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Sketches of Virginia
Chapter I. - The Settlements on the Opequon


(Lines written by a young lady that now lies in the old burying-ground near Opecquon Church.')

Hear you not the warning sigh
On the breeze that passes by?
Lingerers near this solemn ground,
To our silent home ye’re bound.
Hast thou strength? the strong were laid
In these mansions of the dead.
Youth and vigor slumber here;
And hast thou no cause to fear?
Hast thou kindred? ties as strong
Here have been forgotten long:
As they laid each sleeper low,
Sighs were heaved, and tears did flow.
Hast thou beauty? hast thou wealth?
Future hopes and present health?
Trust them not,—here perished he,
Loveliness and hopes as high.
Yes, we hear thee;—on the ear
There has fallen a voice of fear.
Deep, sepulchral, hollow tone,
We would bid thy words begone.
Must we perish? must we die?
And beneath the cold earth lie?
Yes, this fearful thing we know;
Monitor, thy tale is true.
Speak again thou warning one;
Did you go with horror down?
Did the dread of that dark place
Freeze thy blood, and blanch thy face?
O there is a mingled sound
From the regions under ground?
Songs of joy, and anguished moans,
From the lost and rescued ones?
Listen, and their truth’s the same;
We had hope in Jesus’ name,
And that hope shone in the gloom;
Seek his love to light thy tomb.
But the groaning of the lost,
Helpless, restless, tempest-tossed,
Comes to break that happy strain;
We despised the Saviour’s name,
And we warn you from the grave,
Ye cannot his anger brave.
Lingerers! idle not your day,
Fly, and seek him while you may.

About three miles from Winchester, on the paved road to Staunton, on the western side of the road, near a little village, is a stone building surrounded by a few venerable oaks. That is Opecquon meeting house; and between it and the village is the grave-yard, in which lie the remains of some of the oldest settlers of the valley: in their midst the writer of these lines/going down to the rest of her ancestors in her worth and loveliness, a believer in Jesus. Her voice charmed many hearts, in the praises of God, in this house: silenced on earth, her spirit makes melody in heaven.

Let us visit this church and yard. This house is the third built upon this site for the worshippers of the Opecquon Congregation. This old grove has witnessed the coming and going of generations; and could these trees speak, they could tell of remarkable scenes of crowded assemblies, of tears, and groans, and outcries, and joyful songs of faith, and hope, and love, under the faithful preaching of the gospel. They have bent their boughs over many a funeral train, mourning for some, lest the buried, “restless, hopeless, tempest-tossed” were waiting a sorrowful resurrection; and waving with joy over others whose dead “had hope in Jesus’ name.” Come, let us sit down here, in the shadow of the church and school-house, which always went hand in hand with the Scotch-Irish emigrants, and these old trees, the witnesses of the past and present, and let us gather up some of the memorials of the events and generations passing in a century of years.

It was a condition of the grant by which Hite came in possession of this beautiful country, that he should persuade some of the emigrants from the European countries, and from Pennsylvania, to settle on his lands. In all his grants of frontier territory, the Governor secured an increase of population and wealth to his Majesty’s Colony, while he made the grantees rich. Hite, Beverly, and Burden, grantees in the valley, sent out advertisements to meet the emigrants as they landed on the Delaware, and also as they were about to leave their native land, setting forth the fertility and beauty of the valley, and offering favorable terms to actual settlers. And soon after Hite had removed his family to the Opecquon, the Scotch-Irish, immediately from Ireland, began to rear habitations around him and his sons-in-law, Bowman and Chrisman, and Fro-man, and near to Stephens and M’Kay. Of those that came first, the greater part took their titles from Hite and were located to the south of Opecquon. As others came and joined the settlement, some purchased of Fairfax, and others settling near the line of the grant, purchased on both sides, and held their titles from both Hite and Fairfax. Tradition says that Hite made more favourable terms for his purchasers than Fairfax was inclined to do; but does not tell in what this advantage consisted, except Fairfax demanded payment in money, and Hite received part in traffic. Samuel Glass took his residence at the head-spring of the Opecquon, having purchased from Hite sixteen hundred acres, lying along the southern side of the stream. He afterwards made some small purchases of Fairfax—and as a grand-daughter said, might have had as much as he pleased of the land lying toward Winchester, for a few shillings the acre. James C. Baker now occupies his farm. A son-in-law,

Becket, was seated between Mr. Glass and North Mountain; his son David took his residence a little below his father, on the Opecquon, at Cherry Mead, now owned by Madison Campbell; his son Robert was placed a little further down at Long Meadows, now in possession of his grand-son Robert. The stone dwelling is on the old site, and at the back of it is carefully preserved, as part of the residence, the stockade fort used as the place of refuge in alarms. Next down the creek was Joseph Colvin and family. None of the descendants remained long in possession of their purchase here, they chose to live on Cedar Creek. Then came John Wilson and the Marquis family, with whom he was connected; the grave of his wife is marked, in this yard, by the oldest monumental stone in the valley. Next were the M’Auleys, within sight of the church here; and then William Hoge had his residence on that little rising ground near by us to the west. He gave this parcel of land for a burying-ground, a site for a church and a school-house. Adjoining these to the south were the Allen family, a part of whom speedily removed to the Shenandoah, near Front Royal. The M’Gill family now occupy their positions here. A little beyond the village, on the other side of the paved road, lived Robert Wilson ; his residence, part stone, and part wood, remains to this day. There M’Aden, on his mission to North Carolina, met with the preacher of Opecquon ; and there Washington, while stationed at Winchester, was often entertained. A little further down the stream lived James Vance, son-in-law of Samuel Glass, and ancestor of a numerous race, most of whom are to be found west of the Alleghenies. These were all here as early as 1736, or ’37. Ocher families gathered around these, "and on Cedar Creek, charmed with a country abounding with prairie and pea vines, and buffaloe and deer.

By the time of Braddock’s war, the congregation assembling at this place for worship was large, and composed of families of great moral worth, whose descendants have been thought worthy of any posts of trust, honor, or profit, in the gift of there fellow-citizens. They came from the gap in the North Mountain, from the neighborhood of the White Posts, from the neighborhoods east of Winchester, from Cedar Creek, and from beyond Newtown. While Washington was encamped in Winchester this was the only place of religious worship in the vicinity of the fort. Congregations assembled here when Winchester could scarce show a cluster of houses. After Braddock’s war many families were added to the congregation, as the Chipleys, the Gilkersons, the Simralls and the Newalls, and many others. But it is not necessary to add further to this list, as a large portion of the families that composed the congregation of Opecquon, about the close of the 18th century, removed to the inviting fields of Kentucky, and very few families now residing near this sacred spot, can trace their origin to the early settlers.

The first minister of the Presbyterian order that visited this region is supposed to have been a Mr. Gelston, of whom the Records of Donegal Presbytery, in 1736, say—“Mr. Gelston is appointed to pay a visit to some new inhabitants near Opeckon, in Virginia, who have been writing to Mr. Gelston, and, when he was over the river, desired a visit of this kind ; and he is to spend some time in preaching to said new inhabitants according to discretion.” In 1739, the same Presbytery took measures to send Mr. John Thompson, as an Evangelist, through the new settlements, on the frontiers of Virginia.

The missionaries sent out by Donegal and New Castle Presbyteries to the frontiers, and those under the direction of the Synod, found Opecquon on their journeys going and returning. Mr. William Robinson, on his long to be remembered tour through Virginia and Carolina, repeatedly preached here. On the division of the Synod, which began in 1742, and continued till 1758, the people on Opeckon generally went with the new side, and had the visits of missionaries from the Presbytery of New Castle, and other parts of the Synod of New York.

The first pastor of this church was John Hoge, a relative of him that gave this land for the place of worship, and the burial of the dead. He was graduated at Nassau Hall, in 1748, and prepared for the ministry under the care of New Castle Presbytery. As the records of that Presbytery for a series of years cannot be found, and no private memoranda have been discovered to throw any light on the subject, the time of his licensure, and of his ordination, are? not certainly known. He appears on the roll of Synod as a member in 1755. At that time he was preaching at this place. Hugh M’Aden, the pioneer in Carolina, in his journal, says, that on Tuesday, June 18th, 1755, he spent the day at Robert Wilson’s, in company with Mr. Hoge, the minister. They appear to have been acquaintances. Under Mr. Hoge, the churches of Cedar Creek and Opecquon were regularly organized. There are no records of the congregations during the long period of his ministry. Tradition says he was an amiable and pious man. Becoming infirm the latter part of his life, he gave up his charge. After the Synods were united, Mr. Hoge became a member of the Presbytery of Donegal, and continued united with that body, until it was, in 1786, divided, in anticipation of forming a General Assembly, into the Presbytery of Baltimore and the Presbytery of Carlisle, to the latter of which he was annexed as without charge: in 1795, he was member of the Presbytery of Huntingdon, without charge, after which his name does not appear on the records, but the time of his death is not mentioned.

The next minister was John Montgomery, from Augusta County, a graduate of Nassau Hall; ordained in 1780, and in 1781, accepted a call from Winchester, Opecquon, and Cedar Creek. A young gentleman of fine manners, and pleasant address, and esteemed as a preacher. He remained with the congregation till 1789, and then removed to the Calf Pasture.

The third minister was Nash Legrand, an extended notice of whom is found in the first series of these sketches. He came to visit the churches, and there being a mutual approbation, he accepted their call in 1790. His ministry was eminently successful; under his care Opecquon saw her best days. This stone house was built. A continued revival filled the church with devoted worshippers.

The neighborhoods were full of young people, active, intelligent, and enterprizing. The reports from the west painted Kentucky as more beautiful in its solitariness, than Opecquon had been to the eyes of the emigrants from Ireland. And the grand-children, like their ancestors, sought a new home among the prairies, beyond the Alleghenies. Not a moiety of the congregations remained with their preacher. Being bereaved of his wife, and suffering in health, Mr. Legrand left Opecquon, in 1809. Since that time the church has been served by a succession of ministers, and has been blessed with revivals.

Now let us go within this stone enclosure, and among the remains of the ancient settlers, and meditate upon the past. Let us enter through the narrow gate-way on the. southern side, through which the congregation sleeping here entered, never to return. Let us pause a few moments at this rough, low, time-worn stone, in the very centre of the graves; the first, with an inscription, reared in the Valley of Virginia to mark the resting-place of an emigrant— you will scarcely read the inscription on one side, or decipher the letters and figures on the other. The stone crumbled under the unskilful hands of the husband, who brought it from that eminence yonder on the west, and, in the absence of a proper artist, inscribed the letters himself, to be a memorial to his young and lovely wife. Tradition says he was the school-master.

On the side on which Ireland is chiselled, the pebbles in the stone, or his unsteady hand, made large indentures, and rendered the inscription almost illegible. Here the stone has stood, a monument of affection, and marked, the grave of the early departed, while the days of more than a century have passed away.

Out towards the eastern corner marked by these small head and foot stones without names, lie Hoge, and White, and Vance, and we know not how many others, with their families. We cannot distinguish,, their graves, but we know they lie there. A little to the right of that limestone pyramid lies William Hoge, buried in the land of his own gift—and many of his family and descendants are around him. A pious man, he sought in America a home, in circumstances he could not find in Scotland. A native of Paisley, he embarked while a youth with a company of emigrants, leaving their native shores on account of political and religious difficulties. Among these was a family by the name of Hume. The father and mother died on the voyage and left an only child, a daughter. Young Hoge took charge of their effects, and on arriving at New York delivered them and the young lady to a connexion, a Dr. Johnston. Having chosen Amboy for his home, Mr. Hoge sought Miss Hume in marriage. In a few years he removed to the State of Delaware; and again, in a few years, removed and found a home on the Swetara, in Pennsylvania; and from that place in his old age removed, with his emigrating children, about the year 1735, to Opecquon. His oldest son, William, joined the Quakers, and took his residence with them in Loudon County; his second son, James, lived near Middletown, is mentioned by Dr. Alexander in his Autobiography, and was eminent for his clear understanding, devout fear of God, and love of the gospel of Christ; he attached himself to the Seceder Church ; his son, Moses, was the professor of Theology, first regularly chosen as such by the Synod of Virginia. George, the third son of William Hoge, was one of the first bench of Magistrates in Frederick County, lived a short time on the south branch of Potomac, and removed to North Carolina. Robert Wilson had married the second daughter, and lived in that stone and wooden house. The bones of those who died on the Opecquon are in the south-eastern part of the yard, every foot of which is occupied as a tenement of the dead. Near that tree in the eastern corner lies Dr. Robert White, a graduate of Edinburgh, and many years a Surgeon in the Britisn Navy. While in the service he visited his connexion, William Hoge, then living in Delaware, and in process of time became his son-in-law, taking for his wife the elder daughter Margaret. Having emigrated with his kin people to Virginia, he took his residence near tne North Mountain, on a creek which bears his name. He was laid in this yard in the year 1752, in the 64th year of his age. He left three sons, John, Robert, and Alexander. Robert inherited the residence of his father, and it descended to his grand-child. Alexander became a lawyer of eminence, lived near Winchester, was a member of the first Congress of the United States, and of the Virginia Convention that adopted the Federal Constitution; and was a member of the Legislature at the time the Rev. J. R. Smith made his famous speech on the rights of conscience, against a general assessment. John was a member of the first bench of Magistrates in Frederick County, and was father of Robert White, who, in his youth, signalized himself in the Revolutionary Army, and bore the marks of his courage in his slightly limping gait, while he adorned the bar, and then the bench of his native State, as President of the General Court.

This limestone pyramid tells you it was reared in memory of Samuel Glass and Mary Gamble, his wife, who came in their old age, from Ban Bridge, County Down, Ireland, and were among the early settlers, taking their abode on the Opecquon in 1T36. His wife often spoke of “her two fair brothers that perished in the siege of Derry/’ Mr. Glass lived like a patriarch with his descendants. Devout -in spirit, and of good report in religion, in the absence of a regular pastor, he visited the sick to counsel and instruct, and to pray. His grand-children used to relate in their old age, by way of contrast, circumstances showing the strict observance of the Sabbath by families. Public worship was attended when practicable; and reading the Bible, committing and reciting the Catechism, and reading .books of piety and devotion, filled up all the hours. Mr. Glass, in the midst of wild lands to be purchased at a low rate, thought sixteen hundred acres enough for himself and his children. Around him here lie his children and many of his grand-children, having given evidence of reconciliation to God. Just at his right lies his son-in-law, James Vance, the father of numerous descendants, both in Virginia and the wide region west of the Alleghenies. Out here to the left are his children, grand-children and great-grand-children. There is his grand-son, Joseph Glass, a Presbyterian preacher, of strong frame and powerful mind, going down to his grave in the very strength of his life, in 1821; and at his side was laid, in 1831, his wife, the flower of another Scotch-Irish family: and just by lies their eldest daughter, the wife of a Presbyterian preacher, who says on her tomb-stone, “It is easy for a Christian to die” — and near by lies the second daughter, left by the death of her parents the head of the family, herself in declining health. Among her papers were found a few lines written soon after her mother’s death. Will you read them?—

Oh! my mother, vainly now
I seek thee, while my heart is aching;
And seest, knowest, carest thou,
While sorrow’s cloud is o’er me breaking?
Thou dost not hear me—far away,
Where sorrows come not, thou art dwelling;
Thou heedest not the dark array
Which heavily my heart is filling.
My own kind mother! 'tis not vain
To think of thee, to love thee dearly;
That love is pure, it hath no stain;
Such love, such vision, cometh rarely.
Oh, often when I sleep, I hear
Thy soft voice, and I see thee smiling;
Thu’ heavier load I wake to bear,
I love that sweet and brief beguiling.
My blessed mother! thou art where
Thou canst not hear my sad complaining,
But clothed in bliss and brightness there,
With the redeemed thy spirit’s reigning.
And Father, wilt thou grant me grace
To follow where her step was leading?
With her in heaven grant me a place,
This, this, shall be my latest pleading.

This -whole yard is strewed with the ancient dead. These new-looking monuments mark the beginning of a second century among the graves. Excellence and beauty lie here. How gladly would we stop at the very grave of William Hoge, from whom have descended so many honorable families, and so many ministers of the Gospel! And “the beauty of Opecquon”—who shall tell us where she laid down, heart-broken, to rest? To this yard hundreds and hundreds in Virginia, and the far West, will come to seek the sepulchres of their emigrating ancestors. At the Resurrection there will be joyous meetings.

Could proper memoranda of Back Creek, Falling Waters, and Tuscarora, in Berkeley County, and Elk Branch and Bull Skin, in Jefferson, and of the south branch in Hardy, be brought to light, reflections, profitable and impressive, would cluster around the recollections and memorials of the worthy emigrants. They were of the- same race as those of Opecquon, and probably not a whit behind in excellence. In the absence of other testimony, these examples must guide our judgment respecting the congregations in the northern part of the great Valley of the Shenandoah.


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