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Grayson County’s Participation in Lord Dunmore’s War

Narrative History

Indian relations were the source of much contention between various social groups. On many occasions Indians were friendly killed by white settlers who had extermination in mind. These occasions were virtually unpunishable by Colonial leadership, who would have preferred to maintain cordial relations with the natives. Cherokee and Shawnee incursions were constant sources of worry for the inhabitants of the frontier, especially on the Holston and Clinch Rivers. The white settlers had determined in their own minds that Indians were “savages” and perhaps a sub-human species, as they had with the black slaves. Indians impeded their westward expansion and if the Indians would not voluntarily move out of the way, as many times they did, they were pushed away and their lands were taken. By the mid-point of the 18th Century the Indians were pushed beyond the crest of the mountains when the Indians were promised no further molestation.

The purported first settler in the Upper New River Valley, Andrew Baker, was reported to have been driven out by Indian activities about 1763. This is a bit far fetched, but has wide circulation. The reality of the situation is that he was scared out and in reality had not been threatened, if he was on the Upper New River. Their is contradictory evidence on the location of his dwelling prior to being driven out, by tradition across the Blue Ridge, however, it seems more reasonable that he lived on the Yadkin River. When the Indian threats were perceived many temporarily moved to the Moravian settlement at Salem, North Carolina. When the threat was over they returned to the Middle New River, which the limit of settlement during the French and Indian War.

At the time of the Long Island (of Holston River) in 1777, the Cherokee, “The Tassel” made a speech clearly stating the position of the Indians:

You say: Why do not the Indians till the ground and live as we do? May we not, with equal propriety, ask why the white people do not hunt and live as we do? You profess to think it no injustice to warn us not to kill our deer and other game from the mere love of waste; but it is very criminal in our young men if they chance to kill a cow or a hog for their sustenance when they happen to be in your lands. We wish, however, to be at peace with you, and to do as we would be done by. We do not quarrel with you for killing an occasional buffalo, bear or deer on our lands when you need one to eat; but you go much farther; your people hunt to gain a livelihood by it; they kill all our game; our young men resent the injury, and it is followed by bloodshed and war.

This is not a mere affected injury; it is a grievance which we equitably complain of, and it demands a permanent redress.

The Great God of Nature has placed us in different situations. It is true he had endowed you with many superior advantages; but he had not created us to be your slaves, We are a separate people! He had given each their lands, under distinct considerations and circumstances; he has stocked yours with cows, ours with buffalo; yours with hog, ours with bear; yours with sheep, ours with deer. He has indeed given you an advantage in this, that your cattle are tame and domestic while ours are wild, and demand not only a larger space for range but art to hunt and kill them; they are, never-the- less, as much our property as other animals are yours, and ought not to be taken away without our consent, or for something equivalent.1

Pat Alderman notes that the greed and covetousness of the whites pushed the Indians off their beloved land, killed their hunters, burned their towns, destroyed their crops and the Indians were justified in retaliation. Retaliation however only fanned the flamed of settler discontent higher and led to further loss of large tracts of territory in Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia. By the close of the Revolution in 1783 the Indians were sufficiently subdued that worry about their incursions on the Upper New River ceased. Settlers on the Holston and Clinch had to worry about them for another decade, but whites had won by 1781.2

The Shawnee Indian Nation was as problematic to Appalachian settlers in the central region as Cherokees were in the Southern mountains. By late 1773 the Shawnees were putting pressure on white settlement in Kentucky and in the Powell’s Valley in extreme Southwest Virginia, as well as in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Land surveys resumed in the disputed territory in 1773 and the surveyors noted a tendency to flee and abandon home, furnishings and livestock to escape the perceived imminent Shawnee attack. The Shawnee chief had issued the order to kill any Virginian found on their lands or to rob and whip any Pennsylvanian found there. This situation was unacceptable to the settlers of the trans-Blue Ridge in Virginia, and western Pennsylvania.

The result of these Indian activities was to sent settlers eastward or into stockades on the Holston, Clinch and New Rivers. Colonel William Preston, sheriff, surveyor and county lieutenant of Fincastle County, which then included all of Southwest Virginia, most of present West Virginia and all of Kentucky proposed to the Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, a punitive expedition against the Shawnee, which was accepted. Military command of the expedition devolved on Colonel Andrew Lewis of neighboring Botetourt County. This expedition seemed to have been a disaster waiting to happen, and the only redemption of the force was that the Shawnee were less prepared for war than were the Virginians. Lord Dunmore’s War only had one substantial fight, the Battle of Point Pleasant on the Ohio in what is now West Virginia.

The men of the Upper New River Valley participated in this conflict under their militia captain, William Herbert. Herbert lived in present day Wythe County near Austinville, where he was involved in mining activities until he died in 1776. Herbert’s militia district included the territory of present Carroll and Grayson Counties. The role of Herbert’s company is fairly well documented in the Draper Manuscript Collection. The first reference to Herbert’s company was a Letter from Colonel William Christian to Colonel William Preston proposing the construction of a fort at the mouth of the New River (Kanawha). This June 22, 1774 letter notes that the construction could be accomplished in a week by Captains Herbert, Crockett, Trigg and Robertson’s companies.3 A circa July 3, 1774 note from Preston to Christian regarding reported murders of traders by Cherokees, and the fearing that the Cherokee would form an alliance with the Shawnee and drive the settlers out of the Holston River Valley. Captain Herbert and Madison should draft 50 men from each of their companies to join with the men already conscripted for the defense of the Clinch and Holston.4 Whether or not the draft was issued is not known. On August 9, 1774 Major Arthur Campbell appealed to Colonel William Preston for further assistance, noting that the Indians had attacked and done some damage on Sinking Creek (in Washington County) and that the inhabitants were being gathered into stockades. Campbell wanted Preston to send 40 men each from Captain Herbert’s and the late Captain Doak’s Companies.5 An August 10, 1774 dispatch from Campbell to Preston altered his previous day’s request, suggesting that Doak’s men travel under the command of Captain Crockett or Captain William Campbell, as:

…not a Man of that Company I am informed will go under Capt. Herbert. I know you would willingly remove every reasonable objection to forward the Expedition. I dont know as they mens objection is very reasonable against Herbert but it may be proper to gratify them. I wish Capt. Herbert may give way on this occasion as perhaps five Capts. may do as well with 2 or 3 extraordinary subalterns as the first appointment, or you can be a judge at the place of rendezvous who may be properist to appoint for the sixth.6

Herbert finally did in fact, lead his own men as well as some of the others, but according to other realities and not Campbell’s wishes. Colonel Preston responded to Major Campbell on August 13, 1774:

I can’t think of applying to Capt. Herbert to drop the Expedition a Second Time, when he gave it up so genteely at first, & now he has gone so far in the Business. When the men Assemble at Mr. Thomsons I hope it will be so contrived as to give Satisfaction to all.7

On August 25, 1774, William Preston reported to Campbell that preparations were well underway, and but that only 30 men would be drafted from Herberts and Doak’s Companies.8 Difficulties in communication and transportation had already led to a 16 day delay, and no doubt Campbell was becoming increasingly anxious about the situation of the Holston and Clinch settlements. The situation had changed, and an expedition to the Ohio was more critical in Preston’s view than a march to the Holston. Herbert’s men would march with the force going down the New River.9 By September 3, 1774, the Colonial Command had reached the head of Rich Creek, at which time Jacob Starn and Thomas Robinson were reported as deserters, and they were to be advertized as such.10 On September 7, 1774 Captain Herbert’s Company’s strength was given as 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, 3 serjants and 38 rank and file fit for duty at Camp Union, and 2 others were absent sick at Rick Creek.11 It is possible that the two deserters were in fact sick.

On September 9, 1774, Major Campbell lamented that he had not received any reinforcement from Doak’s or Herbert’s Companies, but that the forts at Glade Hollow, Elk Garden and Maiden Springs then had complete military complements. Campbell expressed the opinion that he would never receive any reinforcement from Herbert or Doak.12 By, September 17, however, Campbell had received 12 men from Doak’s company, but still no one had arrived from Herbert’s. Colonel Preston explained to Captain Daniel Smith on October 9, 1774: I would to God it was in my Power to give them [the Holston and Clinch settlements] such Assistance as their Dangerous Circumstances Demand. The scarcity of Men as well as Ammunition is very Alarming. I have sent 24 men out of Capt. Herberts & 22 out of Capt. Doacks Companies to Major Campbell; I have also ordered out Capt. Wilson with about 30 Pittsylvanians. I am also in hopes that Mr. William Doack and one Dougherty will take out upwards of 20 men in a very little time.13 On October 13, 1774 Campbell again complained about Herbert’s Company, noting:

Mic. Dougherty was here Yesterday and complains about some Men that is stationed at Herberts who when he drafted them went there for an Excuse [to the site of a Mr. Roberts who was killed by Indians in his own neighborhood]. It seems Mic. is in the right certainly there is no need yet for Men at that place. his party is only Seven and himself which I have sent to Reedy Creek to assist as Guards in carrying out Flour to Clinch.14 In the meantime, Captain Herbert and 40 of his men were in the wilderness that became West Virginia. On September 8, 1774, James Newell, an ensign in Herbert’s company noted that a Grass Guard had been established to guard the cattle and count the same every night. Herbert’s company remained at Camp Union until September 23, 1774, when they were ordered to march from Camp. The battle of Point Pleasant, on October 10, 1774, resulted in complete route of the Shawnee, however, the cost to the Colonial forces was substantial. Muster returns for Herbert’s Company indicate that 20 of the company were wounded. With the Shawnees on the run, Colonel Lewis took the main body of his command across the Ohio and pursued them. Captains Herbert, Dickenson, Lockridge and Slaughter were left at Point Pleasant to guard and fortify that point.15 While Herbert was left behind, James Newell led part of Herbert’s company across the Ohio, to include 1 office, 2 sergeants and 26 privates for a total of 29, or approximately 10% of those crossing the Ohio (totaling 261 men).16 By October 25, 1774 the remainder of Herbert’s company had caught up with Newell, by then back at Point Pleasant. Newell reported at that time Herbert’s company consisted of 1 Captain, 2 Lieutenants, 2 Ensigns, 6 Sergeants, and 110 privates, and of this number 10 were sick, 20 wounded, 9 were waiting on the sick and wounded, 6 were on detached service leaving 65 men fit for duty.17 The six men who were detached were with Captain Shelby’s Company on the Ohio.18 On October 28, 1774 Herbert’s troops were still camped at Point Pleasant and were under the command of Colonel William Fleming. Strength figures given for that date indicate that 1 fifer was now among with the command (the drummer was from Captain Lockridge’s Company) 12 men were now absent sick and 5 were on service as spies and coopers, for a total command strength of 109 men, only 63 of which were fit for duty.19

Absence for such a long period resulted, necessarily in the neglect of crops on the Upper New River Valley, but through hunting and gathering skills famine was avoided during the following winter. Though which Upper New River Men actually participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant is a matter of speculation, there is no doubt that nearly all militia men were involved in the Indian fighting of 1774 to some degree. The presumed list of 107 participants from Herbert’s Company follows:

Roster of Grayson County’s Participants

Herbert’s Company Roster
Abbott, Joseph Flannary, Silas Pup, Valentine
Atkins, William Forbush, George Ray, John
Austin, William Foster, Thomas Reeves, George
Babber, James, Sr. Gleaves, William Riddell, William
Babber, James, Jr. Goad, Abraham Roark, Timothy
Barder, John Green, Barkley Roberts, Neal
Barran, John Hash, John Roberts, William
Barren, Joseph, Sr. Hash, William Rodgers, Benjamin, Jr.
Barren, Joseph, Jr. Henson, William Rodgers, Doswell
Bedsaul, Elisha Herbert, William Rodgers, John
Bedsaul, John Hobbs, Thomas Rurks, John
Bell, William Huston, Robert Rutherford, John, Jr.
Benton, Eliamus Jennings, William Rutherford, Joseph
Binkley, Peter Jones, Stephen Rutherford, William
Blevins, Daniel Jones, William Sanston, Edward
Blevins, James Keith, George Sayers, David
Blevins, William Landreth, William Scott, William
Boggs, James Lee, Clement Sexton, Charles
Brawley, John Long, Henry Smith, Moses
Cock, Charles Maughan, James Stotts, Andrew
Collier, Aaron McDaniel, James Thomas, William
Collins, David McKee, Alexander Thompson, James
Collins, Elisha Montgomery, John Tuttle, James
Collins, John, Jr. Murray, Morgan Vaughn, Thomas
Collins, John Murray, Thomas Wallen, James
Collins, Lewis Newell, James Wallen, Joseph
Cooper, Aaron Newell, Samuel Wallen, Thomas
Cox, David Osborn, Enoch Wallin, James
Cox, John Osborn, Ephraim Ward, James
Crouch, John Osborn, Jonathan Ward, Nathan
Dalton, William Osborn, Robert Ward, Wells
Daverox, Charles Osborn, Stephen Ward, Zachariah
Deforest, Cornelius Pemberton, George Wilshire, Nathaniel
Ewing, George Pierce, Jeremiah Woods, Michael
Ewing, James Pierce, William Young, Ezekiel
Ewing, Samuel, Sr. Probut, William  

Indian Scouting and Fighting was a source of pride for the New River Settlements as noted in the Revolutionary War pension applications of the settlers. These developments are more fully developed in the following section. Indian Fighting is more legend than fact as it relates to the Upper New River Valley.

The only other facet of Indian relations in the Upper New River Valley is the tradition of kidnapping. There are several stories in the tradition, all surprisingly similar and should be viewed skeptically. These stories go, a family is travelling or a white girl is alone when a small band of Indians kidnap the child and is taken to an Indian town. At the town the white girl is invariably ill treated and either makes her escape or is married to an Indian Chief and lives with the Indians until advanced age. In the escape versions of the story the girl invariably arrives back home to families who can not or do not believe it is their lost child.

In fairness, it seems that these stories are applied to individual families, but were all derivative of the story of Katy Sage, who lived on Elk Creek in what is now Grayson County. In the facts of the situation, as best they can be sorted from the myth, Katy was alone away from her house and was kidnaped by two white men and traded to the Indians. The Indians had no compunction about taking her as a virtual slave because of the hardships whites had caused them and because whites held blacks in slavery and what was the difference. Katy was a servant to the Indians treated indifferently and finally mated with an Indian male. After the removal of Indians to the West she was found by family members who attempted to make contact with her, which was accomplished. Katy by this time had been completely assimilated into the Indian Culture and forgotten how to speak English. Katy lived the rest of her life with the Indians.20


  1. Alderman, Pat. The Overmountain Men, p. 9.
  2. Alderman, Pat. The Overmountain Men, p. 9.
  3. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ42.
  4. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ51.
  5. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ79.
  6. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ72.
  7. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ76.
  8. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ82.
  9. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ80.
  10. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ89.
  11. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ92.
  12. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ94.
  13. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 4XX44.
  14. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 3QQ123.
  15. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 2ZZ72.
  16. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 11ZZ1-12; Journal of James Newell.
  17. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 11ZZ1-12; Journal of James Newell.
  18. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 2ZZ37, Mss. 2ZZ25.
  19. Draper, Lyman C., Mss. 2ZZ22.
  20. Oral Tradition retold in Grayson County, A History in Words and Pictures