Oren Frederic Morton.

A history of Rockbridge County, Virginia [electronic resource] online

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Online LibraryOren Frederic MortonA history of Rockbridge County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 1 of 67)
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Author of

'Under the Cottonwoods," "Winning or Losing?" "Land of
the Laurel," "The Story of Daniel Boone," "A Practi-
cal History of Music," "History of Pendleton County
W. Va.," "History of Preston County, VV. Va.,"
"History of Monroe County, W. Va." "His-
tory, of Highland County, Va.," "An-
nals of Bath County, Virginia."

Staunton, Virginia

The McClure Co., Inc.



Copyright, 1920

BjTnt McCn'nt Co., Inc.

All Righn Rricrvrd


Part One : General History


Introduction v

I. The Local Geography 1

II. Scenic Features 6

III. The Ulsteniian and the Pathfinder 12

IV. The Borden Land Grant 21

V. Early Pioneer Days 33

VI. Civil Government : 1737-1852 45

VII. Annals of 1727-1777 54

VIII. Strife with the Red Men 61

IX. Rockbridge County Established 76

X. The Calfpasture 83

XL The War for Independence 92

XII. Middle Period 104

XIII. A Year of Suspense Ill

XIV. The War of 1861 123

XV. Recent Period 136

XVI. The Negro Element HI

XVII. The Town of Lexington 147

XVIII. Buena Vista and Glasgow 153

XIX. Villages, Hamlets, and Summer Resorts 156

XX. Highways, Waterways, and Railways 161

XXI. Industrial Interests 168

XXII. The Churches of Rockbridge 172

XXIII. Temperance Societies and Other Fraternities 180

XXIV. Old Field Schools and Free Schools 183

XXV. Washington and Lee University 188

XXVI. The Virginia Military Institute 199














Section I.














The Ann Smith and Other Academics . 207

The Franklin Society 214

Journalism and Literature 217

Old Militia Days 221

A Rockbridge Hall of Fame . 224

Stonewall Jackson at Lexington 233

Robert L. Lee as a College President 238

I-'amily Sketches and Biographic Paragraphs 244

The MacCorklc Family 278

Rockbridge in the World War 293

Supplementary Items 299

Rockbridge Inventions 307

Part Iwu: Ue.nealoi.ic iMatlkial

Introduction M7

Given Names and Surnames 339

Conveyances in Borden Tract, 1741-1780 H3

Early Patents Outside the Borden Tract 35 1

Secondary Land Conveyances Prior to 1778 355

Tithablcs of 1778 Mj5

Taxpayers of 1 782 370

Taxpayers of 1841 378






. 456

Present Surnames

Militia Officers Prior to 1816

Soldiers of the Revolution

R(»ckbridgc Artillery

Soldiers of the World W'ai

\*arious Lists

Miscellaneous Data 46Q

Appendices 547

Errata ... 568

Supplementary Items 569


^^;N THE summer of 1917 the writer visited Lexington to see if there
was a practical desire for a history of Rockbridge. The encourage-
ment was such as to lead him to undertake writing one, and the pres-
ent volume is the result.

All the magisterial districts were visited. The public records of the county
were attentively examined, as were also the early records of the parent counties,
Orange, Augusta, and Botetourt. The archives in the capitol and the state library
at Richmond were freely consulted, as were likewise various books in public and
private collections. The files of the local newspapers yielded much valuable ma-
terial. The documentary history of Rockbridge is practically continuous, and it
proved necessary to make the utmost possible use of it.

County history is either general or genealogic. It is general, when it deals
with the people of a county as a community. It is genealogic, when it deals with
the same people as made up of families and attempts to trace lines of descent
from the pioneer ancestors.

Either of these two aspects of local history is the complement of the other.
John Dee may be pleased to find that his great grandfather, Adam Dee, came
into the county a hundred and fifty years before the date of his own birth, bought
the John Smith farm, and reared ten children, nearly all of whom married and
from whom have come grandchildren and great grandchildren. But John Dee
should not assume that persons who are neither cousins nor near-cousins will
grow enthusiastic in viewing the intricate branches of the family tree. To
them it is little else than a dry network of names and dates, unless one or more
members of the connection have done something that is a good deal out of the
ordinary. But if we seek to know the times in which Adam Dee and his sons
lived ; to learn how they dressed, labored, and housed themselves, and what was
the environment, physical, civil, and social, in which they were placed: we then
have begun to put flesh and blood into the skeleton of names and dates, and have
created a degree of living interest that is not confined to John Dee and his kins-
folk. An interpretation to them becomes an interpretation to others.

This book is therefore divided into two sections. The one dealing with the
general history of Rockbridge begins with a survey of the geographic and scenic
features of the county, this being necessary to an adequate understanding of the
development of the past two centuries. It then explains whence the pioneer
families came and why they came, and in what manner they established them-
selves in the wilderness. It attempts to trace the civic, social, religious, educa-
tional, and industrial unfolding that has since taken place. It tells of the growili

oi n liU 1 - li i.opulation, and of the steady outflow of people that has been true of
this repion from the start. So far as could conveniently be done, documents have
been allowed to speak for themselves. In a word, litis first portion of the volume
aims to present the Story of Rockbridjjc since the beginning of white settlement
in 17.17. What took place Inrtwccn that date and the war of 1861 is rather un-
familiar to the people who are doing the work of the county to<iay. The sources
of information for that long perio<l are fragmentary and are tedious to consult.
The compiler has therefore given sjK'cial attention to the years that lie iii.iinlv or
wholly beyond the practical recollection of any person now living

Some explanation of the second or gencalogic section of this book may be
found in the introduction to Part Two.

As a subject of local history, the annals of Rockbridge arc of much more
than ordinary interest and value. Tlic presentation of them in book form has
been seriously thought of, at one time or another, by several of the native citi-
zens. The matter was urged upon Captain J. D. Morrison in 1894. In the
same year it was suggested that a club be formed to gather facts concerning the
prominent names in Rockbridge history. But while, with respect to county his-
tories in general, certain things arc obviously in favor of the native historian,
observation shows that he seldom gets down to the task. This is largely because
he sees no end to the material which is constantly coming to light. He may give
one, two, or five years to his task, and all the while be turning up fresh soil.
But unless the undertaking is in every respect a labor of love, there is a limit to
the time and expense which may he given. The historian who is a stranger is
not beset with the antagonisms which are nearly sure to affect the labors of the
native. The very fact that he is a stranger makes it the more easy to be judicial
and to deal with his subject from a broad angle. Xevertheless, he starts in
under a handicap of unfamiliarity with his chosen field. He is very much in need
of a live cooperation on the part of the inhabitants. This cooperation needs to
l>e active and not passive.

During a number of weeks, reading notices relating to liu- i-iiu-rpriM' ap-
jK-ared in the newspapers of Lexington. The compiler hoped thus to come in
touch with many persons who could supplement the data he was gleaning from
the public documentary sources. The res|)onses were few and not all the aid
promised was forlhconiing. Personal calls were made by him whenever they
were asked. If the chapters on biography and family history, as well as certain
tabulations, are here and there deficient, this paragrai)h will afford some ex-
planation. However, our country was at war while this work was being done.
an<l the minds of the people were much engrossed by this circumstance.

If this lK»ok were to be offered at a "reasonable price." it had to be written
within a certain limit of time and printed within a certain limit of cost. It was
therefore necessary to be concise in statement. There was a sharp limit to the
space which couhl \>c devoted to any given topic. The exceptions arc where such
space has been paid for by specially interested individuals.

Several residents of Rockbridge have aided very materially by contributing
oral or written information, donating or loaning books or other published ma-
terial, or extending courtesies in hospitality or travel. Particular acknowledge-
ment is thus due to William A. Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Walter W. Dunlap,
Frank T. Glasgow, Mr. and Mrs. William G. Houston, Mr. Henkle, of Buena
Vista, Mrs. G. A. Jones, Harry O. Locher, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. L. C. Lockridge,
Joseph R. Long, James H. McCown, Emmett W. McCorkle, Daniel W. McNeil,
Mrs. Graham Montgomery, General E. W. Nichols, J. A. Parker, Earle K.
Paxton, J. Sidney Saville, Dr. Henry Louis Smith, Harrington Waddell, and
Hugh J. White. The McCormick portion of the chapter on Rockbridge is from
the pen of Doctor J. H. Latane of Johns Hopkins University. The material for
the sketch of the McCorckle family has been contributed by William A. Mac-
Corkle, ex-governor of West Virginia, and several other members of the McCorkle
connection. Other assistance from without the country has been given by J. J.
Echols, O. C. Ruley, and Kate M. Jordan.

There is further acknowledgement to Boutwell Dunlap, of San Francisco,
who has heretofore furnished the compiler with some data for his histories of
Bath and Monroe. He has opened to him all his manuscript material relating to
Rockbridge. Mr. Dunlap's manuscript collections on the history and genealogy
of the Valley of Virginia and Western Virginia are said to be the largest in
America. His interest in this history of Rockbridge is in remembrance of his
father, William Dunlap, a native of Rockbridge, a respected California pioneer
of 1849, one of the largest landholders of the Sacramento valley, and a member
of one of the most prominent family connections of the Valley of Virginia and
the West. Mr. Boutwell Dunlap's aid has been especially helpful in affording
material for chapters X, XXXL and XXXIV. and Section XIV.

In making most grateful recognition to all the above named persons, the
author does not mean to withhold his thanks from anyone else who has, even
if in a small way. shown an active interest in the preparation of this history. This
book is the first history of Rockbridge that has been written. It represents
eighteen months of hard work. No statement has gone into these pages without a
careful scrutiny. Yet it should be borne in mind that there is no claim for im-
munity from error in statements of fact or in the spelling of proper names. The
man or woman who can write a local history and escape censure is not to be found
on this side of the millenium, even by the "efficiency engineer." Another crafts-
man than the one who does write the book could probably do better in some one re-
spect, or in several. The pertinent question is whether in the long run he could
have done as well. The person who is keen in looking for flaws in a county his-
tory will do well to remember that the reviewers often find glaring misstatements
in works intended to be authoritative ; and that Joseph E. Worcester, the lexi-
cographer, said that no amount of care will render even an unabridged dictionary
exempt from error.

When an omission or inaccuracy is noticed, one reader will at once denounce
the entire book and excoriate tiic author. Another reader will write a correction
on the margin of tlic page. Copies of the book thus annotated arc more valuable
than others, especially to the local historian of the future. And unlike the
generality of books, the county history does not depreciate in financial value. It
commantls a higher price as it grows scarce. The owner of such a book has
made a safe investment, and if he takes jealous care of his purchase posterity
will thank him for doing so.

Oren F. Morton.
Staunton, Virginia, September 28. 1918.




Position and Size — Boundaries — Mountains — Lowlands — Streams — Geology — Soils — Cli-
mate — Plants and Animals — Divisions — Place Names —
NATURt\L Advantages

There is but one Rockbridge County in the United States. The unique name
is due to a great natural curosity within its Hmits.

The position of the county is nearly midway in the longer direction of the
Valley of Virginia. The latitude — mostly to the south of the thirty-eighth par-
allel — is that of the center of Kentucky, the south of Missouri, and the center
of California. In Europe it is that of the south of Spain and the island of Sicily.
In Asia it is that of central Asia Minor and central Japan.

In form, Rockbridge is an irregular rectangle, the longer direction being
nearly northeast and southwest. The length of the county is nearly thirty-two
miles, and the extreme breadth is nearly twenty-six miles. The area is officially
stated as 593 square miles, which is considerably more than is true of the average
county in Virginia.

The curving eastern boundary follows for forty miles the crest of the Blue
Ridge, and is therefore a natural geographic line. The western line begins
on Camp Mountain, and passes to North Mountain, then to Mill Mountain,
and finally to Sideling Hill. The short lines by which the boundary crosses
from one to another of these elevations are determined by valley-divides, so
that the western boundary may likewise be regarded as natural. But the northern
and southern boundaries of the county are straight lines, entirely artificial, and
they set it off as a cross-section of the Valley of Virginia.

The Blue Ridge is not a single well-defined mountain range. Looking from
the high ground along the Valley Railroad, there is seen in the east a succession
of bold elevations. The nearest are heavy foothill ridges. Beyond are the
higher fragments of interior ridges, marked ofT from one another by depressions
more or less deep. These intermediate heights afford only occasional glimpses
of the central range. Consequently, the general appearance of the mountain wall
is that of a labyrinth of long and short elevations occupying a considerable
breadth of country. But on the western side of Rockbridge, the ranges are
single and well-defined, and present sky-lines that are fairly regular. For several
miles east of the axis of North Mountain, much of the surface is occupied by


short parallel ridges of much the same character as North Mountain itself.
Some of these are the House mountains. Camp Mountain, Green Mountain, Little
North Mountain, the Jump, and the Loop. The most eastern is the uplift known
as the Short Hills. These break down rather abruptly near the course of
BufTalo Creek, but Ix-yond they reappear under the name of the Brushy Hills.

The space between the two mountain systems may be termed the Central
Lowland. It runs the entire length of the county. On the east it is bordered
by the bottoms along South and North rivers, and by Sailing's Mountain, which
is an outlier of the Blue Ridge, though lying to the west of the James. In the
north the breadth of this lowland is more than ten miles. At the south it is
scarcely half as much. It is by far the most populous area in Rockbridge.

In general the contour of the county is mountainous. The Blue Ricigc
section is interrupted only by such narrow depressions as Arnold's N'alley and
the valleys of Irish Creek and the Little Mary. The surface of the Central
Lowland is heavily rolling. Between drainage basins it rises into divides of
considerable altitude. Westward is the mountainous belt already mentioned.
It includes a number of well populated creek valleys. In the extreme northwest
is a section of the Iwsin known as the Pastures. Southward it is prolonged into
the wilderness drained by Bratton's Run.

The highest point in the Rockbridge section of the Blue Ridge appears to
be Bluff Mountain with an altitude of 3250 feet. The northern point of the
Short Hills has a height of 2565 feet. Adcock's Knob in North Mountain
has a height of 3325 feet, and the Jump of 3190. Big House and Little House
mountains are respectively 3612 and 3410 feet high, and seem to be the most
elevated ground in the county.

The entire area of Rockbridge lies in the basin of tlic James. This river
courses ten miles through the southeast of the county. North River, which
joins it inmiediately above Balcony I'alls, flows not less than fifty miles within
the confines of R<Kkbridgc and drains seven-eights of its area. It rises in
Shenandoah Mountain, and as the Great Calfpasture it flows southwardly to
Goshen Pass, just alx)vc which it is joined by the Little Calfpasture, also running
in the same direction. A little farther alwve are the mouths of Mill Creek and
Bratton's Run. A mile Ik-Iow Goshen the river l)egins to flow scjuarely toward
the Blue Ridge, and below its junction with the Little Calfpasture it l»ecomes
known as North River. After passing into the limestone region of the Central
lowland, its course, which is now a succession of large loops, is first south-
ward, then southea'Hward, and finally southward again. The largest tributary is
Bufl'alo Creek, which is itself entitled to l)e called a river. It rises near the
southwest corner of R.c<kbri<lge, and has a broad, rapid course of ab(}Ut twenty-
five miles. Hays Creek, the next largest affluent, rises in Augusta, and alravc


New Providence is known as Moffett's Creek. Its largest tributary is Walker's
Creek, which also rises in Augusta. South River, which hugs the foothills of
the Blue Ridge and consequently pursues the same general direction, likewise
has its source in Augusta. Irish Creek and the Little Mary, both heading in
the Blue Ridge, are its only important tributaries. Kerr's Creek parallels the
Buffalo, but has a much shorter course. Still smaller affluents of North River
are Whistle Creek, Mill Creek, Back Creek, Woods Creek, Borden's Run, and
Poague's Run. Below the mouth of North River are Arnold's and Cedar
creeks, flowing directly into the main stream.

Small watercourses are rather many in Rockbridge, and even the Central
Lowland is better supplied with running water than are some other limestone
districts. And because its streams are geologically old, Rockbridge is without
lakes or ponds.

The geological structure of Rockbridge is very ancient, although its rocks
are not among the very oldest of the stratified formations. The age of the rocks
renders it quite useless to expect to find coal, oil, or natural gas, although by
the same token we do find the mountains well stored with that most necessary
metal, iron. Other metallic and mineral riches are manganese, marble, kaolin,
limestone, fireclay, gypsum, barytes, and even tin, a metal with which the United
States is sparingly endowed.

The Central Lowland is preeminently the agricultural district of Rockbridge,
and here the soil is a heavy loam, intermediate in color between the light and the
dark shades, and resting on limestone strata. The rock formation is generally
tilted to a considerable angle, and crops out in ledges or in rocky slopes, and an
occasional sinkhole manifests its presence. The bottoms along the rivers and the
larger creeks are variable in width, and have a soil which is dark in color and
somewhat sandy in texture. Much more stony than other soils and the least
desirable for general farming are those of the mountain slopes. No large inroad
has been made into these, except where they merge into bench or bottom lands.

The climate of Lexington is a fair average for that of the county in general.
The mean annual temperature of the county seat is fifty-four degrees, which is
slightly below that of the city of Washington, the effect of a more southern
latitude being more than offset by the very much greater altitude. With respect
to the seasons, the mean temperatures are 34.5 in winter, 53.8 in spring, 72.2
in summer, and 55.4 in fall. The coldest month is February, with a mean of
33.5 ; the hottest is July, with a mean of Th7. But during a period of twelve
years, the mean of the coldest month varied from 26.4 degrees to 40.8, and
that of the hottest month from 63.9 to 78. In the average year, the range of
the thermometer is from a minimum of L5 degrees to a maximum of 96. But
temperatures of 101 degrees above zero and sixteen below have been observed.


The yearly rainfall of forty inches is well distributed among the seasons, yet
is heaviest in summer and lightest in the fall. June is ordinarily the wettest
month and November the driest. The average period between killing frosts
is from April 24th to October 15th.

Two inches of sleet in December. 1907, caused a rare beauty of "icc-
scaj)*." A hailstorm on Colliers's Creek, June 8, 1909. completely destroyed all
criiph in its path and even killed fish in the stream. In the mountain hdUovvs
the huge pellets did not entirely disappear for several days.

But there arc wide variations in the climate of Rockbridge. Frost has
been known in every month except July, although one fall was so mild as to be
without a killing frost till the end of November. In the winter of 1855-56,
there was sleighing for six weeks, and the ice in the North River canal inter-
rupted navigation for two months. Two years later, there was no ice in the
canal worth mention until March 5th. Snow fell to a depth of eighteen inches.
October 24. 1854. There was a heavy fall May 20. 1857, and it lay several days
on the Blue Ridge. In the spring of 1859, trees were nearly in full leaf April
23, more than three weeks in advance of the usual time. Fires and warm
clothing were needed during the third week of August, 1866. Rain fell to the
depth of four and two-third inches. September 22, 1907, and in the Kerr's Creek
valley the precipitation for the month was 15.9 inches. High winds are not
unknown. Floods arc sometimes very serious, as in 1870, 1877, and 1913. There
is no proof of any material change in climate since the Rockhridjje area* iK-canie
known to white people. There was a severe drouth in 1758, and another about
1751, the earlier one causing a local famine.

Since the surface is divcrsitied, the drainage nearly perfect, and the average
altitude nut far short of 1500 feet, the air is bracing and health conditions are
naturally very good. The annals of the county disclose many instances of long-
evity. Tlie ailments of most freijuent occurrence appear to be those of the re-
spiratory organs. Typhoid fever, a disease due to defective sanitation, has
several times seriously interrupted the schools of Lexington. Smallpox has Ix-en
an occasional visitor.

The soils of Rockbridge take kindly to a covering of grass, so that the
county is well adapted to grazing as well as to the general farm crops. But
where nature has her way. she everywhere covers the hills and valleys with
a diversified forest growth. The prevailing wo<hI is oak, chestnut, elm, hickory,
walnut, pci|)Iar, sycamore, an<l other deciduous trees. Pine occurs in some
localities and cedar is still more conunon. Among the numerous shrubs is the
mountain laurel in the high, shaded hollows. The wild fruits include the black-

*B)' "RockbrirlKC area" i« inranl tlir K''<>Rra|ihic »|>acr within the present Hinit* of the
county, and at though such hniii^ li:>vr rMisinl fur an indchnite time.


berry, the common and the mountain raspberries, strawberries, huckleberries,
mulberries, and pawpaws.

The animal life is of the kinds found in the Valley of Virginia. The buffalo
and the elk disappeared soon after white settlement began. The puma and
the wolf held their ground much longer, but are now extinct. The mountains
shelter an occasional black bear and a few deer. Such predatory pests as wild-

Online LibraryOren Frederic MortonA history of Rockbridge County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 1 of 67)