Person:Hezekiah Sellards (1)

Hezekiah Sellards
Facts and Events
Name Hezekiah Sellards
Gender Male
Birth? 1732
Religion[2] Presbyterian
Marriage 1752 Ulster, Irelandto Jean Brevard

About Hezekiah Sellards

From Connelley, William Elsey. Eastern Kentucky Papers : The Founding of Harman's Station
Hezekiaah Sellards was a Scotch Irish pioneer in the Upper Shenandoah Valley. He moved into that country from Pennsylvania He built his cabin twenty miles from the nearest neighbor. He was a typical settler and a genuine frontiersman and backwoodsman. The location of his residence in the Valley cannot now be determined with any degree of certainty It was in the mountains about the sources of the Shenandoah River. It was in a community where many Presbyterians afterward settled. Sellards himself was a Presbyterian of the strictest sort. He was a man of strong character and sterling worth. He was of such standing in his church that in the absence of the minister he could hold the services and he often preached to congregations which assembled in his house upon his invitation. For his time and place he was a man of considerable property, industry, economy and thrift being strong characteristics of the old woodsman. He was a man of some learning and at considerable trouble and expense he had his children instructed in the common elementary branches. His children were strictly trained in that severity of morals exacted of the old Covenanters. These religious principles were the foundation upon which they were expected to build correct lives.
The above makes up the sum total of what is known of Hezekiah Sellards in his residence on the Shenandoah. In addition to his farming he was a hunter. In company with his neighbors he made annual journeys into forests beyond the New River. The object of the hunter in those days was as much to find a desirable place in which to locate when next he determined to move as to secure meat and skins.

From the the book "APPALACHIA CROSSROADS" by Clayton R. Cox, page 1:

For the story of our progenitor, Hezekiah Sellards, one of necessity must rely upon the historical writings of Eastern Kentucky's foremost historians; William Elsey Connelley, William Ely, Henry P. Scalf, and the Sellards family historian, Dr. Elias Howard Sellards, for the traditional story. This area is indeed fortunate to have men of their caliber whose love for the valley and its families was such they took the time and effort to record its pasts.

Despite his prominence and prowess, Hezekiah, a foremost woodsman and frontiersman, seems to have eluded the records of the areas in which he sojourned. So much so, that if it were not for his host of descendants and the prevalent usage of his given name, Hezekiah, in the different family branches, one could almost feel he was the figment of a writer's imagination.

Tradition is strongly entrenched in this recorded past and throughout the family that the family migrated from Scotland to Ireland, probably in the vicinity of Ulster, Ireland. A Scotch Irishman, and a victim of political and religious persecution, Hezekiah left his native Ireland for the free shores of America in 1732. Just where he landed or by what ship he arrived is not known. For a time he settled in Pennsylvanie and then moved into the headwaters of the beautiful and charming Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

A staunch Presbyterian and lay leader of that church, he often performed the preaching for the gatherings when the minister was not available. His deep seated religious beliefs were deeply inbred in his offspring, intoning the fatherly love and philosophy of bringing up your children in the way they should go. Being a man of learning, he believed in education and made sure his children were instructed in common elementary schooling.

Being of pioneer spirit, a capable woodsman and able hunter he, like most of the pioneers, did not like crowded living. So much so, it is reported he lived twenty miles from his nearest neighbor.

Just why Hezekiah decided to leave the Shenandoah is not known. Maybe the area was becoming too populated or stable for his pioneer spirit. Many were migrating down the valley and westward at this period of time. Their stories of the frontier opportunities of abundant game, land and adventure were no doubt enticing. It might have been the appeal of a slightly warmer climate or a combination of these which prompted his move to the wilderness area of Walkers Creek in southwestern Virginia.

The date of migration is uncertain, though one writer has stated the move was before 1760 (4). With the absence of roads, and only simple blazed trails, they loaded their meager belongings on horseback for the trek, an arduous journey then of some 125 or more miles. The men, women and children of this party, led by Hezekiah, walked along as they drove their stock before them. They probably traveled southwesterly across the James and then the New, or Kanawha River to settle in the vicinity of the frontier outpost of Walker's Station, situated in what was then Augusta County, but now southeastern Bland County, Virginia.

Here on Walkers Creek, a tributary of the New River, in the shadow of Walker's Mountain, Hezekiah built a cabin, prospered and rose to prominence as leader of the fort's colony of backwoods people. Here also he drops from the pages of history. In his day and place our pioneer ancestor was a man of considerable property, and industry, being characterized as economical and thrifty.

In brief, this is the traditional story of our progenitor as recorded. Now let us look at this traditional story in retrospect. The story affords us some insight into this character, abilities, and the probability of the areas in which he lived. Also we can picture some of the hardships he must have faced as he moved from a more settled area to one of high Indian hostility. In one sense it is almost like setting the plot for a melodrama or setting the stage for the probability of the Indian massacre which occurred in this daughter's family (Jenny Wiley, note Bobby Daniel).

If Hezekiah did immigrate in 1732 from Ireland, then he would have been part of the large movement of 1730-1777 as described by John Fiske(5). During this period over half of the population of Ulster, Ireland came to this country locating in the area of New England west to Pennsylvania, with the majority settling in Pennsylvania. Hezekiah's grandson, Adam Brevard Wiley, related to William Connelley (1) that the family first settled in Pennsylvania. As further evidence is the statement of another grandson, Judge Archibald Borders, to the 1880 Lawrence County, Kentucky census taker, that his mother, Catherine Sellards Borders, was born in Pennsylvania and his father, John Borders, was born in Prussia.

Some feel Hezekiah Selards' father was Peter John Sellards, Jr., the son of the Irish political refuge, Peter John Sellards, who came to America around 1700.

Historically, seldom did the immigrant to these shores adapt to the frontier environment to become the accomplished woodsman and frontiersman, and especially adept in frontier leadership accredited our progenitor. Usually this ability developed in the second and third generations. It was the latter generations who were ever moving farther back from the coastal or more populated area. It seems this extra generation was generally necessary to achieve the essential skills to face the rigors and life style called for on the frontier.

If Hezekiah did arrive in 1732, and if he was near adulthood, then he would have been in his late fifties when his daughter, Catherine, was born (ca 1764) and in his sixties at the birth of his 15 year old son who was killed in the Wiley massacre, October 1, 1789. This Hezekiah either married a young wife late in life or the five known children were children of a second marriage.

No one has ever been able to locate a marriage record or the name of his wife or wives. Nor have they been recorded by the historians.

My main regret in producing this book is that this initial chapter is not a factual account taken from official records. Though I have put forth some effort in state libraries of Pennsylvania and Virginia and the libraries of the Kentucky Historical Society and the University of Kentucky it has been without any more success than more noteworthy genealogists and historians who have spent considerably more time in this endeavor. For this publication the writer has devoted more time to locate and record the descendants of our pioneer ancestor.

If it were not for the recorded traditional story there would have been a complete void. I feel the traditional story is somewhat legendary in aspect. It gives us a general picture, but it appears to have the natural modifications of stories handed down. Stories which are based on the recollections and impressions of those who related these to our recording historians. This observation carries no intent to distract from the beauty of the story or to be in any way critical of the narrative which is our good fortune to have recorded.

I am inclined to speculate, and this is pure speculation that Hezekiah was native born, of Scotch Irish parentage, either of immigrant or first generation parents. Probably he was born, in the 1730's to 1740's, somewhere in the area from new England to Pennsylvania. There appears to be some evidence, though not conclusive, of the possibility daughters, Jean and Catherine, and possibly John, were born in Pennsylvania while his son Samuel and the fifteen year old son were born in Virginia. Thus his wife would have been of more comparable age and when he led the party to Walkers Creek, he would have been in a more adventuresome prime rather than being in later more settled age.

  1.   Clayton Cox, Appalachia Crossroads, 1977.
  2. Connelley, William Elsey. Eastern Kentucky papers : the founding of Harman's Station: with an account of the Indian captivity of Mrs. Jennie Wiley and the exploration and settlement of the Big Sandy Valley in the Virginias and Kentucky. (New York: The Torch Press, 1910), Chapter II, 1910, Secondary quality.