Settlers of the Cowpasture in Augusta County, Virginia

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Year range
1742 - 1799

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Location of Cowpasture

The Cowpasture rises in northeastern Highland County and flows generally southwestwardly, initially between Bullpasture Mountain and Shaws Ridge through a narrow valley floor near the George Washington National Forest. It is joined in eastern Highland County by Shaws Fork and gains breadth but has little depth. At Summers Mountain (a high point along Bullpasture Mountain) the river passes through a narrow gorge before entering a broad valley in Bath County, where at the community of Williamsville it collects the Bullpasture River, which greatly adds to its volume. For 20 miles from this confluence the Cowpasture is joined by many small streams, and flows in increasingly wide bends in eastern Bath County. Downstream of the community of Millboro Springs the river becomes deep enough for year round boating; there are several boat launch sites along the river in Bath County. In eastern Alleghany County the Cowpasture is joined by Simpson Creek and shortly enters Botetourt County, where it joins the Jackson River to form the James River near the town of Iron Gate. (Source: Wikipedia, )


Naming History of Cowpasture and Surrounding Areas

The Indians had before named the (Cowpasture) river, Walatoola which meant "winding waters" this described the great bends in the river. However when British settlers arrived in the 1720s they named it the Cowpasture.

There is an interesting story about how the Cowpasture and neighboring rivers the Bullpasture River and Calfpasture River came to be so named. It is said that the Indians once had stolen a herd of settlers' cattle and were driving them westward into the mountains. The calves naturally tired first; they were left behind at the river which is now the Calfpasture. The cows were driven on farther, but they, too, had to be abandoned, the valley in which they were left became the valley of the Cowpasture. The bulls, being somewhat hardier, were still able to continue westward; they finally were left at the river which is known as the Bullpasture. (Source: Wikipedia, )

Earlest Cowpasture Settlers

From "A Centennial History of Alleghany County, Virginia", By Oren F. Morton, B., Lit. Dayton, Virginia, J. K. Reubush Company 1923: Source:

When did the very earliest settlers come into the Alleghany area? It is possible to give a very close answer. Alexander Dunlap located near the site of Goshen about 1742. We are told he was the earliest settler on the Great Calfpasture, and that no one had yet located any father west. A few men had cabins on the Cowpasture in 1745. These settlers came in 1744, possibly in 1743. Joseph Carpenter came with Peter Wright from New York in the spring of 1746. We have no knowledge of any earlier permanent settlers on the lower course of Jackson's River. A number of homeseekers came in 1746, or very shortly afterward, and when the Indian war of 1754 broke out, there was quite a settlement on Jackson's River within the Alleghany area and on the lower course of Dunlap Creek.

Meanwhile several families seem to have settled on the Cowpasture below Griffith's Knob, but our knowledge of their locations is very unsatisfactory. (Note: Chapter III in The Annals of Bath County by Oren F. Morton, 1917 gives a fair representation of the locations of the inhabitants around 1746.) Indeed, so early as 1741, John Grome had patented 400 acres at the mouth of this river. But Grome was a non-resident, being an influential planter of Tuckahoe Virginia. In the suit of James Simpson against Margaret Campbell, 1756, a number of persons are named as inhabitants of the lower Cowpasture, and some of them undoubtedly belong to the Alleghany area. The names are as follows: Hugh and William Martin, William, Agnes and Samuel McMurry; Edward Edwards; William, Mary and Robert Gillespie; Patrick Carrigan; James Beard; James Scott; Margaret Coherin (Cowardin); Thomas Simpson; James Arbuckle and his wife Margaret; and Thomas Fitzpatrick.

It is significant that the muster rolls of the Augusta militia for 1742 do not include the names that soon afterward appear in the long valleys above Iron Gate. The first official recognition of any settlers in this region was in February, 1745, when the court of Orange appointed James Mayse a constable for the lower Cowpasture and the neighboring districts. The same court, May 23, 1745, instructed John Lewis to list "all the Inhabitants of the Cow and Calf pastures and the Settlers back of the same."

Peter Wright's survey of 286 acres covered the bottom on which the principal part of Covington in built. In 1792 he divided the land between his sons, John and William. Not many years afterward the Wrights went West. We are told that one of them sold his land to George Sibley for $500 in cash, a wagon and two horses, and a barrel of whiskey, using the wagon and team to move to the vicinity of Indianapolis. The Peter Wright of 1782 was seemingly the most wealthy man in the valley.

The long survey of 782 acres taken by Joseph Carpenter began very near the railroad bridge at the south border of Covington, and extended down the river so as to include the ben beginning near the mouth of Potts Creek. The Carpenter holdings also took in the fine bottom on the south side of the railroad at Mallow Station. In 1764 the pioneer divided 464 acres equally between his sons, Joseph, Jr., and Solomon, each paying a consideration of ten pounds. But in 1773 Solomon sold 160 acres to his brother-in-law, John Mann, for 130 pounds. A year earlier this piece had been purchased at public sale by William Hughart for ninety pounds ($300). John Mann had already bought 230 in 1762 for seventy pounds. Jeremiah Seeley, another son-in-law, took a survey of 100 acres at the mouth of Dry Run in 1754. But Seeley left the neighborhood during the Indian war and the land was patented by Peter Wright.

A Lewis survey of 270 acres at the mouth of Dunlap Creek was taken by Arthur (Alexander?) Dunlap, but patented by William Jackson, and in 1772 sold to Richard Morris for 100 pounds. A neighboring tract of 100 acres was patented by William Dunlap in 1750. In the same year Adam Dickenson patented 875 acres lying around Callaghan Station. Another Lewis survey on Dunlap Creek was patented by his son, John Dickenson, but passed to Andrew and Thomas Lewis. It was not until 1760 that anyone settled at the head of this stream. Col. Charles Lewis, son of pioneer John Lewis was living on the Cowpasture by about 1760.

The Lewis surveys on Jackson's River above the site of Covington and below the vicinity of the line of Bath county aggregate about 2,000 acres. The original owners were Robert Armstrong, Robert Crockett, David Davis, James Ewing, William Jameson, James Montgomery, and George Wilson. With the exception of Armstrong and possibly Montgomery, these men had their homes on the Calfpasture or elsewhere. Armstrong lived in the bend just below the Bath line. The Armstrong holdings became extensive and the family prosperous. James Montgomery appears to be the man of that name who was killed by Indians.

Of the two surveys by Crockett, one was at the mouth of Cedar Creek, the other above the mouth of Falling Spring Run. The former was acquired by James Fitzpatrick in 1762. The latter passed into the hands of Hamiltons and Kincaids. The Davis land was on the east side of the river at the mouth of Falling Spring Run. It passed to William Mann in 1761, and was sold by him to John Robinson in 1784 for only $200. The Ewing survey was patented by Archibald Armstrong. The Jameson land cornered on Ewing's. It was purchased in 1765 by Archibald Armstrong, Sr., and sold by him in 1767 to Robert Armstrong, Sr. The Montgomery tract was patented in 1750 by Charles Walker. The Wilson land was finally bought in 1791 my Moses Mann, who paid 250 pounds for it.

Listing of Early Cowpasture Settlers

  • In 1769, Colonel William Preston, a non-resident, took out five patents on Potts Creek, these amounting to 995 acres.

The following Early Settlers of the Cowpasture are from some of the early deeds recorded in Botetourt:

Early Settlers of the Cowpasture, in alphabetical order:

  • James Anglin lived on the Cowpasture in about 1746 at the mouth of Benson's Creek, which was first called Anglin's Creek, afterwhich he removed to Orange County, North Carolina, in about 1755.
  • James Beard acquired 246 acres on the Cowpasture from John and Margaret Crockett on 10th August 1761.
  • Alexander Black was an early settler of the Cowpasture and acquired land there "above the Bullpasture" in 1746.
  • Dennis Callaghan bought of Hugh McDonald and Mary, his wife, seventy acres on Ugly, surveyed 1773. Price, 100 pounds.
  • Michael Cairns (Kerns) from Bedford bought of Jeremiah Seeley and Hannah, his wife, for 350 pounds, fourteen acres of the homestead adjoining Robert Shanklin, 1771. The high price is because of depreciated paper money.
  • Thomas Carpenter bought of William P. Martin of Halifax county 115 acres on Potts Creek, 1787 for 100 pounds.
  • John Cartmill received a patent for land on the Cowpasture about 1745, near what is now Millboro, Bath County, VA.
  • John Clendenin acquired land from his father, Archibald Clendenin, Sr., who was an early Cowpasture settler.
  • Thomas Clendenin had a survey for 68 acres at Jackson's River at the lower Cowpasture River in 1754, which was patented to him in 1757. Thomas was a nephew of Archibald Clendenin, Sr., listed above.
  • Samuel Crockett was an early settler of the Cowpasture, he settled there before 1767, and died in 1772 at Reed's Creek.
  • Hugh Coffey was an early settler of the Cowpasture. He had settled there before 18 March, 1747. His land on the Cowpasture was later sold by his son John to John Ramsey in 1767.
  • John Cowardin signed a contract to rent the lower Plantation of Col. Charles Lewis, dec'd. on 2 March 1775.
  • In 1787 John Craig gave power of attorney to Moses Mann to sell his half interest in a place on Brush Creek, a branch of Dunlap. The other half interest belonged to Joseph Hunter, a tory.
  • William Daugherty settled on the Cowpasture on or before 29 October 1743, and received a grant on 3 November 1750.
  • John Dickinson of Augusta bought of Jeremiah and Hannah Seeley, 1772, 200 acres on Falling Spring Run for 100 pounds.
  • James Elliott bought of William Mann and Jean his wife, 1773, for fifty-five pounds, forty-nine acres on Jackson's River below the mouth of Back Creek.
  • Thomas Feamster, wheelwright, 19th August, 1752, bought of William Lewis, Gent., 390 acres on Cow Pasture; corner land in possession of John McCreery; Clover Creek.
  • David Glassburn bought of Thomas Carpenter, 1784, fifty acres on Jackson's River for 100 pounds.
  • William Griffith bought of James Milligan and Elizabeth his wife, 1776, for 103 pounds, forty-four acres on the Cowpasture, patented 1767.
  • Robert Hall acquired 212 acres on Cowpasture River on 19 August 1760 from his father James Hall. Robert also received a patent of 1,000 acres "on Jackson's River" from William Jackson on 7 February 1784, in addition to other patents of 71 and 145 acre patents in the same year.
  • John Handley (Hanley) acquired a 300-acre tract on the Cowpasture from James Simpson and Jane on 15th November, 1762, Handley had re-located from the Borden Tract.
  • Aron Hughes bought of William Gillespie and Mary his wife, 1780, for 10,000 pounds (depreciated money), 320 acres on the Cowpasture.
  • William Jordan bought of James Young and Mary his wife for £10, 98 acres on head branch of Cowpasture, a branch of James River, patented to James, 14th July, 1769. He sold this tract to Anthony Johnston on 6 September 1777.
  • Andrew Kincade bought of William Hamilton of Grenbrier, 1780, for 400 pounds, 283 acres on Jackson's River.
  • William Kincade bought of Andrew Kincade and Mary his wife, 1785, for 200 pounds, 110 acres of Jackson's River.
  • James Knox acquired 254 acres on the Cowpasture River, "above Black" (abt. 1760), just above its juncture with the Bullpasture River, and 93 acres further down the Cowpasture River, "adjoining John Moore" (abt. 1760). (Source: Annals of Bath County, Virginia, by Oren F. Morton). James Knox sold 93 acres of his land to Edward Thompson on 16 November 1761.
  • William Larence bought of James Robison and Elizabeth his wife, 1775, ninety-five acres on west side Camp Mountain for ninety-five pounds.
  • Charles Lewis was an early settler on Stewart's Creek, a branch of the Cowpasture River prior to 1769, when he sold land to John McCastlin.
  • Michael Mallow bought of Zopher Carpenter and Mary his wife and David Glassburn and Elizabeth his wife, 1789, 130 acres on north side Jackson's River for 275 pounds.
  • William Mann bought of Jacob Persinger and Catherine his wife, 1772, for twenty-four pounds, 115 acres on Indian Draft of James River.
  • Moses Mann bought of James Boggs and Margaret his wife, of Greenbrier, 1784, for 100 pounds, a tract on Jackson's River adjoining Richard Morris and Andrew Kinkead. The acreage is not stated.
  • James Mayse was an early settler of the lower Cowpasture and was appointed Constable in February 1745.
  • Joseph Mayse (Mays) acquired 500 acres from John Lewis in the Cowpasture on Jackson's River in 1746, later adjoining William Wilson. Joseph Mays was the son of James Mayse, listed above.
  • John McCalister bought of James Robinson, 1775, for fifty-five pounds, 177 acres on Dunlap.
  • John McCreary acquired 520 acres on the Cowpasture, prior to 1752. In 1765, he sold 260 acres to his son John McCreary, Jr.
  • Edward McMullin bought of Andrew Lewis, 1772, 325 acres on Dunlap for thirty pounds ($100).
  • William McMurray, or possibly his father William "The Elder" McMurray, received a patent for 20 acres on "McMury Creek of the Cowpasture" in 1761. although it was clear that he had migrated there several years earlier.
  • John Neel brought of Edward McMullin and Sarah his wife, 1780, fifty-two acres on Dunlap for fourty pounds.
  • Daniel O'Hara received a patent 23d May, 1763, on a south branch of the Cowpasture, adjoining tract surveyed to Mathew Penn, now in possession of Isaac Johns. 125 acres of his patent was sold to Alexander Miller in 1767, and this same 125 acres was later sold to Thomas Devericks in 1788.
  • 18th February, 1783 - Mathew Penn received a patent for 250 acres "on Shaw's Fork of Cowpasture".
  • Jacob Persinger bought of William Thompson, executor of James Patton, 1771, for twenty-five pounds, forty-four acres on Willson's Creek of James River.
  • Jacob Persinger, Sr., sold land on Nelson's (Wilson's) Creek, a branch of James, 1775, to John Hansberger.
  • Jacob Persinger, Jr., bought of James Williams of Montomery county, 1777, 110 acres on Potts Creek for thirty-five pounds.
  • James Robinson bought of Alexander Dunlap and Agnes his wife, of Clover Lick, Augusta county, 1773, for fifty pounds, 100 acres at mouth of Dunlap.
  • John Robinson bought of Moses Mann and Fanny his wife, 1784, 230 acres on Jackson's Rive for sixty pounds.
  • William Scott bought of William Whooley and Barbara his wife, 1782, ninety-three acres on Potts for 1,400 pounds.
  • Andrew Sittlington aquired land on the Cowpasture on 17 Aug. 1768 from Jean ( ) Craighead and John Davis, of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, executors of Alex. Craighead, deceased, whose will was proved and recorded in North Carolina, for £200, 1 moiety of lands mentioned in said will, on Cowpasture, corner tract of Adam Dickinson.
  • John Sittlington acquired land on the Cowpasture prior to 1790 (and perhaps as early as 1774), when he tranfered land to his son-in-law, James Kelso, who married John's daughter, Elizabeth Sittlington.
  • John Slaven acquired land on Jackson's River in 1777 from James Morrow of Greenbrier County.
  • George Stout bought of William Gillespie and Mary his wife, 1780, fifty acres on Jackson's River for 1000 pounds.
  • Edward Thompson had 217 acres surveyed on Cowpasture River adjoining William Thompson. April 27, 1773.
  • Robert Wiley had 78 acres surveyed on a branch of Jackson River. May 6, 1773.
  • Matthew Wilson sold 281 acres on a branch of the Cowpasture River called Newfoundland; line of land in possession of the Caroliles; cor. land in possession of Andrew Lewis, to Robert and Eleanor Graham, on 17 May, 1761.

Early Land Patents in the Alleghany Area prior to 1770

We next mention the land patents in the Alleghany area granted prior to 1770.

Names of patentee, position, acreage, and date of patent are given in alphabetical order:

  • Abercromby, Robert received a patent of 664 acres "on Back Creek on the West Fork of Jackson's River" on 10 August 1759
  • Abercromby, Robert - East side Jackson's River at mouth Falling Spring - 320 acres - 1760.
  • Armstrong, Archibald - Jackson's River - 254 acres - 1760
  • Armstrong, Robert - Jackson's River - 270 acres - 1760.
  • Beard, James - NW side lower Pasture river - 24 acres - 1763.
  • Carpenter, Joseph - Jackson's River - 782 acres - 1750.
  • Carpenter, Zophar - NW side Jackson's River - 135 acres - 1763
  • Clendennin, Thomas - Jackson's River - 68 acres - 1757
  • Dew, Samuel - Potts Creek (Michael Aritt land) - 227* - 1789
  • Dickinson, Adam - meadow (Dunlap) Creek - 875 acres - 1750
  • Dickinson, John - great meadows on Meadow Creek - 490 acres - 1760.
  • Dickinson, John - Peters (Dunlap) Creek - 16 acres - 1763
  • Dickinson, John - Peter's Creek - 33 acres - 1763
  • Hughart, Thomas - SE side Jackson's River - 65 acres - 1760
  • Hunter, William - Dunlap - 60 acres - 1781.
  • Jameson, John - Jackson's River - 280 acres - 1760
  • Johnson, Eve - Potts (George Wolf land) - 60 acres - 1793
  • Johnson, John - Karnes Run (formerly Whooley's Run) - 1,000 acres - 1795
  • Logner, Samuel - Dunlap - 60 acres - 1793
  • Mann, William - Jackson's River below Back Creek - 49 acres - 1765
  • McAllister, James - Jackson's River - 100 acres - 1760 (listed as "MacAllister")
  • McAllister, James - Dunlap - 200 acres - 1793
  • McCutchen, William - mouth of Cedar - 169 acres - 1760?
  • McMurray, William - McMury Creek of Cowpasture - 20 acres - 1761
  • McPherson, Christopher - Potts - (?) - 1793
  • Montgomery, James - NW side Jackson's River - 54 acres - 1757
  • Morris, Richard - Jackson's River below Armstrong - 93 acres - 1769
  • Patton, James - branch of Peter's Creek - 190 acres - 1750
  • Persinger, Jacob (Jr.) - Rich Patch - 924 acres - 1798
  • Preston, William - Potts Creek - 250 acres - 1769
  • Preston, William - Potts below Laurel Gap - 150 acres - 1769
  • Preston, William - Potts - 200 acres - 1769
  • Preston, William - Potts at Walnut Bottom - 300 acres - 1769
  • Preston, William - Potts - 95 acres - 1769
  • Scott, James - S side Jackson's River - 24 acres - 1765
  • Scott, James - SE side Cowpasture - 18 acres - 1765
  • Scott, James - both sides Cowpasture - 490 acres - 1751
  • Simpson, James - SE side Cowpasture - 300 acres - 1761
  • Walker, Charles - Jackson's River - 220 acres - 1750
  • Wilson, Stephen - Jackson's River - 234 acres acquired from Joseph Mayse (Mays) in 1760, later sold to David Guinn in 1797. [Annals of Bath County, pg. 31]
  • Wright, Peter - Jackson's River - 286 acres - 1750
  • Wright, Peter - W side Jackson's River - 64 acres - 1761.
  • Wright, Peter - Potts Creek - 100 acres - 1767.
  • Note: Samuel Dew's patent is listed as "2272 acres", but this appears to be too large a tract during that time period or a likely typo, so we've listed "227 acres" as a likely tract size.

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