Monday, May 15, 2017

John Roberts (1771-1857) - His Doomed Hawkins County Family

Milla (Millie) Roberts Rainey was born c.1808 in Kentucky and died of complications from a stroke ("struck with thunder") not long after 1880 in Monroe Township, Pike County, Indiana. She married James Rainey (born 1814 - died before 1870 in Monroe Township, Pike County, Indiana) in Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1832.  See their life story HERE  

Millie appears to have had brothers John, Isaac, James, and sisters Sarah and Lucinda. Her father was John Roberts, our 4th-great-grandfather, born c.1771 in what was then Fincastle County in south-western Virginia.  He died in Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1857, age 86, his name appearing on the Pulaski County death lists for that year. Under the column "Name of Parents or Owner of Slave" is the name William Roberts (our 5th great-grandfather). And in the column "Place of Birth" is "Hawkins Co. Tenn," an important clue in my research because the surname Roberts was common, even in colonial America. If being born in Hawkins County, Tennessee, and Fincastle County, Virginia, seems a contradiction, bear with me.

In the 1850 Pulaski County census, John Roberts was the correct age, but the census taker listed his place of birth as Georgia.  By age 79 John probably lacked most of his teeth and mumbled - or the census taker was sloppy. 1850 was the first time a wife's name was listed and John's wife's Christian name was Jane, age 73 (our 4th great-grandmother). She was listed as born in Georgia, too.  Did I have the wrong elderly Roberts couple? I didn't think so. They lived in Division 3, near the Norfleets, whose daughter Elizabeth had married son Isaac Roberts (both dead by the 1850 census.); just past the Norfleet farm lived Millie and James Rainey and their growing family, soon to journey north to Indiana.  I found John Roberts, his unnamed wife and children in Pulaski County from the 1810 census through the 1850 census. He must have already been in his thirties when he settled there.

The key to tracing the Roberts ancestors appeared to lie in Hawkins County, Tennessee.  But there was no Hawkins County when John Roberts was born in 1771 near the headwaters of the Holston River and a place called Salt Licks, that later became Kingsport. It was a staging ground for settlers coming through the Cumberland Gap and was claimed by Botetout County, Virginia, if claimed at all. 
Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap

The following year, 1772, the area came under the jurisdiction of newly-created Fincastle County, Virginia, stretching all the way to the Mississippi River. Fincastle County was abolished in 1776 and divided into three new counties, which included Washington County, named for General George Washington in an act of faith so early in our fight for independence. Where the Roberts families lived became contested territory between Virginia and North Carolina.

Present-day Washington County, so much smaller than its original
And then this part of Washington County became part of Sullivan County, North Carolina in 1779. From 1784 to 1788  Sullivan County was part of the extra-legal State of Franklin. Don't ask, further discussion will only confuse us all.

State of Franklin super-imposed over present-day Tennessee
Sullivan County in pink in the State of Franklin
Present-day Sullivan County, Tennessee, nearly, but not quite, the size of the original.
Hawkins County, established in 1787, when John Roberts was 16, appears to have been formed from the former Spencer County, State of Franklin, but it's possible the Reedy Creek area (we will soon read of)  was on the original Sullivan-Spencer County line. I believed John Roberts must have continued to live in Hawkins County after its formation in 1787 and during his early marriage until he moved his family to Kentucky, some thirteen to fifteen years later, else how could his widow have kept those name changes straight?

Present-day Hawkins County, Tennessee

I want to share two stories I discovered on  John Robert's father William Roberts (our 5th great-grandfather) had three brothers, John, Henry and David Roberts. All four brothers were rearing young families in 1774 on or near Reedy Creek in the future Hawkins County.

The following is from Emory L. Hamilton's unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 11-15 [quoting John Anderson's account of the 1774 massacre that is in the Draper manuscript. Draper's oral history collection was the source for my blog on our ancestress Jane Stephenson's captivity and her father's killing in 1792 HERE .
The following events occurred earlier and farther south]:

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After leaving Ft. Blackmore, Logan [Read about the Cayuga tribal member Logan and his motivation for revenge HERE], and his followers traveled through Big Moccasin Gap to the neighborhood of King's Mill on Reedy Creek, in Sullivan Co., TN, near the present Kingsport. Here they attacked the home of John Roberts [our John Robert's uncle], on Saturday, September 24, 1774, the day after their attack on Blackmore's Fort.  John Roberts, his wife [Sarah Smithson Roberts], and [four] children were killed and scalped, except the eldest child, James [our John Robert's cousin], a boy of ten years of age, who was carried into captivity and later exchanged. 
Alleged remains of the massacred Roberts' family cabin

An older and different view of the Roberts' cabin
The massacre of the Roberts family is best told in a manuscript (1) left by John Anderson, a relative [by marriage] of the Roberts, and a near neighbor. He states: The author of the underwritten remarks, John Anderson, (2) was born in Cecil County, state of Maryland, 19th of February, 1765. While he was young his parents emigrated to this part of the country where he now lives to this day in Sullivan County, Tennessee [John Anderson died in 1850]. Him [sic] and his parents arrived in this country in the fall of 1773, when there was but few settlers here, at that day, of what might be termed a wilderness. Valleys that now appear dry and unpleasant was then closed with verdue [sic] and beasts, both wild and tame, might be seen browsing on the berries and leaves in those wild extensive valleys. We lived in peace and happiness for some better than one year when the Shawnee Indians, that then lived on the north side of the Ohio paid us a very unpleasant visit.

It was on the 16th of October, 1774, (3) that my father and his family was awakened by a neighbor man in the night who informed us that John Roberts and his family, that did not live far distant, was murdered by the Indians, and it was thought there was a vast quantity of these near about us. The neighbors thought it best for all the families near to go to the top of a high ridge, not far distant from us, where they knew was a deep sink hole on said ridge. (4). Accordingly, there was about six families did repair to the aforesaid sink hole on [the] ridge, and the author of these remarks was one among the rest, and as soon as day made its appearance, a number of men went well armed to the house of the aforesaid John Roberts, (5) and to their extreme sorrow they found him, his wife, and four children killed and scalped; one of which was tomahawked and scalped and not yet dead, but died in a few days. 

The oldest son [James Roberts] of the said Roberts, the Indians took prisoner. He was about ten years old. That same year there was a treaty (6) held with the Indians and the prisoners they had taken. They gave him up and he got home to his friends. The author of these remarks often heard the said boy say, after he got back, that he would like to take an Indian scalp, as they had taken his father's and mother's, sister's and brother's, but am apt to think he never put his desires into execution.

The day after said Roberts and family were buried, all the neighbors near where the murder was committed, went to building forts. My father and all of us went to Looney's Fort, (7) and there continued for a considerable time. My father and his family and a Mr. William Neal that lived near us, agreed to move back home. The same night after we came home, we heard there was an Indian seen not far from where we lived. The next morning us and neighbor William started and went to a fort called King's Fort, very near where the said Roberts was killed. There we continued for some weeks. The fort was very strong and well stockaded and strong gates, but the Indians did us no other harm at that time, only kept us from our home. As we came here we heard of them committing depredations on the settlement of Clinch, that lay thirty or forty miles north of us. After being confined in forts for a number of weeks we returned home and there lived in peace for upwards of one year.

Major Arthur Campbell, in a letter to Col. William Preston, written on Thursday, October 3, 1774, (8) makes this statement:

The boy that was scalped is dead. He was an extraordinary example of patience and resolution to his last, frequently lamenting to his last, [that] he was not able to fight enough to save his mammy.

Major Campbell is here referring to the Roberts boy that John Anderson says was found the morning after the massacre, tomahawked and scalped, but still alive, and who soon died. A letter written by Colonel William Christian to Colonel William Preston, dated November 8, 1774, definitely ties the Mingo Chief John Logan, as the leader of the Roberts massacre. He says:

Last Friday was two weeks ago (October 21), Logan, a famous chief went home with a little boy, a son of Roberts on Holston, and two of Blackmore's Negroes. He said he had taken them on the frontier next (to) the Cherokee country, and had killed, I think, either five or seven people. The boy and the Negroes will soon be in. (9)

Captain William Russell writing on November 12, 1774, from Fort Blair, at Point Pleasant, (where his company had been left after the close of the Point Pleasant campaign), to Colonel William Preston, states: When I took water at Hochocking to come down, two white men and a captive Negro of Blackmore's, with a horse for each man, set out to come by land. They might have been here two days past, but at present there is not the least account of them. I much fear the Indians have killed them, or as the Governor (Dunmore) has a parcel of prisoners taken at Hill Town from the Mingoes, I fear they will try to get as many of our people, to redeem theirs, rather than give hostages, especially if they intend to be troublesome hereafter. (10)
At a court held for Fincastle County, March 7, 1775, is entered this order: On the motion of William Roberts [William Roberts our 5th great-grandfather] who having made oath according to Certificate for obtaining Letters of Administration of the estate of John Roberts, deceased, he having with securitys entered into and acknowledged their bond according to law. (11)
(1) Mss in possession of Miss Grace Denny of Bristol, who is a descendant of John Anderson.
(2) John was the son of William Anderson, (born 1736, died Sullivan Co., TN, October 23, 1789, and Jane (nee Bion), (born March 12, 1744, died Sullivan Co., TN, August 22, 1819). His parents were married in April, 1762, in Cecil Co., MD, where their second son, John, was born as Mss states, February 19, 1765. He died in Sullivan Co., TN, November 17, 1850. John Anderson married Rachael Roberts (1175-1831)
[our John Robert's sister]. She was the daughter of William (1732-1816) and Isabella (Graham) Roberts, (1744-1833) [our 5th great-grandparents]. William was a brother of John, Henry, and David Roberts.
(3) Anderson is mistaken here. The Roberts massacre occurred on September 24, 1774. See Draper Mss, letter of Lt. William Cocke, 25 September 1774, Mss 3 QQ 103.
(4) This sinkhole is on what is designed Mill Ridge, TVA Map 197 - SW Indian Springs, TN-VA, will show the sinkhole very clearly. Mill Ridge is located immediately north of Holly Spring Church at the intersection of the Bloomingdale Road with U. S. 11-W near Kingsport, at Silvacola. (Courtesy of Gordon Aronhime, Bristol, VA).
(5) George Christian, Livingston, TN, 25 September 1853, says: "John Roberts who was murdered had two brothers Henry and William. (Draper Mss 15 DD 39).
(6) The treaty signed at the end of Dunmore's War.
(7) This was the residence of Moses Looney on the Island Road, about one and one half miles due south of the mouth of Boozy Creek (North Fork of Reedy Creek) and approximately where the source of Fall Creek touches the Island Road. See Fincastle Co. Court Order Book for 6th January 1773. Courtesy Gordon Aronhime, Bristol, VA.
(8) Draper Mss 3 QQ 111
(9) Thwaites and Kelloggs, Dunmore's War, page 305, and Calendar of Virginia State Papers.
(10) Thwaites and Kellogg, Dunmore's War, page 309
(11) Fincastle Co., VA Court Orders
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Except for my ellipses and highlights, the above was Emory Hamilton's writing. He wasn't finished relating John Anderson's story.
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The Killing of David Roberts and wounding of Henry Roberts [our John Robert's other uncles] in 1778, from the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 57-59 [The other Roberts brothers allegedly lived just across the county line from Gate City, near where John Roberts was killed, in Sullivan County, Tennessee.]

John Anderson of Sullivan Co., TN, in his unpublished manuscript tells of this attack in this manner: 

In the year 1778, the Indians from the north side of the Ohio paid us another visit. Some of our very near neighbors in the summer of that year 1778, on a certain morning about daybreak, a Mr. Henry Roberts (1) and his family was attacked by a small number of Indians. They attempted to break in the house by force. He, being a brave, resolute man, and an old soldier of great experience, fought like a hero, and prevented them from getting into the house. During the contest, which was perhaps upwards of an hour, he had a small axe in his house and aimed to strike one of the Indians out of a window, the handle of the axe being short, he could not reach him. During the shuffle another Indian, from the corner of the house shot the said Roberts in the neck and he fell backwards in the floor, and he, having two daughters, young women, when they saw him fall broke out of the house and ran through the cornfield that was near the said house, and when they had run through the said field several times, one of the girls the Indians caught. The other ran back to the house and came in and by that time the old man had got up, but bled considerable. The shot he got did not appear to injure him much.

The said Roberts had a mill not far distant from his house. He concluded to take his wife and the balance of his family that he had left, and go get into the mill. He accordingly did. During the time he was in the mill with his family several people came to the mill. Among others there was an old man, Mr. McNeal came, and two girls with him. The said Roberts informed them to push off with all speed for there was Indians there. They went off as fast as they could. The Indians saw them and pursued them upwards of two miles and overtook them, and killed the old man McNeal, (2) but the girls got safe home. Among many others that went to the mill that morning (was) a certain old Mr. McMilian, (3) that lived within half a mile of the author of these remarks. The Indians took him prisoner, and the young woman above mentioned (Henry Roberts' daughter) and conveyed them home to the Shawnee Towns. The said Mr. McMilian continued to live with the Indians for a space of five years, during which time he experienced many hardships. The young woman taken never returned. She died in that savage country. She was to have been married a few days after she was taken prisoner, but was most grievously disappointed in all her expectations.

Said Roberts had a brother that was coming to his house that morning and the Indians killed him near the house.

In the above paragraph John Anderson does not so state, but the brother was David Roberts, and an uncle of John Anderson [by marriage], the author of the manuscript relating the attack on the Roberts family.

The will of David Roberts is recorded in Washington Co., VA, Will Book 1, page 17, and was probated February 16, 1779. In this will he leaves his estate to his daughter Sarah Roberts. His executors were his brothers, William [our 5th great-grandfather] and Henry Roberts. On March 16, 1779, Susanna Roberts, widow of David Roberts, deceased, renounces the will and claims her right of dower.

(1) Henry Roberts was a brother of the John Roberts, who, along with all his family was killed nearby in 1774, as were [meaning they were brothers, not killed] William and David Roberts, and Rachael, a sister, who was the mother of John Anderson, the writer of the manuscript. [And here Emory Hamilton is wrong, because John Anderson stated above that he himself married Rachael Roberts.]

Draper Mss 15 DD 39, and Washington Co., VA Will Book 1, page 17.
(2) The "old man McNeal" who was killed was Archibald McNeal. The Court of Washington Co., VA, on 19 November, 1778, ordered Joseph Kingead (Kincaid), James Brigham, and Benjamin and John Looney to appraise the estate of Archibald McNeal, deceased. Inventory and appraisal of the estate recorded June 16, 1779.
(3) Probably William McMillian who owned 400 acres of land on Beaver Creek, where he settled in 1773, and who had a wife named Mary.
NOTE: John Anderson does not give the name of Henry Roberts' daughter who was carried away and never returned, nor the names of the two girls who accompanied McNeal to the mill who were chased, but escaped from the Indians.

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Thus ends the account of David Roberts' and his niece's deaths. But then I ran into a crimp in my genealogy research, making me doubt these pioneers were our relatives. Someone on gave the names and dates of William Roberts' children, listing John Roberts (our 4th great-grandfather) as born in October, 1784, when in fact he was born in 1771 (based on his death information and all of those Pulaski County censuses.)  Did I have the wrong John Roberts and as a consequence the wrong William Roberts, so that tragic family history wasn't ours? Unable to discover the source of this birth information, I decided to discount it because his birth date of 1771 could have fit into the list of children. Besides, I had another hint that this was our family.

After the 1774 massacre, the boy James Roberts (1764 - 1829), who was captured by Indians, must have been reared by his uncle William because it was he who administered the boy's inheritance, filing papers at the county seat in Fincastle County, Virginia, a few days' journey away.  I discovered that James later settled in Pulaski County, Kentucky. It's likely he moved his young family up from Tennessee with other Roberts' family members, although not accompanied by his uncle William Roberts and aunt Isabella Graham Roberts (our 5th great-grandparents), whose graves are in Knox County, Tennessee. 
Knox County, Tennessee
William Roberts, born 1745 -  died 1816 in Knox County, Tennessee

Isabella Graham Roberts, born 1744 in Monmouth Co., New Jersey - died1833 in Knox County, Tennessee
James and our 4th great-grandfather John Roberts were on the Hawkins County tax rolls for 1799, and listed in the Pulaski County's 1810 censuses, James aged 45, John age 39, both with growing families.  They did not, however, settle close to each other. James was granted 200 acres on Wolf Creek in 1807. John lived on the other side of Somerset, the county seat, on  Buck Creek, the amount of his acreage unknown.  A William Roberts received a land grant of 200 acres on Buck Creek in 1800, and I believe he is John Roberts' brother, born 1782 in Sullivan County, Tennessee, died after 1837 in Texas, his wife Elizabeth Anderson outliving him. 

As for John Roberts' wife Jane Roberts, our 4th great-grandmother. What was her surname? John Anderson, the storyteller, married Rachael Roberts, our John Roberts' sister.  William Roberts, John Roberts' brother, married Elizabeth Anderson (born 1785), John Anderson's sister.  I thought perhaps our 4th great-grandmother was Jane Anderson, born about 1775, another sister, but I could find no proof of their marriage; and then discovered Jane Anderson was born in 1784 and died in Texas after a long life.  The only John Roberts, whose marriage was recorded in Tennessee at what would be an appropriate time was to a Jennie Patton in Jefferson County, Tennessee in 1797.  Jennie . . . Jane . . . I just don't know.

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