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From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 111-113.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 return.

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 Clinch.

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 38
(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
(5) 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.

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