Early Settlers of Kanawha County
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Early Settlers of Kanawha County

The Charleston Daily Gazette Thursday August 26, 1897


Nathan Hudnall's Death Suggest Many Stories

He Had Lived Over a Century And All His Manhood Was Spent

In the Kanawha Valley--Interesting Stories of Pioneer History of the Kanawha And Ohio Valleys

Died on the 14th of July, 1897, Nathan Hudnall, at the home of his grandson, on Kelly's creek, one mile above Cedar Grove.

In the summer of 1809 Nathan, with Benjamin Hudnall, his father, and his uncle, John Proctor, moved to the creek on which he died. At the time of their removal he was sixteen years old, and drove their cattle from the home they left at May's Lick, twelve miles south of Maysville, Kentucky, to Kelly's creek, where his uncle, John Proctor, purchased from John Morris 250 acres, the upper end of the old Walter Kelly and William Morris settlement right, for their future home.

Between 1780 and 1790 the Hudnalls and Proctors had gone with Capt. John May from eastern Virginia as tenants to settle and mature his newly acquired title in Kentucky county, which was then Virginia's most western county. Proctor and Hudnall, some twenty years before, in emigrating west, had followed the wilderness trail blazed out by Walter Kelly, the first settler of the Kanawha Valley, to Kelly's Station, at the mouth of Kelly's creek, where the emigrants had to wait for the building of a moving boat. The time was spent in providing wild meat for their voyage on westward. Proctor and Hudnall had noticed the creek bottom, surrounded by rugged mountains that at that time were filled with buffalo, elk, bear, deer, wild turkey and smaller game. And when the settlements drove the game from their Kentucky home their recollection and to Kelly's creek.

In February 1790 their Kentucky landlord, Capt. May, with his clerk, Chas. Johnston, was returning to his Kentucky land by way of Kelly's trail. After leaving Lewisburg they lay out one night and awoke in the morning covered with a heavy snow. They, however, reached Kelly's Station, and while they are awaiting the building of a boat we will mention that sixteen years previous (July 17, 1774) Logan, in avenging the death of his kindred, had killed Walter Kelly, at his station, and Patrick Flinn and his wife on Cabin creek, and taken Rebecca and John Flinn, their children, prisoners. Rebecca married a subchief, a Shawnee ally of Logan, who had killed her parents and captured her. The tradition is that Mad Ann Bailey had in the fall of 1789 heard from an escaped prisoner that Rebecca was in an open, leaky wigwam on the bank of the Scioto, and about to become a mother, and if the event occurred under those conditions, it would be the death of any white woman. She enlisted the sympathies of Boone, who was then trapping with Tice Van Bibber on the Gauley. Boone through the influence and with the aid of her brother, John, and with the promise that she and her child should be returned to her husband who was then, with the other warriors, engaged in their annual hunt on the Walbash, induced her to accompany him back to her kindred in Montgomery, now Monroe county.

The comforts of civilization and the kindness shown to her and her Indian baby, won her heart back to her own people and she refused to return to her husband.

This placed her brother John in an uncomfortable position. He was constantly in dread of meeting some one who would recognize him as a participant in the many Indian cruelties inflicted on the whites by the tribe that had adopted him. On the other hand he was afraid to return to his tribe without the wife and child of his chief.

At that time there was tramping through the settlements of the Kanawha Valley a character named Daniel Divine,whose only principle and object in life was to live. The only written evidence of his existence that I have is his deposition in the case of George Washington's heirs against George Alderson about a 250 acre survey at the mouth of Burning Springs hollow, and the only tradition that I have is from old Leonard Morris in explanation of why Divine was in Burning Springs bottom in 1775, when John Stuart and Samuel Lewis were making that survey. Leonard's explanation was that Divine was known as a gleaner from the first settlement of the valley. He never cleared or planted for himself, but followed the corn gatherers and picked up enough of the overlooked nubbins to make a johnnycake or bait his turkey pen. He was not a hunter with a rifle buted by trapping small game and fish and ate bread only when he could glean it. He was considered as harmless as a crow, and as much at home with the Indians as with the whites, and it was not certain to which race he was nearest akin. Flinn perhaps had known him before, found him and enlisted his sympathies.

Divine watched the progress of the building of May's boat and reported to his employer, who was skulking in the woods. In the meantime, by some system of telegraphy known only to the Indians he communicated with two females in low condition of life named Dolly and Peggy, the latter a particular friend of Flinn, and the former was ostensibly her traveling companion. They seemed to have been women with whom Flinn and his brother in law chief had been acquainted in Pittsburg on their frequent visits there to dispose of the spoils of the hunt.

About the middle of March, 1790, May, with his clerk and Jacob Skiles embarked from Kelly's Station for the mouth of Limestone creek, where he and Simon Kenton had laid out the town of Maysville, which they owned. Flinn and his woman were lying in wait at the mouth of the Kanawha, and Divine was well on his way to the Scioto. When the boat landed at Pt Pleasant, Flinn, after prompting them, sent the two women aboard to do the talking. They told the Capt. that they were relatives of Col. John Flemming, who had moved out from May's neighborhood, near Petersburg and settled in what is now Flemming county, not far from May's new settlement. This was a sufficient credential, and the old Virginia Captain took the three aboard, the veteran scouts of Pt Pleasant suspected the new passangers, and warned May to stick to the middle of the river and heed no cry of distress coming from the Ohio shore.

However, at daylight on the 20th, the cry of distress suggested at Pt Pleasant was heard near the mouth of the Scioto. And not withstanding the warning, with Divine on the beach howling for help, and the two women on their knees pleading for his rescue, what could the old Virginia gentleman do but run himself, his boat, cargo and crew head foremost into the jaws of death? His boat had hardly reached the shore when five hundred Indians sprang from ambush. May and Dolly were killed outright, Skiles wounded and with Flinn, Peggy and Johnston captured. Flinn had thought that Dolly would be a compensation for Rebecca--that the scalps and prisoners of the crew and the spoils of the boat would restore him to good standing with Chic-a-tom-mo, the chief, and the tribe. But the sequel showed that Chic-a-tom-mo was an ethnologist and appreciated family blood--he barbecued John Flinn; and one of the braves, who had partaken of the flesh, declared to Johnston that Flinn's flesh was sweeter than bear meat. Peggy was redeemed from the stake naked, painted black and ready for the pot. Skiles got back to the Kanawha Valley, where four years later he obtained the patent for forty thousand acres on Bell creek, Kelly's creek and c., now owned by Lewis, Dickinson and Deall, and thirty two thousand acres on Peter's creek and twenty Mile of Gauley.

After the capture the Indians made the prisoners convert May's craft into a sort of gunboat, adding additional oar locks and oars. While this was being done Divine and a prisoner named Thomas, who was forced to play his part, had a little side-show; they decoyed to shore a canoe containing six men, all of whom were murdered. After this tragedy there passed a fleet of three moving boats commanded by an old Virginia gentleman, built after the model of our most level-headed native miner--he ignored all calls of distress from the Ohio side--insisted on paddling his own canoe and taking care of himself and people. This want of etiquette necessitated the turnout of the gunboat. The prisoners were ordered to the oars, while the Indians stood in the bow and stern, with rifles and tomahawks, hungry for the scalps and spoils in sight.

The commander of the fleet stood at the helm of the hindmost boat in his shirt sleeves with a red silk handkerchief bound round his head, where he maintained his position despite the shower of shot from the gunboat. But having only one pair of oars when he saw that capture was inevitable he transferred his passengers and crew to the middle boat and abandoned the hindmost to the enemy. When Johnston, among the things captured in this boat, recognized two horses and a cocked hat belonging to Capt. Tom Marshall, the friend of his father, he tearfully and silently thank god for the want of skill or will in the oarsman to overtake his Virginia friends.

In the abandoned boat whether intentionally or not, had been left a keg of whiskey that perhaps effected the escape of Marshall, his crew and passengers. All the Indians except the sentinels, drank to deep intoxication. Flinn went into the social drunk as naturally and recklessly as the bravest of the braves, got into a fight, forgot his disguise, white manners, language and nature and was suddenly transformed into the barbarity of one of the red devils.

Johnson's diary was a faithful one, closely showing throughout the treachery of Flinn and the woman without the author's suspecting it. This diary, Filson's Life of Boone, Border Warfare, Doddridge's Notes and the Bible, were the old field school books of the upper Kanawha Valley, for old David Millburn, who had been shot through the breast and had his own silk handkerchief drawn through the wound by the Indian who shot him, was our only instructor. He taught the sons of John Hansford, Leonard Morris and his brothers who had known Walter Kelly and Patrick Flinn and perhaps John May. These old men discussed the school books and corrected the mistakes of the authors, and said that the man whom Johnston called Wm Flinn was named John Flinn.

I should have stopped this digression and returned to Nat. Hudnall when I followed John May, his Kentucky landlord, to his death; but I had to drag John Flinn, Skiles, Johnston and Peggy into the account, and it would have been impolite to have left them standing when they witnessed the death of May on the hostile shore in the hands of the enemy. So, having disposed of them I return to my subject.

Nathan Hudnall spent sixteen years of his life in Kentucky and eighty years on Kelly's creek.

When his father and uncle came back in 1809, the elk, and buffalo had followed the Indians westward, but the rugged mountains of Kelly's creek, Hughes' creek and Bells creek still abounded in bear, deer, wolves, panthers and smaller game. Nathan spent a great part of that eighty eight years in building salt boats for John Morris, Aaron Stockton and Wm Tompkins in the same boat yard in which was built the boat that carried his ancestors west, and the boat that carried his Kentucky landlord to his death. The balance of his eighty eight years on Kelly's creek was spent with his brothers, Fielding and Ward, in the chase. They kept a pack of disciplined bear dogs, and seldom used the rifle, because a shot from the rifle that drew blood without killing outright set the dogs crazy and got them killed or crippled. Therefore, when the dogs brought the bear to bay, the brother that was ahead in the chase laid down his rifle, drew his long knife, which was a signal that the trained dogs understood as well as a soldier understands the call of the bugle; they closed in on the bear, the hunter reached over the bear to the side from him, and drove the long blade to the heart. The bear bit at the pain, and sometimes smashed the handle of the knife but seldom caught the hand of the expert butcher. It is said that the three Hudnall brothers killed more bears with the use of less powder and lead, than did any other three men in Virginia.

In 1850 I was called to find a survey on Kelly's creek, calling to begin where Kelly's old road took to the mountains. Old Ben Hudnall, Nathan's father, came to show me the place. He looked then to be in his eight or ninth decade. He took us to near the Flint Falls of the Hurricane Fork of the creek. I was not a pathfinder at that day and could see no sign of a trail or a corner, but A. P. Sinnet, in 1875 followed the old road and cut out trail blazes that then counted 102 years, which were filed in the suit of Lewis and Belcher in the Kanawha circuit court.

Nathan Hudnall was a good citizen, an honest man, a kind neighbor and an affectionate husband and father. The writer had known him for sixty years, and never heard of him being engaged in any difficulty of any kind. He commanded the respect of all classes for his rugged honesty and devotion as a friend. Many years since he connected himself with the Baptist church and had ever since been a genuine Christian. When too feeble to attend church he rejoiced in having Christian people and ministers visit him and hold religious services at his house. He passed quietly away without fear of death and feeling assured of a better life beyond the grave.

John L. Cole

Submited for your benefit by Gerald Ratliff and Kanawha Valley Genealogy Society.
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