Settlers along the Wilderness Road: Finale

Published 4:53 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2023


Contributing columnist

Livingston Place was one of the most beautiful farms in southwestern Virginia. Brothers Peter and Henry Livingston lived there with their families and a large number of slaves.

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Benge sought out farms with slaves and scouted them for an advantageous time to attack with the purpose of taking them north and selling them to the French in what is now Detroit.

Elizabeth, the wife of Peter Livingston gave the following account of their ordeal with Benge.

“It was about ten o’clock on the morning of April 6, 1794 while I was sitting in my house,” Elizabeth began. “The dogs began barking fiercely and it alarmed me so much I arose to looked outside. I saw seven armed Indians approaching the house and they were painted in a frightful manner. I was alone inside except for a ten-year old, and my sucking infant.

“My husband and his brother had just walked out to a barn some distance in the field. My sister-in-law, Sukey was with the remaining children in an outhouse. Old Mrs. Livingston was in the garden. I immediately shut and boarded the door and the Indians became furious.

They tried to burst the door open and demanded that I open it.

“Next they fired guns with one ball piercing through the door but doing no other damage. I then thought of my husband’s rifle and took it down but I was at a loss because it was double-triggered. Finally I was able to get it to fire through the door and the Indians retired from that place. Soon afterward they set fire to an old adjoining house.

“The children and I suffered much from the smoke forcing me to open the door. When I did an Indian immediately took me and the children as their prisoners. I then discovered that they had Sukey and my remaining children as prisoners along with a wench and her young children, a black man, and a black boy of our own who is about 8-years old. Our house with clothing and household furniture was then set afire.

“We were all hurried a short distance where the Indians paused to divide and put up in packs what they had taken. After I observed they weren’t watching the children closely I whispered to my eldest daughter to take my youngest child and run towards John Russell’s.

“They started to go and stopped to look back but I beckoned them to go on. Inwardly I felt the worst pangs. The two Indians in the rear must not have noticed this scene. That evening the Indians crossed Clinch Mountain and went as far as Cooper Creek, a distance of about eight miles.

“We set out early the next morning, April 7 and crossed Clinch River at McLean’s fish dam then steered north towards the head of Stony Creek. There the Indians camped carelessly having no back spy nor did they keep sentries out. This day’s journey was about twenty miles.

“On April 8, the Indians arose late and then traveled five or six miles and camped near the foot of Powell’s Mountain. On this day Chief Benge became more pleasant and spoke freely to the prisoners. He said he was taking us to the Cherokee towns.

He (Benge) said that there were two Indians hunting so that he would have provisions and he said that there were several other prisoners who were taken from Kentucky. He asked about old General Shelby on Holston River and said he would pay him a visit during the coming summer and take away all of his blacks. He said all the Chickamauga towns were for war and that they would be very troublesome for the settlers.

The Lee County court was in session when news came that Benge and his band of Indians had invaded the Holston settlements. Court was immediately adjourned and a company of men under Captain Vincent Hobbs was organized to search for them.

Hobbs and his men went to a gap at Stone Mountain in what is now Russell County, Virginia through which they expected the Indians to pass. Upon arriving at the gap Hobbs could tell that some Indians had passed through not long before. The men pressed on and soon came upon and killed two Indians kindling a fire. The Indians had items that were taken from the Livingstons on April 6 th . The men then returned to the gap to await Benge and the remainder of his group.

“After traveling about five miles on April 9 over Powell’s Mountain and to the foot of Stone Mountain a party of 13 men under the command of Lt. Vincent Hobbs, of the Lee County militia attacked the Indians. Hobbs Shot and killed Chief Benge.

“I was some distance off in the rear,” Elizabeth Livingston told of her kidnapping. “The Indian who was guarding me stopped at first when he heard the firing. He then told me to run but as I did he tried to strike me in the head with his tomahawk. I warded this off with my arm. Two of our people then came into view so it gave me courage to struggle even more. The Indian pushed me backward over a log and aimed a violent blow at my head. It laid me out for dead.

“The first thing I recall was my good friends around helping me.

They told me that I was senseless for about an hour. That’s when I learned that Chief Benge had been killed.

This same year Colonel Arthur Campbell was commissioned Indian agent by the President of the United States. Campbell wrote to the Governor of Virginia on April 29, 1794, giving the details of the Indian raid along with the written statement of Mrs. Livingston.

“I have been requested to forward the scalp of Chief Benge, that noted murderer, to your Excellency. This is proof of his death and of the activity and good conduct of Lieutenant Hobbs in killing him and freeing the prisoners. If it can be spared I beg you to give a reward to Lt. Hobbs for his service.”

The Virginia General Assembly voted to honor the request and presented Hobbs with a handsome silver-mounted rifle. No further Indian attacks materialized. Benge’s final attack, which led to his death was the final recorded Indian invasion in southwest Virginia. It was recorded that many of the Indian raids against the settlements in extreme southwest Virginia were led by Benge and Logan.

Editor’s note: Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate. His stories are both historic and nostalgic in nature. Thanks to Lincoln Memorial University, Alice Lloyd College and the Museum of Appalachia for their assistance.