JOHN HACKER OF THE VIRGINIA MILI

JOHN HACKER OF THE VIRGINIA MILITIA

BY JOY GILCHRIST-STALNAKER

(FROM HACKER'S CREEK JOURNAL

VOLUME XX, ISSUE 2, 2002, pp. 26-33)

Today, with the advent of copy machines and the internet, half-truths and traditions are perpetuated and repeated until they become gospel - even more so than in the days when "But Grandma said" was the primary source for proof of various aspects of our ancestors' lives.  Then there are the genealogies compiled by "Aunt Sue" or "Uncle Jim", the memberships in the patriotic socities - DAR, SAR, the War of 1812, Sons of the Union Veterans, Confederate Daughters of America, etc. - or an article in a 1920s or 1930s era newspaper that is cited as proof of a man's or woman's life activities.  Sometimes it is an old history book like Chronicles of Border Warfare or Border Settlers of Northwest Virginia that is touted.  Other times it is a historic roadside marker.

All of this can be especially disturbing to the serious historian or genealogist who seeks the ultimate truth - proof-positive that Grandpa John was who we believe him to be and did what "everyone" says he did.  And it is never more frustrating than when that dedicated researcher travels hundreds of miles and spends countless hours and many dollars to find the primary source documents to prove or disprove a statement, publishes his or her research, and then finds that same old false story quoted again and again in newer publications as gospel truth with no reference whatsoever to his or her newer discovery.

Here's hoping that the story I am about to share is one that does not follow this disturbing and frustrating trail - particularly since it directly affects the lives of so many members of HCPD, the lives of all those who descend from John Hacker (1743-1824), first permanent white settler of today's Lewis County, West Virginia, and who claim that he was a Revolutionary soldier because of service with George Rogers Clark in 1778.  This service is memorialized on a historic marker along with Hacker's Creek Road between Jane Lew and Berlin, West Virginia, and perpetuated in numerous approved applications for membership in the D.A.R., S.A.R., and S.O.R.  I, like many of you, fell for the story, submitted my application to D.A.R. as John Hacker's g,g,g,g granddaughter and was approved.  What is worse, I was guilty of perpetrating a falsehood even though I had documents pointing in another direction and whose portent had not penetrated my brain.

Now after considerable thought and investigation and as the recipient of some careful research by David Armstrong of Elkins, West Virginia, who is related to the Hackers through a collateral line, I propose and believe that while the Lewis County pioneer John Hacker (hereinafter referred to as Pioneer Hacker) did serve in the Revolution, his service was not with Clark on his trek to Vincennes but rather was with Captain James Booth in 1777 in "a company of Militia in defence (sic) of the western frontier of West Augusta."1

I suspect that the errant story had its beginning back in 1895 when Lyman Draper annotated Alexander Scott Wither's Border Warfare and adds a footnote to John Hacker that "this....meritorious pioneer...served on Col. George Rogers Clark's Illinois Campaign of 1778..." (page 121 of our copy in the library).  Clark's muster and payrolls have been preserved and were published by the Kentucky Historical Society in the 1980s.  Those records are for the service of another man named John Hacker who served as a matross2 with Clark and appeared on the muster and payroll of Captain Robert George's Company Artilery (sic) in the Service of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Illinois Department from the first day of September 1782 to the thirty-first day of January 1783.This John Hacker enlisted 4 March 1780. Others serving with him were Robert George, Buckner Pittman, John Moore, William Pritchet, Josiah Smyth, John McGarr, John Oakley, Abraham Miller, Matthew Johnes, Peter Priest, Christopher Coonts, William Pusley, Andrew Canoce, Josiah Pruet, Isham Floyd, Nicholas King, George Venshener, John Hazzard, James Ramsey, John Smothers, and Joseph Cubbage.

I have studied the settlers of northwestern Virginia for nearly thirty years and do not recognize even one of these names as being from the area where Pioneer Hacker lived.  While this statement cannot be considered as proof, it is a clue since individuals of those times, and particularly family men such as Pioneer Hacker, tended to serve with others they knew and trusted.

Efforts to identify Clark's Matross John Hacker led to two other men of the name.  The first, according to emails to me from Alexis Hacker Scholz in March 2002, was from Sumner County, Tennessee, and appeared on the tax list there in 1789.  According to https://sites.rootsweb.com/~tnsumner/cisco2.htm, this man was killed by Indians on Drake's Creek, Sumner County, in 1793.  The second, referred to by some descendants as John Matross Hacker, because of his military service, but called by Hacker Scholz "John from Kentucky," was married to Massie Spread and was a son of Julius Hacker, a 1770s German immigrant, and his wife Martha Bealls (Beeler/Beuhler).  He applied for a pension for Revolutionary service on 13 May 1850 from Perry County, Kentucky, at age 82, saying that he lived in Sullivan County, Tennessee, at enlistment.  His pension was denied because his service was in the Northwest Indian War.6

Further basis for the Pioneer Hacker-Clark story probably lies in a file compiled by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and preserved in the West Virginia Archives Revolutionary War records.  This typescript, written by an unknown author, says that Pioneer Hacker was "probably with George Rogers Clark."

By some means, the Hacker-Clark story became "fact" and was cast in steel as a West Virginia Historical Marker sometime after 1969 but before 1982.7  Because records for the creation of this marker have not been located, I have been unable to determine how the story became "fact."  Even more interesting to me, since Pioneer Hacker's wife, Margaret (Sleeth), is buried beside him in a marked grave not more than six-hundred feet north of the historic marker, is the reference to her on the marker as "Mary."

In 1956, J.W. Smith, a great-grandson of Pioneer Hacker, visited the Virginia State Library, and recorded the following documents from H.J. Eckenrode {Archives.  List of Revolutionary Soldiers, and Vol. 2 "Lewis Pets. Dec. 13, 1819" (B1381)}.

 

"To the Honorable the General Assembly of Virginia."

"The petition of John Hacker humbly sheweth that in the year 1777 he served ninety one days under the command of Captain James Booth who commanded a Company of Militis in defence (sic) of that part of the (then western frontier of West August which now comprises the Counties of Harrison and Lewis, during which time he, your petioner (sic), furnished his own rations as will appear by a discharge accompanying this petition.

"Your petitioner has never received any pay either for the services or rations aforesaid and begs leave, therefore, to remind your honorable body that his claims originated at a time when individual happiness was abandoned as well by himself as thousand of his brave Countrymen who sought the liberty and independence of this our beloved country in the field.  And although your petitioner was not employed immediately against the British Arms he was defending the western frontier against their merciless allies, the Savages, whose known rule of warfare is such as to render the service more fatiguing and dangerous than to meet a civilized foe in the field of battle.

"Your petioner (sic) is now old and infirm, standing, as it were, on the brink of the grave, and hopes that, while tottering downward to the time when all earthly comforts and enjoyments shall be to him of no avail, the hand of justice may be opened so as to smoth (sic) the latter end of his journey through life and make it a contrast to the first.  Then may she smile and say 'Though I have heretofore sided in placing in your road, I will now strew it with roses.'

"Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that a law be passed affording him ample relief, and he as in duty bound will ever pray &c.

"John Hacker"8

John's signature

 

---000---

"This 25th day of November, 1819, personally appeared before me, a justice of the peace in and for Lewis County, John Hacker, and made oath that he never received pay for any part of the service referred to in the petition of said Hacker.

"Given under my hand

John McWhorter, j.p."

---000---

The document was found by David Armstrong in Richmond in 2001 and is the original of the document transcribed by Smith.

"Lewis County to wit"

"Personally appeard (sic) before me, a justice of the peace in and for said County, James Keith, and made oath that he knew James Booth to be a Militia Captain Commanding a Company in West Augusta in 1776 or 77.

Sworn to before me this 29th day of November 1819.

"John Mitchel, J.P., L.C."

---000---

Copy of  Booth's orginial statement

"This is to certify that John Hacker served under my command ninety one days and furnished his own provisions.  This is therefore to discharge him from said service, as witness my hand this 13th day of July, 1777.

"James Booth"

Endorsed on the above document:

"There are nobooks or papers in this office to show that the petitioner was in service, nor is anything to show that he ever received pay.  Can only say that I have never paid this claim."

"John Barfoot

"Aud. Off. 13 Dec. 1820"

(And the Charles Martin document)

One other note concludes Smith's research.  It is from Eckenrode and indexed as "H.D. Dec. 1819, 20-91."

"Resolved, also, as the committee is of this opinion, that the petition of John Hacker stating, that in the year of 1777, he served ninety one days as a private, under the Command of Captain James Booth who commanded a Company of Militia in defence (sic) of the western frontier of West Augusta, and furnished his own rations, for which he has never received compensation and praying same, is reasonable."

These documents as found by Smith and verified by Armstrong are primary proof that John Hacker, the pioneer, served with Captain James Booth.  However, by themselves, they do not prove that he WAS NOT with Clark also.  That conclusion must be drawn from other documents, documents that place him in Monogalia County9 between 1 Septemgber 1782 and 31 January 1783, the dates for which Clark's Hacker is found on the Clark payroll in a location other than Monongalia County.  It comes in the form of a signed petition dated 12 November 1782 and bearing not only Pioneer Hacker's signature but those of other area residents which was found by Armstrong in the Virginia State Library in 2001 and which appears immediately after this article.  In support of this proof, it should be noted that there was only one John Hacker of an age to sign a petition living in the area in 1782.  John Jr., the son of the pioneer, was only nine, having been born in 1773.  Additionally, while Pioneer Hacker might have traveled back from wherever Clark's troops were at the time, it is a very slim possibility, particularly since it was winter and a visit home would not have been in order at that time.

When I first became aware of the circumstances surrounding Pioneer Hacker's service, I began to stew.  What should I do?  Should I contact D.A.R?  How would it affect the application of others?  So, I went straight to the proverbial horse's mouth.  I wrote a email to Christina Rumbach, who was HCPD's executive director in the mid 1990s and who is currently a genealogist with the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C.  She said that the next person who applied using Pioneer Hacker's service should explain the facts and submit the documentation as we now know it to be, that I and others like me would not be removed from membership.  In essense, she said, "Don't worry; be happy!"  And that's what I am doing - especially now that I have shared the story with all of you.

 

MONONGALIA COUNTY PETITION - 12 NOV 1782

VIRGINIA STATE LIBRARY

Submitted by David Armstrong

To the Honorable the Speaker and Other they Members of the House of Delegates now convened at Richmond the petition of sundris the inhabitants of Monongalia County humbly showeth

That your petitioners having seen a law laying a special tax on this County begs leave to assure you that our condition is such that specie cannot be raised in the county as there is (comparatively speaking) none amongst us notwithstanding we would be far from wishing to be exempted from bearing part of the state debt in proportion to our ability and as it appears by instructions given by his excellency the Governor to the Lieutenant of this county to call upon sundris of th commissn for specific tax on the East of the Mountain for supplies for the militia in actual service for the defense of the frontier the transportation of which _______________ the state with considerable expense which greevance we humbly conceive might be removed by allowing us to pay our tax on such specific articles as may be necessary for this or similar purposes which would at the same time render us useful members of the state which under our present circumstances cannot possibly be not having specie nor no way of raising it to pay our present assesment we therefor humbly submit the matter to the wisdom of your honorable house praying that if you shod think it consistent with the general interest of the state you may have the needful done for our relief

 

W. Pettyjohn Wm John
Charles Martin James Johnston
F. Warnan Samuel Ruble
John Evans Willm Haymond
Joseph Neil John ?Ramry? Sr
Wm Mcleary John ?Ramry? Jr
David Scott James Cockran
John P. Duvall John Ferry
Thos Hughes John Low
?Booz Barmwire? John Hardin
John Radcliff Edmund West
Hez Daviisson Benjamin Shinn
Michel Isnert Robert Park
Geo Jackson David Evans
John ?Vichansy? John Goodwin
Jos Ross Jonathan Bozarth
Edmund Freemund Jeremiah Simpson
Thos Pindle Daniel Fink
Lemuel John Zack Morgan
John Hacker Jacob Youngman
Samuel Minifield Robert Bennett
Peter ?Copono? James Currant
John Simson Hedgman Triplett
Wm Lowther Thomas ?Evins?

 

 

NOTES:

1Journal of House Documents, December 1819, pages 20-91, Virginia State Library, Richmond, VA, as files in FA-31, Hacker, Central West Virginia Genealogy and History Library, Horner, WV.

2A matross was a gunner.

3Harding, Margery Heberling, George Rogers Clark and His Men Military Records 1778-1784, Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, pp. 156-157.

4Bergin, Wm. E., Major General, USA, The Adjutant General, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., Letter to Mrs. Hiram N. Lynch, 13 April 1953.

5Harding, op.cit.

6White, Virgil D., Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume II: F-M, National Historical Publishing Company, Waynesboro, TN, 1991, p. 1464.

7Conversation with and research of Fredrick H. Armstrong, Director, West Virginia Archives.

8This is a photocopy of the "original" signature as found on the original copy in Box 138 Folder 12 by David Armstrong at the Virginia Library in 2002.  A photocopy of the original copy of the document is in possession of the author and will be placed in the Central West Virginia Genealogy and History Library.

9Monongalia County was formed from West Augusta County in 1776.  Harrison County was formed from Monongalia County in 1784 and Lewis was formed from Harrison in 1817.

 

 

 

L.L. Kight, 2006