Augusta County, VA Homicides Involving Indians

From the paper, “Augusta County Homicides” on the server.

The following three homicides are recorded and extracted from various records as having occurred in Augusta County and involving Indians.

I wonder if Standking Turke is Standing Turkey, misspelled.


1742, Dec. 18                                                              Augusta Co.

Class:   do not count


Rela:    NONDOM



Time of day:

Days to death:

WAR:  French & Indians v. English settlers.  Indians lost 8 or 10 men; English lost Capt. McDowell (of the Augusta Co. militia) & 8 or 9 men.

Legal records:

Council, 12/31/1742:  a body of Indians with some white men (supposed French) killed & carried off the settlers horses.  Militia mustered.  Came up on them & sent forward a man “with a signal of Peace which man they killed on the Spot & fired on the white People which they returned.”  45 minute battle.  Council orders mobilization of militias in Orange & Fairfax counties, relief to the widows of the slain, etc.  (112-113)

Wilmer L. Hall, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia (Second Edition), v. 5:  Nov. 1, 1739-May 7, 1754 (Richmond:  Virginia State Library, 1967), 112-113.


BGAZ 12/10/1759 (M):  WAR in VA:  Augusta Co.  dtl Williamsburg, 11/9:  informed from Carr’s creek in Augusta Co, that on 10/10, a party of Indians with 2 Frenchmen appeared in that neighborhood.  “They murdered, with shocking Barbarity, ten Persons, men Women, and Children, took 11 Prisoners, burnt six Farms, killed the Cattle, and carried off all the Horses, loaded with the Goods of the People killed and captivated.”


1765, May 8                                                                Augusta Co.

Class:   certain


Rela:    NONDOM

Motive:  REVENGE

HOM:  Englishmen m. one Cherokee chief & Choconante (a young fellow, son of the Standking Turke, who was for some time chief of the Cherokee Nation) & 4 other Cherokees, near Staunton, in the morning.

HOM RETALIATION:  a few days later, two of the surviving Cherokee m. an old blind man & his wife near Staunton.

Circumstances:  outhouse on the plantation of John Anderson / victim’s home

Indictment:  no

Court proceedings:  escaped from custody / fled

Legal records:

John Pendleton Kennedy, ed., Journals of the Burgesses of Virginia, 1761-1765 (Richmond, 1907), xx-xxiv.

Scott, Criminal Law in Colonial Virginia, 90-1.


Letter from Col. Andrew Lewis to Governor Francis Fauquier, d. Augusta Co., 5/9/1765:  On 5/5 a party of Chrokees came from “our frontiers” to Staunton, “some of them I was perfectly acquainted with.”  Told AL they intended to go to Winchester & asked for a pass, “as they were from thence to go to war against the Ohio Indians, and was to meet some other warriors beyond Fort Cumberland.  The want of an Interpreter prevented my making them sensible that their travelling thro’ our country, even with a pass, where they might not be known, would be attended with danger on their part.  However on finding them determined to go, after they had refreshed themselves two nights, they were provided with proper colours and a pass..  There was ten in number their two principal men’s names was Nocoknowa and Chocanantee.  They marched about five miles and lodged in an outhouse on the plantation of one John Andersons.  Yesterday morning as soon as it was light a party of villianous bloody minded rascals, notwithstanding they knew they were Cherokees and had a pass, attacked them in the most treacherous manner, killed their Chief and four more on the spot, and wounded two more.”  The five who escaped have “taken the woods” and are doubtless returning home.  AL sent a letter via Col. Chiswell to the Over the Hill Towns (from which the party came) asking the Cherokee not to go to war & promising them “that your Honour will undoubtedly take every just means to give them satisfaction by ordering the murderers to be apprehended and put to death, and desire them to take no rash steps.

From what I can learn the number of the villians [sic] that committed this murder is between 20 and 30; the names of the two ringleaders is William Cunningham and John King; one of the party was wounded by an arrow, to wit James Clendening; he was taken & afterwards rescued by the others before he reached the goal.  No doubt but it will be your Honour’s pleasure that those fellows may be brought to justice, and will send me instructions what steps to take, with warrants signed by your Honour.  Inclosed you have a copy of the ltter I sent to the Chiefs of the Over Hill Towns.”  (xx)

Letter from Gov. Francis Fauquier to Col. Andrew Lewis, d. Williamsburg, 5/14/1765:  re:  “your letters containing the melancholy account of the barbarous attack on the Cherokee Indians . . . .”  Laid them immediately before the Council & House of Burgess, who were then sitting.  “You can better conceive than I describe the shock they received at the news, and the abhorrence and detestation they expressed of so inhuman an action.  They dread bad consequences and have taken all possible measures in their power to avert them.  If this is the conduct of your young men, with what face can they complain of Indians who are more than Indians themselves?  Can they produce greater instances of brutality and perfidy among the most barbarous Nations?  Yet I imagine if any Indians should appear on our frontiers they would be among the first to call for protection, and by militia to put this Colony to the expence of twenty or thirty thousand pounds to defend them.  I would ask themselves whether they deserve protection?  and if hereafter they should be left to fight their own quarrels with the Indians without the lower parts of the Colony interfering in their disputes, they have no one to blame but themselves.  I wish your County were made sensible of the risque they run of losing their property if not their lives by following and permitting these atrocious practices.  But it is time to quit the disagreeable part of this affair, and see what is to be done to stop the impending dangers which threaten us.”  Supports the “prudent measures” AL has taken — tells him to “spirit up all the other Magistrates to use theirs” to apprehend “the rest of these villians, and when an examining Court (as the law directs) has been held upon them, to raise and arm as many men as you can safely depend upon, and as are necessary to escorte them down to this gaol, to prevent a risque.”  Asks AL to disperse (distribute) the Gov’s proclamation & the Resolve of the House of Burgresses.  Gov. has sent Abraham Smith with an express letter to the Cherokees.  Tells AL to tell the high sheriff of the county, Silas Hart, that it is the Governor’s “earnest desire that he would himself impannel a jury to try these Criminals, out of the Gentlemen of the County which are most distinguished by their property knowledge impartiality and integrity; and not leave it to the Under Sherif, who may probably summon ignorant men who have little property or no property to lose, and of course hav less reason to dread as they have less ability to foresee consequences.”  Obliged to AL for the “zeal” he has “exerted on this occasion.”  (xxi)

Gov. Francis Fauquier to the Cherokees, sent express, d. Williamsburg, 5/16/1765:  expresses sympathy, promises action.  (xxii)

Col. Andrew Lewis to Gov. FF, d. Augusta Co., 6/3/1765:  Editor says:  AL had arrested 3 of the suspects, but one was rescued & the other 2 were given their freedom by the jailor, in whose custody they were entrusted.

AL says he had taken James Clendening and Patrick Duffy, but JC was rescued before he reached the prison.  PD was in prison 3 nights, but on the 4th “not less than one hundred armed men posted themselves round the prison, some of them entered the house of the gaoler and demanded the key of the prison; it being refused them, they, after using some violence and many threats, with axes broke the Prison door and carried off the said Duffy, declaring . . . that they had most of the County to back them, and that they would never suffer a man to be confined or brought to justice for killing of Savages.”

Depositions taken.  Have identified some of those involved in the murders:  William Cuninghame & John King were the “ringleaders”; William Young, James Cledening, Alexander Robertson, Patrick Duffy, Charles Baskins, Hugh Baskins, & William Anderson were among the party.  Warrants made out, but says he must jail suspects directly at Wmsb, because he can’t hold them in jail in Augusta Co.

Near the place of the murder, another Cherokee found dead:  a young fellow called Choconante, son of the Standking Turke, who was for some time chief of the Cherokee Nation.  Fears the Cherokee will look for satisfaction “in their own way.”  “However in justice to the people that live on our frontiers I must say they had no hand in it.  When they first discovered the Indians they collected some armed men, whoe went to the Indians, and on their finding them to be by all likelyhood Cherokees, they not only suffered them to pass to Staunton, but sent from place to place a white man with them.

Some days after the murder was committed, a poor unhappy blind man and his wife was killed by two of the Indians that made their escape.  This indeed is noi more than what I expected, that they would behind them a mark of resentment.”

A proclamation issued by the “Augusta Boys” on June 4, 1765, offering a reward of 1000 l. for the arrest of Col. Andrew Lewis, & claiming the murders were justified, since the victims were not Cherokee, but Shawnee & Delaware.

”  We Augusta Boys in heart are and do profess ourselves His present Majesty’s (King George the Third) true and leige subjects, and unhappy we being on this very verge of His Majesty’s Dominion, have, by the unparalleled deceit of an infidious and ruel heathen enemy been repeatedly distressed, and find it impracticable to maintain the legal rights granted us by HIs Majesty, and think it expedient to act in the offensive when any of those our known enemies presumes under the pretence of friends (without a warrantable pass) to pass among us.”  Claims that some of the party of ten they recently attacked was “known and proved to be” Shawnee & Delaware.”

Offer 1000 l. to bring Col. Andrew Lewis to justice; 500 l. each for Dr. William Fleming & Capt. Wm Crow of Staunton.  “And we do further offer a pardon to Lieut Michael Thomas and Luke Bowyer if they, each for himself provide a string of beads &c. that they may live as formerly without depending alone on the smiles of Col. Lewis, otherwise let them instantly repair out of our Sovereign’s Dominions to that of their desired French King.

Our hearts are true unto our Kings.

And means all rebels down to bring.”  (xxiv)

Editor:  (xxiv):  Gov. Fauquier wrote to the Board of Trade on 6/14/1765 admitting that the Colony did not possess the strength to enforce the law in Augusta Co.  He further stated that [in ed’s words] “the wiser course to pursue was to be extremely prudent, rather than attempt vigorous action in Augusta County.”  A nearly universal feeling in that section that the presence of the Indians was intolerable; & the Gov. noted that the Paxton Boys of Pennsylvania had sent a message to the people of Augusta Co. saying that if they were not strong enough to rescue the persons arrested for murdering Indians, that assistance would at once be forwarded from Pennsylvania.  The conflict did not end until 1775, when all the disputed territory became Crown lands.

John Pendleton Kennedy, ed., Journals of the Burgesses of Virginia, 1761-1765 (Richmond, 1907), xx-xxiv.

“Fearing the political consequences of an unwarranted acquittal,” Gov. Fauquier asked the high sheriff to impanel a jury composed of ‘Gentlemen of the County who are most distinguished by their property knowledge impartiality and integrity.’  Feared ‘ignorant men who have little or no property to lose, and of course have less reason to dread as they have less ability to foresee consequences.’

Scott, Criminal Law in Colonial Virginia, 90-1.

Council, Minutes, 5/13/1765:  Letter from Col. Andrew Lewis “giving a relation of some Cherokees being murdered by our people etcetera.”  Reward for capture of the “promoters” of the said murder & for those “aiding therein.”  (683)

Proclamation, 5/13/1765:  The victims were members of a party of Cherokees murdered on their way from Staunton (in Augusta Co.) to Winchester.  Had received a pass from Col. Lewis for that purpose.  Proclamation uses strong language to condemn the murders.  (600)

Benjamin J. Hillman, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, v. 6:  June 20, 1754-May 3, 1775 (Richmond:  Virginia State Library, 1966), 600, 683.


CC, 6/17/1765:  dtl Philadelphia, 6/6:  HOM in VA:  hear from Virginia that a party of Cherokee Indians had arrived at Stanton, in Augusta Co., on their way to Winchester, having a pass from Col. Lewis.  On their way thither, attacked by upwards of 20 men:  their chief, with 4 more Indians, were killed, & 2 others wounded.  Proclamation:  reward offered for murderers.

Accused:         unknown Englishmen & Indians

Victims:  6 Cherokees and 2 Englishmen (an old blind man & his wife)

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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