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Mitchell and Phoebe (Belcher) Clay

 "Torment in Stone"

 Monument to Mitchell and Phoebe (Belcher) Clay

 Princeton, Mercer County, WV


Mitchell Clay died about 1811 on New River. On 24 April 1811, his last will and
testament was returned into court and proven by oaths of Andrew Johnston, John Brown,
and Henry Dillon.

Mitchell and his family were buried in a little cemetery in Pearisburg, Giles County,
Virginia. The farm on which the marker rests formerly belonged to Edward Cooper of
Bramwell. The Celanese Corporation later acquired the land where the cemetery was
located. About March or April 1985, the Celanese Corporation had the graves removed
to the Birchlawn Memorial Park in Pearisburg. It was originally thought that only Mtchell
Clay's grave was to be moved; however, there were 15 graves moved. Only Mitchell
Clay's was marked. The old stone from Mitchell Clay's grave was given to the Giles
County Chapter of the Genealogical Society and is stored in the society's building at
Pearisburg. The new foot type monument, which was to be a bronze one of 72 by 32
was to be furnished by the Celanese Plan. The George Pearis Chapter of the Daughters
of the American Revolution in Giles County was to get the marker erected.

There is a native sandstone sculpture representing Mitchell and Phoebe (Belcher) Clay
standing on the lawn of the courthouse at Princeton, Mercer County, West Virginia. The
sculpture has been referred to as a "Torment in Stone." It represents Mitchell Clay and his
wife in a moment of agony over the massacre of members of their family in 1783.

According to history, Mitchell Clay had settled on Clover Bottom, now the Shawnee Lake
section of Mercer County, in 1775. All went well with the family until August 1783.
Mitchell had harvested his crop of small grain, and wanting to get the benefit of the
pasture for his cattle off the ground on which his grain crop had grown, he asked two of
his sons, Bartley and Ezekiel, to build a fence round the stacks of grain, while he went to
search for game.

While Mitchell Clay was out hunting, the two sons were building fences around the grain. 
The older daughter, along with some of the younger girls, was down at the river bank
putting out the family wash. At the same time, a party of eleven Indians crept up to the
edge of the field and shot Bartley Clay dead.

The girls hearing the shot ran to the house for safety. Their path to the house was directly
crossing where Bartley had fallen. An Indian attempted to scalp the boy and at the same
time capture Tabitha Clay. She was trying to defend the body of her dead brother and
prevent the Indiana from scalping her brother. In this struggle, Tabitha was cut to pieces
by the Indian with a butcher knife. The younger girls made it to the house safely.

About this time, a man named Liggon Blankenship called at the Clay cabin. Mrs. Clay
begged Blankenship to shoot the savage and save the life of her daughter Tabitha. But
Blankenship ran away from the scene and reported to settlers on New River that the Clay
family had been murdered by the Indians.

The Indians got the scalps of Bartley and Tabitha Clay and captured Ezekiel Clay. Mrs.
Clay took the bodies of Bartley and Tabitha to the house and laid them down on the bed.
She took her small children and went to the home of a neighbor James Bailey, about six
miles away.

When Mitchell Clay returned from his hunting trip, he discovered the bodies of his family.
Thinking that all of his family had been killed or captured, he left the cabin and headed for
the settlements on the New River.

A party of men under the leadership of Captain Matthew Farley went to the Clay cabin
and buried the two children. They then pursued the Indian party. They caught up with the
Indians in present day Boone County. Some of the Indians were killed.

The pursuit party consisted of Captain Farley, Charles Clay, Mitchell Clay, Jr., James
Bailey, William Wiley, Edward Hale, Isaac Cole, Joseph Hare, John French, and Captain
James Moore.

Charles Clay, brother of the two murdered children, killed an Indian who begged him in
broken English not to be shot. Ezekiel Clay, the captive, was hurried away by the Indians
who escaped the search party and was taken to the Indian town of Chillicothe, Ohio,
where the third Clay child, Ezekiel, was burned at the stake by the savages.

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