Old Name for Norton
Since I was a small
boy I have heard older citizens refer to Prince's Flats, the old name of
Norton, and so used until about the time of the coming of the railroads.
I had often wondered in my earlier years why it was called Prince's Flats,
until I heard the legend that Prince was a hunter, who had a cabin, or
hunting camp near the mouth of Benge's Branch. That on one of his stays
at the camp he was hunting in the area on Guest River about one mile above
where the bridge crosses that stream on U. S. Route 23, he ate chestnuts
and died from acute indigestion.
That he was buried on the bank of Guest River
and until a few years past his gravesite was marked by a ring of rocks
placed around it. All, from whom I heard the legend did not associate companions
with Prince, and I often wondered how he buried himself.
How much of the
legend is true about Prince's hunting camp and untimely death I do not
know, but of recent date I have found some interesting facts about the
man himself. Prince was a real, not a legendary man, and his name was William
Prince. He actually lived in the vicinity of Warrior's Path State park,
near Kingsport, Tennessee. He died prior to the 7th of February, 1775,
when his estate was ordered to be appraised by the court of Fincastle County,
Virginia, with David Looney as Administrator of the estate, and Alexander
and Moses Cavett, Alexander Davoe and John Coulter were appraisers of his
This same William
Prince was in Captain William Russell's Company on the Point Pleasant Campaign
against the Shawnee Indians, and was listed as wounded on October 23, 1774.
This date is however, after the actual battle took place, and how he was
wounded then I do not know, but it may have been possible, since Captain
Russell was left behind with a detachment of troops at Fort Blair for sometime
after the battle.
In Scott County
Deed Book 4, page 338, dated the 8th of February, 1831, is this entry:
"On the application
of George Berry for a bridle way from the widow Berry's on Stony Creek
to the county line at Prince's Old Place, it is ordered, etc." This entry
is no doubt for a bridle path from Stony Creek across High Knob to Prince's
old place on the county line. At this date the county line of Scott County
was Guest River, thus placing Prince's camp at the present site of Norton.
Recently, by good fortune, there has come into my possession a copy of
an old land map made in 1838, which is the earliest map I've seen of the
area around Norton, and on this map at the site described above is lettered
"Prince's Old Place."
It is very possible
that William Prince did die in Wise County as the legend states and was
buried by some of his hunting companions, whose names have been forgotten
by history. It is very common for the earliest settlers to go on hunts
for extended periods and long distances, such as the Long Hunters who were
the first to blaze trails through the then wilderness of Southwest Virginia,
long before Christopher Gist or Dr. Thomas Walker made their explorations.
Certainly the very earliest settlers knew the location of his camp well
enough to name it Prince's Flats, which name it bore for more than a century
to be cast off by less appropriate and certainly less historical name of