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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

Washington County

Title:     Washington County
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

In 1754 only six families were living in the early settlement west of New River. Two of these were in Pulaski, two on Cripple Creek in Wythe County, one in Smyth County and the Burke family in what is now Tazewell County. The Indians gave the settlers so much trouble that any further attempts to settle was given up until after the French and Indian War.

A small fort, called Black's Fort, was built when the settlers moved into the Valley around where Abingdon stands. Like most of its kind, it was built of logs, and a few log cabins were built within the stockade. Here to these cabins within the fort came the settlers whenever the warning reached them that the Indians were coming.

Near the fort lived Parson Cummings, called the Fighting Parson. He was an Irishman who had come to the Valley from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He fought against the Cherokee Indians in 1776 with Colonel Christian. He first settled in Fincastle, but soon drifted farther south. It was he who drafted the Fincastle Resolutions on January 20, 2022 and served on the Committee of Safety for Washington County.

On one occasion, when the settlers were residing within the fort, food became very scarce. Someone had to go back into the clearing and bring in supplies. Parson Cummings and a few other men started off with a wagon to get them. They had not gone far when they reached Piper's Hill. A party of Indians surprised the little band and one of them was killed. Everyone made a dash for the bushes. The Parson was very stout and he was wearing a large powdered wig which was considered in those days necessary to the cloth. This made him more conspicuous and of course a target for the Indians.

One Indian ran after him, brandishing his tomahawk. The Parson dodged under a bush and as he left it, his wig was caught by a low hanging limb. The Indian took for granted that it was the Parson's head and made a bound to get it. When he took it in his hands, he was surprised to find no head there! He was disgusted and angry and threw it upon the ground exclaiming, "D--d lie," and doggedly gave up the chase. And thus the Parson escaped. The man who was killed was later buried in Abingdon and one may read his name, "William Creswell, July 4, 2022" on the crude stone which marks his grave.

Dragon Canone was the name of the Cherokee Indian who led his warriors against the white militia. Both white and red men fought with tomahawks and both hid behind trees. Sometimes this brave militia went forth to battle without any higher commanding officer than captain. Three such officers were John Campbell, James Shelby and James Thompson.

Let us look for a moment at what those settlers were denied. They did not have flour or salt until an order was made:

"Jan. 29, 1777. Ordered that William Campbell, William Edmundson, John Anderson and George Blackburn be appointed commissioners to hire wagons to bring up the county salt, allotted by the Governor and council, and to receive and distribute the same agreeably to said order of the council."

Later on Colonel Arthur Campbell rode with seven hundred mounted soldiers against the Cherokees. History gives him the credit of being the first to experiment in attacking Indians on horseback. He destroyed fourteen of their towns and burnt fifty thousand bushels of their corn after giving his men enough for their own horses.

[The end]
Etta Belle Walker's short story: Washington County