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Patriot Joseph Nickell (1750-1829)


The Biography of Patriot Joseph Nickell (1750-1829)

Joseph Nickell, of the Colony of Virginia, served as a Guide for 116 days, during the 1774 Point Pleasant Campaign of Lord Dunmore’s War against the Shawnee.

When John Murray, Lord Dunmore, was appointed governor of the Colony of Virginia in 1771, he was ordered to discourage settlement of the lands beyond the mountains to the west. This decision was motivated by the British government’s desire to pacify the Indians, by preventing encroachment on their hunting grounds, and to preserve a profitable fur trade with the Ohio Valley tribes.

The westward migration could not be stemmed, however, as more and more restless settlers poured over the Alleghenies. This invasion aroused the Indians, and their anger turned into bloody warfare in 1774, when a group of drunken settlers murdered the entire family of Logan, a friendly Mingo chief, opposite the mouth of Yellow Creek in Hancock County. Logan was so enraged that he led his tribe on the warpath. He himself took thirty (30) white scalps in revenge.

Lord Dunmore ordered the organization of a border militia. Andrew Lewis, a veteran of the French and Indian Wars, was appointed Brigadier General of the Virginia Militia. By carrying the fight to the Indians, Dunmore hoped to divert the attention of the Virginians from the trouble that was brewing with Great Britain.

The most famous, and the most important, engagement of Lord Dunmore’s War was fought at Point Pleasant, at the meeting place of the Great Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, on October 10, 1774. One thousand and one hundred (1,100) Virginia militiamen engaged in fierce hand-to-hand combat, with an equal number of Indians, led by the Shawnee chieftain Cornstalk.  

After a series of violent attacks, and counterattacks, the Indians were forced to retreat to the point of land formed by the confluence of the two (2) rivers. There the fighting reached its peak. Many Indians were killed, as were more than fifty (50) Virginians, including Colonel Charles Lewis, brother of General Andrew Lewis. The Battle of Point Pleasant was a victory for the colonists, which opened the Ohio valley to settlement.

Historians have successfully argued that “the shot heard ‘round the world” was fired here, and not at Lexington, over six (6) months later. The Indians had, in fact, been incited by British agents, to trouble the colonists, and to thus keep their minds off of their grievances against Great Britain. Congress acted in 1908 to recognize The Battle of Point Pleasant as “The First Battle of the Revolution,” and it is approved as acceptable military service for applications for membership in both the SAR, and the DAR, as well as the Society of Colonial Wars and Colonial Dames. 

Joseph Nickell was born on January 10, 1750 in Augusta County. He was the third of son John Nickell and Barbara McCombe. His father, John Nickell, was born in 1728 in County Tyrone, Ulster, Northern Ireland, near the town of Gortin, where families of this name are still settled. It is believed he served as an indentured servant in order to pay for his passage from Belfast. In 1749 he bought a plantation of 400 acres on Moffett’s Branch, Middle River of the Shenandoah in Augusta County, Virginia, a Scotch-Irish settlement located about ten (10) miles northwest of the city of Staunton, Virginia.

John Nickell and Barbara McCombe had seven (7) children: John, Thomas, Joseph, Isaac, Robert, Andrew and Elizabeth. All six (6) of his sons served the cause of American Independence and he himself was a member of the Expedition to Western Pennsylvania against the French and Indians in 1758. He granted his eldest son John the greater part of the plantation in Augusta, and his other children all settled on the Greenbrier River, then the westernmost settlement of the Colonies.   

In 1774 Joseph Nickell was twenty-four (24) years of age. He was settled on a farm on Second Creek of the Greenbrier River, adjacent to his brothers Thomas and Isaac, in what is now Monroe County, West Virginia. He, with his brothers, served as Guides and participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant, fought between the colonial militia and the Shawnee under Cornstalk. He served in the Revolutionary War in Captain James Henderson’s Company of the Virginia Militia from Greenbrier.

He married Elizabeth Fowler, the daughter of Robert and Anne Fowler of Augusta County, and their seven (7) children were John, Isaac, Big Joseph, (who served in the Tenth Kentucky Infantry in the War of 1812), Elizabeth, Lucinda, James and Mary. In 1788 he sold his farm on Second Creek of the Greenbrier River, and set out with his family, and several related families, for Kentucky. They were prevented from crossing the Kentucky River in 1789, due to high water, and spent three years on Tate Creek in Madison County, Kentucky. In 1792 he bought a farm on West Fork of Stoner Creek in Bourbon County, later Clark County, Kentucky. He died in 1829 and was buried on Lulbegrud Creek in Montgomery County, Kentucky.

Acknowledgements

Nickell Family History: The American Genealogy of Joe Nickell of Topeka, Kansas

Joe Nickell, SAR National Number 51307

2207 Van Ness Place Indianapolis, IN 46240-4703 carsonsmith@aol.com

The Uniform of Patriot Joseph Nickell (1750-1829)

The clothing that I wear, as a member of the SAR Color Guard, was modeled after the figure that stands at the base of the ninety (90) foot granite obelisk, which marks the site of the Battle of Point Pleasant. Like that figure, I am wearing the fringed hunting shirt of the frontier rifleman. It was also called the “rifle shirt” or “rifle frock.” It is made of cotton canvas, and has two (2) fringed capes, which served to shed water.

The fringed hunting shirt was cheap and easy to make. It retained warmth in cool weather. It was comfortable in hot weather. It could easily be died in regimental colors and washed in any stream or pond. The fringed hunting shirt found favor with no less a figure than General George Washington, who considered the fringed hunting shirt to be, “the ideal military garment.” At one time, General Washington himself ordered ten thousand (10,000) of them to be made for the Continental Army.

According to the Official Color Guard Manual of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the fringed hunting shirt is considered “civilian attire,” and out of compliance with the standards established by the National Society of the SAR. But compliance has never been my strong suit and, if you have been paying any attention at all, you will quickly recognize the fact that, my family has always been disinclined to submit to arbitrary rules, imposed upon them by the slaves of convention. 

I am also wearing canvas military-style gaiters, which were worn to protect the legs of the wearer from the underbrush. They are custom fitted, closed with pewter buttons, and supported by leather ties above the calf and below the knee. Because my ancestors were living on the westernmost frontier, served as guides, and no doubt adopted the customs of the Indians, I am wearing handmade Indian-style moccasins. I am also carrying a hunting knife, and a tomahawk, which would have been used in hand-to-hand combat.    

Rather than wearing a tricorn, or a wide brimmed felt hat, neither of which would have been particularly practical in the field, I wear a simple cotton kerchief or bandana. In the hot summer months, it serves to keep the sun off of the top of my head, it keeps sweat out of my eyes, it can be dipped in cold water, and it does not become caught it tree limbs. Members of the colonial militia wore bandanas inscribed with the word, “Liberty.” The figure at the base of the monument at Point Pleasant is holding a Canadian cap. The top was made of red or green wool, lined with fox or raccoon fur, and had a tuft of fur on the top, and sometimes had a tail on the back. 

The firearm that I am carrying is a 50 caliber Long Rifle. This is a reproduction firearm that is manufactured by the Navy Arms Company. The Long Rifle is sometimes called the Pennsylvania Rifle, in reference to its place of origin, or the Kentucky Rifle, in reference to its final destination. It is a flintlock, black powder rifle, with an octagonal barrel and brass hardware.  

Our thanks to Carson C. Smith FSA Scot for sending this in.


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