Introduction Finns English Germans Scots-Irish African-Americans
Native-Americans Warfare Warrior Society Religion Housing Clothing


Late in the seventeenth century Mennonites, Amish, and German Brethren arrived in Pennsylvania attired in somber colors with no ruffles and few buttons or buckles. They were as plain as Quakers; and like orthodox Quakers they refused to swear oaths, preferring instead to make affirmation. What marked them as different was their communalism and aloofness. In Europe their refusal to abide by any laws other than the teachings of the New Testament provoked hostility from civil and ecclesiastical authority, but won the admiration of William Penn, and a place in his "holy experiment" on the Delaware.

The inner light of the Friends dimmed, however, when it became clear the newcomers didn't intend to blend in. Their reluctance to learn English stirred xenophobia even in so-called enlightened men like Franklin. Few English differentiated between Swiss, Palatines, or Alsatians. To unsophisticated Britons anyone unable to speak English or who spoke it with non-British accents was immediately labeled "Deutsch" or plain "Dutch." Such bigotry only confirmed these immigrants' belief that all earthly government was illegitimate, and turned their eyes to the frontier where woods-faring Finns and Swedes tended hills of Indian corn among the stumps around their log homes, and shot their half-wild hogs like game in the woods.
Pictured at the top is a jaeger rifle made by Andreas Staarman in late seventeenth century Berlin. It has a 26 inch barrel and .75 caliber bore. Next is a New World hybrid owned by Pennsylvanian Edward Marshall in 1737. Like the jaeger, it has a patch box with a sliding wooden cover. At the bottom is an early example of a fully evolved American long rifle. It's 44.5 inch barrel made it more accurate, and its .44 caliber bore made it more efficient in its use of lead and powder, than the heavy jaeger.

In 1710 the Swiss came to Pequea Creek in present Lancaster County. Like Finns and Swedes, these Swiss were woods-faring people with their own Alpine log cabin tradition; but more significant, their rifled guns fired a spinning projectile that pierced the wind with a minimum of drift. The prodigious range of these jaeger rifles made it possible even for inept woodsmen to survive upon game until corn was ready for gathering. Nevertheless, in a country where powder and lead were precious, German-Swiss gunsmiths in the 1720s transformed the heavy, old-world jaeger into a slender American weapon with a longer barrel to improve accuracy, and a smaller bore to conserve lead and powder, enabling Germans to stay for longer stretches in the woods. Aided by rifled firelocks, settlers who once were content to move only a short distance from the nearest market town now crossed hundreds of miles of wilderness before cutting cabin logs.

In 1717 large numbers of Lutherans began arriving from the Rhineland Palatinate. Many peasants signed away their freedom to speculators who sold them as bond slaves in return for passage to the new world. Even middle class immigrants were gouged by captains who sold them ships' stores at ungodly mark-ups. If these middle class passengers went into debt before reaching port the captains sold them along with the peasants on the dock in Philadelphia to collect what they were owed.

Other Palatines entered Pennsylvania through the back door. In 1723 thirty-three families—refugees from religious wars in Europe—marched south from their homes on Schoharie Creek in upstate New York. They stopped on the Susquehanna River to make rafts and canoes for the convenience of the women, and drove their livestock deep into Pennsylvania, avoiding the Irish settlements of Donegal Township by turning east up Tulpehocken Creek to settle among fellow Germans. John Leonhardt Holsteiner entered Pennsylvania in 1728 via the northern route. His son Michael later drifted south to Clinch River in Virginia where, as Michael Stoner, he began a lifelong friendship with Daniel Boone.

The way south for Germans was pioneered by Adam Mueller who in 1727 became the first European to make a permanent home on the Shenandoah River. He and his wife Barbara Koger Mueller had emigrated from Shreischeim in Baden, settling first in Lancaster County, Pa., and a few years later on the South Fork of the Shenandoah within the bounds of a grant later determined to belong to Thomas Lord Fairfax. In 1741 Mueller moved from his first home near present Luray to Elk Run at the foot of Massanutten Mountain. In 1764 he had a "new house a-building" on the same 820 acre tract a mile north of present Elkton. It was "to have a garden, two cows and a horse." Mueller's son-in-law Jacob Baer moved into his old place and seems to have become his tenant, agreeing to pay "during Adam's life yearly 25 bushels of wheat ground, 10 bushels of barley, 33 gallons of whiskey, 400 weight of meat, 1/2 of pork and 1/2 of beef; [and] 1/3 of [the] orchard or profits of it."

Adam was alone on the South Fork for two years when the Swiss came in 1729; and although these eight Mennonite families didn't know it, they were pawns in a scheme by Jacob Stover to found an independent colony on "the Backside of Virginia," projected as a two hundred-mile-wide strip of territory from the Blue Ridge to the Mississippi. He sold the Swiss five thousand acres for "Upwards of four hundred pounds" without telling them it wasn't his yet; and in 1730, with his entry for a grant of five thousand acres pending before the Virginia Council, sailed to England to beg approval for his plan from the Lords of Trade and Plantations.

Stover told them what they already knew. The west was becoming the domain of "French Traders from Canada," and the British "had not yet been able to extend ... Settlements beyond the great Ridge of Mountains." They were prevented, he said, by "the difficulty of the Passage and the apprehensions of being so farr seperated from Virginia." But Stover was a twenty year resident of Pennsylvania's backwoods who had "passed these Mountains ... without company or seeing any Indian" for three months while he explored to the Alleghenies. He and men like Abraham Strickler, a Pennsylvania Mennonite who bought South Fork land in 1735, and whose property, when he died in 1746, included "25 deer skins" and the rifle he used to kill the deer, would do what tidewater Virginians had failed to do: settle beyond the mountains at no "Charge to the Government, [and] notwithstanding the great difficulties that attend it ... And for Security against the Indians, wee will purchase land and friendship of them ... whereby they will not only be peaceable Neighbours but assist us against any distant Indians that may be induced to disturb us in our Settlement."
Sketch of a house built in 1758 by Jacob (son of Abraham) Strickler in Egypt bend of the South Fork of Shenandoah. Houses of this type may have been forts and were sometimes built over a spring; however, the narrow openings in the stone foundation are not rifle ports, but vents allowing air to circulate in the cellar.
An old world heating oven (above) from the German exhibit at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia. Below is the opening from the kitchen through which the fire box was fueled with live coals.

Stover enlisted the aid of Sir William Keith, one-time Governor of Pennsylvania who was known and respected by both Pennsylvania Germans and Indians. He agreed the land should be given to Stover, who was "of a low degree in life," and therefore likely to offer potential settlers "easier Terms than ... Persons of overgrown Estates." This fact didn't help the cause of William Beverly, a Northern Neck planter vying with Stover for the "old field, called ... Massanutting Town." In April of 1732 Beverly wrote to Gooch, "I am persuaded that I can get a number of people from Pensilvania to settle on Shenondore ... for ye northern men are fond of buying land there and they don't care to go as far as [Williamsburg]."

Stover didn't get approval for a colony. Instead, the governor gave him two grants of five thousand acres each on the South Fork if he promised to import one settler per fifty acres. He forthwith supplied two lists of one hundred bogus names; but there was no land rush. In 1733 there were only "fifty one people old & young" divided among the original nine families strung along the river. A story circulated that Stover was so desperate to comply with the terms of his patent he gave "human names to every horse, cow, hog and dog he owned ... which he represented as heads of families, ready to migrate and settle ..."

The two-legged settlers of "Massanutting," worried that William Beverly would prevail in a law suit against Stover, and worried that Stover "being very poor [was] Daily Expected to Run away," petitioned the governor to consider their plight. They explained how they had sold "all their lands ... in the County of Lancaster & Province of Pensylvania ... & have Run the hazard of their lives ... in removing ... to the sd: land, being above two hundred miles & at a time when there was very few Inhabitants in them parts of Shenando, & they frequently visited by the Indians."

But Stover didn't run away. He continued to sell land, including fifteen hundred acres to George Boone—a kinsman of Daniel's—whose name survives in Boone's Run that flows into the South Fork below Elkton. Stover died at home on the South Fork in 1741.

By 1733 the original settlers had "cleared sev'l Plantations" and raised houses like the ones they had built in Pennsylvania. Log construction was easier for the Swiss who brought knowledge corner notching from the old country. Palatines like Adam Mueller had to acquire skill in notching from the Swiss, or from Scandinavians and those they influenced. Both the Swiss and Germans, however, used one basic building plan imported from Europe. In the new world it took the form of a rectangular pen of hewed and notched logs built over a stone cellar. A stone chimney rose through the roof near its center, separating the house into a "kuche" (kitchen) with a wide fireplace on one side of a partition wall, and on the other side a larger room called a "stube" or "stove room" where the family ate and slept. Next to the stube there might be a small sleeping chamber "called a Kammer by the Germans, and a Stibli by the Swiss." The entrance to the house was through a side door in the kitchen, and in the attic above the ceiling joists might be "garners for holding grain."

In Europe the wealthy heated the stube with an enclosed oven made of heat conducting tiles that never became popular in the new world; and since iron stoves didn't even begin to catch on until late in the 1720s, settlers on the South Fork in the 1730s and '40s likely relied on small fireplaces that opened into the stube, or rarely the peasant's alternative of a dried clay enclosure connected to the kitchen fireplace where live coals were shoveled through an opening in back of the hearth. Only with increasing wealth and a nearby ironworks on Cedar Creek in 1760 did iron stoves become an option.

During the French War some of the "Massanutting" settlers reared two story "fort" houses, roughly square and larger in area than ordinary houses. These may not have been actual forts, but it's an odd coincidence that none were built before the Indian wars. Adam Mueller built his two story, four room log house in September of 1764, perhaps in response to an attack on the family of John Rhodes on the South Fork in the same year.

In the fall of 1731 German immigrant Hans Jost Heydt joined the trickle of Pennsylvanians into the Valley. He was forty-seven and the owner of a mill on Perkiomen Creek near present Schwenksville, Pa. where he lived in a stone house. Nevertheless, after twenty-two years in America he sold his land for half its worth, and with his wife, his sons, his sons-in-law, their families, and his slaves, stowed his movable property into the long, ship-like beds, and under the canvas-tops of wagons called Conestogas because traders used them to haul goods to Conestoga Creek for the Indian trade, and started for country south of the Potomac. Drivers mounted on the wheel horses guided their land craft around stumps and over the rocks and wind-fallen timber that littered the road through the forest. Everyone else either rode their own mounts or helped with the livestock.
Conestoga wagon
Pennsylvania Germans developed the Conestoga wagon for hauling freight. It got its name in the first quarter of the eighteenth century when traders used these wagons to haul goods to Conestoga Creek for the Indian trade.

They were bound for land northwest of Massanutten Mountain originally granted to brothers John and Isaac Van Meter, Hollanders who had come to the Delaware from the Hudson Valley. Isaac Van Meter of Salem County in southern Jersey sold Heydt ten thousand acres in 1730, keeping only a small section for himself on the South Branch of the Potomac where he settled about 1740. His brother John Van Meter from Monocacy Creek in Maryland sold Heydt his thirty thousand acres before moving over the Blue Ridge to Rockymarsh Run near present Shepherdstown, W. Va. But Hite wasn't finished. In partnership with Robert McKay, a Quaker who lived near the Maryland border in East Nottingham Township, Hite persuaded Virginia's governor to add one hundred thousand acres to the original grants.

The promise John Van Meter made Governor Gooch, to plant "on the west side of the Great Mountains" the standard one family per thousand acres within two years, would now have to be kept by Heydt and McKay. It mattered little to Virginia's governor, or to Heydt (whom the British called Joist Hite), if the land overlapped another grant to Thomas Lord Fairfax; details could be worked out later. Gooch was happy because there would be a few more bodies between the tidewater and the French, and Hite because he got one thousand acres for every homestead he sold. He would pass along the cost of surveys and patents in the three pounds per hundred acres he charged the home-seekers.

McKay and his settlers joined Hite somewhere along the path through southeastern Pennsylvania on a journey much more difficult than the one Moravian Leonhardt Grubb described in 1753 when the road from Bethlehem to the to the Virginia Valley was dotted with taverns and smithies. East of the Susquehanna Grubb had a blacksmith narrow his wagon three inches from hub to hub. Still, it wasn't narrow enough to prevent a dead tree from falling "between the horses on the wagon tongue, [knocking off] a piece of a [horse] collar," but missing the brother "who rode on the horses." West of Harris' Ferry the Moravians met travelers whose wagon had been broken fording the shallow Susquehanna. It was necessary sometimes to help the horses by pushing. And "it took much work to ascend the [South bank of the Potomac]," after which "the way [became] very stony."

According to Samuel Kercheval the caravan of sixteen families forded the Potomac "about two miles above Harpers-Ferry"—a few of them driving wagons, most leading packhorses. Hite stopped on Opequon Creek on the east side the Great Road, five miles south of present day Winchester, with all of his sons-in-law close by: Jacob Chrisman at the head spring of Stephen's Creek, Paul Frohman eight miles up Cedar creek at the foot of Little North Mountain, and George Bowman just north of Strasburg where the Bowmans later earned a reputation for breeding and riding splendid horses. But there was no Strasburg in 1732, and no Winchester, no settlement closer than two hundred miles where they could buy "Provisions" and "Necessaries."
Without a tradition of building with logs Germans adopted full dovetail notching (above) from Finns and Swedes. They favored this style over the less intricate v-notch used on the 1820s addition (below).
A double pen house built on Linville Creek, the older section by John Bowman (no relation to Jost Hite's son-in-law) in 1772. It was augmented in the 1820s with a British-style log structure, and the open passage that divided the new from the old section was covered with boards to create a central hall.

They slept in their wagons and built cabins against "the Inclemency of the weather." In the spring they turned rifles on the bear, deer, elk, and bison that thundered through the grass from Buffalo Lick Run to the pea-vine and timber on Hunting Ridge. They declared war on wolves and panthers that preyed on wild and tame herds, and used game trails as roads, blazing new ones to the springs and salt licks. "Niswanger's Hunting Path" was named for Christian Niswanger, whose widow Hite married in 1741, two years after his wife Anna Maria died.

Their cabins were no better than those of the Irish. But unlike the Irish, Germans planned for permanence, and before enlarging their dwellings built sturdy barns. A man might go years with "a fine large barn," and in his cabin have nothing but earth under his feet, and over his head boards on log purlins held down with weight-poles and cross pieces called "knees" to keep them from sliding off, and perhaps a central smoke hole. But for his trouble he had ample fodder and well housed livestock. Human comfort could be planned for by leaving sill logs wide enough in the cabin to one day lay beams for a floor of thick puncheons.

It isn't likely Hite—who had slaves—lived in a cabin for very long. In 1738 he opened a grist mill that meant relief to settlers who pounded corn with log pestles in hollow stumps, or ground it between the bed and runner stones of hand mills. When Moravian Leonhard Schnell stopped at Hite's in 1743 to enquire the best way to Carolina, he described his host as "a German innkeeper ... a rich man, well known in this region."

The stone house he built, perhaps as early as the 1730s, was still standing one hundred years later when Samuel Kercheval noted its "very ancient appearance." It has crumbled since, but in its day the stones communicated a message to status conscious Germans. As in seventeenth century Switzerland, "stone construction—by virtue of its expense—was a symbol of the Herrschaft, the ruling class. It was a stone house in which the Fronvogt lived. He collected the feudal tithes for the nobility or for the patricians. His house was a symbol of law and order in a village environment that was largely log and thatch."

Shortly prior to 1748 Hite transferred the land on Opequon to his eldest son John, and moved with his wife to Cedar Creek, a mile east of George Bowman's log house. In 1753 Hite's son built a stone house to dwarf his father's on the Opequon tract. According to Samuel Kercheval "it was considered by far the finest dwelling house west of the Blue Ridge," although much plainer without the neo-classical conceits inflicted on it in the mid-nineteenth century, or the renovations it has undergone since.
Stockaded during the French War, Bowman's fort was a rallying point for the neighborhood of Funk's Mill (now Strasburg).

But John Hite was not the first to try and out-do the family patriarch. In 1751 all Hite's sons-in-law, George Bowman, Jacob Chrisman, Paul Frohman, and a few others built their own modest stone structures. And although ordinary settlers may have scoffed at Dutchmen who made out they were great folk in their fancy houses, these stone fortresses, stockaded with split timbers, were often the difference between life and death to cabin-dwelling neighbors in the French War.

"Mrs. Rebecca Brinker, the daughter of George Bowman" told Samuel Kercheval she "recollected when sixteen families took shelter in her father's house." She also remembered George Miller's daughter coming to Bowman's in 1764 with news that eight Indians had murdered the rest of her family while they spread flax to dry in the sun two miles north of Funk's mill (Strasburg). Rebecca's younger brother Abraham took down his rifle and rode over to Miller's where he found Thomas Newell examining the bloody corpses of Mr. and Mrs. Miller and their two children. When enough men had gathered they trailed the Indians to South Branch Mountain. They killed one in camp. The others escaped. But they liberated Rachel Dellinger whose husband was dead, and whose baby's brains were stuck to a tree on Sandy Ridge west of Capon River. Mrs. Dellinger informed her rescuers the Indians were led by a white man, Abraham Mitchell, a notorious outlaw. A year earlier George Miller and John Dellinger tied Mitchell to a tree and laced his jacket good for robbing houses while the people forted at Bowman's. The raid was Mitchell's pay-back.

In the years before the French war Germans continued to be pulled into the Valley in Stover's and Hite's wake. And while many came to settle the original grants on Shenandoah, others leapfrogged the settlements altogether. In 1740 John Peter Salling—seven years after docking at Philadelphia aboard the Pennsylvania Merchant—took his wife Anna Maria, his daughters Catherine and Mary Elizabeth, and his son George Adam from their home on Conestoga Creek in Pennsylvania to live in the wilderness of the upper James "close under the Blue Ridge" near present Glasgow, Va. In March of 1742 John Howard, an Irishman from the lower valley, approached Salling and his neighbors Charles Sinclair and John Poteet with an offer of ten thousand acres apiece—the same amount the government offered him—if they would go on an expedition "as far as the River Mississippi." All three men, without hesitation, left families to join Howard and his son as they set out over Natural Bridge on a journey so incredible it would have to be dismissed as fiction if not documented by independent sources. Natural Bridge

They followed the Pennsylvania Road, fording James River at the mouth Looney's Creek, and probably paused to hunt at the Great Lick on Buffalo (now Tinker) Creek—only a few of the hunters Thomas Walker blamed for wasting game, killing "Buffaloes for diversion, and the Elks and Deer for their skins." When they reached New River near Radford they killed five buffalo, stretched the hides over a wooden frame for a boat, and descended the river until rapids bucked them off. They crossed to an eastern fork of the gentler Coal River, made another boat at the forks, and descended the Kanawha and Ohio, gliding past fifteen-foot-thick sycamores, wading through knee-deep clover, and perhaps marveling at the ribs, vertebrae, and tusks of mastodons at Big Bone Lick. As they approached New Orleans "a Company of ... French men Negroes, & Indians" captured them as spies.

After two years in a New Orleans dungeon, Salling, Sinclair, and Poteet escaped with the aid of a fellow prisoner, a Frenchman, and sought refuge among the Choctaw people who shielded them for two months. Joined by another Frenchman and "a Negro boy," they skirted the Gulf in a pirogue and struck north from the Florida panhandle through the Creek Nation. The Frenchmen decided to remain with the Creeks; but the Americans continued to Fort Augusta on the Savannah River, then to Charleston where they boarded a vessel for Virginia. A French privateer captured the ship and set the hunters and crew adrift in a small boat in which they returned to Charleston. Now "destitute," save for "a Gun and Sword" apiece—gifts from an English privateer—Salling and his companions traveled by land to the cabin at the foot of the Blue Ridge where they had begun their journey three years earlier.

Not long after Salling's epic journey Germans crossed the Alleghenies to settle beside streams that flowed west. In the fall of 1745 brothers Israel and Samuel Eckerling, and Alexander Mack, Jr., led a band of religious pietists from Ephrata, Pa. to the cabin of Wilhelm Mack (Alexander's kinsman) west of New River. They were a splinter group of the Seventh Day Baptists, commonly known as Dunkards, whose practice was to segregate themselves into male and female cloisters and a separate society of couples who weren't yet ready for the joys of abstinence. Since shaving was considered a sin the men cut a striking figure with long beards and flowing robes designed to conceal the body. Most shocking, however, was the Dunkards' candid admission that everything they believed true today might be revealed as false tomorrow. They were ruled not by doctrine but by the spirit, and spoke not from texts but inspiration.

Others were drawn to the limits of settlement not only to escape ridicule of their language and beliefs, but because the Germans' invention and use of the Pennsylvania long rifle made them superlative hunters, and made the trade in deer skins a path to prosperity for any willing to follow the retreating game. The Ephrata Register expressed grave concern for the Eckerlings' spiritual health among their neighbors on New River, "raggamuffins, the dregs of human society, who spend their time in murdering wild beasts." The animistic Dunkards of Ephrata must have shuddered when Gabriel Eckerling—who joined his brothers on New River during the winter—showed up in Lancaster County with heavy bales of deerskin slung from the saddles of pack horses, thereby compounding the sin of animal murder with the sin of animal slavery. In 1749 Dr. Thomas Walker found these Dunkards living west of New River in their settlement Mahanaim, feasting—contrary to their vegetarian habits—on venison and turkey.

One of the Eckerlings' neighbors was Jacob Castle who came to New River from the South Fork of Shenandoah where he lived at the mouth of Hawksbill Creek on land he bought in 1740 from Jacob Stover. In 1749 he, Philip Cable, and John Lamme "announced that they were going to the French Dominions on Mississippi"—probably to hunt and explore like John Salling. But on February 17 Augusta county authorities attached the "estate" of these men to prevent their "desertion" and potential harm to England's imperial interests. The county record doesn't mention what estate was seized or who seized it. Castle couldn't have owned anything more valuable than the dressed deer skins he got from hunting with the Indians.

A few months later, however, Castle ran afoul of his neighbor Heinrich Adam Herman, who had moved from Philadelphia (later Berks) County Pennsylvania to the North Fork Shenandoah near present Strasburg, and to New River where Tom's Creek enters the big horseshoe. Tension between the two started, according to Henry Lenard, "About the last week in April 1749" when "seven indiens [came to Herman's house] and Did Rob the sd house of nine Deer Skins & one Elk Skin—the next Day Came Six indiens & Did Rob the sd house of fourteen Deer Skins & one Elk Skin—, and the next Day following there came a number of indiens to the sd: house and Did Rob, or take out of it seventy three Deer Skins & six Elk Skins & twenty seven Pounds of Leather and Two Buck Skins in Parchment." Castle's preference for consorting with Indians made him a convenient suspect.

Local tradition has the thefts beginning after Castle "went to what is now Russell county, to hunt with a party of friendly Indians." According to historian George Bickley they "made frequent visits to the settlement" to steal horses and "such other stock as they could get hold of." When the thieves visited Herman's house on three consecutive days Adam "applied to a Mr. Buchanan, a justice of Augusta, for a writ to arrest Castle." In this version of the story Herman, armed with a warrant, led a posse to Castle's hunting camp (now Castlewood), but Castle's Indian allies drove the posse back across Clinch River.

On April 22, 1749 George Robins issued a warrant against Adam and his brother Valentine for "violent robbery of the goods of Jacob Castlean." We know the brothers were incarcerated because jailer John Cunningham presented the court with an account for keeping, among others, Adam and Valentine Herman. There is no mention of the disposition of the case except that Adam was out of jail on May 17, charging Castle with "threatening to goe over to and be aiding and assisting to the French against his Majesty's forces." Justices John Buchanan and George Robinson ordered the sheriff to "take the said Castle into custody." This time Castle was arrested, tried, and acquitted. A prosecutor could not convince a jury of the truth of Herman's charges, and it is most likely that Herman had gone to Castle's camp to take back the loot with no more evidence than whispers about Castle's character.

In the years following, the Hermans took up large tracts of land east and west of the river but lost much of it because they were too preoccupied with hunting to make improvements required to secure patents. In 1752 Valentine slashed rings through the bark of trees to mark a claim on Sinking Creek, and in 1754 contracted with George Hoopaugh, a Dunkard "who lived on Valentine's charity," to work the land as a tenant. But Indians spooked the longbeard, burning his corn, killing his best dogs and "three Creatures" Jacob Herman had pastured in his field. Hoopaugh bolted, leaving "his winter Crop in the Ground." And on May 7, 1754 sixty "Norward Indians" burned his stable, house, and fifteen bushels of wheat he had stored in the loft German-fashion.

In November of 1755 Adam Herman and two of his sons went to hunt and gather corn at another "tomahawk improvement" when they stumbled across what seemed like a ghost but was in fact an escaped captive, Mary Ingles in the flesh, or what was left of it after she had tramped more than eight hundred miles from Big Bone Lick on the Ohio, living mostly on "black walnuts, grapes, pappaws [and] roots." Underbrush had torn off most of her clothes, and briars had lacerated her flesh. Hermann took her up river to his cabin and fed her a few mouthfuls of bear meat and venison. Next day he killed "a fine, little fat beef ... to make beef soup for her," cleaned the cuts on her legs and bathed her frost bitten feet. When she was strong enough he brought her on horseback to a fort at Dunkard Bottom.

In March of 1756 Indians killed Valentine and Jacob Herman, and captured Adam Herman's son Daniel who later escaped. The war had grown so hot by 1757 that some of the Hermans beat it to safety over the mountains. Adam's son, Henry, with his young family, showed up on the doorstep of the Moravians of Bethabara (Winston-Salem, N. C.) where the Hermans marketed their deer skins. They had been on good terms with the Moravians since 1749 when Jacob Herman told Bernhardt Schnell his grandfather "was by birth a Moravian, who had been driven from his country because of his religion."

Adam must have settled temporarily in the foothills east of the Blue Ridge, because in August of 1758 he and Daniel Herman piloted a company of scouts from Mayo Fort in Henry County to New River where they happened on five allied Cherokee warriors leading stolen horses and carrying what were probably French scalps. But the mere possibility the scalps had belonged to settlers was an excuse for violence that Captain Wade would not let pass. He sent a detail of twelve, including the Hermans, to trail and kill the Indians. The other men would wait at "the Dunker fort."

The killers got their chance in a peach orchard where, according to John Echols, we "fired at [the Indians] & followed them up 'till we Kiled 4 of them, and wounded the other—We skelpt them that we Kiled." They followed the blood of the wounded man to the river and hunted for him on an island, "But we could not find where he went out." When the parties hooked up at the Dunkard Fort they swore never to tell that the Indians were Cherokees, and quickly packed their plunder for the return east, "for Signs of Indians was plenty & we had but little ammunition."

In 1763 a rumor that New River would be returned to the Cherokee sent Adam briefly to North Carolina. But we know he was back in Virginia on August 22, 1763 when a "man from New River" arrived at Bethabara with "a wound received from an Indian [and] a letter from ... the elder Herrman which said that since the last alarm they had seen no more of the Wild Men [and] had built a fort, where they and several other families were living together." In July 1763 Peter Herrman "reported [to the Moravians] that he had been in a fight with Indians at [Draper's] Meadow, and had shot one, whose tomahawk, etc. he had with him."

As soon as the war was over most of the Hermans cleared out to hunt in "the Shawano country." In 1765 two of the Hermans brought "about 80 lbs. of deer-skins to" the Moravians' store at Bethabara, but said they had seen "nothing of the Indians." Next year Adam and his sons went back to the wilderness, and this time "were visited by Shawanoes, and also by a party of forty Mohawk warriors ... on their way to fight the Cherokees and Catawbas, [but] all were friendly to the Hermanns." This must have been Adam's last hunt, because a year later Mary Ingles' husband, William Ingles, on his way to Georgia to see Dunkard Valentine Zinn about purchasing his land on New River, brought word to Bethabara that Adam Hermann had died.
Map showing "Stahlmaker's" to be the farthest settlement in Virginia in the year 1755.

In 1764 the Moravians of Bethabara took in another fugitive, "the well known Stahlnecker," an Indian trader Dr. Thomas Walker met on Reed Creek in 1748 and had expected would "pilate me as far as he knew" to Kentucky in 1750. But Stalnaker had just moved to the middle fork of Holston to be closer to his customers the Cherokee, and according to Walker "his affairs would not permit him to go with me." Nevertheless, Walker's men paused to help Stalnaker raise a cabin from the logs he had cut. Walker went into history as the first European to pass through Cumberland Gap, while his German informant suffered a different fate. A month before Braddock's defeat northern Indians killed Stalnaker's wife and son and took him prisoner, after which he escaped, "having suffered much in their town." He later served as a scout for Colonel Washington before fading into obscurity.

Twenty years after Walker's exploration, and thirty after John Peter Salling touched Kentucky's Ohio shore, a band of Virginia hunters passed through Cumberland Gap to exploit Kentucky's resources. Two of their company—Germans Kaspar Mansker and Uriah Stone—traveled as far as Spanish Natchez and back to Virginia through the wilderness, Mansker with a wedding dress for his "lady love" Elizabeth White whose parents opposed her marriage to an ignorant hunter. The lovers had run away from present Berkley County, W. Va. "to the head of Holdson, where [Mansker] continued ... the many years of his long hunts." Now he was going back with money to make the union legal.

A year later Mansker was back in Kentucky with a party of forty who fanned out through the canebrakes, killing deer for nine months before Indians plundered their station camp and destroyed their accumulated wealth in dressed deer skins. But instead of going home empty handed they "lingered" their hunt eleven months to recover the loss, sending pack trains to the settlements for iron, powder, and lead, and earning the name "long hunters." Valentine Herman—Adam's sixth son—was in the process of establishing a claim to "a tract on Clinch River ... and [had raised] a cabin on it" when he decided to go with the hunters. He didn't get back to the settlements, even with the pack trains, for nearly two years.

When Valentine finally got home he didn't remain on the Clinch. In 1773 he sold his land to Quaker William Wynne for "a mare, a horse and a wagon." In 1775 he turned up at Harrodsburg, Kentucky where he lived until after the threat of Indian attack had passed, then burrowed into the mountains of the Cumberland plateau to live a hunter's life until he died in 1815. His brothers Henry, Mathias, Jacob, Daniel, and Peter Hermann settled near the heads of Clinch River and Bluestone Creek. In 1789 Henry and Mathias established Harman's Station on the Big Sandy in eastern Kentucky. Rich soil was scarce, but game was plenty in the forested mountains and in the narrow cane bottoms. In western Virginia and eastern Kentucky these Hermans continued to kill game until there was little game left to kill, and to fight Indians until there were no more Indians who wanted to fight.

On the eve of the Revolution Germans in the lower Valley were no less stirred by hunters' reports of rich land in the west than were settlers on the frontier. In 1772 Joist Hite's grandson, Paul Frohman, followed Braddock's Road from Cedar Creek of Shenandoah to Harmon's Creek west of Fort Pitt. In 1774 he moved to Chartier Creek, and kept westering until he died in Lincoln County, Ky. in 1784. Isaac Chrisman, son of Jacob Chrisman and Magdalene Hite, traveled south and west to settle on Clinch River. At Glade Hollow Fort in 1774 he sold a deerskin apiece on credit to his commander Daniel Smith and his fellow soldiers William Crabtree and David Priest. Near the beginning of the Revolution he settled in Powell Valley until the Cherokee drove him to Rye Cove in present Scott County, Va. where he built a fort in 1776—but the Cherokee killed him anyway.

Jacob Hite of Berkley County, Va. tried his hand at speculation like his father. He invested in a land deal with Indian trader Richard Pearis whose half-Cherokee son George fronted for the partners, buying good will as well as land from Cherokee on the Carolina frontier in 1768. At the time Jacob was a rich man living eighteen miles north of Winchester in a better house than the "good Dovetail Log house" on property he sold in 1764. But when the South Carolina courts voided the Cherokee deal in 1772 Hite was suddenly without the means to pay his debts. To satisfy his creditors the county sold "A VALUABLE TRACT OF LAND, containing 3118 acres ... with the dwelling house, stores and buildings ... on the great road leading thence from Shweringan's Ferry." Again in 1774 the county sold "TWO Thousand Nine Hundred ACRES of LAND, whereon the Subscriber now lives ... with very good improvements thereon." Authorities also seized Hite's slaves and horses.

Desperate to cut his losses, Hite gathered a posse and descending on the county seat at Martinsburg. He stole back horses and slaves and made for the South Carolina frontier where his nephew Jacob Bowman had settled in 1768 at Tumbling Shoals of Reedy Creek. Hite was settled on Gilder Creek in present Greenville County when the colonies declared independence in 1776. Jacob Bowman remained loyal to Britain; Hite sided with the rebels and became a target for British agents who urged the Cherokee to rise. In October the Pennsylvania Gazette received a report that "Mr. Jacob Hite, who lately removed from Berkley county to the neighbourhood of the Cherokee country with his family, and a large parcel of negroes, was murdered at his own house by those Savages, with most of his slaves, and his wife and children carried off prisoners; his son, who was in the Cherokee country, was likewise murdered."

Jacob's brother Abraham Hite settled with his wife Rebecca on the South Branch of the Potomac near present Moorfield, W. Va. where Indians killed her father Isaac Van Meter in 1757. Hite's son Isaac had gone to Kentucky as a surveyor in 1773, and in the summer of 1774 both his sons travelled there by different routes, Abraham Jr. with James Harrod down the Ohio from Pittsburgh to found Harrodsburg near the head of Salt River; and Isaac with another party of surveyors via John Salling's route down New River, the Kanawha, the Ohio, and up the Kentucky River. One day Isaac and James Douglas separated from the main group and found dead men at a cabin. After carving a tree with the message "Alarmed by finding some people killed we are gone down this way" they took their pirogue down to New Orleans to escape Indians who were understandably nervous about surveyors on their hunting grounds. In June 1775 Isaac arrived at Boonesborough and in the same month explored Big Barren River with his brother and cousins John, Abraham, and Joseph Bowman. All cut their names on beech trees near present Bowling Green along with their guides, veteran long hunters Joseph Drake, Henry Skaggs, and Valentine Herman.

In April of 1777 Isaac Hite was forted at Boonesborough when Indians killed and scalped a man outside the stockade. He and some other men followed Boone more that a hundred yards down the lane to reconnoiter. His heart must have jumped when he heard Indians leaping over fence rails behind them. He turned and fired with the rest, and "made straight at them," reloading fast, dumping charge and ball down his rifle muzzle and thumping the butt on the ground.

A ball smashed Michael Stoner's hand and knocked his rifle to the ground. He bent over to pick it up and another ball tore into his hip. He couldn't pull a trigger but he begged anyone to take his gun and use it. Billy Bush had fired twice and charged his gun for a third shot when he ran to where Stoner was hobbling along and grabbed the chunky German around the waist, pulling him in the direction of the fort. But Stoner warned him off, saying "We are to pig a mark Pilly Push." Bush followed at a distance, pointing his weapon, bluffing Indians into dodging imaginary rifle balls as Stoner made his way up the lane. When Stoner finally limped into the fort Bush saw the Indians reloading and remembered he had only powder-charged his gun; the ball was still in his mouth. He dived into the fort just ahead of a shower of lead that kicked up gravel, cutting his legs that were bare to the knee because he hadn't put on leggings. Isaac Hite was one of three others who were wounded, including Daniel Boone whose ankle was so bad Simon Kenton carried him most of the way.

While Isaac Hite was helping defend Boonesborough his cousins John and Joseph Bowman were doing the same at Harrodsburg. The brothers had been in Kentucky almost constantly since the spring of 1775 when Richard Henderson of Boonesborough recorded their arrival in a group of "eight from Dunmore [Shenandoah] County, Virginia ... Major [John] Bowman, Captain [Joseph] Bowman, and one Capt. Moore, were the principal men. They seemed to be well please with the country ... were prepared to make corn ... and said they imagined that one hundred families at least would be out with them before spring." It's likely Captain Moore was related to James Harrod whose mother, Sarah Moore, married his father, John Harrod, on the Shenandoah around 1734. As Henderson said in his diary, "They seemed to be desirous of being in Harrod's neighborhood, and there was some degree of friendship and acquaintance among them." Joseph Bowman accordingly raised a cabin and made a corn crop next season south of Harrodsburg and north of Harrod's Run (now Mock's Branch).

Before coming to Kentucky Joseph had been captain of his own company on the Wakatomica campaign against the upper Shawnee towns in summer of 1774. The army of four hundred backwoods marauders marched to the Muskingham from Fort Fincastle on Wheeling Creek, burned towns and killed a few Indians, but tried to make sure more would die by cutting down "standing corn" and destroying several hundred bushels of "old corn" kept in reserve. After the expedition Indians stepped up their attacks on the frontier.

Records do not show how much military experience John Bowman had. He had enough to qualify as a Major in Virginia's militia, and probably learned something about Indians by growing up in the 1740s when the lower Valley was still wilderness, and Catawba and Delaware warriors passed back and forth over a network of "war paths," returning with Indian scalps and prisoners. Hunters from enemy tribes fought each other in the intervening countryside, boasting of their exploits in the cabins of the white settlers. Their stories provided an excellent opportunity to learn about Indian tactics. And although settler contact with France's Algonquian allies ceased when they suddenly withdrew from the Valley in 1754, the Catawba and Cherokee continued to come north to aid the British in the war against common Indian adversaries.

Bowman could remember the three years following Braddock's defeat when "the people were closely 'forted,'" and must have recalled when Indians killed Jacob Havely, Samuel Vance, and Johann Jacob Dispennet in 1756 on Fall Run east of North Mountain. Perhaps the same Indians attacked "a family ... by the name of Nicholls" on Cedar Creek. Rebecca Brinker told Kercheval "the greater number [were] killed, and several taken off as prisoners; one old woman and her grandchild made their escape" to a fort very near the Bowman home.

How accurate are these recollections? No one can say. Samuel Kercheval was unable "to find any person who committed to writing anything ... at the time the several occurrences took place." It is almost certain John Bowman was with the party that rescued Rachel Dellinger in 1764; but he might also have been with the "force of between thirty and forty" under a neighbor, Samuel Fry, in pursuit of Indians who killed members of the Young family and captured "two of Young's daughters" near present Marlboro on Cedar Creek in 1758. The whites caught up to the Indians on Short Mountain and charged their camp, routing the warriors who escaped, leaving behind guns, plunder, and captives. He may also have joined "a party of eighteen or twenty" who followed the linen scraps and broken twigs dropped by the Day sisters after the Indians attacked and killed several of their family on Cedar Creek and cut off their "petticoats at the knees, in order that they should be able to make more speed in traveling." The pursuers surrounded the Indian camp on South Branch Mountain but were given away when the captives' brother fired too soon. The Indians fled and "the girls were brought safe home."

In 1767 Bowman left the family home near Strasburg for the upper Roanoke with Peter Deyerle, who had been George Bowman's bond slave, but was now his son-in-law. Bowman settled on Glade Creek, a branch of Buffalo Creek, and married Elizabeth, the widow of David Bryan. Deyerle settled higher up the Roanoke near the forks. The area wasn't an outside settlement anymore, but as late as 1778 was not immune from Indian attack. In May of that year Indians wounded a slave of Andrew Lewis in the thigh at such close range the powder burned him, and on the north fork they "killed and scalped Richard Nicholson, about 10 years of age, James Bryan, somewhat younger, and tomahawked and scalped [but did not kill] John Nicholson" as they were playing and "bathing in the river." The government stationed militia at Deyerle's.

John Bowman missed these events because he was now a Colonel in Kentucky, ordered there by Governor Patrick Henry in the summer of 1777 with two companies of backwoods militia to help the isolated settlements cope with persistent Indian raids. Natives soon learned respect for the militiamen they referred to as "close or sharp shooters." On September 11, 1777 John Bowman led a party from Harrodsburg to shell the year-old corn still cribbed on Joseph's place. The Indians attacked, killing two and wounding six, but the Harrodsburg men held them off when the colonel roared "Stand your ground!—we are able to beat them, by the Lord!" with a "great voice" that was so loud Elijah Foley said it "could be heard a mile." In a hand-to-hand struggle Squire Boone (Daniel's brother) fetched one Indian through the bowels with his short, triple-edged sword.

In October Joseph Bowman traveled to Williamsburg to lobby for his brother's plan to create a salt works in Kentucky. The Board of Public Works approved the plan to "erect a Stockade Fort" at a salt spring on the Ohio, and to have "a waggon Load of pans, or large Kettles ... cast by Mr. Zane [at his ironworks on Cedar Creek] and forwarded to Fortpitt, from thence to be sent down to Kentucky ..." Joseph got the job "of transporting the said Pans," and was on Cedar Creek for the winter when Colonel George Rogers Clark arrived with instructions from the Governor to recruit men. On January 23, 1778 Clark made Joseph a captain and his brother Isaac a lieutenant in a company they were to raise "for my Ridgement" and went ahead to recruit more men on the Monongahela. Although the purpose for which they had been recruited was secret, the soldiers had their own reasons for joining. They either "had friends in Kentucky or were induced by a desire to see the country." A roster of Joseph's company shows Millers, Kogers, Longs, Funks, and Kellers—names common in the Valley from the earliest days of settlement.

At the end of March the Bowmans marched their men to Redstone Creek of the Monongahela (Brownsville, Pa.), and in May embarked down the Ohio with Clark's small army, still in the dark as to their true purpose. Joseph was finally able to deliver the salt kettles at the mouth of the Kentucky river, and in June, at their post on Corn Island above the falls of the Ohio, Clark disclosed to his army that they'd been recruited to carry the war into the enemy's country. The French settlers of Illinois found out only slightly later, on the night of July 4 when residents of Kaskaskia awoke to shouts in the streets that Americans had seized the British fort without a shot being fired.

Joseph Bowman rounded up the village horses and a few French allies for a gallop to the Mississippi. These "Big Knife" warriors equipped "after the Indian fashion," met no resistance at Prairie du Rocher, St. Philipe, or Cahokia where their reputation as white savages preceded them. At Cahokia Bowman demanded and accepted the British commander's surrender. "I then took possession of a strong stone house, well fortified for war, and soon got word that there was a man who would immediately raise 150 Indians [to] cut me off [but] I confined him under guard."

In February of 1779 Joseph was one of Clark's starving and half-naked troops who watched their commander black his face with gunpowder, raise "the war whoop," and order them "to strike up one of their favorite songs" as they slogged the last miles through a flooded prairie to Vincennes, a strategic British post on the Wabash. With dry powder supplied by French settlers, and under cover of the buildings in town, they focused a deadly rifle fire on gun ports in the blockhouses of Fort Sackville, and sharpened their aim at night by firing at soldiers silhouetted against candle light that poured through cracks in the fort walls. After each shot they changed position to prevent British gunmen from targeting their muzzle flashes.

British Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton—"the hair-buyer general"—surrendered, and he and his officers were ordered into moccasins for what promised to be "a troublesome march through the woods and over mountains." Partisans who had actually led Indian raids were confined in irons and sent with Hamilton by boat down the Wabash and up the Ohio to the falls. Here Hamilton swapped a quilt for some bread before he and the other prisoners began their march to Williamsburg with two horses, and with blankets and bearskins to sleep on, dependent upon guards commanded by Isaac Bowman for bear and buffalo meat, and to protect them against the frontier people who Hamilton said "looked upon [them] as little better than savages."

At Harrodsburg Hamilton brought the news to John Bowman that his brother Joseph had been badly burned in an explosion of "cannon cartridges" during a thirteen gun salute at Vincennes. Bowman generously offered the Hair-buyer his own mount and sent to Logan's Station for more horses to help the prisoners through the canebrakes and over the mountains.

In May Colonel John stumbled in an offensive against the Shawnee town of Chillicothe on the Little Miami River. He destroyed corn, stole horses, fought an indecisive battle with Indians barricaded in their cabins, and retreated to Kentucky rather than face a reinforcement of Mingoes rumored to be on the way under Simon Girty. His actions angered Clark who needed men to launch an attack against Detroit from Vincennes.

Smarting from Clark's criticism, Colonel John "left a Negro man to tend" his corn at Harrodsburg and went to Williamsburg, Henry Hamilton said, "to represent to the Govr. and Council, the injustice and severity of [Clark's] proceedings" against prisoners. In the fall he was back with his wife Elizabeth and their only child John. Elizabeth's grown sons, William and David Bryan, came with them. John took Elizabeth and their boy to Joseph's empty cabin that he claimed in August when Joseph died of complications from his injuries. By rights Joseph's fourteen hundred acres should have gone to the eldest brother. But Jacob Bowman was a Carolina Tory, the news of whose death in 1784 prompted his brother Abraham—who had commanded the 8th Virginia Regiment—to remark "It was no matter at all; no matter."

John and Abraham Bowman moved to a new location on Cane Run of Dick's River in the hard winter of 1779-'80. Twenty families joined them during the season as turkeys tumbled off roosts in the bitter cold and snow, and buffalo and cattle died around them. They slept in open-faced hunter's shanties on buffalo hide pallets cushioned by heaped up leaves, and covered themselves at night with buffalo rugs, the wool side down, their feet toward fires in front. During the day they warmed themselves by chopping wood for the fires. Richard Foley's family survived on six bushels of corn—a bushel apiece they brought from Virginia in the fall, and Colonel Abraham Bowman brought more from Harrodsburg. He may also have met his future bride, Sarah Bryan, who in a few months would be a widow, her husband William Bryan one of the dead on Clark's Pickaway campaign, buried under the floor of an Indian cabin on the Big Miami, and the cabin burned over his grave so Indians couldn't get his scalp. The Colonel's other stepson David Bryan stayed in the wilderness during the winter to tend stock with a hired man Jacob Myers and a black slave. Bryan took sick and died, but his companions survived.

In March the campers emerged like bears from their dens. Colonel John was indeed a great bear of a man, two hundred sixty pounds, "the swiftest man of his size [young Elijah Foley] ever saw ... a jolly man; [a] mighty funny man." By planting time they were some thirty families strong, and went to work building Bowman's Station, two rows of cabins 150 feet apart crossed by another row in the form of an H, each half on the opposite side of a hollow through which the Spring Branch flowed into Cane Run.

During the hard winter the colonels thought they lost their brother Isaac. In November of 1779 he commanded one of a pair of bateaux from Kaskaskia, but the boats never reached the falls of the Ohio. One of the craft reappeared in the spring at the French Lick settlement on Cumberland River. The two boats had been ice bound during the hard winter, but after they had broken free in the spring Isaac's batteau was attacked by the Chickasaw. Isaac's right arm was broken by a fusee ball, but he was still able get to cover in a cane brake with two other passengers, an old man and woman who had also been wounded. Isaac killed a bear and "carved it with his lame hand" until the Indians captured them. The Chickasaw treated them well and released Isaac when they made peace with the United States in 1783.

In 1783 Bowman's station began to break up, and one of its occupants, Colonel John Donelson, went back to Stone's River in Tennessee where he had settled before Indians drove him to Kentucky in 1781. He left Kentucky without his daughter Rachel, who had married a Virginia gentleman, Lewis Robards, from the Harrodsburg neighborhood. She would later meet Andrew Jackson at her father's home after separating from her husband, and would marry Jackson in Natchez before her divorce from Robards was final. John Bowman built a mill on Cane Run and another on Dick's River, although Elijah Foley said he "was sick when he built this last (Would drink a gallon of water of a night)." He died in May of 1784, about the same time as their Tory brother Jacob in South Carolina. Jacob's son came to Kentucky and successfully asserted his claim to Joseph's land, but later sold it to his uncle Abraham. Isaac apparently had enough of the west because he moved back to the family's Cedar Creek estate in Virginia and built a brick house where he died in 1836.


Introduction Finns English Germans Scots-Irish African-Americans
Native-Americans Warfare Warrior Society Religion Housing Clothing

Home | Music | Resume | Fiction | Back to the top