The Migration of
Robert, Samuel & John McCorkle
from Virginia to Ohio & Kentucky
(The inexorable pull of cheap land)
The will of Samuel McCorkle was dated September 1, 1785 in Augusta County, Virginia. Samuel died near the end of 1788 as his will was probated on December 16 of that year. Samuel left his son Sam Jr. about 80 acres “where he now lives”, so Sam Jr. was probably married at this time. The balance of the “Plantation” was left to his wife Sarah with the stipulation that this property would go to son John “at her decease”. Son Robert received one shilling. Robert married Elizabeth Forrest on May 12, 1785 and John married Elizabeth’s sister Lydia on May 12, 1790. The Forrest’s were from Orange County, North Carolina and, judging from Robert’s Revolutionary War pension application, the couples probably met while Robert and possibly John were in North Carolina on military duty. On September 17, 1793, John and his wife Lydia sold their 256 acres to Jacob Swallow and on September 19, 1797, Samuel Jr. and wife Agnes sold their 80 acres to Michael Hite. Andrew, another son of Samuel Sr., predeceased his father circa 1783. He left two sons, William and Samuel.
The three McCorkles brothers did not seem to make the journey from Augusta County, Virginia to Ohio and Kentucky at the same time. Samuel, John and Robert were listed together for the last time on the 1790 Augusta Tax List. In 1793 Samuel and John were listed. The last Augusta County listing for Samuel was in 1795. On June 18, 1792, Robert was taxed as shown on the Bath County List of James Vance. John joined Robert in 1794 and both were taxed in Bath through 1801. These dates dovetail with the Augusta County dates very well. I have not seen the post-1801 Bath County lists. Samuel McCorkle, one of the two sons of Andrew apparently accompanied John or Robert to Bath County and was married there in 1798.
I have no proof, but I assume that the Samuel and John McCorkle families traveled over the heavily used Great Wagon Road to the Wilderness Trail and on to the Cumberland Trail. This route would have taken them south through the Shenandoah Valley, through Lexington and Abington, Virginia, through the Cumberland Gap to near Boonesboro, Kentucky, where they would have followed the Green River west to Greensburg. In March, 1802 William Barrett and wife sold Samuel McCoekle 200 acres in Green County, Kentucky for £85. On October 10, 1803, William Barret and wife Dorothy sold John McCorkle 655 acres on Medow Creek in Green County for $1627.50. In 1803, Samuel was taxed for 200 acres on Meadow Creek. Also listed were two taxable males 16 to 21 years old. In 1805, Samuel listed two males over 21 and one male 16 to 21. In the same year, John was taxed on 650 acres on Meadow Creek. In 1806, John, the son of Samuel was added to the lists and in 1807, Samuel III was taxed. On February 15, 1807, John bought another tract of 104 acres on Sinking Creek from Joseph Ray and on February 23 of that same year he & Lydia sold their original 655 acres to Robert Mayes for $2000.
Although I have never found any evidence to support the assertion, John McCorkle, husband of Lydia, was supposedly killed May 6, 1814 by renegades while on his way from Kentucky to visit Robert in Ohio. Lydia and her thirteen children soon moved to Missouri. In 1812, the Missouri Territory was organized from the Louisiana Purchase and was admitted to the Union as the 24th state on August 10, 1821. Lydia’s son John stated in a letter (see below) to the Liberty (Missouri) Tribune newspaper that the family moved to Missouri in 1816. A biography of Lydia’s grandson, Nelson Monroe McCorkle, mentions that his father, Alexander, moved to Cooper County, Missouri in 1818. In 1819, Lydia was recorded as a taxpayer in Lincoln County, Missouri and between 1822 and 1824, Lydia and sons Robert, Samuel and John were taxed in Howard County, Missouri. However, not all of Lydia’s family moved at the same time, since son Archibald was taxed in Green County until 1823. On July 15, 1824, Archibald patented 154 acres in Cooper County and on May 25, 1825, his brother Samuel patented 80 acres in Clay County. Samuel went on to acquire over 1000 acres in Clinton and DeKalb Counties and, in 1854, he founded the city of Cameron on the border of these two counties. Over the next 30 years, the grandsons and great grandsons of Samuel and Sarah McCorkle of Augusta County, Virginia recorded over thirty more patents in Clay, Buchanan, DeKalb and Clinton counties. There was no 1830 census of Missouri, but in 1840 most of the family was recorded in Clay and Ray Counties, Missouri. Robert, another child of John and Lydia McCorkle left a will in 1867. However, not all of the McCorkles settled in Missouri. In 1844, George Fristo McCorkle, the grandson of John and Lydia, became the 1st McCorkle to reach the west coast when he and his family made the journey to Oregon by wagon train. (See the George Fristo McCorkle - Oregon Pioneer page)
In 1870, the editor of the Clay County Liberty Weekly Tribune requested that the long-time residents contribute short biographies to the newspaper. A group of these biographies were published under the title of “The Old Men of Clay County”. John McCorkle, one of the sons of John and Lydia was over seventy two when his story was published on September 2, 1870. In the aftermath of the Civil War, emotions were still very raw and many men that were Confederate sympathizers or even suspected sympathizers had been denied the right to vote. This article has been transcribed and reprinted in several books on Clay County. The transcriber usually adds a parenthetical question mark behind John’s mention of “Gen. Lincoln”. But old John knew his history well. General Cornwallis was so embarrassed by his defeat at Yorktown that he sent General O’Hara to present his sword to General George Washington. This breach of protocol resulted in Washington appointing Major-General Benjamin Lincoln as his substitute to accept the symbol of defeat. Washington's choice of General Lincoln must have especially galling to Cornwallis since Lincoln had recently been repatriated from British captivity in a prisoner exchange.
Another John McCorkle, this one the son of Samuel Jr., also moved to Missouri sometime after 1823 when he was last taxed in Green County. He probably traveled with the abovementioned Archibald. While in Green County, John was probably married three times: 1st to Anne Speer, 2nd to Patsy Redmond and lastly to Nancy Wright. On October 26, 1810, John witnessed a deed for property that his father-in-law, Samuel Spear purchased in Green County. He and his family are next found in the 1840 Clinton County, Missouri census, living near his 1st cousins, Samuel and James McCorkle.
On January 12, 1798, Samuel, the son of Andrew McCorkle, married Elizabeth Hicklin in Bath County, Virginia. Samuel was not taxed in Bath, but on April 16, 1799, he was taxed in Greenbrier County and on April 10, 1805 he purchased 260 acres on Muddy Creek from John and Elizabeth Patterson for £170. He and Elizabeth sold this land to John Conner on December 24, 1811, but Sam then acquired 30 acres on Mill Creek from John Caraway on April 24, 1812. He supplemented his Mill Creek holdings in August, 1812 with 105 acres purchased from James and Hannah Baker. Samuel McCorkle was enumerated in the 1820 Greenbrier census with a wife, four boys and two girls; however, he died prior to February 21, 1822, when Elizabeth was bonded as administrator of his estate. At the beginning of the Civil War, western Virginia seceded from the Confederacy and the state of West Virginia was created. Greenbrier was among those counties that ended up in West Virginia. Samuel’s son Sam Jr. and his descendants mainly stayed in western Virginia and southern West Virginia, but the rest of his children (Jane, William, John, Charles and Elizabeth) moved to Vermilion County, Illinois in the 1830s and 1840s. John seems to be the first to move to Vermilion as, on February 3, 1834, he recorded a deed there for land he purchased from Morgan L. Payne on October 28, 1833. John also appears of the 1833 Vermilion County Property Tax List.
In the years 1809 through 1815, Robert McCorkle was taxed in Kanawha County, Virginia. In 1810, Robert, Lydia, five boys and three girls were enumerated in the Kanawha County census. There is no way to tell exactly where in Kanawha the family lived, but the county had been created in 1789 from Greenbrier and Montgomery Counties. Adjoining Kanawha to the west was Cabell County which had been taken from Kanawha in 1809. Across the Ohio River from Cabell was Gallia County, Ohio, the final destination of the Robert McCorkle family. So, in the early 1800s, the McCorkles were fairly close to their future home. However, finding the McCorkle family in this area was something of a shock, because Kanawha was in the middle of some of the most mountainous terrain in Virginia. I had assumed that their migration to Ohio would have followed the Wilderness and Cumberland Trails into Kentucky and hence to Ohio. However, my research into this puzzle uncovered the Kanawha Trace, an Indian trail that is not nearly as well known as the aforementioned trails. The Trace was a much shorter route to Ohio, basically following the New and Kanawha River Valleys from southwestern Virginia to Point Pleasant on the Ohio River. What is most interesting to me is that the Trace crossed the Wilderness Trail very near Blacksburg, Virginia, a place that the McCorkles have left their mark. Point Pleasant was also a location that the McCorkle's knew well as several of the Augusta clan were part of the contingent of Virginia troops that battled a force under the command of the Shawnee chief Cornstalk there in 1774. In fact, General Andrew Lewis, the leader of the Virginias, most likely led his men along the Kanawha Trace to reach the spot that some historians consider the first battle of the American Revolution. However, for the McCorkle family that included several young children, this route undoubtedly would have been a much more arduous journey than the more southerly trail through the Cumberland Gap and eastern Kentucky.
Robert McCorkle’s journey from Augusta County to Ohio took about fifteen years. On February 19, 1807, Polly, the oldest daughter was married to John Morrison in Greenbrier County, Virginia and on January 2, 1811 Robert’s oldest son, James, was married in Montgomery County. So the family lived in Bath, Greenbrier and possibly Montgomery Counties for several years, but in 1810 another marriage took place when the Rev. John Lee married Sarah, the McCorkles 2nd oldest daughter, to John Cantwell in Kanawha County. A John Morison and family were recorded in the 1810 Kanawha census just three listings away from the McCorkle family. Three census pages away from the McCorkle's were John Cantrill and family. The Morrison and Cantwell families continued on to Ohio with the McCorkle's.
Along with Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota, Ohio was part of the Northwest Territory which Congress established as public domain in 1787. The Northwest Territory was the first part of America where modern surveying techniques were extensively used. Lines of latitude and longitude were used instead of the older and very inaccurate system of metes and bounds. Metes and bounds used waterways, paths, roadways, trees and rocks to describe boundaries. This system was the cause of most of the lawsuits found in early American history. Kentucky, which was first a county of Virginia, then a state on June 1, 1792, was surveyed using metes and bounds.
Ohio Territory became the state of Ohio March 1, 1803. Gallia was the southernmost county in Ohio until December 20, 1816, when Lawrence County was organized from the western section of Gallia and parts of Jackson and Scioto counties. The area that the McCorkle's chose to settle in was in the region called the Congress Lands, but very close to the border with another section called the Ohio Company Purchase. Indeed, part of the border between Gallia and Lawrence was formed by the original border between the Congress Lands and the Ohio Company Purchase. Both of these extremely large tracts were the result of the efforts of Congress to pay the debt that was a result of the Revolutionary War. The Congress lands were administered by the U. S. government and land was sold in several land offices in Ohio. Land speculators formed the Ohio Company, then bought a huge tract from the government and attempted to resell smaller plots. Much of this land was sold for $1.00 to $2.00 per acre.
Why the McCorkles and their companions from Virginia chose the Lawrence County region to settle in is somewhat of a mystery to me. This region is quite hilly and mostly unsuitable for farming. The best farming lands are found along the Ohio River and the several larger streams that traverse the area. Most of these lands are subject to spring flooding which can be sometimes severe. In fact, the historical significance of Lawrence County is based on the vast iron deposits that were found there. Lawrence was part of the Hanging Rock Iron Region that flourished in the mid1800s. The Ohio historian, Henry Howe, states that Lawrence “was in 1825 almost an unknown wilderness, in 1845….it had 21 (iron) furnaces”. Mr. Howe spiced his county histories with stories about local inhabitants and his detailed account of a 1828 Lawrence County court action involving “Burning a Bewitched Horse” is interesting on several levels. Henry also relates that “when Lawrence was first organized, the commissioners neglected to lay a tax”. This policy made doing business with the county government difficult, but “eventually, the legislature passed laws compelling the commissions to lay a tax".
The first mention I have found of Robert McCorkle in Lawrence County records was June 7, 1817, when he was appointed as a tax lister (assessor). On October 16 of the same year, Robert was paid a $4.50 fee for Grand Jury service. Robert and Samuel McCorkle are listed on the 1818 Lawrence County Personal Property Tax Lists. In 1820, Robert and his family were enumerated in Union Township, Lawrence County, Ohio. By this time his son James and his family had rejoined the clan and sons Samuel and John had married were enumerated separately. Robert, Samuel and John were taxed for personal property in 1821.
Robert’s home was on 166 acres in the small community of Russell’s Place, which is now called Getaway. This land (Range 16, Township 1, Section 8-NW) was patented August 25, 1816 by Robert Wilson and Thomas Wilson paid the property taxes in 1820 and 1821; however, in 1822 Robert McCorcle was assessed $2.49 in property taxes on this same farm. This is the first record of a real estate tax paid by a McCorkle in Lawrence and Gallia Counties. On January 14, 1825, Robert deeded a small section of the farm to the Union Township School District No. 1 for $1.00 and, on April 12 of the same year, he received a license to operate a ferry across Symmes Creek “at his house and landing”. The 1825 prescribed rates were: man, 6 ¼ cents; man & horse, 12 ½ cents; wagon & horse, 15 cents. After Robert’s death in 1833, the remaining property was divided equally among his ten heirs; however, in 1835, this property was taxed in the name of Thomas Templeton, the husband of Elizabeth, daughter of Robert McCorkle.
Rev. Louis W. McCorkle relates that in 1810 Samuel McCorkle of Green Co., Kentucky “went with his brother Robert to Gallia Co., Ohio, where they bought 2100 acres on Bear Creek at 25 cents an acre in an area which became Lawrence Co., Ohio”. Rev. McCorkle does not document the source of this information and I have never found any evidence at all to corroborate this story. Even in Texas, 2100 acres is a huge amount of land, but there is no record of the McCorkle's patenting or otherwise purchasing this land, nor is there any record of them selling large parcels of property. Additionally, the figure of 25 cents an acre does not reflect the known land prices of the time. It seems that the details of this story are much more a legend than a fact.
Augusta County (Virginia) Clerk, Deed Books 1745-1866, Grantor Index L-R (LDS Film 30336)
City of Cameron, Missouri
Clark, Maria Taylor, Ohio Lands, Chillicothe Land Office, 1800 – 1829, Chillicothe, Ohio, June 1984
Creel, William L., The Creel-Crenshaw-Rigney-Stapp-Stewart- Suedekum Families
Howel, Henry, Historical Collections of Ohio; Containing a Collection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, etc. Relating to its General and Local History with Descriptions of its Counties, Principal Towns and Villages, E. Morgan & Co., 1851
Howe, Henry, Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol. II - Lawrence, C. J. Krehbiel & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1988
Jones, Dennis R., Bath County (Virginia) Personal Property Tax Lists 1791-1801, Bath County Historical Society
Knepper, Dr. George W., The Ohio Lands Book
Kounse, Martha J., McCorkle’s in the Lawrence County; Deed Book 1 & 2 Index 1818 - 1876
Lawrence County Auditor, Lawrence County, Ohio Tax Duplicates 1820-1827 (LDS Film 511785)
Historic Missouri Newspaper Project
McCorkle, Louis W., From Viking Glory: Notes on the McCorkle Family in Scotland & America, Herff Jones Co., Marceline, Missouri, 1982
Ohio, the Crossroad of Our Nation, Vol. 31, No. 1, The Ohio Genealogical Society, Mansfield, Ohio, Spring 1991
Shuck, Larry G., Greenbrier County (Virginia) Deed and Will Records, 1992
Shuck, Larry G., Greenbrier County (Virginia) Records, Iberian Publishing Co., Athens, Georgia, 1989
Vermilion County Museum Historical Photos
Vermilion County (Illinois) Recorder, Deed Records 1832-1978, Grantee Index L-M (LDS Film 1316705)
Virginia Commissioner of Revenue (Kanawha County), Personal Property Tax Lists 1792-1850 (LDS Film 2024596)
Volkel, Charlotte A., et al., Tax and Land Records, Vermilion Co., State of Illinois, Illiana Genealogical Publishing Co., Danville, Illinois (LDS Film 0928107)
Virginia History Journal Vol. 56, "Manufactured
History: Re-Fighting the Battle of Point Pleasant",
West Virginia Archives and History,
Wilderness Road Regional Museum
Wilson, Marcius, American History: Comprising Historical Sketches of the Indian Tribes, Ivison & Finney, Chicago, 1857
Wright, Barbara, Abstracts of Green County Kentucky Deed Books 3 & 4 1801 - 1806
Wright, Barbara, Abstracts of Green County Kentucky Deed Books 5 & 6 1806 - 1814
To be continued
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Revised Feb 18, 2012