Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Adam Harman, Pioneer on the New River, 1745, Part 4

This is a continuation of an article about Adam Harman published in The Smithfield Review, Vol. 13, 2009. See posts on Feb. 27,  Mar. 5, and Mar. 12, for the previous parts of the story.

For all of the settlers coming into the New River region, claiming a piece of land for themselves and their families was their priority. To secure ownership of lands, they had to meet requirements stated in land grants offered by the British government, the first of which was the Woods River Grant. Some key terms of the grant were critical for them to follow:

Any person who would purchase any part or parcel of the land prior to the next May court should have it at the rate of four pounds and five shillings per hundred acres, to be paid on the first day of May 1748 and the remainder on the first of April 1749 with interest from that date. Persons buying land had to settle, cultivate, improve, and live on it before April 15, 1748, and pay twenty-five shillings on taking it up. No person could sell or dispose of his right until he had been in possession of his patent or deed for six months. Each person taking up land had to mark it and ‘put up some logs’ and mention the quantity of acres held. . . . Any person taking up land of any less quantity of one-thousand acres in one entire survey was to pay the surveyor’s fee for such land.”[1]

To obtain the grant of 100,000 acres, James Patton hired John Buchanan to survey the area.[2] Buchanan’s records reveal that the Harmans were, indeed, living in the area of Tom’s Creek on the New River.

Prior to his surveying trips, John Buchanan traveled throughout the region starting on October 4, 1745 and returning home October 29, 1745. During this trip, Buchanan kept a journal recording his stops and the people he met along the way. Among them, he names Adam Harman and his brothers Jacob and Valentine. In addition, in the Woods River Entry Book, Buchanan records the following on October 17, 1745: “Adam Harman one place called Tom’s place and one for Adam Harman Junior on Thorn Spring the land he is to Emprove on neither is he to sell or Dispose of it in anay shape, other wise his property is forfeited.”[3] On October 18, Buchanan notes in his journal that he “had ye esteate [sic] of William Marks [Mack] apprised by Adam and Jacob Harmon—no other person could be had.”[4] Buchanan asked Adam and Jacob Harman to appraise the estate of William Mack for whom the present day Max (corrupted from Mack’s) Meadows was named. Buchanan implies that the Harman men were asked to conduct the appraisal because no one else was willing or able to do it.[5]

That same day, Buchanan notes that Adam Harman traveled with him to the home of Charles Hart,[6] a “squatter on the Springfield tract who thought he bought a right from George Robinson,”[7] one of the men to whom the Woods River grant was issued.[8] Harman tried to help Buchanan settle the dispute. Buchanan notes, “This morning before day Adam Harman and Hart had a long conference in Dutch about ye land.”[9] Harman spoke both German and English.[10] On October 22, Buchanan records meeting with a group of people at the home of Jacob Harman, whose home was located on the big Horseshoe Bend of the New River.[11] On October 24 in the Wood’s River Book Buchanan records that he “sold to Valentin Harman 1,000 acres on ye head of Pine Run” which he must “emediatly . . . settle & Emprove thereon or forfite his property. . . .”[12] Buchanan’s notes provide a valuable record showing names of those who lived in the area in the fall of 1745.

Later land-grant records show that surveys for Adam and Jacob Harman were completed in 1750.[13] According to a November 7, 1750 entry in these records, Adam Harman claimed 500 acres “in Augusta county on the southwest side of New river known by the name of the ‘Horseshoe’” in addition to 500 acres in the same county on the east side of New River beginning at the mouth of Tom’s Creek.14 Augusta County Entry Book 1 lists as its first entry, “1750, Adam Harman, 400 acres at a large spring 6 miles above Wolf Creek, on New River.”[15] Additional records from 1750 list Adam Harman among several men who “were to have 100,000 acres on the New and Holston rivers and the waters of each.”[16]

Also in the same year, James Patton’s papers show that Adam Harman, Jacob Harman, Valentine Harman, and Valentine Sevier “obtained a grant for 7,000 acres lying on both sides of the Blue Stone Creek, beginning about three miles from where the said creek runs into Wood’s River, thence up the same and its several branches.”17 During this time, Harman’s ford “at the lower end of the bottom was an important crossing of the river, and was not abandoned until Samuel Pepper’s ferry was adopted as the main crossing.”18

Map of Harman Locations on the New River

Although Adam Harman received patent for his land at the mouth of Tom’s Creek on November 7, 1752, records show that he failed to pay quitrents and to cultivate and improve the tract; consequently, William Thompson, James Patton’s executor, “brought suit to the lieutenant governor to obtain a new patent,” which he accomplished on September 25, 1762.19 The suit apparently created enmity between the two men, which is implicit in the November 16, 1763 entry in the August County Court Records ordering “Adam Harmon to be bound to peace toward Wm. Thompson.”20

In fact, the Harman name appears on grants in numerous places in the area, so many places that M. B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley observe, “It is apparent that the Harmans were interested in tracts of land on Pine Run, Walker’s Creek, Bluestone, Sinking Creek, as well as the tracts on Tom’s Creek and the Horseshoe, but their large selections were more than they could ‘settle and improve’ and as a result most of their claims were forfeited.”[21] One might also infer, given the danger from attacks on the settlements perpetrated by Shawnee warriors, which intensified with the start of the French and Indian War, that the Harman families may have abandoned their tracts for that reason as well.22

1 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 9.
2 A reference to John Buchanan’s journey was made in The Smithfield Review, Vol. 6, 95.
3 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 10.
4 Goodridge Wilson, Smyth County History and Traditions, (Kinsport, Tenn.: Kinsport Press, Inc., 1932), 14. The entire text of Buchanan’s journal is in Wilson’s book. Also, Kegley, 10.
5 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 10.
6 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 10. Also, Goodridge Wilson, 14.
7 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 9. Also, Goodridge Wilson, 11.
8 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 8.
9 Goodridge Wilson, 14.
10 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 223. Because Adam Harman spoke bothGerman and English, he seems to have fit in with the English-speaking settlers better than some of the other Germans who spoke only German.
11 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 10. Also, Goodridge Wilson, 15.
12 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 11.
13 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 12, 218. Also John Newton Harman, 52.
14 John Newton Harman, 52, 329. Also, M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 218.
15 John Newton Harman, 52. Also, M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 182.
16 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 13.
17 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 13. Also, Patricia Givens Johnson, 90.
18 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 219.
19 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 177.
20 Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia: Extracted from the Original Court Records of August County, 1745-1800, (Roselyn, Va.: The Commonwealth Printing Co., 1912), 110.
21 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 219.
22 M. B. Kegley and  F. B. Kegley, 15.


  1. This is amazingly detailed research! I have missed a lot. Where is the New River area?

    1. The New River runs through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. In Virginia, two towns on the New River are Pearisburg and Blacksburg.