Documents:Mrs. Scott's Testimony in Drapers MSC

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Source

Samuel Walker Slain, Anne Cowan and William Walker Captured
Intermediate Source: Originally placed on FamilyPedia by Q 14:49, 2 August 2010 (EDT)

Related

Indian Captivity Stories of the Cowan Family
Indian Captivity Stories of the Walker Family
Killing of Samuel Cowan at Houston’s Fort.
See: Index to Hamilton's Atrocity Stories for a complete listing of Hamilton's stories, including links to Rootsweb presentations of those stories.

Text

Comments in square brackets are believed to have been inserted by either Rev. Shane, Lyman Draper, or perhaps Emory Hamilton.

This occurrence came to light while studying the historical collection of the Rev. John D. Shane in the Kentucky papers of the Draper Manuscripts. (1) The story was related to Rev. Shane by a Mrs. Samuel Scott (nee McCorkle), who had lived on the Clinch for eight years prior to her removal to Kentucky in 1784. Mrs. Scott’s stay on the Clinch was from about 1772 to 1780, when she moved over to the Holston River to get ready for her emigration to Kentucky, Jessamine County, in the year 1784. Her residence on the Clinch seemed to have been on Stanton’s Creek in what is now Scott Co., VA. To date no official records have been found that give the actual date of this occurrence, but it was perhaps in the year 1779, for Mrs. Scott moved from the Clinch to Holston in 1780. She related the following story to Rev. John Shane:
One year while we lived on the clinch we had no need to fort, and did not fort. Cowan’s fort was about two miles from Moore’s fort. We went to it [Cowan’s] one year, but it was too weak; but seven or eight families. The Indians attacked it. Miss Walker, then the widow Ann Cowan was taken going to it from Moore’s. Her and her sister’s [sic, brother's] son, William Walker were taken - her sister married a Walker. Her brother Matthew? Walker [Maybe Samuel, if so this killing was prior to 18 August 1778[1]] that went with her was killed, and the other man was shot at, but escaped and got into the fort. This Mrs. Cowan had just gotten back from this captivity as I passed the Crab Orchard [Lincoln Co., KY] coming out [to Kentucky]. Captain [John] Snoddy, and William and Joe Moore’s wives were sisters of her, [Ann Cowan]. They [the Moores and Snoddys] had moved there from Clinch and were forted there.

Commentary

Mrs. Scott's testimony represents an eyewitness accounts of the the capture of Ann Walker Cowan by Indians on the Clinch River, soon after the beginning of the Revolution. Many of the other historical accounts of this event, such as that of Thomas Carter, represent oral tradition that had been passed down through several generations. Comparing the various stories shows clear changes in content, and increasing inaccuracy, as successive family members lose information content, and add to the story line. In some cases they changes that are made in the story content probably occurs as they try to make sense of what they have been told, and fill in the missing information, sometimes incorrectly, with conjecture. In some cases the changes are probably embellishments intended to make a better story. Mrs. Scott's testimony is the closest we get to an "eyewitness" account, and her version of the truth is probably the best available.

Nonetheless, there are clear inaccuracies in her presentation.

1. She identifies William Walker as her sister's son when in reality he was the son of John Walker IV of the Wigton line
2. She identifies the brother of Ann Walker Cowan, killed by Indians during this event, as "Mathew", though we otherwise know him to be "Samuel"
3. She identifies John Snoddy, and William and Joseph Moore as brotherinlaws to Ann. She's partially correct in this, as John Snoddy did in fact marry Ann's Sister Margaret, but William and/or Joseph Moore are believed to have married sisters of John Snoddy. Today, we would not call them Ann's brotherinlaws, but in the usage of 18th Virginia, William and Joseph might in fact be described as Ann's brotherinlaws. They did not, however, marry Ann's sisters, as she describes it.


These are probably best seen in light of the fact that

a) she was a young girl when she "witnessed" the events,
b) much of what she knew was undoubtedly given her by her parents, and other members of the community, rather than things directly observed, and
c) her story was recorded late in life.

Given these factors, the inaccuracies in her testimony seem understandable.

Footnotes

  1. Person:Samuel Walker (49), for whom court records exist showing that he was killed prior to 18 August 1778