Facts and Events
Among the earliest settlers of the “Marsh Creek Settlement,” who had made improvements prior to June 18, 1741, when the canvass was made for the “Manor of Maske” project, were John Paxton, Samuel Paxton Jr., Samuel Paxton Sr. and Thomas Paxton. All of these men had begun the development of their frontier farms as early as march, 1741. These Paxtons were the father and three sons, the forebears of the Paxtons of Rockbridge County.
Samuel Paxton, the father, who was born in 1670, was a man in his late sixties, maybe early seventies, when he received warrants for the land upon which he settled about 1737 on Marsh Creek. those who made this area their home at this time are described as forming “a highly respectable community, moral, energetic, industrious, and intelligent; of frugal habits, but kind, friendly, hospitable.” Being predominately Presbyterian in their faith, they desired the services of their church. As early as 1740, the Presbytery of Donegal was sending them ministers. They Presbytery had been organized bit the Synod in 1732 to serve a section of the country which had been under the presbytery of New Castle, which was now being reduced in territory.
Following out the Presbyterian frontier pattern, the people soon “set in order” a little church in their midst and developed to two usual adjuncts – a schoolhouse, with the minister as the teacher, and a grave yard adjacent the church. In the latter, Samuel Paxton Sr. and his wife lie in unmarked graves.
When John and Thomas Paxton came to America with their parents, they were both married men. John had married Elizabeth Alexander and their sons John Jr., and Joseph were young when the family left Ireland. Samuel and William, the younger sons, were born, without doubt, in Pennsylvania. Thomas Paxton had married a girl whose given name was Sarah and of their children, Bettie, and unnamed daughter, and Thomas Jr. were born in Ireland, but Samuel and Joseph were born in Pennsylvania.
Samuel Paxton Jr. had been born in Ireland about 1705 and, when a young man in his twenties, he came to America with the family. Very little is known of him, except that he was twice married and was the father of twenty-two children, four of whom died before their father, which accounts for only eighteen being mentioned in his will, which was probated, March 8, 1793. However, of the eighteen, there are only four – John, Thomas, Jonathan, and Samuel – on who there is any data.
The “Marsh Creek Settlement” situation, with all its tension, was full of foreboding to all those who held land in that section and the prospect of rich acres on the Virginia frontier was attractive. Word of Benjamin Borden’s grant of nearly one hundred thousand acres seeped back along the trails to the north. Settlers were needed for, according to the terms of the grant, every settler securing a cabin-right would entitle Borden to one thousand acres. A cabin-right was the one hundred acres of land given to settler for building his cabin upon the donated site. When this had been secured, the settler had the privilege of buying additional acreage at the minimum prices, supposed to be three pence (ten cents) per acres. However the price was quite flexible.
The prospect of a new home on Borden’s Grant, or somewhere else in the Valley of Virginia, drew many settlers, some risking all on an adventure in the wilderness, some feeling the rigors of the frontier could not be worse than the uncertainties of the status of property on the banks of Marsh Creek. In the latter group, Thomas Paxton could be placed.