Eight Horsemen Killed in Powell Valley
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
By Emory L. Hamilton
From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch,
Powell and Holston Rivers
Both Waddell, in his "Annals
of Augusta County", page 315, and Dr. Robert Kincaid, in his "Wilderness
Road", page 167, tell generally the same story of this event. Waddell
gives as his authority for the story the "Memoirs" of Mrs.
Jane Allen Trimble, wife of Captain James Trimble, but does not state
where this Memoir can be found.
In 1781 the entire Baptist Church of Spotsylvania
County moved enmass to Kentucky when their Pastor, the Reverend John
Craig decided to go there as a Missionary. After this mass emigration
many such other movements became more frequent. In October 1784, a large
number of families, Allens, Trimbles, Moffets, and others gathered at
Staunton in Grace Valley to prepare for a long journey to Kentucky over
the great and dangerous Wilderness Road, particularly hazardous at this
time since the Cherokees to the south had been harassing traveling parties
along the road in Powell Valley and across Cumberland Gap since 1781.
On the Sunday preceding their trip the
people of Augusta County attended church for a farewell sermon delivered
by this frail, "blind preacher", the Rev. James Waddell who
was Pastor of the United Congregations of Staunton and Tinkling Springs
churches. It is written that the sightless man of God waxed so elegant
in words of blessing and benediction that not a dry eye was to be seen
in the entire assemblage. This scene can easily be imagined as the friends
and relations remaining behind had scant hope of ever seeing the departing
again, even if they survived the Indians, for a return visit was too
far to be attempted except by the most stout hearted.
As the party traveled down the Great Road
toward the western waters they were joined by settlers along the way
who had decided to go along. That this movement was known in advance
by the people of the Clinch and Holston settlements is almost positive
since relations who had left Augusta several years before and settled
on the western frontiers of Washington County joined the emigrants.
Captain James Trimble who became one of
the leaders of the trip had left Augusta long before, being in Botetourt
when that county was formed and was one of the Commissioners to treat
with Augusta County regarding the lines separating the two counties.
Captain Robert Moffet, another who joined
the caravan, and who was a half-brother to Captain James Trimble, had
been living in the present bounds of Tazewell County since 1772, and
Mrs. Samuel Scott and her family also were of this group, and she had
been living on the Clinch in present Scott County since 1772.
By the time the party reached Abingdon
it had increased to 300 persons and was joined at Bean's Station by
another 200, most of whom were from North Carolina. Kincaid writes:
Instead of striking northwest
into the wilderness from the Blockhouse to follow Boone's Road
to Cumberland Gap, the party took a recently opened path through
Carter's Valley on the Holston to the newly established Bean's
Station fifty miles directly west of Long Island. (Now Kingsport,
At Bean's Station, Colonel (James)
Knox took command of the company for the trip through the wilderness.
Colonel Knox selected the armed men who had no family obligations
and divided them into advance and rear guards, each party to
alternate daily in position. He placed the families, women and
children, and the long line of packhorses between these armed
groups. As they could proceed only in single file, the line
extended for nearly two miles along the trail.
Three miles out from Bean's Station
the party came to Clinch mountain. They moved slowly up the
steep sides, and many of the packhorses were unable to make
the ascent. The rear guard discovered signs of Indians and sent
frantic word ahead to Colonel Knox. He dispatched the advance
guard to Clinch River, six miles away, to reconnoiter above
and below the crossing with instructions to wait there until
the arrival of the main company. He ordered the women to advance
slowly, and turned back to bring up the struggling packhorses.
The advance guard headed by Captain
James Trimble reached the river and found it greatly swollen
by recent rains. Realizing that it was impossible to cross at
the usual ford, Captain Trimble took his men to a big band above
the ford and crossed over. Because he believed that Colonel
Knox should be in the advance party of the women, Trimble did
not leave a guard at the main ford. When Mrs. Trimble arrived,
on her horse with little William at her back and baby Allen
in her arms, she saw some of the guards on the other side. She
supposed they had crossed at the place and immediately plunged
into the river with Mrs. William Ervin following her. Captain
Trimble seeing their danger, shouted to them not to attempt
it but his voice was drowned by the rushing water.
The horses of the two women were
soon swimming in the current, and Mrs. Ervin's horse was washed
against a ledge of rocks. With great difficulty the animal struggled
to get a footing and managed to clamber back up the bank. A
huge wallet thrown across her horse in which two Negro children
were carried was washed off in the current. A man coming up
at the time plunged into the stream and managed to save the
children and the boys.
Mrs. Trimble's horse continued
to struggle against the current, with his head turned toward
the opposite shore. Firmly grasping the bridle and mane with
her right hand, clinging to her baby with the left and calling
to William behind her to hold fast, she urged her swimming horse
forward and at last managed to reach the opposite bank. Frightened
and anxious, the men lifted her and the children from the exhausted
horse. She sank to the ground uttering a broken prayer, completely
Because of danger of attack at
Cumberland Gap, Colonel Knox sent Captain Trimble with fifty
men to examine the precipe about the mountain. Another group
of ten men was sent to Cumberland Ford to see if the way was
clear that far. The advance spys, though discovering frequent
signs, reported that apparently no large body of Indians was
ahead of them. Feeling a little easier, Knox led his long caravan
through the pass and down into the canebrakes of Yellow Creek.
Arrived at Crab Orchard, November 1, 1784.
William Trimble, the three year old tot
who had struggled through the water of Clinch River became a distinguished
soldier of the War of 1812, and his younger brother, Allen, became a
future Governor of Ohio.
A party of eight horsemen overtook the
party at Clinch River and proceeded them on the route. Between Clinch
River and Cumberland Gap, the emigrants came upon the remains of the
eight horsemen who had passed on before them. They had been tomahawked,
scalped and stripped by the Indians, and some of the bodies had been
partly devoured by the wolves. General James Knox who had taken command
of the caravan at Bean's Station, with his party stopped long enough
to bury the remains of the unfortunate men.