By Luther F. Addington


By Luther F. Addington

     Archibald Scott was one of the pioneers of that quiet and beautiful little valley lying between Powell's Mountain and Wallen's Ridge, now in Lee County, Virginia.

     This little valley was selected by the first settlers because of its fertility, its water facilities, its superior range for cattle and its remoteness from the usual route of predatory Indians.

     Mr. Scott married Miss Fannie Dickenson of Castle's Woods. (Is the present Russell County). She had been reared among the dangers and excitements of frontier life and hence she was a companion upon whose coolness and fortitude her husband could depend in their new home on the fringe of civilization.

     They built a cabin here on Wallen Creek in 1782, soon after Daniel Boone had passed along the trace with his family on their way to the wilderness beyond the Cumberlands; and it was near his home that James Boone and his party had been attacked.

     Archibald located a corn right to one thousand acres of land at the headwaters of Wallen Creek, which runs the length of the valley lying between Powell Mountain to the south and Wallen Ridge to the north.

     On June 29, 1785, (1) while Archibald was working in a cornfield not far from his house, he saw a band of Indians come from the direction of Wallen Ridge. The sight of them filled him with fear for his wife and children who were at the house; but, when the Indians passed over Wallen Creek, which is a mere brook at this place, he felt better.

     However, taking his hoe, he went home and told his wife about Indians having passed.
     "We settled here because Indians don't often come this way," Mrs. Scott said.
     "Yes, I know," Archibald said. "But, Chief Benge has been known to come this way. He travels the trails little known to other Indians. When he attacked Fort Blackmore, he crossed Powell Mountain at its highest point and tried to attack the settlers there."
     "And he'll keep on coming until he's killed," Mrs. Scott said. "And I'm afraid he and his band will hide in the woods until after dark and attack us."
     "So am I afraid," Archibald said. "But, if we leave now, they'll see us and overtake us. It's a long way to habitation - on the Clinch. I think we'll have a better chance to stay here and bar the doors and keep the gun ready."

     Twilight came. Then dusk. The Scotts did not go out that evening. There was no need of feeding the live stock for it was mid-summer and grazing was good.

     Mrs. Scott prepared a scanty supper of vegetables and squirrel meat. The five children, hardly aware of the danger that lurked about the cabin, ate heartily; however, Archibald and his wife found their appetite gone.

     Supper over, Mrs. Scott washed the dishes in a wooden pail, then stacked them on the crude table. They gathered about the fireplace, where only seed fire now smoldered in the ashes.

     Soon the children went to bed. The parents still sat up, tense with fear. There was almost absolute quietness; only the whimper of the creek outside and a wind catching the edges of the roof of the house could be heard.

     "It's too quiet," Mrs. Scott said. "It's a quiet before a storm. Oh, Archibald, what if they come?"
     "We'll do the best we can, Fannie. We'll both fight. I'll shoot the first one who tries to get inside this house."
     "But, let's pray they've gone on south and won't come back," Fannie sighed.

     For a while neither of the Scotts spoke. To break the calm one of the children called out, "Have the Indians come yet?"
     "No, dear," Mrs. Scott said. "Now, go to sleep. We hope they won't come."

     But, they did come. They came with a heavy lunge at the door and broke it in. Through the opening they burst inside, yelling and wielding tomahawks. Mrs. Scott, who was undressing for bed, yelled to Archibald who was already in bed. He leaped to the floor and was shot. Wounded, he ran outside where he died.

     The children screamed in their beds, to which the savages hurried and in a moment slew three younger ones. A girl or eight ran to her mother yelling, "Oh, Mama! Save me!" But, her cries were in vain for the attackers tomahawked her in her mother's arms. Then, they quickly scalped all four children.

     The scalping over, they seized Mrs. Scott and carried her outside. Then, they began to carry out pots, pans, quilts and other plunder. As son as they had as much as they could carry, they set fire to the house. A cloud of smoke belched high into the night sky. Soon the blaze spread over the entire house, crackling and licking up, consuming the six bodies within.

     Mrs. Scott heard the name Benge spoken several times by some of the savages, and she knew then that he was the half-breed Cherokee who had been pillaging homes on Holston River and capturing white women and slaves.

     Soon a white man came up to her, took hold of her arm and said, "So, we've got you. We'll take you home with us." He laughed. "Maybe you've heard of me. Hargus. And I'm not an Indian. Just live with them."

     Mrs. Scott knew that this was the white man Hargus who had once lived on the frontier, who had committed a crime and, in order to evade punishment, had joined the renegade Indians who plundered the frontier homes.

     So, they meant to take her, did they? Well, there was nothing left in the upper Wallen Valley for her. Her loved ones were now being made into ashes.

     Soon the band of plunderers set out, walking in the night toward Wallen Ridge, headed northward. The night was warm; the stars winked down from the clear sky. But Mrs. Scott could enjoy none of the beauty of the world about her for within her heart a violent storm was raging. Would her parents at Castle's Woods hear about her captivity in time to marshal a force of men to come after her? What would be her fate?

     Slowly the Indians, in a long string, some ahead of her, some behind, moved up the trail to the summit of Wallen Ridge, then down the other side and up the valley of Powell River. Now and then they stopped to rest for they were burdened with their loot.

     By daybreak they came to the forks of Powell River and then veered left, entering the rugged gorge known as Big Stone gap through which the north branch of Powell flowed. Here great boulders lay strewn in the gorge, around which the stream tumbled, singing a deceptive song of peace. On either side of the stream rock cliffs jutted out like the jaws of some great machine.

     The Indians were anxious to get beyond this area as soon as they could for they feared the small Lee County militia stationed in Powell Valley might come after them. So, they continued to move forward. At a point where the North Fork of Powell River turned eastward, a tributary came in from the north, flowing down from Black Mountain near the present Virginia-Kentucky line.

     As they trekked up this rugged, narrow valley, wanting to get far ahead of any possible pursuers, Mrs. Scott, weary of muscles and almost sick with grief, began to lag. In trying to make her hurry her steps, the Indians would slap her in the face with the scalps of her husband and children.

     There were thirteen Indians in this party. Before crossing the range of Pine Mountain, the chief had all the plunder divided equally, then he detached nine of the party to proceed to the Clinch River settlements for the purpose of stealing horses. The remaining four would travel on northward and stop at a designated place in the forest.

     Upon the eleventh day after Mrs. Scott's capture the four Indians stopped at a place where they would wait for the horse stealers. Here she was left with the oldest man of the group who would guard her while the other three went out to hunt.

     One day, while the old man sat graining a deer hide, Mrs. Scott asked him if she might go to a nearby brook and wash the blood off her dress - blood which had spilled from the veins of her slain daughter.

     Evidently thinking that the woman was so deep in the forest that she would not dare leave, the old Indian nodded his agreement and said in English, "Go on."

     The woman traveled all day, going she knew not where. Then, as night approached, she became fearful of getting lost or not being able to live without food. She half wanted to return to the old Indian lest she perish alone in the wilderness. But she concluded after much reflection that she'd rather perish from hunger or be killed by wild animals than return to the savages.

      After traveling for three days, Indians with horses passed her while she hid in the bushes; these, she believed, were the ones who had been sent by the chief to the Clinch to steal horses.

     Hungry, tired, her clothes torn to shreds, Mrs. Scott became lost. In the dense forest she could not tell whither she was going. But, she came to a river which flowed sluggishly from the direction which seeming to her to be east. This river, she concluded, must be the Big Sandy, about which she'd heard her neighbors at Castle's Woods talk. If so, following it would eventually bring her out on the mountains, in the vicinity of her former home.

     So, foot past foot, she plodded up this stream, into the gorge of a mountain. Here, it seemed, the river had cut the mountain in twain, leaving great jagged cliffs on either side. And the stream was still whetting away at the rugged riverbed.

     Coming to a cliff which projected into the stream, she at this place must climb a steep cliff and try to get beyond it. She climbed and climbed only eventually to find herself blocked by another cliff. To go further this way was impossible; so she began to descend, hoping once more to reach the riverbed.

     But, when within a short distance of the river, she found that she was standing on the top of a cliff some fifteen or twenty feet high. She was so exhausted she doubted whether she could retrace her steps back up the steep slope and down again to her original position; and, even though she could, where would she go from there?

     After considerable meditation and thought, she decided she'd drop over the small cliff, come what might. So, she slid over. Her impact with the stones on the river's edge stunned her, and she lay there aching and thirsting. Her thirst was so intense she eventually decided to crawl to the water's edge and drink. Slowly she inched along, bent down and drank. Now she felt better. She sat up. There seemed to be no bones broken. Summoning all the courage and strength possible, she stood and began slowly to walk, following the water's edge.

     Fortunately it was a dry summer and the river was low, thus making it possible by following its edge and sometimes wading shallow places to move slowly onward. She was two days ascending the gorge, which she learned later was but a distance of two miles.

     Tired and hungry, Mrs. Scott, who had for a long time subsisted on nothing but cane, barks and herbs, left the river. Coming to two valleys, she was puzzled as to which one to follow. While she sat pondering her dilemma, a bird came by and flew up one of them. She paid little attention to this; but, when a second bird did the same thing, she decided to follow the valley into which the birds had flown. Following it, she came out, two days later, August 11, to New Garden in the upper reaches of Clinch River Valley.

     Although hardy and courageous, Mrs. Scott, four months later, was still declared "in a low state of health and inconsolable for the loss of her family, particularly bewailing the loss of her little daughter." (2)

     After some years Mrs. Scott married Thomas Johnson, for whom the county of Johnson, Tennessee, was named. She reared a large family of children, all of whom married and became useful and respected citizens.

     Mrs. Scott-Johnson lived to an advanced age; upon her death she was buried in Hyter's Gap not far from the base of Clinch Mountain, in Russell County, Virginia. Her funeral rites were said by John Kobler, a Methodist minister, May 8, 1796.

(1) Virginia State Papers, Vol. IV, p. 40 

(2) Freeman's Journal, Philadelphia, under date December 15, 1785. SOURCES: Cole, Charles B., Life of Wilburn Waters; Freeman's Journal, Philadelphia, December 15, 1785; Journal of Francis Asbury; Virginia State Papers, Vol. 4,

p. 40.

     Pages 88 to 96

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