Massacre of the Roark Family of Tazewell County

Massacre of the Roark Family of Tazewell County

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 79-80.

Bickley, in his History of Tazewell County (1), says:

James Roark lived at the gap of the dividing ridge, between the waters of Clinch and Sandy rivers, through which passed the Dry Fork road, and which has since been known as Roark’s Gap. Early in 1789,a band of Shawnee Indians left their homes in the west, and ascending the Dry Fork, fell upon the defenseless family of Mr. Roark, and killed his wife and several children. Two sons and Mr. Roark were from home, and it may be, thus saved their own lives, as the Indians were rather numerous to have been beaten off by them, even if they had been home.

This is the only instance that I have met with, of the Indians visiting the settlement of Tazewell before the winter had clearly broken. There was a heavy snow upon the ground at this time.

From this time forward, the Roarks became the deadly enemy of the Indians, and sought them, even beyond the limits of the county. Mr. Roark and one of his sons (John), were afterwards killed in a battle, fought at what was then known as the Station Bottom, within the present limits of Floyd Co., KY.

Bickley is mistaken by nine years in the date of this occurrence, as proven by a letter written to Col. William Preston, from Major (John) Taylor, dated Head of Clinch, March 18, 1780, (2) wherein he states:

The 18th instant the Indians was in this neighborhood and fell in at James Roark’s, where they scalped seven (7) of his children and his wife. They are all dead, only one girl (except one girl?). They took 7 head of horses, 5 of which were the property of William Patterson.

This part of ye country is in a scene of confusion, an dI make no doubt that the country will break up without we can get some assistance. Corn is very scarce.

Bickley does not list the names of Roark’s children or his wife. As to the Roark men becoming Indian fighters and James, and his son, John, being killed "in a battle at what was then known as Station Bottom, within the present limits of Floyd Co., KY" I can find nothing that confirms or denies this statement. The Station he refers to in Floyd Co., KY, could only have been Harman’s Station, built perhaps in 1789, by Matthias Harman, of Tazewell Co., and made famous by the escape story of Jenny Wiley from the Indians.

(1) Summer’s "Annals of Southwest Virginia", page 106.
(2) Taylor’s letter to Preston, Draper MSS 5 QQ 26.

This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson

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