The settlement of Piedmont was long delayed. As the water courses were the natural arteries of travel, civilization at first clung to the streams and bays of the lower country. For more than a century the Commonwealth had no town of importance, and even in the tide-water counties, where rich plantations stretched for miles along the banks of creek and river, roads into the interior were few and primitive. Under these conditions, the falls and rapids of the upper streams were effectual barriers to colonization.
Of the wanderers who first drifted to our hills, we have no more record than of the wild fowl which at the that time darkened our waters. Probably, the especially daring trapper, or the fugative from justice, reached the high lands at an early date, but it was not until 1717 that white men made a recorded passage of the Blue Ridge. The records of Governor Spottiswoode's gay and chivalrous company show that these explorers followed the valley of the Rapidan, thus passing to the north of Albemarle. It was probably by ascending the head-waters of the Rivanna that they reached Swift Run Gap, in Greene County, by which they descended into the Valley.
After this expedition, the tide of population set rapidly westward, and adventurers and frontiersmen were soon penetrating the dense forest tracts of upper Virginia. The first patents within the present boundaries of Albemarle were made in 1727, hut before this the region had been entered, up the streams of the South Anna, the James, the Rivanna and the hardware, and the log hut of the hunter had begun to rise in sheltered hollows or beside bold springs.
The life of these early comers was similar to that of the frontiersmen of other States. The streams swarmed with fish of many kinds, including shad and herring in their season; water-fowl, wild tur- keys, pigeons and (loves were incredibly plentiful, and deer, elk and bear were abundant. From the buffalo trails which crossed the Blue Ridge at Simon s Gap, Jarman s Gap, Beagle s Gap and Rock- fish, we can infer that these creatures had formerly been numerous, and that they perhaps were still to be met with. Dr. Edgar Woods, in his valuable History of Albemarle, calls attention to the many local names Turkey Run. Buck Mountain, Buffalo Meadow, Beaver Dam, Bear Creek, Pidgeon Top, Elk Run, etc. which hear witness to this profusion of animal life. Edgehill Mountain was formerly known as Wolf Trap Mountain, from a large pit near the mountain s top, on the farm of Elisha Thurman, which was used for this purpose.
In a community where money was rarely handled, and the recognized mediums of exchange were tobacco and skins, hunting was regarded as a profession requiring great skill. Kercheval tells us that:
"The fall and early part of the winter was the season for hunting the deer, and the whole of the winter, including part of the spring, for bears and fur-skinned animals. It was a customary saying that fur is good during every month in the name of which the letter R occurs.
"An important part of a boy s education, at this Hunting time, was the imitating of the calls of bird and beast. By the gobbling and other sounds of wild turkeys, these keen-eyed and ever watchful fowl were often brought within reach of the rifle; the bleating of the fawn brought its dam to her death in the same way, or a wolf-howl would draw response from a concealed but near-by pack."
Miss Margaret Rogers, of Greenwood, gives this incident, which she heard irorn her uncle, Mr. Wm Wallace:
One of the old-time mountaineers, who was a famous hunter, was never known to purchase bullets for his rifle, or lead for casting them. When questioned, he was evasive, but at length in confidence he told Mr. Wallace that he dug all the lead he wanted from the mountain-side, "as his father had, fore him." In proof of this assertion, on a later visit to civilization, he brought with him a chunk of lead the size of a man's hand and the thickness of his finger, and showing it of the axe with which it evidently had been chopped He intimated that he would bequeath to Mr. Wallace of this vein, but at his death nothing could be his relatives concerning it.
During the early years of the County, the scalps of wolves were reported in large numbers. One hundred and forty pounds of tobacco were allowed for the scalp of an old wolf, and seventy-five for that of a young one, that is, one under six months Wolves old. Later, the awards were made in money. These reports are preserved in the County records, and continue with more or less regularity down to 1849, when Isaac W. Garth was awarded twelve dollars for killing an old wolf. Jonathan Barksdale, Samuel Jameson, William Ramsey and Ryland Rodes are the names which appear most frequently in this connection. [Woods' History of Albemarle] As to Indians, though there is no record of their holding land within Albemarle boundaries at the Indians time of the first patents, their withdrawal must nave been recent, and they doubtless continued for some time to use her hills as hunting-grounds, and her streams as highways. The Indian relics which are scattered over the County, and are still occasionally turned up by the plough, show that they once made general use of this region. It is known that there was a large Indian village on the William Short place, opposite Morven,and others near Greenwood and on the Rivanna above its fork. Indian mounds are common through the County, a number being on the mountains in the Sugar Hollow neighborhood.
Mr. Jefferson gives the following interesting account of his investigation of one of these mounds:
"It was situated on the low grounds of the Rivanna, about two miles above its principal fork, and opposite to some hills, on which had been an Indian town. It was of a spheroidical form, of about forty feet diameter at the base, and had been of about twelve feet altitude, though now reduced by the plough, having been under cultivation about a dozen years. Before this it was covered with trees of twelve inches diameter, and round the base was an excavation of five feet depth and width, from whence the earth had been taken of which the hillock was formed. I first dug superficially in several parts of it, and came to collections of human bones, at different depths, from six inches to three feet below the surface. These were lying in the utmost confusion, and directed to every point of the compass. Bones of the most distant parts were found together, as for instance, the small bones of the foot in the hollow of a scull ; so as, on the whole, to give the idea of bones emptied promiscu- ously from a bag or a basket, and covered over with earth, without any attention to their order. There were some teeth which were judged to be smaller than those of an adult; a rib, and a fragment of the under-jaw of a person about half grown; another of an infant; and a part of the jaw of a child which had not cut its teeth.
"I proceeded then to make a perpendicular cut through the body of the barrow, that I might examine its internal structure. This passed about three from feet from its centre, was opened to the former surface of the earth and was wide enough for a man to walk through and examine its sides. At the bottom, that is, on the level of the circumjacent plain, I found bones; above these a few stones, brought from a cliff a quarter of a mile off, and from the river one-eighth of a mile off; then a large interval of earth, then a stratum of bones, and so on. At one end of the section were four strata of bones plainly distinguishable; at the other three; the strata in one part not ranging with those in another. The bones nearest the surface were least decayed. No holes were discovered in any of them as if made with bullets, arrows, or other weapons. I conjectured that in this barrow might have been a thousand skeletons. Every one will readily seize the circumstances above related, which militate against the opinion that it covered the bones only of persons fallen in battle; and against the tradition also, which would make it the common sepulchre of a town, in which the bodies were placed upright, and touching each other. Appearances certainly indicate that it had derived both origin and growth from the accustomary collection of bones, and deposition of them together; that the first collection had been deposited on the common surface of the earth, a few stones put over it, and then a covering of earth, that the second had been laid on this, had covered more or less of it in proportion to the number of bones, and was then also covered with earth; and so on.
"But on whatever occasion they may have been made, they are of considerable notoriety among the Indians; for a party passing, about thirty years ago, through the part of the country where this barrow is, went through the woods directly to it, without any instructions or inquiry, and having staid about it for some time, with expressions which were construed to be those of sorrow, they returned to the high road, which they had left about half a dozen miles to pay this visit." The manufacture of arrow-heads was apparently carried on in localities vhere the flint was suitable. One of these veins was near Ridgeway, and a quantity of perfect and partly cut heads were found there, together with the chips. At Covesville, a bushel of stones were found together. Following upon the heels of the forgotten pioneers, the region was soon entered by the great land owners.
Authorities: Woods History of Albemarle; Kercheval s History of The Valley; Scott s History of Orange County.