In the summer of 1779 it was the middle of the Revolutionary War in Washington County, Virginia. British agents were instigating attacks by the Indians led by Dragging Canoe who were living at Chickamauga to war against the Virginia and Carolina frontiersmen. Before the Indians could attack, the militia, which consisted of several hundred men, went by canoes and boats on the Tennessee river to attack the Indians in their homes. The Indians were taken by surprise but were able to flee in all directions into the hills and mountains and did not offer any resistance. At least 40 Indians were killed, towns destroyed, horses and cattle were driven away and corn and provisions were carried off. The troops destroyed their own boats and canoes and returned to their homes on foot.
The following is a story about Jesse Evans and his family. At this time I do not know how they are or if they are related to my line of the Evans family, though both families lived in Washington County, Virginia at the same time. At this point of time in history, this usually means there is some kind of connection between families of the same surname, but research is still needed to know what the connection is. The story is an excerpt from the book “History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1870” by Lewis Preston Summers, Richmond, VA; 1901; pgs 295 – 298. Please observe copyright laws in copying this story.
“In the summer of 1779, the Indians visited the home of Jesse Evans, who lived near the head waters of the Clinch river, and destroyed his family. On the morning of the day in question, Jesse Evans left his house, with five or six hired men, for the purpose of executing some work at a distance from home. As they carried with them various farming implements, their guns were left at the house, where Mrs. Evans was engaged in weaving a piece of cloth. Her oldest daughter was filling quills for her while the four remaining children were either at play in the garden or gathering vegetables.
The garden was about sixty yards from the house, and, as no sawmills were in existence at that day in this country, slab-boards were put up in a manner called “wattling” for palings. These were some six feet long and made what is called a close fence. Eight or ten Indians, who lay concealed in a thicket near the garden, silently left their hiding places and made their way, unobserved, to the back of the garden. There, removing a few boards, they bounded through and commenced the horrid work of killing and scalping the children. The first warning Mrs. Evans had was their screams and cries. She ran to the door and beheld the sickening scene, with such feelings as only a mother can experience.
Mrs. Evans was a stout , athletic woman, and, being inured to the hardships of the times, with her to will was to do. She saw plainly that on her exertions alone could one spark of hope be entertained for the life of her “first born.” An unnatural strength seemed to nerve her arm and she resolved to defend her surviving child to the last extremity. Rushing into the house she closed the door, which being too small, left a crevice, through which in a few moments an Indian extended his gun, aiming to pry open the door and finish the bloody work which had been so fearfully begun. Mrs. Evans had thrown herself against the door to prevent the entrance of the savages, but no sooner did she see the gun barrel than she seized it and drew it in so far as to make it an available lever in prying to the door. The Indians threw themselves against the door to force it open, but their efforts were unavailing. The heroic woman stood to her post, well knowing that her life depended upon her own exertions. The Indians now endeavored to wrest the gun from her; in this they likewise failed. Hitherto she had worked in silence, but as she saw no prospect of the Indians relinquishing their object, she began to call loudly for her husband, as if he were really near. It had the desired effect; they let go the gun and hastily left the house, while Mrs. Evans sat quietly down to await a second attack, but the Indians, who had perhaps seen Mr. Evans and his workmen leave the house, feared he might be near, and made off with all speed.
While Mrs. Evans was thus sitting and brooding over the melancholy death of her children, anxious to go to those in the garden, but, fearing to leave her surviving one in the house, exposed to a second attack, a man named Goldsby stepped up to the door. Never did manna fall to the hungered Jew more opportunely, yet no sooner did he hear her woeful tale than he turned his back upon her and fled as if every tree and bush had been an Indian taking deadly aim at him. Such were his exertions to get to a place of greater safety that he brought on hemorrhage of the lungs, from which he with much difficulty recovered.
Seeing herself thus left to the mercy of the savages, Mrs. Evans took up the gun she had taken from them and started with her remaining daughter to Major John Taylor’s, about two miles distant, where, tired and frenzied with grief, she arrived in safety. She had not been gone a great while, when Mr. Evans returned and not suspecting anything wrong, took down a book, and was engaged in its perusal for some time, till finally he became impatient and started to the garden, where he supposed Mrs. Evans was gathering vegetables. What must have been his feelings when he reached the garden to see four of his children murdered and scalped. Seeing nothing of his wife and eldest daughter, he supposed they had been taken prisoners; he therefore returned quickly to the house, seized his gun and started for Major Taylor’s to get assistance and a company to follow on and try, if possible, to overtake them. Frantic with grief he rushed into the house to tell his tale of woe, when he was caught in the arms of his brave wife. His joy at finding them was so great that he could scarcely contain himself; he wept, then laughed, then thanked God it was no worse. As is common in such cases in a new country, the neighbors flocked in to know the worst, and to offer such aid as lay in their power. They sympathized as only frontiersmen can sympathize, with the bereaved parents; but the thought of having to bury four children the next morning was so shocking and so dreadful to reflect on, that but little peace was to be expected for them. Slowly, the reluctant hours of night passed away, and a faint gleam of light became visible in the eastern sky. The joyous warblers were gayly flitting from branch to branch and carrolling their sweetest lays, while the sun rose above the mountain summit, shooting his bright beams on the sparkling dewdrops which hung like so many diamonds from the green boughs of the mountain shrubbery, giving, altogether, an air of gorgeous beauty which seemed to deny the truth of the evening’s tale. The light clouds swimming in the eastern atmosphere, brilliantly tinted with the rising sun,
And the gentle murmur of the morning breeze,
Singing nature’s anthem to the forest trees,
Seemed to say such horrid work could not be done by beings wearing human form. But alas! While nature teaches naught but love, men teach themselves lessons which call forth her sternest frowns.
A hasty breakfast was prepared and the men set off to Mr. Evans’s house to bury the murdered children. With a heart too full for utterance, the father led the way, as if afraid to look at those little forms for whose happiness he had toiled, and braved the dangers of a frontier life. But a day ago he had dandled them on his knees, and listened to their innocent prattle; they were now monuments of Indian barbarity.
Turning a hill the fatal garden was instantly painted on the retina of the fond parent’s eye, to be quickly erased by the silent tears which overflowed their fountain and came trickling down his weather beaten face.
The party came up to the back of the house at the front of which stood the milk-house, over a spring of clear water, when lo! they beheld coming up, as it were from the very depth of the grave, Mary, a little child only four years old, who had recovered from the stunning blow of the tomahawk and had been in quest of water at the familiar old spring around which, but a day before, she had sported in childish glee. The scalp that had been torn from the skull was hanging hideously over her pale face, which was much besmeared with blood. She stretched out her little arms to meet her father, who rushed to her with all the wild joy of one whose heart beats warm with parental emotions! She had wandered about in the dark from the time she had recovered and, it may be, had more than once tried to wake her little sisters on whose heads the tomahawks had fallen with greater force. This poor, half-murdered little child lived, ,married and raised a large family.”