Slaying of the Halbert McClure Family
By Emory L. Hamilton
From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell
and Holston Rivers, pages 111-113.
On the 20th of September, 1782, Colonel Arthur Campbell wrote to Colonel
William Davies (1), saying:
On the 11th instant a party of Northward Indians penetrated as far in this
county as the settlements on the head of Moccasin Creek, which is within ten or
twelve miles of Abingdon, attacked a family of fourteen in number, (of course
secured in the interior part), killed the husband on the spot, captivated the
wife and six (6) of the children, three of whom, after being a short space in
the enemies hands, was most inhumanely murdered. One, a young woman, so long
survived the blows as told the tragic tale. Two made their escape the first day
and night. The old woman and one child, with a considerable booty in horses,
household goods, etc., was carried forward three days, some distance down the
Sandy River. When part of our duty, with a perseverance in purpose, through a
most rugged and difficult way that does them honor, overtook the Indians and
wounded several of them; recovered unhurt, the two remaining captives, with the
Indian’s baggage and plunder they had taken.
Just seven days before the above letter was written, Campbell, had on the
13th of September, 1782, written to Col. Preston thusly: (2)
By a few lines received from Major Dysart, (3) I am informed that the Indians
have murdered Halbert McClure’s family, near our Courthouse, and some other
persons, the number there unknown.
Captain John Carr, who was born on Carr’s Creek in Russell Co., VA, September
6, 1773, and once lived as a boy on Moccasin Creek, wrote to Dr. Lyman C.
Draper, in 1854 from Sumner Co., TN (4) saying:
...After that time (1776) my father moved near the head of Moccasin Creek.
The Indians came and killed part of a family and carried off others as
prisoners. This family lived within about two miles of my father. Their names
were McClure. Sally, the oldest daughter was to be married the next day after
the attack was made by the Indians. The father McClure was killed, also a son of
his by the name of Moses, and Katherine, a grown girl, and John McClure, his
oldest son was wounded, but afterwards recovered.
Sally McClure made her escape from the Indians the first night. She met the
party who were in pursuit of the Indians, as might be expected, her intended
husband was among them. His name was Kincaid, who married her shortly after her
James Oxer, who once lived on the Clinch, filed a Revolutinary War pension
claim as the only living heir of his father, George Oxer, who was an Indian spy
on the Clinch and who died in Montgomery Co., KY, in October 1809. In the claim
filed in Warren Co., Indiana, in 1858, he states:
That his father served on the Clinch and was married to Dorcas Shelby
(Shelley) who died in Kentucky in 1824; that his father was in a skirmish with
the Indians in which Captain (Alexander) Barnett (5) recaptured the McClure
family of Virginia, and placed them in the care of his father George Oxer.
Joseph Smathers who once lived in this vicinity before emigrating to
Kentucky, tells a very confused version of this incident to the Rev. John D.
Shane, (6) in which he says:
McClure’s lived at the head of Little Moccasin Gap. McClure’s cabin had a
wooden chimney (7) on it. They (Indians) had gotten between the chimney and
cabin. They had learned to say the old man’s grace. (Perhaps a table grace or
prayer they overheard). His daughter was to have been married in a few days. He
(the father McClure) came and fell on his knee and begged them to desist and was
shot dead. They tomahawked and scalped a daughter and tread on her, and left her
for dead, but she came to and lived. Two other daughters were taken off. One was
the bride. They taunted her about her groom and mocked the grace the old man
said. There never was half as much mischief done (by Indians) on Holston as on
Halbert McClure had settled in 1773, near the head of Moccasin Creek in
Washington Co., in Rich Valley, on a 400 acre tract of land opposite and a
little east of Cabin Creek Ford and Bromley Gap on the southside of the North
fork of Holston River. He assigned this tract of land to John Kinkead in 1781.
(8) He was one of the appraisers of the estate of Benjamin Estill on April 17,
1782, and was a Juror in Botetourt Co., at a court on 15th of May, 1771.
(1) Virginia State Papers, Vol. III, page 316-17.
(2) Draper MSS 9 DD
(3) Major James Dysart, first Sheriff of Washington Co., VA, lived east of
Abingdon, on Route U. S. 11, at Book Hall (still standing). He died in
Rockcastle Co., KY, in 1831. Was one of the Long Hunters and also at the Battle
of Kings Mountain where he commanded a company
(4) Draper MSS 6 XX 99
Alexander Barnett was County Lieutenant of Militia for Russell Co., VA, after
its formation in 1786, and was a militia officer serving on the Clinch, while
the territory was still Washington Co., VA.
(6) Historical Collection of Rev.
John D. Shane, Draper MSS 12 CC 96-7.
(7) Early settlers often built this
type chimney. It was laid up of sticks of wood, pen fashion and daubed with
clay. They were called "stick and clay chimneys".
(8) Washington Co., VA
Entry Book 1, page 10 & 70.