Trip Back to 1763 - "Terror in the Massanutten"

A Trip Back To 1763
"Terror In The Massanutten"
(August 2000)

Massanutten Mountain Range Over Inabnet Land Massanutten Mountain Range

Hilderbrand's and Anna's Land - Nestled Below the Massanutten


By Jody (Cook) Benjamin

*Hildebrand and Anna In Aebnit, John Inabnit (Inabnet) and his wife, Hannah*
*Jacob Abnet and his wife, Sarah Baker, William Abnet and his wife, Mariah Miller*
*Frances Elizabeth Abnet and her husband, Jacob Cook*

We find their names, these ancestors of ours, and perhaps dates that mark passages in their lives. In the beginning of a genealogical quest, gathering the initial flurry of names and dates is perhaps enough, and simply organizing them a daunting task. But they become familiar, and we want to know them, really know them -- how they lived, what motivated them, what they thought, what would they think of me?

I used to think, with some embarrassment, that genealogy was a private study, and very selfish: all those ancestors coming to me. But that's only part of genealogy. My many cousins, some very distant, have taught me that just as I'll have many descendents, so does each forebear: the family tree branches forward and backward in time. I was thrilled to find this In Aebnit site you're visiting now. Here were cousins, all modern twigs from those early In Aebnits, sharing research and amazing discoveries and still wanting to know more about our common ancestors. I couldn't believe what they had found: descriptions of Anna's death in 1763, the story of Hildebrand's desolate funeral procession, the incredible variation in the In Aebnit spelling. (How did they leap from Abnet and Atnip to In Aebnit?) These cousins generously, happily, openly shared everything on their beautiful site, and to my everlasting delight, welcomed me into their loop.

Through sharing information about our forebears, we've come to know each other, too, and the incredible variation that one family can give to the world: in our loop, there are storytellers, our energetic organizer (who made this site happen), at least one tease to keep us laughing, the nicest and sweetest cousin who makes us mind our manners sometimes, and others, all family. And so, when Louie (the Coot) and his wife Marcia took a journey to the Shenandoah Valley, to Sandy Hook, to the Seven Bends, they had to take us along --to share what they found about our ancestors and because we have become a family.

Louie gave us this story of his trip to our ancestors' land, and helps us understand a little more about their lives in that lovely, now peaceful valley and its hills. We hope that our distant family and aspiring genealogists will be as excited as we are to see how much one can know--and touch and feel --about our ancestors (and incidentally, about distant cousins by how they react to what they find)!

Let it Begin!

By Louis Moses

*Hildebrand and Anna In Aebnit, John Inabnit (Inabnet) and his wife, Hannah*
*Jacob Abnet and his wife, Sarah Baker, William Abnet and his wife, Mariah Miller*
*Susan Abnet and her husband, Samuel Rawley

Our Goals

We began our hegira with several goals in mind. In general, we wanted to enjoy the quest, see and feel the lands of the Inabnets and Bakers, same with the lands of our ancestors the other side of the Blue Ridge and to do research in several of the court houses and libraries along the way. We also desired to tour Monticello and historical Williamsburg again. Lastly, we hoped to visit the final resting place of my hero, Robert Edward Lee.

Our Arrival

Strasburg Inn
We motored to Strasburg in Shenandoah County, Virginia on Sunday, the 20th. of August. After a drive of eight and a half hours and 585 miles, we checked in at the Strasburg Inn/Hotel which is a delightful place to stay. Their lobby decor includes many large prints by M. Kunstler, the artist who paints the wonderful Civil War scenes. That was our base Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights.

Original Land of Heironymous Baker

We set out Monday morning to find the lands of the Baker families directly west of Strasburg. Of course, this search relates to Carol, Jody and myself instead of the entire loop. Thunderation!!!! We were unable to locate, with total certainty, the land shown by Bly's map as having belonged to Heironymous Baker. This is due to the apparent fact that a road which existed on his map does not seem to be named the same now. We had talked with some of the locals who told us there was a renaming of roads sometime not too far back. However, all our available information and reasoning indicated we were either standing on said land or it might have been a few hundred yards to the Southeast. There was nothing geologically remarkable about the immediate area other than to characterize it as a gently rolling terrain, which has been mostly cleared for farming.

I did note the presence of large rocks in the tannish/reddish soil. There were no old chimneys to be seen nor was there anything notable to photograph! We spent the better part of two hours trying to get a fix on this land with reference to the Bly plat map as shown on our In Aebnit (Abnet, Atnip, Inabnit) website. We also lost our way numerous times because yours truly, the coot, is sometimes outright stupid. Eventually, we said "ok, this is generally where the land was, there are no ruins, there is nothing that would be of real genealogical importance to photograph and with a last look around to see the land as the Bakers would have seen it, we departed for our next scheduled stop.

Woodstock Lookout Tower

We motored up to Woodstock (remember your Shenandoah geography now). My camera battery died, so we went into town to buy a battery. Several people inside a local business gave us directions to get to the Woodstock Lookout Tower which is located on the top of the Massanutten Mountain Range and which overlooks some of the Seven Bends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. You will recall, this is the situs for the very old postcard photo which purports to show the Seven Bends. Unfortunately, there was a person who confused right and left. We spent a good part of an hour driving around lost. I finally brought us back to the last spot which we knew to be correct and then turned to the right instead of the left. We were on our way to the top. Woe to me!!!!!! I must now confess to you that I have a fear of heights. I have no problem with being inside tall buildings of substance, nor do I have any fears inside airplanes. I once was able to crawl on roofs and climb tall ladders. Now, I am an abject unmitigated coward.

We began to ascend the Massanutten. It was nice going at first. Soon, however, the nice road gave way to something little better than a partially paved wagon track ideally suited to some sort of four wheel drive off road vehicle. Try as I would not to notice, I became increasingly aware that we were getting higher and higher. It was quite obvious to me that this particuliar part of Shenandoah County does not have metal guard rails. The higher we drove, the more frightened I became. The side of the roads dropped off very steeply; steeply as in too steep for a man to walk on without all the sorts of gear that rock climbers use to scale stone walls and canyons. You might enjoy knowing that by now I was going something in the neighborhood of four or five miles per hour around these diabolically sharped curves. Back and around now around the other way and ever more higher...O yes, let's terrify the wolverine swatter, ME!! Let's make him wish he had been born a bulldozer! At long last we crested the top much to my relief. O nooooooo, there it stood, the famous Woodstock Lookout Tower. I felt shudders of fear going through my weakened body.

The Lookout Tower stands some twenty five to thirty feet high. It is made with angle iron which looks like little more than erector set material. One ascends the tower by climbing a series of steps leading from one landing to the next higher landing. The prize is the platform at the top which is probably ten feet by ten feet of erector set material with a flimsy little rail fastened around the four sides. Regrettably, and to my dismay, there was no vision of anything if one simply stood on the ground at the top. There were all these useless little stink trees which completely obscured any vision except the azure blue sky. Marcia, my wife, is not afraid of heights, so seeing my knees shaking along with my tear filled eyes, she volunteered to take both cameras up to the platform for the photographs. When she arrived at the top she began to exclaim as to the beauty of the vision of the Seven Bends. I was yet unmoved by her reassurances. O horrors! Now a van with a family of four came upon the scene and there I am quivering with fear. First, their oldest son who was maybe eight or nine years old, went for and up the ladder. He was quickly followed by his younger brother. Then the father, casting a contemptuous look my way, hauled himself up the ladder leaving only his wife below with me. I confessed to my fear of heights thinking I perhaps had found a kindred spirit who would understand. AAAAArrrrrrggggghhhhh! Up she goes, leaving me behind. I decided I wanted to see the Seven Bends because of all the commotion and comments filtering down from the platform. I began to ascend the steps. The first landing was not too bad. Midway up the second landing I realized I could not yet see the Seven Bends and so I steeled myself and girded my loins for going a bit higher. Now I am on the third set of stairs, still quivering and yet not able to see a blessed thing but sky and far off tops of the other mountains. I think I now began to pretend that what I saw all around me was not what I saw. I fastened every ounce of my focus on seeing only the step I was about to tred to reach the objective...the platform. Well, after a bit of that, I made it. I made it and all was well. There, below in the west, were the Seven Bends.

View of the Seven Bends

What a terrible shame it would have been to not see the sight. They were absolutely beautiful. Beautiful beyond my ability to describe them. The land between the Bends was very green with some of the greens being deeper in color than others. The river did not look like brown mud water as do so many rivers. I suppose the closest color would be blue due to the reflection of the sky. I began to take pictures as soon as my hands stopped shaking. I did the panorama thing with the hopes of giving us a much better (complete) picture of the Bends.

Woodstock Tower View

At the left, is the view of the most upstream bend visible from the Woodstock tower. Woodstock is somewhat left of center in this view.

Under the middle: Look very closely at this view. On the far right margin and about mid height you
will see a small light green clearing which looks something like an arrow.

To the left and in the center, you are viewing two somewhat short bends. Now, look at the third view, the most downriver of the three views showin. We expect to see another bend visible in that view, however, we do not see it.....because it is way out their much further than the two visible upstream bends. However, the bend can be seen by noting a line of trees which line the banks of the bend which projects significantly further toward the Great Wagon Road than does any other bend. Consult the web site map, The "Seven Bends" of the Shenandoah Owners and Tenants about 1786, on our Sandy Hook - Shenandoah Valley - Seven Bends website, and you will now see that this is the extra long finger. Two more maps can also be found on our Shenandoah Valley - Interwoven Families site.

Then that long finger of the North Fork comes back toward the Massanutten and begins its curve around to the left. It first flows by the Michael Spiegle land then it courses by the banks of the Inabnet land. On the photo (if not on the scanned picture) can be seen a white barn or house at the extreme right margin. I firmly believe that building belongs to the present owners of Hildebrand Inabnet's land in 1763 and 1764.

I really want you all to know that this land is indeed beautiful. It is, to this day, sparsely populated. Now it was time to descend and we did so without further fright except for coming face to face with another car coming toward us. I was quite happy to see her back her car back down the hill to a place where she could back in and thus allow me to pass. I gave her a grateful wave, but I suspect she just thought I was being neighborly. We were now at mid afternoon and it was high time to get on with the next challenge. It was time to find Hildebrand and Anna Inabnet's land in 1763.

Finding Hildebrand's Land in 1763

We again stopped in town to get directions. This time good fortune was with us. A person knew where we needed to go based on my display of a large wonderful map which shows all the Bends. She even knew the names of a couple of the neighbors to what was the Inabnet land. So, with a blare from trumpets, off we charged in our trusty Honda Accord 2 dr. Coupe. One would now think that all was going smoothly and this part of the quest was cake. Wrong !!!!!!! I knew I was in trouble when I got into the car before Marcia did and the Honda told me it hated me for what I had done to it by going up the Massanutten. The Honda did not know I speak Japanese, otherwise I would have not known it cussed me out.

We proceeded north of Woodstock and came to Ridgely Road which was where our informant said we should turn to enter the bend in which the land we sought would be located. We probably drove some four or five minutes at a really moderate speed through hilly farmland. Then the terrain changed into more abrupt hills but nothing like mountains to be sure. The land in this bend is heavily treed and houses are few and far between. We came upon the river and began looking for some sign of the terrain to tell us where we were. As we drove, we were turning imperceptibly left. This tells you that we now had begun to go around on the interior of the bend. If you envision your Seven Bends map, you will see that this means we are passing by the Spiegle tract and then the Inabnet tract. The problem was that we could not quite see it with the eye of an eagle with nice lines of penciled in demarcation. We continued to drive this very narrow, sometimes paved road which, after perhaps one half mile, was now snuggled up to the south bank of the Shenandoah River. After a couple minutes, we had passed perhaps seven or eight houses which were separated from the river by this narrow road. All the houses were located much higher than the road for flood protection. As we drove on we passed a dam which was several feet high and across the width of the river which was at least two hundred yards wide at this point and maybe more like two hundred and fifty yards wide. The water flowed over the dam as a nice thin veil. We became aware that we were now making slight steering changes to the right which ran up the warning lights in our noggins. Sumpthin' is not right here!

So, we turned the Honda around and when it saw Marcia was involved in helping me navigate, it cussed me out again for making it go down such a road. I can tell you that from where I now know Hildebrand's land to be there are maybe eight or nine houses along that road before it begins to turn to the right which of course is the next bend going down North. We began to retrace our way when, lo and behold, we saw a lady sitting in a rustic screened in porch. All its protests aside, the Honda was driven up the very short driveway and stopped in front of the house. Thereupon, he of considerable girth, got out with maps in hand and approached the porch, but not toward the door. When I was within easy speaking distance, I began to ask assistance in helping me to read where we were on the river. The lady said she didn't know but she would ask another person. Unfortunately, no one there could help. The evil tempered Honda wanted to run into the corner of the house but I would not allow it.

The landmark I was looking for was the island which is seen on our map. Here we are, retracing our steps when I spot something that looks a little bit like an island. By this time, I am ready for anything to look like an island. I went down to the river, which was probably about 15 feet from the edge of the road and dipped my hand into the water which was surprisingly clear. It was free of mud or anything else that clouds water. During all this time, I had some inkling that this was not where Hildebrand's land was. So, we continued on our way eastward very slowly as I scanned the river for that island. There were trees and shrubs which sometimes blocked the line of sight. All of a sudden I saw it! It was a true island, perhaps forty feet wide complete with trees and brush and the river flowing by on each side. 4 Log Cabin There was no question in my mind that this place was four or five hundred yards west of the Inabnet property. There was indeed also a house straight ahead with a couple small barns and a driveway leading up to the house. I sat in the car debating what to do. Marcia wanted me to take a couple snapshots where we were, but I was determined to do better than that if I could. Next thing we knew, the Honda, wanting some real achievement for its day of agony, pulled us about half way up the drive where we stopped one hundred yards west of the house. We sat there disagreeing about what next to do, when suddenly a woman came from the house and walked down toward the car. I told Marcia to make herself very visible and we got out to meet the woman, maps in hand.

A New Discovery and Some New Friends

We told her of our hopes and quest, etc. The longer we talked the more relaxed she became and she became interested in the topic. We parked closer to the house and continued to talk as we then walked further East. She said her husband was very interested in genealogy and was pursuing his ancestry also. She had been canning peaches and we offered to get out of her hair but she would have none of that and went in and turned them down or off or something like that. Meanwhile, her husband came up from a field one quarter mile, east where he had been cutting grass and weeds with a tractor mower. We had already introduced ourselves to the very nice lady who now introduced us to her husband. The four of us continued to talk and the talk continued to be more and more relaxed. Someone suggested getting us something to drink and for us to continue our discussion on the small front porch of their log cabin. So, that is what we did. We had already discussed our desire to photograph the Inabnet land. However, before we knew it, we had lost the afternoon sun so we were unable to photograph the property and the river. We had, however, learned that they did own the property which had belonged to the Inabnets. He had already owned the property immediately west of the Inabnet land and had, at a later date, purchased most of what had been the land to the immediate east which would have been Hildebrand's land. We continued to sip ice tea, talk about genealogy and lots of other things.

1 Log Cabin At some point, I might have mentioned Samuel Eckerlin and that I intended to go to the Sandy Hook to see if I could find his house/apothecary. We were told that the old house had been torn down and all that remained were two chimneys which could be seen from the road which goes to the Sandy Hook. By happy coincidence, the road to the Hook runs right in front of the Strasburg Inn. He then, with a bit of twinkle in his eye, informed me that the logs of his cabin behind my back had come from Eckerlin's house and that the other smaller cabin was also built out of Eckerlin's logs. I could hardly believe my ears. It seems that when the Eckerlin house fell down, or was torn down, he was there to buy the logs. I thought of all those things which had been in the confines of the logs and that I was viewing and associated now with the very logs our grandparents had in their lives and perhaps might have touched. Yes, I did touch the logs several times. I also let my thoughts wander to my friends in this loop and to my son. I told Hildebrand and Anna that we know of them now.

What Remains of Eckerlin's House Today!

Well, it was time for us to go and we began drifting over to the Honda V 6 which by now had turned into a nasty snarling beast, but I was the only one it snarled at. They invited us to come back the next day for our pictures etc. and we accepted the offer. We then asked if they would be our guests for dinner the next evening after we took the photos and they accepted. We began the next day (Tues.) by driving out to the Sandy Hook and sure enough there were the chimneys about 150 yards from the road and immediately after crossing the bridge. The Sandy Hook has a sparse population. There seems to be one main road which is a narrow two laner. Unlike the surrounding countryside, the Sandy Hook is relatively flat. Where the Eckerlin house stood there is now a large lawn which is probably ten acres, with an owners nice house in the far background. So we pulled over to the fence and commenced firing the camera.

Sandy Hook - Its Significance to US

The Sabbatarian, Samuel Eckerlin's house and apothecary once stood on this site. Anna Inabnet died there in 1763. For a short time after her death, her husband Hildebrand and their three sons, John, Joseph and Jacob stayed there before returning to the Inabnet property in the Seven Bends.
Eckerlin House Chimey Sandy Hook around Eckerlin Chimney

There is nothing at all remarkable about this land and there is no evidence of a grave yard. In fact, we drove around the near area and saw nothing at all of a graveyard. The Hook is not very developed. Of course, we did not see all of it. So I stood at the place of our grandmother's death and where our three boys and their father had stayed. We then went on to the owners of the Inabnet land. When we arrived they warmly greeted us, making us very welcome. We then proceeded to go down to the river. The owner had cut a huge walkway for us to get through the tall grasses. The river is about six hundred yards from their home and also the road. The four of us walked down to the river through the cleared area. We had also walked a couple tenths of a mile toward the east and were truly on the Inabnet land.

North Fork - Inabnet Land Today!

2 Inabnet Land Looking East

In this picture I am fully on Hildebrand's land and on a simple dirt track of a road that goes down there to where the barns are in the distance. I would hazard a guess that these structures would be very close to where the Inabnet cabin stood. The reason for that statement is the belief that our Hildebrand would have known better than to build a cabin lower due to the flooding possibilities The road you see might have been the only pathway to the Inabnet land from the Great Wagon Road.

We were shocked at what we saw here. The river is maybe two hundred and fifty to three hundred yards wide as it courses past our ancestors' land. The depth according to the owner of the land is from two feet to maybe four or five feet in places. The current is pleasing and gentle, but can be easily seen. The water is crystal clear and the stream bed is huge slabs of rock with some of them covered with moss. This is not a mud bottomed river. While standing on the bank, which is probably some three or four feet higher than the surface of the water, I was startled to see largemouth bass everywhere in the river . We saw groups of bass going by east to west and north to south and every direction in between. We saw fingerlings and bass of ten or more inches. We saw bass below the surface of the water thirty feet from the shore. I believe the owner said something about a ten pound bass having been caught in the river near this area. There are also smallmouth bass which seldom live in other than clean water.

At this point, one can see that the river edge to the furthermost depth of tillable farm land might approximate one quarter mile or less perhaps. So, our thoughts and imagery of the terrain was right on the money. We could not venture further down the way because there were loggers cutting logs and transporting them over the roadway and that is dangerous. I would suspect that we were a couple hundred yards deep into the western end of the Inabnet land. Hildebrand would have had a decent sized farm on the plain of his land. It looks to me that as you proceed inland from the river bank the land is flat as stated previously, but then when it rises, it does so rather quickly and that part would not be productive as a farm. North Fork Island The trees here are coniferous and deciduous. Huge sycamores and pine trees are everywhere. I took many photos of the entire area and we used both cameras. I think they will provide a good view of our ancestors' land.

This shot is looking downstream and snapped about three hundred yards west and north of Hildebrand's property. There are trees on the island but this is not part of the really big island which is perhaps another hundred yards or so further down river. I suspect this land formation was here in some way when our little orphan boys were living here.

At the bottom you will see light green weeds. Slightly higher is light color topped off by darker color. The light color is the reflection of the sky and the darker color is the reflection of the trees on the other side of the river.

More Views of the North Fork

North Fork West of Inabnet Lands North Fork Across and East
****** West of Inabnet Lands ****** Across from Inabnet Lands ******

Owners today - Hildebrand would be Proud!

We then went to dinner in Woodstock which was nice, and afterward we returned to their home and enjoyed a wonderful visit. Our new friends are very talented people. He is a master wood craftsman and practices his art on making rifles among other things (not sure if that is the way it should be described) and restoring old wooden spinning wheels. He is truly talented in that regard. He is deep into genealogy with a very nice genealogical library centered mostly on Virginia. She works with pottery and they also are into antiques. The former Inabnet land is in wonderful hands now. One could sense their love of this area as we talked. We felt we have made new friends who we plan and hope to see again.

A Trip For All Of US

(comments by the rest of us)

Liz Marcello - (Hildebrand, Joseph, Benjamin, Mary Ellender Atnip Watts, Louisiana Watts Parsley)

"Louie, this is a fantastic story, and know you will long remember your experiences there!!!!!!!!! So glad that you could go and visit this area. Terrific the way things turned out and how you met the owners of the Inabnit land, etc. Really great!!! Wish I could have been there, but maybe sometime in the future. Thanks so much for sharing with us! You sure had enough excitement to last a while! And made some new friends there also."

D. Mitchell Jones - (Hildebrand, Joseph, Benjamin, John Esaw, Virginia Atnip Cantrell)

"You touching the logs is not strange at all. I would have done the same thing. Have you thought about how you, without planning, came to this one house with people that had all the answers. I have had some of the same experiences in my research.

When I found where my fourth great grandfather Jones lived this feeling came over me that I knew this is where his cabin was located. This is spring that he drank out of and I felt like was communicating with him.

Thanks again for wonderful story."

Ann Brown - (Hildebrand, Joseph, Benjamin, Jemima Atnip Page, Cora Handy Page Davis)

"Glad that I asked for the descriptive view!! You really make me feel that I'm there visiting this very beautiful Shenandoah and Sandy Hook with you and your wife. I can almost picture myself, shaking or trembling on the tower, glancing at the panoramic view, touching the logs of the house where Anna died, or scooping a handful of the clear water. Beyond words, Louie, we thank you! You were able to do what we only dream about. I'm sure that others are going to enjoy it as much as we did! Your distinct sense of humor, realistic situations and vivid details really makes 'your trip' become 'our trip' - a quest to find our roots and to touch the ground that our ancestors actually walked on. Louie, you have taken us back in time, some 237+ years ago. Though Hildebrand and Anna are no longer with us, their memory lives on and will continue to live in each of us.'

Music playing is "O Shenandoah"

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Ann (JOBE) Brown
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