Mar. 12th, 2004

urocyon: Grey fox crossing a stream (Default)
Following a small reference to the Monetans, I stumbled across this page, with historical notes concerning Southern WV counties. The snippet about Monroe County particularly caught my eye. If I went on about every example of the pushing of "official" history over reality I ran across, I would get very little else done, but this one irked me tonight.

Monroe County, Virginia, was created on January 14, 1799 by an Act of the Assembly of Virginia. It became Monroe County, West Virginia on June 20, 1863.* It is the only county in the state of West Virginia to give its waters partly to the Atlantic and partly to the Gulf of Mexico. The County has a rich agricultural heritage and produces some of the finest beef and dairy herds in West Virginia. Early settlers came into the "Sink Land" around 1780 and purchased huge acreage from the King of England for $1.00 per 100 acres.

Yeah, and Isaac Wiseman and Elizabeth Davis were married there in 1758; it's unclear how long either--or her family--had been there at that point.** Isaac, and at least one other Wiseman, had begun doing dodgy-sounding deals with land grants before that, IIRC (they certainly must have begun quickly, or wouldn't have had many years for it). The Wicklines do follow the "official" pattern more closely (with Jacob W. - b: 25 May 1750 ? Robeson Twp, Berks Co., Pa; D: 26 Dec 1821 ? Sweet Springs, Monroe Co, Va), but--to point out the obvious--were actual Pennsylvania Germans, and less typical of early settlement patterns than some seem to think.

That last line is a cute one. We are supposed to believe that land grants from the Crown were being handed out toward the end of, perhaps even after, the Revolution? I am choosing to overlook the presumed currency conversion.

The author of this piece about Gap Mills in Monroe Co. is a little more reasonable:

Nothing is known as to who was the first settler of this community, but at the outbreak of the Dunmore War in 1774 there was a chain of settlements from Sweet Springs to Gap Mills.

The first mention of a county road was in June 1774 which was twenty years after Braddock's defeat.


The first settlers of this valley were four families to which we wish to make special mention.

Four sisters named Maxwells: Margaret, Isabelle, Elizabeth, and Hannah married respectively Thomas Steele, Owen Neel, Andrew Crosier, and Robert Dunbar. They came here from Pennsylvania and lived as neighbors. This occurred about 1790. Owen Neel first settled in Potts Valley, but later moved to this place. All four of the sisters and their husbands, except Andrew Crosier, are buried in a graveyard on B. L. Neel's farm. Andrew Crosier died while visiting relatives in Tennessee, and was buried there.

Isn't there a little inconsistency there? Also, this second part being the case, how was William Crosier born in Gap Mills in 1784? I'm not even sure he was the eldest. (Yes, a minor quibble, but these are some ancestors.) It does seem that every opportunity to push a date forward is taken.

Speaking of ancestors, I was rather amused by the next item on the page, an 1835 petition to leave the Presbyterian Church in Union and establish one in Gap Mills. Out of 36 signers, a casual scan revealed at least three direct ancestors (and a connection I hadn't realised between the two groups of them). A small world, indeed, especially then. Oh yes, "All signers of this petition except two were direct descendants of the Maxwell sisters."

It should be mentioned that all of these people, with their relatively late dates, were well on the radar. Presumably, they had no reason not to be, unlike a good number of others. They were receiving land grants, or in the case of the Germans and latecomers, buying large tracts of land. This makes them the best documented--and least frustrating--of the lot.

Last, and rather off-topic:

Our first roads were often nothing more than widened Indian trails.

I'm not sure I want to know the author's point here. This is still the case (pertaining to some roads, as well as not wanting to delve into the author's mind). This did remind me of a recent discussion on Mingo-L about a large stretch of what's now the Norfolk-Southern line following the route described by Fallam and Batts in 1671, almost foot-by-foot; it's an easy route through to the Big Sandy, and was a popular general travel and trade route for longer than anyone can be sure. I really don't know where some people seem to get the cowpath idea.

* Except to a Monroe Co. relative or two, judging by book inscriptions placing them in Virginia well after 1863. This must have been a more widespread sentiment, the way Monroe and Mercer counties have made noises about rejoining Virginia.

** Not a great example, but a ready one.

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