Jackson's Way: Andrew Jackson and the People of the Western Waters

By John Buchanan | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2
VANGUARD OF EMPIRE

“THAT INDOMITABLE COURAGE, SO COMMON TO WOMAN”

They were nine, probably Shawnee. They had left their horses several days behind them in order to descend to Powell's Valley unseen and unheard. Whites under the leadership of the well-known Virginia frontiersman Joseph Martin had tried to settle this valley in the mountains of southwestern Virginia in 1769. In that year Daniel Boone, headed for Cumberland Gap and his second long hunt to Kentucky, came upon Martin and twenty men clearing land for corn. The crop was never harvested. It was Cherokee land and the warriors drove Martin and his men out of the valley. But if one thing marked the American pioneer, it was persistence. They would not be denied, no matter the toll of death and suffering. Martin and the settlers returned in 1776. Once again the Indians struck; once again the settlers fled northward. At the end of the Revolutionary War they returned, as they always did, and built their cabins and plowed the fields, determined this time to stand their ground. 1

It was some time in June 1785, just after dark, that the war party stealthily approached the cabin of Archibald Scott at the head of Wallens Creek, a tributary of the Powell River, in Washington County (now Lee County), Virginia. The Scott cabin was on the old Kentucky Trace leading westward to Cumberland Gap, which was approximately fifty miles westward. It was a familiar resting place for pioneers headed for Kentucky, and also the Cumberland settlements in the present state of Tennessee. In 1783 the Washington County Court had appointed Scott “overseer of the road from Powells Valley Station to where it intersects the wagon road at the North Fork of Clinch….” Archibald Scott was described by a neighbor, William Martin, as “a man of more than ordinary consideration in those regions.” 2

It was a hot night. The door had been left open. Inside Archibald and the four children had gone to bed. Mrs. Scott, the former Frances Dickenson, known familiarly as Fanny, was up. William Martin described her as “rather fleshy than otherwise, of good size—good appearance from 25 to

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