Moses Cockrell

     On April 9, 1793, Andrew Lewis, son of General Andrew Lewis of Salem, writing from Fort Lee (Rye Cove), where he was the militia officer in charge, to the governor of Virginia has this to say:
     "On Sunday week (March 31, 1793) Ensign Moses Cockrell and two men were passing from this (Clinch Valley) into Powell Valley with several horses loaded. On top of Powell Mountain, about twelve miles from the (Rye) Cove they were fired on by 12 Indians. The two men were shot dead on the spot - himself pursued to the foot of the mountain, two of the horses killed and all the loads lost. The enemy being in the rear of him, obliged him to run to the Valley (Powell's). No person passing from there, had no information here for several days. Captain Neil raised some men and is in pursuit of them. I am in hopes that if my Ensign gets the intelligence in time, as he is stationed in the lower end of the valley, will meet with them (Indians) on their return..."
     Charles B. Coale, in his "Life of Wilburn Waters," reprinted in Summer's "Annals of Southwest Virginia," gives a factual account of this happening, but has the date a year later than the actual occurrence. He says:
     "It is the purpose of the writer to speak more particularly of the incursion of 1794, and to refer to others of a later date and of less magnitude, that was '78, led by Benge, a half-breed Shawnee, who was remarkable for his strength, activity, endurance and great speed as a runner. He was a man of more than savage intelligence also, as well as of great bravery and strategy, and had more than once approached the settlements so stealthily and by a route so secret, that he fell upon the scattered settlers without an intimation of his approach, and retired to his wigwam beyond the Cumberland without leaving a trace of the route that he had traveled, though Rangers were constantly on the lookout for his trail. One of these Rangers of the Holston settlement was a man by the name of Cottrell, and the writer must make a digression to record an incident in his history. He was famous for his size, activity and handsome person. Benge and himself were rivals in manhood and wood-craft, each jealous of the others' prowess and courage, and both anxious for an occasion to meet in single combat. Not many months before Benge's last incursion, they met on top of Powell's Mountain, in what is now Lee County, each with a band of followers. The Indians were in ambush, having observed the approach of the whites, who were not aware of their proximity and Benge instructed his companions not to kill Cottrell, so that he himself might run him down and capture him. At the crack of the rifles the two or three of Cottrell's companions fell, seeing which, and at once comprehending the folly of a combat with a dozen savages, he sprang away down the mountainside like an antelope, with Benge in close pursuit. Two miles away in the valley on Wallen's Creek was the cabin of a pioneer (this was the old Scott's Fort, then the home of Robert Duff) in reaching which Cottrell knew was his only chance of escape. Having two hundred dollars in specie in a belt around him, he found he was carrying too much weight for a closely contested race, and that Benge was gaining on him. Making a desperate effort, however, he increased his speed a little, and as he leaped the fence that surrounded the cabin, Benge's tomahawk was buried in the top rail before Cottrell reached the ground. Benge seeing that he had missed his aim, and not knowing how many men and rifles might be in the cabin, fled back to his companions sadly disappointed.
     A few years after this, Cockrell died on the North Fork (of the Holston) in this country, and during the "wake," while his body lay in the cabin, an old comrade, who had been in many a hard pinch with him, thus gave utterance to his thoughts and feelings as he paced the puncheon floor in great sorrow; "Poor Cockrell, he is gone! He was a noble fellow after Injuns and varmints, and I hope he has gone to where there is as much game and as desperate good range as he had on Holston."
     Moses Cockrell was the eldest son of Simon and Magdalene Vardiman Cockrell. His father, Simon Cockrell, was a minister of the Baptist faith and was authorized by the Washington County Court of September 17, 1782 to perform the rites of marriage in that county. Simon Cockrell also represented Russell County in the Virginia General Assembly and as a member of that body offered and sponsored the bill in 1799 forming and naming the county of Tazewell. The Rev. Simon Cockrell seems to have first settled about 1773 on the Maiden Spring Fork of the Holston, but later acquired land in the present Scott County, just below Dungannon, from William Herbert, Jr., in 1790. A lawsuit ensued over the purchase as the Duncan family had also settled upon it and held a patent by right of settlement.
     Sometime around 1805, Simon Cockrell with all his family left the area and emigrated to Kentucky. Another son of Simon, and brother of Moses, John Cockrell married in 1785, Milley Alley, a daughter of Thomas Alley, Sr. of Scott County. John went to Kentucky, and later moved on to Missouri where the family says he was killed by Indians. Moses Cockrell, subject of this story, remained in the area, as the only member of this family.
     He lived on the Holston and family tradition says he met his death by falling into a salt well, which might suggest that he lived in the vicinity of Saltville. He married Mary Chadwell of the Lee County Chadwell family and had at least two children, David and Elizabeth Cockrell, whose lineal descendants still remain in this area.

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