By Emory L. Hamilton

By Emory L. Hamilton

     On December 1, 1951, in company with the late James Taylor Adams, I visited "Sugar Hill" overlooking the town of St. Paul, VA, to what is unquestionably the oldest house in Wise County, and probably the only one to have ever been occupied by European Royalty - the home of Baron Francois Pierre De Tuboeuf.

     The place was reached by a two mile section of poorly kept and seldom traveled secondary road, and a mile of red clay. I would not risk the car all the way, but parked it on the roadside and we sloshed the rest of the way through red clay mud, sometimes leaving the road altogether and picking our way through thickets of undergrowth strange to other sections of Wise County, such as Osage Orange, Honey Locust and Box Elder.

     The house located at the extreme of a high finger of land jutting out from Sandy Ridge, is set atop a bluff overlooking Clinch River, and is not perhaps greatly changed since the days of the Baron's occupancy, still retaining port-holes on the second floor as a defense against marauding Indians.

     The topography o the country is such that viewed from St. Paul the house appears on the south of Clinch River and in Russell Co. The river, however, makes a sudden bend between the hills and so close the  land hugged walls that one loses sight of the twisting course of the waters when viewed from the escarpment above. Actually the house is on the northwest side of the river
and in Wise Co.

     In the year 1772, (1) John English established settlement on this spot, built a house there and recorded his deed to 199 acres on June 26, 1786, in Russell Co., VA. (2)

     On Christmas day 1782 the Indians attacked the home of John English, but the family apparently suffered no harm during this foray. On January 29, 1783, Col. Arthur Campbell, writing to the Governor of Virginia makes this statement: 
     "On Christmas day 1782 the Indians attacked the home of John Ingles on Clinch, in this county, scalped and otherwise grievously wounded a young man of the name of Cox, overtaken in ye field. The second day afterwards as the enemy was making off toward the head of Sandy River, (they) came on three hunters, two of whom they killed." (3) 

     English apparently lived in peace for a few years after this for there is no account that the Indians bothered him in the interim for 1782 until 1787, which is remarkable in that he was the only inhabitant living in the bounds of present Wise County across from Castlewood on a lonely mountain top and distant some three or four miles from the forts on the south side of Clinch. Fifteen years after he had settled on his claim all the horror and tragedy of a savage race was brought home to the man who had dared the wilderness to carve out his home and his destiny. On March 8, 1787, the red denizens of the forest struck in all their barbarity, killing Molly the wife of John English, and his two little sons. Alexander Barnett, County Lieutenant of Russell County, wrote to the Governor of Virginia, on March 26, 1787, saying:
     "That on the 8th day of the present month the Indians made an attempt on Cassell's Woods, on Clinch, and killed a woman and two children, and made their escape on a manner that they could not follow with any certainty." (4)

     Again on May 19, 1787, Alexander Barnette again writing to the Governor, says:
     "The last information is that John Inglishe's family killed in Cassell's Woods, on Clinch, in March last, were scalped, and that their scalps were carried into one of the towns on Hiwassee." (5)

     Whether John English lived on at his old home after his family was destroyed is not known. In 1791 he sold the place to the French Baron who moved on the hill in that same year. Mary English, daughter of John, and whether she was the only surviving child is not known, but no other children qualified as heir to his estate.

     Some have written that Baron De Tubouef having cast his lot with a losing political party was forced to flee his native land to London, England. While residing in London he supposedly invested in town property which he traded to one Richard Smith for 55,000 acres of land in the western wilderness of Virginia. He did, according to record, purchase his land from Smith, but of his residence in London I question on this recorded fact:
     "At a court held for Washington Co., VA, on the 20th day of October, 1795, an instrument of writing dated 30 May, 1791, and signed by Louis, King of France, purporting to be a safe conduct for Francois Pierre De Tubouef was presented in court and ordered to be recorded." If he was a resident of London why was it necessary to get a safe conduct passage from the King of France?

     De Tubouef sailed on the Nee La Petite Nannette, which from the name, was unquestionably a French ship, and was under the command of Captain Pitahugo. With him was his son (Alexander) his niece (Louise Duchesne), and five servants. Their destination was Richmond, VA.

     Russell Co., VA, Deed Book 4, page 48, dated September 30, 1798, refers to Richard Smith, thusly: "Formerly of the City and County of New London, in the state of Connecticut, and late of the City, County and State of New York, and resident at Waddon, in the county of Surry and the Kingdom of England, but now resident in the said New York." Richard Smith was one of the early land speculators and owned vast acreages in the western wilderness of Virginia, selling only a portion of his large speculations to the Baron.

     Baron De Tubouef is said to have lived at Dickensonville a short time after his arrival in 1791. Possibly, while living here, he negotiated for the tract of 119 acres from John English, which tract was in the bounds of the French lands, but title being older than that belonging to the Frenchman.

     In a lawsuit instituted in Russell Co., VA, in 1859, by Dale Carter against James Campbell, et als. Jonathan Osborne testified that he worked for the French Baron De Tuboeuf at the time he was 21 years of age, and that De Tubeuf bought the property from John English because of an improvement thereon, and lived on the said property.

     De Tubouef was residing upon the land purchased from John English in January, 1792, as evidenced by a letter to the governor, wherein he states that he had made settlement thereon in that month, and that one of his friends was departing that moment to receive the six hundred pounds sterling being loaned him by the state for the purpose of bringing French immigrants to his settlement upon the Clinch.

     Here the state set a precedent probably unknown before or since, in lending money to an individual for property improvement. Soon, however, the Baron had his six hundred pounds sterling to further his settlement, but which in the end was to cost him his life.

     During 1792 a number of improvements had been made, including a wagon road from the Russell Courthouse (then at Dickensonville), to the plantation. Also a body of soldiers had been stationed two miles away, which according to the Baron's letters had saved them from the Indian incursions, since being on the right side of the river Clinch they were more open to attack than those on the opposite side in proximity to Moore's and Russell's forts.

     Despite these cheering aspects all was not sunshine at St. Marie on the Clinch, for by October of 1792, some of the immigrants had deserted and in the words of the Baron to the Governor: "I have received the six hundred pounds you granted me and nothing will be wanting to be prosperity of my settlement if the greater part of my companions, too easily dismayed, yielding to a false terror, and tired at the difficulties met at the beginning had not abandoned me."

     In this letter he asks the Governor and the Legislature for a Certificate ascertaining the true state of the country, the fertility of the soil, the legitimately of his ownership, the facility of keeping ones self from the Indians as evidenced by his residence there for the past year, in order to encourage more immigrants to his settlement. Reading between the lines in the full context of this letter found in the State Papers one senses a deep faith and appreciation in his adopted land by this energetic Frenchman.

     Despite the adversities he complains of, Baron De Tubouef, had been cheered by the fact that his youngest son, Francois De Tubouef and two French families had joined him in April, 1793.

     Apparently life at St. Marie moved along at a normal pace until April, 1795, the day an election was held in Russell County to elect Representatives. The story of that day is best told by Alexander De Tubouef, oldest son of the Baron in a deposition taken by John Tate, a Justice of the Peace for Russell Co., VA, on the 3rd day of May, 1796, wherein he states:
     "That on the day of the election held for Representatives in said County, in the year one thousand seven hundred ninety-five, that two men passing by the name of Brown and Barrow, came to the house of this deponent's father, and, after being invited and partaking of dinner, and after staying some time and loitering around, taking the opportunity as the father of the deponent turned his face from them, one of the said men, which was Brown, gave him a stroke with a gun which he had in his hand, and the cock of the lock sunk appearingly through his skull, which sunk him motionless, and in a short time expired. The aforesaid, not sufficing their fury, with an attempt they proceeded to murder the whole family, and fell upon the said deponent with a club, and after receiving several wounds made his escape out of the house, and Miss Duchesne at the same time dangerously wounded. A servant maid attempting from the alarm to cross the river got drowned, and also the house being robbed and the trunks broke open and plundered."

     The younger son, Francois, might have been serving in the Continental Army at this time. A letter sent from the Baron to the Governor, by his son, Francois, dated August 16, 1793, informs the Governor that his son desires to continue the military service started in France for his new country, and the he will go down to General Washington to solicit "employ" in the troops, and asks for the Governor's recommendation.

     The murderers of Baron De Tuboef made their escape into the Illinois territory. A reward of $500 was posted for their apprehension, which reward notice gives a detailed description of each, and lists their names as John Brown, alias Bond, and Richard Barrow.

     The governor commissioned James McFarland and Lieutenant David ward to go to the Illinois country to seek their apprehension. This, they apparently succeeded in doing, but they broke custody in the Illinois Territory at a place called new Design in May, 1796, and were never seemingly recaptured. Three men by the name of Payne, Roberts, and Best were lodged in jail in Washington County as accessory to the murder and robbery of Baron De Tubouef and brought to trial in that county.

     What happened to the French immigrants, the sons of Baron De Tubouef and St. Marie on the Clinch? The French land was sold by the Commonwealth of Virginia, in 1854 to satisfy the mortgage at a public auction held at the home of Hiram H. Kilgore, opposite the present Clinch Valley College.

     The "safe passage" granted to Baron De Tubouef by the King of France, was for himself, his son Alexander, his niece Louise Duchesne, and five servants. The younger son, Francois Pierre with two French families joined the settlement in April, 1793. So far, I have nowhere found the names of the five servants. Besides the niece, Louise Duchesne, five other people were on security for the six hundred pounds sterling, and it must be assumed these came with the Baron from France and may or may not have been the five servants referred to. They were: Louise LeChartier, Charles De Spada, Euseba De La Planche, Caesar Le Febore, and Simon Perchet. Of these five I have been able to account for four:
     Charles De Spada, married Louise Duchesne, niece of the Baron, and died in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1819, or thereabouts. He was born in Spada in the Kingdom of France, September 24, 1752.
     Louise Le Chartier died in Abingdon, VA, in 1803, and left as her heirs Charles De Spada and Euseba De La Planche, both of whom were living at that time in Abingdon. Caesar Le Febore died at Abingdon, and his will recorded June 18, 1805, leaves his estate to brothers and sisters in France.
     Alexander and Francois Pierre De Tubouef, sons of the Baron, returned to France in 1803, and thus ends the tragic story of a dream...St. Marie on the Clinch.

     The story of "Sugar Hill" picks up where St. Marie ends, and it, too, is a romantic interlude of history. While John English had sold his land to Baron De Tubouef, it seems he had not yet made a deed at the time of De Tubouef's untimely death. After the death of the Baron it appears that Louise Duchesne had, in some way, held the land in possession. In a clemency suit instituted in
Russell County court with De Tubouef versus Louise Duchesne, Charles Bickley was appointed as Guardian to represent young Francois Pierre De Tubouef, and qualified for the same at the July term of court 1796. Alexander De Tubouef, the older son, was appointed as administrator of his father's estate at the June term of court 1799. In a court order dated July 25, 1797, Charles Bickley was ordered to pay John English 60 pounds from the sale of the estate of De Tubouef. From this order one may suppose the reason English had not made the deed to the land was due to the lack of payment for the same by Baron De Tubouef.

     John English was dead shortly after the date of the above order as evidenced by the probation of his will August 22, 1797. Jessee Fraley and Mary, his wife, who were heirs of John English, conveyed the property to the sons of De Tubouef by deed dated June 5, 1799. The sons of De Tubouef, in turn, conveyed their interest to Louise Duchesne by deed dated August 27, 1799. After her marriage to Charles De Spada they sold the land to Basil S. Elder of Baltimore, and the said Elder sold it to Charles Bickley by deed dated August 17, 1815. Charles Bickley and Delilah, his wife, sold to Sebastian H. Bickley, son of Charles, by deed dated March 4, 1821.

     From this point on "Old Hattler Bickley" as Sebastian was locally known, proceeded to enlarge the farm by buying additional adjoining land, and eventually with the help of slave labor, developed a very fine cattle and grain farm.

     Leading off from the southern slope of the hill below the house was a large grove of sugar maples which he developed into a thriving sugar industry, the first, and perhaps the only maple sugar industry in  Wise County. On the southern slope also was located the sugar camp, where the sap was collected and boiled down in vats much like the molasses pan until it crystallized into
sugar. The sugar was sold to the surrounding country and at the Bickley Mills trading center at Castlewoods. Though long in disuse, traces of the road leading from the house to the sugar camp may still be seen, and ashes or charcoal from the sugar furnaces may be traced in the soil. From "Old Hattler's" sugar operations the place became known as Sugar Hill, the name by which it is still known; none now living in the vicinity having ever heard of such a place as "Sainte Marie on

the Clinch."

     After the death of Hattler Bickley the place passed to his son, Charles, who lived out his life there, and with his wife, lies buried just west of the old house. 

     The question now, who really did build this old home? There is a tradition that the original house burned, and that Hattler Bickley built the present house. I question this story for three reasons: First, the details of its burning being rather fantastic in that fire broke out across the river and that sparks blown across by the wind fired a haystack and the conflagration eventually spread to the house. Secondly, there are port holes in the house under the upstairs windows (although
weatherboarded over now). Why would Hattler Bickley build a house with port holes for protection against the Indians a full quarter century after the last Indian raid in this territory? When his father, Charles Bickley sold to him in 1821 the deed reads in part: "Sold with buildings, etc., thereunto belonging", showing that it did have buildings then. And last, but not least, I think the condition of the house itself bears witness to its extreme age. The sleepers under the house,

which, when built were of logs about eighteen inches in diameter, but in some places they have dry rotted away to a bare six inches in diameter, or less.

     The house measures roughly 24 x 32 feet. The main part is a two story with a large kitchen-dining section of one story running off from the south end. The fireplaces are four downstairs and two up. Three of the downstairs fireplaces are in the same chimney, built cornerwise, or triangular. The ones on the ground floor being six feet wide and those on the second floor four feet wide. The chimneys are built of hand burned brick and are huge in size. The
flooring and ceiling is of yellow poplar about six inches wide, and has, of course, been added in more recent years, as well as the weatherboarding on the exterior.

(1) Washington Co., VA, Land Entry Book 1; (2) Russell Co. Land Entry Book 1; (3)
Calendar Virginia State Papers, Vol. III, p. 424; (4) Ibid, Vol. IV, p. 262. 

     Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia, Pages 33 to 41

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