Early Settlers of Ashe County, NC

Segment 1

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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 !!

The Beginning Journey West

After the American Revolutionary War, vast amounts of new land became available for settlement. Families could now travel west, past the Appalachian Mountain chain and explore new opportunities. You can imagine the conversations around the evening meals as considerations were discussed. The prospect of leaving the current family home and settling elsewhere would entice excitement and anxiety. Many of these families held memories of traveling the Great Wagon Road to the southern colonies. These families were experienced with traveling long distances and the dangerous situations that would imply. War veterans were weary after struggling through battles of war, sickness and loss. Many veterans and their families longed for new beginnings in a new area with peace. Veterans received land grants in these new locations to reimburse them for their services that were carried out through the war. The new land was the hot topic of conversation after the war. It brought excitement to many communities in Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and all of the remaining northern states. Local meetings were held in homes, churches and taverns. The majority of the population that were most interested in these meetings and conversations were farmers, wealthy entrepreneurs and young males between the ages of 21 and 30.

The 1783 map above can be used as an excellent reference point for distinguishing which state submitted land warrants, surveyed and operated land purchases, etc. As you can see, originally, the entire upper northwestern territory was once operated and claimed by the state of Virginia. For genealogists, this information is vital to research data and proof of lineage. For the early pioneers pondering on traveling to these areas, it was of little significance on statehood operations. Good road conditions, rich soil and open opportunities were much more important to the 18th century citizen. Regardless of the state, location or area, the farmer families suffered the most economically. Acquiring large land tracts were essential for any farmer to prosper within his community. Next seasons crops were planned for growth which provided the family with more. For instance, the money would provide for additional schooling for the children, visits to relatives who lived elsewhere, updates to the family home, etc. If a family suffered from several failing crops over a short span of a few years, this would greatly impact the family. Overtime, many of these families believed that the opportunities within the new western frontier would allow them to finally prosper. Farming families were close to their neighbors, especially the smaller farms. They relied on one another during harvesting, plowing the fields for spring planting and so much more. If one member of the community decided to leave, this would also greatly impact the remaining neighbors living in the vicinity.

Photo of 18th Century home and farm landscape.

Pioneers Traveled in Organized Groups

A few people knew someone personally who traveled to the new area and sent word back that they made it and the area was promising. Many families were encouraged to move based on the words and letters of others. All of these items did not hold truths about the area such as pamphlets, wagon guides, etc. The dangers however; were numerous. In addition to these dangers, the needed supplies to ensure survival were also numerous. It was unheard of for families to travel alone to areas west of the Appalachians. Even scouts and mountain men preferred to have a travel companion. With this being said, if you have a family ancestor who migrated during this time period to the northwestern territory, you may be able to locate their former neighbors as well. Many genealogists have been able to locate their own families by following the trails of their ancestor’s neighbors. Groups of pioneers traveled west. These groups usually consisted of at least one or more of the following: a guide, farmers, storekeepers, physicians and a pastor.

Once the decision was made to travel west, the family would prepare for the journey. The group would organize itself and combine materials to ensure safety and survival along the trail. A good reference for this would be local early church records. Documents have been discovered within church records that hold data of church members leaving the congregation to travel west. Personal information such as departure date and the names of the members who left the area. Depending on what the family owned, greatly depended on what the family took with them as far as personal items. During this time period, very little furniture items were placed on the wagon due to the weight and available space for it. Tools, cooking utensils, food and money were the essentials that would ensure the family’s survival on the journey and settling the new area. A weighted down wagon on good open roads with a good team pulling it could travel 25 miles a day. This will give you an idea on the length of the trip for your ancestor if you know both the departure and arrival locations. Of course, factors did hamper with the scheduling and the day to day routines of the journey. These factors were weather, sickness, lame horses or steers, wagon failures and more. Some of these could delay a family for days and/or even weeks.

The essentials for any journey west would have included a wagon, horses or steers, harnesses, saddles, tools and provisions. The tools would have been an axe, handsaw, chisels, hammer, shotgun and a knife. Also, wrought nails, coil of wire, 4 yards of rope or strap, hoop iron, cooking utensils and buckets for water. Fishing hooks, line and horseshoes would have been added to the list. Provisions would have included soap for washing garments and personal hygiene. Pickled foods as well as dried fruits, vegetables and meats. Cured ham and bacon as well as jerky. Flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and various spices. Coffee and tea were also loaded. The wagons were packed basically the same with each family and over the years this method became the normal procedure for loading a wagon. The food provisions as well as the garments and linens were laid upon the centered flooring section of the wagon. This was the area where the family would sleep if necessary in the wagon. Other items were strapped to the interior or placed along the sides of the wagon walls.

The Genealogy Journey of the Western Territories can be Discovered Using Local Resources

If you are researching your ancestors along the western trail of the late 18th century and the early 19th century, several surprising resources are available for you. The number one source that comes to mind is early church records. These records are historical documents that can reveal vast amounts of details regarding church members and their lives. Departures to the western frontier engulfed a community. As stated earlier in this segment, pioneer families traveled in organized groups to the western territory. Many genealogists have used church records to not only prove lineage, but to bring to light the details of their ancestor’s lives. The second top source would be the local historical/genealogical societies. These organized groups can range greatly with the amount of documents on hand. Journals, personal letters, ledgers and community news have been located from the time period mentioned in this article. Ledgers located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina have been able to provide exact details on the last purchases from the local businesses prior to a citizen’s departure for the west. The state archives would be a great resource as well. These archives can provide you with veteran service, land grants and the property’s history such as sale date, etc.

Never limit your resources for genealogy or history. Understanding the western migration is one of the most extraordinary subjects of our history. The opening of the northwestern territory affected so many families in so many different ways. To learn more about early wagon trails and research links, please visit the Migrations Page and the United States Genealogy Links Page. If you are having difficulty finding a local resource for your research, let Piedmont Trails know on the contact page. I wish you well on your research and hope you find fascinating treasures along your trails. Enjoy Your Journey !!

Western Migration 1785-1820

During the years following the American Revolutionary War, many families began settling back to a normal life and reflecting upon the days of conflict. Settlement was discouraged beyond the Appalachian Mountains prior to the war, but now that independence was achieved, the original nation boundaries were beginning to expand in an overwhelming way. Genealogists and historians alike struggle with the research of these early migration routes. Documents pertaining to these roads are rare including maps displaying the exact location of the trails. The first western migration occurred between the years of 1785 and 1820, this in accordance to population records of the National Archives. The fascinating facts are attributed to the pioneers who traveled the routes and why they ventured to these new territories.

They Traveled by Land and By Water to Reach Their New Western Home

The reasons why families traveled west of the Appalachian Mountains varies from one cabin to another. A number of families decided to move west prior to the Revolutionary War to seek peace or to restrain from fighting in the war. Nevertheless, early trails allowed these families to enter present day Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. After the war, the settlers migrated due to the freedom they acquired from the war. They also migrated due to the vast amounts of land that was readily available. Many sought small settlements with no courthouses, no law and less neighbors. Some of the settlers were seeking a new start with no debt or perhaps changing their name and forgetting the events of the past. Understanding these reasons allows us to experience the migration in a different format. Money was extremely scarce after the war and many families were unable to pay the taxes due. Commodities such as coffee, tea, salt and sugar were expensive and prices for livestock, tobacco and other items were down for several years following the war.

For the researchers of these trails, where do you begin to document the facts? The recordkeeping varies with each territory and each new state as new land grants are distributed through the areas. The trails were the Wilderness Trail or Cumberland Gap Road and the National Road. Other Indian trails were known to be followed especially through the Appalachian Mountains and into Tennessee. Land grants were designed in six different categories, Purchase, Military, Pre-Emption, Surveyor, Commission and Legislative. The individual states began records in accordance to statehood. With this being said, your journey now begins with research first taking place on the history of the area in question in order to pinpoint the documents location on your ancestor.

Research the history of the area in question to determine how & where records were kept

Statehood dates for the original 13 colonies are listed below. Each link will take you directly to the individual state archives website. Pennsylvania-1787, New Jersey-1787, Delaware-1787, Maryland-1788, Virginia-1788, South Carolina-1788, Georgia-1788, New York-1788, Massachusetts-1788, Connecticut-1788, New Hampshire-1788, North Carolina-1789 and Rhode Island-1790. By 1791, these states were well settled and processing their own method of recordkeeping in accordance to the new nation’s guidelines.

Tennessee gained statehood in the year of 1796, but land grants were issued in North Carolina until 1806. During the war, North Carolina controlled the lands of Tennessee and protected them from the British Army. In doing so, North Carolina proclaimed documentation and recordkeeping for the lands until the year of 1806. Statehood date does not prove that records were kept and processed in that particular state. To understand how Ohio lands were distributed, read the Complete Guide of Ohio Lands. Ohio gained statehood during the year of 1803. Kentucky became a state in 1792 and Indiana in 1816. Illinois became a state in 1818 and Alabama in 1819.

Early Kentucky land records can be found in Virginia prior to 1792. Learning the early colony boundaries will enable you to distinguish the correct boundaries during your ancestor’s arrival to the area. For many war veterans who received land from the Northwest Territory, later learned that the land they held was also held under another name. Many judges rendered final decisions on these disputes from early land records. War veterans were entitled to free land in the new territory. This was approved in order to induce settlement in these areas. But, due to boundary lines and other state’s involvement, these lands were given to one person and sold to another. The free lands encouraged thousands of pioneer families to travel the routes and settle on the western frontier. Eventually, the new state boundaries were formed for Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois which then proved population percentage. This enabled the territories to become states as they grew.

The best method to tracking your early ancestor’s western migration is to create a timeline that proves your ancestor’s location for each year. Then follow the tax list records for the missing years. Each year, taxes were paid and this list will show you location and amount of tax paid. Check each year for your ancestor and if you still are unable to locate them, check wills/probates for their possible death in these areas. Once you have determined the location, you can track backwards to the available routes during that time from point of origin to final destination. This is a time consuming task but it is well worth the journey.

To fully understand the depth of research involved with each state as it became settled would require a segment on each one. This is a goal of Piedmont Trails as we move forward to this summer. The updates on individual state links can be viewed on the United States Genealogy Research page. Also for more information on the migration trails, we have added a new page, Early Migration Routes. Piedmont Trails will be adding more and more details involving research links, maps and more to this site as time allows. The records involving early settlement can be confusing, but the journey is well worth the time and effort. This allows you to discover your ancestor with a totally different approach. The main objective is to enjoy your research and don’t be bombarded with information that is not relevant to your criteria. Majority of the families who traveled west during the years of 1785 to 1820 were enjoying their freedom to wander and settle in new lands. The hope that dwelled within them carried on mile after mile. Carrying only what they needed along the trail, they moved slowly towards the setting sun. Once they arrived, the home was declared and building started immediately. Some families lived the remainder of their lives there while others moved further west to new frontiers. Our ancestors left an amazing trail to follow. Enjoy your journey to the past !!