Lytton Study Group - Abraham Litton b. 1824, A 1910 Historical Sketch

The Lytton Study Group
Abraham Litton Sketch

Note from Daryl Lytton: The below was copied from a 1923 hand-written copy of the original article, some words were not readable. I visited the office of the Jackson Herald Sep 8 1999, and according to them, their archives don't go back to 1912 and there are no known existing copies of this issue.

Abraham Litton - A Historical Sketch - by John A. House
Published in the Jackson Herald, Ripley, WV, April 12, 1912

It was an ideal Autumn day in October, two years ago, when I visited Abraham Litton at his home near Gay.

The night had been clear, cool, and sparkling, with a white glistening dew suggesting frost, but the cloudless day grew quite warm, with just a kind of Indian Summer in the crisp fragrant air and hanging over the purple distant hills. The glad singing water danced in the bright sunlight, apples shown scarlet mid yellowing leaves, and roadside tree or woodland areas were catching a first tinge of flame or russet. A toilsome climb of three quarters of a mile brought me on top of the "divide" near the Christian Church and 400 ft above the level of Frozen Camp stream at the foot of the hill, and oh! what a grand what a glorious view meets the eye!

A broad sweep of meadow and pasture land dotted here and there with white farm houses and patches of woodland with trees like miniature outlined on the sating sky. As one looks out over miles and miles of wave like ridges the higher hilltops rising like domes along their smoky summits, I can't but wonder if those living on hilltops realize all the beauties the land of nature spreads everyday so lavishly before their eyes.

About a half mile beyond I turned south, following the Forked Run road to the entrance of the Right Hand Fork up which my route lay. After a time the valley narrowed into a gulch with steep rocky sides in one place, a shear cliff of sandstone and an over putting of hunting parties in pioneer days. A few minutes climb through this picturesque gorge brought me out upon the upper level or plateau, the plain lying 100 ft above the level of the creek and roughly speaking a mile wide and a mile and quarter long with stream and bottom ridge and peak all in miniature, the Turkey Camp on Flatwood of Elk.

Soon I came to the house of my friend W. M. Litton surveyor, photographer, and silversmith who had just returned from Charleston or somewhere and was now busy coaxing the inner mechanisms of some ones old watch which had gone on a strike. He at once volunteered his services to go with me to his fathers house and act as sort of go between, the old gentleman being so hard hearing he could not easily talk with strangers. So after a good rest, the pleasant chat and a sumptuous dinner prepared by Mrs Litton, herself a granddaughter of one of Reedy's early settlers, my friend and I walked over to his father's who lived on a high point below and near the mouth of Forked Run.

The house, a typical pioneer home of the better class was old and weather stained, and stood on a gentle slope in the midst of an orchard, everything suggested peace and plenty in the sunset of life. One could not imagine the old time cider mill, the threshing floor, the flax brake and loom house of early days. Inside we found the old patriarch bowed by the weight of more than four score years, yet alert and lively, with excellent memory. One, like most old folk, glad to talk of olden times.

In the early settlement of Mill Creek, Elk Fork, Bear Fork, and Frozen Camp Wilderness was the hunting ground of the pioneers. Famous hunters like Captain Billy Parsons, W. M. Bonnet, Jacob Hire, Elijah Rawlings and others used to roam its hills, "watch" the numerous deerlicks or camp in its solitude.

The very names of the streams perpetuate the story. Frozen Camp tells of an awful night of horror and suffering, Billy Run whispers of the time William Allen father in law of James Rader lost his bearings and had to camp out on it's waters, Turkey Camp and Turkey Spring are from the Rader's wild turkey hunts and the name of Elk Fork comes from a pair of elks that Adam, the negro slave of Michael Rader, followed all day without getting a shot so runs one account but Mr. Litton and others told me they have often seen the horns of the elk at Rader's house.

The names Wolf Pen, Wolf Run, Grass Lick, Camp Rum, and Panthers Knob all speak of dog and rifle. Did space permit I would tell of some of the adventures met with by hunters in this region. When the tide of emigration sets from any locality to an El Dorado in some far off land, where by chance of circumstances, some one has gone a neighbour of kinsman is sure to follow, then another after that one, and then another until quite a colony of old friends and neighbors is built up in the new country. Thus it was in this case with the settlers on the upper James River in Botetourt and Rockbridge Counties in Virginia.

Just who was first in the movement would be difficult to ascertain, possibly it may have been Rueben Reynolds who settled on Poca near Walton about 1825, perhaps Archibald Skidmore, who moved from Botetourt to the George Casto farm below the mouth of Tug Fork 1831 or 2. Then the stream quickened. In 1832 the sons of Samuel Rhodes purchased the Flesher farm on the west side of Mill Creek above Ripley. The same year William Tolley came out and built the first house on the Jess Carney farm, and late that fall came David Litton who moved temporarily into one end of a double log cabin on the Charles Carney's farm.

About 1835 Sam Rhodes a brother of David Litton's wife, made the first improvement at the mouth of Billys Run, and John Tolley moved to the Koontz place at the mouth of the Creek where he remained for two years. In 1836 George Rhodes, Litton's father in law, with his sons Abe and Alec came to Billys Run, locating at the John D. Litton farm and another son Ben Rhodes at the Aplin place, the son Chris, followed later about 1837 or 8. Old Joesy Talley(Tolley?), Williams brother, located in the woods at Halbert's on right fork of Elk, and Archie Thomas whose wife was Elizabeth Rhodes daughter of Samuel at the mouth of Rough Run. Afterwards Abe Litton a brother of David came to the left branch of Forked Run, and the widow Vandyne and family to the Skidmore farm. These with perhaps others whose names I have failed to get formed quite a Colony from the James River just as Buckhammon and Hacker Creek each formed other colonies in the vicinity. When David Litton Abraham's father, first came to Mill Creek there were but five families on Elk Fork. Vig Koontz at the mouth of the Creek, the three Rader's Michael 3rd, James, and Joseph and a Irishman named Andy Welch who had a little mill above the mouth of Welch Run, an eccentric individual who moved over on Tug Fork a few years later where he and his wife both died.

There was a hut, at the forks of Elk which had been built by that curious rambling Indianized character "Devil Bill Parsons" but it was at that time unoccupied. The more immediate neighbors beyond were Bonnet, Harpold, Carney and Skidmore. Above Ripley Rollins, Casto, and Westfall on Tug Fork, Hyre and Wolf on Lower Trace Fork and Capt. Billy, Elias and Chas Parsons, John Board, George Knopp near the present village on Frozen Camp. Some other early settlers on Elk were Steven and Andrew Westfall who moved over from Tug Fork. The latter married Mary sister of Jacob Hyre. He built the first cabin on the site of Gay 1834 but did not stay there long. Isace Staats, Isace Rawlins and a man named John afterwards lived in the house all before 1845. About 1840 John Borein(?) built near Gay. He came from Ohio and had a title bond from Watson for 200 acres of land on Turkey Camp Flats. Other settlers were John Greenleaf on the site of Elk Fork Church, James Whittman, David Harpold and Michael Waybright.

Many, many years ago in the early part of the eighteenth century, even before the formation of Frederick, Augusta and Fincastle counties in 1738, there lived among the foothills a man named Rhodes with his wife and three children, two boys 10 and 12, a girl who was younger.

There had been peace between red men and white for several years and the settlers had lost that caution commonly used in dealing with the Indians and their clearing had spread up the little valleys among the hills, far from the friendly shelter of the forts. In this neighborhood this misplaced confidence had brought a "shooting match" which ended in sad tragedy for the Indians who were planning an uprising, waited until the white men engaged had tried all their skill and when their rifles were empty, turned upon them and shot down, killed and scalped all their unsuspecting victims and then rushing to the scene killed or made prisoners of all their men, women and children. Rhodes was tomahawked and scalped in his doorway and his wife and little girl carried into captivity. Later the women was also killed because she could not keep up with the savages in their flight across the mountains, but a Chief took a fancy to the child on the account of her red hair, and adopted her. After peace was made she was returned to her friends. The boys whose names were John and Chris, were out watching the shooting match and when the slaughter began dodged unobserved into the under brush where they stayed in hiding until the Indians had left the vicinity. About sun down they crept cautiously to the cabin where they found a loaf of bread which the elder boy tied in a tablecloth and swung over his shoulder and they started across the hill on the long tramp to a fort and safety. As they travelled through the night along a high ridge the valleys below were lit up by the glare of burning buildings. Once they met a large bear which attracted by the bread, threatened an attack, but was kept off by the faithful hunting dog which accompanied them. This animal with almost human audacity neither barked nor made a noise, seemed to know the danger discovery by the savages. The boys succeeded in reaching the fort safely without further incident.

One of the boys, Christopher Rhodes, grew to be widely famed as a hunter and marksman, he lived to be 115 years old, and it is related that he won the prize at a Christmas shooting match when he was over 100, he sitting in his doorway and steadying his long rifle against the door face "out shot the whole lot."

He married and raised a large family, living in Rockbridge County. One son Samuel like his father, was renowned as a hunter and Indian fighter. Once his house was burned and his stock all killed but the family escaped in safety to the fort. The names of his six sons are given: Peter, Matthias, Michael, and Benjamin. Christopher who married Catherine Peters Lexington Virginia, and Samuel who married Parthenia VanDyne. The last three came to Mill Creek. Samuel removed to Middle Fork of Reedy, three miles above the three forks where he died years ago, the widow lived until 1844. George Rhodes was another son of Christopher and married either an Ashby or Peters, he lived near the Natural Bridge, and he and six of his children settled on Elk Fork as has heretofore noted.

David Litton was born in Berkeley Co VA, Aug 1799. He married Peggy [Ed: Barbara] daughter of George Rhodes. When he came to Mill Creek he first lived in one end of a double log cabin on Charles Carney's farm while he and Fox the other occupant built on a lease they had taken of James Rhodes on Spruce Run. He had completed a cabin at the mouth of that stream when Steven Westfall who had a title bond from Watson took possession of his house. This man Watson was said to have been agent for a large boundary belonging to J. D. D. Rosset a Swiss who was a extensive land owner in Mill Creek Valley. Westfall, however, helped Litton build another cabin into which he moved in February 1883 before it had a door or window floor or chimney. Fox built the same winter where Elliott Hyre now lives.

David Littons children were Abraham married Margaret Westfall, Alfred married Sarrah Greenleaf, Alexander married Lucinda Rhodes, John D married Martha Tolley, Cynthia married Llewellyn Rhodes, Susannah married Noah Westfall, Emily married Henry a son of Archie Thomas. All I think settled in the vicinity.

Margaret Litton was a daughter of Steve Westfall who with his brother Jason and a sister the wife of George Casto first sheriff of Jackson Co, came from Hackers Creek. The father John Westfall was in the battle of Point Pleasant and had his hunting shirt shot full of holes though not seriously injured himself. These bullet holes he had patched with red cloth, and wore it with no little pride when he went to musters or to public places. Zachariah Westfall, John's brother, with Thomas Carney and David Casto are named as among the first pupils attending school at Buckhannon settlement. Abraham Litton's second wife was Miss Louisa Horner, daughter of David Horner of Coxes Fork. When Abraham came to Mill Creek he was almost eight years old having been born November 8, 1824 and when he died on the 25th of last February, three months 17 days more than 87 years old, seventy nine of which was spent on Mill Creek and nearly all on one farm. When he came to Elk Fork the county had only been organized two years. John Quincy Adams was president of the United States and John Floyd governor of Virginia. All travel and conveyance of merchandise was by the pack horse trail, the nearest Post Office and grocery store were at Ripley, 12 or 15 miles away, and salt was carried by pack trains from the Kanawha Salines above Charleston.

Ripley then had 12 dwelling houses and that year Alfred Beauchamp opened the first store (1833). Deer, wolves, wild cats and wild turkeys were very abundant in the forests, but bears were growing scarce and panthers had almost disappeared. Roller(?) flowers was an unknown undreamed of quality, but Johnny Cakes and milk, buck wheat cakes, maple syrup with plenty wild meats and most fed pork was as good as.

Though the people were roughlly clad and plain in their ways, they were honest and hospitable, and enjoyed life as fully as do they of the hustling, hurrying, restless today, you remember?

Green be their Memory.

Lytton Study Group Home Page ~ WDC GenWeb Project Home Page
Contact the Lytton Study Group