Person:John Dunkin (2)

John Dunkin
Facts and Events
Name John Dunkin
Gender Male
Image:Long Boone Cumberland--thin.jpg
Southwest Virginia Project
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John Dunkin (1740-1818) was born in Chester Co., Pennsylvania, and there married Eleanor Sharp. He emigrated to Virginia about 1764. After their marriage they settling in Botetourt County, Virginia, but moved on to southwest Virginia when that area was opened for settlement in 1769. He he served in Dunmore's War (1774), and appears as a Sargeant in Captain Daniel Smith's Company, at Glade Hollow Fort. According to Hamilton after Dunmore's War closed he eventually rose to the rank of Captain, and was active in protecting the settlers during Indian raids.

In the year 1777 John went to Kentucky where he established a headright by planting a corn crop and raising a cabin. Laughlin, 1845 says that his home was "between Hingstons and Stoners Forks of Licking River, at Kingston's Ford", and that Duncan described the area as Duncan is said to have described the area as "one of the most beautiful and rich new countries the eye of man ever beheld". In 1779 he and his two bortherinlaw's Person:Samuel Porter (16) and Person:Solomon Litton (1) brought their families to Kentucky, coming by way of Cumberland Gap and Crabb Orchard. John's home is described as between the Hingston and Stoner's Forks of the Licking River, close to Martin's Station.

He did not have long to enjoy it, however. That winter, know in correspondance of the time as "the Hard Winter of 1779-1780" undoubtedly made life difficult for the new settlers. Indeed, many of those going to Kentucky along the Wilderness Road were forced to halt part way through, subsisting on their cattle that died because of the freezing conditions. Then, when they finally reached their new home, a combined force of British soldiers and Indians under the command of Col Henry Byrd attacked Martin's and Ruddle's Station. Many of the settlers and their families were killed, and the others marched north to Detroit, and then to Quebec where they were held captive until the end of the war. This event is well documented and described in a number of places. The interested reader may want to look at John Zinn's pension statement MySource:Pension Statement of John Zinn, or some of the related documents in the Draper MSC, such as: MySource:Draper MSC, Parkman to Draper, 1846 and MySource:Draper MSC, Morrow, 1843

Laughlin gives the story as follows (with some rearrangement for purposes of placing events in proper chronological order:

My grandfather and his family, and all his friends, with all persons captured in Riddles and Martin's Station, old and young, black and white, were carried as prisoners by a party of British and Canadians, and a large number of Indians, and carried to Canada. They were carried down the Licking River to its mouth, between the two present Kentucky towns of Newport...and Covington, and opposite to the present site of the City of Cincinnati. From thence they were taken in boats and canoes down to the mouth of the great Miami, twelve miles, and thence up that river, and then by land and water to Detroit...and finally to Montreal. There, they were retained as prisoners until the close of the war when they were exchanged and returned to the United States through what is now northern and western New York, and through New Jersey to Philadelphia, where Congress was sitting, and thence to Western Virginia, from whence they had removed four or five years before.
...After he was conveyed to Montreal, his eldest son, John...made his escape from Montreal in company with one or two young Americans, and made their way through the mountains and woods of western New York, and got in safely to Washington's army, having come very near starving on the way, having been driven to eat a polecat, and such wild winter berries and roots as they could find. From the time of this escape, my grandfather was thrown into close prison, being suspected for being the advisor of it, until he was exchanged. In truth, he knew nothing of it. His son, and one or two of this elder girls, who prepared provisions and clothes for their brother being the only persons of the family entrusted with the secret. They kept it secret so as to save their father from implication. John rejoined his family after their return to the United States.
[...My grandfather Dunkin, ever after I knew him, was a taciturn, serious, and rather melancholy man. He was a large stout man, and in his younger days, and until his spirit was broken and his health impaired by his Canadian captivity, and the loss of his property, had been a man of great vigor of mind and body, and fond of hazardous and arduous adventure...](1)

My grandfather on returning to Virginia, settled on the north bank of the south fork of Holson river, above the mouth of Spring Creek [near Abingdon] (1), just above an island where he died about the year 1818 his wife having died in 1816. By negligence in attending to his head-right or occupant claim for his land in Kentucky, it only requiring his personal attention to identify it which he never gave, he lost it. In fact, after his captivity, he never seems to have recovered his previous energy of character. [His brotherinlaw Solomon Litton returned to his old home at Elk Garden, and Samuel Porter to Temple Hill, Castlewood, VA.](1)

...My mother, at the time of the captivity of the family, was about seven or eight years old and retained to her death a distinct recollection of the capture of the fort, given up by what was suspected to be Riddle's treachery, and of the voyage down Licking, down the Ohio, and up the Miami, and across the wilderness. She perfectly recollected the clear, limpid water of the lakes, and of the appearances of the Canadian population, their customs and manners, and much in regard to the shipping on the lakes, and of the surprise with which she passed through Philadelphia, and along Market Street on their return home, it appearing to her youthful and backwoods imagination that Philadelphia was surely the largest city in the world at that time...and...often recounted all the adventures of this captivity, with her fears, feelings, etc. on the various occurrencies of the scenes through which the family passed.

The British kept careful records for their prisoners, and there are several rosters where John Dunkin and his family are recorded. The families of Solomon Litton, and Samuel Porter are also recorded, though on different rosters, suggesting that they were not housed in the same communities. Interestingly, son John Duncan Jr., age 16, appears on the earliest roster of 1780, but is missing on the list of those repatriated in 1782. This seems to confirm the family story that he escaped from the British. Not confirmed is Laughlin's statement that they were held "four or five years", as their repatriation in July of 1783 suggests a captivity of about three years.

Note: Square brackets indicate the inclusion of material from the Hamilton article, purported to be quotes from the Laughlin diary, but which are not found in the version examined and quoted here. Why there are such differences needs to be explored.


Children (in rough Chronological order, based on Laughlin, 1845):

Elizabeth, Eldestnearly grown at the time of the Canadian captivity, after the return of the family, about the year 1787, married Thomas Laughlin,
Polly married James Hignight, who died in Powell's Valley some years since, about 8 miles east of Cumberland Gap, in Lee County.
Faithful, married Abram Locke, who in 1820 removed from Lee Co. Va. to Chariton, Missouri, where and his wife both died near the close of the year 1843 or early in 1844, leaving a large family and a handsome estate in lands.
Anne married William Martin in Washington, Va. some time before the year 1797, and in 1798 removed from Virginia to Knox County, KY
Sarah Duncan Sept. 3rd. 1773 Russell County, Virginia mother of Samuel Laughlin)
Eleanor youngest married Samuel Campbell in Washington county, Va. about the year 1808-and removed to Chariton, Missouri,

other events

The following taken from the Hamilton article:

"On one occasion while he (Capt. Dunkin) lived on the Clinch, a predatory band of Indians came into the settlement and murdered a man named Bush and his wife, and took their children, three daughters and a son, prisoner. The son was nearly grown. Captain Dunkin with a few men followed the trail and, by hard marching, overtook them, killed three of the Indians, and rescued the prisoners without losing a man.

"Further to the northwest where Powell Valley had begun to be settled, in what is now Lee County, Virginia, the Indians were in the habit of murdering travellers. Before settlement had become permanent, the great buffalo trace to Kentucky, or that part of Virginia forming Kentucky - by way of Cumberland Gap, from 1766 to 1775 was a route for hunters and adventurous explorers on whom numerous murders and robberies were committed by various tribes of Indians, but mostly by Cherokee and Shawnee. Captain Dunkin and his little faithful band frequently went out and remained for different periods on tours of duty in protecting the settlers of this valley and on the road. "On one of these tours, he and his company fell in with a band of Indians whom they instantly attacked, killing four and wounding a fifth. They followed the wounded Indian some distance to a place where he had entered a cave. Captain Joseph Martin (builder of Martin's Station in Lee Co., VA) was along with other Rangers, having met Capt. Dunkin, and was with him when it was agreed between the two that while others kept guard outside, they would enter the cave and take the Indian or kill him. "They entered each with a blazing torch in one hand and a pistol in the other, cocked and primed. After going in sixty or seventy yards, Captain Dunkin saw the Indian's eyes shining in the distance and taking deliberate aim, not knowing but that the Indian had a gun, and supposing others to be with him, was so lucky as to shoot him through the head.

Disambiguation and Sources

There are several "John Duncan's" in Southwest Virginia during the period of Indian Hostilities. See Disambiguation:John Duncan of Southwest Virginia for clarification. This article is about the John Dunkin who served at Glade Hollow Fort under Captain Daniel Smith, in August, 1774. He is not to be confused with Person:John Duncan (31), or Person:John Duncan (33), both of whom are listed under Captain William Russell in the Moore's Fort area at about the same time.

Samuel Laughlin was the grandson of the the John Dunkin who served under Daniel Smith at Glade Hollow Fort. Laughlin kept a diary which, apart from the usual kinds of information kept in such documents, included extensive information about his family relations, and in particular, about his grandfather, John Dunkin. This information has been heavily drawn upon in preparing the following overview. Laughlin's diary is available in two forms, first as a transcript, links to electronic version of which is found at Samuel Laughlin. The second is in a limited transcription prepared by Emory Hamilton in developing an article about John Dunkin. Hamilton only gives parts of the diary of interest to him, but those portions do not seem to match well with the version of the diary cited above. This may suggest that the diary exists in multiple forms, and that there may be additional information available, not found Hamilton, or the Laughlin source cited above. In the following account information from these two sources has been merged, partially to provide better chronological order than found in the originals.



From Halderman Papers, Add Mss 21, 843 Microfilm Roll A-765. P.111 "All taken Ft. George 11 Oct 1780 All in arms." See for an online extract

"Virginia 26 June 1780--Taken from their farm the man not in arms "

Name Age 26 June 1780 Age 28 Nov 1781 Age22 July 1782
John Duncan 40 42

Elinor/Eleanor Duncan his wife

38 40
Elizabeth Duncan 18 19
John Duncan, Jr. 16
Margaret Duncan 14 14
Joseph Duncan 12 12
Mary Duncan 9 10
Sarah Duncan 7 8
Anne Duncan 5 6
Faithful Duncan 2 4
Eleanor 1 (born in Canada

P.289 Return of Prisoners sent from Niagra & Arrived at Montreal this 4 Oct 178

Saml Porter Eliz Porter Margaret Porter Hugh Porter Saml Porter

P.319 return of Rebel Prisoners with their Familys Lodging in the St. Lawrence Suburbs

John Dunkin - a wife and six children

P.329 Return of American prisoners forwarded from Ticonderoga to their respective States, July 18, 1783 by order of His Excellency General Haldermand.

Solomon Litton Va Captured Cantuck June 80 Licking Creek 32 Martha Litton Va ditto ditto 27 Elias Litton Va ditto ditto 5 Thos Litton Va ditto ditto 5 Jno Litton Va ditto ditto 7 Burton Litton Va ditto ditto 3 Solomon Litton, Jr, Va ditto ditto 1

Civic Life

  • Fincastle County Court record for May 5, 1773, appointed on a road commission to "view" a road from the Townhouse (Chilhowie, VA) to Castlewood.
  • January 29, 1777 recommended by the court of newly formed Washington County, Virginia, as a member of the Commission of Peace, serving through November, 1778.
  • Sergeant at Glade Hollow Fort in 1774.
  • recommended by the court of Washington County for a Captain of Militia on February 26, 1777
  • At a court held for Washington County, Virginia, on the 20th of March, 1781
:On motion of James Litton (brother of Solomon) and James Laughlin, and by consent and order of the Court they are appointed guardians of the estates of Captain John Dunkin and Solomon Litton, prisoners of the enemy in Canada, and to use all legal methods for saving and securing the said estates, whereupon they, together with William Davidson and John Vance entered into and acknowledged their bonds for eight thousand pounds for the faithful performance of the same.

...On the death of my Grandmother Duncan, about the year 1816, my father and family moved on the place, and into the house with my grandfather. He died about the year 1818. My father and his family, except myself and John R. who had gone to Tennessee-lived on this place, having purchased it after the death of my grandfather, until the fall of 1829, when I removed the old people, and my brothers, Sydney N. and Nelson S. to Rutherford County. In the year 1828, John and myself had removed our brother Washington Sharpe to Tennessee, to educate him, where he died, as afterwards did Sydney and John as is before noted. I must not forget to mention that my sister, Laura, about 14 years of age, removed with my parents. I went after them all myself, carrying a servant girl named Suzy, to wait on my mother on the road.