Indian Forays in Powell Valley 
in Lee County, Virginia
     
     In speaking of the conditions at Martin's Station (in what is now Lee County, Virginia) in 1776, John Redd, who had come to that station with Col. Joseph Martin in January of 1775 from Henry County, Virginia states: (1)
     "In May, 1776, General Martin returned home (to Henry County), promising to return in four weeks. The four weeks expired and we heard nothing from General Martin. The settlers from Priest's and Mump's Forts (2) had all left, and some of our men. Days rolled on and we could hear nothing from Martin or the settlement (probably the settlements on Clinch River). We became alarmed at our situation. We knew something of great moment had taken place or Martin would have returned, or sent a messenger out to let us know why he did not return at the appointed time. As our number had decreased to about ten (men) and we could not hear from Martin, we held a council determined to remain three days longer, and if we could hear nothing from the settlement in that time to start home. The day we held our council, William Parks, one of our number, insisted on going some eight miles below the fort and put up some poles in the shape of a house, kill some trees, dig some holes in the ground and plant some corn, so as to secure a "corn-right," and return the third morning in time enough to start with us if he should leave for the settlement. We very reluctantly gave our consent. On the same evening, Parks, his nephew, Thomas, and his Negro man set out to secure the corn-right.
     The third morning after Parks left, the day he promised to return, to our great surprise young Parks came and informed us that his uncle had left the evening before to kill some meat. Shortly after his leaving he heard him shout, and had heard nothing from him since. I and two others set out with Parks, and on arriving at his cabin, he showed us the way his uncle went. We found his track and followed it with great care. After going about one mile we came to where some Indians had been lying among some limestone rocks on the Kentucky Trace. About fifty yards from where the Indians had been, we saw old Parks lying dead on his face. On examining him we found he was shot through the heart. From his tracks he must have run some thirty yards from where he was shot. He was scalped and a war club left sunk in his brain. We skinned some tough bark and with it lashed old Parks to a pole, and two of us, with an end of the pole on our shoulders, carried him to his cabin and buried him. (3)
     The same evening we returned to the fort. On arriving there, we found an express sent out by General Martin informing us that the Indians (Cherokee) had declared war, and were doing a great deal of mischief. The morning after the arrival of the express, we broke up and came to Blackmore's Fort on Clinch River. At this fort, we found the greater part of the men who had left Mump's and Priest's forts.
     William Parks owned 400 acres of land on Indian Creek in Powell Valley by settlement of 1773, and had an additional 1000 acres of pre-emption warrant, of which he had taken up 335 acres. The certificate says:
     "We, the Commissioners, etc...certify that John Parks, heir-at-law to William Parks, deceased, is entitled to 400 acres of land in Powell Valley known by the name of Big Springs, being the same where the said Parks lived, and on the Kentucky Road." (4)
     We know the death of Parks occurred prior to May 30, 1776 by a letter written by Matthew Brooks to Major Anthony Bledsoe, in which he tells of the killing of William Parks in Powell Valley.
     Bowman and Johnson killed, James Bunch wounded in Powell Valley. James Kincaid, son of John Kincaid who lived across Clinch River from the present site of St. Paul, Virginia, and who, in the year 1779, moved with his father to Kentucky, and later settled in Missouri, tells of this incident in his Revolutionary war pension statement filed in Lafayette County, Missouri in 1833.
     "He entered the service of the United States under the command of Captain John Dunkin. At this time his father lived in a settlement called Castle's Woods on Clinch River,, about 25 miles north of Abingdon, Virginia, a frontier fort. Powell Valley had been settled, but the settlers had been run off by the Indians (1776). A good many of them could not bring their plunder with them, but hid it. John Dunkin (5)
was ordered out with a company of militia in order to guard the people who had left their property behind them to collect it together, and bring it into the settlements. He (Kincaid) was one of Dunkin's company. At this time, Captain Joseph Martin was stationed at the Rye Cove Fort on Clinch River in order to guard the frontiers of Virginia. He (Martin) kept two spys who were brothers, to-wit: John and James Bunch.
     "When we got into the valley we met with these spies. They then returned with us down to what was called Martin's Station in said valley, but we found no one there - they had all fled. One of the settlers that was with us, who had fled the valley by the name of Davis (called Captain Davis).
     "Before the people fled he (Davis) lived at Owen's Station, ten miles below Martin's Station. (6) We took up at Martin's Station. Some time after, Davis petitioned Dunkin for a few men to go down to Owen's Station with him to collect his plunder. Five men were granted him, one of whom was James Bunch. They went to the Station and collected the plunder accordingly, as I understood, and returning back to the camp the Indians waylaid the path and fired upon them and wounded Bunch, and killed a man by the name of (Robert) Bowman at that place and wounded another by the name of Johnson, as Bunch related, for he returned with him (Johnson) a piece, but he (Johnson) never got in. Three of the party got in that night, two of whom were Bunch and Davis.
     "The next day Dunkin went down with all his force, save a few left to guard the wounded. This affiant was one that went down. We went to the place and there found Bowman dead. Davis took us to a tree where he said an Indian stood whom he shot at. We went to the place and found a great deal of blood. We then took his trail and followed them, but not a great ways, as it appeared they had scattered. We returned back and buried the dead, thence to camp (at Martin's Station.) (7)

     "Bunch grew very sick and we had to take him to his company at the Rye Cove. We were then all dismissed and returned home. As well as he can remember, this took place in 1776. He does not recollect the particular month, except that it was warm weather."
     Andrew Lynam in his Revolutionary War Pension statement filed in Bath County, Kentucky, on June 23, 1833 also tells of the above killing in this manner:
     "In the month of June, he thinks the first but cannot say as the particular day, he entered the service of the United States under Captain John Dunkin, as a volunteer for three months in 1776. At the end of this three month tour he again volunteered in Captain Dunkin's Company of militia for three months. Was in the month of September the same year as before (i. e. 1776). We were commanded by John Dunkin as Captain, and as our tour was to prevent the Indians from committing outrages upon the defenseless inhabitants, we were marched immediately to Powells Valley. At this place we had a battle with the Indians in which two of our men were killed and one wounded. We then commenced our march home to a station called Rye Cove, and as winter was now about to set in and the Indians to recede for the season, our services were no longer needed."
     Both James Kincaid and Andrew Lynam say the above occurred in 1776. Kincaid says in "warm weather" and Lynam says in September. Powell Valley was evacuated in June, 1776, prior to the Cherokee Campaign under Col. William Christian, and remained so until the conclusion of that campaign. Surely if Captain Dunkin took his company to guard the settlers in bringing their possessions, it must have been soon after the evacuation of the valley. Yet, first of all, Joseph Martin was in Powell Valley and not at Rye Cove in 1776. He went from Powell Valley to Fort Patrick Henry in the latter part of August, 1776, as can be proven by the muster roll of all his troops on the Cherokee Campaign, 25th of August to 7th of November 1776, (8) and stationed at Fort Patrick Henry from the 13th of November, 1776 to 31st of January, 1777. (9) Then the same company is stationed at Fort Lee (Military name for Rye Cove Fort), on the Clinch at Rye Cove and the Bunches are on the roster, or at least John Bunch is. James Bunch does not appear on the roster until the roster of 1st of May to June 30th, 1777, at Fort Lee, (10) although he appears in the Shelby Family Papers (11) as a scout from the 19th of March to 21st of July, along with his brother John. Neither of these appear as scouts prior to that date and James not at all. Yet, James Kincaid specifically states that when they entered Powell Valley they met with James Bunch, and further Andrew Lynam tells of his being wounded, and surely they knew of what they were telling. Maybe Martin was at times both in Powell Valley and at Rye Cove in 1776.
     In a letter from Anthony Bledsoe, ,dated Fort Patrick Henry, 8th of April, 1777, (12) he says:
     "I much lament poor Bunch and could have sent the doctor, but the waters prevented till there was a particular call for him down the river." This is also borne out by the letter of Col. Evan Shelby, of the 27th of April, 1777, who "laments the fate of his unhappy men," meaning Martin's men and regrets he has no shock troops to send to Martin at the time."
     The (Robert) Bowman whom Kincaid says was killed was a member of Martin's Company at the time. Since these troops for the most part were from Pittsylvania County (as was Martin) they would not show in the local records. Who Johnson was is hard to say, but he too, was perhaps one of Martin's militiamen.
     The Bunch brothers, John and James, who were Indian Scouts under Martin in Powell Valley and at Rye Cove, both moved to Tennessee. James was made a captain of militia in Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1790, and John was made an ensign in 1793, and a captain in 1794 in Knox County. This was while Tennessee was still a territorial government.

1. See John Redd's Narrative, Vol. 6 and 7, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
2. Priests and Mump's Forts, near present Jonesville, VA., were never reoccupied after the evacuation of Powell Valley in 1776.
3. On Indian Creek
4. Washington County, Virginia Survey Book 1, page 349.
5. Captain John Dunkin who lived near Elk Garden in Russell County, and who was captured at Ruddle's Station on Licking River in Kentucky in 1779 by the British and Indians, and held a prisoner in Canada until after the end of the Revolutionary war.
6. Owen's Station was located near present Rose Hill in Lee County, Virginia.
7. These events occurred at Martin's "Old Station" near Jonesville, Va., on Indian Creek. Later Martin abandoned this site and built a new Station about two miles from Cumberland Gap, where he resided until he left the area some time after 1780.
8. Draper Mss L XX 31
9. Ibid, 1 XX 19
10. Draper Mss 1 XX 24
11. Shelby Family Papers, Library of Congress, vol. 1, lte. #464
12. Draper Mss 1 XX 21.


 
 
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