Rivers of Humanity (Part III): The Headwaters of the New River

The sources of the New River are found in the highlands of modern-day Grayson County, Virginia and Ashe County, North Carolina.  In the early days of settlement, however, Grayson County was a part first of Augusta County, then (beginning in 1777) of Montgomery County, and  (from 1790-1793) Wythe County,Virginia.  Ashe County was a part of Rowan and then (from 1777 until 1799) Wilkes County, North Carolina.

Dozens of creeks and smaller streams drain the western slopes of the Blue Ridge and combine to form the New, which then flows generally in a northerly direction from the far northwestern area of North Carolina through Virginia and into West Virginia, where it eventually merges with other streams to become the Kanawha.

The terrain of the headwaters of the New is generally very rugged — high ridgelines separated by narrow valleys.  From the piedmont region and foothills of North Carolina, settlements had been extended as far as the Three Forks of the Yadkin River by the 1750s.[1]  Once the Seven Years’ (French and Indian) War ended in 1763, a flood of immigrants travelled southward through the Great Valley from Pennsylvania and Maryland, through Virginia — crossing to the east side of the Blue Ridge near present-day Roanoke — and almost due south through Martinsburg (VA) to the vicinity of Winston-Salem, bypassing the more rugged mountain sections of Ashe and Grayson counties.[2]

Because the Great Wagon Road avoided the uplands of Grayson and Ashe, this region became, in essence, a “cul-de-sac”[3] insulated from settlement pressures.  It remained for a time the province of the “long hunters”.

Even as Yadkin  residents began to feel the pressure of in-migration in the periods just prior to and subsequent to the Revolutionary War, those who desired to resettle further west avoided travel through the New River headwaters.  Those who wished to join early settlers on the Clinch and Holston Rivers in far western Virginia, or to follow Boone into Kentucky, would travel back north as far as Wytheville and then down the Wilderness Road toward Cumberland Gap.  Others who desired to head west into the Tennessee territories generally would use the Catawba trails to cross over to the Watauga and Nolichucky rivers.

Nonetheless, a few extended families did venture into the more remote fastness of the upper New River.

The earliest attempt at settlement was made by a North Carolinian, Andrew Baker.  He first entered present-day Ashe as early as 1753; however, with the onset of Indian hostilities related to the French and Indian War, he returned to the Yadkin settlements until peace was established in 1763.  Shortly thereafter, he and other family members settled in the southeastern portion of Ashe.  By 1780, despite the Revolutionary War Ashe had several dozen families, including the Pennington, Ray, Roark, Couch, Sturgill and Purkins (Perkins) families.[4]

Also accompanying Andrew Baker and his colleagues were members of the extended — and intermarried — Osborn[e], Hash[e], and Cox families.  This group, however, settled on the Virginia side of the border, in present-day Grayson County.[5]  They were followed shortly thereafter by Phippses and Howells, Andersons and Bonhams.  They were joined by a Swiss-German pietist carpenter, Heinrich Gröb (Grubb), who, like Andrew Baker, had first attempted to settle there prior to the French and Indian War.  He was a founder of Grubb’s Chapel Baptist Church.[6]

Historian Paula Hathaway Anderson-Green has provided, in the article cited below, a very good recap of the marital ties among the Osbornes and other families.  She also traces their origins back to the Pennsylvania-New Jersey environs surrounding Philadelphia, from whence they migrated down the Great Wagon Road.  In future articles dealing with specific surnames, I shall recount some of those details.  In the meantime, readers are advised to seek access to the online JSTOR academic journal source as cited below.

[1] The best history of the Three Forks of Yadkin can be found in Robert W. Ramsey, Carolina Cradle:  Settlement of the Northwest Carolina Frontier, 1747-1762, (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press; 1964).  It contains extensive indices of surnames, places of origin, and means of immigration of the earliest settlers of the Yadkin region.

[2] See “Mapping the Great Wagon Road”, by David Walbert, an internet resource on Learn NC,  a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/2038).

[3] Bennett, William D., “Early Settlement Along the New River (NC and VA) Basin” (http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/symposia/newriver-84/sec3.htm), in Proceedings:  New River Symposium 1984. Center for Continuing Education, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Paula Hathaway Anderson-Green, “The New River Frontier Settlement on the Virginia-North Carolina Border 1760-1820”, in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 86, No. 4, (Oct 1978), pp. 413-431.  Available online for many public library patrons at http://www.jstor.org/stable/4248254.

[6] Ibid.

Rivers of Humanity (Part II): West of the New River

The settlement of the country surrounding the New River in Virginia continued through the decades of the 1750s and 1760s, despite frequent depredations by marauding Native warriors.  The Journal of Col. William Preston records a number of families who staked out homesteads on Peak (present-day Pulaski County) and Reed (present-day Wythe County) Creeks and other areas west of the New, well beyond the Draper Settlements. 1

During the 1750s lead, the crucial element used to make rifle projectiles, was discovered in significant

quantities near present-day Austinville, in Wythe County.  The discovery was made by a Col. Chiswell, a British army officer and founder of Fort Chiswell, who explored the territory and reported his find to the King’s Council at Williamsburg.2

The discovery of this necessary resource for any frontier explorer/settler certainly would have drawn some adventurous souls to the region.  However, the rich timberlands and pastoral meadows also promised opportunities to potential settlers.

About 1747, John McFarland (b. 1706-1708, Ireland; d. 1784/5), his wife Mary, and their children migrated down the Great Valley from Pennsylvania to the frontier of western Virginia.  John and his eldest son Robert (b. 1730, Lancaster County, PA) recorded a survey of 2000 acres on and near Reed Creek.  This area was then a part of Augusta County.  The McFarlands remained on that stake until native raids forced them to relocate in 1756 to Bedford County, VA, where the elder McFarland died after the Revolution.3

Settlers with the surnames of Noble and Calhoun were located on the Cripple Creek tributary of the New River at least as early as 1753.  One settler, John Noble, made his will in June 1752.  In it, he named “my brother, James Calhoun” to serve as a co-executor of his estate.  Other witnesses to the will were William Calhoun, Agnes Calhoun, and Patrick Calhoun.  John Noble listed the following heirs in his will:  wife Mary, children:  James, Alexander, Patrick, Ezekiel, and Jean.4  [There is also a court record of a lawsuit brought by Col. James Patton against one “James Cohoon”, a variant spelling that is likely James Calhoun, the son of John and the brother of Patrick.

Other early names appearing on the Tates Run branch of Reed Creek, in present-day Montgomery County, include Michael Kinzer (Kincer) who bought land in 1754 which was settled by his son Michael Kinzer Jr.;  Michael Wampler, who purchased 100 acres (1782) adjacent to Jacob Kinzer;  Frederick Moore; Peter Yancey (Yonce).5

Other early settlers on Peak Creek included several members of the Patton family:  Henry Patton, the elder (b. abt 1720, Ireland); James Patton (b. 1751 Augusta Co., VA), who settled a tract in 1771; and Thomas Patton (b. abt 1741), a brother of James.6

For further reading about settlers in this area, you may wish to visit the website “Early Settlers of Old Augusta”.

1Johnson, New River Settlements.

2Hauser, H. M. “A Short Historical and Physical Description of Wythe County, Virginia”.   Published by Order of Its Board of Supervisors for distribution at the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition, 1907.

3Haines, Mary Helen. Our McFarland History From Scotland to Texas, transcribed on the website “Clan MacFarlane Worldwide (http://www.clanmacfarlane.org/public_html/Genealogical-Histories/ch-2-our-mcfarlands-in-america-pennsylvania-and-virginia.html), 2011.

4Kemper, Charles E.  Historical Notes from the Records of Augusta County, Virginia, Part II.

5Price, H. L.  “Kinsers in Montgomery County, Virginia”, Selected passages from a paper, May 1934.  Transcribed on the  website “Kinser, Kinzer, Kincer, Kinsar, Kinsor, Kintzer, Künzer, Kuentzer, Küntzer —

One Immigrant Family” (http://www.kinser.org/places/montgmry.htm); accessed 23 Apr 2013.

6Agricola, David V., M.D.  “Henry Patton Line of Augusta, Montgomery County, Virginia”.  Website (http://www.kentuckystewarts.com/AlexMarthaStewart/HTMDocs/web993alexmarthachildren/HenryPattonAugustaMontgomeryCoVa.htm).

Rivers of Humanity (Part I): Draper’s Meadow, at the Head of the James River

A thorough study of the history of the people of the Appalachian Highlands must begin with an understanding of the region’s geography, as it was known from the earliest days of settlement.  In colonial times — and indeed, today — one’s locality was defined by reference to particular land features, primarily the watercourses upon which trails were established and where land was patented. Therefore it would be helpful to utilize some of the earliest maps of the region to highlight the rivers where Appalachian settlers lived prior to their migration into the heart of the mountains, and also the watercourses of the new lands they entered upon as pioneers.

The earliest map that is useful as a frame of reference is that of Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson (father of Thomas Jefferson), who were appointed by acting Governor Burwell in 1750 to create a map that would more clearly identify the extent and boundaries of the lands claimed by the British as part of the Virginia Colony.1  The resulting Fry-Jefferson map, published in London in 1754, was the first to delineate all the significant rivers of Virginia, as well as portions of the colonies of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

By the mid-eighteenth century, many of the ancestors of present-day Appalachians had begun penetrating far into the interiors of Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, following coastal streams to their mountain sources.  In this series on the “rivers of humanity” we shall focus on several of those earliest interior settlements, identifying each with the watercourses on which they were situated.

Located draperjust beyond the headwaters of the James River (see map) was probably the most well-known early settlement, Draper’s Meadow, at present-day Blacksburg, Virginia.  Draper’s Meadow was part of a tract of land granted to Col. James Patton of Augusta County in the early 1740s.  The grant covered 120,000 acres, bounded on the west by the New River.  Much of Patton’s grant is included in modern-day Montgomery and Pulaski Counties of Virginia.  Col. Patton, a native of Ireland, had been a sea captain prior to August 1738.  He then took up residence in the Beverley Manor holdings on the south fork of the Shenandoah River.  This area was carved out of Orange County by the colonial Virginia General Assembly the same year to become Augusta County; its organized government came into being in 1745.2

Patton quickly began to promote his lands to the steady stream of families who migrated into the Valley of Virginia out of Pennsylvania, where the best lands had already been claimed.  Large numbers of these prospective buyers were German-speaking Protestants from the Palatine States or recent immigrants from England or Ireland.  Most of the immigrants from Ireland were Scots-Irish — descendants of Scots who had been transplanted to the north of Ireland from Scotland during the 1600s by the English Crown in an effort to “pacify” the rambunctious Irish (Catholic) natives.

Draper’s Meadow was settled about 1749-1750 by John Draper, his mother Eleanor, and sister Mary; Thomas Ingles and his sons; Henry Leonard; James Burke, Casper Barger and Philip, his son; and possibly others.  The total number of settlers was about twenty.

The Drapers were of Irish extraction –George  and Eleanor (Hardin) immigrated first to Pennsylvania from County Donegal, Ireland.  George and Eleanor had two children, John and Mary.  Sometime prior to 1745 the Draper family moved to Virginia and (probably) squatted on land on the North Fork of the Roanoke River.  George disappeared on a hunting/land-scouting expedition in the wilderness about 1748.  Subsequently his widow, son and daughter took up lands at the settlement that adopted their family name.3

Thomas Ingles  (possibly of Scottish origins) was born in 1700 in London, England and lived for some years in Dublin, Ireland. After his wife died, he migrated with his three sons (William, Matthew, and John) to Pennsylvania, settling near Chambersburg.  About 1744, Thomas and his oldest son, William, made their first explorations in the New River area of Virginia.  By 1750, Thomas was a Justice of  the Peace for Augusta County.  That same year William married Mary Draper, sister of John Draper, and took up residence in the Meadow.4

James Burke may have been born in Limerick, Ireland.  He emigrated to Philadelphia around 1720-1725.  He was in Chester County, Virginia by 1730.  He and his wife were married on the Roanoke River near Salem in 1742.

At the same time that Ingles, Draper, and others were settling the Draper’s Meadow site, the Bargers were staking out their homestead nearby.  Records show that they and other Palatine German immigrants had purchased lands from Patton’s grant, just to the west of the Ingles and Draper homes.5  Other families mentioned in the vicinity were those of Philip Lybrook, the McClungs, the McDonalds, thePrestons, and the Cloyds.

Shortly after the start of the French and Indian War, the Shawnee tribes of the western frontier swept down in a series of raids on the unprotected scattering of settlements of western Virginia.  On July 31, 1755 a band of native warriors attacked the homes of Col. James Patton, The Ingles family, Henry Leonard, the Barger family, and others.  Five settlers were killed — Col. Patton, Casper Barger and Philip Barger Sr., the infant son  of John and Mary Draper Ingles, and the elderly Eleanor (widow of George) Draper.

Mary (Draper) Ingles,  two of her sons (Thomas and George), her sister-in-law Elizabeth “Bettie” (Robinson) Draper, and Henry Leonard were carried off to captivity in the Shawnee villages located north of the Ohio.  Leonard presumably died while being forced to run the gauntlet.  Bettie (Robertson) Draper was eventually ransomed out of captivity in 1761.

Mary Ingles and a German woman who had been taken captive in a different raid escaped after several months in the hands of the Shawnee.  Their flight to freedom took forty days through  intractable wilderness before they reached the settlements again.  The details of the raid, captivity and escape are too extensive to repeat here.  For a good comparison of two versions of the narrative of the Draper’s Meadow Massacre and the captivity and escape of Mary Draper Ingles, see “What Really Happened at Draper’s Meadows”.

After the raid on Draper’s Meadow, the survivors of the native raids moved on to other frontier settlements.  Thomas Ingles, his son William, and Mary (Draper) Ingles moved a few miles west to the New River, where they established Ingle’s Ferry.  That ferry became an essential asset for settlers traveling along the Great Wagon Road to the Wilderness Road and Cumberland Gap.

Mary (Draper) Ingles’ son Thomas returned from Indian captivity after several years, and he resumed living in the New River area.  His brother George Ingles died while in captivity. Mary Ingles and her husband had several additional children after her dramatic escape from captivity.

In the next installment of this series, we shall look at additional settlements on the New River.

1 For more background on the Fry-Jefferson Map, see http://www.lva.virginia.gov/exhibits/fry-jefferson/fry-jeff
2 Information about the history of Augusta County, Virginia is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusta_County,_Virginia.
4 Connelley, William Elsey and Ellis Merton Coulter, History of Kentucky

5 Chalkley, Lyman, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia