Archibald Handley, about 1730-1797

Archibald Handley, father of Jean/Jane Handley Leach
Biography | Notes | Children | Will

This thesis is a composite of the works of many Handley researchers, along with unusual bits of information scoured by me from the Augusta, Botetourt, and Greenbrier Counties, Virginia land and court records,etc.

Most researchers accept that Archibald was born about 1730 of Scots-Irish heritage.There is some disagreement as to who his father was. Some think that his father was William Handley, though most agree that his father was John Handley (1st) and his mother was Grizel or Greselda (unknown).

According to the works of Mary Mortimer and Richard Hopkins, Archibald was one of six siblings; John(2nd), b.about 1720, Archibald, b. about 1730, Elizabeth, b. about 1732 or 33, Alexander, William , b. about 1738, and James b. about 1740. If these birth dates are somewhat accurate all of these children were born in Ireland.

It is likely that Archibald was born earlier than 1730. Found in the Greenbrier County Early Court Minutes , 1780 - 1801, dated October 18,1785 is a record stating that Archibald Handley was exempt from working on highways account of age. At this point it is not known what the minimum age for an old age exemption for public works and paying tithes or taxes was during these years. Making a wild guess I would suggest that age sixty would be likely. If so, this would cause Archie's birth year to be around 1725.

The Handley brothers, William and John (1st), were most likely the sons of a James Handley. It is unknown when the first family of Handleys arrived in Ireland from Scotland. But the first Scotch settlers were relocated from Scotland as recruits along with English farmers by the English Crown to help rid the country of the Papist Catholics. These Scots or Scotch-Irish, as they were later called, were mainly sheep farmers and raisers of flax. Odd moments wrestled from their farms were spent weaving their wool and flax crops for cash sale to support their families and their church of choice, the Presbyterian Church.

Oral family history has it that eventually the Handley family gravitated to the County of Roscommon located in the Province of Connachet, Western Ireland. (Kit Goodwin)

After not too many generations these folk, tenant farmers at best, were persecuted because of their religion and were forced to pay heavy taxes as a result of their occupations. England controlled the wool and linen markets and as a result hiked the taxes up on the Irish textile markets in favor of the English markets. The living conditions got so bad that these transplanted Scots began to leave Ireland, many to the new world.

As the story continues, when James Handley and his sons, William and John, and their families decided to leave for the North American colonies they made the trip from Roscommon County to Belfast, Northern Ireland on foot - a remarkable feat though not unusual for the times and living conditions of this era. (Goodwin)

Having been persecuted for their religion in Ireland these emigrants avoided the northern colonial ports and their Purtian religions and the southern ports where the established Church of England was in power. So their port of choice was the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. These Quakers were somewhat more tolerant of these Ulster men and their religion. Even though the early citizens of Pennsylvania considered the newcomers rough and boorish, they were tolerated.

The Handley brothers, William and John, their families and their father James arrived in Pennsylvania about 1741.If you accept that Archibald's birth year as 1730 he would have been about eleven when they arrived in Pennsylvania. If you like my assessment of his birth year he would have been closer to sixteen.

The Handley brothers first appear in New Castle County, Delaware records about 1745, and there are claims that the Handleys spent an unknown period of time in both North and South Carolina, dates and locations are unknown and unproven.

"John and William Handley, weavers by trade, on March 14,1746, executed their bond(borrowed of) to Charles Tennett of Mill Creek Hundred and County of New Castle, Minister of Gospel for 26 pounds 18 shillings" (Va. Magazine of History and Biography Vol 31, pg 249).

In 1746, the Handleys settled in Virginia on the Staunton River.

"Bond witnessed by Thomas Cochran, Margaret Cochran and William Mc Cue, or Mc Cord. On January 1748, Mr. Tennett assigned this note to Thos. Boggs, who in turn assigned the note to Thomas Thompson of Augusta County, Virginia. Mr. Thompson and the Handleys moved to Augusta County prior to 1755, See Thompson vs. Handly Court Papers 401".

"John (1st) Handley's name first appeared in the official records for Augusta County,Virginia, on November 26, 1751, this was the date of the deed in which he bought 257 acres from Benjamin Border for 15 pounds. This land is located on Broad Spring Run (Back Creek) adjoining the land of Joseph Kennedy (Northern area of present Rockbridge County, Virginia)."

From the beginning of the French and Indian war in 1753 up to the close of the war in the year 1763, the border country from the lakes to the mountains of North Carolina was scourged by Indian forays and incursions, and the few inhabitants were kept in almost constant fear. During all of this turmoil Archibald found time to court and marry Jean Henderson about 1758. Their first child, a daughter, Sarah Ann (also called Sally) was born on March 16,1759. This birth was quickly followed up by the birth of their only son James in about 1760. The names of the rest of their family are as follows: Jean,a.k.a. Jane, b. 1771, Ann b. about 1775, Griselda b. (date unknown), Marey (As spelled in Archie's will) b. about 1782.

When local militias were activated to punish these marauders, Archibald Handley and a friend John Stewart partnered up and bought a team of horses and became civilian teamsters hauling supplies and the wounded for these soldiers in their campaign across southwest Virginia to rid the region of these pests. This action is the first of many areas of civic responsibility that Archie was to undertake during the following years of his life.

It is unknown when the date was that Archie and Jean found the land that was to become their farm on the Cow pasture River. What is known is that it was located on the northwest bank of the river and that this tract was composed of fifty eight acres. Other facts are sketchy and the few that are available ( Tax Records) causes me to believe that this farm was located just a few miles upstream from the river's junction with the headwaters of the James River and just a short way from the present day village of Iron Gate, Virginia, located on the adjoining Jackson River.

From the few notes found in the Deed Abstract of this property Archie had chosen well. He had 3400 feet of river frontage and a good mix of trees for use in building his farmstead and farm. While his livestock likely pastured in the surrounding woods he would have needed to fence the cropland on this farm using rails split from the surplus trees harvested while clearing the fields.

In the fall of 1759, some of the Cherokee Indian allies of the British were returning home from the siege of Fort Duquene were attacked by settlers living near an outpost fort located in present day eastern Tennessee called Fort Louden. These settlers thought that the returning Indians were on a horse stealing expedition. A dozen or so Braves were killed. This action outraged the Cherokee Tribe and they went on the warpath and began killing the local settlers. This forced the settlers to flee to the fort, all communication and supplies were cut off by these Indians.

While part of the war party kept Fort Louden under siege the remainder of the warriors rampaged through the hills and mountains of Southwestern Virginia. The following year, 1760, Colonel William Byrd was dispatched to deal with this problem. His goal was to raise a militia of 600 men to put down this uprising and to save the settlers at Fort Louden. These Riflemen were slow to report, so in the mean time Colonel Byrd put the early arrivals to work widening the Wilderness Road from the New River on to the Long Island located on the Holsten River. It is entirely possible that Archie and his neighbor John Stewart were involved in this endeavor. Court records show that they partnered up and bought a team of horses and became teamsters for this campaign across southwest Virginia and to save the beleaguered settlers at Fort Louden. By the time Byrd and his forces arrived at the fort these people were all killed or captured.

On the 14th of November, 1762, Archie's parents, John and Grizel Handley bought 300 acres of land from James and Jane Simpson just across the Cowpasture River, to the southeast of Archie and Jean's farm. His parents and unknown other members of his family were now the neighbors of Archie and Jean.

The French and Indian wars were over in 1763. The Troops and Militia members were sent home. During the September, 1763 court for Augusta County, John Stewart sued Archie over the ownership of their team of horses. What the disposition of this case was has not been learned. (Chalkley's Chronicles)

On the 11th of August, 1772 Archie and Jean sold their farm to John Henery Insminger for fifty-five pounds current money of Virginia. With this transaction completed the Handley's were prepared to move west to what is now Monroe County, West Virginia. Before they were able to move on, the 10th of September Botetourt County Court ordered Archie and three other men who were also moving west were " sworn to view the nighest and best way from Sweet Springs to John Handley's(farm) located at the head of Indian Creek and to make a report to the next term of Court. (This John Handley was Archie's cousin and the son of William Handley Sr.)

The distance from Sweet Spring to the Handley farm is estimated to be some twenty miles and followed the route of present West Virginia State Highway 3 to present day Union, West Virginia. With this order Archie was now a designated pathfinder putting him in the company of Daniel Boone and other Frontiersmen of the time.

Many Handley researchers argue that the Monroe County area is the original settlement location for Archie's parents and uncle William's family. The only evidence found of the Handleys arriving in this area any earlier than 1772 or '73 is the mention of Archie's cousin John in the Botetourt County court records relating to the locating of the road from Sweet Springs to his land claim dated September 1772.

According to Morton, author of A History of Monroe County, West Virginia, Archie bought and moved his family to 550 acres that was located on the upper end of Indian Creek a tributary of the New River. This land is located just southwest of present day Union, West Virginia. This property was bought from the Loyal Land Company, on the 28th of March,1774. His cousin, John, bought an adjacent 288 acre tract from the same company on the 8th of April the same year. About this same time John Handley built a fortified house on this farm which was known to the area as Handley's Fort.

Morton also states that "land in the early 1770s sold for $10.00 per hundred acres plus the cost of the survey" (a little more than 10 cents per acre).

The book called Sims Index to Land Grants of Western Virginia, page 139, states that Archibald received title to 300 acres, also located on Indian Creek, in 1787. His cousin John received title to 336 acres the same year.

In 1770 Archie was appointed a constable for Botetourt County while living on the Cowpasture River - a position that he kept until he was replaced by a William Blanton on May 13, 1773.

The spring of 1774, the year that the Handley's settled in the present day Monroe County section of Botetourt County (This area was later organized as Greenbrier County), Chief Cornstalk had decided that he had enough of the white settlers moving on to Indian lands and he would retaliate. He began sending his warriors to attack the white settlements breaking an already fragile peace.To quell these marauders Governor Lord Dunsmore and Colonel Andrew Lewis organized a force of some 1200 militia (a number of which were local settlers) to stop these attacks. Archibald did not volunteer to serve though his cousin John is listed as a member of the troops who participated.

On the 12th of October, just before daybreak, Cornstalk and his estimated 800 warriors attacked the militia at the site known as Point Pleasant, located at the junction of the Kanawha River and the Ohio. This was a day long battle where the opponents fought and shot each other in close proximity to one another. It is estimated that maybe 200 militia were killed with many more being wounded. There were possibly 100 Indians dead as well. That night Cornstalk withdrew his surviving warriors across the Ohio. The militia was too exhausted to pursue them and returned home.

Because of this battle the Indians again agreed to terms of peace which included making the Ohio the eastern boundary of the Indian Lands. Even though there was a treaty in effect there were still raids by the Indians through the following years.

In the fall of 1779, the year that Jane Handley Leach was eight, her cousin Margret Handley and her husband James Pauley decided to move to Kentucky.

"On September 23, 1779, Mrs. Margaret Pauley (sister to John and cousin to Archie Handley) and her husband, John Pauley and child, together with James Pauley, wife and child, Robert Wallace and wife and Brice Miller set out from the Greenbrier section to go to Kentucky.Their departure point was from Handley's Fort located near the town of present day Union in Monroe County, West Virginia.

They crossed the New River at Horse Ford near the mouth of Rich Creek and then down New River and up East River, which was the shortest route to Cumberland Gap. Each of the men had his rifle. The women on the horses, on which were packed what household plunder they could carry, were in front, the men in the rear driving the cattle. About noon of the day referred to, and when the party had reached a point on East River about one mile below the mouth of Five Mile Fork thereof, supposed to have been near the upper end of the old farm of Captain William Smith, they were attacked by five Indians and a white man by the name of Morgan, who was in company with the Indians.

The first intimation that the party had of the presence of the savages, was the report of the discharge of a gun. The women, Mrs. John and James Pauley, were knocked from their horses by the Indians with their clubs, Wallace and the two children were killed and scalped, and John Pauley though fatally wounded, escaped and succeeded in reaching Wood's Fort on Rich Creek, where he died in a short time.There is no report of what had happened to Brice Miller,but during the 1787 tax year a Brice Miller, living near William Leach in the "Sinks" area of Monroe County, was assessed for taxes, implying his escape and survival.

The Indians took Mrs. John and James Pauley prisoners, and on leaving the scene of their atrocities, went up the East River to the mouth of the Five Mile Fork, and thence up the same to the head, across the Bluestone and on to the Ohio, and to the Indian towns on the Miami. There the two women and the little boy of Margaret Pauley, born shortly after she reached the Indian towns remained prisoners for about two years. Finally Mrs. James Pauley escaped, and Margaret and her child shortly after this were ransomed. Mrs. Pauley's maiden name was Handley. After the return of Margaret Pauley she married Tridley Michael Erskine,who was a delegate to the Virginia State Assembly during the 1819-1820 term.He also served as a captain in the local militia and by whom she had a daughter who married Hugh Caperton, who became a distinguished man, and who was the father of the late United States Senator Allen T. Caperton, of Monroe County. Adam Caperton, the father of the said Hugh, was killed in a battle with the Indians at Little Mountain, or Estill's defeat, near where Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, is now situated. Captain Estill and six of his men were killed, and seventeen of the Indians were killed. This battle was fought on the 22nd day of March, 1782."

At the date of the attack on the Pauley party in September, 1779, no settlements had been made along the East River, in fact none existed between Wood's Fort on Rich Creek and that of Thomas Ingles in Wright's Valley. The route being traveled by the Pauley party was along the hunters' trail leading from New River up East River by the site of the present city of Bluefield in Mercer County, and across the Bluestone-Clinch divide to the Clinch, down the same and on by way of Powell's River to Cumberland Gap. This was the route usually pursued by emigrants from the Greenbrier-New River section to Kentucky" (New River Settlements).

Notes on Archibald's Character

There is evidence that Archibald Handley had received a better education than normally found in the common schools of the day. Based on snippets of his surviving papers his composition and his penmanship was certainly adequate.

The inventory of his estate indicates that he maintained a small library which included a large house bible valued at one pound four shillings (the equivalent value of about four acres of land). This shows me how much he valued his education and religion as well.

His children, girls included, all received an education of sorts from the subscription schools of the time. He would have had to pay a tuition as there were no public schools during those times and because of this, girls were often overlooked because of the added cost.

We cannot place Archibald in the same class as Daniel Boone, the early day frontiersman and explorer of the Kentucky lands of Western Virginia, but was a latter-day frontiersman of the quality that intended to settle and develop his new homeland. He was among the first to sign the petition requesting the formation of Greenbrier County. This action was formalized in 1778.

To say that he was interested the civic affairs of the county is an understatement. From 1781 through 85 Archie served as a member of the county grand jury, surveyor and inspector of roads. In September of 1783 and again in June of 1785 he and his brother James were listed as being qualified to serve as Deputy Sheriffs for the county. During the October 18th,1785 session of court Archie was granted an exemption from working on the county highways on account of age.

In September of 1786, Archie who was an ensign in the local Militia, under Captain James Jones, was assigned duties as an overseer of the poor.

Archie must have begun feeling his age as he wrote and filed his will with the county court on the 5th of September, 1789. He then must have recovered,as he lingered on for another seven years, and then when he finally passed on, he was taken by surprise. He had filed a lawsuit for the June 1, 1796 Court against a Francis Preston. But the case was dismissed as the plaintiff had died. The presumption being, is that Archie had died the previous month of May.

Notes on Jean Henderson Handley

31 May 2012 update from Roger Greenough:

I have some additional facts to share about Archie Handley. They come from some personal property tax records for Greenbrier & Monroe Cos. 1796 to 1803. As well as probate records from Greenbrier Co.

Archie's will was not probated by his son James until June 5, 1798, some two years after his death in 1796. James gave his sister Sarah Shanks the ten shillings as the will prescribed. To the remaining three married sisters and their spouses a sum of $180.00 cash each. A reasonable amount of cash for this time period. The baby of the family, Mary, who was only sixteen and not married yet and was not given her share at this time.

Archie's wife Jean, a.k.a. Jane/Jaine, remained a widow for about seven years. It has been determined by me that she died sometime between the dates of the 22nd of May, 1801 and the 23rd of April, 1802. She had paid the 1801 taxes on the earlier date and her daughter Mary paid the 1802 taxes on the latter date as head of the household, further suggesting that Jane had died by then.

FYI: The following year Jane's daughter Mary wed John Miller on the 12th of July, 1803 and most likely moved to his farm.

By Roger Greenough
, September 15, 2006; Revised: October 10, 2008
2nd revision: March 31, 2009
3rd revision: May 31, 2012

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