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Email: B. Venson Hughes

 

Visit to Amherst County, Va (November 1999)








The area around Harris Creek in Amherst County was  home  to some of my earliest ancestors.  William and Susannah Hughes first bought land here in 1769.  This was during the Revolutionary War and I have found claims filed by William for impressed property while he was living in Amherst Co.  One claim was for 200 pounds of beef and another for 15 bushels of wheat.

During the first week of November, 1999, my wife and I decided to try and locate the old Hughes property.  I have found many deeds and land plats that refer to this land but it has been very difficult to put this all together.  In those times, deed boundaries were described by adjoining property lines or landmarks, such as large trees or creeks.  The creeks are all that are identifiable today.  I know from the deeds that one corner of the Hughes property was Harris Creek and Fawn Creek.  From there, we used old plats to try and reconstruct the remaining boundaries.  Here is a picture of where the Fawn Creek flows into Harris Creek today.  The area is still very rough and it was a difficult walk to get to the mouth of the stream.  Construction is moving that way, however, and new houses are being built on parts of this land.  It was a strange feeling to know that where I stood when I took this picture was the same spot my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th great grandfathers stood.  Most likely, Spottswood Hughes and his father played in this stream when they were children.  When William, Sr bought this land, the Indians were still very much in the area.  The Monocans lived nearby and were a peaceful tribe, apparently getting along well with the white settlers.  According to all reports they preferred to be left to themselves.  The Hughes family remained in this area from 1769 through 1836 when Spottswood and his wife, Paulina sold the last parts of the land and moved to West Virginia.  There are two descendants of William Hughes, Sr that I have not been able to account for.  Harrison Hughes, son to William, Sr and Spottswood's brother, David G. Hughes seem to disappear from the records and I have no idea if they moved or remained in this area.

This area of Harris Creek is on the southeast side of the Tobacco Row Mountains.  About 20 miles to the west, on the southwest side of the mountains, is Otter Lake and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was on the north end of Otter Lake that the first white settler established a residence in Amherst County.  He was and Indian trader and we know him only by the name Trader Hughes.  Some say this Hughes was a Scotsman, others say he was an English cavalier from a notable Colonial family.  At any rate, he was a Hughes.  I have not been able to tie these two Hughes families together.  Trader Hughes built his house prior to 1700, however no exact date has been confirmed.   His wife was a niece to the famous Indian Princess, Pocahontas.  Hughes' daughter married Nathaniel Davis and one of their descendants was John B. Floyd, Jr one of the early governors in the state of Virginia.  It should be also noted that Col. John Floyd, Sr.  was a witness to the sale of the property bought in 1769 by our William Hughes.

We decided to locate the remains of the old Trader Hughes trading post.  Its location was somewhat of a major landmark in the 1800's since most of the county surveys referenced the chimney as the starting point for the survey.  We did locate this site and found not much left of it.  About four feet of the old chimney is still visible and there is a raised border around what would have been the old trading post.  If you did not know what you were looking for you would never find this site.  The Park Rangers along the Blue Ridge Parkway were aware of the remains and knew it was an old trading post but they were not aware of all of its history.  They indicated they would like to clear it out and mark it as a historical site but they just do not have the funding to do so.  Meanwhile, the site continues to fall apart with time.


We also drove over to Appomattox Court House on Sunday morning and while it has nothing to do with our family history, it is a great place to visit.  We had it almost to ourselves during the morning and the sky was a blue as I have ever seen it…perfect for taking pictures.
 
 

But our most amazing discovery happened on Sunday afternoon.  We decided to go back to the old Hughes property and walk through the area again, hoping to find something.  While driving down one of the dirt roads that leads back into the property, we found a young man working around his new house.  We stopped to talk to him and asked if he knew of any old home sites or cemeteries in the area.  He said he was aware of an old chimney that was way back in the bush and that he had found it while hunting one day.  He offered to take us there and we took him up on the offer.  We drove several minutes from his house, going as far as we could in the car.  We had to walk the last several hundred yards and came upon a large stone structure that he pointed out as an old chimney.  Upon closer inspection, we determined it was not a chimney, but a large grave stone.  We searched the immediate area and found 24 other graves.  Twelve of these graves were marked with headstones and three had both headstones and footstones.  None of the inscriptions on the stones were readable.  The remaining graves were just depressions in the ground but clearly  gravesites.  It was apparent that we were the first persons to give this site any attention in well over a hundred years.  Now, I can't say for sure that this is the old HUGHES cemetery, but the location and the age of the site both fit.  My concern is that there is construction going on nearby and moving toward the site.  It seems it is only a matter of time before a bull dozier runs this site over and no one will know the difference.
 
 

UPDATE  02/29/00:
A recent letter from a local resident and member of a family that has deep roots in Amherst County states the cemetery is that of the Amonett Family.  The source of this information reports that his grandfather was an undertaker in the area during the late 1800's and told of the Amonett Family using this cemetery.  If anyone can verify this information, please contact me.


 
 
 

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