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American History
John Stewart's Memorandum


Greenbrier Historical Society Archives, North House Museum

Stewart Coffee Pot The inhabitants of every country and place are desirous to inquire after the first founders, and in order to gratify the curious or such who may hereafter be inclined to be informed of the origin of the settlements made in Greenbrier, I leave this memorandum for their satisfaction being the only person at this time alive acquainted with the circumstances of its discovery and manner of settling. Born in Augusta county and the particulars of this place often related to me from my childhood by the first adventurers I can relate with certainty that our river was first discovered about the year 1749 by the white people -- some say Jacob Marlin was the first person who discovered it; others that a man of unsound mind, whose name I don't now remember, had wondered from Frederick county through the mountains and on his return reported he had seen a river running westward, supposed to be Greenbrier River. However, Jacob Marlin and Stephen Suiel were the first settlers at the mouth of Knapps Creek above what is now called the little levels on the land still bearing the name of the Marlins. These two men lived there in a kind of hermitage, having no familys, but frequently differing in sentiment which ended in rage. Marlin kept possession of the cabin whilst Suiel took up his aboad in the trunk of a large tree at a small distance, and thus living more independant, their animosities would abate and sociality ensued. Not long after they had made their settlement on the river, the country was explored by the late General Andrew Lewis at that time a noted and famous woodsman, on whose report an order of council was obtained granting one hundred thousand acres of lands on Greenbrier to the Honbl. John Robinson (Treasurer of Virginia) & Co. to the number of twelve, including old Colo. John Lewis and his two sons, William and Charles, with condition of settling the land with inhabitants, certain emoluments of three pounds per hundred acres to themselves. But the war breaking out between England and France in the year 1755, and the Indians being excited by the French to make war on the back inhabitants of Virginia, all who were then settled on Greenbrier were obliged to retreat to the older settlements for safety, amongst whom was Jacob Marlin, but Suiel fell a sacrifice to the enemy: This war ended in 1762, and then some people returned and settled in Greenbrier again, amongst whom was Archibald Clendenin, whose residence was on the lands now claimed by John Davis by virtue of an intermarriage with his daughters and lying two miles west of Lewisburg.

The Indians breaking out again in 1763, came up the Kenawha in a large body, to the number of sixty and coming to the house of Frederick Sea, on Muddy creek, were kindly entertained by him and Felty Yolkcum, not suspecting their hostile design were suddenly killed and their famileys, with many others, made prisoners; then proceeding over the mountain they came to Archibald Clendenin, who like Sea and Yolkcum, entertained them until they put him to death; his family with a number of others living with him being all made prisoners or killed, not any one escaping except Conrad Yolkcum, who doubting the design of the Indians when they came to Clendenin, took his hose out under the pretence of hobbling him at some distance from the house. Soon after some guns were fired at the horse and a loud cry raised by the people, Clendenin Gloves whereupon Yolkcum taking the alarm, mounted his hose and rode off as far as where the Court House now stands, then beginning to ruminate whether he might not be mistaken in his apprehensions, concluded to return and know the truth, but just as he came to the corner of Clendenin's fence some Indians placed there presented their guns and attempted to shoot him, but their guns all miss fire (he thinks at least ten) he immediately fled to Jackson's River, alarming the people as he went, but few were willing to believe him; the Indians pursued after him and all that fell in their way were slain until they went on Carr's creek, now in Rockbridge county. So much people were them days intimidated by an attack of the Indians that they were suffered to retreat with all their booty and more prisoners than there was Indians in their party. I will here relate a narrative of Archbl. Clendenin's wife, being a prisoner with her young child as they were passing over Keeney's Nob from Muddy creek, a part of the Indians being in front with the remainder behind and the prisoners in the center, Mrs. Clendenin hands her child to another woman to carry and she slipped to one side and hid herself in a bush, but the Indians soon missing her one of them observed he would soon bring the cow to her calf and taking the child, caused it to cry very loud, but the mother not appearing, he took the infant and beat out its brains against a tree, then throwing it down in the road, all the people and horse that were in the rear passed over it until it was trod to piece. Many more cruelties were commited too horid to be related, and too many to be contained in this memorandum. Thus was Greenbrier once more depopulated for six years, but a peace being concluded with the Indians in 1765, and in the lands on the western waters with certain bounderys being purchased at a treaty at Fort Stanioix by Andw. Lewis and Thomas Walker, commissioners appointed by Government, the people again returned to settle in Greenbrier in 1769, and I myself was amongst the first of those last adventurers, being at that time about nineteen years of age, with W. Robert McClenachan another very young man, our design was to secure lands and encourage settlement in the county, but the Indians breaking out again in 1774, Colo. Andrew Lewis was ordered by the Earl of Dunmore (then Governor of Virginia) to march against them with fifteen hundred volunteer militia, which army marched from Camp Union (now Lewisburg), the 11th day of Septmr., 1774, two companys of the said army being raised in Greenbrier and commanded by Capt. Robt. McClenachan and myself, we were met by the Indians on the 10th day of October at the mouth of the Kenawha and a very obstinate engagement ensured, the Indians were defeated, thos with the loss of seventy-five officers and soldiers, amongst the slain was Colo. Chas. Lewis, who commanded the Augusta militia and my friend, Capt. Robt. McClenachan. Colo. Andw. Lewis pursued his victory, crossing the Ohio untill we were in sight of some Indian towns on the waters of Siota, where we were met by the Earl of Dunmore who commanded an army in person and hade made his rout by the way of Fort Pitt; the Governor capitulating with the Indians, Colo. Lewis was ordered to retreat and the next year hostilities commenced between the British and Americans at Boston in New England and I have since been informed by Colo. Lewis that the Earl of Dunmore (the King's Governor) knew of the attack to be made upon us by the Indians at the mouth of the Kenawha, and hoped our distruction; this secret was communicated to him by indisputable authority.

Independance being declared by America the 4th of July, 1776, and the people assuming the ranes of government, a county was granted to the people of Greenbrier under the commonwealth, in May, 1778, and a court was first held at my house on the 3 Tuesday in said month, not long after which we were invaded again by the Indians who had taken part with the British and on the 28th of the same month Colo. Andrew Donnally's house was attacked about eight miles from Lewisburg by two hundred Indians; these Indians were pursued from the mouth of the Kenawha by two scouts from that garrison to wit, Phil. Hammon and John Prior, and passing the Indians at the Meadows gave intelligence to Colo. Donnallys of their approach who instantly collected about twenty men and the next morning sustained the attack of the enemy until he was relieved about two o'clock by sixty men from Lewisburg. I was one of the number and we got into the house, unhurt, being favoured by a field of rye which grew close up to the house, the Indians being all on the opposite side. Four men were killed before we got in, and about sixteen Indians lay dead in the yard before the door, some of these were taken off in the night but we scalped nine the next morning; this was the last time the Indians invaded Greenbrier in any large party.

Peace with the British followed in 1781, and then the people of this county began to make feeble efforts to regulate their society, and to open roads and passes for waggons through the mountains, which by many had been thought impracticable no waggon at that time having ever approached nearer than the Warm Springs-- one petition the assembly granted, a law impowering the court to levy a certain annual sum in commutables from the inhabitants, for the purpose of opening a road from the court house to Warm Springs. A convenancy so necessary for the importation of salt and other necessarys of lumber, as well as conveying our hemp and other heavy ware to market, would readily be expected ti receive the approbation of every one, but such is the perverse disposition of some men, unwilling that any should share advantages in preference to themselves that this laudable measure was oposed by Mr. William Hutchinson, who had first represented the county in general assembly -- on this occasion without the privvity of the people, went on his own expence to Richmond and by his insinuations to some of the members with unfair representations obtained a suspention of the law for two years, but the following year Colo. Thom's Adams, who visited this county, satisfied with the impropriety of Hutchinson's representations had the suspention repealed and full powers were allowed to the court to levy money for the purpose aforesaid, and by this means a waggon road was opened from the Court House to the Warm Springs, which made way for the same to the Sweet Springs. The paper money issued for mentaining our war against the British became totally depreciated, and there was not a sufficient quantity of specie in circulation to enable the people to pay the revenue tax assessed upon the citizens of this county, wherefore we fell in arrears to the public for four years. But the assembly again taking our remote situation under consideration gresiously granted the sum of 5,000 of our said arrears to be applied to the purpose of opening a road from Lewisburg to the Kenawha river. The people greatful for such indulgance willingly embraced the opportunity of such an offer and every person liable for arrears of tax agreed to perform labour equivalent on the road, and the people being formed into districts with each a superintendent the road was completed in the space of two months in the year 1786, and thus was a communication by waggons to the navigable waters of the Kenawha first effected and which will probably bee found the nighest and best conveyance from the eastern to the western country that will ever be knowen -- may I hazard a conjecture that has often occured to me since I inhabited this place, that nature has designed this part of the world a peacable retreat for some of her favorite children, where pure morals will be preserved by seeparating them from other societys at so respectful a distance by ridges of mountains; and I sincerely wish time may prove my conjecture rational and true.

From the springs of salt water discovered along our river, banks of iron oar, mine pragnant with salt petre, and forrests of sugar trees so amply provided and so easily acquired I have no doubt but the future inhabitants of this country will surely avail themselves of such singular advantages greatly to their comfort and satisfaction and render them a greatful and happy people.

It will be remembered that Lewisburg was first settled by Capt. Mathew Arbuckle after the town was laid off in the year 1780, and took its name in honor of the familys of the Lewis's in consequence of their holding a large claim in the Greenbrier grant. Capt. Arbuckle was killed the following year in a storm of wind by the falling of a tree on the branch leading from the turn of the waters of Anthonys creek to Jackson's river; he was distinguished for his bravery, especially in the battle with the Indians at Point Pleasant.

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