Of the Pioneer
Conley and Sage
Glen Harrison Sage
“This is the life accounts of family members that contributed to the settlement
and development of the New River and Clinch Valley Settlements of Southwest
Virginia and their descendants that have continued to make America the great
nation that it is today!”
I developed an interest in the 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 so vastly different from my own.
She would talk to me for hours on end, about growing up in the mountains of N.C.
and her early years in Southwest Virginia and later West Virginia. I knew with
my passing that a lot of the oral tradition and recorded records that I have
researched would be lost to future generations if I didn’t place this
information in permanent written form.
Over the past two decades I have spent many hours in the Clerks of Circuit
Courts offices of Counties in NC, VA and WV researching family historical
information. I have also made regular trips to libraries with good genealogy
research available in order to “flesh out” this book.
It is my hope that the collection of this information will give our children and
our children’s children an appreciation for who they are and a knowledge of some
of the great sacrifices that their forefathers made to help develop this
mountain region and our nation into the land that it is today.
This is not just a book of who our grandparents and great-grand parents are but
through life accounts, they will become people that are a part of who we are
My hope is that this book will instill in others an interest to add to this
volume of information so that future generations will have even a greater
understanding of the proud heritage of these hardy mountain families. I would
hope when they mention they are descendants of the Conleys and Sages of
Virginia, that a great sense of pride would be part of that acknowledgment.
“The Conley Family from Ireland”
(Conley, Conlley, Connolly, Conelly, Connaley)
The first Conley of our line in Virginia is found in records of Augusta County.
This county stretched from Orange County in eastern Virginia west to the
Mississippi and north to the Great Lakes. Two brothers James, John and were
found in the New River Settlement area of Augusta County in the 1740’s. James
Conley is found mentioned in court records of Augusta County in 1746. He was
living on Reed Creek near the modern day town of Wytheville Virginia. In this
court session he was convicted of killing 38 “red deer” contrary to law and was
fined. In 1749, prior to his death James Conley the settler was commissioned
to lay off a road from Reed Creek to the Woods River (New River) and worked on
this project from the Calhouns’ house to the New River. A branch flowing into
the New River was named “Conley Branch”.
Later in Augusta Court records we discover that James Conly died and his estate
was appraised by Tobias Bright, Thomas Inglish, and Richard Hall. On October 1,
1751, Day Throughgood was charged with the murder of his master James Connely.
He confessed and was sent to trial. During this time the records indicate that
slaves that killed their masters in Augusta County were hanged and their heads
were then severed and the head was impaled and displayed along major roadways.
This murder and execution happened in the year 1751, so we know James Conley
died prior to 1752 on Reed Creek. In his estate, he had 7 head of cattle and 2
horses and a number of personal articles. In the settlement of this estate it
was mentioned that he had no wife or children. George Breckenridge was named
administrator of the estate. George was a friend of his brother John Connley
the settler. From the information that we have listed, we can deduct that James
Conley made his living as a “Long Hunter”. This meant that he made trips beyond
the forts to the wilderness areas of present day West Virginia and Kentucky. He
was no doubt a skillful shot. When he got in trouble with his killing of the
“red deer”, his neighbors were willing to go on bond for him. His brother John
Conley doesn’t appear to be as nearly well liked by the community.
John was always in trouble with the law and at one point was chased out of the
state of Virginia into North Caroline. An account of this is as follows: “The
Emperor of the Cherokee Nation had a very different grudge with Erwin Patterson.
Through his intepreter Watts he told Patton (Col. James Patton) a story which
he asked to be sent to the Governor. Watts said, “At Erwin Patterson’s house
the Emperor of the Cherokee nation being there was made drunk and afterwards
insulted and abused in a very gross manner. Erwin Patterson ordered him to be
layed which John Conley did and in so doing, the Emperor was so much abused that
the blood gushed out of his mouth and nose. Watts came and relieved the
Emperor. He said it was well for him he was there otherwise he believed they
would have killed him.”
“‘John Conolly who had attacked the Emperor was a well-known trouble-maker on
New River. This was not the first complaint against him. In 1749 George Draper
of Drapers Meadows went out hunting and never returned. It is not known if
Eleanor Draper suspected Connolly of harming her husband but the same year he
disappeared she complained of Connolly to the Augusta Court. (she also named
George Breckenridge in this complaint).
John Sinclair also complained that Connolly killed and skinned a deer and left
the carcass on his fence. When Sinclair complained Connolly killed his “two
find dog which guarded his home. ”This was a great loss because the settlers
relied on their dogs to warn them of the presence of Indians. Col. James
Patton now issued a warrant which read: “Connolly is a vagrant, loose in his
morals and worse in his behavior which he has verified for these three years
past on New River. During this time he has had no certain place of abode but
sulking about and pretending to be a hunter and has been very abusive to several
of his majesties subjects in those remote parts. The Emperor says unless he has
satisfaction he will inform his nation who will have revenge on the white
people. Patton ordered “To all sheriffs and constables and officers of the
militia and others of His Majesty’s liege people of Augusta but in particular
Capt. Adam Harmon, Ebenezer Waistcoat, Alexander Sayers, Joseph Crockett, Samuel
Stalnaker and Robert Box to make 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 have sent out
warrants against Conolly who has since fled to Carolina.”
John and James Conley the settlers also had a younger brother on the New River
in the 1760’s. He was Arthur Conley and the only one of the three to have
children (James was not married at the time of his death in 1751).
Our family line comes from Arthur’s branch. Arthur was married to Jean (last
name unknown). Arthur was the son of Edwund Connelly and Mary Edgefield. Mary
named her son Arthur after her father, General Arthur Edgefield of Charleston
South Carolina. Edward the father of Arthur was the son of Henry Connelly and
Betsy Vaux Buckley of Charleston SC. The Conley clan arrived in the “New World
“ in the late 1600’s at Albermarle Point near present day Charleston South
Carolina. Henry the “settler” was Henry II, son of Henry I that was born in
Armagh County, N. Ireland around 1635. Henry I died in Ireland about 1700.
The natural children of Arthur Conley are;
James Conley Sr.- born about 1755, served in the Revolution under Capt.
Patterson of Augusta County and later as an Indian Scout in the western frontier
Arthur Conley Jr. married to Jane Dale, Dec. 19, 1785 , then married to
Elizabeth Levingston on Jan. 1787 in Augusta County, Virginia.
Sarah Connelly married John Walker on Sept. 8, 1791 in Augusta County Virginia
Mary Conley married Zechariah Perdue in Montgomery County Virginia on Sept. 18,
Thomas Connelly married Margaret Walker, daughter of Alexander Walker Jr., prior
to 1767 in Augusta County Virginia. Thomas served in the Revolution with two of
his sons (Thomas Jr. & Robert) under Reuben Harris.
David Conley married Polly Strain prior to 1789. David served in Capt. John
Adams’ Company from Montgomery County Virginia, after March 12, 1777. James
Sage served in that same unit and was listed on the same rooster with David
Robert Connelly served under Capt Givens of Col. Campbell’s Company and Reuben
Harris’ Company in 1776.
James Conley Sr. was the son of Arthur Conley Sr., and is the second generation
of Virginia Conleys in my family line. James Conley Sr. of Little Sugar Run
branch of Walker Creek in what was then Montgomery County Virginia, was born
prior to 1755. James purchased land from John White in the year 1792. This
land jointed the farm of Joseph Eaton and Capt. Joseph Cloyd, a Revolutionary
War hero that fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain and a number of other
important battles of the Revolution. On the Joseph Eaton farm is located the
Eaton Memorial Methodist Church and a cemetery with the cemetery predating the
century old church. This land transaction was witnessed by the 3 sons of Joseph
Cloyd. The boys were less than 20 years old and were close to the same age as
James Conley Jr. James Jr. was to name one of his sons after General Gordon
Cloyd, one of the three witnesses. This son, born in 1833 was named Gordon
The first record that we have of James Conley Sr. was a listing of “Scouts” that
watched the Indian trials of the Clinch and New River Valley. These records are
recorded in “The History of Tazewell 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 during the “Dunmore War”.
In 1776 James was old enough to serve in this kind of military capacity.
Some of these “scouts” were only 15 years old at the time. Samuel Lusk was only
15 at the time that he served. He later was captured by the Shawnee, taken
north of the Ohio River where he escaped and helped Virginia Wiley escape from
In order for us to understand what James Conley did as a “Scout” we must also
understand the time and the area during that era. The Clinch and Upper waters
of the New River was the far western frontier of America. No white men lived in
permanent settlements beyond this area. On occasions, white hunting parties
would go into Kentucky and what is now West Virginia, they didn’t live beyond
the line of forts that stretched from “seven mile ford” near Abington to the
fort at Lewisburg West Virginia, a distance of over 160 miles.
These forts or “Block houses” included such names as Wynn’s Branch, Crab
Orchard, Maiden Springs, and Burkes Garden in Tazewell County. Linking Shear
Branch, and Bluestone Creek Montgomery County, Beaver Pond near New Hope in
Mercer County WV and White Sulphur in present day West Virginia.
The life and times of James Conley of Walker Creek in Southwest Virginia was one
that was fraught with danger and hardship. The area that he lived was the far
western frontier of the English Colony and later the American Colony.
The New River Settlement and the Clinch River Settlement was made up of a few
brave souls scattered along the creeks and rivers of the area. It was not
uncommon in the mid to late 1700’s for your closest neighbors to live 5 or more
miles away. This land was a buffer zone between two major Indian nations with a
number of smaller tribes passing through from time to time. The Shawnee tribe
wintered to the north along the Ohio River and the Cherokee were to the south
along the mountains of western North Carolina and Tennessee. This placed the
new settlers squarely in the middle of lands claimed by these Indians. Both
these tribes used this area as a hunting ground and later as a land to raid for
needed supplies. Some of these families were attacked and suffered the loss of
family members captured or killed on two or more occasions. Thomas Ingles was
one such person. Some of these early settlers witnessed infants from their
family being killed by being “brained”. (Indians would grab a small child by the
ankles and hurl them against a nearby log or tree) They would also drown small
captive children that would slow them in their escape from the settlements. If
infants were born of pregnant women captives, on the trip back to Ohio, the new
born children were usually killed in these ways.
Prior to 1775 there were raids into this area as a by-product of the French and
Indian War. The French used the Shawnee to attack the English settlements.
Following the French and Indian 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 Indians for being pawns of the French. The Battle of Point
Pleasant was the last official battle of this campaign. The end result was far
different than what had been hoped.
The decade following 1774 was one of the most difficult for the New River
Settlement and those along the Clinch. It was during this era that we get the
first real glimpse of James Conley (Sr).
There was a major Indian warpath that stretched from west of Kingsport TN. along
what is known as “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”. This trial went through
southwest Virginia up through the Clinch Valley and entered into modern day West
Virginia near the present city of Bluefield.
There were a number of Indian trails that intersected with this major trail
system. This placed these early settlers in Tazewell, Bland, Giles, Mercer,
Wythe, Pulaski, and Montgomery Counties in the middle of this trial system.
Following the Dunmore War of 1774-5 there was a great outbreak of attacks by the
Indians on the white settlers. Col. James Graham and his family was attacked,
Donnally’s Fort was attacked, the Mchensey family was attacked, John Pauley and
wife were attacked, Capt James Moore and family were attacked, William Wheatley
was attacked, James Roark was attacked, Virginia Wiley, John Davidson, Mitchell
Clay, Thomas Ingles, were all attacked by Indians in the 1780’s and early
1790’s. In one year over 28 people were killed by Indians in these settlements.
In some cases whole large families were killed or carried into captivity. In
at least one case a whole fort was wiped out in a single raid. At times raiding
parties of 40 or more Indians would make their way into the New River Valley.
Usually they came in parties of 6 to 12 Indians.
This was also a time that the Colonies were in a war for their life with the
“Greatest Military Power” in the world, England. Many of the younger men from
these mountain settlements were called on to fight with the Colonial Army. This
left the New River Settlement very short of man- power to protect them from
In order to protect the remaining settlers while the troops were away fighting
the British, a group of “scouts” or “spies” were used to detect impending Indian
The following is a description of the role of these men and a list of their
“These men were to hold themselves in readiness to act as circumstances might
demand. To make them more efficient, spies were employed to hang upon the great
trails leading into the settlements from the Ohio. Upon discovering the least
sign of Indians, they hurried into the settlements and warned the people to
hasten to the forts or stations, as the case might be. They received 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 were chosen; for it
will be readily seen, that a single faithless spy, might have permitted the
Indians to pass unobserved, and committed much havoc among the people, before
they could have prepared for defense. But it does not appear that any spy
failed to give the alarm when possible to do so. They always went two together,
and frequently remained out several weeks upon a single scout. Great caution
was necessary to prevent the Indians from discovering them; hence their beds
were usually of leaves, in some thicket commanding a view of the warpath. Wet
or dry, day or night, these men were ever on the lookout. The names of
several of these people have been 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 the Indians in 1794,
raids into the Clinch and New River Valley ceased. It was strange that the
frontiers should have furnished so many men for the army, when their absence so
greatly exposed their families. But when we reflect that no people are readier
to serve the country in the day when aid is needed, than those of mountainous
regions, we shall at once have an explanation to their desires, and consequent
assistance, in bringing the war to a close. Beside, the people of Tazewell have
ever been foremost in defending the country; showing at once that determination
to be free, which so eminently characterizes the people of mountainous
Another family connection with these “Scouts” and forts was the name of James
Bailey. James was the great-great-great-great uncle of the authors daughters
through their mother’s family. James was noted for his great running ability
and he also built a fort at Beaver Pond, near the present Beaver Pond Fair
property about 1 mile from New Hope in Mercer County West Virginia. This fort
was where Mitchell Clay’s wife ran after the Indians attacked her home at Lake
Shawnee and killed several of her children. She ran over 6 miles through the
forest to the safety of the fort. James Bailey joined in the hunt for these 11
Shawnee warriors and they caught them in modern day Boone County West Virginia.
Serveral of the Indians were killed in the battle that followed but there was no
loss of life among the settlers. One of the Indians begged for mercy in broken
English but mercy was not granted after the savage attack and scalping of the
Clay children. Sections of hide were removed from the backs of these slain
Indians by Edward Hale, a neighbor of Thomas Conley, and used as razor straps by
the Hale family for many years.
During this period of “Scouting and Indian fighting along the frontier of
Virginia, people lived mostly off the land. When Indians were reported in the
area, settlers would often leave their crops without harvesting them. That
meant the following winter they had to depend on wild game and what their
neighbors might share with them. Game was very plentiful in the area. The main
cash crop was the raising of hemp for rope. Some of the hemp plants have
survived until modern times and cows have been know to eat the “crazy weed” and
then walk about as though they had been drugged. The settlers were unable to
raise hogs or pigs due to the heavy bear population and the fact that bears
loved pork. There was a great population of deer, bear, elk, and buffalo. The
main food items were deer and bear and the hides of all these animals were used
by the settlers and taken to Fincasle and traded for salt. It was not unusual
for two men to go on a 2 to 4 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 in 1850 and it was reported that he killed over 1200
bear in his lifetime. A friend of Brewster, William Peery killed over 1000
black bear in his lifetime. There are accounts that these settles would be
awaken in the morning to nearby howling of wolves and at night hear the
screaming of a “Panther” (eastern cougar). In the 1750’s Augusta County (that
now covers the New River Settlement) paid bounty on as many as 2000 wolf heads
per year. By the late 1700’s most of the wolf population had vanished from the
New River Valley. The last of the panthers was killed in Burkes Garden in 1903.
It was stuffed and placed in the museum at the state capital building in
Charleston West Virginia. Another threat to the mountain people was that of
rattlesnakes and copperheads. These “pit vipers” were abundant and snakebite
was not uncommon. It was usually treated with bear grease. Most of the
clothing was made from deer skin but many of the houses also had a spinning
wheel and a loom for weaving. Feather and chaff filled tick beds were usually
made after a settler had time to finish building his log house. Their sugar
came from “tapping” maple trees in the Fall and some settlers had as many as 500
trees running at a time. They would then boil the sap down and make sugar from
it. They also had lots of beehives and when the men went to war they would
carry a few swarm with them for fresh honey. Most of the building was done in
the winter because they didn’t have to fear Indian attacks. The Shawnee stayed
in their villages along the Ohio River during the cold time of year. They liked
to wage war in the warm months when the settlers would be out in the fields a
long way from their cabins. Many of the attacks recorded showed the Indian
preference for this type of warfare. During Fall and Winter, there was no
foliage to help hide them, if they had snow fall it would make it easy for the
settlers to track them on their escape to Ohio. If they raided the settlements
in winter, the cold icy rivers were difficult to cross and food was more scarce.
The settlers would be in their cabins, with bars on the doors and could fire
through the gun ports, thus they would be able to ward off a good size raiding
The next glimpse we get of James Conley Sr. is a tax record in Montgomery County
when it is recorded that he owns 3 horses. This is recorded in 1790. He is
involved in a land transaction on Walker Creek in modern day Giles County but
what was then Montgomery County. This was on December 24, 1793 when he
purchased land on “Little sugar waters” of Walker Creek a branch of New River.
The land was purchased from John White for a sum of four pounds Virginia money.
Joseph Cloyd owned the land on the southern boundary of James Conley’s land.
Joseph had sons near the same age of James Sr.’s son James Jr. All three of
these sons were witnesses to the land transaction. This included David, Thomas,
and Gordon Cloyd.
In addition to the role of spy and scout along the Indian trails, James Conley
would have been involved as part of the Militia in three major engagements.
These were the battle of Shallow Ford on the Yadkin River, the battle of Kings
Mountain and the Battle at Guilford Courthouse. In September of 1780 a call went
out for “Backwater Men” of the New River and Clinch to go to Sycamore Ford on
the Watauga River (near Elizabethton TN. There were 200 men from the Wolfe
Creek area of Montgomery County that answered that call. One of these men
referred to as the “Paul Revere of the South” rode from near Christiansburg
Virginia to Elk Creek, calling out the militia. He made this ride in less than
12 hours and his horse died on Elk Creek. He was given another horse and he
rode it to Marion Virginia, then secured another fresh horse and rode this third
horse to Bristol Virginia. He completed this trip in about 24 hours. The Army
of Virginia and Tennessee backwoodsman made the march across the mountains to
Kings Mountain and arrived there on September 26, 1780. These “Backwater Men”
didn’t line up in formation but fought from behind the rocks and trees. They
would charge the British lines and after their Deckard rifles had been fired
they retreated down the mountain 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 British from the woods. The British would retreat back up the
mountain and the Virginians would be right on their heels with fresh loaded
rifles. This was the first major victory of the Revolution and gave heart to
the people of the colonies. Over 600 British were taken prisoner and a number
Following the Battle at Kings Mountain, in October of 1780 a message was
delivered to Major Joseph Cloyd, on Back Creek, that help was needed to put down
a Tory uprising on the Yadkin River of N.C. He was ask to raise three troops of
horsemen. No doubt he went to his close neighbors for help. One of these men
was Thomas Farley of Walker Creek and Captain Pearis, who wounded in the battle
that was to follow. I feel sure that James Conley, neighbor of Joseph Cloyd,
and the owner of 3 horses answered that call. There is no written record of the
160 horsemen that served in that battle but the half dozen names that we have
listed were neighbors of Major Joseph Cloyd. In that battle fifteen tories were
killed and the losses to Major Cloyd was one Captain and 4 privates wounded.
These men that served under Cloyd 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 hundred and fifty men assembled pursuant to the order of
their commander, Major Joseph Cloyd. One author has written” that it to be
regretted that the names of the men who went with Preston and Cloyd have not
been preserved. Only 6 Privates from the role of 350 men has been 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 James Conley Sr). One company of these men from the
middle New River Valley was commanded by Captain Shannon of Walker Creek. I’m
sure that James Conley Sr. the “Scout” was among that number. It would have
taken every able bodied man in the region to make up that large of a force.
Those in command were his neighbors. On the way to North Caroline, they passed
through Adam Waggonors farm and he furnished a steer for them and pasture for a
number of their horses. Thirty years later the granddaughter of Adam Waggonor
would marry the son of James Conley Sr.
These Virginia Militiamen met the British on the sixth of March, 1781 at
Wetzel’s Mill and a severe engagement took place. Preston’s horse threw him,
Preston was a heavy man and unable to keep up with the retreating army of
Virginia. Major Cloyd seeing his condition dismounted from his horse and gave
his mount to Preston. During the battle one of the boys from Walker Creek,
Matthew French, was watching the supply wagon along with several other men.
When the battle broke out he left the wagon and rushed into the middle of the
battle. The officer in charge wanted to Court Martial him. Major Cloyd
remarked that “as French ran not from the fight but towards it, if they court
marshaled him for such a cause, he would never again draw his sword in behalf of
the country”. The British commander commented after the battle that his troops
were badly hurt by the Backwoodsmen from Virginia. After this battle the men
returned home to provide protection 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 protect it from the Indians. Thirty men were placed at
Captain Pearis’, 25 men were placed at the head of the Bluestone and 16 men at
the head of the Clinch River, 30 men at Powell’s Valley, 20 at Richlands and 30
at Castlewoods. These men were 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 the settlements 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 western settlements.
This is the last written record in Virginia that we have on James Conley Sr.,
the “Scout” and Indian fighter. He doesn’t appear in Giles County records,
which means he must have left the area prior to when Giles County was formed.
His father Arthur and several of his brothers had moved to the Big Sandy Valley
of Eastern Kentucky after General Wayne's victory over the Shawnee in 1792. We
find land records of James Conley in Scott County Kentucky in 1794. A number of
the Conley family went to the "Big Sandy Valley of Kentucky" in 1763 along with
Henry and James Skaggs of Reed Creek near Fort Chiswell Virginia, and Daniel
Boone. Harmon Connelly and Thomas Connelly were part of this early expedition.
When the Connelly family began to settle Kentucky in the 1790's they had
thousands of acres of land. This land must have been claimed back in 1763 whey
they made their first trip into the "Wilderness of Kentucky." I feel the Conley
family, Skaggs family and Daniel 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, in 1746 for having 38
"Red Deer Skins" at the home of James Skaggs. In 1751 this James Conley was
killed by Day Thoughgood a slave belonging to James Conley. James Conley Sr.'s
son was later to move from Walker Creek across the mountain into Burkes Garden
and marry at about the age of 32 years old in the County of Tazewell. This was
on May 22, 1806 when he married Rachel Stobough, daughter of John Stobough and
Leah Corder. Leah and John were married in Montgomery County on Nov. 3, 1787.
John Stobough’s father, Henry Stobough took the “oath of allegiance” on the
courthouse in Philadelphia Pa. steps in 1752. Henry married Elizabeth Waggonor
the daughter of Adam Waggonor, one of the early settlers of the New River
Valley. Leah Corder’s grandfather was one Edward Corder who got drunk and
robber a store in London in 1721. He was sentenced to be transported to the
colonies and was to serve 15 years. He arrived in Virginia and rented from
James Conley Sr. son of Arthur Conley had several children a few of which were
James Conley Jr., born in 1774, Garland Conley born in 1776, Bailey Conley, and
Bridget Conley. All these children were in Tazewell County Virginia by 1803.
James Conley Jr. married in Tazewell in 1806 and may have worked for his
father-in law in Burkes Garden for several years before purchasing land of his
own but in 1832 he bought 100 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 of water per minute and is the largest in the state of
Virginia. He sold this land for 100 dollars in 1838. Then in 1851 he purchased
37 acres of land on Banks Ridge in Burkes Garden, located in Clear Fork
James Conley Jr. had several children and our family line extends through
Gordon Cloyd Conley born in 1833. Gordon married Mary Jane Boling on July 16,
1854. Mary Jane was the daughter of Harrison and Martha 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 and died in 1871.
The following is a Photo of Gordon Cloyd Conley and Mary Jane Boling Conley.
This photo was made from a painting.
During the time that the Conley 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 across Iron Mountain unto the Elk Creek Valley. Our next
chapter will follow the migration and lives of the early Sages.
The Sage Family
Arrives In America
The earliest records that we have on James Sage “The Settler” was found in his
old notebook made with a home tanned leather binding which is still owned by a
descendant. James recorded that he was born near London England 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, “James Sage, Baker, for
His Majesty, King George III”. He made a notation about his departure from
England, this note reads, “James Sage, Baker, from London 23 July, 1773.
We have learned from other records that James sailed from Middlesex, where he was
sentenced to transportation. He sailed on the Hanover Planter and the Captain
was Master William McColloch. James was sent to the “New World” as a sentence for misconduct. This was a common practice for even minor infractions. This may also explain why James fought for the independence of the colonies against Great Britain.
A record of his trail is shown below. He was tried in London England at the Old Bailey located in the western part of the city about 200 yards northwest of St Paul’s Cathedral. It is also located next to the Newgate prison where James would have stayed from May 31, 1773 until his trail on July 07, 1773. At that point he would have been returned to the Newgate prison until he was loaded on the ship (Hanover Planter) on July 23, 1773 and he was transported to American to serve his 7 year sentence as an exile from England.
· Crime(s): ,
(Punishment details may be provided at the end of the trial.) ,
· Verdict: ,
· Name search for: ,
405. (M.) JAMES SAGE was indicted for stealing a linen shirt, value 1 s. and two linen shifts, value 2 s. the property of Abraham Robbins, May 31. +
Abraham Robbins. I am a farmer at Kingsbury: my house has been twice broke open; the last time was on Whit-Monday; I was alarmed in the night; I missed a shirt off the clothes; the door was broke open, and there was all the appearance of somebody having broke into the house.
Edward Williams, I am son-in-law to Mr. Robbins: my mother waked me; I jumped up, opened the window, and saw the prisoner run from the house; I put my shoes, stockings, and breeches on: I went out and saw a man behind an elm tree; I went after him; I traced him as far as Davis's; there I got 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 in the house or no I cannot tell; the house is a lone house 30 yards out of the lane, and a considerable way out of the high road; there is no other house near it. When I took him, his white stockings were all wet and dirty, seemingly as if he had been going through wet grass. I am sure the man I took at Kilburn is the same man I saw at the door; I know him by the clothes, and one shoulder was higher than the other.
John Sket. I saw him go through the farm yard; I said old acquaintance where are you going? he said down to Kew Green. The people came after him; I described him to them, and it appeared he was the same man they were in pursuit of.
Robert Smith. I lie in the room over the room where the people got in; I was waked by a cluttering at the window; I saw three men in the house, neither of whom were the prisoner. I heard them unlock the door, and heard them afterwards go out; I saw these three men turn round the corner by the yard, and immediately afterwards the prisoner went away from the wall of the house and went straight forward.
I was going to Kilburn to see after a place; I heard it was disposed off, and so was returning back again.
The prisoner called three people who lived in White-cross-street, who said he lived in their neighbourhood, and gave him a good character.
From the court proceeding above we learn a tremendous amount about this two-month period of James Sage’s life. First we discover that he was a resident of Kilburn a section of Kingsbury that was part of the old Middlesex County. This area is in the northwest part of London and most of his friends 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 and testify 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 at that period of history but they tried him for the lesser offense of simple grand larceny. We also learn that he at least at this point had a shoulder injury (one shoulder was higher than the other). James was required to stand in the “Old Bailey” before a large mirror that focused light on his face so the judge and jury could see his facial expressions clearly to assist them in making a determination of guilt. After the sentencing, he was returned to jail and on the 27th of July 1773 he has loaded in the lower galley of the Hanover Planter along with 44 other prisons that were sentenced to transport to American. Three years later this practice of transporting people to American would cease with the beginning of the American Revolution. In 1779 the British would began to send those that they exiled to Australia.
The journey to American was difficult on this ship that was at least over 70 years old in 1773. Water would become very bad on a cross Atlantic crossing, and there was little occasion for sunlight and fresh air. Many people died on such a trip. Our line through James Sage continues because of the mercy of the court, the providence of God and James being in good health and only being 24 years old at this time. The ship that James was transported on was ship-wrecked near Long Island off the coast of Scotland 6 years later with the loss of 3 lives.
James arrived in Philadelphia and came down the “Great Wagon Road” that
stretches from eastern Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley into the New
River Valley. James settled in the New River Valley in the late 1770’s on
Cripple Creek near where it empties into the New River. It was there he met his
wife-to-be, Lovis Ott the daughter of a German settler, Sylvester Ott (Utt) and
they were married in Montgomery County (now Wythe County) on December 25th,
1780. James Sage was the administrator for the estate of Sylvester Ott and at
the time of Sylvester’s death, around 1803, Sylvester owned 60 acres of land on
the New River, at the edge of Peak Creek in Wythe County but was living in
Grayson County when he died.
James and Lovis continued to live on Cripple Creek, Montgomery County (now Wythe
County) for few years after their marriage. It was rumored that prior to his
coming to Virginia that he was with Gen. George Washington and that he was at
Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered. He served a number of enlistments in the
Continental Army and most of these were for six months at a time. He was no
doubt part of local militia call up for short local battles, mostly in NC. In
his regular service he served 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 served in Col. Crockett’s regiment in 1783. James Sage was
listed in other publications as serving in the Colonial Army in the battles of
Monmouth, Bunker Hill and Sullivan’s Island. These engagements took place from
1775-1778, this would have meant that he served in the military from the time
that he arrived in American until the end of the Revolution in 1783 and would
have still been a private. I feel this is highly unlikely that he served over
this span of time as a private when he had the ability to read and write. The
first enlistment that we have records for was shown as 1779. Therefore the
battles that he may have been involved in, under the commanders listed, would
have been the Chickamauga Indian Villages around April 30, 1779. The Tory
uprising on the Yadkin River of North Carolina in October 1780. Col. Joseph
Cloyd raised 3 troops of horsemen (160 men) to ride south with him into North
Carolina. James Sage raised “high bred” saddle horses and was a skilled
horseman and a patriot. These troops would have had to ride south near James’
house on the way to N.C. There is only a list of about 15 of these 160 men but
I feel James Sage would have been one of those unlisted men.
“Backwater Men” also answered the call to assemble at Sycamore Shoals near
Elizabethan Tennessee. This was for the purpose of confronting the British at
Kings Mountain. A rider went from near modern day Christiansburg Virginia into
the Elk Creek Valley, across Iron Mountain into Cripple Creek then to Marion,
Seven-Mile-Ford and then into Bristol. He rode three horses into the ground as
he called upon the “Minute Men of Virginia” to stop the advance of Gen.
Cornwallis and Ferguson. These British commanders had sent word to the people
of Virginia, warning them if they joined the fight, that the English would march
into southwest Virginia and hang those that served with the militia and burn the
homes and crops of the general population. The battle that followed was a great
victory for American and gave new courage to the cause of freedom. Again the
messenger gathering troops passed the home of James Sage and this
brother-in-law, Fredrick Ott (Utt) on Cripple Creek. James Sage was listed as
serving with Captain John Adams militia in his roster of March 12, 1783. Others
listed on the roster include David Connelly (Conley) brother of James Conley
Sr., David owned 400 acres of land on Walker Creek in an area known as Crab
Orchard. Richard Chapman was among that militia company, he married Susannah
Conley and this marriage took place in Montgomery County on May 5, 1790.
Fredrick Ott (Utt) was listed on the roster of Fredrick Edwards company of
militia on March 24, 1781. Details of the acts of bravery in the Battle of
Kings Mountain are recorded in chapter one of this book.
On February 10, 1781, word was sent to Maj. Joseph Cloyd to gather troops to
assist Gen. Nathaniel Green in North Caroline. A message went out through
Montgomery County to assemble at the lead mines (Austinsville) south of
Wytheville, on the New River. Answering this call was 350 men. This was at a
time when the adult male population of Montgomery County (present Montgomery,
Floyd, Patrick, Carroll, Grayson, Tazwell, Wythe, Pulaski, Giles, and all the
counties of southwestern West Virginia) was less than 1800 men. Many of the men
in this 1800 total population count, would have been too old, young or
physically unable to serve in the militia. Therefore about every able-bodied
man that was able to get the word and get to the lead mine was there. We have
no list preserved, but I’m sure that the Sages, Otts and Conleys were well
represented. This meeting place was only about 8 miles from the home of James
Sage and less than 20 miles from the Conley clad. Details of this engagement
are found in chapter one of this publication.
There was a number of other battles fought in North Caroline, through 1783 and
James Sage was listed as being 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 have suggested that James Sage moved to Elk Creek in present day
Grayson County in about 1791. I believed that he moved there over 7 years prior
to that date. On November 14, 1784 James Sage signed a petition in Montgomery
County to give himself and others title to land in present day Grayson County,
that “many of these people had lived on for over 30 years”. This land was part
of a 10,000 acre grant owned by Peter Jefferson, Thomas and David Mealeweather,
and Dr. Thomas Walker. Those holding the land grant had sold land to 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 to their land. Stephen Austin, the father of Stephen
Austin II later the governor of the state of Texas also signed this petition.
Another indication That the Sage family moved to Elk Creek prior to 1791 was the
wording in a survey appointment; “On September 28, 1790 a survey was to be made
from the Elk Creek road to where Sage’s wagon overset on the Dry Branch near
In the period of 1740-1800 the state would tax the people by having them raise
hemp for the making of rope and other related products. Most of the small land
owners on the western frontier were busy raising enough crops to feed their
families, building cabins and fending off Indian attacks and they had little
time to produce hemp. Most of the larger plantation owners didn’t have this
problem. On May 24, 1782 James Sage signed a petition in Montgomery County, to
be submitted to the Virginia Legislators, requesting that a different system of
tax be approved for the frontier. This would allow people to pay with deerskin
rather than hemp. James Sage was more a hunter than a farmer at this point in
his life. Using deerskin for currency is where the term "buck" originated.
From the time that James Sage arrived in America until the end of the
Revolution, every day was a struggle for survival on the frontier. The winters
were cold and brutal, summer brought 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 every family had close friends and relative to die or be
captured by Indians. Some of these families experienced loss at the hands of
the Indians more than once in their lifetime. In one year over 28 people in the
New River settlement lost their life to Indian attacks. Many more were wounded
or carried into captivity beyond the Ohio by the Shawnee. These Indian attacks
were more frequent on the north and west areas of the New River Settlement.
This may have influenced James Sage in his decision to move a little to the
south across Iron Mountain. Just over the mountain to the south of Cripple
Creek lay a very fertile valley that was well watered by Elk Creek. This valley
lay nestled between Iron Mountain to the north, Point Lookout Mountain to the
southeast, White Top and Mount Rogers to the west. These mountains to the west
were over a mile high and had a climate much like Canada, due to their high
elevation. The mountain ranges provided great hunting conditions and the valley
was a wonderful farming district. The Cherokee used While Top as a major
hunting area. There remains evidence of this, even today, around and in some
caves on the top of this mountain.
A decision was made by James and Lovis Sage to move across Iron Mountain unto
the banks of beautiful Elk Creek. This decision was made in the late 1780’s.
At this point all the settlement in the Elk Creek Valley had occurred by
families moving up from North Caroline through the gaps in the Blue Ridge
Mountains. The Sage family was the first to come from the north across Iron
Mountain. There was nothing but “bridle trials” across the mountain and James
had accumulated enough house wares that a wagon was required for the move.
James packed up the family and started up Dry Run Creek, he came to a waterfall
that was over 6 feet high. James “scotched” the wheels, unloaded the wagon and
then disassembled the wagon and carried it piece by piece over the waterfall and
reassembled it on the top. He re-hitched the horses and became the first
settler into the Elk Creek Valley from the Iron Mountain side. For many years
this waterfall was know as “Sage Falls”. There is also evidence that James
Sage’s wagon overturned on this trip across Iron Mountain. Mary Kegley in her
book, “Early Adventurers on the Western Waters”, noted a reference on a road
survey as, “ending at the point of the Sage wagon upset”. Following the move
across Iron Mountain, new neighbors would join in to help construct a cabin.
These cabin raisings could often be completed in as little as two days. People
in Elk Creek were always glad to see new settlers because neighbors were “far
and few”. Additional settlers meant greater safety from both Indians and roving
rogues. James Sage was later to suffer greatly from both elements.
In 1791 James Sage received title to the land that he was living on in Elk
Creek. He purchased a superb stallion and began to raise horses as a money crop
and for his own use. He also had a neighbor, that raised horses, Mr. Cornute
(Cornett). In the summer of 1792 Mr. Cornett went to check on a number of
horses that he was grazing in a nearby pasture field and he discovered that
three of his horses were missing. He found tracks and other sign that would
indicate that his horses had been stolen. He along with Michael Delp and James
Sage begin to track these horse thieves and their trial led toward White Top
Mountain. The trail divided but Sage and Cornett continue on the trail leading
toward White Top. Near the summit in a saddle in the mountain, in an area known
as Elk Garden, the horses were found grazing and hobbled. Perhaps the thieves
knew that someone was hot on their trail, so they left the horses and ran for
their lives. If you stole a man’s horse, and was caught you would be hanged.
The recovered horses were brought back home to Elk Creek.
After several weeks James and his older boys were clearing “new ground” for
future planting. His wife Lovis was washing clothes in the creek and their five
year old daughter, Caty was playing with a rag doll nearby. When Lovis began to
look for the young girl, she was nowhere to be found. There was the small rag
doll lying where Caty had been taken. It is thought that the horse thieves may
have returned and kidnapped her. Indians may have been responsible for both the
abduction and trading of Caty. A search was made by the neighbors, James Sage
spent the better part of a year trying to locate his missing daughter. For
years after the abduction, the family followed every lead to no avail. At one
point James traveled to North Caroline to confer with a fortune teller named
“Granny Moses”. Granny told him that Caty was alive and well, but he would
never know where she was or what happen to her. She added that late in life,
Caty’s mother would have news concerning her but would never see her again. She
also said that Lovis, Caty’s mother would outlive Caty. All of these
predictions came to pass.
Caty (Catherine) was taken to the top of White Top Mountain by the horse thieves
or Cherokee Indians and was later traded to the Wyandotte Indians. She was
taken by way of trails along the New River into Ohio and was soon on the Great
Lakes at Sandusky Ohio. She and her tribe were moved west to Kansas to a
reservation in the 1830’s. She was found by a brother in 1847. Her brother
Charles was hauling supplies for 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 the Mexican War in Mexico. When they were about to leave,
a Wyandotte Indian told them of an old white lady who had been with their tribe
many years. Charles wrote a letter to his mother and brother with a description
of the white lady living with the Indians. She had a “Ginger bread” colored
birthmark and a scar that she received from a burn prior to her being kidnapped.
Her oldest brother Samuel came and was able to identify her and had to talk
with her through an interpreter, she had forgotten how to speak English.
Letters were exchanged back and forth between Elk Creek and Kansas and Caty was
planning a visit back to Elk Creek 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 brother Samuel, she described her conversion to Christianity
thirty years before and gave an account of many of the events of her life.
Several books give additional details of her life, these are “March of the
Sages,” by Ball; “ Red Trails and White”, by Bonnie Ball, “ Yourowquains, A
Wyandot Indian Queen”, by Bill Bland.
James Sage lived out the remainder of his life on Elk Creek where he and Lovis
raised 14 children of their own and one grandson. In genealogical listings
there are 15 children due to the 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 County Va: 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 County Va.:d.
Jan 21, 1853 in Wyandotte, Kansas, married three times to Indians
6. Lovis Sage II – b. March 1, 1788 Montgomery County Va.; M. Peter
Rauhoff, May 1811 Grayson County 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 County Va.; 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, 1800 Grayson County County. Va. D. Feb. 1,
13. Ezekiel Sage – b. May 17, 1803 d. in infancy
14. Elizabeth (Betsy) Sage – b. April 12, 1805; m. Jacob Delp in 1836
James died on March 17, 1820 on Elk Creek. Lovis died on August 28, 1854 and
they are both buried in the Sawyer Cemetery at Elk Creek. This cemetery is
located on a hill looking down on the Elk Creek Dragway. A marker was placed on
the grave of James Sage by the D.A.R. in 1936. On Labor Day of 1995, a marker
was placed on Lovis’ grave by 10 descendants. All the other graves in the Sage
section appeared to be marked with fieldstones and no inscription. The infant
children, that was lost by James and Lovis were buried on the Sage family farm
and today are marked only with a fieldstone with no inscription.
My line extends from the eighth child of James and Lovis Sage and I will now
continue to follow the progression of that line. This was Sampson Sage who was
born on Feb. 11, 1792 and was married to Lydia Fletcher on Nov. 18, 1816 in Lee
County Virginia. Lydia was born on Feb, 3, 1798 in Montgomery County (present
day Giles County). Lydia was the daughter of Aaron Fletcher and Elizabeth
(Milam) (Davis) Fletcher, who were married in Montgomery County in 1797.
Sampson’s oldest brother Samuel made his way to Lee County Virginia in the early
1800’s. Sampson may have moved at the same time or a little later than his
brother. Samuel was later to serve in the War of 1812 as a private in George W.
Camp’s Company, 4th Regiment, Virginia Militia. He was discharged at Fort
Norfolk in 1814. Sampson also served in the war of 1812.
Sampson Sage purchased a farm on the foothills of Powell Mountain, near Wallen’s
Creek, at Stickleyville, in Lee County Virginia. His land bordered Claiborne
Young’s farm and his Sampson’s grandson married Mr. Young’s granddaughter over 2
decades following Sampson’s death.
Sampson’s wife Lydia served as a midwife and traveled miles to perform her
services. According to reports her normal charge was fifty cents. This usually
included staying with the family for a few days and helping with house keeping
and nursing the baby and mother.
For many years a legend persisted that Lydia had buried a lot of money in a
small pottery jar. A number of People have searched for Granny Sage’s lost
treasure but it has never been discovered. Much of this money was buried during
the Civil War. It was during this time was that the renegade band called
“Witchers” killed and decapitated her oldest son, John Davis Sage. In chapter
four, I will trace the family line through Sampson’s third son William Winfield
The Conley Family from 1800
Through the Civil War
Burkes Garden had been discovered in the 1750’s and those that visited this high
mountain valley saw it as “the garden spot of the world”. It is the highest
valley in the State of Virginia. In the 1770 and 80’s it was a dangerous place
to live due to the Indian threat from the north. In the early 1780’s there was
only two families living in the valley of over 20,000 acres. Following Wayne’s
victories over the Shawnees in 1792, there was no more raids by the Indians into
Tazewell County. People began to move back into Burkes Garden in the late
1790’s and early 1800’s. James Conley Jr. was one of the first to move into the
area and was one of the first 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 were born. Ambrose Conley, Gordon, Robert Conley, Abiga
Thomas (also listed as Abigale) Conley. James also had a two brothers and a
sister that spent time in Tazewell County shortly following it’s formation.
These were Bridget, Bailey and Garland Conley. Garland later moved to Logan
County West Virginia and died there.
James Jr. and his new bride lived near or on the farm of his father-in-law, John
Stobough. James and Rachel bought 100 acres of Land in burkes Garden in 1832.
This land was purchased from J. Stobough for a sum of $100.00. Prior to this
land purchase, he helped with 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 helped with erecting this log building. This church was
built in 1826 and was the oldest church in the area. The Methodist, Lutheran
and Presbyterian worshiped in this building but later the Methodist and
Presbyterian build churches of their own and the Lutheran continue to hold title
to this pioneer church. This church was located on the Fancy Gap-Tazewell
Turpike. James donated a pulpit chair and helped to cut 16 pair of 17ft 6”
rafters. He assisted his father-in-law, John Stobaugh with the rafter cutting.
The early Conleys in Tazewell County had strong leanings to the Lutheran but by
the 1850’s the preference seems to have been Methodist. Rachel being from
German background on both sides of her family would have been Lutheran but James
Conley grew up near a strong Methodist community and would have been more
inclined to be Methodist.
James Conley continued to farm this fertile land until he made a decision to
sell. In 1838 he sold this farm for the same price that he purchased it, one
hundred dollars. We are not sure where he lived at this point but he purchased
a new farm of 37 acres 13 years later at the Banks Ridge section of Burkes
Garden, in 1851. He held on to this land and at his death it went to his son,
Gordon Cloyd Conley that had been keeping he and Rachel. He gave this land to
Gordon through an agreement that was entered into on March 25, 1862. This was
in the middle of the Civil War. Rachel died some time between 1862 and 1870.
James died in 1871 at the age of about 96 or 97 years old.
During these later years of James 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 say Grandpa tell us a story about when you were a boy.
One of the best forms of entertainment of those days was telling stories of
their past. My Grandfather was one of those small children that gathered around
the knees of James to hear his accounts of growing up on the American frontier.
He no doubt related to them stories of growing up on Little Sugar Run Creek that
flowed into Walker Creek. James Sr.’s brother, Thomas lived on Walker Creek as
one of the first settlers beyond “Big Lick” (modern day Roanoke Virginia). His
uncle Thomas died when James Jr. was about 17 years old in about 1791. James’s
Grandfather Arthur, and great-uncles James and John were on the New River when
some of the first explores came through (Dr. Thomas Walker in 1752). The
Conleys were here at least as early as 1746 according to court records. John
and James Conley (this was the James that was murdered on Reed Creek in 1751)
were “long hunters”, when they first arrived at the New River Settlement. They
would spend months on end hunting in areas of present West Virginia and
Kentucky. There were no permanent settlements in this wilderness. James Jr.
would have spent time at his Grandfather’s cabin hearing about his coming down
the “Great Wagon Road” from Pennsylvania unto the “Valley of Virginia” and on
across the Allegany Mountains into the western frontier where only the bravest
would venture. Just a few miles from James’ grandfathers house in 1755 the
Shawnees raided the settlement of Drapers Meadow and killed a number of people
and took Mary Draper Ingles north into Ohio. After five months she escaped and
made her way back to Eggleston Springs where she was found almost dead, this was
in November of 1755. The man that found her was Adam Harmon a neighbor of
Thomas Conley. When she returned home, her hair was snow white. She left one
of her sons Thomas Ingles when she escaped but he was ransomed later and became
one of the first settlers in Burkes Garden of Tazewell County.
James Conley Jr.’s father was a scout and served in this role while James Jr.
was growing up. His father would go out on the Indian trails and look for sign
and watch for Indians coming south out of their winter villages in Ohio. These
scouts went out in parties of two and sleep in the leaves and thickets. If
Indians were seen the scouts would have to run to all the cabins between the
forts or block houses, that their watch covered, and help gather the people into
the forts. This required these men (some as young as 15 years old) to have both
speed and endurance in running. The full list of scouts is found in chapter one
of this publication and they are listed in several history books that cover the
early history of southwest Virginia. (Early Adventures on the Western Waters, by
Kegley, Tazewell County by Louise Leslie and History of the Middle New River
Settlements and Contiguous Territory by David E. Johnson). When James Sr. was
out scouting, James Jr. was the oldest boy left at home and had to help his
mother raise the crops and defend the house. The “scouts” were out all summer
because this was when the Indians would raid.
James Sr. also served in some Fall and Spring campaigns of the Revolutionary
War. His neighbor Joseph Cloyd would have called on him when he raised 160
horsemen to go to North Caroline in October of 1780. This was to put down a
Tory uprising on the Yadkin River. James Jr. as a six year old boy watched his
dad, a backwoods farmer , saddle one of his three horses to ride south and
confront the “greatest military power in the world.” Each time that James Jr.
watched his dad leave home to scout for Indians or fight the British, he was
unsure that he would every see his father again. He also was not sure if the
Indians had returned to the Ohio by early October and if he and his mother and
brothers would be safe while his father was away. To say that he grew up
surrounded by danger is an understatement.
On February 10 of 1781 the call again went out along Walker Creek and throughout
Montgomery County that help was needed in North Caroline to turn back the
British. They assembled 350 men at the lead mines of Austinsville, near Grahams
Forge and Wytheville. James Jr. watched his dad again ride away with his
neighbor, Maj. Joseph Cloyd, this was nearing the time of year that the Shawnee
began their raids into the New River Settlements. His neighbor, Joseph Cloyd
was to dismount from his horse in the battle of Wetzel’s Mill and give his horse
to Col. Preston. The Colonel had his horse to throw him and he has so large he
could not run and keep up with the retreat that the American Militia was making.
So, Cloyd gave up his horse to Preston and that saved Preston’s life that day.
These North Carline battles stretched on into March and the men from New River
began to get concerned about Indian attacks on the homes. These men rushed home
to watch the home front and 20 men were stationed at Sugar Run where James
Conley was living. So, in March 1781, 20 men from the Militia were camped and
no doubt were coming and going from the home of James Conley. Here was James
Conley Jr. a seven year old boy listening to the accounts of these battle harden
frontiersmen telling about all 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 would be setting around the fireplace at Gordon Conley’s
home, sharing these same accounts from a century before with his grandchildren.
In 1871 James went home to be with the Lord.
The children of James Conley Jr. and Rachel Conley are as follows; Ambrose
Grayson Conley born in1830 and married Sarah Ann Molloy, Gordon Cloyd Conley
born in 1834 and married Mary Jane Boling. These two children are proven by
Tazewell County marriage records. Other children that are not proven are Layer
Conley that married Jacob Snider on March 27, 1834, Robert Conley married
Tabitha Stratton on February 28, 1850. Peggy Conley married Elizah Havens
February 26, 1833. My line continues through Gordon Cloyd Conley.
Gordon Cloyd appears to be one of the younger and perhaps the youngest of the
children of James Conley. It is in the early 1800’s the people in the New River
Settlement begin to give their children a middle name and so James and Rachael
named Gordon after one of James’ childhood friends and neighbors. Gordon Cloyd
the son of Joseph Cloyd. At the time that Gordon Conley was born, Gordon Cloyd
had achieved the rank of General in the American Army and was a major figure in
Virginia politics, he was a member of the Constitutional convention of Virginia
Gordon Cloyd Conley married Mary Jane Boling, the daughter of Harrison and
Martha Boling. Mary Jane was born in Blount County Tennessee 1833.
1 History of the New River Settlement, P. Johnson, page 144