Glen Harrison Sage
“This is the life accountsof family members that contributed to the settlement
and development of the NewRiver and Clinch Valley Settlements of Southwest
Virginia and theirdescendants that have continued to make America the great
nation that it is today!”
I developed an interest inthe accounts of my family, related to me by my
maternal grandmother, Mrs.Nancy Conley, when I was a small child. She was born
in 1875 and her world was sovastly different from my own.
She would talk to me forhours on end, about growing up in the mountains of N.C.
and her early years inSouthwest Virginia and later West Virginia. I knew with
my passing that a lot of theoral tradition and recorded records that I have
researched would be lost tofuture generations if I didn’t place this
information in permanentwritten form.
Over the past two decades Ihave spent many hours in the Clerks of Circuit
Courts offices of Countiesin NC, VA and WV researching family historical
information. I have also made regular trips to librarieswith good genealogy
research available in orderto “flesh out” this book.
It is my hope that thecollection of this information will give our children and
our children’s children anappreciation for who they are and a knowledge of some
of the great sacrifices thattheir forefathers made to help develop this
mountain region and ournation into the land that it is today.
This is not just a book ofwho our grandparents and great-grand parents are but
through life accounts, theywill become people that are a part of who we are
My hope is that this bookwill instill in others an interest to add to this
volume of information sothat future generations will have even a greater
understanding of the proudheritage of these hardy mountain families. I would
hope when they mention theyare descendants of the Conleys and Sages of
Virginia, that a great senseof pride would be part of that acknowledgment.
“The Conley Family fromIreland”
(Conley, Conlley, Connolly,Conelly, Connaley)
The first Conley of our linein Virginia is found in records of Augusta County.
This county stretched fromOrange County in eastern Virginia west to the
Mississippi and north to theGreat Lakes. Two brothers James, Johnand were
found in the New RiverSettlement area of Augusta County in the 1740’s. James
Conley is found mentioned incourt records of Augusta County in 1746. He was
living on Reed Creek nearthe modern day town of Wytheville Virginia. In this
court session he wasconvicted of killing 38 “red deer” contrary to law and was
fined. In 1749, prior to his death James Conleythe settler was commissioned
to lay off a road from ReedCreek to the Woods River (New River) and worked on
this project from theCalhouns’ house to the New River. Abranch flowing into
the New River was named“Conley Branch”.
Later in Augusta Courtrecords we discover that James Conly died and his estate
was appraised by TobiasBright, Thomas Inglish, and Richard Hall. On October 1,
1751, Day Throughgood wascharged with the murder of his master James Connely.
He confessed and was sent totrial. During this time the recordsindicate that
slaves that killed theirmasters in Augusta County were hanged and their heads
were then severed and thehead was impaled and displayed along major roadways.
This murder and executionhappened in the year 1751, so we know James Conley
died prior to 1752 on ReedCreek. In his estate, he had 7 head ofcattle and 2
horses and a number ofpersonal articles. In the settlement ofthis estate it
was mentioned that he had nowife or children. George Breckenridgewas named
administrator of theestate. George was a friend of hisbrother John Connley
the settler. From the information that we have listed, wecan deduct that James
Conley made his living as a“Long Hunter”. This meant that he madetrips beyond
the forts to the wildernessareas of present day West Virginia and Kentucky. He
was no doubt a skillfulshot. When he got in trouble with hiskilling of the
“red deer”, his neighborswere willing to go on bond for him. Hisbrother John
Conley doesn’t appear to beas nearly well liked by the community.
John was always in troublewith the law and at one point was chased out of the
state of Virginia into NorthCaroline. An account of this is asfollows: “The
Emperor of the CherokeeNation had a very different grudge with Erwin Patterson.
Through his intepreter Watts he told Patton (Col. James Patton) astory which
he asked to be sent to theGovernor. Watts said, “At ErwinPatterson’s house
the Emperor of the Cherokeenation being there was made drunk and afterwards
insulted and abused in avery gross manner. Erwin Pattersonordered him to be
layed which John Conley didand in so doing, the Emperor was so much abused that
the blood gushed out of hismouth and nose. Watts came and relievedthe
Emperor. He said it was well for him he was thereotherwise he believed they
would have killed him.”
“‘John Conolly who hadattacked the Emperor was a well-known trouble-maker on
New River. This was not the first complaint againsthim. In 1749 George Draper
of Drapers Meadows went outhunting and never returned. It is notknown if
Eleanor Draper suspectedConnolly of harming her husband but the same year he
disappeared she complainedof Connolly to the Augusta Court. (she also named
George Breckenridge in thiscomplaint).
John Sinclair alsocomplained that Connolly killed and skinned a deer and left
the carcass on hisfence. When Sinclair complainedConnolly killed his “two
find dog which guarded hishome. ”This was a great loss because the settlers
relied on their dogs to warnthem of the presence of Indians. Col.James
Patton now issued a warrantwhich read: “Connolly is a vagrant,loose in his
morals and worse in hisbehavior which he has verified for these three years
past on New River. During this time he has had no certain placeof abode but
sulking about and pretendingto be a hunter and has been very abusive to several
of his majesties subjects inthose remote parts. The Emperor saysunless he has
satisfaction he will informhis nation who will have revenge on the white
people. Patton ordered “To all sheriffs andconstables and officers of the
militia and others of HisMajesty’s liege people of Augusta but in particular
Capt. Adam Harmon, EbenezerWaistcoat, Alexander Sayers, Joseph Crockett, Samuel
Stalnaker and Robert Box tomake diligent search for Connolly and when found
bring him before me. He will be dealt with according to law. I forbid all
persons to succor him.” Patton then notified Williamsburg, “I havesent out
warrants against Conolly whohas since fled to Carolina.”
John and James Conley thesettlers also had a younger brother on the New River
in the 1760’s. He was Arthur Conley and the only one of thethree to have
children (James was notmarried at the time of his death in 1751).
Our family line comes fromArthur’s branch. Arthur was married toJean (last
name unknown). Arthur was the son of Edwund Connelly andMary Edgefield. Mary
named her son Arthur afterher father, General Arthur Edgefield of Charleston
South Carolina. Edward the father of Arthur was the son ofHenry Connelly and
Betsy Vaux Buckley ofCharleston SC. The Conley clan arrivedin the “New World
“ in the late 1600’s atAlbermarle Point near present day Charleston South
Carolina. Henry the “settler” was Henry II, son ofHenry I that was born in
Armagh County, N. Irelandaround 1635. Henry I died in Irelandabout 1700.
The natural children ofArthur Conley are;
James Conley Sr.- born about1755, served in the Revolution under Capt.
Patterson of Augusta Countyand later as an Indian Scout in the western frontier
Arthur Conley Jr. married toJane Dale, Dec. 19, 1785 , then married to
Elizabeth Levingston on Jan.1787 in Augusta County, Virginia.
Sarah Connelly married JohnWalker on Sept. 8, 1791 in Augusta County Virginia
Mary Conley marriedZechariah Perdue in Montgomery County Virginia on Sept. 18,
Thomas Connelly marriedMargaret Walker, daughter of Alexander Walker Jr., prior
to 1767 in Augusta CountyVirginia. Thomas served in theRevolution with two of
his sons (Thomas Jr. &Robert) under Reuben Harris.
David Conley married PollyStrain prior to 1789. David served inCapt. John
Adams’ Company fromMontgomery County Virginia, after March 12, 1777. James
Sage served in that sameunit and was listed on the same rooster with David
Robert Connelly served underCapt Givens of Col. Campbell’s Company and Reuben
Harris’ Company in 1776.
James Conley Sr. was the sonof Arthur Conley Sr., and is the second generation
of Virginia Conleys in myfamily line. James Conley Sr. of LittleSugar Run
branch of Walker Creek inwhat was then Montgomery County Virginia, was born
prior to 1755. James purchased land from John White in theyear 1792. This
land jointed the farm ofJoseph Eaton and Capt. Joseph Cloyd, a Revolutionary
War hero that fought at theBattle of Kings Mountain and a number of other
important battles of theRevolution. On the Joseph Eaton farm is located the
Eaton Memorial MethodistChurch and a cemetery with the cemetery predating the
century old church. Thisland transaction was witnessed by the 3 sons of Joseph
Cloyd. The boys were less than 20 years old andwere close to the same age as
James Conley Jr. James Jr. was to name one of his sons afterGeneral Gordon
Cloyd, one of the threewitnesses. This son, born in 1833 wasnamed Gordon
The first record that wehave of James Conley Sr. was a listing of “Scouts” that
watched the Indian trials ofthe Clinch and New River Valley. Theserecords are
recorded in “The History ofTazewell County and Southwestern Virginia”, by
Pendleton and a book titled“History of the Middle New River Settlement” by
David Johnson. This role of “Scout” started in 1776 duringthe “Dunmore War”.
In 1776 James was old enoughto serve in this kind of military capacity.
Some of these “scouts” wereonly 15 years old at the time. SamuelLusk was only
15 at the time that heserved. He later was captured by the Shawnee, taken
north of the Ohio Riverwhere he escaped and helped Virginia Wiley escape from
In order for us tounderstand what James Conley did as a “Scout” we must also
understand the time and thearea during that era. The Clinch andUpper waters
of the New River was the farwestern frontier of America. No whitemen lived in
permanent settlements beyondthis area. On occasions, white huntingparties
would go into Kentucky andwhat is now West Virginia, they didn’t live beyond
the line of forts thatstretched from “seven mile ford” near Abington to the
fort at Lewisburg WestVirginia, a distance of over 160 miles.
These forts or “Blockhouses” included such names as Wynn’s Branch, Crab
Orchard, Maiden Springs, andBurkes Garden in Tazewell County. Linking Shear
Branch, and Bluestone CreekMontgomery County, Beaver Pond near New Hope in
Mercer County WV and WhiteSulphur in present day West Virginia.
The life and times of JamesConley of Walker Creek in Southwest Virginia was one
that was fraught with dangerand hardship. The area that he livedwas the far
western frontier of theEnglish Colony and later the American Colony.
The New River Settlement andthe Clinch River Settlement was made up of a few
brave souls scattered alongthe creeks and rivers of the area. Itwas not
uncommon in the mid to late1700’s for your closest neighbors to live 5 or more
miles away. This land was a buffer zone between twomajor Indian nations with a
number of smaller tribespassing through from time to time. TheShawnee tribe
wintered to the north alongthe Ohio River and the Cherokee were to the south
along the mountains ofwestern North Carolina and Tennessee. This placed the
new settlers squarely in themiddle of lands claimed by these Indians. Both
these tribes used this areaas a hunting ground and later as a land to raid for
needed supplies. Some of these families were attacked andsuffered the loss of
family members captured orkilled on two or more occasions. ThomasIngles was
one such person. Some of these early settlers witnessedinfants from their
family being killed by being“brained”. (Indians would grab a small child by the
ankles and hurl them againsta nearby log or tree) They would alsodrown small
captive children that wouldslow them in their escape from the settlements. If
infants were born ofpregnant women captives, on the trip back to Ohio, the new
born children were usuallykilled in these ways.
Prior to 1775 there wereraids into this area as a by-product of the French and
Indian War. The French used the Shawnee to attack theEnglish settlements.
Following the French andIndian War, Lord Dunmore decided to wage war against
the Indians along the Ohio,in hopes of ending these attacks against the Crown
and to punish the Indiansfor being pawns of the French. TheBattle of Point
Pleasant was the lastofficial battle of this campaign. Theend result was far
different than what had been hoped.
The decade following 1774was one of the most difficult for the New River
Settlement and those alongthe Clinch. It was during this era thatwe get the
first real glimpse of JamesConley (Sr).
There was a major Indianwarpath that stretched from west of Kingsport TN. along
what is known as “The Trailof the Lonesome Pine”. This trial wentthrough
southwest Virginia upthrough the Clinch Valley and entered into modern day West
Virginia near the presentcity of Bluefield.
There were a number ofIndian trails that intersected with this major trail
system. This placed these early settlers inTazewell, Bland, Giles, Mercer,
Wythe, Pulaski, andMontgomery Counties in the middle of this trial system.
Following the Dunmore War of1774-5 there was a great outbreak of attacks by the
Indians on the whitesettlers. Col. James Graham and his family was attacked,
Donnally’s Fort wasattacked, the Mchensey family was attacked, John Pauley and
wife were attacked, CaptJames Moore and family were attacked, William Wheatley
was attacked, James Roarkwas attacked, Virginia Wiley, John Davidson, Mitchell
Clay, Thomas Ingles, wereall attacked by Indians in the 1780’s and early
1790’s. In one year over 28 people were killed byIndians in these settlements.
In some cases whole large families were killed or carried intocaptivity. In
at least one case a wholefort was wiped out in a single raid. Attimes raiding
parties of 40 or moreIndians would make their way into the New River Valley.
Usually they came in partiesof 6 to 12 Indians.
This was also a time thatthe Colonies were in a war for their life with the
“Greatest Military Power” inthe world, England. Many of the youngermen from
these mountain settlementswere called on to fight with the Colonial Army. This
left the New RiverSettlement very short of man- power to protect them from
In order to protect theremaining settlers while the troops were away fighting
the British, a group of“scouts” or “spies” were used to detect impending Indian
The following is adescription of the role of these men and a list of their
“These men were to holdthemselves in readiness to act as circumstances might
demand. To make them more efficient, spies wereemployed to hang upon the great
trails leading into thesettlements from the Ohio. Upondiscovering the least
sign of Indians, theyhurried into the settlements and warned the people to
hasten to the forts orstations, as the case might be. Theyreceived extra
wages for their services,for they were both laborious and important and also
fraught with danger. For such an office the very best men werechosen; for it
will be readily seen, that asingle faithless spy, might have permitted the
Indians to pass unobserved,and committed much havoc among the people, before
they could have prepared fordefense. But it does not appear thatany spy
failed to give the alarmwhen possible to do so. They alwayswent two together,
and frequently remained outseveral weeks upon a single scout. Great caution
was necessary to prevent theIndians from discovering them; hence their beds
were usually of leaves, insome thicket commanding a view of the warpath. Wet
or dry, day or night, thesemen were ever on the lookout. Thenames of
several of these people havebeen preserved, among them; 1
James Bailey Samuel Lusk
John Bailey Robert Lesley
Joseph Belcher Samuel Lusk
Robert Belcher James Martin
Thomas Brewster John Maxwell
Edward Burgess James Perry
Chrisopher Caffin John Pruett
James Conley Archibald Thompson
John Cottrell John Ward
John Crockett James Witten
John Evans, Jr. Michael Wright
John Evans Sr. Oliver Wynn
Joseph Gilbert Hezekiah Wright
This role of “Scout”continued for these men over a period of about eighteen
years from 1776-1794. With the victory of Col. Wayne over theIndians in 1794,
raids into the Clinch andNew River Valley ceased. It was strangethat the
frontiers should havefurnished so many men for the army, when their absence so
greatly exposed theirfamilies. But when we reflect that nopeople are readier
to serve the country in theday when aid is needed, than those of mountainous
regions, we shall at oncehave an explanation to their desires, and consequent
assistance, in bringing thewar to a close. Beside, the people ofTazewell have
ever been foremost indefending the country; showing at once that determination
to be free, which soeminently characterizes the people of mountainous
Another family connectionwith these “Scouts” and forts was the name of James
Bailey. James was the great-great-great-great uncleof the authors daughters
through their mother’sfamily. James was noted for his greatrunning ability
and he also built a fort atBeaver Pond, near the present Beaver Pond Fair
property about 1 mile fromNew Hope in Mercer County West Virginia. This fort
was where Mitchell Clay’swife ran after the Indians attacked her home at Lake
Shawnee and killed severalof her children. She ran over 6 milesthrough the
forest to the safety of thefort. James Bailey joined in the huntfor these 11
Shawnee warriors and theycaught them in modern day Boone County West Virginia.
Serveral of the Indians werekilled in the battle that followed but there was no
loss of life among thesettlers. One of the Indians begged formercy in broken
English but mercy was notgranted after the savage attack and scalping of the
Clay children. Sections ofhide were removed from the backs of these slain
Indians by Edward Hale, aneighbor of Thomas Conley, and used as razor straps by
the Hale family for manyyears.
During this period of“Scouting and Indian fighting along the frontier of
Virginia, people lived mostlyoff the land. When Indians werereported in the
area, settlers would oftenleave their crops without harvesting them. That
meant the following winterthey had to depend on wild game and what their
neighbors might share withthem. Game was very plentiful in thearea. The main
cash crop was the raising ofhemp for rope. Some of the hemp plantshave
survived until modern timesand cows have been know to eat the “crazy weed” and
then walk about as thoughthey had been drugged. The settlerswere unable to
raise hogs or pigs due tothe heavy bear population and the fact that bears
loved pork. There was agreat population of deer, bear, elk, and buffalo. The
main food items were deerand bear and the hides of all these animals were used
by the settlers and taken toFincasle and traded for salt. It wasnot unusual
for two men to go on a 2 to4 week hunt and come back with as many as 50 deer
hides and 4 or 5 bear skins.There was a man by the name of Ebenezer Brewster in
Tazewell County that died in1850 and it was reported that he killed over 1200
bear in his lifetime. A friend of Brewster, William Peery killedover 1000
black bear in his lifetime.There are accounts that these settles would be
awaken in the morning tonearby howling of wolves and at night hear the
screaming of a “Panther”(eastern cougar). In the 1750’s AugustaCounty (that
now covers the New RiverSettlement) paid bounty on as many as 2000 wolf heads
per year. By the late 1700’s most of the wolfpopulation had vanished from the
New River Valley. The last of the panthers was killed inBurkes Garden in 1903.
It was stuffed and placed in the museum at the state capitalbuilding in
Charleston West Virginia.Another threat to the mountain people was that of
rattlesnakes andcopperheads. These “pit vipers” wereabundant and snakebite
was not uncommon. It was usually treated with beargrease. Most of the
clothing was made from deerskin but many of the houses also had a spinning
wheel and a loom forweaving. Feather and chaff filled tickbeds were usually
made after a settlerhad time to finish building his loghouse. Their sugar
came from “tapping” mapletrees in the Fall and some settlers had as many as 500
trees running at atime. They would then boil the sap downand make sugar from
it. They also had lots of beehives and when themen went to war they would
carry a few swarm with themfor fresh honey. Most of the buildingwas done in
the winter because theydidn’t have to fear Indian attacks. TheShawnee stayed
in their villages along theOhio River during the cold time of year. They liked
to wage war in the warmmonths when the settlers would be out in the fields a
long way from theircabins. Many of the attacks recordedshowed the Indian
preference for this type ofwarfare. During Fall and Winter, therewas no
foliage to help hide them,if they had snow fall it would make it easy for the
settlers to track them ontheir escape to Ohio. If they raidedthe settlements
in winter, the cold icy riverswere difficult to cross and food was more scarce.
The settlers would be intheir cabins, with bars on the doors and could fire
through the gun ports, thusthey would be able to ward off a good size raiding
The next glimpse we get ofJames Conley Sr. is a tax record in Montgomery County
when it is recorded that heowns 3 horses. This is recorded in1790. He is
involved in a landtransaction on Walker Creek in modern day Giles County but
what was then MontgomeryCounty. This was on December 24, 1793when he
purchased land on “Littlesugar waters” of Walker Creek a branch of New River.
The land was purchased fromJohn White for a sum of four pounds Virginia money.
Joseph Cloyd owned the landon the southern boundary of James Conley’s land.
Joseph had sons near thesame age of James Sr.’s son James Jr. All three of
these sons were witnesses tothe land transaction. This includedDavid, Thomas,
and Gordon Cloyd.
In addition to the role ofspy and scout along the Indian trails, James Conley
would have been involved aspart of the Militia in three major engagements.
These were the battle ofShallow Ford on the Yadkin River, the battle of Kings
Mountain and the Battle atGuilford Courthouse. In September of 1780 a call went
out for “Backwater Men” ofthe New River and Clinch to go to Sycamore Ford on
the Watauga River (nearElizabethton TN. There were 200 menfrom the Wolfe
Creek area of MontgomeryCounty that answered that call. One ofthese men
referred to as the “Paul Revereof the South” rode from near Christiansburg
Virginia to Elk Creek,calling out the militia. He made thisride in less than
12 hours and his horse diedon Elk Creek. He was given anotherhorse and he
rode it to Marion Virginia,then secured another fresh horse and rode this third
horse to BristolVirginia. He completed this trip inabout 24 hours. The Army
of Virginia and Tennesseebackwoodsman made the march across the mountains to
Kings Mountain and arrivedthere on September 26, 1780. These“Backwater Men”
didn’t line up in formationbut fought from behind the rocks and trees. They
would charge the Britishlines and after their Deckard rifles had been fired
they retreated down themountain because they had no bayonets for “hand to hand”
fighting. When the British would follow, the“Backwater Men’s” reserve units
would fire on the Britishfrom the woods. The British wouldretreat back up the
mountain and the Virginianswould be right on their heels with fresh loaded
rifles. This was the first major victory of theRevolution and gave heart to
the people of thecolonies. Over 600 British were takenprisoner and a number
Following the Battle atKings Mountain, in October of 1780 a message was
delivered to Major JosephCloyd, on Back Creek, that help was needed to put down
a Tory uprising on theYadkin River of N.C. He was ask toraise three troops of
horsemen. No doubt he went to his close neighbors forhelp. One of these men
was Thomas Farley of WalkerCreek and Captain Pearis, who wounded in the battle
that was to follow. I feel sure that James Conley, neighbor ofJoseph Cloyd,
and the owner of 3 horsesanswered that call. There is no writtenrecord of the
160 horsemen that served inthat battle but the half dozen names that we have
listed were neighbors ofMajor Joseph Cloyd. In that battlefifteen tories were
killed and the losses toMajor Cloyd was one Captain and 4 privates wounded.
These men that served underCloyd were called “Emergency or Minute Men.
On February 10, 1781, Col.Preston ordered the militia of Montgomery County to
assemble at the Lead Mines(Austinsville, near Wytheville Virginia) and on the
day appointed three hundredand fifty men assembled pursuant to the order of
their commander, MajorJoseph Cloyd. One author has written”that it to be
regretted that the names ofthe men who went with Preston and Cloyd have not
been preserved. Only 6 Privates from the role of 350 men hasbeen recorded.
They are Matthew French,John French, Edward Hale (the next door neighbor to
Thomas Conley), Joseph Hare,Isaac Cole and Thomas Farley (father-in-law of
Garland Conley son of JamesConley Sr). One company of these menfrom the
middle New River Valley wascommanded by Captain Shannon of Walker Creek. I’m
sure that James Conley Sr.the “Scout” was among that number. Itwould have
taken every able bodied manin the region to make up that large of a force.
Those in command were hisneighbors. On the way to North Caroline, they passed
through Adam Waggonors farmand he furnished a steer for them and pasture for a
number of their horses. Thirty years later the granddaughter of AdamWaggonor
would marry the son of JamesConley Sr.
These Virginia Militiamenmet the British on the sixth of March, 1781 at
Wetzel’s Mill and a severeengagement took place. Preston’s horsethrew him,
Preston was a heavy man andunable to keep up with the retreating army of
Virginia. Major Cloyd seeing his condition dismountedfrom his horse and gave
his mount to Preston. During the battle one of the boys fromWalker Creek,
Matthew French, was watchingthe supply wagon along with several other men.
When the battle broke out heleft the wagon and rushed into the middle of the
battle. The officer in charge wanted to CourtMartial him. Major Cloyd
remarked that “as French rannot from the fight but towards it, if they court
marshaled him for such acause, he would never again draw his sword in behalf of
the country”. The British commander commented after thebattle that his troops
were badly hurt by theBackwoodsmen from Virginia. After thisbattle the men
returned home to provideprotection for their homes that were threatened by
Indian incursions. They had to station 20 men along Sugar Run,the home of
James Conley Sr. to protectit from the Indians. Thirty men wereplaced at
Captain Pearis’, 25 men wereplaced at the head of the Bluestone and 16 men at
the head of the ClinchRiver, 30 men at Powell’s Valley, 20 at Richlands and 30
at Castlewoods. These menwere placed along a 164 mile line to defend the homes.
This was a difficult time for the early settles. George Washington committed
on hearing accounts from thesettlements along the New River, saying, I would
give my life to the Indians,if I knew they would stop their raiding and
plundering of the westernsettlements.
This is the last writtenrecord in Virginia that we have on James Conley Sr.,
the “Scout” and Indianfighter. He doesn’t appear in GilesCounty records,
which means he must haveleft the area prior to when Giles County was formed.
His father Arthur andseveral of his brothers had moved to the Big Sandy Valley
of Eastern Kentucky afterGeneral Wayne's victory over the Shawnee in 1792. We
find land records of JamesConley in Scott County Kentucky in 1794. A number of
the Conley family went tothe "Big Sandy Valley of Kentucky" in 1763 along with
Henry and James Skaggs ofReed Creek near Fort Chiswell Virginia, and Daniel
Boone. Harmon Connelly and Thomas Connelly werepart of this early expedition.
When the Connelly familybegan to settle Kentucky in the 1790's they had
thousands of acres ofland. This land must have been claimedback in 1763 whey
they made their first tripinto the "Wilderness of Kentucky." I feel the Conley
family, Skaggs family andDaniel Boone learned of this rich Kentucky land
covered with"Bluegrass" from the James Conley that settled on Reed Creed in the
early 1740's and was a"Long Hunter" in Kentucky and sold many of his skins to
James Skaggs. He was changed in Augusta County Court, in1746 for having 38
"Red Deer Skins"at the home of James Skaggs. In 1751this James Conley was
killed by Day Thoughgood aslave belonging to James Conley. JamesConley Sr.'s
son was later to move fromWalker Creek across the mountain into Burkes Garden
and marry at about the ageof 32 years old in the County of Tazewell. This was
on May 22, 1806 when hemarried Rachel Stobough, daughter of John Stobough and
Leah Corder. Leah and John were married in MontgomeryCounty on Nov. 3, 1787.
John Stobough’s father,Henry Stobough took the “oath of allegiance” on the
courthouse in PhiladelphiaPa. steps in 1752. Henry married Elizabeth Waggonor
the daughter of AdamWaggonor, one of the early settlers of the New River
Valley. Leah Corder’s grandfather was one EdwardCorder who got drunk and
robber a store in London in1721. He was sentenced to betransported to the
colonies and was to serve 15years. He arrived in Virginia and rented from
James Conley Sr. son ofArthur Conley had several children a few of which were
James Conley Jr., born in1774, Garland Conley born in 1776, Bailey Conley, and
Bridget Conley. All these children were in Tazewell CountyVirginia by 1803.
James Conley Jr. married inTazewell in 1806 and may have worked for his
father-in law in BurkesGarden for several years before purchasing land of his
own but in 1832 he bought100 acres of land from the Stobough’s for 100 dollars.
This land, lies near the “Blue Spring” in Burks Garden. This spring has a flow
of over 3900 gallons ofwater per minute and is the largest in the state of
Virginia. He sold this land for 100 dollars in1838. Then in 1851 he purchased
37 acres of land on BanksRidge in Burkes Garden, located in Clear Fork
James Conley Jr. had several children and our family lineextends through
Gordon Cloyd Conley born in1833. Gordon married Mary Jane Bolingon July 16,
1854. Mary Jane was the daughter of Harrison andMartha Boling of Bount County
Tn. Gordon and his wife took care of James (Jr.)and his wife Rachel all of
their livies. James lived to be 96 or 97 years old anddied in 1871.
The following is a Photo ofGordon Cloyd Conley and Mary Jane Boling Conley.
This photo was made from apainting.
During the time that theConley family was settling into the New River and
Clinch Valleys of Virginia,the Sage family was moving into the South side of
the same valley and acrossIron Mountain unto the Elk Creek Valley. Our next
chapter will follow themigration and lives of the early Sages.
The earliest records that wehave on James Sage “The Settler” was found in his
old notebook made with ahome tanned leather binding which is still owned by a
descendant. James recorded that he was born near LondonEngland about 1749. He
referred to Shepton Mallet,which is located in Summerset County of England as
his “dwelling place”. He also recorded in his notebook, “JamesSage, Baker, for
His Majesty, King GeorgeIII”. He made a notation about hisdeparture from
England, this notereads, “James Sage, Baker, from London 23 July, 1773.
We have learned from otherrecords that James sailed from Middlesex, where he was
sentenced totransportation. He sailed on theHanover Planter and the Captain
was Master WilliamMcColloch. James was sent to the “NewWorld” as a sentence for misconduct. This was a common practice for even minor infractions. This may alsoexplain why James fought for the independence of the colonies against GreatBritain.
A record of his trail isshown below. He was tried in LondonEngland at the Old Bailey located in the western part of the city about 200yards northwest of St Paul’s Cathedral. It is also located next to the Newgate prison where James would havestayed from May 31, 1773 until his trail on July 07, 1773. At that point he would have been returned tothe Newgate prison until he was loaded on the ship (Hanover Planter) on July23, 1773 and he was transported to American to serve his 7 year sentence as anexile from England.
JAMES SAGE, theft: simple grand larceny, 07 Jul 1773.
The Proceedings of the Old BaileyRef: t17730707-10
· Crime(s): theft: simple grand larceny,
· Punishment Type: transportation,
(Punishment details may be provided at the end of the trial.)
· Verdict: Guilty,
· Other trials on07 Jul 1773
· Name search for: JAMESSAGE,
405. (M.) JAMES SAGE was indicted for stealing a linenshirt, value 1 s. and two linen shifts, value 2 s. the property of AbrahamRobbins, May 31. +
Abraham Robbins. I am a farmer at Kingsbury: my house hasbeen twice broke open; the last time was on Whit-Monday; I was alarmed in thenight; I missed a shirt off the clothes; the door was broke open, and there wasall the appearance of somebody having broke into the house.
Edward Williams, I am son-in-law to Mr. Robbins: mymother waked me; I jumped up, opened the window, and saw the prisoner run fromthe house; I put my shoes, stockings, and breeches on: I went out and saw a manbehind an elm tree; I went after him; I traced him as far as Davis's; there Igot intelligence of him, and then took him at the Black Lion, at Kingsbury;there were three more, which three were in the house; whether those two were inthe house or no I cannot tell; the house is a lone house 30 yards out of thelane, and a considerable way out of the high road; there is no other house nearit. When I took him, his white stockings were all wet and dirty, seemingly asif he had been going through wet grass. I am sure the man I took at Kilburn isthe same man I saw at the door; I know him by the clothes, and one shoulder washigher than the other.
John Sket. I saw him go through the farm yard; I said oldacquaintance where are you going? he said down to Kew Green. The people cameafter him; I described him to them, and it appeared he was the same man theywere in pursuit of.
Robert Smith. I lie in the room over the room where thepeople got in; I was waked by a cluttering at the window; I saw three men inthe house, neither of whom were the prisoner. I heard them unlock the door, andheard them afterwards go out; I saw these three men turn round the corner bythe yard, and immediately afterwards the prisoner went away from the wall ofthe house and went straight forward.
I was going to Kilburn to see after a place; I heard itwas disposed off, and so was returning back again.
The prisoner called three people who lived inWhite-cross-street, who said he lived in their neighbourhood, and gave him agood character.
From the court proceedingabove we learn a tremendous amount about this two-month period of James Sage’slife. First we discover that he was a resident of Kilburn a section ofKingsbury that was part of the old Middlesex County. This area is in the northwest part of London and most of hisfriends lived near the White-Cross-Street area. This is a street that runs through much of London. He had friends that were willing to come andtestify on behalf of his character. This was a great asset to him in the trial. The offence of breaking into a house was punishable by death atthat period of history but they tried him for the lesser offense of simplegrand larceny. We also learn that he atleast at this point had a shoulder injury (one shoulder was higher than theother). James was required to stand inthe “Old Bailey” before a large mirror that focused light on his face so thejudge and jury could see his facial expressions clearly to assist them inmaking a determination of guilt. Afterthe sentencing, he was returned to jail and on the 27th of July 1773he has loaded in the lower galley of the Hanover Planter along with 44 otherprisons that were sentenced to transport to American. Three years later this practice of transporting people toAmerican would cease with the beginning of the American Revolution. In 1779 the British would began to sendthose that they exiled to Australia.
The journey to American wasdifficult on this ship that was at least over 70 years old in 1773. Water would become very bad on a crossAtlantic crossing, and there was little occasion for sunlight and fresh air. Many people died on such a trip. Our line through James Sage continuesbecause of the mercy of the court, the providence of God and James being ingood health and only being 24 years old at this time. The ship that James was transported on was ship-wrecked near LongIsland off the coast of Scotland 6 years later with the loss of 3 lives.
James arrived inPhiladelphia and came down the “Great Wagon Road” that
stretches from easternPennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley into the New
River Valley. James settled in the New River Valley in thelate 1770’s on
Cripple Creek near where itempties into the New River. It wasthere he met his
wife-to-be, Lovis Ott thedaughter of a German settler, Sylvester Ott (Utt) and
they were married inMontgomery County (now Wythe County) on December 25th,
1780. James Sage was the administrator for theestate of Sylvester Ott and at
the time of Sylvester’sdeath, around 1803, Sylvester owned 60 acres of land on
the New River, at the edgeof Peak Creek in Wythe County but was living in
Grayson County when he died.
James and Lovis continued tolive on Cripple Creek, Montgomery County (now Wythe
County) for few years aftertheir marriage. It was rumored thatprior to his
coming to Virginia that hewas with Gen. George Washington and that he was at
Yorktown when Cornwallissurrendered. He served a number ofenlistments in the
Continental Army and most ofthese were for six months at a time. Hewas no
doubt part of local militiacall up for short local battles, mostly in NC. In
his regular service heserved under Capt. Robert Sawyer’s company in 1779; 6
months in 1781 with Capt.James Montgomery; 6 months with Col. John Montgomery
in 1782 and he also servedin Col. Crockett’s regiment in 1783. James Sage was
listed in other publicationsas serving in the Colonial Army in the battles of
Monmouth, Bunker Hill andSullivan’s Island. These engagementstook place from
1775-1778, this would havemeant that he served in the military from the time
that he arrived in Americanuntil the end of the Revolution in 1783 and would
have still been aprivate. I feel this is highly unlikelythat he served over
this span of time as aprivate when he had the ability to read and write. The
first enlistment that wehave records for was shown as 1779. Thereforethe
battles that he may havebeen involved in, under the commanders listed, would
have been the ChickamaugaIndian Villages around April 30, 1779. The Tory
uprising on the Yadkin Riverof North Carolina in October 1780. Col.Joseph
Cloyd raised 3 troops ofhorsemen (160 men) to ride south with him into North
Carolina. James Sage raised “high bred” saddle horsesand was a skilled
horseman and a patriot. These troops would have had to ride southnear James’
house on the way toN.C. There is only a list of about 15of these 160 men but
I feel James Sage would havebeen one of those unlisted men.
“Backwater Men” alsoanswered the call to assemble at Sycamore Shoals near
Elizabethan Tennessee. This was for the purpose of confronting the Britishat
Kings Mountain. A rider went from near modern dayChristiansburg Virginia into
the Elk Creek Valley, acrossIron Mountain into Cripple Creek then to Marion,
Seven-Mile-Ford and theninto Bristol. He rode three horses intothe ground as
he called upon the “MinuteMen of Virginia” to stop the advance of Gen.
Cornwallis andFerguson. These British commanders hadsent word to the people
of Virginia, warning them ifthey joined the fight, that the English would march
into southwest Virginia andhang those that served with the militia and burn the
homes and crops of thegeneral population. The battle thatfollowed was a great
victory for American andgave new courage to the cause of freedom. Again the
messenger gathering troopspassed the home of James Sage and this
brother-in-law, Fredrick Ott(Utt) on Cripple Creek. James Sage waslisted as
serving with Captain JohnAdams militia in his roster of March 12, 1783. Others
listed on the roster includeDavid Connelly (Conley) brother of James Conley
Sr., David owned 400 acresof land on Walker Creek in an area known as Crab
Orchard. Richard Chapman was among that militiacompany, he married Susannah
Conley and this marriagetook place in Montgomery County on May 5, 1790.
Fredrick Ott (Utt) waslisted on the roster of Fredrick Edwards company of
militia on March 24,1781. Details of the acts of bravery inthe Battle of
Kings Mountain are recordedin chapter one of this book.
On February 10, 1781, wordwas sent to Maj. Joseph Cloyd to gather troops to
assist Gen. Nathaniel Greenin North Caroline. A message went outthrough
Montgomery County toassemble at the lead mines (Austinsville) south of
Wytheville, on the NewRiver. Answering this call was 350men. This was at a
time when the adult malepopulation of Montgomery County (present Montgomery,
Floyd, Patrick, Carroll,Grayson, Tazwell, Wythe, Pulaski, Giles, and all the
counties of southwesternWest Virginia) was less than 1800 men. Many of the men
in this 1800 total populationcount, would have been too old, young or
physically unable to servein the militia. Therefore about everyable-bodied
man that was able to get theword and get to the lead mine was there. We have
no list preserved, but I’msure that the Sages, Otts and Conleys were well
represented. This meeting place was only about 8 milesfrom the home of James
Sage and less than 20 milesfrom the Conley clad. Details of thisengagement
are found in chapter one ofthis publication.
There was a number of otherbattles fought in North Caroline, through 1783 and
James Sage was listed asbeing active in the militia through the ending of the
Revolutionary War. Some of these battles were Whitsels Mill,Great Island,
Cherokee Indian Campaign,Guilford Court House, Reedy Creek and the search for
Other writings havesuggested that James Sage moved to Elk Creek in present day
Grayson County in about1791. I believed that he moved thereover 7 years prior
to that date. On November 14, 1784 James Sage signed apetition in Montgomery
County to give himself andothers title to land in present day Grayson County,
that “many of these peoplehad lived on for over 30 years”. Thisland was part
of a 10,000 acre grant ownedby Peter Jefferson, Thomas and David Mealeweather,
and Dr. Thomas Walker. Those holding the land grant had sold landto these
people of Grayson County(the Montgomery County) but they had not given them a
deed. This contest was settled by the people paying the government $4.22 per
100 acres to secure title totheir land. Stephen Austin, the fatherof Stephen
Austin II later the governorof the state of Texas also signed this petition.
Another indication That theSage family moved to Elk Creek prior to 1791 was the
wording in a surveyappointment; “On September 28, 1790 a survey was to be made
from the Elk Creek road towhere Sage’s wagon overset on the Dry Branch near
In the period of 1740-1800the state would tax the people by having them raise
hemp for the making of ropeand other related products. Most of thesmall land
owners on the westernfrontier were busy raising enough crops to feed their
families, building cabinsand fending off Indian attacks and they had little
time to produce hemp. Most of the larger plantation owners didn’thave this
problem. On May 24, 1782 James Sage signed a petitionin Montgomery County, to
be submitted to the VirginiaLegislators, requesting that a different system of
tax be approved for thefrontier. This would allow people topay with deerskin
rather than hemp. James Sage was more a hunter than a farmerat this point in
his life. Using deerskin for currency is where theterm "buck" originated.
From the time that JamesSage arrived in America until the end of the
Revolution, every day was astruggle for survival on the frontier. The winters
were cold and brutal, summerbrought Indian raiding parties into the New River
Valley. Threats from wild animals were very real(bear would kill hogs, bounty
was paid on wolfs heads,rattlers and copperhead snakes were abundant). From
1777 until 1794 almost everyfamily had close friends and relative to die or be
captured by Indians. Some of these families experienced loss atthe hands of
the Indians more than oncein their lifetime. In one year over 28people in the
New River settlement losttheir life to Indian attacks. Many morewere wounded
or carried into captivitybeyond the Ohio by the Shawnee. TheseIndian attacks
were more frequent on thenorth and west areas of the New River Settlement.
This may have influencedJames Sage in his decision to move a little to the
south across IronMountain. Just over the mountain to thesouth of Cripple
Creek lay a very fertilevalley that was well watered by Elk Creek. This valley
lay nestled between IronMountain to the north, Point Lookout Mountain to the
southeast, White Top andMount Rogers to the west. Thesemountains to the west
were over a mile high andhad a climate much like Canada, due to their high
elevation. The mountain ranges provided great huntingconditions and the valley
was a wonderful farmingdistrict. The Cherokee used While Topas a major
hunting area. There remains evidence of this, even today,around and in some
caves on the top of thismountain.
A decision was made by Jamesand Lovis Sage to move across Iron Mountain unto
the banks of beautiful ElkCreek. This decision was made in thelate 1780’s.
At this point all thesettlement in the Elk Creek Valley had occurred by
families moving up fromNorth Caroline through the gaps in the Blue Ridge
Mountains. The Sage family was the first to come fromthe north across Iron
Mountain. There was nothing but “bridle trials” acrossthe mountain and James
had accumulated enough housewares that a wagon was required for the move.
James packed up the familyand started up Dry Run Creek, he came to a waterfall
that was over 6 feethigh. James “scotched” the wheels,unloaded the wagon and
then disassembled the wagonand carried it piece by piece over the waterfall and
reassembled it on thetop. He re-hitched the horses andbecame the first
settler into the Elk CreekValley from the Iron Mountain side. Formany years
this waterfall was know as“Sage Falls”. There is also evidencethat James
Sage’s wagon overturned onthis trip across Iron Mountain. MaryKegley in her
book, “Early Adventurers onthe Western Waters”, noted a reference on a road
survey as, “ending at thepoint of the Sage wagon upset”. Following the move
across Iron Mountain, newneighbors would join in to help construct a cabin.
These cabin raisings couldoften be completed in as little as two days. People
in Elk Creek were alwaysglad to see new settlers because neighbors were “far
and few”. Additional settlers meant greater safetyfrom both Indians and roving
rogues. James Sage was later to suffer greatly fromboth elements.
In 1791 James Sage receivedtitle to the land that he was living on in Elk
Creek. He purchased a superb stallion and began toraise horses as a money crop
and for his own use. He also had a neighbor, that raisedhorses, Mr. Cornute
(Cornett). In the summer of 1792 Mr. Cornett went tocheck on a number of
horses that he was grazingin a nearby pasture field and he discovered that
three of his horses weremissing. He found tracks and other signthat would
indicate that his horses hadbeen stolen. He along with Michael Delpand James
Sage begin to track thesehorse thieves and their trial led toward White Top
Mountain. The trail divided but Sage and Cornettcontinue on the trail leading
toward White Top. Near the summit in a saddle in the mountain,in an area known
as Elk Garden, the horseswere found grazing and hobbled. Perhapsthe thieves
knew that someone was hot ontheir trail, so they left the horses and ran for
their lives. If you stole a man’s horse, and was caughtyou would be hanged.
The recovered horses werebrought back home to Elk Creek.
After several weeks Jamesand his older boys were clearing “new ground” for
future planting. His wife Lovis was washing clothes in thecreek and their five
year old daughter, Caty wasplaying with a rag doll nearby. WhenLovis began to
look for the young girl, shewas nowhere to be found. There was thesmall rag
doll lying where Caty hadbeen taken. It is thought that thehorse thieves may
have returned and kidnappedher. Indians may have been responsiblefor both the
abduction and trading ofCaty. A search was made by theneighbors, James Sage
spent the better part of ayear trying to locate his missing daughter. For
years after the abduction,the family followed every lead to no avail. At one
point James traveled toNorth Caroline to confer with a fortune teller named
“Granny Moses”. Granny told him that Caty was alive andwell, but he would
never know where she was orwhat happen to her. She added that late in life,
Caty’s mother would havenews concerning her but would never see her again. She
also said that Lovis, Caty’smother would outlive Caty. All of these
predictions came topass.
Caty (Catherine) was takento the top of White Top Mountain by the horse thieves
or Cherokee Indians and waslater traded to the Wyandotte Indians. She was
taken by way of trails alongthe New River into Ohio and was soon on the Great
Lakes at Sandusky Ohio. She and her tribe were moved west to Kansasto a
reservation in the1830’s. She was found by a brother in1847. Her brother
Charles was hauling suppliesfor the military on the “Old Santa Fe Trail”. He
went to Fort Leavenworth,Kansas in 1847, to pick up supplies for the U.S. Army
that was fighting in theMexican War in Mexico. When they wereabout to leave,
a Wyandotte Indian told themof an old white lady who had been with their tribe
many years. Charles wrote a letter to his mother andbrother with a description
of the white lady livingwith the Indians. She had a “Gingerbread” colored
birthmark and a scar thatshe received from a burn prior to her being kidnapped.
Her oldest brother Samuel came and was able to identify her andhad to talk
with her through aninterpreter, she had forgotten how to speak English.
Letters were exchanged backand forth between Elk Creek and Kansas and Caty was
planning a visit back to ElkCreek but she died of Pneumonia fever before she
could make the trip. Caty’s death took place on January 21,1853. In letters
written by her brotherSamuel, she described her conversion to Christianity
thirty years before and gavean account of many of the events of her life.
Several books giveadditional details of her life, these are “March of the
Sages,” by Ball; “ Red Trails and White”, by Bonnie Ball, “Yourowquains, A
Wyandot Indian Queen”, byBill Bland.
James Sage lived out theremainder of his life on Elk Creek where he and Lovis
raised 14 children of theirown and one grandson. In genealogicallistings
there are 15 children due tothe grandson that was raised by James and Lovis
(Martin Sage born in 1803)and there is no paternal listing of his natural
parents. These children are as follows;
1. Samuel Sage – born August 5, 1781, Montgomery CountyVa: M.
2. John Sage –b Oct. 24, 1782. Montgomery County, Va: d.in infancy
3. James Sage Jr. – b June 17, 1782 d. April 21, 1869; M.Catherine
Canny, Grayson County Va.
4. Mary (Polly) Sage – b. Dec. 4, 1785; M- John Hall,Oct. 30, 1804
in Grayson County Va.
5. Catherine (Caty) Sage – b. Jan. 5, 1787 Montgomery CountyVa.:d.
Jan 21, 1853 in Wyandotte,Kansas, married three times to Indians
6. Lovis Sage II – b. March 1, 1788 Montgomery CountyVa.; M. Peter
Rauhoff, May 1811 GraysonCounty Virginia
7. Margaret (Peggy) Sage – b. Feb. 1, 1790, Wythe County Va.; d.
Oct. 15, 1870 (unmarried)
8. Sampson Sage – b. Feb. 11, 1792 Grayson County Va. D.March 25,
1872 Lee County Va.; m.Lydia Fletcher in 1816 Lee County Va.
9. Esther (Hester) Sage – b. Oct. 26, 1793 Grayson CountyVa.; m.
John Cooper, Sept. 17, 1817
10. Anna (Ann) Sage – b. Oct. 26, 1795,Grayson County Va. ; m. James
11. Charles (Comer) Sage – b. July 11,1797. Grayson County Va. M.
12. William Sage – b. May 11, 1800Grayson County County. Va. D. Feb. 1,
13. Ezekiel Sage – b. May 17, 1803 d. ininfancy
14. Elizabeth (Betsy) Sage – b. April 12,1805; m. Jacob Delp in 1836
James died on March 17, 1820on Elk Creek. Lovis died on August 28,1854 and
they are both buried in theSawyer Cemetery at Elk Creek. Thiscemetery is
located on a hill lookingdown on the Elk Creek Dragway. A markerwas placed on
the grave of James Sage bythe D.A.R. in 1936. On Labor Day of1995, a marker
was placed on Lovis’ graveby 10 descendants. All the other gravesin the Sage
section appeared to bemarked with fieldstones and no inscription. The infant
children, that was lost byJames and Lovis were buried on the Sage family farm
and today are marked onlywith a fieldstone with no inscription.
My line extends from theeighth child of James and Lovis Sage and I will now
continue to follow theprogression of that line. This wasSampson Sage who was
born on Feb. 11, 1792 andwas married to Lydia Fletcher on Nov. 18, 1816 in Lee
County Virginia. Lydia was born on Feb, 3, 1798 in MontgomeryCounty (present
day Giles County). Lydia was the daughter of Aaron Fletcher andElizabeth
(Milam) (Davis) Fletcher,who were married in Montgomery County in 1797.
Sampson’s oldest brotherSamuel made his way to Lee County Virginia in the early
1800’s. Sampson may have moved at the same time or alittle later than his
brother. Samuel was later to serve in the War of 1812as a private in George W.
Camp’s Company, 4thRegiment, Virginia Militia. He wasdischarged at Fort
Norfolk in 1814. Sampson also served in the war of 1812.
Sampson Sage purchased afarm on the foothills of Powell Mountain, near Wallen’s
Creek, at Stickleyville, inLee County Virginia. His land borderedClaiborne
Young’s farm and hisSampson’s grandson married Mr. Young’s granddaughter over 2
decades following Sampson’sdeath.
Sampson’s wife Lydia servedas a midwife and traveled miles to perform her
services. According to reports her normal charge wasfifty cents. This usually
included staying with thefamily for a few days and helping with house keeping
and nursing the baby andmother.
For many years a legendpersisted that Lydia had buried a lot of money in a
small pottery jar. A number of People have searched for GrannySage’s lost
treasure but it has neverbeen discovered. Much of this money wasburied during
the Civil War. It was during this time was that therenegade band called
“Witchers” killed and decapitatedher oldest son, John Davis Sage. Inchapter
four, I will trace thefamily line through Sampson’s third son William Winfield
TheConley Family from 1800
Throughthe Civil War
Burkes Garden had beendiscovered in the 1750’s and those that visited this high
mountain valley saw it as“the garden spot of the world”. It isthe highest
valley in the State ofVirginia. In the 1770 and 80’s it was adangerous place
to live due to the Indianthreat from the north. In the early1780’s there was
only two families living inthe valley of over 20,000 acres. Following Wayne’s
victories over the Shawneesin 1792, there was no more raids by the Indians into
Tazewell County. People began to move back into Burkes Gardenin the late
1790’s and early1800’s. James Conley Jr. was one of thefirst to move into the
area and was one of thefirst marriages recorded in the newly formed County of
Tazewell. He was married to Rachel Stobaugh on May 22,1806. From this union a
number of children wereborn. Ambrose Conley, Gordon, RobertConley, Abiga
Thomas (also listed asAbigale) Conley. James also had a twobrothers and a
sister that spent time inTazewell County shortly following it’s formation.
These were Bridget, Baileyand Garland Conley. Garland later movedto Logan
County West Virginia anddied there.
James Jr. and his new bridelived near or on the farm of his father-in-law, John
Stobough. James and Rachel bought 100 acres of Land inburkes Garden in 1832.
This land was purchased fromJ. Stobough for a sum of $100.00. Priorto this
land purchase, he helpedwith the construction of a community church that was
built in Burkes Garden.James Conley was listed on a historical list of those
that gave money and helpedwith erecting this log building. This church was
built in 1826 and was theoldest church in the area. TheMethodist, Lutheran
and Presbyterian worshiped in this building but later theMethodist and
Presbyterian build churchesof their own and the Lutheran continue to hold title
to this pioneer church. This church was located on the FancyGap-Tazewell
Turpike. James donated a pulpit chair and helped tocut 16 pair of 17ft 6”
rafters. He assisted his father-in-law, John Stobaughwith the rafter cutting.
The early Conleys inTazewell County had strong leanings to the Lutheran but by
the 1850’s the preferenceseems to have been Methodist. Rachelbeing from
German background on bothsides of her family would have been Lutheran but James
Conley grew up near a strongMethodist community and would have been more
inclined to beMethodist.
James Conley continued tofarm this fertile land until he made a decision to
sell. In 1838 he sold this farm for the same pricethat he purchased it, one
hundred dollars. We are not sure where he lived at this pointbut he purchased
a new farm of 37 acres 13years later at the Banks Ridge section of Burkes
Garden, in 1851. He held on to this land and at his death itwent to his son,
Gordon Cloyd Conley that hadbeen keeping he and Rachel. He gavethis land to
Gordon through an agreementthat was entered into on March 25, 1862. This was
in the middle of the CivilWar. Rachel died some time between 1862and 1870.
James died in 1871 at the ageof about 96 or 97 years old.
During these later years ofJames Conley Jr. and Rachel’s life, they made their
home with their son Gordon.As the extended family lived together, grandchildren
would approach him and sayGrandpa tell us a story about when you were a boy.
One of the best forms ofentertainment of those days was telling stories of
their past. My Grandfather was one of those smallchildren that gathered around
the knees of James to hearhis accounts of growing up on the American frontier.
He no doubt related to themstories of growing up on Little Sugar Run Creek that
flowed into WalkerCreek. James Sr.’s brother, Thomas lived on Walker Creek as
one of the first settlersbeyond “Big Lick” (modern day Roanoke Virginia). His
uncle Thomas died when JamesJr. was about 17 years old in about 1791. James’s
Grandfather Arthur, andgreat-uncles James and John were on the New River when
some of the first explorescame through (Dr. Thomas Walker in 1752). The
Conleys were here at leastas early as 1746 according to court records. John
and James Conley (this wasthe James that was murdered on Reed Creek in 1751)
were “long hunters”, whenthey first arrived at the New River Settlement. They
would spend months on endhunting in areas of present West Virginia and
Kentucky. There were no permanent settlements in thiswilderness. James Jr.
would have spent time at hisGrandfather’s cabin hearing about his coming down
the “Great Wagon Road” fromPennsylvania unto the “Valley of Virginia” and on
across the AlleganyMountains into the western frontier where only the bravest
would venture. Just a few miles from James’ grandfathershouse in 1755 the
Shawnees raided thesettlement of Drapers Meadow and killed a number of people
and took Mary Draper Inglesnorth into Ohio. After five months sheescaped and
made her way back toEggleston Springs where she was found almost dead, this was
in November of 1755. The man that found her was Adam Harmon aneighbor of
Thomas Conley. When she returned home, her hair was snowwhite. She left one
of her sons Thomas Ingleswhen she escaped but he was ransomed later and became
one of the first settlers inBurkes Garden of Tazewell County.
James Conley Jr.’s fatherwas a scout and served in this role while James Jr.
was growing up. His father would go out on the Indian trailsand look for sign
and watch for Indians comingsouth out of their winter villages in Ohio. These
scouts went out in partiesof two and sleep in the leaves and thickets. If
Indians were seen the scoutswould have to run to all the cabins between the
forts or block houses, thattheir watch covered, and help gather the people into
the forts. This required these men (some as young as 15years old) to have both
speed and endurance inrunning. The full list of scouts isfound in chapter one
of this publication and theyare listed in several history books that cover the
early history of southwestVirginia. (Early Adventures on the Western Waters, by
Kegley, Tazewell County byLouise Leslie and History of the Middle New River
Settlements and ContiguousTerritory by David E. Johnson). WhenJames Sr. was
out scouting, James Jr. wasthe oldest boy left at home and had to help his
mother raise the crops anddefend the house. The “scouts” were outall summer
because this was when theIndians would raid.
James Sr. also served insome Fall and Spring campaigns of the Revolutionary
War. His neighbor Joseph Cloyd would have calledon him when he raised 160
horsemen to go to NorthCaroline in October of 1780. This wasto put down a
Tory uprising on the YadkinRiver. James Jr. as a six year old boywatched his
dad, a backwoods farmer ,saddle one of his three horses to ride south and
confront the “greatest militarypower in the world.” Each time thatJames Jr.
watched his dad leave hometo scout for Indians or fight the British, he was
unsure that he would everysee his father again. He also was notsure if the
Indians had returned to theOhio by early October and if he and his mother and
brothers would be safe whilehis father was away. To say that hegrew up
surrounded by danger is anunderstatement.
On February 10 of 1781 thecall again went out along Walker Creek and throughout
Montgomery County that helpwas needed in North Caroline to turn back the
British. They assembled 350 men at the lead mines ofAustinsville, near Grahams
Forge and Wytheville. James Jr. watched his dad again ride awaywith his
neighbor, Maj. Joseph Cloyd,this was nearing the time of year that the Shawnee
began their raids into theNew River Settlements. His neighbor,Joseph Cloyd
was to dismount from hishorse in the battle of Wetzel’s Mill and give his horse
to Col. Preston. The Colonel had his horse to throw him andhe has so large he
could not run and keep upwith the retreat that the American Militia was making.
So, Cloyd gave up his horse to Preston and that saved Preston’slife that day.
These North Carline battlesstretched on into March and the men from New River
began to get concerned aboutIndian attacks on the homes. These menrushed home
to watch the home front and20 men were stationed at Sugar Run where James
Conley was living. So, in March 1781, 20 men from the Militiawere camped and
no doubt were coming andgoing from the home of James Conley. Here was James
Conley Jr. a seven year oldboy listening to the accounts of these battle harden
frontiersmen telling aboutall their war stories of the Revolution and Indian
raids. When young James was nearly 100 years old,during and following the
American Civil War he wouldbe setting around the fireplace at Gordon Conley’s
home, sharing these sameaccounts from a century before with his grandchildren.
In 1871 James went home tobe with the Lord.
The children of James ConleyJr. and Rachel Conley are as follows; Ambrose
Grayson Conley born in1830and married Sarah Ann Molloy, Gordon Cloyd Conley
born in 1834 and marriedMary Jane Boling. These two childrenare proven by
Tazewell County marriagerecords. Other children that are notproven are Layer
Conley that married JacobSnider on March 27, 1834, Robert Conley married
Tabitha Stratton on February28, 1850. Peggy Conley married ElizahHavens
February 26, 1833. My line continues through Gordon CloydConley.
Gordon Cloyd appears to beone of the younger and perhaps the youngest of the
children of JamesConley. It is in the early 1800’s thepeople in the New River
Settlement begin to givetheir children a middle name and so James and Rachael
named Gordon after one ofJames’ childhood friends and neighbors. Gordon Cloyd
the son of JosephCloyd. At the time that Gordon Conleywas born, Gordon Cloyd
had achieved the rank ofGeneral in the American Army and was a major figure in
Virginia politics, he was amember of the Constitutional convention of Virginia
Gordon Cloyd Conley marriedMary Jane Boling, the daughter of Harrison and
Martha Boling. Mary Jane was born in Blount CountyTennessee 1833.
1 History of the New RiverSettlement, P. Johnson, page 144