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Early History of Thomas Blair

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries;
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures………….Shakespeare

Tory was the name given to that class of colonists who sided with England, the mother country, in the bitter struggle of the Revolutionary War. The colonists under the lead of the liberals were known as Whigs. Both great and noble causes in that period of history. Each man to choose the side of his belief, and when the bitter struggle was over, pledge his allegiance to the United States of America and unite to make a better country.

Thomas Blair was from Scotland and was a Captain in the Tory Army. Blair along with his company was defeated in North Carolina. Thomas Blair was left for dead upon the battlefield. A bayonet was run through Thomas Blair until the crook was fast between his ribs and a foot had to be placed upon his body to draw the weapon from him. Blair recovered and returned to his company, but soon became tired of the British service and fled to the mountains of southwest Virginia. It was here that he made a flax wheel to use in the support of his family and settled down in the mountains.

There were others who left the British Army at the same time and turned to plundering throughout the country. A Company of men was sent out to capture these villains. Captain William Love of Wytheville, then Montgomery County, found Blair and although he was living peaceful, they fell upon him and hacked him in a dreadful manner. Blair survived the terrible ordeal and proceeded to build an Iron Works on Chestnut Creek. This was the first iron made on the wet running water, except one built by Captain Andrew Kincannon on the North Fork of the Holston River. Blair and William Bourne built Point Hope Furnace in Grayson County. Later in partnership with his sons-in law, Greenberry G McKenzie and Caleb Bobbitt, the Popular Camp Furnace was built in Wythe County, VA.

Thomas Blair signed as a surety for William Bourne when he became the first Clerk of Grayson County Court. He did not take an active part in county government but was a large landowner, having eleven tracts of land on Chestnut Creek. Thomas Blair’s son, John Blair, and his two sons-in-law, Greenberry G. McKenzie and Caleb Bobbitt were all three active in early Grayson County.

Thomas Blair’s will was written the tenth day of October 1797 and probated in Grayson Court in January 1806. Blair died, according to John Bryant, with a fit of the colic, said to have been caused by the bayonet wound received in battle. He left ten pounds of Virginia currency to his beloved daughter, Rebeka McKenzie; ten pounds of Virginia currency to his beloved daughter, Nancy Bobbitt; the balance of his estate to Mary, his wife and John Blair, his son. Thomas Blair’s estate was considerable with a large amount of household goods. Among his personal property was a fiddle; 29 Moravian Pipes; 100 lbs. of tobacco; 141 lbs. of tallow; 2607 lbs. of steel; 1377 lbs. of drawn steel; and a gun weighing 100 lbs. He owned seven slaves and much land. He was considered one of the wealthiest men of his day. He is buried in Blair Cemetery, Carroll County, VA, this being a part of the Blair Plantation.

The Revolution information about Thomas Blair is from “The Walter Clark Manuscripts”, Statement of John Bryan, 1823, Stack File # P.C.B.1, North Carolina Archives, Page 537. Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolution, Volume I, gives an Abstract N0- Account of stoppages due from the North Carolina Militia to his Majesty’s Hospital at Wilmington, NC between the 9th and 24th of April 1781. Colonel Pyle’s Company lists a Thomas Blair and a John Bryant. To me this verifies, as near as possible, the deposition of Thomas Blair, given by John Bryant. In “Central Pennsylvania Marriages 1770 to 1896” by Fisher on Page 71 a Thomas Blair of 8th PA Co. married a Mary Ann Jones ca. 1770. Thomas and Mary’s son, John Blair, was born in 1772 in PA, according to the 1850 Carroll Co. census. In the 1870 ca of Howard Co., MO, their daughter, Nancy Blair Bobbitt states she was born in NC.

All legal papers in Grayson and Carroll Counties name Thomas and wife, Mary Blair. In the book, “Pioneer Settlers of Grayson County”, Nucholls states that Thomas Blair’s wife was Rebecca Andrews. Nothing can be found to verify this fact. Any questions or additional information will be welcomed.

As stated in his will, Thomas and Mary Blair were the parents of three children:

  1. John Blair b. 5 July 1772 in Pennsylvania d. 12 July 1852 in Carroll County, VA and is buried in Blair Cemetery.
    Married: 6 Aug 1793
    Chariety Bourne d/o William and Rosamond Bourne
  2. Rebekak Blair, b 1774 (?) d. ca 1840/50 married Greenberry George McKenzie b. about 1770 d. 1838 in Sullivan Co. TN. They are both buried in McKenzie Cemetery on the old home place in Sullivan County. Many family members are working to record a history of this family.
  3. Nancy Blair, b. 1776 in NC d. 1876 and buried in Howard County, MO married Caleb Bobbitt b. 1770 d. 1830 and is buried in Pulaski Co., KY s/o Captain William Bobbitt and Nancy Ann McKenzie. Nancy and Caleb were married in Grayson County, VA and moved to Pulaski County, KY around 1826.

Hope Taylor