Early Pioneers of Western North Carolina

Present Day Watauga County

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Many families traveled The Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and settled throughout Virginia. Others migrated further south to the Piedmont area of North Carolina during the mid 18th century. North Carolina was a wild frontier at the time and yet other families traveled west to forbidden lands. These pioneers traveled across the Yadkin River and endured the rough terrain of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This blog will give details of the early settlers in present day Watauga County, NC. Watauga was established in 1849 from several counties, Ashe, Caldwell, Wilkes and Yancey. By the mid 19th century, over 600 families were living in present day Watauga County and held a history for nearly 100 years in this vast mountainous terrain. Various reasons caused these families to settle here, such as the privacy the mountains could provide. Another reason was the words shared by so many of the upcoming war for independence. Taxes, opportunities and freedom for religion and freedom to dream are just a few of the explanations why these early settlers arrived.

A Glimpse Into Watauga County, NC

John Adams was a drummer at the age of 15 during the American Revolutionary War. He was present during the Battle of Yorktown which began October 9, 1781 and ended with Cornwallis surrendering October 18, 1781. Adams was among the French fleet of General the count de Rochambeau. The fleet soon departed for the West Indies still under the pursuit of the British. Young John Adams stayed behind, hiding in a sugar barrel. Once he was sure his ship had sailed, he wandered the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and learned how to become a cabinetmaker. He later sailed on a whaling ship along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. He departed the ship and traveled to Rowan County where he met and married Esther Hawkins on September 17, 1795. The couple’s first two children were born in Rowan County, Francis and Squire. During the year of 1799, John Adams brought his family to the Cove Creek area of present day Watauga County, then located in Ashe County. He built a log cabin, farmed and became known as a cabinetmaker in the area. John was born circa 1762 and was later known to be living in Sarlat, which is 40 miles from Bordeaux, France. The French fleet to which he was assigned returned to Philadelphia in order to retrieve soldiers who deserted or who were left behind. It is at this time that John embarked on the whaling vessel for North Carolina. This very same reason could have been the result of John Adams settling in Watauga County and the remote area of Cove Creek. The couple had ten known children. John died at 1:00pm, Thursday, July 24, 1823 and was buried the next day. Esther Adams was born in 1774 in Orange County, NC. She was a charter member of the Cove Creek Baptist Church which was organized in 1799. Esther continued to live in the log home after John’s death until 1859, the time of her death. Children of this union are 1-Francis(1797-1846), Squire(1799-1877), Rachel(1800-1834), Sarah(1802-1823), Tarleton(1805-1877), Allen(1807-1893), Martha(1808-?), George(1809-1827), Alfred(1811-1870) and Elizabeth(1813-?).

Dr. Ezekiel Baird was born in Monmouth, New Jersey to Andrew and Sarah Baird. His mother, Sarah died in New Jersey and left her son twenty shillings in her will. Soon after her death, Ezekiel Baird traveled the Great Wagon Road with his wife Susanna Blodgett Baird to North Carolina. They traveled with a small party to the Watauga County area known today as Valle Crucis along Baird’s creek. The couple built a home and had three sons, Bedent(1770-1862), Blodgett and William. During 1795, Ezekiel and his son, Blodgett left the area to travel west. The family may have contemplated the idea of moving further west as many families during this time were doing. But, Ezekiel and his son never returned to Watauga County. Susannah continued to live in the home and was the first person to be buried in the Baird Cemetery located in Valle Crucis.

Watauga River

Thomas Bingham was born in Norwich, Conn. to his parents, namely Thomas Bingham and Mary Rudd. Thomas traveled the Great Wagon Road to Virginia where he met and married Hannah Backus. This family continued to live in Virginia until William, grandson of Thomas II moved to Reddy’s River, Wilkes County and married Mary Elizabeth McNeil. William’s son, George moved to Watauga County and married Mary Ann Davis in 1833.

William Coffey was born November 29, 1782 in present day Wilkes County, NC. He lived with his parents, Thomas and Sarah Fields along the upper Yadkin River. William married Anna Boone on October 18, 1804 in a small log home near present day Boone, Watauga County. They lived at the forks of Mulberry Creek and had the following children. Daniel(1805), Welborn(1807-1897), Gilliam(1810). Celia(1813-1899) and Calvin(1819) William Coffey died in 1839 and Anna remained a widow up to her death which occurred in 1876.

Michael Cook was born July 23, 1773, son of Adam Cook. He married Ann Elizabeth Arney. The couple moved to present day Watauga County and entered 600 acres by paying 5 cents an acre. The couple had at least 11 known children: Catherine(1798-1840), John(1800), Adam(1802-1865), Henry(1804), Mary(1806), Jacob(1808-1873), Michael Jr(1810), David(1814-1850), William(1815-1876), Elizabeth(1818-1846) and Robert(1820). Michael operated one of the first grist mills in the area and was located along the banks of Goshen Creek. Michael Cook died during the spring of 1844 according to will documents.

Benjamin Dugger was living in present day Watauga County during the year of 1787. He purchased land in the Brushy Forks area and was the father of at least 3 children. Several of Benjamin’s family members followed him to the area between the years of 1795 and 1805. John Dugger, born 1780 in Wilkes County, moved to the Watauga County area and settled near his relative, Uncle Benjamin.

Landrine Eggers is the son of George and Arie Beard Eggers. Landrine was born in 1757 and lived in Freehold, New Jersey until the family moved to Goshen, New York. Landrine and brother, Daniel Eggers both settled in the Jersey Settlement of Rowan County, NC. Both of these men served during the American Revolutionary War. Landrine married Joanna Silvers on April 16, 1779 and traveled to Watauga County later that same year along with his brother, Daniel and his family. They settled near Three Forks Baptist Church where they all were active members.

Conrad Elrod settled in present day Blowing Rock, Watauga County before 1800. His friends referred to him as “Coonrod”. He was born in 1749 to Wilheim and Anna Boschel Elrod. He was baptized in 1750 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Frederick, Maryland. Conrad had at least 5 children: Adam(1787-1875), Mary, Peter, William(1795-1867) and Alexander(1802-1894).

Ebenezer Fairchild was born in 1730 and lived with his parents, Caleb and Anne Fairchild in Stratford, Conn. Ebenezer married Salome Goble in August of 1750 at the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey. Salome died during childbirth and Ebenezer married Mary in 1755. Ebenezer’s children are Sarah(1751) Salome(1753), Abigail, Ann and Cyrus(1767-1853). Ebenezer was a charter member and elder of Dutchman’s Creek, now known as Eaton’s Baptist Church. Ebenezer was a known minister of Three Fork’s Baptist Church.

This marks the end of segment 1 in this series. Please be sure to visit our site for weekly updates and upcoming segments on this series and others, such as Stokes County, NC Early Settlers, Rockingham County, NC Early Settlers, Surry County, NC Early Settlers, Ashe County, NC Early Settlers and Early Migration Trails. Thank You All So Much for your support, Piedmont Trails greatly appreciates each of you. Stay the course and Enjoy Your Journey to the Past !!

Early Settlers of Ashe County, NC

Segment 1

Ashe County, founded in 1799 from Wilkes County, is located in the western mountains of North Carolina. It is named for Colonel Samuel Ashe, an American Revolutionary War veteran, a judge and former governor of North Carolina. The county seat is Jefferson, named for President Thomas Jefferson and established in 1800. An old buffalo trail allowed a path to the area near the New River, east of present day Boone, NC. This original trail traveled from the coast of North Carolina, through the Yadkin valley and up through the mountainous terrain located in the western section of the state. The trail moved further west through Kentucky and onward to the Great Lakes region. Indians used the Buffalo Trail for centuries with each generation learning from the former. Not only did they travel, but they also hunted along the trail. This was a means of migrating for the Indians as they moved across the wilderness of Carolina.

Community Map of Ashe County, NC

During the mid 18th century, men would venture into this area in order to hunt along the same trail that the Indians used for hundreds of years. These men were otherwise known as “Long Hunters”, the name was not attributed to the long rifles they most frequently used, but rather the length of time they would spend on hunting expeditions. These men were adventurous and courageous. They depended on their skills for survival and hunting game to provide for their families in way of fur trading, food, etc. Many of the Long Hunters would travel in packs of 18 to 20 men setting up a Station Camp in the wilderness. The party would set out on the trail in October and return by March or April of the following year. Two pack horses for each man was common along with various supplies such as lead, powder, bellows, hand vise, files, screwplates, tomahawks, flour, etc. They would return home with fur pelts and hides used for trading and selling on the market within the surroundings of their home.

Aerial View of the New River, Ashe County, NC

One of the early Long Hunters was John Findley who led Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap in 1769 on the way to Kentucky. Michael Stoner accompanied Daniel Boone to Kentucky in 1774 to warn a surveying party of possible Indian attacks. James Dysart, Castleton Brooks and James Knox became very wealthy due to their skills from the hunting expeditions. Elisha Wallen created a huge Station Camp in 1761 in present day Ashe County, NC. William Carr was a known Long Hunter as well as Humphrey Hogan who later became a school teacher and was later located in Washington County, Virginia in 1778.

After the French and Indian war, this area was defined by a line cresting the mountain tops. All lands that held waters flowing west towards the Mississippi were named “backwaters”. These lands were prohibited from early settlement prior to 1763. Before the American Revolutionary war, Thomas Calloway moved his family to the area. He was a well known captain of the colonial troops during the French and Indian war. The home was located along the New River between Beaver Creek and the Obids Creek. Thomas Calloway(1700-1800) and Daniel Boone were good friends and hunted together in the area several times. Thomas is buried near the New River Bridge located along Highway 163. It is rumored that the original stone seen on Thomas Calloway’s grave site was given to the family by Daniel Boone. William Doub Bennett was known to have several hunting cabins during the early 1750’s, near the New River prior to the French and Indian war. The cabins are noted by General Griffith Rutherford when he led the militia against the Indians in 1760. He documented the location of several cabins used by hunters in 1763.

Richard Baugess Mill on Big Windfall Creek

Despite the discouragement of settling this area prior to 1763, Virginia encouraged early settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains. This act was to remove the French from the Ohio Valley during the French and Indian war. The New River was named at this time in honor of Mr. New who operated a ferry near Radford, Virginia. Prior to the name, the river was known to hunters as Wood’s River in honor of Major Abraham Wood who arrived in the area as early as 1654. During the mid 18th century, Ulrich Kessler purchased land in the area with 300pds. He was a well known preacher who at times became intoxicated prior to church services. Ulrich encouraged his congregation to follow him and this brought new settlers to the area. This article will focus on a small portion of the early settlers. Piedmont Trails will have several segments on this series in the coming months.

Micajah Pennington was the son of Isaac Pennington of Goodstone Manor, Kent England. Micajah was born in 1743 and arrived to the colonies as a young man. His father, Isaac, was the father-in-law of William Penn of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is believed that through this connection, Micajah arrived in Philadelphia and migrated down the Great Wagon Road to Carolina. He married Rachel Jones in January of 1761 and the couple had at least nine children. Elijah, Micakah, Mary, Levie, Edward, Rachel, Elizabeth, Sarah and Joahaner. During the year of 1785, Micajah received a land grant of 100 acres along Elk Creek in present day Ashe County. Pennington Gap, Virginia was named after Micajah’s son, Edward settled in the area during the year of 1802. Elijah married Susannah on 9/9/1800 and continued to live in the Ashe County area. The couple had a son, Elijah Pennington who married Mary Osborne and they had the following children; Isaac, Elijah, Lue, Peggy, Sarah and Mary.

Isaac Pennington (great grandson of Micajah Pennington) with wife Martita Osborne Pennington

Henry Dulhuer was located in North Carolina during the late 18th century. A total of two land deeds can be found for him in present day Ashe County. 100 acres along Buffalo Creek was purchased with sixty silver dollars from Peter Fouts in 1801. 300 acres which was originally granted to Lawrence Younce, later granted to Peter Fouts and eventually listed the owner as Henry Dulhuer. Henry and his wife had at least two daughters, but the fate of this couple would end in tragedy. According to family historians, Henry prepared for a trip to New York during the years of 1805 and 1810. He never returned home. The facts are not known concerning his disappearance, but it was widely known through the community that Henry was traveling to New York for a patent for his new invention. During this same time period, the wife of Henry died from burns received from fighting a house fire. The two daughters, Katy and Anna were orphans at a young age. Katy married David Burkett in 1817 and Anna married Daniel Bowman. Anna and Daniel migrated west to Indiana and was settled in the area by 1850. Katy and David had two sons, Daniel and David Jr. David Burkett died in 1820 leaving young Katy a widow. She never remarried and raised her two sons in Ashe County. Katy died after 1860. She is shown on the 1860 census living with her son, David Burkett Jr.

I gazed upon the sunrise as it stretched it’s rays over the mountain I took a breath from the new day Remembering the long dusty miles and the cold rain The wagon wheels may rest today This valley with it’s fresh water and fertile soil is all I need At long last, I am home

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William Miller arrived in New Jersey from England circa 1752 leaving his fiancée, Mary Aldridge behind. William bound himself out in order to earn money for Mary’s passage. She arrived circa 1764 and the couple were married. They migrated along the Great Wagon Road to Carolina and first settled in the Jersey Settlement of Rowan County. By 1783, the couple had moved to the western section of the colony and was living in present day Meat Camp community of Ashe County. The couple’s son, William Miller Jr. was elected to the NC House of Representatives in 1824. He died one year later.

Luke White served in the militia from Wilmington District, NC according to many family members. However; the documents that would prove this statement have not been discovered as of yet. The New Hanover courthouse was burned in 1798, 1819 and 1840 and this would have been the prime target to find these resources. It is believed that Luke was born in Virginia circa 1750 and died during the year of 1820 in Ashe County. Luke married Elizabeth Yokley prior to 1773. Luke and Elizabeth lived along Roans Creek where Elizabeth died prior to 1810. The children of this couple are Elilzabeth, Susan, Nancy, Sallie, Mary, Catherine, James, David, John, Luke Jr and William.

Back Roads of Ashe County, NC

Rev. William Ashley was one of the earliest Methodist preachers in present day Ashe County. William was born in Surry County, NC and married Elizabeth Calhoun in 1778. The couple moved to the western section of the state by 1815 and were living in the Little Horse Creek area. William became the minister of Methodist Episcopal Church in Warrensville. At the time, the family had moved to Staggs Creek. A private cemetery overlooking the North Fork of the New River has remained on the family property for over 150 years. William died January 31, 1852 and the couple had eight children. Polly, Cynthia, Cary, Frances, Nancy Malinda, Spencer, Zilphia and James Porter Ashley.

The community of Scottsville was named after Frank Scott who operated a store in the area. Warrensville was first settled in 1826 and was then known as Buffalo Creek. It was renamed in honor of a man who operated the first grist and sawmill in the community. Crumpler was named after Major Crumpler, a confederate officer. It’s interesting to know that the aristocracy of eastern Carolina during the mid 18th century referred to the early frontiersmen of the western lands as “offscourings of the earth” and “fugitives of justice.” As research has proven, many families settled this vast wilderness when it was illegal to do so. Opinions will vary to the reasoning behind their migration, but a well known fact supports the determination shown by these early families. The farming of rocky soil was strenuous and the continued threats by Indians were common. By 1810, the wilderness had transformed to a beautiful landscape portrait. The inhabitants lived in peace and remote from the ever changing environment below the mountains. To learn more about the history of Ashe County, visit the history of 1914.

This is the end of segment 1 of this series. Segment 2 will be arriving soon. We Thank You so much for your support of Piedmont Trails and wish you great success on your research. Enjoy your journey !!