The History of Upshur County
EARLY SETTLERS AND INDIAN TROUBLES.
Anxiety to settle in the New World was possessing the English Plebeian at the middle of the 18th century. Old and young alike wanted to reach American shores and find a home of religious peace and politic freedom. It mattered little to them in what capacity they came, whether as indented land tenants, house servants, or as soldiers in the King's army. The goal of an Englishman's ambition was to get to America, where freedom of personal action was as boundless as the forests the country maintained. This the cause of the great immigration from England in the 18th century. In addition to the foregoing reasons the French and Indian War might be added.
It was during this war that William Childers, John Lindsey, John Pringle, and Samuel Pringle first saw the shores of America, on which they were to serve and did serve in the royal army. It was during their service in that army, garrisoned at Ft. Pitt (now Pittsburg) that they, tired of martial life, deserted the Fort in 1761 or '62 and ascended the Monongahela river to the mouth of Georges Creek, afterwards selected by Albert Gallatin as the site for the town of New Geneva, Pa. Not liking this location, they remained but a short time. They then traveled eastward and crossed over to the head waters of the Youghiogheny.
Camping in the glades, they continued to live there about twelve months. In one of their hunting trips, Samuel Pringle wandered away from his companions and while alone, pursuing the swiftest deer, came on a much traveled path which he supposed joined Ft. Pitt to the nearest inhabited portion of Virginia. Returning to camp, he made known to his companions his discovery and supposition, and asked them to join him in tracing the path down. His comrades acceded to his request and at once set about making ready for their journey. They easily found the trail at the place Samuel Pringle discovered it, and following it eastwardly, reached Looney's Creek, then the most remote western settlement (on South Branch). Looney's Creek heads in Grant County against the east face of the Allegheny mountains about 15 miles from Bayard. This stream lies ten miles west of Moorefield and has a total length of about fifteen miles.
While living among the settlements of Looney's Creek, the quartette of deserters were apprehended. The Pringle brothers escaped and returned to their camp in the glades where they remained until some time in the year 1764.
The three started out together and while journeying through the boundless forest, a violent dispute arose between Simpson and one of the Pringles. Failing to compromise their trouble and knowing peace would be necessary to their safety, they separated. This quarrel and separation took place on Cheat river at the Horse Shoe.
Simpson left his employees and traveled westward until he came to a stream and gave it the name of Elk. Following this stream to its mouth, he built a camp here and lived there until permanent settlements were made in the vicinity.
The Pringles after Simpson left them at the Horse Shoe took up the Valley river and followed that stream until they came to a large righthand fork. They forsook the main stream here, and kept up the branch, now Buckhannon river, for several miles, when they came to a branch of the branch which was subsequently called Turkey Run on account of the great abundance of wild turkeys found and killed by the pioneers.
In 1765 they encamped in the cavity of a large sycamore tree at the mouth of Turkey Run. This specific tree, the subject of so many fire-side chats and the cause of so much earliest veneration among the early settlers and their immediate offspring, has bug ago died. Its descendant, however, still survives and stands on the land of Webster Dix, who respects it highly and will not destroy it. Yearly large numbers of close and hard students of West Virginia history visit the site of the parent sycamore where they are greeted and welcomed by the grandchild of the parent tree.
The situation of these men during a residence of three years, although made necessary by their previous treasonable conduct, could not have been very enviable. Runaways from the King's army, composure of mind was impossible. The constant fear of discovery must have haunted them ; savages on all sides, the tomahawk, and scalping knife were ever present to their imaginations. The dull hoot of the owl, the fierce shriek of the panther, and the hideous howling of the wolf hourly disturbed their solitary serenity and made them often long for civilized man's companionship, sympathy and help.
Buffalo, elk, and deer were abundant in large numbers and gamboled sportily around their camp. These animals enabled them to supply their larder easily, but the absence of salt, bread, and every species of garden vegetable most certainly abated their relish for the delicious loin of the one, and the haunch of the other.
The scarceness of ammunition, which was their only source of subsistence in their vicarious life, limited their hunting to the getting of what was absolutely needed and also forced upon them the shrinking thought of being driven to the settlements which might discover and apprehend them. They resisted the idea of returning to the South Branch until they were actually reduced to two loads of powder.
Necessity then induced John Pringle to leave his brother and make for a trading post on the Shenandoah where discovery and identity would be at the minimum. The fall of 1767 saw his departure; the spring of 1768 witnessed his return, several months after the period appointed to join his brother. Samuel Pringle suffered not a little mentally and physically by his brother's prolonged absence. His provisions were nearly exhausted. One load of powder was lost in a fruitless attempt to fell a buck, and his mind was uneasy because his brother's delayed return might be taken as recognition, apprehension, court-martial and death.
However, he determined to brave the perils of the forest as long as he could, hoping that relief might come. With his last load of powder he killed a large fine buffalo; soon thereafter, John returned with the news of peace both with the Indians and the French and a total cessation of hostility. The Pringles broke up their camp in a day or two.
The two brothers now agreed to leave their exile in the wilderness and seek the settlements where trials arid vicissitudes of frontier life were shared in common. They no doubt left their forest habitation with some regret. They had become attached to every object around them. They could see "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." The tree in whose cavity they had sheltered from storm and winter's cold, always offered safe protection, arid was honored by them with so much adoration that they determined to come back to it as soon as they could prevail upon a few others to accompany them and share this bountiful forest and this asylum of their exile.
Among the classes of people who composed the frontier settlements of that day, the task of inducing some to remove was not difficult. To acquire land was a great motive which made the settlements of the South Branch, and many had failed entirely in locating and holding their claims; others had to occupy poor and broken situations off the river on what seemed barren mountains-all on account of prior locations and surveys taking up the fertile bottoms and the more desirable uplands. The second motive for. removing, was the passion for hunting (which was a ruling one with many) and the domain of its satisfaction was the plentifulness of game. Both of these objects could be attained in the country whence the Pringle brothers proposed to form the settlement.
There can be no doubt that the Pringles were greatly assisted in their endeavors by the sympathy and encouragement of a woman, one Charity Cutright, between whom and Samuel Pringle an abiding affection, which terminated in a marriage and a happy family, had sprung up at the time the four deserters were living among the settlers on Loony's Creek. Their marriage occurred after the return of the Pringle brothers to the South Branch settlements.
This woman enlisted the aid of her brother, John Cutright, and he in turn interested his youthful friends and neighbors. The contagion spread from one to another until the time of immigration arrived. So many had been enlisted that the Pringle brothers were considered heros and the founders of Upshure County.