George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 4 September 1784]

4th. Having finished my business with my Tenants (so far at least as partial payments could put a close to it) 1 and provided a waggon 2 for the transportation of my Baggage to the Warm springs (or Town of Bath) 3 to give relief to my Horses, which from the extreme heat of the weather began to rub & gaul, I set out after dinner, and reached Captn. Stroads 4 a Substantial farmers betwn. Opeckon Creek & Martinsburgh 5—distant by estimation 14 Miles from my Brothers.

Finding the Captn. an intelligent Man, and one who had been several times in the Western Country—tho’ not much on the communication between the North Branch of Potomack, & the Waters of Monongahela—I held much conversation with him—the result of which, so far as it respected the object I had in view, was, that there are two Glades which go under the denomination of the Great glades—one, on the Waters of Yohiogany, the other on those of Cheat River; & distinguished by the name of the Sandy Creek Glades 6—that the Road to the first goes by the head of Pattersons Creek—that from the accts. he has had of it, it is rough; the distance he knows not—that there is away to the Sandy Creek Glades from the great crossing of Yohiogany (on Braddocks road) 7 & a very good one; but how far the Waters of Potomack above Fort Cumberland, & the Cheat river from its Mouth are navigable, he professes not to know—and equally ignorant is he of the distance between them.

He says that old Captn. Thos. Swearengen 8 has informed him, that the navigable water of the little Kanhawa comes within a small distance of the Navigable Waters of the Monongahela, & that a good road, along a ridge, may be had between the two 9 & a young Man who we found at his House just (the Evening before) from Kentucke, told us, that he left the Ohio River at Weeling (Colo. David Shepperds), & in about 40 Miles came to red stone old Fort on the Monongahela, 50 Miles from its Mouth.10

Captn. Strodes rout to the Westward having been, for the most part, by the way of New river and the Holsten, through (what is called) the Wilderness, to Kentucke, he adds that when he went out last fall he passed through Staunton, by the Augusta Springs, the Sweet springs, &ca. to the New River; on which he fell about ⟨10⟩ Miles as he was told above the Fall in that river, that these falls are about 70 Miles from the Mouth, that a Vessel could not pass them tho’ the perpendicular fall did not exceed Six feet.11

The distance from Staunton to the [Augusta] Springs, according to his Acct., is 45 Miles; between the [Augusta and Sweet] Springs 28 Miles; and from the Sweet Springs to the New River, 30; in all 103 from Staunton to the New River: from this part of the New River to the place called Chissels Mines, is passable for Canoes & Batteaux with little difficulty; & from thence to the Roanoke where it is as large as the Opeckon near his house is only 12 miles & a tolerable level Country.12

1While at Happy Retreat, GW received from Thomas Griggs £24 of rent due for 200 acres on Bullskin Run, from Henry Whiting £50 12s. for 600 acres on Bullskin, from Samuel Scratchfield £6 for 113 acres on Evitts Run, and from David Fulton £10 for another 113 acres on Evitts Run (Cash Memoranda, DLC:GW; LEDGER B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 199). None of these sums fully discharged the accounts on which they were paid. A few weeks later GW entrusted collection of all his rents in Berkeley, Frederick, Fauquier, and Loudoun counties to Battaile Muse of Berkeley County (GW to Muse, 3 Nov. 1784, DLC:GW).

2The wagon was hired from William Grantom (Grantum), a tenant on 226½ acres of GW’s Evitts Run land. Grantom was allowed £2 2s. on his unsettled rent account in return for use of his vehicle (Cash Memoranda, DLC:GW; LEDGER B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 72).

3The small settlement at Warm Springs was officially established as the town of Bath in 1776, but continued to be known also as Warm Springs and Berkeley Springs (HENING description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 9:247–49).

4John Strode (1736–1805) and his brother James Strode (died c.1795) both lived in this part of Berkeley County and both were called captain. While exploring in Kentucky in 1776, they each claimed 1,000 acres of land near present-day Winchester, Ky. Three years later those tracts were officially granted to the Strodes, and John returned to Kentucky to build a fort or station on his land. After recruiting settlers to defend his station against the British and Indians, he went home in the spring of 1780, and according to one of the settlers, who considered him “pretty much of a coward,” he “never came out again for three or four years after” (CLINKENBEARD description begins “Reverend John D. Shane’s Interview with Pioneer William Clinkenbeard.” History Quarterly [Filson Club] 2 (1927-28): 95–128. description ends , 103–5; ALLEN description begins Lucien Beckner. “John D. Shane’s Interview with Benjamin Allen, Clark County.” Filson Club Historical Quarterly 5 (1931): 63–98. description ends , 68, 95, n.7). John did settle in Kentucky with his family sometime after the war. James continued to live in Berkeley County, where he had been named a justice 1772 and a militia captain 1774. He became a trustee of Martinsburg in 1778 and of Darkesville in 1791 (BERKELEY [2] description begins “Soldiers of Berkeley County, W.Va.” William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., 13 (1904-5): 29–36. description ends , 29).

5Martinsburg, established 1778, was the site of the Berkeley County courthouse (HENING description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 9:569–71). It was named for Col. Thomas Bryan Martin.

6The Great Glades are natural marshy grasslands amid well-timbered ridges on both sides of Maryland’s western border. The Youghiogheny Glades are in the vicinity of Oakland, Md., and the Sandy Creek Glades are near Bruceton Mills, W.Va. (see entry for 26 Sept. 1784). Big Sandy Creek flows into the Cheat River, a main branch of the Monongahela. A short, convenient land route between the Cheat or Youghiogheny and the North Branch of Potomac in their navigable portions could effectively link the Ohio with the Chesapeake.

7Braddock’s Road, the route followed by Gen. Edward Braddock’s army in 1755, began at Fort Cumberland, Md., and ran to the vicinity of Fort Pitt by way of the Great Crossing, the Great Meadows, and Stewart’s Crossing. GW traveled part of this road 12–17 Oct. 1770 and 10–12 Sept. 1784.

8Thomas Swearingen, of Berkeley County, one of the early settlers of the Shenandoah Valley, lived on the Potomac River near Shepherdstown. For many years he ran a well-known ferry across the river to Maryland and at one time or another served as justice, vestryman, and burgess (HENING description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 6:494, 8:263). His election as burgess occurred in 1756 when he and Hugh West were chosen over GW to represent old Frederick County, but two years later GW and Thomas Bryan Martin unseated Swearingen and West (FREEMAN description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 2:147, 320; GW to Robert Dinwiddie, 9 Oct. 1757, DLC:GW). During the French and Indian War, Swearingen was a captain in the Frederick County militia and for a time led a detachment of rangers (JHB description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 1752–58, 458; Lord Fairfax to GW, 1 Sept. 1756, DLC:GW).

9The West Fork River, a main branch of the Monongahela, runs near the Little Kanawha in the vicinity of Bulltown, W.Va. (see entry for 24 Sept. 1784). Such a route, if practicable, would shorten the distance to the lower Ohio and could be completely controlled by Virginia.

10David Shepherd (1734–1795) left Frederick County with his family in the spring of 1770 and settled at the forks of Wheeling Creek near present-day Wheeling, W.Va. In 1777 he was appointed county lieutenant of newly formed Ohio County, which he successfully defended against Indian attack throughout the War of Independence (JOHNSTON description begins Ross B. Johnston, ed. “West Virginians in the American Revolution.” West Virginia History 7 (1945–46): 54–64. description ends , 55; DANDRIDGE description begins Danske Dandridge. Historic Shepherdstown. Charlottesville, Va., 1910. description ends , 192, 346). The route described by the young Kentuckian must be the one later used for part of the Cumberland or National Road. Red Stone Old Fort became the site of Brownsville, Pa., in 1785.

11The common route to Kentucky, first taken by Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750, went down the Shenandoah Valley to Ingles ferry on the New River (near present-day Radford, Va.), then on to the Holston River, and west through the mountains to the Cumberland Gap at the extreme southwestern tip of Virginia. However, in the fall of 1783 Strode apparently followed the alternate route by which Walker had returned from Kentucky, crossing New River farther north near the point where it is joined by the Greenbrier River (in the vicinity of present-day Hinton, W.Va.), and then following nearby Bluestone River west toward Tug Fork, a branch of the Big Sandy River (WALKER description begins J. Stoddard Johnston, ed. First Explorations of Kentucky: Doctor Thomas Walker’s Journal of an Exploration of Kentucky in 1750 . . .. Louisville, Ky., 1898. description ends , 70–75).

Staunton, established 1761, was one of the major towns of the Shenandoah Valley. Augusta Springs must be Warm Springs, Va., now in Bath County but before 1791 in Augusta County. It was commonly called Augusta Warm Springs to distinguish it from the Warm Springs in Berkeley County (FITHIAN [2] description begins Robert Greenhalgh Albion and Leonidas Dodson, eds. Philip Vickers Fithian: Journal, 1775–1776, Written on the Virginia-Pennsylvania Frontier and in the Army around New York. Princeton, N.J., 1934. description ends , 161). Sweet Springs was in Botetourt County, now Monroe County, W.Va.

12Chiswell’s Mines, now the site of Austinville, Va., were well-known lead and zinc mines on the banks of the New River about 120 miles upstream from the mouth of the Greenbrier. Discovered by Col. John Chiswell in 1756, they had been a particularly important resource for the Patriots during the War of Independence (W.P.A. [4] description begins W.P.A. Writers’ Project. Virginia: Guide to the Old Dominion. American Guide Series. New York, 1940. description ends , 477–78). The New River actually comes closest to the Roanoke River, not near Chiswell’s Mines, but farther downstream in the vicinity of Ingles ferry. Strode also overstated the ease of navigating the New River up to Chiswell’s Mines, the way being obstructed by falls, rapids, and narrow twisting gorges (SOLECKI description begins Ralph S. Solecki. “An Archeological Survey of Two River Basins in West Virginia.” West Virginia History 10 (1948-49): 189–212, 319–432. description ends , 323). Nevertheless, because the New River flowed into the Kanawha, it was seriously considered for many years as a possible transportation link between the east and west.

Index Entries