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Letter from Colonel William Preston, at Fincastle, in Virginia



DEAR SIR: I received your favour, by Thomas Edger, with the papers, for which I am much obliged to you. In return, please to accept of the following intelligence from the frontiers, which, if necessary, may be supported by the most indubitable authority.

The murder of Mr˙ Russell and five of his companions, last Fall, at no great distance from our settlements, you have already heard of. It has since appeared that the assassins were not Cherokees, as was then thought, but a party belonging to some of the Northern tribes. Two persons, called Cochran and Foley, and three men in company with one Hayes, were killed about the same time.

In the course of this summer a number of our people have been killed and captivated by the Northern Indians, particularly Mr˙ Thomas Hogg, and two men near the mouth of the Great Kenhawa; Walter Kelly, with three or four other persons, below the falls of that river; William Kelly, on Muddy Creek, a branch of Greenbrier, and a young woman at the same time made prisoner. One of the scouts, called Shockley, was lately shot in this county; and on Sunday, the 7th of this instant, a party attacked three families at the house of one Laybrook, about fifteen miles from this place. Old Laybrook was wounded in the arm; three of his children, (one of them a sucking infant) a young woman, the daugher of one Scott, and a child of one widow Snyde, were killed. They scalped the children, all but one, and mangled them in a most cruel manner. Three boys were made prisoners, two of whom made their escape the Wednesday following, and were found in the woods by the scouts. The Indians were immediately pursued by several parties of militia, but they took such precaution in travelling that it was impossible to find their track. Sundry other people have also been murdered along the frontier parts of the neighbouring counties. The inhabitants of Fincastle, except those on Holstein, are chiefly gathered into small forts, also great numbers in Botetourt; as Indians are frequently seen, and their signs discovered, in the interiour parts of both counties.

Such is the unhappy situation of the people that they cannot attend their plantations, nor is it in the power of the scouts and parties on duty to investigate the inroads of the enemy, as they come in small parties, and travel among the mountains with so much caution. About the last of July, one Knox, who went to the Ohio with the Surveyors in the Spring, reached this settlement, and gives the following intelligence: That, on the 13th of June, one Jacob Lewis departed from the camp, on Salt River, in the morning to hunt, and has never been heard of since; that on the 8th of July, being at the said camp, about one hundred miles from the Ohio, and nearly opposite to the Falls, he, with nine others, were surprised and fired upon by a party of about twenty Indians; that two men were killed on the spot, viz: James Hamilton, from Fredericksburg, and James Cowan, from Pennsylvania; and as the enemy rushed upon them before it was possible to put themselves in any posture of defence, they were obliged to abandon their camp, and make their escape to a party of thirty-five men who were then in that neighbourhood. Next day the whole, being forty-three men in number, after burying the dead, set out for the settlement on Clinch River, where they arrived the 29th, after making several discoveries of the enemy on the way.

This day Captain Floyd, one of the Surveyors, reached this place with the news that on the 8th of July he and three others parted with fourteen men who were also engaged in the surveying business, and went about twenty miles from them to finish his part of the work, and that they were to meet on the first of August, at a place on Kentucky, known by the name of the Cabin, in order to


proceed on their journey homeward. On the 24th of July, Captain Floyd, with his three men, repaired to the place appointed, where he found that part, and perhaps all the rest of the company, had assembled according to agreement, but had gone off in the greatest precipitation, leaving him only this notice, written on a tree, "alarmed by finding some people killed, we are gone down;" upon which Captain Floyd, with his small party, immediately set out, steering for our settlements, and after an extreme, painful, and fatiguing journey of sixteen days, through mountains almost inaccessible, and ways unknown, he at last arrived on Clinch River, near Captain Russell' s fort.

Captain Floyd does not well understand the notice left him on the tree, whether part of the company had assembled at the Cabin, and that they were gone down to the camp, where he parted with them, in order to warn those who were at work in that neighbourhood of the impending danger, or whether the whole company had not met, and were departed down the Mississippi, as several in the company had before proposed returning home that way, with a view both to see the country and avoid the fatigue of returning by land.

For the satisfaction of any gentlemen who may be concerned, the names of the Surveyors and some of the principal persons not yet returned, are inserted, viz: James Douglass, Hancock Taylor, and Isaac * * * * * * *, Surveyors; John Willis, Willis Lee, Captain John Ashby, Abraham Hempenstall, William Ballard, John Green, Lawrence Darnell, Mordecai Batson, Jacob Sodousky, James Strother, and John Bell.

If any thing happens for the future, worthy of notice, you shall be punctually informed of it, by your humble servant,