a few yards and asked those who were willing to continue on the expedition to join him.  All the officers and only 20 or 30 privates did so.  The remaining privates in four companies left for home.  Ostenaco was willing to continue, but he was disappointed that so many men had deserted.  Thus the Sandy Creek Expedition ended in failure—but let us not be so quick to judge before we have examined other outcomes of the campaign.

The importance of the Sandy Creek Expedition on the French-Indian War and our history cannot be understated.

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http://www.sandycreekexpedition.info/DT10StarvationCamp.html


“Tuesday 9, The volunteers killed two buffalos and an elk, which helped us some, but the men are very faint and continue to murmur.  Did not move this day waiting for Major Lewis, and the rest of the men who were left at the forks of the river, supposed 15 miles.

“Wednesday 10, Sent a messenger with a letter to Major Lewis to come at once, as the men were determined to desert and go home.

“Thursday 11th,  8 of Capt. Smith’s men went off and Bledsher and ———-.


Friday 12,  8 or 10 of my Company being ready to leave, I was obliged to disarm them and take their blankets from them by force.  Capt. Woodson arrived, with some of his company, and informed us that his canoe overset, and lost his tents and every thing of value.  Major Lewis’ canoe was sunk in the river and he and Capt. Overton and Lieut. Gun had to swim for their lives: they lost every thing of value, particularly 5 or 6 guns.

“Saturday 13th, Major Lewis ordered each Capt. to call his company together immediately, which was done.  He made a speech to them, but they were obstinate.

“Major Lewis stepped off some yards, and desired all that were willing to share his fate, to go with him.  All the officers, and some privates, not above 20 or 30, joined him.  Then Montgomery’s volunteers marched off, and were immediately followed by my company and Smith’s: 4 private men and my lieutenants stayed with me.

“Major Lewis spoke to Old Autocity, who was much grieved to see the men desert, who said that he was willing to proceed, but some of his warriors and young men were yet behind, and he was doubtful about them.  Mr. Dunlap’s volunteers went off in the afternoon.

“An account of miles marched each day on our journey to the Shawnees’ towns.

                                                                               

Miles

“From  F. P. George to Cyphers’ 15
2nd day to R. Hall’s 15
3rd day to F. A. Frederick 15
19th Feb. to Wm. Sawyers 20
20th Feb. to McCaul’s 13
Sunday 22, to McFarland’s 7
Monday 23 to Bear Garden 10
Tuesday 24 to Burke’s Garden 9
Thursday 26, to head of Clinch 10
Saturday 28, to head of Sandy Creek 10
Sunday 29, down Sandy Creek 12
Monday 1st, March Sandy Creek 6
Tuesday 2, Sandy Creek 3
Wednesday 3rd, Sandy Creek 10
Friday 5, Sandy Creek 15
Saturday 6, Sandy Creek 2
Sunday 7, Sandy Creek 7
Monday 8, (Here the journal ends M,) 7

It will appear by a close examination of this journal by one fully acquainted with the territory from the head waters of the Clinch to the mouth of the Dry Fork of the Tug Fork of Sandy, where the Station of Iaeger on the line of the Norfolk and Western Railway now stands, over which territory the expedition passed, that it proceeded by way of one of the North branches of the Clinch through the farm of the late W. G. Mustard in Tazewell County, thence through Maxwell’s Gap on to the waters of Horse Pen Creek, thence down the same to Jacob’s Fork, and down the same to the Low gap or Cane Brake in the ridge dividing the waters of Jacob’s Fork from Dry Fork, and a little South and West of the residence of Rev. R. B. Godbey, on Jacob’s Fork, then down the Dry Fork to its junction with the Tug or main fork.

Captain Hogg and his company finally overtook Major Lewis.  At the same time a messenger arrived directing the return of the expedition.  It however proceeded to the mouth of the Sandy, and some of the officers urged the crossing of the Ohio river, but it was finally decided to obey the summons to return.  The weather was extremely cold, snow having fallen the march was a difficult one, and the men stopping at Burning Spring (Warfield)  took strips of the hides of the buffaloes and broiled them in the burning gas.  They cut them into strips or thugs, hence the name of Tug River.    On leaving the spring they scattered through the mountains and many of them perished, either frozen to death, starved or killed by the Indians.  They left however, some marks by the way, cutting their names on trees on the route pursued by them, notably at the forks of Big Coal and Clear Fork of that River, but these trees have been destroyed in recent years.

As already stated, if Major Lewis ever made any written report of this expedition, the author has been unable to find it or any trace of it, and therefore we are without information as to the number of men lost on the expedition.

The Indians had discovered that Lewis and his men were on the Sandy or about the mouth of it, and some of them followed the whites for a distance on their way homeward.

A second Sandy expedition seems to have been contemplated, but for some reason abandoned.

Reference has already been made to that splendid body of land situated in the southeastern part of the present County of Tazewell. about fourteen miles from the Court House thereof and known as Burke’s Garden.  Colonel William Preston, as we have seen from his journal, gives a short description of this body of land.  It appears that Lewis and his men saw this Garden within less than three years after Burke had discovered it.  Whether between 1753 and 1756 Ingles and Patton were therein surveying lands for the Loyal Company does not certainly appear.

Burke moved with his family into the Garden in 1754, (Note: A white thorn bush, sprout from an older bush, at a spring, near to the residence of Mr. Rufus Thompson, in Burke’s Garden, is pointed out as the spot where Burke spent his first night in the Garden.) cleared up some land, and planted a crop, including potatoes, and in the fall of 1755 was driven out on account of fear of Indians, and left his crop of potatoes in the ground which Lewis’ men found the next spring and appropriated.  Burke had killed a large number of deer, elk and bear, and had tanned a number of the hides, which he took with him when he left in the fall of 1755.  On his way out with his family he camped one night in an old hunter’s cabin near what is now Sharon Springs in the now County of Bland, Virginia.  The Indians followed him, and on their way killed two hunters in their camp.  On approaching Burke’s cabin and seeing several horses, and the tanned hides rolled up in the cabin, they came to the conclusion that there were too many people for them to attack, and contented themselves with the cutting of the throat of one of Burke’s horses.  One of the evidences adduced that Burke had removed with his family to this Garden, and lived there in 1755, is that no mention of him or of his family is made in the history of the destruction of the Drapers Meadows settlers by the Indians on the 8th day of July, 1755, while all the other settlers are accounted for.  Burke was not killed in the Garden.  He was living and seen by Captain Preston and his men on the 15th day of February, 1756, when he reported to Major Lewis the killing by the Indians of a man by the name of Robert Looney near Alexander Sawyer’s.  Burke with his family never returned to the Garden to live, first, because the Loyal Company claimed the land and had Ingles and Patton to survey it.  Second, Burke got not one foot of it, and third; he removed South where he died.  Many of his descendants, among them the Snidows, of Giles County, still reside in the New River Valley, and they seem never to have heard of the story that Burke was killed in the Garden.  Again Morris Griffith, the step son of Burke, who is reputed to have first seen the Garden, was captured at Vaux’s Fort in the Summer of 1756, but escaped.

The failure of the Sandy expedition gave encouragement to the Indians and they prepared to assault more fiercely the border white settlements during the Spring, Summer and Fall months of 1756.

Vaux Fort situated on the Roanoke near where Shawesville Station on the line of the Norfolk and Western Railway Company now stands, was built prior to 1756, and destroyed in the early Summer of that year.

On September 8th, 1756, Governor Dinwiddie, (Dinwiddie Papers) writes to Captain Hogg as follows:  “I received yours of the 25th ult., and observe you have made a beginning to build a fort near Vass’s plantation, which is well.  I am of the opinion that three forts are necessary, as the one you are constructing may be sufficient, as I hear Col. Washington is with you, counsel with him thereon.”  This letter shows that Colonel George Washington was with Captain Hogg on the Roanoke at Vass’s Fort when the above letter was written.

From the beginning of the French and Indian war in 1753 up to the close of the war in the year 1763, the border country from the lakes to the mountains of  North Carolina was scourged by Indian forays and incursions, and the few inhabitants were kept in almost constant fear.

Preston’s Journal shows that several settlements had been made along Peak, Reed and other Creeks West of New River prior to 1756.  Among the parties he names are William Sawyers, Alexander Sawyers, and John McFarland, and Dr. Walker mentions Samuel Stalnaker as on the Holston on the 24th of March, 1750, when he and Mr. Powell helped him to raise a house.

Hale in his Trans Alleghany Pioneers states that seven families were settled West of New River in 1754, but gives the names of but two, Reed and McCorkle.

The New River lead mines were discovered by Colonel Chiswell in 1757.

About the year of 1758 Joseph Howe, and a little later James Hoge settled in the Back Creek Valley.

In 1760 an Indian marauding party penetrated the New River settlements, and passing over into what is now Bedford County, committed murders and other depredations and on its return, reaching the vicinity of Ingles’ Ferry, was attacked by Captain William Ingles, Captain Henry Harman, (Harman Ms.) and others.  One white man and six or seven Indians were killed, and this was the last Indian foray that ever succeeded in penetrating so far into the interior.  Captain Henry Harman was a German, born in the Isle of Man, and first settled in Forsythe County, North Carolina, where he married Miss Nancy Wilburn, and removed to the New River Valley about 1758, and settled first on Buchanan’s Bottom (the Major James R. Kent farm, below the present town of Radford, Virginia); and from thence removed to Walker’s Creek in what is now Bland County, and shortly thereafter to the Hollybrook farm on Kimberling in the same County.

This name Harman being German, was originally Herman, and the family of this name that settled in the New River Valley, except Adam Harman, and in Tazewell County, Virginia, were all from the State of North Carolina.  Adam Harman and his family and all by that name that settled on the Jackson River and in Western Virginia came from the Valley of Virginia.

In the Fall of the year 1763, about fifty Indian warriors ascended the Great Sandy, and passed over the present territory of Mercer County on to New River, where they separated, forming two parties, one going towards the Jackson River, and the other towards the Roanoke and Catawba settlements.

Pitman, Pack and Swope, trappers on New River, discovered the trail of these Indians and the route they had taken, suspecting that they were preparing to attack the settlements just mentioned, they set out, Pitman for Jackson’s River and Pack and Swope for Roanoke, but the Indians reached both places ahead of them.  After killing some people in the Jackson’s River settlement and taking some prisoners, the Indians began a hasty retreat towards the Ohio, pursued by Captain Audley Paul with a company of twenty men from Fort Dinwiddie, and who followed the Indians up Dunlap’s Creek over on to Indian Creek and New River, to the mouth of Piney Creek without discovering them, and Captain Paul started on his return.

The party that had crossed over on to the Roanoke and Catawba committed some depredations and murders, and captured three prisoners, a Mrs. Katherine Gun, a man by the name of Jacob Kimberline (who was taken from a creek now called Kimberling, a branch of Walker’s Creek) and another whose name is not given.  This party was being pursued by Captain William Ingles, Captain Henry Harman and their men.  On the night of the 12th of October, the Indians pursued by Ingles and Harman were discovered by Captain Paul and his men about midnight, encamped on the North bank of the New River opposite an island at the mouth of Turkey Creek (now Indian Creek) in Summers County.  Paul’s men fired on them, killed three and wounded several others, one of whom threw himself into the river to preserve his scalp, the rest of the party fled hurriedly down the river.

The Snidows came in 1766 and settled in the neighborhood of Philip Lybrook, near the mouth of Sinking Creek; however settlements had been made in the Greenbrier section of country by Marlin and Sewell in 1750, and some families came in 1762, but they were massacred by Indians in 1763, and resettlements did not begin in that section until the year of 1769

The Snidow family mentioned above, were Germans, and came from Pennsylvania.    John, the father, and head of the family, had in 1765 visited the New River section, and Philip Lybrook, whom it is supposed had been his neighbor in Pennsylvania.    He returned for his family and started with them for his new home in 1766, but on the road was taken suddenly and violently ill, from which illness he died.   His widow, Elizabeth, with her children, made her way to the New River home which had been selected and fixed upon by her husband.  This family later suffered from an Indian attack in which a part of its members were killed and a part captured.  This family became one of the largest and most influential of the settlers of the New River Valley.

Settlements began on the head waters of the Clinch in 1766-1767, but as there will be a chapter in this work devoted exclusively to the history of Tazewell County, in which these settlements were made, a statement in full in regard thereto is reserved to be stated in said chapter.

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