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The Shell Family History



The Shell Family

Jacob Shell was born in central PA in 1720. He moved first to Shenendoah Co., VA and then later, app. 1752, he moved to Montgomery Co., VA where he was one of the original settlers. Continuing Indian problems drove him back to Shenendoah Co. for 14 years but he then returned to the Montgomery/Pulaski area.






The Shell Family in the Census Records


1787 Montgomery Co., VA Personal Property Tax-List “C”

1-W,M 16-21           2-Blacks 16+           3-Blacks <16          4-Horses, Mares, Colts and Mules       5-Cattle

                                                            1          2          3          4          5

Shull, John                    Self                  0          0          0          5          7

Shull, Jacob, Sr.                       Self                  0          0          0          22        35  - stud horse, 1.12.0

Shull, Jacob, Jr.                        Jacob Shull, Sr.

Shull, Christian              Self                  0          0          0          4          10


1810 Montgomery Co., VA Census

Shell, John

Males               3, under 10       2, age 16-26    1, age 26-45

Females            1, under 10       2, age 10-16    1, age 16-26    1, age 26-45


Shell,  Jacob

Males               1, age 10-16    2, age 16-26    1, age 45+

Females            3, under 10       1, age 10-16    1, age 16-26    2, age 45+


1820 Montgomery Co., VA Census

Shell, Jacob

Males               2, under 10       1, age 26-45

Females            2, under 10       1, age 26-45


Shell, John

Males               1, age 16-26    1, age 26-45

Females            1, under 10       1, age 10-16    3, age 16-26    2, age 45+


Shell, Simon

Males               1, age 16-26    1, age 45+

Females            1, age 10-16    1, age 16-26    1, age 26-45








1830 Montgomery Co., VA Census

Shell, Jacob

Males               2, under 5         1, age 5-10      1, age 10-15    1, age 15-20    1, age 40-50

Females            1, age 5-10      1, age 10-15    1, age 15-20    1, age 30-40


Shell, John

Males               1, under 5         1, age 5-10      2, age 30-40

Females            1, age 5-10      1, age 10-15    1, age 30-40    1, age 70-80


1840 Montgomery Co., VA Census

Shell, John

Males               1, age 5-10      1, age 10-15    1, age 15-20    2, age 40-50

Females            2, under 5         1, age 5-10      1, age 15-20    1, age 20-30    1, age 40-50


1850 Montgomery Co., VA Census

p. 20, #278/278

Shell, Paris                   39        M         Farmer

            Eliza                 28        F

            Henrietta E.        6        F

            Ellen H.              4        F

            Athea V.            2        F

Kidd, William               20        M         Farmer


p. 63, #836/836

Shell, Jacob                  58        M         Farmer

            Catherine          56        F

            James               16        M

            Margaret          11        F


p. 64, #863/863

Shell, Henry                  26        M         Blacksmith        Living with Price Family including 4 other surnames

            Martha             18        F


p. 67, #912/912

Shell, John                    58        M         Farmer             $6300 Real Estate Value

            Harriet              31        F

            Margaret          28        F

            Floyd               24        M         Farmer

            Joseph              19        M        

            Mary                15        F

            Catherine          13        F

            Leonia              11        F

Shell, Christian              56        M

Lore, John                    21        M         Laborer








1860 Montgomery Co., VA Census

p. 669, #812/747

Shell, William P(aris)    39        M         Farmer             $2550 Personal Property          VA (all)

            Eliza J.              37        F                                                                                 

            Henrietta          15        F                                  Can’t read or write

            Ellen                 13        F                                  Can’t read or write

            Allither             11        F                                  Can’t read or write

            Bossa                 7        F

            John H.                          5        M

            Gilla J.                2        F

Mares, John                   7        M  (B)             


p. 671, #828/761

Shell, John                    67        M         Farmer             $15,000 Real Estate     $1850 Pers. Property   VA (all)

            Harriett             40        F

            Joseph              29        M         Farmer

            Catherine E.     22        F

            Lavinia E.         20        F

Shell, Christian              65        M         Farmer

Lower, John                 31        M


p. 679, #902/826

Shell, Henry B.             39        M         Blacksmith        $125 Personal Property                        VA (all)

            Sarah J.                        36        F

            Octavia E.          6        F

            Amencius V.       4        M

            Stuart Altassa     2        M

            Laura G. F.        1        F


p. 688, #957/871

Shell, Hiram                  33        M         Laborer                        $1000 Real Estate        $75 Pers. Property       VA (all)

            Catherine          67        F

Keffer,             Jackson                          5        M


p. 702, #1062/962

Shell, Floyd                  34        M         Farmer             $950 Personal Property                        VA (all)

            Matilda             35        F

            John W.             7        M

            Thomas D.         5        M

            Mary                5/12     F

Mares, Charles             30        M         Laborer           








Excerpts from Patricia Johnson’s Irish Burks of Colonial Virginia and New River.


Jacob Shell's Fort and Settlement-1769


            Jacob Shell (Shull-Scholl) was born in Pennsylvania in 1720 at "Canico Gee" as it is written in an old Shell manuscript. This is the phonetic spelling of Conococheague Creek which was in central Pennsylvania and empties into the Potomac near Williamsport. It lies north of Hagerstown and was a fur

trading center where traders gathered. When a young man Jacob came from there to Shenandoah country in Virginia. (Shell Sketch, VPI & SU, Special Collections) To the Conococheague in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, near present Chambersburg, had also come Dr. Robert Pepper, a doctor from Ireland, who later moved to the Roanoke valley. His son Samuel moved to New River. The Peppers probably settled near and knew the Shells in Pennsylvania. Later there was intermarriage among them on New River. (Jesse Pepper, Letter)

            In the early 1740s or before, a Peter Scholl-Shull was settled in the vicinity of Peaked Mountain and Naked Creek where William Burk lived and reared his sons, Thomas and John and other children. Was there any relation between these Shulls--Peter and Jacob?

            By 1752 Jacob Shell-Shull was leaving Shenandoah country and moving again, this time to New River where he stayed several years.  Shell bought land in the Patton grant on Crab Creek that Patton had sold to Ebenezer Waistcoat-Westcott. This was in bottomland and higher land along New River beside Augustine and Henry Price and Adam Wall and sister Apel Wall. On his high ridges Shell put his house, fort and settlement. These places today are on the Montgomery County side of New River in the Radford Arsenal grounds. (Jim Price Interview)

            Indian hostility drove the settlers from New River in 1755. The Shells write, "Owing to Indian hostility Jacob went back to Shenandoah and stayed fourteen years." (Shell Sketch). Shell's neighbors Augustine and Henry Price fled also to Shenandoah. Waistcoat-Westcott went to the Carolinas. (CH,III 451-52)

After fourteen years away from New River, according to the Shell manuscript, Shell returned in 1769 to Crab Creek of the New. At the Treaty of Fort Stanwix this land was bought from the Iroquois. George Taylor and Thomas Burk buy land from Shell at this place in 1769. (Augusta Dd Bk 15, 282)

            George Taylor may be a Burk relative, uncle or cousin, for it is said that the mother of Thomas was a Taylor. George Taylor is listed in some land records as George Conway Taylor. Yet a George Conway Taylor in Orange County was born in 1769. So there is some discrepancy here. Definitely an adult George Taylor lived here for he is with Shell on the 1771 tithable list for this section of New River.

We would presume that Thomas Burk when he purchased two hundred acres of the fertile New River land would come down to take a look. He may have been with Shell in 1769-70.

            John Goolman Davidson's family also came to the Crab Creek settlement. John Goolman Davidson was born in the Loch Ness country of Scotland, then went Ireland to both County Down, North Ireland, and Dublin, South Ireland. In Ireland he married Martha Draper. Their son William was born in Ireland in 1759. From there John Goolman came to the Conococheague, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, thence to Dry River on Shenandoah, Augusta, then to Jackson's River and from there to the Crab Creek settlement on New River. Since this was only five miles from the Draper's Meadows settlement Martha Draper Davidson may be related to the John Drapers of Draper's Meadows. The Davidsons lived at Crab Creek until 1776 when they went to Cove Spring Creek of Bluestone, present Bluefield, where they built the Davidson-Bailey Fort. John Goolman was eventually killed by Indians at Rocky Gap (present Bland County) in 1793. (Emilie Broom told author Oct. 15, 1991; Lowe Brown File, Giles County Historical Society; Letter James Bane to author, Dec. 4, 1978 and William Davidson Va. Pension no. R.2695)

Davidson's were on Dry River the same time the David McComas family and Thomas Burk were near at Peaked Mountain of Shenandoah, present Rockingham County. The Burks may have become acquainted with them there. Several Burk children would marry Davidsons. Thomas's daughter, Rebecca Burk Davidson, went to the Bluefield area and suffered tragic consequences.

            Though Davidson is Scots, Goolman is a prominent Irish name as is Burk. The Goolman name reveals an Irish connection for these Davidsons. McComas is also Irish judging from the spelling "Mc" which is Irish, rather than "Mac" which is Scottish. The Burks, Goolmans and McComases are Anglo

Irish rather than the Scottish settlers known as Scotch-Irish. The Scottish Davidsons were Royalists during the Civil War in Scotland and some fought with Montrose. The Shells, Peppers and Davidsons had one thing in common-all had lived on Conococheague Creek, present Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

            Jacob Shull-Shell was a small land developer, possibly an agent for the Loyal Company. He brought with him a large family as well as others such as Burks and Davidsons.

            A descendant says, "Shell collected a force to aid him in driving away the Indians from the section where he wished to settle. At the same place he settled was a fort". (Shell Sketch)

            It is believed by this author that in 1769 Thomas Burk and possibly brother John Burk were in Jacob Shell's force he brought with him from Shenandoah.

            Shell may have fortified his New River home in 1754 when the Indians first ordered the settlers to leave New River. When he returned to New River fourteen years later in 1769 he surely enlarged upon his former settlement. His "fort", remnants of which could be seen in 1871 on the farm of J.A. Shell, was on a knoll above New River on the present Radford Arsenal grounds. On a plateau, south of present Stroubles Creek, it had a commanding view of New River and was near where in 1990 is the Three Flags entrance to the arsenal.

            In the early 1750s a "new road" had been built by Shells place. It became known as the Pepper's Ferry Road. (Jim Price Interview, Aug 4, 1990) This road runs through the present Radford Arsenal grounds and is not open to the public.

            After the Indian War Shell came back to his land with a convenient access road, and brought with him other people and established the Shellville settlement. Near this Shellville settlement, strung up and down the river from it, were a number of Irish families, the Peppers, Burks and Davidsons. The Davidsons probably helped Shell in fort construction. After they left Crab Creek the John Goolman and William Davidson family went directly to Cove Creek, tributary of Bluestone, three miles above its mouth and built Davidson's fort. (William Davidson, Pension)

            Jacob Shell reared eleven children. In 1787 his son Jacob Jr. married Mary or Polly Burk. (Shell Sketch) She was the daughter of Joseph Burk and granddaughter of Burkes Garden James Burk. (Montgomery County Marriage Record 1777-1853 p.22) Joseph Burk and wife Margaret Grant lived on New River near the Peppers What relation James Burk, his son Joseph and granddaughter Mary are to Thomas Burk, son of Peaked Mountain William, is unknown.

            Just across the New River from the Shells, Samuel Pepper settled at the Buffalo Pond which became known as Pepper's Ferry. Henry Bingamin lived just up river from Pepper. (Shell Sketch)

            Samuel Pepper was son of Dr. Robert Pepper. Jesse Pepper a descendant writes," Dr. Robert Pepper was a regular bred physician who emigrated to Pennsylvania between 1720-1735 in which year Samuel Pepper was born in what is now Franklin County, Pennsylvania on the Conochocheague Creek near Chambersburg on 20 November 1735." (Jesse Pepper Letter)

            Samuel was married to Naomi Burk daughter of Burkes Garden James Burk. Dr. J.A. Kelly says Thomas Burk is a nephew of James Burk but gives no documentation. (The Roanoke Times, Southwest Corner) My mother Lula Porterfield Givens direct descendant of Thomas Burk said there was some kinship between the two men but did not know what. James Bane wrote the author that there was a kinship which I have yet to prove.

            Later children and grandchildren of James Burk settled around Pepper's Ferry and near their aunt Naomi Burk Pepper  Af ter the Revolution Naomi’s brother Joseph Burk and wife Margaret Grant Burk came with children and lived near the Peppers. Joseph Burk had married Margaret Grant in Rowan County N.C. 29 Dec. 1766. (Utah Genealogical Society, IGI, North Carolina, United States Section)

Joseph Burk died--said to have drowned in New River. (Betsy Owen, Descendant of Joseph, told author) Margaret Grant Burk brought up her children near Naomi and Sam Pepper and the Burk children married to Havens and Shells and others. See James Burke section.

            Samuel Pepper was (says his son Jesse) "a man of strong mind though he had but little education. He was lean, about six feet and in youth probably stout. In spring 1764 he was on the North Fork of Roanoke where Colonel Thomas later lived. In spring 1765 he came to New River near where he died before April 1806." (Jesse Pepper Letter)

            Dr. Robert Pepper's sister married a Pearis and was the mother of George Pearis who later built a fort at present Pearisburg. Samuel Pepper was a first cousin of George Pearis.

            The Burks, Peppers, Pearises, Drapers, and John Goolman Davidsons all came from "South Ireland" and some were Anglo-Irish from old Norman Irish stock. So this is a South Irish connection on the New River that has been overlooked by historians. This is another little "South Ireland"- this one on New River.

The Jacob Shell family, the Davidsons, the Peppers, the Burke's Garden James Burk and Thomas Burk family were closely allied in business dealings.

            James Burk had left Southwest Virginia in the Indian attacks in 1755 and gone to Cumberland County, North Carolina and later died in Surry. He sold part of his Burke's Garden land to the Ingles family. But James Patton's heirs, William Thompson and James Thompson, claimed the land. There was an on

going quarrel between the Burks and Ingles against the Thompsons and Buchanans over ownership of Burke's Garden. Samuel Pepper, married to James' daughter Naomi, was the executor of James Burk's will Nov.4, 1782. (Surry County, N.C. Will Book II, p. 1) See James Burk section.

            When the American Revolution began Samuel Pepper became a Tory along with Jacob Shell. Some of this Tory misunderstanding stems from this quarrel of James Burk with the Patton-Preston-Thompson-

Buchanan interest in Montgomery County.

            The relationship of Thomas Burk son of Peaked Mountain William Burk of "Long Meadow" to the James Burk of Burke's Garden and Jacob Shell of New River is unknown but Thomas did buy land from Jacob Shell so was entangled with him financially.








Early Adventurers on the Western Waters, vol. 1, pp. 266-269 by Mary B. Kegley and F. B. Kegley has a biographical sketch of Jacob Shell, Sr. and the Shell family.  Jacob Shell was born in Pennsylvania in 1720 then moved south into Virginia first into Shenandoah County before appearing in 1756 on an Augusta County tithable list.  He was first mentioned as a permanent resident on the New River in 1767.  Tradition says Indian attacks drove him from the area earlier accounting for the gap between 1756 and 1767.

Jacob died in 1802 and the Kegleys give details from his will.  Many early Shell marriages are given for the next two Shell generations. 

The most interesting information about the Shells is found in the Revolutionary War sections of the book.  In “Disaffection on the New River” it is found that the Shells were among the Tory families in the New River valley.  They were unwilling to take the “Oath of Allegiance to the State” and Jacob Shell, Jr. was considered one of the ringleaders and brought to trial.   In his case, Jacob Shell, Jr. and John Shell were required to sign a bond agreeing not to disturb the peace or to take up arms as well as agreeing to obey the laws.



The Shell Family in Local Records


1753   The Community Settlements-First At Draper

            From Early Adventurers on the Western Waters, vol. 1

"The survey for 7,500 acres was made by John Buchanan in the fall of 1747 and the subdivision by William Preston in the spring and summer of 1753. Among the settlers already in the boundary and on the borders were ... Jacob Shell ...”


            "Down the river opposite the Horshoe, Jacob Shell had an appreciative eye for several tracts of fine land including more than 700 acres ... There is a whole chapter of neighborhood history connected with the Shells, Havens and Walls.."


1767   JACOB SHELL, 200 acres from Ebenezer Westcott (Westcoat) of South Carolina, by attorney Jacob

Miller, Jr., and mortgage to Thomas Burk


1767   Ebenezer Westcoat and Jacob Shell sold Jacob Lorton 656 acres


1771   Tithables for 1771-A List of Tithables in the Lower District of the New River

                        …Jacob Shull…


1774   Captain Joseph Cloyd's Company, 1774

                        ...Jacob Shull…


1774   "Mr. Samuel Shannon rec’d of Mr. Jacob Shell foure diets and foder for five horses and half bus. of  corn and this acomt is on the books Dec 16, 1774, W.Ingles"


1774   "In 1774 the Auditor's Accounts for the Dunmore's War show that James Byrn served as a sergeant for three days and received pay at the rate of 2/6 per day.  Twelve men served with him as follows:...Jacob Shull, Jr.


1777   Captain John Taylor's Company of Militia

            …Jacob Shull

            John Shull

            Christian Shull…


1775   Mar 7 Among others, Jacob Shell and Jacob Shell, Jr ordered to work and the local road in repair


1775   Jacob Shell (Shull) assignee of John Shepherd, 300 acres mouth of Fishing Run of New River, settled



1779   List of Captain James Byrn's Company of Militia

            …Jacob Shul

            Jacob Shul

            Christian Shul

            Jacob Shul listed as not fit.


1782   March 2, JACOB SHELL, SENR., assignee of Wm. Preston, assignee of George May, 330 acres        joining

the land he lives on and to extend toward Keesy's land (withdrawn)


1782   Sep 24 JACOB SHELL, assignee of John Shepherd, Commissioner's certificate, 300 acres at the mouth

of Fishing Run of New River


1782   Nov 14 JACOB SHULL (SHELL), SENR., state warrant for 407 acres, enters 300 acres joining land he

lives on and to extend toward Keasy's land to include improvements made by Shull (Shell)


1782   Nov 14 James Heavin, assignee of Jacob Shull (Shell) Senr., 107 acres on New River joining his own



1782   Dec 24 JACOB SHULL (Shell), Senr., assignee of Walter Crockett, attorney for James Clark, on state

warrants for 500 acres enters 300 acres on west side of Keysey's land and joining his former entry on waters of New River


1782   Jacob Shell helped appraise John Haven's estate


1786   Burk, Joseph, administration granted Margett (sic) Burk and Jacob Shell Oct 24, 1786. Appraisal taken



1785   JACOB SHELL release from Augustine Price and Charles Rush of Rockingham County. In 1769 there

was a mortgage between Jacob Shell and Thomas Burk for 200 acres which Shell purchased from

Ebenezer Westcoat. In 1770 Burk assigned the mortgage to Price and Rush.


1787   JACOB SHELL, JR., 464 acres east side of New River on both sides of mouth of Fishing Run, part of

two entries, one a certificate of settlement from the Commissioners and other Treasury Warrant, 1787,

land corner to Edward Billups; 1798, 555 acres inclusive survey, and 370 acres Strouble's Creek, parts made up from Treasury Warrants


1787   JACOB SHELL from James Thompson, 487 acres Back Creek


1787   Samuel McCraw, 2,500 acres adjoining Jacob Shull (Shell)


1795 (app.) Captain John Preston's Company of Militia

                        Jacob Shell

                        Christian Shell