Was Guest Station Named
For Christopher Gist?
It has both been
said and written that Guest Station, the earliest name for the town of
Coeburn, was so named for Christopher Gist an early land surveyor for a
British Land Company, because of his return from surveying in Kentucky
he camped at the site for three days in 1751.
Gist left a Journal
of his trip, each day giving the compass directors and number of miles
traveled. In this Journal, Gist, specially mentions on his return trip
the "Chimneys" which are large rock formations slightly northwest of Bluefield
in Mercer County, West Virginia. From here he made his way to the mouth
of the Bluestone River and thence down the New River to his home in North
Carolina. On this return trip Gist traveled an easterly course all the
way leading toward Williamsburg, from whence he had started his exploration.
If he had camped at Coeburn then to get from there to the "Chimneys" he
would have been traveling a northerly course for one hundred miles out
of his way. It is sheer nonsense to think one traveling by compass would
have erred so badly. His Journal makes no mention of his having traveled
such a northerly course.
in plotting Gist's course can start at the Chimneys, a known and established
point, plot the course backward, and they will find he passed through a
northern neck of present Buchanan County, Virginia, and slightly north
of Pikeville, Kentucky, and this is the closest he ever came to Wise County.
In frontier times
a Station was a refuge for settlers and travelers during Indian raids,
and sometimes a buffer station for other stations located in the more populous
interior. The latter, I think, was the purpose of Guest's Station - a buffer
for the two forts at Castlewood and for Blackmore's Fort, called today
This writer has
long felt, but never been able to prove until recently that Guest River
was a War Path used by the Shawnee Indians coming up the Kentucky River
through both Flat and Pound Gaps, fanning out at Coeburn to attack the
In the Washington
County Land Entry Book 1, page 84, dated May 25, 1783, is an entry which
reads in part:
"200 acres entered
for John Donald on the lowest branch of Toms Creek (Big Toms Creek) beginning
at the line of the widow Carr's corn-right at Gist's Station and running
up the creek on both sides of the War Path, everyway..."
This land entry
proves three things, (1) Guest River was a War Trace, 92) that the Station
existed prior to 1783, and (3) that people had been either living or working
around the Station - hence the "Widow Carr's corn-right". This could be
none other than Hannah Carr, the widow of William Carr, who died on Carr's
Creek in Russell County in 1782, where they resided and from whom the creek
took its name.
In the year 1777
when Polly Alley and Jane Whittaker were captured by the Shawnee on Clinch,
the Indians intended to attack Guest Station, but upon arrival there found
it well defended and desisted in their attack. Also after the girls escaped
from their captors they returned and were taken in by the people at Guest
Station. If this be true, then Guest Station was a fortified Station as
early as 1777.
In the spring of
1838, Elder Morgan T. Lipps settled on Big Toms Creek and states in his
Diary that upon arrival the older settlers showed him the remains of the
old Station with foundation stones, logs, and chimney rocks still lying
upon the spot.
Now early writers
of history say that Gist stopped with his son, Tom, and rested and hunted
for three days at Coeburn. Gist states in his Journal that he was accompanied
only by his seventeen year old colored boy. It is silly to believe that
in three days he and the colored boy could hew logs and build a structure
with a stone chimney that would last from 1751 to 1838. In this span of
time he could only have built a temporary shelter, perhaps a lean of brush
and bark - and all that he needed for a three day stay. Further the first
settlers on the Clinch did not arrive until 1769, and in all probability
few, if any of them had ever heard of Christopher Gist. Then is it not
ridiculous to say that one of them could have gone to the isolated spot
in the wilderness and said, "Here, Christopher Gist camped 18 years ago"?
Then what Gist did
built Gist's Station? The writer has no answer for this. Certainly it was
built by someone named Gist, and there were other Gists in the area besides
Christopher Gist - if he was here! One David Gass moved from Albemarle
County and settled in lower Castlewood in 1769. This is the same Captain
David Gass who gave the Boone family shelter on his place in 1773, after
part of Boone's party was massacred in Powell Valley, and who, himself,
moved on to Boonesboro in 1779. In the early records his name is variously
spelled Gist, Guess and Gass, the latter being correct. Also in upper Castlewood
was another tract of land settled in 1769 by a David Gist, and the ford
of Clinch River at this location was called Gist's Ford. Whether both these
David Gist's were the true Captain David Gass is not known.
The enigma still
remains, who built Gist's Station, when and for what purpose is not known,
but certainly it did not take its name from Christopher Gist.