Monday, December 21, 2015

Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia

aunt minerva collection.
June 2, 1918 being my fiftieth marriage Anniversary, also I am seventy-two years and six months old. I, Mary Ann Fields, will endeavor to write frommemory a brief hisotry of the Maxwell and Witten families. What I learned on my grandfather's knee, when I was a curious and inquisitive child.
James Maxwell came to America from Ireland in the Eighteenth Century in the days of George Washington. He was a Scotch and Irish descent. Was in several Indian skirmishes during the Revolution. He fought at the Battle of Kings Mountains. Was never wounded. He was a very large man, over six feet tall, and weighed 225 pounds, broad shouldered, well built, had a powerful voice, had coarse straight hair which stood straight on his head, fair complexion, blue eyes, he was considered a very powerful man. He married a Miss Roberts, some time before the Declaration of Independencxe July 4, 1776. Raised a family during the hostilities with the Indians, the mothers with their children lived in forts together for protection. My own grandfather and mother lived in the same fort in Virginia. They used to tell me of their many hardships, trials and fear of the Indians when living in forts.
In the course of human events and the Indians became less hostile and more friendly to the white man. My great-grandfather emigrated to the western part of Virginia. Settled in Tazewell County, Virginia on Cavitts creek near Clinch River, four miles from the Courthouse. He owned a nice farm, owned cattle, horses, sheep and hogs, was considered a "well-to-do " farmer at the time. His horses, cattle and sheep ran at large for want of fences and enclosed pastures. He kept four large Dane dogs for protection when he went in search of his cattle and horses. He had a large dog before and behind him, his gun on his shoulder, a knife at his side. He never looked to the right or left, went straight forward with a firm step and a fixed determination to conquer or die. The Indians never molested him, they were deadly afraid of him, called him: "The Great White Chief." He left two dogs with the family. He had a neighbor, a small sickly man, named "Scaggs", whom the Indians called "Nobody."
My great-grandfather and his sons worked hard, cleared the timber from their land built a crude log house and out buildings, had a garden, also set out a young orchard, had also fields to raid corn, rye, and such grain as they could get seed for. Autumn rolled around and he had to take his horses and sons and go to King's salt works, now called Palmer works, to get salt, to save his meat, also for his stock. The mother was left with the younger sons and oldest daughter. The mother was confined to her bed with an infant. Some stray skulking Indians were passing through came to the little house in the forest, scalped and tomahawked the two little sisters, Jennie and Mattie Maxwell. They each had a pet lamb, they asked their sister, Mary if they could to in the orchard to find their pets, she gave them her consent. They tarried too long, she went in search of them found the dead lambs adn the two children slain, one was dead the other died that night. Oh, the horrors of that awful night, no friends near them to lend a helping hand. Oh, the sad home coming of that father. Night settled down upon them, in the bleak forest. Night where the screams of the owl shrills ghastly through the stillness. Could you imagine anything more horrible? His farm at one time had been an Indian village, there were large mounds still in the orchard of pinwincles shells, they had got them from the creek and Clinch river, they had used them for soups. I had the pleasure as a child of visiting the old homestead of my forefathers, where he lived and raised his family. I do not know when he sold his farm. There was born to this union: Robert Maxwell, Mary Maxwell, John Maxwell, Margaret Maxwell, James Maxwell, Jennie and Mattie killed by the Indians and Elizabeth Maxwell. I never knew who my grandfathers brothers married his sister Margaret married David Whitley, had a home on Clinch river a few miles from the county seat in Tazewell County. He was a fine mechanic, very thrifty and industrious. He built a fine grist mill run by water power, also a saw mill, cut all his lumber. He and my grandfather Deskins built the two first stone dwellings in Tazewell, both on Clinch river, six miles apart, of lime stone in the rough dressed by hand, built very substantial and strong, well finished in those pioneer days. At that time were considered mansions, they are now in good condition, still inhabitated. They are living monuments of honest labor of over a century ago. Many of their posterities are living and bear the name of Whitley in Tazewell County, Virginia.
Elizabeth Maxwell married William Marrs, raised a family, his sons, William and Maxwell Marrs, married two sisters Jennie and Sallie Brooks. Maxwell Marrs had a family, two have visited his widow and children. William and his wife had no family. The brothers and their wives are buried in Tazewell. The rest of the Marrs families moved to Kentucky. James Maxwell, my grandfather was born the spring of 1780, was married to Mary Witten, daughter of Jerry Witten, she was born in 1780. They were married in the year of 1804. They lived a long and happy life. He was of a lively and jolly temperment, honorable, sober, industrious man, a fine mechanic, a wagon maker by trade, also plows and harrows, and all kinds of implements by hand. He lived near Clinch river, owned a good farm, an orchard, a good home and shops. The Maxwell families owned very few slaves. They preferred land, fine horses and cattle, grist mills, merchantile, also fine mechanics. They were good citizens, beloved by all who knew them. Sober, industrious, kind husbands, and fathers. No office seekers, not rich but well-to-do. The bone and sinew of the Country. The happiest days of my life, I spent in my grandfather's shop among his sharp, bright and well kept tools. I spent a good part of my time when a child with my grand-parents. They always kept the big red apples for me, which made me very happy. They were the fond parents of five chldren; three boys adn two girls, namely; Witten Maxwell, Robert Maxwell, Sallie Maxwell, James Maxwell, Margaret Maxwell.
Witten Maxwell, the first born in the year 1805, married Alice Criswell. They had five children, namely: James C., Susan, Henry, Evans, Mary G., and Francis M.
Susan Maxwell married Montraville Stelle in 1850. They were a lovely couple. There were born three sons, and one daughter. They all died of flux in ten days. Later she had a daughter, Rebecca, and the mother died of diphtheria during the War of the Confederacy.
Witten Maxwell and wife are both dead. Witten was killed by a railroad train near Pisgah in Tazewell. He was far in the eighty-ninth year, if he had not been killed he perhaps would have lived to a grand old age.
Grandfather Maxwell died in the spring of 1866, being eighty-six years old. Grandmother died in the year of 1873, being ninety-three years old.
Robert Maxwell was born in 1807, the same year as Abraham Lincoln's birth. Married Margaret Bates. Her mother was the daughter of Ebenezar Brewster, married Thomas Bates. The young husband and wife moved by wagon, went to Illinois. After they got to their destination, very soon little Margaret came to brighten their home in the west. But it was only a short time when the sad news came that the young wife had lost her life. The kindhearted Ebenezar Brewster made ready to go horse back for little Margaret to bring her home to be reared the grandfather and mother. He made the lonely trip, found little Margaret, carried her safe and sound horse back on a pillow in front of him all that distance to the anxious grandmother who was waiting. The little girl was only two years old. This was in pioneer days, railroads, telegraph, telephones, and steam boats had not been in use. Illinois seemed so far west at that time, wehn the morning came he was to take his leave, all relatives and neighbors came from far and near, made a great gathering to say good-bye, and God speed a happy return. But thought it doubtful if they should ever see him or the little girl. But the same God ruled over the destiny of man then as now. And they both returned to the arms of loved ones. She grew to womanhood. Was a devoted and affectionate wife and mother. A most estimable Christian character, esteemed and beloved by all who knew her. They were the fond parents of nine children. Four boys and five girls, namely: Thomas Bates, Charles J., Mary E., Sallie, James W., Manerva, John Chatten, Johanna, and Laura Maxwell. Charles, James, and John all fought in the Confederate Army. John C. was a prisoner on Johnston Island. After the surrender of Lee they all returned home, during the month of May, Margaret Maxwell, Sallie Maxwell, and John C. were taken with a strange malady from which all died. Sallie and John C. were buried the same day. In the fall Jahana died, a promising young girl. Thomas Bates died with flux during the war. The father died in the fall of 1904 in his ninety-seventh year. There are only two living to my knowledge. They were buried near Roarks Gap on his farm. He never was rich, but a well-do-do farmer, also a merchant of note. He was frugal, honest, sober, respected, and honored by all who knew him. A kind husband adn a good father. Near the family burying ground stands a large and sturdy oak,below it at the brink of a little hill a large living spring of pure water runs gurgling into Clinch river. Near this spot the Roarks family was taken prisioner by the Indians, the youngest child too small to walk, they dashed it's brains out against the big oak. It may not be standing now, I have seen it many times. Sallie Maxwell married James Deskins in 1839. Was the parents of of two boys, namely: Stephen Rush, and Moses Shanon, the mother died at an early age. Later her husband married Miss Rachel Herndon, had two cihldren, George and Elizabeth. He sold out his farm, moved his family to Linn County, Mo. Moses Shanon and George Deskins both died in the Union Army.
James Deskins and wife are buried in Lynn County, Mo. Stephen Rush married and lived on his father's farm. I had the pleasure of visiting his family and Elizabeth Smith and family in North Salem, Mo.
James Maxwell married Nancy Lawson, they were the parents of four children, James Worth and Sallie Ann, Frank Mc., and John Maxwell. They are dead and are buried in the Deskins Cemetery. Two of the children are dead, Frank and Sallie.
Margaret Maxwell married Berdine Deskins, July 14, 1840. Were the fond parents of five children, three sons and two daughters.
George Washington was born April 8, 1841. He was drowned in Clinch river at the age of two years. Stephen Rush, was born April 22, 1843. Mary Ann Deskins was born December 31, 1845. Sallie E. Deskins was born March 10, 1847. John Witten Deskins was born April 28, 1855. Stephen Rush fought in the Confederate Army. Was gunner in Captain Jackson's battery.
Berdine Deskins was born December 19, 1816. departed from this life April 15, 1897. Was eighty years and six months.
Margaret Maxwell Deskins was born January 14, 1818 departed from this life September 15, 1886. They are buried in the Dickenson County, Virginia. Peace be to their ashes.
The rest of the family are still living. Mary Witten Maxwell my grandmother was of the famous stock of Witten's and Cecil's from England. It was always a well grounded fact that a large fortune was awaiting the Witten heirs in London. Which they never received from an unknown cause, a missing link among some of the heirs.
My grandmother was a loving wife, a kind and affectionate mother. A most estimable woman, a noble Christian character, many times I have found her in secret prayer when a child. She was a Methodist.
The Witten family were long lived people. Jerry Witten, her father was ninety-six years at this death. Her brother James Witten was ninety-three years when he died. She had twin sisters, Hettie and Lettie Witten. They lived to a grand old age. Moved west and died. My grandmother had two cousins captured and made prisoners by the Indians; James and Mary More. They were quite young and Mary could not keep up with them, so they left her behind. Some people took her as their own. She never got home. They liked James, he would show fight when they wanted him to carry blankets and bows and arrows, and throw them down. He was spirited and high tempered. He was with them seven years. When he returned he was very much an Indian. Wore beaded suits, cap and moccasins, sang and danced their war songs, would give their war whoops, he said he liked the Indian life. He wrote a history of his life with the Indians afer he came home. I read it when I was quite young. I do not suppose the book is to be had at this time. I enjoyed reading it very much.
The Maxwell and Deskins families were represented both in the Union and Confederate Army. Now I learn from Virginia that several of both families have responded to their countries call, and are at the front in service in this great struggle for the freedom of all nations, tongus and people who are suppressed and denied their freedom. May they be an honor to the cause and may return to loved ones at home and free America. "God speed the day that all may be free."

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