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John Stuart
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History of Greenbrier County
J.R. Cole
Lewisburg, WV
1917
page 51-60

JOHN STUART

David Stuart (the father of Col. John Stuart of Greenbrier County) was born in Scotland in 1700-. He came of a family connected with the House of Stuart, whose members were strong partisans of that house.

The failure of the supporters of Charles Edward Stuart to place him on the English throne in 1745 and 1746 placed them in such standing with the House of Hanover, then reigning, and those in authority in the British Isles as to render their condition in their native land very unpleasant and their existence hazardous for some time after the battle of Culloden. For this reason numbers of them came to America, where opportunities were brighter and where they were less liable to imprisonment for their zeal on behalf of the Stuarts. David Stuart was one of their numbers. He came to America soon after this battle, which took place in 1746. Soon after his arrival in America he settled in Augusta County, on the Shenandoah River, some distance front the town of Staunton.

He had been a close personal friend of Gov. Robert Dinwiddie, who was sent to Virginia as its governor by the British Government in the year 1752. In 1755 Governor Dinwiddie appointed David Stuart County Lieutenant of Augusta County with the rank of Colonel. At the time of his appointment Augusta County extended as far west as the Mississippi River and as far north as Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh). The office of County Lieutenant was in those days one of the most important held in the State. Especially was this true of that office in Augusta County, owing to its vast area and the rapid advance of civilization throughout its borders towards the west. It was a position requiring a man of ability, force and energy. David Stuart, on account of his high ability, experience and peculiar efficiency as an officer was a man well qualified to fill this important office. He discharged its duties with marked success and skill, to which the records of that day give full testimony. David Stuart died in the year 1767. He met his death by drowning while attempting to ford Middle River, a branch of the Shenandoah, just after a recent rain swelled its waters.

Stuart, the son of David and Margaret Lynn Stuart and the most famous pioneer of Greenbrier, was born in Augusta County on the seventeenth day of March 1749. He exhibited at an early age extraordinary vigor both of body and mind. By the time he was seventeen years of age he was said to have acquired an excellent education, both from books and the affairs of life. While very young he participated in a number of surveying and prospecting expeditions to the west and north of the then permanent settlements in Augusta county, which brought him into contact with men of various classes and character. On these expeditions he also saw something of Indian life. In this way he gained valuable knowledge, which no doubt added greatly to his success in the discharge of the important duties he was afterwards called upon to perform as the moving spirit of the first permanent settlement in Greenbrier.

All of the attempted settlements in Greenbrier having failed prior to that time, in the year 1769 an expedition was organized by a number of citizens, most of whom were from Augusta county, having for its purpose a permanent settlement in that beautiful and inviting country afterwards called Greenbrier County.

Of this company John Stuart, then only twenty years of age, was a member. These pioneers came to Greenbrier in the spring of 1769. After arriving in this wild country the settlers found it necessary to organize for some definite course of action, both on account of developments to be made in their new home and for protection against the Indians and the many dangers by which they were beset. He did not live long at his first residence, but soon moved to what is now known as the “Old Stuart Place,” about four miles below Lewisburg on the Fort Spring road. Here he first erected a log house in which he lived until the year 1789, when he built a large stone house on the old English style, which is now the oldest house in the county. This building is still in a state of good preservation and is at this time the residence of his great-grandson, Samuel Lewis Price. Here John Stuart lived for many years, leading an active, busy life, engaged in various occupations and acting for the settlers as chief defender against the Indians.

Within a quarter of a mile from the place where the stone house was afterwards built there was erected what was known as “Fort Spring”, at the spot where the old Fort Spring Church now stands, which was placed under the command and supervision of Colonel Stuart. Greenbrier County lived near and it was used as a refuge during several Indian attacks of which no mention is made in history. There are buried arrowheads and Indian relics, which are frequently turned up by plowmen in the cultivation of the fields. 

When Gen. Andrew Lewis marched to Point Pleasant in the year 1774 two companies went with him from what afterwards became Greenbrier County. Capt. Robert McClanachan and the other by John Stuart.  At the famous battle of Point Pleasant John Stuart’s company was one of the three sent by General Lewis up Crooked Creek to flank Cornstalk’s movement. This is said to have been the movement by which the tide of battle was turned and the Indians routed. It was so dexterously executed that the enemy was taken by surprise.

After this famous battle so large a proportion of the officers had been killed that John Stuart was placed in command of a large portion of Lewis’s army, which was then marched by Gen. Andrew Lewis north of the Ohio to Pickaway Plains, where they met the southern division of the army commanded by Lord Dunmore in person.

John Stuart was at Point Pleasant in 1777, where he witnessed the atrocious murder of the Shawnee chieftain, Cornstalk. Colonel Stuart risked his life to save this noble old warrior and barely escaped death, but he encountered such tremendous odds that his efforts were unavailing.

The last of the desperate attacks made by the Indians upon the settlers of Greenbrier occurred in 1778, when a band of Indians from beyond the Ohio river surprised and surrounded the settlers at Fort Donally, in what is now known as “Rader’s Valley.” This fort was located about eight miles northwest of Fort Union, where Lewisburg now stands. Colonel Stuart led the reinforcement from Fort Union, raised the siege and drove the Indians off. Within a few days after this attack he was able to raise a sufficient force to drive and frighten the Indians out of the country. There are so many accounts already in existence of this fierce encounter that it will be unnecessary to enter into its description here.

“Greenbrier County was organized in 1776. At the request of the county court on the twenty-fifth day of November 1780, John Stuart was appointed clerk of the county. He was indeed a model clerk. He wrote a most excellent hand, plain, clear, distinct, and after a century it is as legible as if written but a dozen years ago.’

At the close of the first deed book of the county he wrote a brief history of the early settlement of Greenbrier, which shows good literary style and taste. “In this account of the early settlement of Greenbrier Colonel Stuart, in speaking of the first wagon road from Lewisburg to the Kanawha in 1786, says: ‘And thus was a communication by wagon to the navigable waters of the Kanawha first effected and it will possibly be found the highest and best conveyance from the eastern to the western country. When one contemplates the distance and grades over the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway the foresight and judgment of Colonel Stuart stand boldly out.”

Colonel Stuart was a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1788, which was called to consider and pass upon the Constitution of the United States. It assembled in Richmond on June 2. Here he was associated with such prominent men as Patrick Henry, George Mason, John Marshall (afterwards chief justice of the United States), James Madison, Benjamin Harrison and many others of like fame and undying devotion to American Independence. John Stuart’s descendants still have letters to him from Chief Justice Marshall written as late as 1800, which reveal the confidence Marshall had in his ability and good judgment. Colonel Stuart was a strong advocate for the ratification of the Constitution, and was prominent in the fight waged against it by the strong following of Patrick Henry.

He was appointed Colonel of the Seventy-Ninth Regiment of Militia in 1793. His commission, signed by Col. Henry Lee, of Virginia, is now in the possession of his great-granddaughter, Margaret Lynn Price, of Lewisburg. In 1796 the old stone church at Lewisburg was built. For the building of this church Agatha Stuart, wife of Colonel Stuart, contributed 500 pounds, which John Stuart supplemented with 150 pounds. On the front of the church he placed the following inscription:

“This building was erected in the year 1796 at the expense of a few of the first inhabitants of the land, to commemorate their affection and esteem for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Reader, if you are inclined to applaud their virtues, give God the glory.”

John Stuart possessed a large and valuable library. He carried with him through life the habit of diligent study which he had acquired in his early youth. He was a man of splendid literary attainments and a finished scholar. He belonged to several literary societies. In the year 1797 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, held in Philadelphia. His certificate of membership, signed by Thomas Jefferson, President, is also now in the possession of his great-granddaughter, Jennie Stuart Price, of Lewisburg.

In 1797 he wrote “Memoirs of Indian Wars and Other Occurrences,” a manuscript of which he left at the time of his death. In 1831 his son, Charles A. Stuart, then representing Augusta County in the Virginia senate, presented this manuscript to the Virginia Historical Society, which had it published in 1833 as one of its first publications. Unfortunately few copies were made of this interesting historical narrative and for years the work has been out of print. Hon. Virgil A. Lewis, for many years’ historian and archivist for West Virginia, endeavored to secure a copy of this work for his historical department. He at last contracted with a stenographer to make a complete copy of the volume in the Library of Congress. This was accordingly done and the work is now in the Department of Archives and History for West Virginia.  This work treats of the early settlement and history of Greenbrier valley and its pioneers and is probably the only account of the time and its people in existence.

Another valuable historical work of Colonel Stuart, entitled “A Narrative,” is also out of print, a copy of which, together with a number of letters written by Colonel Stuart to the Virginia War Department relative to conditions in Greenbrier and the great Kanawha valley in the later years of the Indian wars is also in the Department of Archives and History. Besides his other literary works Colonel Stuart left several poems of high excellence, which have never been printed. These are now in the possession of his descendants in Greenbrier.

John Stewart's Memorandum
Greenbrier Historical Society Archives, North House Museum

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 Kanawha 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 Yoakum, 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 Yoakum, 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 Yoakum, who doubting the design of the Indians when they came to Clendenin, took his horse 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, whereupon Yoakum 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 Rock bridge 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 Archibald. 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 committed too horrid 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 boundaries being purchased at a treaty at Fort Stanioix by Andrew Lewis. 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 McClanachan another very young man, our design was to secure lands and encourage settlement in the county, but the Indians breaking out again in 1774, Colonel 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 September., 1774, two companys of the said army being raised in Greenbrier and commanded by Capt. Robt. McClanachan and myself, were met by the Indians on the 10th day of October at the mouth of the Kanawha and a very obstinate engagement ensured, the Indians were defeated, those with the loss of seventy-five officers and soldiers, amongst the slain was Colonel Chas. Lewis, who commanded the Augusta militia and my friend, Capt. Robt. McClenachan. Colo. Andrew Lewis. Lewis pursued his victory, crossing the Ohio until we were in sight of some Indian towns on the waters, 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 Kanawha, and hoped our destruction; this secret was communicated to him by indisputable authority.

Independence being declared by America the 4th of July, 1776, and the people assuming the reigns 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 Col. Andrew Donnally's house was attacked about eight miles from Lewisburg by two hundred Indians; these Indians were pursued from the mouth of the Kanawha by two scouts from that garrison to wit, Phil. Hammond and John Prior, and passing the Indians at the Meadows gave intelligence to Col Donnally of heir 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 favored 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, one named Ochiltree and one named Burns, and two others 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 wagons through the mountains, which by many had been thought impracticable no wagon at that time having ever approached nearer than the Warm Springs-- one petition the assembly granted, a law empowering the court to levy a certain annual sum in commutable from the inhabitants, for the purpose of opening a road from the court house to Warm Springs. A conveyance so necessary for the importation of salt and other necessaries of lumber, as well as conveying our hemp and other heavy ware to market, would readily be expected to 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 opposed 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 expense to Richmond and by his insinuations to some of the members with unfair representations obtained a suspension 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 suspension repealed and full powers were allowed to the court to levy money for the purpose aforesaid, and by this means a wagon 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 maintaining 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 graciously granted the sum of 5,000 of our said arrears to be applied to the purpose of opening a road from Lewisburg to the Kanawha river. The people grateful for such indulgence willingly embraced the opportunity of such an offer and every person liable for arrears of tax agreed to perform labor 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 wagons to the navigable waters of the Kanawha first effected and which will probably bee found the highest and best conveyance from the eastern to the western country that will ever be knowen -- may I hazard a conjecture that has often occurred 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 separating them from other societies 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 pregnant 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 Anthony’s creek to Jackson's river; he was distinguished for his bravery, especially in the battle with the Indians at Point Pleasant.