Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Adam Harman, Pioneer on the New River, 1745, Part 3

This third part of an article on Adam Harman, originally published in The Smithfield Review, Vol. 13, discusses some controversy over locations where Adam Harman lived. In the previous segment, I covered Harman’s immigration to America, his family, and the time frame of his arrival on the New River, especially in relation to the Draper/Ingles families.

A point of further confusion arises concerning the location of Adam Harman’s place cited in the survey. The Giles County Virginia History of Families cites the Patton and Buchanan survey as evidence that Harman had been living in present day Giles County “long enough for the place to be well known, even at that early date.”[1] The Giles County history further explains that Harman’s place was known as Gunpowder Springs2 due to a strong sulphur odor from a spring nearby, that Harman’s settlement was a welcome stopover for families moving westward, and that from this settlement, “a trail was established up the river to Ingle’s Ferry. . . .”3 However, Kegley and Kegley note that the location mentioned in the Patton and Buchanan survey was “probably at the mouth of Tom’s Creek . . . where there was a convenient ford.”4

The problem with the Gunpowder Springs location is that it is further north along the New River than Tom’s Creek. Despite strong evidence that Adam Harman built a blockhouse at Gunpowder Springs, there seems to be no record of him having owned land in present day Giles County,5 the place where he found Mary Ingles suffering from exhaustion and starvation as she neared the end of her journey in 1755.

Map showing Harman locations on the New River.
A possible explanation for Adam Harman and his sons having been at the Gunpowder Springs location in 1755 is that they were on a lengthy hunting expedition known as a longhunt.6 The Harmans were noted hunters and fur traders,[7] and their cabin near the Palisades was a hunting cabin—a hunting cabin with a cornfield. In fact, John Ingles refers to the place using those terms in his account of his mother’s ordeal: “It so happened that a man of the name of Adam Harmon and two of his Sones [sic] was at a place on New River where they had settled and raised some corn that summer securing their corn and Hunting.”[8] The longhunters spent extended periods of time away from home, so they built cabins to meet their need for shelter.

Approximate location of Adam Harman's hunters cabin.

Regarding the question of who established the first European settlement west of the Alleghenies, a number of German settlers are on record as having moved into the area prior to the Patton and Buchanan survey. In addition to the Harmans were a man named Frederick Starn and a group of Dunkards from the Ephrata community near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.[9] Kegley and Kegley note that there were “a number of families on the ground . . . when the Germans, the Dunkards, and the Harman group established themselves on the New River.”10 There is no mention of the 1748 date cited by Hale and Johnston as the date that the Draper-Ingles families entered the area. Furthermore, they note that George Draper “resided at Draper’s Meadows as early as 1746 when his name appears as a worker on the road from Adam Harman’s over the river.”[11]

Patricia Givens Johnson agrees that the Draper family arrived in 1746[12] and asserts that “the first permanent European settlers to come into this area were Germans,” settling there prior to 1745.[13] Johnson adds that George Draper bought land on Tom’s Creek and Strouble’s Creek from “Adam Harman acting as James Patton’s agent and Harmon set no price ‘but reffered [sic] them to make their Bargain or price with Col. Patton.’”[14] The settlement made by the Drapers, known as Draper’s Meadows, was located in the vicinity of present day Blacksburg.

[1] Giles County Book Committee, Giles County Virginia History of Families, (Pearisburg, Va.: Giles County Historical Society, 1985), 195.
[2] Today the town bears the name Eggleston in memory of Colonel William Eggleston who owned a resort in the area following the Civil War.
[3] Giles County, 195.
[4] M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, 218.
[5] M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, 218.
[6] For further information on the longhunters and their effect on the region, see Ted Franklin Belue, The Long Hunt: Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi (Mechanicsburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books 1996.
[7] Patricia Givens Johnson, 89. Also John Newton Harman, 52. Also Ullysses s. A. Heavener, German New River Settlement, Virginia, (publisher unknown, 1929), 7.
[8] John Ingles, Sr., Escape from Indian Captivity: The Story of Mary Draper Ingles and son Thomas Ingles, 2nd ed. Transcribed by William Ingles and Virginia O’Rear Hudson. Edited by Roberta ingles Steele and Andrew Lewis Ingles (Radford, Va.,: no publisher, 1982).
[9] M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, 218. Also Patricia Givens Johnson, 89.
[10] M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, 218.
[11] M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley, 212.
[12] Patricia Givens Johnson, 94.
[13] Patricia Givens Johnson, 89.
[14] Patricia Givens Johnson, 94.

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