Thursday, March 27, 2014

Adam Harman, Pioneer on the New River, 1745, Part 5

Originally published in The Smithfield Review, Vol. 13, 2009, Last week's story of Adam Harman focused mainly on his attempts to claim land along the New River. It ended with a reference to the unrest between Indians and settlers. This week's portion of the story describes those perilous times:

This unrest began with raids on property. In April 1749, Adam Harman earned the dubious distinction of being the first settler to have his cabin raided by Indians and his skins stolen:

A party of seven Indians robbed the house of Adam Harman, probably on New river, of nine deer skins and one elk skin; that the next day six Indians robbed the same house of fourteen deer skins and one elk skin; and that the day following a number of Indians came and took away seventy-three deer skins and six elk skins. This shows also that game was abundant and that Harman was a famous hunter. This was said to have been the first depredation by the Indians on the whites west of the Alleghany.[1]

This attack created or intensified friction between Adam Harman and Jacob Castle, another German immigrant who is listed in Augusta County Court Records Order Book 1 on November 19, 1746, as one of the road builders to the Adam Harman place with Adam Harman as overseer.[2] Harman suspected Castle of instigating the raid.[3] A note in the records seems to reverse the action, however. On April 22, 1749, Augusta County Court brought charges against “Valentine and Adam Herman for violent robbery of the goods of Jacob Castlean. . . .”[4] In addition, in Original Petitions and Papers Filed in the County Court, 1749, jailor John Cunningham is ordered “to keep the following . . . Adam and Valentine Herman.”[5] 

A few weeks later on May 17, 1749, Adam Harman brought charges against Castle “for threatening to aid the French” and Castle was “ordered to be arrested and brought before the court on next Monday.”[6] A few days later on May 22, Castle was “acquitted in charge of treason in going over to assist the French.”[7] Whether the raid was instigated by Castle or not, raids such as the one on Harman’s place signaled worse times to come for the settlers along the New River as rivalries between the British and the French increased in the Ohio Valley. When the French and Indian War erupted in 1755, bloodshed extended southward into the New River Valley.

At the time of this dispute, “Adam Harman was captain of foot and overseer of the main road through the community. . . . He had charge of the road to the river and over the bridge to the Roanoke.”[8] Apparently the dispute did not damage his trustworthy reputation, for between the raid on his furs in 1749 and his rescue of Mary Ingles in 1755, he served in significant ways to help defend the region from French-instigated Indian attacks by Shawnee warriors.

On August 19, 1752, Adam “qualified Captain of a Troop of Horse” and his brother Jacob “qualified Cornet.”[9] In October 1754 when the General Assembly enlisted the aid of local militias, Adam was designated a captain and Jacob an ensign of a “troop of horse” under Colonel James Patton. “For the residents of the New and Holston Rivers, 1755 was probably the worst year of the war. The murder of some of the citizens, the capture of others, and the loss of [General William] Braddock’s army [on July 9] caused much alarm.”[10] Despite the fact that Governor Robert Dinwiddie had taken measures to ensure the safety of the settlers, such as sending Captain Andrew Lewis and a group of forty or fifty men “to Augusta county to protect the frontier,” the vicious attacks persisted. The governor then sent “blank commissions . . . by Colonel Patton for officers for a company of fifty men for the further protection of the inhabitants. . . .”[11] Despite the governor’s efforts, the attacks continued unabated:

Most of the outrages . . . were committed on New River and Holston. From October 1754 to August 1755 twenty-one individuals were killed, seven wounded and nine taken prisoner. Among those killed were Lieutenant [William] Wright and Colonel Patton, both being caught without guards. Lieutenant Wright and two of his soldiers were killed on Reed Creek on July 12, and the Draper’s Meadow massacre in which Colonel Patton was killed took place on July 30 or 31. In this Massacre Casper Barger, Mrs. Eleanor Draper and a young Draper child were killed. James Cull was wounded, Mrs. Mary Draper Ingles and two children, Mrs. Betty Draper, and Henry Leonard, were taken prisoners.”[12]

These murders and kidnappings terrorized the settlers, and most of them fled from their homes to safer, more populous places, and “the Holson, New River, and Greenbrier settlements were practically abandoned. This left the Roanoke and James River country the southwestern frontier and thus it remained until the close of the war.”[13]

The mass exodus created problems keeping the local militia, of which Adam Harman was a member, together and active. When Colonel John Buchanan reported this to Governor Dinwiddie, the governor replied, indignantly, that those who would not stay to defend their homes should not expect help from him.[14] Despite the governor’s remonstrance, the “exodus from the lands on the Western Waters was dramatic. . . . There was difficulty on the roads and ridges, ‘for the crowds were flying as if every moment were death.’”[15] 

Whether Adam Harman continued to serve with the militia or whether he also fled is not known for certain. His family circumstances suggest that he may have stayed. By this time, his wife Louisa Katrina was deceased, having died March 18, 1749.[16] Furthermore, his sons were as yet unmarried, and men without family responsibilities sometimes take greater risks than those who have wives and children. Evidence indicates that some of the Harmans stayed, an ill-fated decision for them, for in 1756 Jacob Harman and a son were killed by Indians on Neck Creek.[17] The following year, Valentine Harman was killed by Indians on the New River.[18]

[1] Harman, Harman Genealogy, p. 52. Reference to this incident occurs also in Charles Kerr, William Elsey Connelley, and Ellis Merton Coulter, History of Kentucky, Vol. 1, (Chicago, American Historical Society, 1922), p. 78. The entire text of this book is available on Google Books.
[2] Patton and Buchanan Survey Report, Augusta County, Virginia, Order Book 1, 1745-1747, p. 130; Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement, p. 433; Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 49.
[3] Johnston, A History of the Middle New River Settlements,  p.10.
[4] Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement, p. 433; Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 177.
[5] Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement, p. 432.
[6] Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement, p. 26; Johnson, James Patton and the Appalachian Colonists, p. 65.
[7] Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement, p. 38.
[8] Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 177. Harman (Harman Genealogy, p. 52) also notes that Adam Harman was a constable and an overseer of the road on the New River, 52.
[9] Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement, p. 53. A troop of horse was a British term for a company of cavalry; the cornet was the officer who carried the colors.
[10] Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 54.
[11] Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 54.
[12] Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 55. Other accounts of the Draper’s Meadows massacre can be found in Hale, Trans-Allegheny Pioneers, pp. 29-31; Johnson, James Patton and the Appalachian Colonists, p. 201-06;
Johnston, A History of the Middle New River Settlements, p. 19-20; Lewis Preston Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1780 (Richmond, Va.: J. L. Hill Printing Co., 1903), pp. 56-7. The entire text of this book is available on Google Books. Also Ellen Epperson Brown examines various versions of the story in “What Really Happened at Drapers Meadows” The Evolution of a Frontier Legend,” Smithfield Review, vol. 7 (2003): pp. 5-21.
[13] Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 55.
[14] Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p.55.
[15] Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 56.
[16] Harman, Harman Genealogy, p. 50.
[17]Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 222; J. A. Waddell, Waddell's Annals of Augusta County, Virginia from 1726 To 1871, Second ed., (Rockwood, Tenn.: EagleRidge Technologies, 2006), 155. (Original work second ed. published 1902),
[18] F. B. Kegley, Kegley’s Virginia Frontier (Roanoke, Va.: The Southwest Virginia Historical Society, 1938), p. 128. Waddell, Waddell’s Annals of Augusta County, p. 155, shows a different year; he quotes William Preston’s
journal, which lists the date of Valentine Harman’s death as March 1756. A limited text of this source is available on Google Books. 

(c) 2014, Z. T. Noble


  1. My ancestor is Jacob Castle who married a Shawnee woman named Gliding Swan. I am writing a historical novel for my grandchildren and have found your blogs very useful. Linda Sandow

    1. That sounds like an exciting and challenging project, Linda. I'm pleased that you found my blog posts helpful. I've noticed Jacob Castle's name occasionally while researching Adam Harman.