Dreams and Portents

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Southwest Virginia Project
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From Asbury's Journal

Francis Asbury traveled extensively throughout the backcountry, bringing Methodism to the settlers. He left numerous observations about the backcountry in his journal published in 1821. His writings are often interspersed with "signs and portents" of what was to come, or of divine intervention. Such signs and portents remains a strong element in the belief and folkways of Southwest Virginia. Whether that has anything to do with Rev. Asbury's preaching style is not clear. It might be that his views already matched those of backcountry; if so, this commonality may have played a part in his success.


Monday 3. [April 3 1790, Southwestern Virginia] I preached at brother Payne's, [1]and had some encouragement among our Maryland people. Sabbath night, I dreamed the guard from Kentucky came for me; and mentioned it to brother W[hatcoat]. In the morning I retired to a small stream, for meditation and prayer, and whilst there saw two men come over the hills; I felt a presumption that they were Kentucky men, and so they proved to be; they were Peter Massie and John Clark, who were coming for me, with the intelligence that they had left eight men below. After reading the letters, and asking counsel of God, I consented to go with them.
[Tuesday, May 11, 1790, in Kentucky] I saw the graves of the slain — twenty-four in one camp. I learn that they had set no guard, and that they were up late, playing at cards. A poor woman of the company had dreamed three times that the Indians had surprised and killed them all; she urged her husband to entreat the people to set a guard, but they only abused him, and cursed him for his pains. As the poor woman was relating her last dream the Indians came upon the camp; she and her husband sprung away, one east, the other west, and escaped. She afterward came back, and witnessed the carnage. These poor sinners appeared to be ripe for destruction. I received an account of the death of another wicked wretch who was shot through the heart, although he had vaunted, with horrid oaths, that no Creek Indian could kill him. These are some of the melancholy accidents to which the country is subject for the present.

Granny Moses

From Source:Coale, 1878. See Caty Sage Story for another version of thes story

On Elk creek, in Grayson county, Virginia, lived, in 1792, a young and happy family, consisting of James Sage his wife and three or four small children. The morning the 11th of April in that year was bright and balmy, the early wild flowers were bursting into bloom, the song-birds were trilling their melody in the budding forest, the spangled trout were sporting in the crystal waters of the mountain stream, and all was peaceful and joyous around the cabin of the pioneer. The husband and father preparing his elearing for the summer crop, and the wife and mother preparing for the day's washing. She had gone to the little stream near by to build a fire, leaving her daughter Katy, then only five years old, chasing butterflies among the shrubs of the garden. After starting the fire, the mother returned to the cabin for the clothes she intended to wash, when she missed the child that had been seen sporting in the garden a short time before. After a diligent but fruitless search - for some little distance around the inclosure, she became alarmed and called her husband from the field, and they both sought the little one till night fell upon the scene, and still she could not be found. The weary hours of the night chased each other slowly on, and still the agonized parents heard no cheering answer to their continued calls. On the morrow the neighbors gathered in, the country at that time being very sparse but some fifty or sixty of them came together, and day after day and week after week they searched every cove, thicket, stream, cave and mountain-side, and still no tidings of the little wanderer.
At length all except the father gave up the search in despair, who continued it for months, passing every square yard of gronud for miles around, with the melancholy hope that at least the remains or some indications of the fate of the lost one might be found, which would be more satifactory than the agonizing suspense that hung about the hearts of the parents. In his wanderings he heard of the fame of an old woman known by the name of Granny Moses, who lived beyond the mountain in North Carolina, and who was believed by the settlers to possess the faculty of revealing all mysteries future events lie sought her out and consulted her. After consulting her occult sciences, she informed him that the child was still living, but that he would never see her, though his wife, who would survive him, would hear from her child in her old age.
Time wore on, thrity-one years had passed, and in 1823 the father died, and still no tidings of the lost one. Time was still on the wing, and amid its changes and revolutions and startling events, the mysterious disappearance of Katy Sage was unrevealed and almost forgotten. In the meantime the family became scattered-one of the sons 'settling in Lee county, Virginia; Another in Missouri, and a third in.Kansas. Years swept on, and in 1854 Charles Sage, who lived in Kansas, having business with the Govenment, visited the Indian Agency on the border of that Territory. On entering the office, he attracted the attention of the Agent, who asked him if he had a sister or other female relation among the Indians, stating that there was a white woman among the Shawnees, who sometimes visited the Agency, to whom he bore a most remarkable resemblance. He informed the Agent that he was not aware of having such a relative, but that, more than sixty years before, a sister of his had been stolen or lost, who had never been heard from. The Agent, believing this woman among the Shawnees and the lost child to be one and the same, propose to send for her and have the mystery solved.
She was sent for and came to the Agency with an interpreter, not being able to speak or understand a English. As soon as Charles Sage saw her, he believed her to be his long lost sister, from the striking family resemblance, got her consent to go home with him, wrote at once to his brother Samuel in Missouri to come to Kansas immediately and see if he could recognize features, as he was old enough to remember their sister when she disappeared. He made the journey, and as soon as he saw her he burst into tears, so certain was she was his sister Katy. But all suspense and were dissipated when she informed them through an interpreter that she had been taken from her home when a small child by a white man, lived several years among the Cherokees, then among the Creeks, and finally among the Shawnees, and that in all her wanderings, from tribe to tribe, and from country to country, she had retained the name of Katy. She had been three times married to chiefs of the Shawnee tribe, had lost an only child, and was now a widow.
To place her identity beyond all cavil or doubt, the brothers wrote to their mother, still living on the same spot in Grayson county, Virginia, and then ninety-five years old, to know if she recollected any mark upon the person of Katy by which she might be recognized. In due time they received an answer that she with a ginger-colored spot on one of her shoulders, and being examined the spot was found. This entirely and unmistakably established her identity.
The brothers now began to arrange to take her to their mother, but before their arrangements had Katy took the pneumonia and died, and the parents and lost child never met again on earth, they all "crossed over the river and are resting under shade of the trees."
While the writer does not subscribe to human divinations, or human power to solve the mysterious providences in the womb of the future, he must regard the predictions of Granny Moses as the most remarkable since the days of the Witch of Endor.
Shoul any reader be skeptical as to the truth of any of the remarkable circumstances above stated, they will be attested by Mrs. Elizabeth Delp, sister of the lost one, who still lives at the old homestead in Grayson, or Mr. Thompson Sage, a brother, at Stickleyville, Lee county, Virginia.

Boone's Dream

From Source:Speed, 1886:69

The name " Dreaming Creek," in Madison County suggests an exception to the unpoetical character of pioneer nomenclature. But the origin is this, Daniel Boone while asleep on its bank dreamed he was stung by yellow-jackets. He interpreted the dream to mean he was to be wounded by the Indians. Shortly afterward he was wounded, and he called the stream Dreaming Creek.

Premonition of Disaster

Source: Hamilton's Atrocities

The possee being very much worn out by the long and arduous trip, when they reached the foot of Sandy Ridge decided to camp for the night at a large spring. But Mrs. Musick insisted they cross the mountain to Clinch River side before camping. Later discovery proved her fear correct, for the party of Indians had turned back after the fight and pursued the whites, following them to the big spring and camping on the proposed camp site of the whites. They gave up the chase here and returned to the Ohio.


  1. This may be Person:Obadiah Payne (1), though there are several Payne's in the Russell County tax lists about this time.