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The Settlement of the Appalachian Frontier: July 2005

The Settlement of the Appalachian Frontier

Sharing information, stories, and ideas for teaching students about the settlement of the Appalachian Frontier. Focusing on the little-known people and history of Southwestern Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and Eastern Kentucky.

Location: Nickelsville, Virginia, United States

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Brief Account of the Travels of John Peter Salley,

"It may be necessary before I enter upon the particular passage of my Travels, to inform my Reader, that what they are to meet with in the following Narrative, is only what I retained in my Memory; For when we were taken by the French we were robbed of all of our papers, that contained any writings relative to our Travels."

1740. In the year 1740, I came from Pennsylvania to that part of Orange County now called Augusta; and settled in a fork of the James River close under the Blue Ridge of Mountains on the West Side, where I now live.[3]

1741/42. In the month of March, 1741/42 One John Howard came to my house, and told me, that he had received a Commission from our Governor to travel the westward of this Colony, as far as the River Mississippi, in order to make Discovery of the Country, and that as a reward for his labour, he had the promise of an Order of Council for Ten Thousand Acres of Land; and at the same time obliged himself to give equal shares of said Land to such men as would go in Company with him to search the Country as above. Whereupon I and other two men, Viz. [John Poteat] and Charles Sinclair [his own son Josiah Harwood having already joined with him] entered into Covenant with him, binding ourselves to each other in a certain writing, and accordingly prepared for our Journey in a very unlucky hour to me and my poor family.

1741/42. On the sixteenth of March, 1742, we set off from my House and went to Cedar Creek about five miles, where is a Natural Bridge over said Creek, reaching from the Hill on the one side to the Hill on the other. It is a solid Rock and is two hundred and three feet high, having a very large Spacious arch, where the water runs thro', we then proceeded as far as Mondongachate, now called woods River, which is eighty five miles, where we killed five buffaloes, and with their hides covered the Frame of a Boat; which was so large as to carry our Company, and all our provisions and Utensels, with which we passed down said River two hundred and fifty two miles as we supposed, and found it very Rocky, having a great many Falls therein, one of which we computed to be thirty feet perpendicular and all along surrounded with inaccessible Mountains, high precipices, which obliged us to leave said River. We went then a south west course by Land eight five Miles, where we came to a small River and there we made a little Boat, which carried only two men and our provisions. The rest travelled by Land for two Days and then we came to a large River, where we enlarged our Barge, so as she carried all our Company, and whatever loading we had to put into her. We supposed that we went down this River Two Hundred and Twenty Miles, and had a tolerable good passage; there being only tow places, that were difficult by reason of Falls. Where we came to this River the Country is mountainous, but the farther down the plainer in those mountains, we found plenty of coals, for which we named it Coal River. Where this River and Woods river meets the North Mountains end, and the Country appears very plain and is well water'd, there are plenty of Rivulets, clear Fountains and running Streams and very fertile Soil. From the mouth of Coal River, to the River Alleghany we computed to be ninety two miles and on the sixth day of May we came to Allegany which we supposed to be three Quarters of a mile, [broad] and from here to the great Falls on this River is reckoned four hundred and fourty four Miles, there being a large Spacious open Country on each side of the River, and is well watered abounding with plenty of Fountains small streams and large Rivers; and is very high and fertile soil. At this time we found the Clover to be as high as the middle of a man's leg. In general the Woods over the Land is Ridgey, but plain, well timbered and hath plenty of all kinds of Wood, that grows in Common with us in this Colony (excepting pine). The falls mentioned above are three miles long in which a small Island, the body of the Stream running on the North side, through which is no passing by reason of great Rocks and large Whirlpools, by which we went down on the south side of said Island without much Danger or Difficulty and in time a Fresh in the River, men may pass either up or down, they being active or careful. About twenty Miles below the Falls the Land appeared to be somewhat Hilly the Ridges being higher, and continued so for the Space of fifty Miles down the River, but neither Rocky nor Stoney, but a rich Soil as is above mentioned. Joyning this high Land below is a very level flat Country on both sides of the River, and is so far an Hundred and fifty Miles, abounding with all the advantages mentioned above, and a much richer Soil; We then met with a kind of Ridge that seemed to Extend across the Country as far as we could view and bore North and South. In Seven Miles we passed it, when we found the Country level [as is mentioned before], but not having such plenty of running Streams, yet a richer Soil. On the seventh day of June we entered into the River Missisippi, which we computed to be five miles wide, and yet in some places it is not above one mile over, having in most places very high Banks, and in other places it overflows. The current is not swift but easy to pass either up or down, and in all our passage we found great plenty of Fish, and wild fowl in abundance. In the River Missisippi above the mouth of Alleghany is a large Island on which are three Towns inhabited by the French, who maintain Commerce and Trade both with the French of Cannada, and those French on the mouth of the said River. In the fork between Allegany and Missisippi are certain Salt Springs, where the Inhabitants of the Towns mentioned above make their Salt. Also they have there a very rich Lead Mine which they have opened and it affords them a Considerable gain. From the Falls mentioned above in the River Allegany to the mouth of said River is four Hundred fifty Miles, from thence to the Town of New Orleans is One Thousand four Hundred and ten Miles, and is Uninhabited excepting fifty Leagues above New Orleans. It is a large spacious plain Country endowed with all the natural Advantages, that is a moderate healthy Climate, Sweet water, rich Soil, an pure fresh Air, which contribute to the Benefit of Mankind. We held on our passage down the River Missisippi [until] the second day of July, and about nine o'clock in the Morning we went on Shore to cook our Breakfast. But we were suddenly surprised by a Company of Men, Viz. to the Number of Ninety, Consisting of French men Negroes, & Indians, who took us prisoners and carried us to the Town of New Orleans, which was bout one Hundred Leagues from us when we were taken, and further being examined upon Oath before the Governor first separately one by One, and then All together, we were committed to close Prison, we not knowing then [ nor even yet] how long they intended to confine us there. During our stay in Prison we had allowed us a pound and half of Bread a man each Day, and Ten pound of pork p Month for each man. Which allowance was duly given to us for the space of Eighteen Months, and after that we had only one pound of Rice Bread, and one pound of Rice for each man p Day, and one Quart of Bear's Oil for each man p. Month, which allowance was continued to us untill I made my Escape. Whilst I was confined in Prison I had many Visits made to me by the French and Dutch who lived there, and grew intimate and familiar with some of them, by whom I was informed of the Manner of Government is Tyrannical, The Common People groan under the Load of Oppression, and Sigh for Deliverance. The Governor is the Chief Merchant, and inhances all the trade into his own hands, depriving the Planters of selling their Commodities to any other, but himself, and allowing them only such prices as he pleases. And with respect to Religion, there's little to be found amongst them, but who profess any Religion at all, it's the Church of Rome. In the Town are nine Clergymen four Jesuits and five Capuchin Friers. They have likewise one Nunnery in which are nine Nuns. Notwithstanding the Fertility and Richness of the Soil, The Inhabitants are generally poor as a Consequence of the Oppression they meet with from their Rulers, neither is the Settling of the Country, or Agriculture in any Measure encouraged by the Legislature. One thing I had almost forgot, Viz. we were told by some of the French who first settled there, that about forty years ago, when the French first discovered the place, and made attempt to settle therein, there were then pretty many English settled on both sides of the River Missisippi, and one Twenty Gun Ship lay in the River, what became of the Ship we did not hear, but we were informed that the English Inhabitants were all destroyed by the Natives by the Instigation of the French.
I now begin to speak of the strength of the Country, and by the best Account I cou'd gather I did not find, that there are aboe four Hundred and fifty effective Men of the Militia in all the Country, and not above one Hundred and fifty Soldiers under pay in and about the Town of New Orleans, 'tis true they have Sundry Forts in which they keep some men, but they are so weak and despicable as not worth taking notice of, with regard to the Strengthening of the County, having in some of them only six men, in other Ten men, the strongest of all those places is at the Mouth of the Missisippi In which are thirty Men, and Fifty Leagues from thence is a Town called Mumvell nine Leagues from the Mouth of a River of the same Name in which is a Garrison, that Consists of Seventy Soldiers.
After I had been confined in close Prison above two Years, and all Expectation of being set at Liberty failing, I begun to think of making my Escape out of Prison, one of which I put in Practice, and which Succeeded in the following Manner. There was a certain French Man, who as born in that Country, and had some time before sold his Rice to the Spaniards for which he was put in Prison, and it Cost him six Hundred Peices of Eight before he got clear. He being tired with the Misery and Oppression under which the poor Country People Labour, formed a Design of removing his Family to South Carolina. Which Design was discovered, and he was again put in Prison in the Dungeon, and made fast in Irons, and after a formal Tryal, he was condemned to be a Slave for Ten Years, besides the expense of seven Hundred peices of Eight. With this Miserable French Man I became intimate & Familiar, and as he as an active man, and knew the Country he promised, if I could help him off with this Irons, as we all got clear of the Prison, he would conduct us safe untill we were out of Danger. We then got a small file from a Soldier wherewith to cut the Irons and on the 25th day of October, 1744 we put our Design in Practice. While the French man was very busie in the Dungeon in cutting the Irons, we were as industrious without in breaking the Door of the Dungeon, and Each of us finished our Jobb at one Instant of time, which had held us for about six hours; by three of the Clock in the Morning with the help of a Rope which I had provided beforehand, we let our Selves down over the Prison Walls, and made our Escape Two Miles from the Town that night, where we lay close for two days. We then removed to a place three Miles from the Town, where one of the good old Fryers of which I spoke before, nourished us four Days. One the Eight Day after we made our Escape, we came to a Lake seven Leagues from the Town but by this Time we had got a Gun and some Ammunition, the next Day we shot two large Bulls, and with their Hides made us a boat, in which we passed the Lake in the Night. We tied the Shoulder Blades of the BULLS to small sticks, which served us for paddles and passed a point, where there were thirteen man lay in wait for us, but Thro' Mercy we escaped from them undiscovered. After we had gone by Water sixty miles we went on Shore, we left our Boat as a Witness of our Escape to the French. We travelled thirty miles by Land to the River Shaktare, where our French man's father lived. In this Journey we passed thro' a Nation of Indians, who were very kind to us, and Carried us over two large Bays. In this place we tarried Two Months and ten Days in very great Danger, for which was made for us everywhere by Land and Water and Orders to Shoot us when found. Great Rewards were promised by the Governor to the King of the Indians [mentioned above] to take us, which he refused, and in the meantime was very kind by giving provisions and informing us of our Danger from time to time. After they had given over Searching for us, and we having got a large Periaugue and other necessary things for our voyage, and on the 25th of January our French man and one Negro boy [which he took to wait on him] and another French man and we being all armed and well provided for our Voyage, we set off at a place called the belle Fountain [or in English fine Spring] and Sailed fifty Leagues to the head of St. Rose's Bay, and there left our Vessel and travelled by Land Thirty Leagues to the Fork Indians, where the English trade. Then there were three with them, and there we stayed five Days. The Natives were to us kind and generous, there we left the two French men and Negro boy, and on he tenth of February we set off and Travelled by Land up the River Giscaculfufa or Biscaculfufa, one Hundred and thirty five Miles, passing several Indian Towns the Natives being very hospitable and kind, and came to one Finlas an Indian Trader, who lives among the Ugu Nation. On the first of March we left Mr Finlas, and on the sixteenth we arrived at fort Augustus in the Province of Georgia. On the ninteenth instant we left for Augustus and on the first of April we arrive at Charles Town, and waited on the Governor, who examined us Concerning our Travels & c. and he detained us in Charles Town eighteen Days, and made us a present of eighteen pounds of their Money, which did no more than defray our Expences whilst in that Town.
I had delivered to the Governor a Copy of my Journal, which when I asked again he refused to give me, but having obtained from him a Pass we went on board of a small Vessel bound for Virginia. On the Thirteenth of April, the same Day about two of the Clock we were taken by the French in Cape Roman and kept Prisoners till eleven of the Clock next Day, at which time the French after having robbed us of all the Provisions we had for our Voyage or Journey, put us into a Boat we being twelve men in Number, and so left us to the Mercy of the Seas and Winds.
On the fifteenth instant we arrived again in Charles Town and were examined before the Governor concerning our being taken by the French. We were now detained three Days before we could get another Pass from the Governor, we having destroyed the former, when we were taken by the French, and then were dismissed, being in a strange Place, far from Home, destitute of Friends, Cloathing, Money and Arms, and in that deplorable Condition had been obliged to undertake a Journey of five Hundred Miles, but a Gentleman, who was Commander of a Privateer, and then lay at Charles Town with whom we had discoursed several times, gave to each of us a Gun and a Sword, and would have given us Ammunition, but that he had but little. On the Eighteenth Day of April, we left Charles Town, the second time, and travelled by Land, and on the seventeenth Day of May, 1745 we arrived at my House, having been absent three years Two Months and one Day, from my family, having in that time by the nicest Calculation I am able to make, travelled by Land and Water four thousand six hundred and six Miles since I left my own House till I returned Home again.
p. John Peter Salley. "

[1] Border Warfare, 1831, p. 42. This, the most circumstantial, assigns to John Salling six years of captivity among the Cherokees with incidental travels from Canada to Florida. Winsor [ Mississippi Basin, pp. 168, 179] apparently accepted this tradition as more probable than the one of the New Orleans journey, if, indeed, he appreciated that Salling and Salley were the same man.

[2] Salley permitted others also to copy his journal. Mr. Thwaites says [in the note in his edition of Withers Border Warfare], "Salling kept a journal which was extant in 1745, for in the Wisconsin Historical Society's library is a diary kept by Capt. John Buchanan, who notes that in that year he spent two days in copying a part of it." Dr. John Mitchell, the Virginia botanist, also had seen it and made use of it in drawing that great map of 1755 on which the British government subsequently placed so much reliance. In his "Remarks on the Journal of Batts and Fallam" [Alvord, First Explorations, p.204], Dr. Mitchell says "in 1739 and 1740 [sic] a Party of People were sent out by the Government of Virginia and traversed the whole Countrey down Wood River and River Ohio to the Missisipi and down that River to New Orleans: whose journals I have seen and perused and have made a draught of the countrey from them and find they agree with other and later accounts."

[3] John Peter Salling had a patent [Virginia Land Register, xix, 997] dated July 6, 1741, for 400 acres "in that part of Orange County called Augusta in the first fork of James River on the West side of the blue Ridge of Mountains." Fry identified the site with Salley's name on his map, at a point on James River just above Balcony Falls, in what is now Rockbridge. It appears from Chalkley, Abstracts from the Records of Augusta County, Virginia [1912], that the author of the Journal was a member of Capt. John McDowell's company before his expedition with Howard. [ The muster roll among the Preston Papers in the Wisconsin Historical Society, printed by Chalkley, ii, 507, is not dated but is related by Waddell to 1742. The fact that Salley is on it would indicate that it must have been made before March 1741/2] and, in 1746, after his return, "qualified as Captain of Foot." [Augusta Order Book, i, 135] In February, 1747/8, he had his lands processioned and, after several real estate transactions and a suit for breach of promise of marriage on behalf of a daughter, died in 1755, leaving a will dated 25 December, 1754 [proved 19 March, 1755, Augusta W. B., ii pp. 92, III, 124]. Two of his sons, George Adam and John, who took the James River lands under the will sold them in 1760 and 1762, describing themselves at first as "of Cumberland County, North Carolina," and later, "of Orange County, North Carolina." [Augusta D. B., ix, 25; xi, 34]
The "descendants of John Peter Salling" who made statements in 1848, for Dr. Draper, lived in Rockbridge, but Dr. Draper recorded that others were then living in Tennessee and Kentucky who spelled their name Sallee. In Augusta records it is spelled variously Salley, Sally and Salling.

Whatever was the original name our John Peter was undoubtedly one of the Switzers who came to Virginia through Pennsylvania as a consequence of the activities of Michel and Graffenried [ Va. Mag. xxix, I] and must be distinguished from that Pierre [Peter] Salle who was peacefully baptizing children in the Huguenot colony at Manakintown during the years John Peter was absent on his travels.
[ Brock Huguenot Emigration to Virginia, 1886, pp. 103, 113].
Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., of the Historical Commission of South Carolina, advises that the Salley family of that State descends from Henry Salley, who had land laid out for him in Orangeburgh Township in 1735, or sometime before John Peter says he left Pennsylvania.

Annals of Augusta County, Virginia

pg. 496
25th November, 1751
John Peter Salling and Ann, to Henry Fuller and Catharine, 130 acres on No. Br. James

pg. 99
28th November, 1751, Same to John Peter Sally, 100 acres, patented as above, on James River. James Trimble.

pg. 75
November 23, 1753
John Mathews to be overseer of road from North Fork of James River, near John Mathew's, to Renix's Road, with these workers: Henry Brown, John Smiley, James Trimble, John Berriford, James Edmondson, Wm. Edmondson, Michael Finney, Wm. Holdman, Stephen Arnold, Hugh Means, John Harger, Wm. Scot, Edward Bishop, Alxr. McCorkall, Pat.McCarkall, Henry Fuller, Joseph Pain, Edwd. Baley, James Baley, John Peter Salling, Jas. Simpson, James Wolson, Elexr. Beggs, John Mathews, Joshua Mathews, John Maxwell, Jas. Frazier, John Hutcheson, Senr., John Hutcheson, Jr., George Salling, Richd. Beton, Wm. Boil, John Sprowl, John Smith, Saml. McClure, John Smiley, John McCuley, Richd. Mathews, Sampson Mathews, Daniel Snacion, Saml. Paxton, Wm. Paston, John Oleston, Samuel Oleston, Saml. Walker.

March 23, 1754
[126] Road ordered from Campbell's School House to Renix's Road - Saml. Walker, overseer - with these workers: William Bradshaw, John Maxwell, James Frazier, John McColley, John Peter and George Salley, Henry Fuller, Joseph Ryan, John Hutchings, John Hutchings, Jr., John Sprowl, Mathew Vance, Richard Benton, Wm. Burt, John Smith, Joseph Smith, John Allison, Wm. Byers, Richard Mathews, Sampson Mathews, Saml. Walker, Thos. Shaw, Stephen Arnold, John Peteet, Wm. Noble, Saml. Allison.

20 March, 1754
[110] Henry Fuller - common disturber of peace.

pg. 277
25th April, 1754
John Peter Salling and Ann to Sampson Mathews, 180 acres on North Branch, James River; corner Henry Fullers land; corner William Henderson's land. Test: Henry Fuller

pg. 487
22 November, 1754
Sampson Mathews, farmer, to John Mathews, Jr., farmer, 5#, 180 acres on North Branch of James; corner Henry Fuller; corner Wm. Henderson; conveyed to Sampson in May, 1754, by John Peter Salling. Delivered: James Lockhart, June, 1757

pg. 92
25th December, 1754
John Peter Salling's will, farmer, to daughter, Catherine Fooler, 1 shilling; to daughter, Mary Elizabeth Burton, 1 shilling; to John Salling, son of daughter Catherine, that she had soon after she married Henry Fooler, 100 acres known as the Meadow entry. To sons, George Adam and John Salling; to son, John, tract testator lives on, and also tract Peter Crotingal lives on, and horse bought from Joseph Burton, and a horse running at Hart's Bottom., John is infant. Executors George Adam Salling. Test: Jos. Bryan [Ryan], James Randall, Richard Borland? Burton? Boston?. Proved, 19th March, 1755 by Ryan and Randall.

pg. 111
22 May 1755
George Adam Salling's bond as executor of John Peter Salling, with sureties, James McDowell, Robert Renick, Joshua Mathews. [Note - 2 pages, each numbered 112 and 113]

pg. 124
26 July, 1755
John Peter Salling's appraisement

pg. 175
Processioned by Robt. Rennick and John Mathews, Jr., viz: For Henry Fuller, for George Adam Saling, for Alex. Baggs, for John Mathews, Jr. , for Robt. Renick.
pg. 25

26th September, 1760
George Adam Salling, of Cumberland County, North Carolina, and John Salling of Orange County, North Carolina, to John Paxton, 120#, 200 acres, part of 400 patented to John Peter Salling, deceased, 6th July, 1741, and bequeathed in his will to grantors in the first fork of James, corner, George Adam Salling. Delivered: John Paxton, December, 1762

pg. 53
25th September, 1761
Henry Fuller, of Orange County, North Carolina, to John Paxton, 125#, 190 acres on North Branch James River, being the farm where Henry formerly lived. Delivered: John Paxton, December, 1762

pg. 34
24 September, 1762
George Adam Salling, of Orange County, North Carolina, to George Salling, 170#, 200 acres in first fork of James River; cor. John Paxton's land. Test : Andrew Evins, Christopher Vingard. Delivered: Jacob JHickman, 1 June, 1789, by written order from Peter Salling.

pg. 583
10 May 1764
George Adam Salling, of Orange County, North Carolina, and Joseph Burton and Margaret Elizabeth [ ], of Saint Mathew's Parish and upper district of Abenezer in the Province of Gerogie, to Thomas Paxton, millwright, 180#, 200 acres on east side North Branch of James River; Henry Fuller's corner. Test: Nathaniel Evins. Delivered: Thos. Paxton, June, 1766

Salling vs. Salling - O. S. 287; N. S. 101 - Patent, 6th July, 1741, to John Peter Salling [Salley], 400 acres in that part of Orange called Augusta in first Fork of James. Will of George Salling of Rockbridge. Wife, Hannah; son, Henry [infant]; son, Peter; son, George; son, John, six daughters; daughter, Agnes; daughter, Peggy. Recorded in Rockbridge, 2 December, 1778