Attack on Henry Roberts' Home and Killing of David Roberts

Attack on Henry Roberts' Home and Killing of David Roberts

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 57-59.

John Anderson of Sullivan Co., TN, in his unpublished manuscript tells of this attack in this manner:

In the year 1778, the Indians from the north side of the Ohio paid us another visit. Some of our very near neighbors in the summer of that year 1778, on a certain morning about daybreak, a Mr. Henry Roberts (1) and his family was attacked by a small number of Indians. They attempted to break in the house by force. He, being a brave, resolute man, and an old soldier of great experience, fought like a hero, and prevented them from getting into the house. During the contest, which was perhaps upwards of an hour. He had a small axe in his house and aimed to strike one of the Indians out of a window, the handle of the axe being short, he could not reach him. During the shuffle another Indian, from the corner of the house shot the said Roberts in the neck and he fell backwards in the floor, and he, having two daughters, young women, when they saw him fall broke out of the house and ran through the cornfield that was near the said house, and when they had run through the said field several times, one of the girls the Indians caught. The other ran back to the house and came in and by that time the old man had got up, but bled considerable. The shot he got did not appear to injure him much.

The said Roberts had a mill not far distant from his house. He concluded to take his wife and the balance of his family that he had left, and go get into the mill. He accordingly did. During the time he was in the mill with his family several people came to the mill. Among others there was an old man, Mr. McNeal came, and two girls with him. The said Roberts informed them to push off with all speed for there was Indians there. They went off as fast as they could. The Indians saw them and pursued them upwards of two miles and overtook them, and killed the old man McNeal, (2) but the girls got safe home. Among many others that went to the mill that morning (was) a certain old Mr. McMilian, (3) that lived within half a mile of the author of these remarks. The Indians took him prisoner, and the young woman above mentioned (Henry Roberts' daughter) and conveyed them home to the Shawnee Towns. The said Mr. McMilian continued to live with the Indians for a space of five years, during which time he experienced many hardships. The young woman taken never returned. She died in that savage country. She was to have been married a few days after she was taken prisoner, but was most grievously disappointed in all her expectations.

Said Roberts had a brother that was coming to his house that morning and the Indians killed him near the house.

In the above paragraph John Anderson does not so state, but the brother was David Roberts, and an uncle of John Anderson, the author of the manuscript relating the attack on the Roberts family.

The will of David Roberts is recorded in Washington Co., VA, Will Book 1, page 17, and was probated February 16, 1779. In this will he leaves his estate to his daughter Sarah Roberts. His executors were his brothers, William and Henry Roberts. On March 16, 1779, Susanna Roberts, widow of David Roberts, deceased, renounces the will and claims her right of dower.

(1) Henry Roberts was a brother of the John Roberts, who, along with all his family was killed nearby in 1774, as were William and David Roberts, and Rachael, a sister, who was the mother of John Anderson, the writer of the manuscript. Draper Mss 15 DD 39, and Washington Co., VA Will Book 1, page 17.
(2) The "old man McNeal" who was killed was Archibald McNeal. The Court of Washington Co., VA, on 19 November, 1778, ordered Joseph Kingead (Kincaid), James Brigham, and Benjamin and John Looney to appraise the estate of Archibald McNeal, deceased. Inventory and appraisal of the estate recorded June 16, 1779.
(3) Probably William McMillian who owned 400 acres of land on Beaver Creek, where he settled in 1773, and who had a wife named Mary.
NOTE: John Anderson does not give the name of Henry Roberts' daughter who was carried away and never returned, nor the names of the two girls who accompanied McNeal to the mill who were chased, but escaped from the Indians.

This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson

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