This biography was submitted by Sandy
Spradling, E-mail address: <[email protected]>
History of Greenbrier County
David Stuart (the father of Col. John Stuart of Greenbrier county) was born
in Scotland in 17-. 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 number. 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 conilty lieutenant was in those days
one of the most important held in the State. Especially was this true of that
office in Augusta county, oweing to its vast area and the rapid advance of
civilization throughout its beders 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 its
waters were swollen by a recent rain.
David Stuart married Margaret Lynn Paul, the widow
of John Paul, who was a son of Hugh Paul, Bishop of Nottingham. John Paul was also a partisan of the
House of Stuart. He was killed in the siege of Dalrymple Castle in the year
1745. He left five children. The eldest of these children became a Catholic
priest who moved to America and died on the eastern shore of Maryland. Audley Paul, another son, was an officer in the British
colonial forces in Virginia. Pollie Paul, who moved to America with her stepfather, David Stuart,
married Governor Mathews, of Georgia.
Mrs. Margaret Lynn Paul, afterward Mrs. David Stuart, was a granddaughter of
the Laird of Loch Lynn, Scotland. She was also a niece of Margaret Lynn, who
married Col. John Lewis, one of the first settlers of Augusta county, the
father of Gen. Andrew and Col. Charles Lewis (heroes of the battle of Point
Pleasant). She was named for her aunt, Margaret Lynn (Mrs. John Lewis). David
Stuart left three children: Sabina, who married Captain Williams, of Augusta county. Margaret, who married Col. Richard Woods, of Albemarle county.
John Stuart, afterwards Col. John Stuart, of Greenbrier county.
John Stuart, the son of David and Margaret Lynn Stuart and the most famous
pioneer of Greenbrier, was horn 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
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
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. John Stuart was chosen as their chief adviser and
He first located near where the town of Frankford now stands, where he built
his first home overlooking a beautiful view towards the east. This place he
called "Grumble Thorp." Here he erected the first mill built in Greenbrier,
which was propelled by a subterranean stream of considerable volume, flowing
through a channel cut out by the Indians to which they had access through the
mouth of a large cave. The dam, a large part of which is still standing, was
built of stone and located about 200 feet from the entrance to the cave. The
mill itself stood just outside of the mouth of the cave.
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. At the time this fort was built a
large number of the settlers of 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 in the ground around the spot where this fort stood
arrow heads 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. One
of these was commanded by Capt. Robert McClanahan 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 Dunsmore 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 Unioti, 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 i8oo, 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 Patrick Henry and his strong following.
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 archivant 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
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 Kanawba 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.
For the time in which he lived and the circumstances by which he was
surrounded Colonel Stuart was a great traveler. He visited many parts of
this country, meeting with some of its most distinguished citizens and famous
travelers from Europe, a number of whom visited him at his Fort Spring home
in Greenbrier. Among these was the famous French philosopher and traveler,
Volney, who, being deeply impressed by the beauty of the surrounding country,
gave to Colonel Stuart's place its name. Besides Colonel Stuart's other attainments he was a man of extraordinary executive and financial ability,
and for his time amassed a large fortune, both real and personal. He seems to
have had the keenest insight into the value of land, even though at the time
of his settlement in Greenbrier the whole country was virgin forest. He acquired large tracts of the most valuable land in the county, large portions
of which are still owned by his descendants.
On the eighteenth day of November, 1776, he married Mrs. Agatha Frogg (widow
of Col. William Frogg, who was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant). She
was a granddaughter of Col. John Lewis and daughter of Thomas Lewis, who
served for years in the Virginia House of Burgesses. He was a brother of Gen.
Andrew and Col. Charles Lewis. John Stuart left four children:
Margaret Lynn Stuart, horn December 31, 1777, married Andrew Lewis. Jane Lewis Stuart, born February 16, 1780, married Robert Crockett. Charles Augustus Stuart, born April 23, 1782, married Elizabeth
Robinson. Lewis Stuart, born May 14, 1784, married Sarah Lewis.
John Stuart showed throughout the whole of his long and useful career a
strength and alertness of mind of the highest order. Not only was he a leader
of men and a real builder in the formation of Greenbrier county and of its
character and class of people, but he was eminently successful in many and
varied fields of endeavor. Those who succeed well in a single undertaking are
often highly applauded and they deserve credit and appreciation, but those
rare men whose fearlessness, energy and talents enable them to become masters
in every field when occasion and circumstances require their services or
where they find it necessary to act show a superior greatness and bigness of
mind beyond the common allotment of providence to man. Such a man was Col.
John Stuart, of Greenbrier. There have been a number of short sketches of his
life written, which appear in histories and magazines, but there is no full
account of his interesting life. This is to be regretted, for not only was
he a remarkable man with a most interesting career, but because he was the
chief instrument in building up and giving to Greenbrier its distinctive
On the twenty-second day of December, 1807, he tendered to the county court
his resignation as clerk and his son, Lewis, was appointed to this office in
The first clerk's office of Greenbrier county was built by Col. John Stuart
in his own yard at the old Stuart place. This building is still standing and
is in an excellent state of preservation. He also granted to the county the
site upon which the first court house of Greenbrier was built. This building
was erected of stone in the town of Lewisburg in the year 1800.
He died on the eighteenth day of August, 1823, in the seventy-fifth year of
his age, and was laid to rest in the Stuart family burying ground, where
around him four generations of his family now sleep.
Colonel Stuart, from the time he first settled in Greenbrier, made special
effort to induce settlers of a high class to settle in this new land. In this
undertaking he was eminently successful, for the history of Greenbrier county
shows that it was settled by a class of citizens remarkable for their sterling worth and superior character. Most of these settlers came from
eastern Virginia and what are now Augusta, Botetourt and Montgomery counties.
These citizens gave to the people of Greenbrier a distinctive character,
which has marked it through years.
Lewis Stuart, the second son of John and Agatha Stuart, was born in
Greenbrier county on the eleventh day of May, 1784. He succeeded Col. John
Stuart in the possession of Beau Desert, where he lived the whole of his life.On the fifteenth day of October, 1807, he married Sarah Lewis, daughter of
Col. John Lewis, of Bath county, Virginia, and granddaughter of Col. Charles
Lewis, known as "Brave Charlie," who was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant.
On the twenty-second day of September, 1807, upon the resignation of his
father, he was appointed clerk of the county court of Greenbrier county. He
held this office until the first day of June, 1830, when the Constitution of
1830 took effect and changed the arrangements of the courts. On the seventeenth day of April, i~, he was commissioned by Judge Coulter as the
first clerk of the Superior Court of Law and Chancery of Greenbrier county,
which position he held until 1831.
During the last years of his clerkship he was too much engaged in other
affairs to be able to give personal attention to his duties, but he always
provided a competent and trustworthy deputy clerk to wait upon the public. He
was a splendid writer and a very competent clerk, having been well trained in
the duties of clerkship by his father.
Lewis Stuart was very fond of the social side of life, was a splendid
conversationalist and noted for his hospitality. He kept his home filled
with relations and friends and his barn full of horses. He was fond of riding
and was noted for his superior horsemanship. He was a most indulgent and kind
master to his slaves and employees. He granted to his slaves an opportunity to
cultivate crops of their own and to receive the proceeds therefrom. On account of his kindness and the charm of his personality Lewis Stuart is said
to have been one of the best loved men in the whole country, numbering friends from far and near.
Lewis Stuart died on the twenty-seventh day of January, 1837, in the prime of
his life. He was buried in the old Stuart family burying ground close by his
father. He left his entire estate, personal, mixed and real, to his wife,
Sarah Lewis Stuart, who, being a woman of strong mind and great energy, managed it with wisdom and splendid results.Lewis and Sarah Stuart left five sons and five daughters:
John Stuart, horn July 26, 1814.
Charles A. Stuart, born June 5, 1818.
Lewis Stuart, born September 7, 1820.
Henry Stuart, born Ocetober 31, 1824.
Andrew Stuart, born March 12, 1827.
Elizabeth Stuart, born January 13, 1809.
Rachel Stuart, born May 30, 1816.
Jane Stuart, born November 17, 1810.
Agnes Stuart, born September 2, 1812.
Margaret Stuart, born September 15, 1822.
John, Charles and Lewis moved to the West, where they died. John died February 19, 1835. Charles died July 4, 1888, Lewis died December 19,
1850. Henry Stuart, horn October 31, 1824, married Nannie Watkins, July 12, 1871.
He resided on a farm in Richlands, Greenbrier county. He died September 5,
1902. Andrew Stuart married Sallie Cabell. He resided at the old Stuart place, near
Fort Spring Church, where he died. Elizabeth Stuart died August 9, 1819.
Rachel Stuart married Gen. A. W. G. Davis. This couple resided near what is
known as Fort Spring Station on the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad in Greenbrier
Henry Stuart, born October 31, 1824, married Nannie E. Watkins, daughter of
Dr. Joel Watkins, Charlotte county, Virginia, July 12, 1871. Of this union
two children were born: I. Watkins, of Sinks Grove, Monroe county, West Virginia, and Lewis L., of Richland, Greenbrier county. Henry Stuart died
September 5, 1902. He was for fifty-four years a member of the Greenbrier
Masonic lodge, and was appointed by Gov. William Smith, of Richmond, Va., on
the seventh day of November, 1864, as captain in the Fifth regiment of cavalry in the Thirteenth brigade and Fifth division of Virginia Militia. He
served throughout the Civil war in the Fourteenth Virginia cavalry. Agnes Stuart married Charles S. Peyton on the day of This couple resided
in the Richlands on what is known as the Biggs place. Margaret Stuart married Col. James W. Davis on the ....... day of .......
This couple resided on a farm on the Fort Spring road half a mile below the old Stuart place.
Jane Stuart married Gov. Samuel Price, of Lewisburg, on the fourteenth day of
November, 1837. Jane Stuart was a woman of remarkable intellect and great
personal charm and was much beloved by all her friends and family. She died
on the ...... day of ........