Skip to content

About Lyman Draper’s list of Tories and Quakers and the confusion surrounding the Swift Company

The Flower Swift Militia List Controvery: A list of Tories or a militia roster?

Lyman Draper (the famous nineteenth century Historian and Collector) thought that the older of the Flower Swift militia rosters was a list of Tories and Quakers, not a militia list. In “Grayson County, a History In Words and Pictures“, a very similar list (referred to as the third undated Flower Swift militia list) is given as a militia roster. Elsewhere on New River Notes it is given as Draper saw it — as a possible list of Tories and Quakers. Draper’s assumptions are based on an order from General William Campbell, the local American commander, to construct such a list. That this is a militia list instead is supported by the following:

  1. The overlap between the lists is high with 41 of 64 men accounted for.
  2. Men are marked as unfit for duty on the third undated roster, and it appears to be a militia roster
  3. Flower Swift was known to be a militia captain, his company forming on 8 September 1779 – a few other lists of this militia company exist with him noted as the captain
  4. The persons on the list mostly remained in the New River area after the war and their property was not confiscated.
  5. Known Tories are not on the list. Capt. John Cox and others named many of the Tories active in the area and the names of many more are known.
  6. This appears to be a neighborhood list of persons living in the vicinity of Chestnut Creek (today SE Grayson and western Carroll Co., VA). Most or all of the named Tories lived outside this community.
  7. None of the men on the list are among those mentioned by John Cox as those involved capturing him or by any of the New River men who filed pensions, nor any of the regional history books, nor are any in the gang associated with William Riddle;
  8. Some of the non-Quakers filed for Revolutionary War pensions where they described serious fighting in the major battles and skirmishes in North Carolina and proven enlistment in Regular North Carolina troops starting in 1779. Timothy Spencer, for instance filed a pension claim in Grayson County in 1832, Henry Morgan in Illinois in 1833, Daniel McCoy in 1818 in Kentucky and maybe again in Jackson Co., IN in 1833. Charles Morgan got a Bounty Land Warrant in Grayson County in the 1790s. A William Blevins, in a pension application in Indiana, says he fought with Swift against Tories while guarding the lead mines.
  9. Family tradition in the Ruddick family says that these Quakers also participated in some fighting in North Carolina.
  10. Flower Swift was among the first court magistrates of Grayson County when it was formed in 1793.
  11. There is no tradition of Toryism in any of the families of the men from Swift’s unit, other than the Blevins. Quite the contrary. The Blevins were not on Draper’s list.
  12. Flower Swift’s name is the first name on the list, which is where the Captain’s name should be.
  13. See more in Grady Loy’s commentary on Flower Swift.

On the other hand, this does not look even remotely, at first glance, like an effective fighting force. The majority are marked unfit or are probable religious pacifists. Quakers were actively seeking peace with the Indians after the start of the Revolution. It is likely that they did not want to participate in the Indian War. And this is a sentiment likely to be shared by many of their neighbors to the west in Osborne’s and Cox’s companies. Indians never mounted a major attack on settlers in the upper New River Valley and this is not typical of the experience of the Appalachian frontier. Its true the Osborne and Cox companies did go on the Cherokee campaign, but their officers wrote of a lack of enthusiasm. For after all, Sevier’s Watauga settlement in today’s Tennessee was on Indian land. And the villages they were destroying were not necessarily those of the hostile Chickamauga, but were mostly of Cherokee who had opted to remain neutral. However the Swift company was perhaps more willing to fight the British. Given their background in the Regulator movement and their participation in the Battle of Alamance, it seems likely that some of them would fight. The cause of the Revolution and of the Regulators in the end was one. In a way the Revolution started at Alamance in 1771.

The militia muster roll in the Grayson County: A History in Words and Pictures, and Draper’s Tory and Quaker list on the New River Notes web site do not match perfectly. There appear to be two slightly different lists, accounting for a change in the make-up of Flower Swift’s militia company over time. The Draper list on New River Notes with the Tory label was not made in 1782 as none of the additional Quakers on it are on the 1782 tax list (while almost all the Quakers in the list in the Grayson history book are on the tax list). The so-called “Tory” list may have been taken from the Montgomery county archives by Draper and is now stored at the University of Wisconsin. On it, probably in Draper’s hand-writing, are the words “Tory?” over one column and “Quaker?” over the other. There is no date on the list and very little to identify what it is. The other list (#3) I have used is still archived in Christiansburg (the county seat of Montgomery county).

Examining the non-Quakers who are on the Draper list, but not on list “3” we find that the few whose genealogy can be traced come from Surry Co., NC (Timothy Spencer, Isaac Little, the Winfreys, Quaker Stephen Bond). Some of the other names are SE North Carolina Indian names and that the Croatan/Lumbee Indian genealogies and are not on the internet, although, again families with these names settled in Surry/Stokes Co., NC. Not one of these men appears on the 1782 Montgomery Co., VA tax list. My guess is that the Draper list dates from the time of the most intense fighting in the Piedmont about 1780-1781. The men on that list likely brought themselves and their families over the border to escape some of the fighting. Some may have returned to participate when General Campbell called for the Montgomery troops to join him in North Carolinia (see appendix on participation of southwest Virginia in the war), although the Timothy Spencer pension application does not support this view.

At least four (and maybe more) veterans of the Flower Swift militia applied for pensions (two of which I have not read): Timothy Spencer, Daniel McCoy, “” Morgan Morgan [list 1] and “” Henry Morgan (all non-Quakers). In addition, Charles Morgan (non-Quaker, Swift’s Co.) received a Bounty Warrant Land for his service in 1790. From the two that I have read so far it appears they left home and fought with North Carolina units or fought with other units before joining Swift’s company. Swift’s company, as such, appears to have been a home guard. There may be more applications that I do not know about, but most of these were not applied for until the 1830s when most of these men would have passed.

There are other Flower Swift militia lists (marked 1st and 2nd militia rolls on the New River web site and listed first in Grayson County: A History in Words and Pictures). By finding out when the men in these later rolls obtained property or were taxed, it appears that these lists date from after the Revolution (see later section on dating the lists). The rolls in this study are the Swift militia company rolls that I believe date from the Revolution.

  1. Discussions of the Swift militia can be found on the Swift Genforum.