Rivers of Humanity (Part IV): Pigg River and Magotty Creek




The Pigg River is located in South Side Virginia,in the vicinity of present-day Rocky Mount.  The Pigg is the south fork of the Roanoke (or Staunton) River, as it flows southeastwardly toward the Atlantic. The river rises from Fivemile Mountain in western Franklin County and passes through Pittsylvania County.[1]
According to Pittsylvania County local historian Maud Clements:
In 1741, John Pigg, of Amelia County, entered for “400 acres on the south fork of Staunton River, beginning opposite the mouth of Snow Creek.” The south fork of the Staunton river had not been named at this time and took its name from this early settler, becoming Pigg River.[2]
At this early date, the whole section was engrossed in land grants issued to Col. Byrd (105,000 acres), Colonel William Randolph (38,000 acres), and Colonel Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas Jefferson (15,000 acres), as well as several others. Early attempts to recruit German and Swiss emigrants to purchase and settle tracts in the wilderness proved generally unsuccessful.  However, some English Quakers and Scots-Irish were drawn southward from Pennsylvania to this area abutting the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge.  Nonetheless, this country remained relatively thinly-settled for many years.
By 1747, other settlers were taking up land grants on the Pigg River.  William Gray and Ashford Hughes patented 10,000 acres encompassing both sides of the river.  Others recording patents included Edmund Gray, William Owens, William Payne, William Lucas, John Lane, Edward Baker, William Rice, and Merry Webb.[3]  Webb, in particular, was a progenitor of a large number of descendants bearing that name throughout Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Of particular interest to this writer, Thomas Hall was a patentee of Pigg River lands during 1746-47.[4]  Thomas Hall is the direct ancestor of thousands of Hall family members who were among the earliest settlers in Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.  (This writer can trace several branches of his family tree back to this ancestor — demonstrating the prolific spread of these Hall genes!)[5]
According to The History of Pittsylvania County, in 1747 “Patrick Johnson, Peter Elliott (or Ellet), Benjamin Ray, Thomas Gill, Thomas Hall and John Miller had cabins on Magotty Creek, and John, Mark and Stephen Cole and John Hilton were on Blackwater [River].”[6]  Magotty and Blackwater were significant tributaries of the Staunton, located just north of the Pigg.
A party of Moravian Brethren, on their way from Pennsylvania to resettle in North Carolina, passed through Magotty’s Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1753.  A diary of the journey recorded their interaction with Benjamin Ray (variously Rhea or Wray):
Near by Magotty Creek dwells Benjamin Ray, an old man of some ninety years, and his wife, who is about a hundred years old. They are both active and cheerful people who gave us milk to drink and were very kind.[7]
In that same year, the settlers along the Pigg River and its tributary, Snow Creek, petitioned the county court of the newly-established Halifax County to establish a road in their neighborhood.  Thomas Hall and William Hill were appointed to “lay off” the road from the Pigg River/Snow Creek settlements to the more easterly settled areas.[8]  This road was near to, or intersected with, the trail known as the Morgan Bryan Road from the Shenandoah into the Yadkin River country of North Carolina.  Bryan blazed this road in 1748; his followers included the Boone family, out of which Daniel Boone was to marry his daughter Rebecca in 1755.
In 1748, Elisha Walling (Walden/Wallens) was named constable to serve the western reaches of Lunenburg County “on Smith’s River and the Wart [Bull] Mountain”.[9]  Walling had a further important role, as one of the legendary “longhunters”, in the exploration and settlement of Holston and Powell’s Valleys of far southwestern Virginia and into Lincoln County, Kentucky.
Many other early settlers of the Pigg River and its environs contributed to the future populating of the central Appalachian Highlands.  By 1762, Elisha and Isham Blankenship had entered patents for land. William Cook entered lands located near the Pigg River Church and Benjamin Cook entered property on Crab Creek.  William and Benjamin were the sons of Abraham Cooke, whose will was probated in Lunenburg in 1748.
Samuel Hairston also recorded land near the Pigg River Church.  Robert Jones entered two grants in 1747 and another in 1752.  Joseph Ren(t)fro, William Ren(t)fro, James Ren(t)fro,  and Benjamin Ren(t)fro each recorded patents between 1747 and 1751.  John Turner and Roger Turner entered patents in 1747.
By 1767, a new county had been carved out of Halifax.  Pittsylvania, named for William Pitt, the British Prime Minister, became the westernmost county defined by specific boundaries.  (Augusta County included all the western wilderness areas, theoretically extending to the Pacific.)  In 1777, Pittsylvania was split, and its western half became Henry County, named for Virginia’s revolutionary Governor Patrick Henry.  The northern portion of Henry subsequently severed to create Franklin County in 1786.  Patrick County was carved out of the westernmost portion of Henry County in 1791, essentially defining the current-day environs of the Pigg River settlements.[10]

[1] WikiPedia, the Free Encyclopedia, entry for “Pigg River”.
[2] Clement, Maud Carter, An Abbreviated History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Chatham, Va., 1953.
[3] Carrington, Wirt Johnson, A History of Halifax County, Richmond, Va.:  Appeals Press,1924, p. 36.
[4] Ibid, p. 37.
[5] In future articles, the writer will expand greatly on the story of Thomas Hall and his descendants — especially in the lineages of his sons Jesse and Isham Hall.
[6] Clement, Maud Carter, op. cit.
[7] Clement, Maud Carter, The History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1929
[8] Hoaton, Anne, The White Man Comes To Stay, typescript, Richmond, Va.: pub. unknown, 1948, p. 6.
[9] Clement, op. cit., p. 50.
[10] A very helpful online interactive map showing the formation of Virginia counties, from initial colonial settlement to the present day, is available online at http://www.mapofus.org/virginia/.