Indian wars and settlers on the Southern Appalachian Frontier . . . 1754-1795

Chapter Ten

© Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

How do you like my new architectural virtual reality software from France?  Très chic!  Unlike such software produced in the United States, it includes a wide variety for historic and pre-industrial architectural elements.  The area where Mary Tipton’s death bed was located is now the Master Bathroom, where I baptized Vivi the French Courtesan.  To make space for a queen size bed I covered over the non-functioning fireplace and built matching closets on both sides of the former hearth.

Forgotten history of the Southern Appalachian Frontier

Even though it was filmed in the North Carolina Mountains near Asheville,  the blockbuster movie, “The Last of the Mohicans” brought attention to an almost forgotten, but very tragic chapter of North American history in New England, Quebec and Upper Canada (Ontario).  However, there were far more deaths and the wars lasted much longer on the Southern Appalachian Frontier.  Readers will soon be reading a chapter in the Shenandoah Chronicles on the ghosts and demons of the Tipton-Thornton Farm on Toms Brook in Shenandoah County, Virginia.  Many of those ghosts probably originated from the Indian and Revolutionary War period.

The official cause of the French and Indian War was a botched reconnaissance expedition, led by George Washington in 1754. When French-allied Indians began massacring settlers in the Shenandoah Valley later in 1754, Washington first ordered construction of large log palisade forts at what is now Winchester, Cedar Creek and Woodstock as places where settlers could flee from Indian raids . . . that’s assuming that they had any warning at all.   The landscape of Frederick, Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties, VA are dotted with state historic markers, which describe a legion of atrocities and massacres, committed first by Indians allied with the French and then often the same tribes, allied with the British during the late 1700s.

Earlier in1754, Washington had surveyed what was to become the Tipton Farm and carved his initials on an oak tree at the property’s entrance.  The following year, Washington returned as a Colonel in the Virginia Militia to supervise construction of a log block house over a spring that flowed into Toms Brook.  As member of the Virginia Militia, 24-year-old John Tipton helped build this blockhouse and many other fortifications in the Shenandoah Valley.  Many were small round or octagonal stone forts for individual households.  These forts often came too late.  By the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, the population of the Shenandoah Valley had declined by 90%.

What the history texts don’t tell readers is that the raids against settlers in western Virginia never really ended in 1763.  Remember, until the American Civil War, West Virginia was part of Virginia.  Those mountain valleys were very dangerous places for British subjects to live.  Building a homestead west of the Shenandoah Valley until after 1785 was almost tantamount to committing suicide.  The unpredictable raids still occasionally reached into the Valley.  Virtually all houses in the Shenandoah Valley, built before 1785 are either located over springs or else have large stone cisterns in their cellars to store rainwater.   Midwestern Indian war parties preferred to strike at dawn, when settlers were going outside to fetch water or relieve themselves in privies.

Col. John Tipton, Sr.

Colonel John Tipton was born in Baltimore, MD in 1730.  He moved to the Shenandoah Valley in Frederick County in 1750.   The following year, he married Mary Butler, who was born in 1732 on Cedar Creek.  She would bear him nine children . . . the birth of the ninth killed her on June 8, 1776.

In 1770, John and Mary Tipton moved to a new house on Toms Brook, built partially from logs recycled from the log blockhouse.  This move was to carried out to make him eligible for political positions in recently created, Dunmore County.  He was designated a “gentleman” and simultaneously appointed to the new county’s Board of Supervisors and named the county’s first Justice of the Peace The stone foundation of the blockhouse became the cellar for the Tipton home. There was a cooking fireplace and spring in the cellar.

The Tipton-Thornton House in 2019

Formal declaration of war broke out in 1774, between the Colony of Virginia and an alliance of Shawnee and Mingo Indians. John Tipton was elected a Captain of a Virginia Militia company, raised in the Shenandoah Valley. A combined Shawnee-Mingo army was defeated at the cliffs near the confluence of the Kanawah and Ohio Rivers on October 10, 1774’

Also in 1774, on June 16, Captain Tipton served as a member of the committee that drafted the Dunmore County (or Woodstock) Resolutions that protested the harsh treatment meted out to Boston, Massachusetts after the Boston Tea Party. The signed document is viewed as a precursor to the Bill of Rights and contains revolutionary rhetoric that was developing throughout the British colonies. Early the next year, Colonel Tipton was elected to the Dunmore County committee of safety and correspondence. They soon changed the name of the county to Shenandoah.

Colonel Tipton also served in the American forces during the Revolutionary War (1776 – 1783). Although he spent most of his time in the realm of politics, Colonel Tipton aided the war effort by serving as a recruiting officer for the Virginia militia. In 1776, he represented Dunmore County at the Fifth Virginia Convention, which drafted the first state constitution for the former royal colony. From 1776 to 1781, he was a member of the Virginia General Assembly, representing Dunmore County and its successor, Shenandoah County. For the remainder of the war, he served as sheriff of Shenandoah County from 1781 to 1783.

In 1777, Tipton remarried a widow,  Martha Denton Moore.  She was the widow of Captain John Denton, who had established the Toms Brook Plantation (colony) around 1729.  In other words, she lived downstream from Tipton.  The Toms Brook Plantation was the first white settlement in the Shenandoah Valley.

In 1780,  Tipton and his then friend, John Sevier, led an 80-wagon train of settlers from Shenandoah County to northeastern Tennessee.  He moved permanently to Tennessee in 1783 . . . taking the skeleton of his first wife, Mary, with him.  Tipton and Sevier would later become bitter political enemies, when Tipton played a leading role in the creation of the State of Franklin.

Southern Appalachians

For the first three years of the French and Indian War, South and North Carolina were little affected.  Then the Anglo-Cherokee War broke out.  Waves of Cherokee war parties pounced on to isolated farmsteads in the frontier of the Piedmont.  The first British punitive expedition was soundly defeated by the Cherokees at Itsate Gap on the northern end of the Dillard Valley in Georgia.  A year later, a second, much better planned, expedition wiped out the Lower and Middle Cherokee villages.  Several of my direct ancestors were Creek scouts for the Redcoats.

The French and Indian War had very little effect on the young colony of Georgia.  In June 1754 British envoys had persuaded all branches of the Cherokee Alliance Creek Confederacy except the Cowetas to sign a peace treaty with all of the branches of the Cherokees. The most powerful branch of the Creek Confederacy, the Coweta towns, refused to sign the treaty, but British officials assumed that one branch of the Creeks would not continue the 40-year-long Creek-Cherokee War.  They were wrong.

Shielding their blitzkrieg-type thrust with Bohuran-Creek* cavalry from present-day Barrow,Banks and Heard Counties, Georgia, the Coweta burned all Cherokee villages in their way during October 1754.  According to some British traders, visiting the Nacoochee Valley, they also burned the Itstate Creek towns of Chote and Saute, because they were on friendly trading terms with the Cherokees in the Hiwassee River Valley.  Many Cowetas owned horses by this time, but were not as skilled in fighting while mounted as the Bohurons.   By the end of October 1754, they had burned all Cherokee villages south of the Snowbird Mountains and executed 32 Cherokee village chiefs.   

*The Bohurons were descended from Sephardic Jewish, French, Spanish, Asturian, English and Dutch gold miners, who married Creek women in the 1600s. Their first mention is in 1600 AD, when the Governor of Spanish Florida received reports of a force of about 100 white horsemen being seen several times in the Lower Piedmont region of Georgia.  Bohuron is an Arabic word, meaning “nobility,” which was absorbed by Sephardic Jews, living in Spain.

Whatever the case, the Cherokees were not experienced in fighting mounted enemies.  Their war parties were wiped out piece mill, one by one.  The Cherokee Tribe surrendered all lands that it had taken from the Coweta Creeks in 1716 then signed a peace treaty with the Coweta Creeks.  Thus, when the Anglo-Cherokee War broke out in 1757,  the territory of the Creek Confederacy separated the Cherokee territory from white farmsteads on the Georgia frontier. 

About the same time that John Tipton was settling on Cedar Creek , my Creek ancestors moved upstream on the Savannah River from Palachicola and settled near the confluence of the Savannah and Broad Rivers.  Their lifestyles were little different that those of white settlers, who were their neighbors. Several served as scouts for the Second British expedition against the Cherokees, which was successful.

1776 . . . a time of horrors on the Appalachian Frontier

Shenandoah Valley, Province of Virginia

1776 was a tragic year for the Tipton family on Toms Brook.   A pregnant, 43-year-old Mary Tipton had to take care of her younger children, while her husband and older sons were away desperately fighting several combined armies of Tories and Midwestern Indians that were invading the Province of Virginia.  She died after giving birth to a son on June 8, 1776.  At virtually the same time, her firstborn son, Captain Abraham Tipton was killed in a battle with Shawnees and Tories on the Ohio River.  On October 10, 1776 her father was killed and scalped on his farm next to Cedar Creek.  Her mother survived.

This is the Old Middle Road, which runs through the woods in the back of my former farm. By late 1776, the American Revolution was at the verge of collapse. What was left of Washington’s army was camped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The army was almost out of food, musket balls and gun powder. If the Redcoats had bothered to attack his camp, it would have been a rout. Some of Virginia’s most affluent patriots pooled their remaining funds to hire 100 wagons and drivers, plus pay the costs of making a large quantity of lead ingots and gunpowder in southwestern Virginia for the Continental Army. Local farmers donated non-perishable food barrels to be hauled along with the munitions. Something went terribly wrong as the wagon train was passing through the Tipton Farm in early December 1776. A keg of gunpowder exploded. Then there was a chain reaction that caused the barrels of gunpowder to explode. Most of the drivers and mules were killed. The wagons were in splinters. When news of this horrific event reached writer Thomas Payne, he was inspired to write “The American Crisis” . . . the most famous of his inspirational pamphlets. It begins, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Yes, it was such a year for the Tipton Family. Even today, so much decomposed iron remains in the soil of the road that its causes compasses to spin and metal detectors to go bonkers.

Carolina and Southwest Virginia Upcountry

In contrast to the Virginia Frontiersmen, there settlers on the Carolina and Georgia frontier were generally ambivalent to the revolutionary activities going on near the coast.  They were much farther away from the coast, had almost no contact with British officials, but had often been in political disagreements with the wealthy planters in the coastal plain.  Most hoped to stay out of the line of fire, but far too many British officials read this neutrality as disloyalty to the Crown.

British Indian Agent, Alexander Cameron, had married a Cherokee woman and enjoyed warm relations with the Cherokees since 1764. For the previous 30 years, he had either been a resident of Georgia or a soldier in the British Army.  His activities and those of the Cherokees in 1776 have been in recent years been “white washed” in articles written by academicians in Tennessee and North Carolina.  He is portrayed as a pacifist, who wanted to keep the Cherokees out of the Revolutionary War and the Cherokees are portrayed as normally peaceful people, who were merely fighting off invaders of their lands in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee, which they had occupied for many centuries.

Actually, there is no mention of the Cherokees on maps of the Southern colonies until 1715.  Until 1785, the Cherokees only occupied a minuscule area of Georgia – present day Rabun County and the eastern part of Towns County.   The 1715 map shows the Cherokees only occupying the northeastern tip of Tennessee and the northwestern tip of South Carolina. The South Carolina portion only had eight villages with a total population of 1200 persons.  A British Army map in 1776 estimated that the total Cherokee population in Georgia, which stretched to the Mississippi River as being around 100 persons.

There is no doubt that the British Army High Command in New York City planned and implemented a strategy that involved using Indian tribes to attack the frontier settlements.   The Cherokee attacks on the frontier farmsteads in southwest Virginia and the Carolinas was one of the greatest mistakes made by Great Britain in that war. There is no doubt that the attacks were premediated and orchestrated by the British Army.  Loyalists were supposed to be notified to hang white sheets or British flags in a certain way so that the Cherokee warriors would bypass them.  The message did not reach many and the Cherokees often ignored the flags of those that did know. 

What did happen was that on Wednesday, July 10, 1776,  Cherokee war parties fanned out and massacred families along the SW  Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina frontier. Hundreds of men, women and children were killed . . . most of them neutrals or Loyalists.   

The Cherokees did not attack farmsteads in Georgia because about 75 miles of Creek territory . . . which included the greatly feared Bohurans and Chickasaws lay between the southern boundary of the Cherokees and the settlements along the lower Broad River.

Fort James and Fort Tugaloo, Province of Georgia

The year 1776 found most of my Native American ancestors living in the general vicinity of Fort James, where the Broad River joined the Savannah River.  My gggg-grandfather, Jack Bone and his wife Mahala, lived next to the fertile bottom lands, beneath the fort.  Jack was a scout for the Georgia Rangers, stationed at Fort James.  Mahala would become the first of five generations of Bone women, who were given the Creek name Mahala, which means “teacher”.  They were expected to know the Creek traditions and teach them to their siblings and cousins.

One of the rangers was Benjamin Hart, husband of the famous Patriot spy, Nancy Hart. They were neighbors of the Bones.  Benjamin became a Lieutenant in the Georgia Mounted Rifles (militia), while Nancy achieved fame for capturing and hanging a squad of Tory cavalrymen, who entered her home.  

When it became known that the Redcoats had paid the Cherokees to attack frontier settlements, the Rangers’ loyalty totally switched to the Patriot Side.  They became the core of the Georgia Mounted Rifles. The Georgia Mounted Rifles adopted as its uniform, the traditional deerskin hunting coat of the Creeks.  For a period of time during the darkest days of the Revolution, the only part of Georgia still under Patriot control was in the vicinity of Fort James, northward to a string of log palisade forts along the Tugaloo-Tallulah River.

The Cherokee raiders also killed Creek, Chickasaw and Uchee families living in South Carolina.  This outrage caused the Creeks in northeast Georgia to instantly become allies of the American Patriots, since they were enemies of the Cherokees.  Indian trader,  James Adair, was able to instantly raise a company of 100+ Chickasaws in what is now White County, GA to fight the Cherokees.

Among those manning the small forts along the Tugaloo-Tallulah River was Bryant Ward. He was almost exactly the age of Captain John Tipton. A young Cherokee woman lived with him, but was not legally married to him.  He had given her the English name of Nancy.  She had been born in the nearby Nacoochee Valley, not Tennessee.  She was NOT a Cherokee, but an Itsate Creek with substantial Sephardic Jewish ancestry.  This was confirmed in 2020 by DNA tests of her descendants still living in Georgia.  All of Nancy’s American Indian DNA was from southern Mexico.  Streams, named Ward Creek in Stevens County, GA and Lumpkin County, GA are named after Nancy’s descendants. 

Nancy’s daughter, Betsy, as a young teenager shacked up with Brig. General Joseph Martin, Jr.  while he was stationed on the Tugaloo River in Georgia.  She had at least one child by him.  She later moved in with Daniel Hughes, who was a resident of NE Georgia.  Their descendants still live in NE Georgia.

Bryant had a cousin, who did settle in NE Tennessee. His descendants often claim Nancy as an ancestor.  Nancy lived with a series of white men only. 

After the treaty of 1795, Nancy obtained permission to settle on the Ocoee River in Tennessee in Cherokee Nation. There, she and her white lover operated a ferry and started a plantation with African slaves.  She frequently returned to Georgia to visit family and friends. Her visits were noted in the local newspapers of Franklin and Habersham Counties. Most else that you read about Nancy is poppycock, written by the author of a dime novel, four years after her death.  

Tennesseans have concocted early birth dates for Nancy and her daughter Betsy, based on the supposed Battle of Talliwa in 1754, where “the Cherokees won all of North Georgia.”  It never happened and there was never a Creek town named Talliwa. Nancy was either a nursing infant or not even born in 1754.  She never was married to the “great Cherokee warrior” Kingfisher. He died in the Battle of Etowah Cliffs in 1793, not 1754.

The last battle of the American Revolution was fought by a combined army of South Carolina Militia, Georgia Mounted Rifles and Georgia Creek Scouts around October 22, 1782.  Two of my ancestors were Creek scouts in that battle. The army was under the command of Colonel Andrew Pickens of South Carolina and Major Elijah Clarke of Georgia.  The Patriots attacked and quickly obtained a surrender from renegade Cherokee Chief Sour Mush, whose camp was on Long Swamp Creek in present day Pickens County, GA.   In 1776, Sour Mush had been banned by the Cherokee leaders, but had been allowed to settle his band of 50 followers in Upper Creek territory.

The Patriots then attacked the nearby camp of Major Thomas Waters’ Royal British Rangers.  They had been attacking farmsteads on the Georgia frontier and murdering civilians, so no quarter was given.  Waters managed to escape with some of his men.  They fled up the Etowah River to the mountains near Amicalola Falls with their mixed-blood Indian wives. 

Waters left his wife behind when he later found his way to the British Army base at Pensacola, West Florida.  Most of his fellow survivors remained in the region and were accepted by the Cherokees when they were given this region in 1785.  However, their descendants petitioned for state citizenship prior to the Trail of Tears and remained in Georgia.  The names of these former Tory families can be found on the rural roads of Dawson and Lumpkin Counties.

The Bone Creek families were granted over 3,000 acres of reserves along the Savannah River in Elbert, Wilkes and Hart Counties in gratitude by the State of Georgia for their contributions to the Patriot Cause. After being attacked several times by Pro-British Upper Creek war parties in the 1780s and early 1990s, they cut off all ties with the Creek Confederacy and essentially created a loosely aligned association of Pro-United States Eastern Creeks.

Some Bones voluntarily relocated to the Indian Territory.  The most famous was Tiger Bone, who commanded the Creek Mounted Rifles in the 1849s and 1850s, when they won three spectacular victories against the Lakota Sioux.  At this point in history, the Creek Mounted Rifles were essentially the police for the Western Plains.

Now you know!


  1. Latter on I will be infilling photocopies from the 1700s in the online book. I have such things as a plat of the farm, drawn by George Washington, the property tax bill for John Tipton and the assessment on the deceased estate of Mary Butler Tipton. Under British rule, when a person died the Crown, as represented by the royal governor, taxed all of that person’s belongings. It was basically a death tax on all people, who owned their home. No wonder we had a Revolution! .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s really nice that you know so much about your families history and what happened without relying on what’s on paper/ books. I enjoyed reading it. History is not always roses and happy moments but it has to be remembered and preserved.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Howdy, Excellent. Short, well written…REAL HISTORY!!!!

    On Sun, Jul 25, 2021 at 8:14 PM The Americas Revealed wrote:

    > alekmountain posted: ” Introduction to the Shenandoah Chronicles © Richard > L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner How do you like my new > architectural virtual reality software from France? Très chic! Unlike > such software produced in the United States, it includes a w” >

    Liked by 1 person

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