Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cornstalk's Raid on the Greenbrier

I should have posted this entry from On This Day In West Virginia History last weekend, but because the exact dates are unknown, I may not be too late. Native Americans led by Cornstalk launched an attack on settlers in the Greenbrier Valley on July 15, 1763. The following quote is from Cornstalk's Raid on the Greenbrier - 1763, by A. E. Ewing, originally published in 1936 in West Virginia Review. This article gives good historical context to early settlement accounts for Pocahontas County and neighboring areas. Hillsboro was originally known as "Little Levels," and "Big Levels," mentioned in this article, refers to the area around Lewisburg (Greenbrier County).

Warning #1: The following quotation contains Politically Incorrect Language, which I have not attempted to ameliorate.

Warning #2: The following quotation contains Really Terrible Prose, some of which I have pruned away to make the actual events more intelligible. Many local histories here include a hefty helping of the writers' personal opinions on centuries-old events. I'm not sure whether they over-valued their opinions and literary stylings or simply hoped to spice up a dull recounting of facts. Personally, I prefer a dull recounting of facts.

...The Algonquin chieftains, in secret council near Detroit, summoned by king Pontiac April 27, 1763, agreed to attack all the English posts recently surrendered by the French....The plan was so successfully executed that nine or ten English posts from western New York and Pennsylvania to northern Michigan fell to the Algonquins practically without a struggle....Meantime, as a part of the original plan, the interior tribes fell savagely upon the trans-Allegheny settlers nearest to them.

These settlers, be it remembered, had no business in those parts at that time. Virginia lands west of the "front" were not then open to settlement and could not be purchased at any price. The Indians, particularly the Algonquin tribes of Ohio, had never ceased to claim them. The vast region constituted their prize "game preserve." They even regarded Virginia hunters as trespassers, and permanent settlers as outlaws to be shot down at sight. Moreover, all this was well known to Virginians.

By 1760....frontiersmen east of the "front," anticipating that the Indian border would be pushed back to the Ohio, lost no time in heading their wagon trains for new pastures on the Greenbrier and by 1763 were raising fields of wheat and corn, wholly ignorant of Pontiac's diabolical designs. Two or three years of quiet and safety had led them to regard Indian troubles as things of the past....

The business of scalping the Greenbrier settlements fell to Cornstalk, the Shawnee chieftain, who, with his warriors, resided on the Scioto, in Ohio....two white settlements...were the Muddy Creek settlement lying north of the Greenbrier and west of Muddy Creek Mountain, and the Clendenin settlement on the Big Levels near Lewisburg. They were about twenty miles apart, and the people comprising them have been variously estimated at from one to two hundred. Both settlements probably took root in 1760 and 1761.

....[A]llowing the Indians two weeks or more for covering the two hundred miles distance, they must have started on their tomahawking expedition on or before July 1, 1763....Authorities agree that Cornstalk's scalping band consisted of about sixty warriors. Crossing the Ohio in canoes, which they sank at the mouth of the Kanawha, they proceeded overland a distance of about 160 miles, to Muddy Creek, where several scattered families were living in imagined peace and one short day, the Muddy Creek settlement was literally annihilated....[T]he Shawnees...proceeded up the Greenbrier about twenty miles to the Big Levels.

....For one reason or another, it appears that all the settlers were assembled at Clendenin's on that fateful July 15,1763....Con Yoakum was the only man of the settlement to escape slaughter. He hastened to the Jackson River settlements east of the divide and gave the alarm that frustrated the Indian attack upon the settlement at Carr's Creek....

This, in brief, is the story of the Cornstalk Raid on the Greenbrier settlements during the Pontiac War in 1763....The Greenbrier Valley was completely desolated and so remained for six or seven years.

Henceforth the frontiersmen of Virginia nursed an undying grudge against the Shawnees. Many of the soldiers who assisted in the defeat of Cornstalk at Point Pleasant in 1774, were but paying off an old score. And - from one way of looking at it - when Cornstalk and his son were murdered at Fort Randolph in 1777, the child-stealing, baby-killing old chieftain was but being paid an old standing debt in his own coin.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for posting it!

Rebecca Clayton said...

It's interesting stuff, isn't it?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the bit of history. I am aware of the Cornstalk story regarding Point Pleasant (WV). I recently moved from there back here with my daughter. We actually lived in Letart where her father owned a large dairy farm and I taught school. I graduated high school from Marlinton in 1969. I was not aware that Cornstalk had any history in this area. Again, thanks.

Linda Rood