Massacre of James Boone




Death of James BooneBnMrkr.JPG (162938 bytes)

Wallen's Ridge, Stickleyville, VirginiaBnMrkr.JPG (162938 bytes)

10 October, 1773


    In 1773, Daniel Boone made arrangements with Captain William Russell of Castle's Wood in southwest Virginia to lead a group of settlers across the mountains into the rich lands of the Kentucky wilderness.  Boone's party, consisting of his family and closest friends, left their homes in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina traveling to a predetermined point somewhere near Wallen's Ridge, in present day Lee County, Virginia.  Other parties were also preparing for the journey and all were to assemble there as one main body. 

    From somewhere near present-day Abingdon, Virginia, Daniel Boone sent his eldest son, James, in his seventeenth year, and others on to Castle's Wood where they were to inform Captain Russell that Boone's party was en route.  While in Castle's Wood, James' party was to collect food, seed corn, and supplies for the journey.  About nine other young men joined James on the trip through Rye Cove and Kane's Gap towards the main rendezvous point.

    This party consisted of James Boone, John and Richard Mendenhall, Henry Russell (William Russell's son), Isaac Crabtree, Samuel Drake (son of John Drake) and two slaves named Charles and Adam.  Some reports indicate that two other, unidentified men may also have been included in the James Boone party.

    These young men camped for the night near Wallen's Creek, Virginia.  As morning broke on 10 October, they were attacked by Delaware, Shawnee and Cherokee Indians.  Only Isaac Crabtree and Adam escaped.  By early December, the attack was reported in newspapers as far away as Baltimore and Philadelphia.

    For more detailed accounts, please visit the following web sites:

Brenda Coleman's site at

This article by Dr. Charles Drake  Click on Second American Generation in the left had frame.  Information is found in footnote 40 at the bottom of the page.

Daniel Boone in Southwest Virginia "The Story as Told by Lyman Coleman Draper" Edited by James William Hagy


Related Documents


Virginia Highway Marker

    When I was a boy, living in Jonesville, Virginia, a Historic Marker, titled the Death of Daniel Boone's Son, stood on the top of Powell Mountain on the side of Highway 58 between Duffield and Stickleyville, overlooking the valley between Powell Mountain and Wallen's Ridge.  Some time later, this marker was stolen and moved to Thomas Walker, Virginia, which some claimed was the actual site of the attack.  Recently, a new Historic Marker, (full picture) commemorating the event, was placed on Highway 58 in Stickleyville, Virginia, across from Stickleyville School which reads:

"In this valley, on 10 October 1773, Delaware, Shawnee and Cherokee Indians, killed Daniel Boone's eldest son, James, and five others in their group of eight settlers en route to Kentucky.  Separated from Daniel Boone's main party, the men had set up camp near Wallen's Creek.  At dawn the Indians attacked and killed James Boone, Henry Russell, John and Richard Mendenhall (brothers), a youth whose last name was Drake, and Charles (one of two slaves in the party).  Isaac Crabtree and Adam, a slave, escaped.  This event prompted Boone and his party to abandon their first attempt to settle Kentucky."


the Pennsylvania chronicle

    The Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser reported the attack in its publication dated Monday, November 29 to Monday December 6, 1773 (No. 46, of Vol. VII).  The following article appears to be reprinted from a Baltimore newspaper and dated November 27.

"BALTIMORE, November 27.  By a gentleman of credit, lately from New River, in Virginia, we have the following tragical account. - That on the 20th of last month, a party of 10 men, two of whom were Negroes, proceeding on their way from Holton's (sic) River to the great Falls of the Ohio, two of the company went into the woods in quest of game; the rest continued their journey till they arrived at their camp, where, in the night, they were surprised and fired upon by about 25 Indians, supposed to be Cherokees, who killed five of the white men, the sixth escaping, and carried off the two Negroes, with two horses, the property of Captain William Russell.  As the two men who parted from the company have not since been heard of, it is supposed they together with a few families then travelling (sic) towards the Falls, have fallen a prey to those savages.

    A son of Captain William Russell, Mr. Daniel Boone, and the son of Mr. John Drake, all of Virginia, were of the slain."


the Virginia gazette

    The Virginia Gazette also reported the incident on 23 December 1773.

"The following inhuman affair we are assured, from good authority, was transacted on the frontiers of Fincastle about the latter end of September last:-- Captain William Russell, with several families, and upward of thirty men, set out with an intention to reconnoitre (sic) the country, towards the Ohio, and settle in the limits of the expected new government.  A few days after they set out, unluckily the party was separated into three detachments; the main body in the front, with the women and children, and their cattle and baggage; in the center, Captain Russell's son, with five white men and two Negroes; who, the fatal night before the murder, encamped a few miles short of the front.  In the morning, about daybreak, while asleep in the camp, they were fired upon by a party of Indians, who killed young Mr. Russell, and four other white men, and one Negro.  Captain Russell, shortly after bringing up the rear, unexpectedly came on the corps of his son, which was mangled in an inhuman manner; and there was left in him a dart arrow, and a war club was left beside him.  After this unexpected assault, the party, upon getting intelligence, returned to the inhabitants.  It appeared afterwards that the Indians had pursued young Russell's party some considerable distance the day before, and, upon overtaking them, took that defenseless opportunity to perpetuate their barbarity."


the Virginia magazine of history and biography

    An article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, entitled "The British Indian Department and Dunmore's War," mentions the attack.  This transcript is from page 41 of volume 74 printed in 1966.

" . . . Early in 1774 delegates from the Mingo and Delaware conferred with emissaries of the Overhill Cherokee on the Scioto River on measures to be taken in the face of aggression by the whites.  Intertribal war was to cease and a united front presented to the common enemy.  A mission of young Cherokee warriors led by The Raven of Chote was sent northward to negotiate peace among the different tribes, and particularly to resolve the long standing feud with the six nations.  It was singularly ominous for white-Indian relations that the Overhill Cherokee and the Shawnee played leading roles in the negotiations, for these tribes were to be directly involved in two incidents which touched off Dunmore's War.  Both of these incidents developed from attempts by whites to penetrate to Kentucky both by the Ohio River route and overland from the Holston River settlements of southwestern Virginia through the Cumberland Gap.

    In the fall of 1773, Colonel William Russell from the Holston settlements and Daniel Boone from the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina with their families undertook to lead the vanguard of the movement by land to Kentucky.  A party of Indians attacked them in Powell's Valley, however, and drove them back to Virginia where they spent the winter.  In the fight, Henry Russell, James Boone, Samuel Drake and three others lost their lives at the hands of this Indian party numbering fifteen Delaware from Darby's Town, a village lying on the Scioto River.  The band, evidently returning north along the Virginia frontier from a mission to the Overhill Cherokee towns, included two Cherokee and two Shawnee interpreters.  Such episodes were not too uncommon when whites and Indians met beyond the frontier, but this brush seemed particularly significant for some forty Virginia families settled on the Watauga River fifty miles into the Indian country. . ."


the thomas gage collection

    The footnotes included in the previous article mention two depositions from the Thomas Gage papers.  One by Isaac Thomas, a trader to the Cherokee, and Thomas Sharp, a settler in William Russell's company.   The Thomas Gage collection is held in the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. I would like to thank the staff of the Clements Library for providing copies of these depositions.  

    Thomas Gage (1721-1787) was a British General credited with giving the order that started the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.  Gage entered the British Army in 1741, came to America with General Edward Braddock in 1755, and participated in the fighting near Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War.  He was governor of Montreal in 1760 and of the province of Massachusetts in 1774.  Gage was also in charge of the British Department of Indian Affairs.  The Thomas Gage Collection contains letters, reports, depositions and other documents relating to that department.



    This Day came Isaac Thomas (who is a Trader in the Cherokee nation) before me and made Oath on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God.  That sometime about the Latter End of September last, a Party of fifteen Delawares Two Shananese, and Two Cherokees; one of which was a Chief called Honequagh (?) or Big Elk, and the other AHatiskee (?) an Interpreter, between the Shaneanese and Cherokees, and that one of Northwards was called Delaware Jack living in a Town called Darby's Town being on a Branch of Scioto towards muskingum, and this Deponent saith the above described Party, went from the Cherokee Towns together, with an Intention to pass along part of the Frontier of Fincastle on their Way to said Darby's Town: and this Deponent further saith, that he has been told by some of the Cherokees and Joseph Vann the English Interpreter, that it was the above described Party that murdered Henry Russell, James Boon, Samuel Drake, two men of the name of Mendinaul together with a negroe of Captain Russells; and that said Northward Indians came on an Embassy to excite the Cherokees to commence hostilities against the English which the Great Warriour of the Cherokees disapproved of And this Deponent further saith that he verily believes from the Information of the Indians, and others, that it was the above described Party that committed the murder above mentioned. And this deponent further saith not:

Sworn before me February 12th 1774

Arthur Campbell:

the thomas Sharp DEPOSITION


    This Day came Thomas Sharp before me and made Oath on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, that being on Wattaga River, the fifth Day of October last, a party of Northward Indians, together with two Cherokees one of which he says was called the Elk Warriour, which said Indian had a Spur in his Hand, which your Deponent out of curiosity took from him to look at, upon which Spur there were several Scales, one of which your Deponent broke off.  On the Tenth of the same instant, your Deponent set out to Join a Company going with William Russell to Ohio, accordingly your Deponent did Join the said Company, and proceeded on to the head of Powell's River, where the Company had proposed to wait for the said William Russell and some others, who were expected soon after, having waited two Days, one of the Party gave out the Journey, and on his Return home, about Thirty miles from the said Encampment, found three Persons (as he supposed) killed by the Indians, which caused him to return again to the Company, and after being informed of the accident your Deponent with Twelve men went to bury the Dead, after coming to the Place, among many other Indian War Weapons, your Deponent found a Spurr, which he affirms to be the very same he saw the Elk Warriour  have at Wattage:

Sworn before me February the 20th 1774:

W Russell



    The Wilderness Area of Virginia and North Carolina (with present-day landmarks).  Late September, 1773, somewhere near Abingdon, Virginia,  James Boone and others separate from Daniel Boone's main party and travel towards Castlewood.  On 05 October 1773, Thomas Sharp meets Chief Big Elk (Elk Warrior) and a party of Northward Indians on the Watauga River.  Sharp examines a weapon belonging to Big Elk which he is later able to identify.  Early October, 1773, James Boone and party leave Castlewood with supplies and travel through Rye Cove with the intent of rejoining Daniel Boone's main body of settlers.  On 09 October 1773, James Boone's party camps for the night on Wallen's Creek, somewhere near present-day Stickleyville.  Early morning 10 October 1773, Chief Big Elk and others launch a surprise attack against the James Boone camp, killing most of its members.  On 10 October 1773, Thomas Sharp and others proceed on to the head of Powell River where they are to meet Daniel Boone and William Russell.  After two days, a member of this party leaves the company and on his return home, finds the massacred camp.  He returns to the main company with the news and Thomas Sharp along with twelve other men travel to the camp and bury the dead.  While at the camp, Sharp discovers a weapon he had seen in the possession of Chief Big Elk on 05 October 1773.

      Stickleyville on the Lee County side of Powell Mountain.  Wallen Creek meanders through the valley between Powell Mountain and Wallen's Ridge.  James Boone and his party likely made camp along the creek bank near where the current Highway Marker is located.