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Samuel Handley,
A Backwoods Revolutionary War Hero
by Roger Greenough

According to the writings of Mortimeyer and Hopkins, Samuel was born 17 September, 1751 along the Staunton River in Botetourt County, Virginia and shortly after his birth his family moved to Greenbrier County where he spent his boyhood. I have found a transcribed copy of Samuel's Revolutionary War Pension application, filed 7 September, 1832 in Franklin County, Tennessee, in which he states (in part) that he was born in the year 1752 in Pennsylvania and moved to Augusta County, Virginia when he was young. According to Mortimeyer he was the third child of a family of four (I believe that there were 5 children), born to William and Margaret (maybe) Handley. The children's named by Mortimeyer was John, Nancy, Samuel, Margaret. I believe that there was a fifth child, a son, called Robert.

Also, Mortimeyer and Hopkins state that his father William Handley died in Augusta County (now a part of Rockbridge County) during the year of 1756. They continue with his life story by citing that in the year of 1764 (actually it was 1774), there was an outbreak of Indian hostilities and that Samuel enlisted in an unit commanded by by Colonel William Fleming. They proceeded to a site (now called Point Pleasant) located at the junction of the Ohio River and the Kanawha River, where early on the morning of October 10th the Indians attacked and Samuel received his first taste of battle. This battle lasted from sunrise until dark that day. Then the Indians having had many warriors killed abandoned the battle and retreated back across the Ohio River. Virgil Lewis gives the following numbers of killed and wounded as 81 citizen soldiers killed and 140 wounded. While the lost to the Indians has been estimated at 233.

Actually, based on the writings of Virgil Lewis in his book " The History Of The Battle of Point Pleasant" Samuel was a member of the Fincastle County Volunteers from the Watauga Valley of Fincastle County. His Captain was Evan Shelby. Lewis also states that "Captain Shelby brought 52 of the first settlers from the valley of the Watauga, chiefly from what is now Sullivan and Carter counties, Tennesee to join General Lewis' campaign at Camp Union ( now called Lewisburg, WV)". Shelby's company and the companies of five other militias from the Fincastle region of Western Virginia met at the New River Ford and proceeded north through what is now Monroe County, WV (The route followed likely passed in close proximity to Sam's brother John and Cousin Archibald Handley's newly settled farms located near present day Union, WV.) and on to Camp Union to connect with General Andrew Lewis' Southern Division of Dunsmore's Army (General Lewis had earlier written to Govener Dunsmore requesting help in controlling Indian attacks on the settlers living to the east of the Ohio River, The Governor agreed to take control of the problem and organized an expedition which was later calle Dunsmore 's War).They arrived about the sixth of September. After short preparation they followed General Lewis' lead in moving his troops (estimated at about 850 soldiers) the 160 miles back toward the crossing of the Ohio at the junction of the Kanawha River and the location of the Battle of Point Pleasant. Their Battalion Commander was Colonel William Christian in charge of the 350 men of the Fincastle brigade. According to the roster of the Watauga group, Sam was listed as Private Samuel Hensley. Also found on this list was a man called Robert Herrill and a note stating that his surname was actually Handley. It is not known if this Robert Handley was a cousin or a brother of Sam's.

It is unknown if this was the 22 year old settler's first run-in with Indians. Likely it was not, having grown up in the frontiers of Western Virginia where there were sneak attacks by the Indians on a regular basis.

It is my supposition that Samuel married Mary Adams, daughter of John and Agnes Adams (Mortimeyer & Hopkins), in the early 1770's, and followed the stream of other settlers to Fincastle County in search of new lands to call their own.. Based on his pension application the Watauga Valley apparently to met their needs and this is where they settled.

With the onset of the Revolutionary War, Sam, who was considered to be one of the "Over the Mountain Men" by the British, enlisted in 1776 in Wyth County, Virginia under Captian John Campbell and fought Cherokees near the Long Island of the Holston. He served on the Frontier for a number of years, campaigning under Col. Christian against the Cherokees, then under Col. Shelby against the Chickamaguas,and was also an Indian Spy.

Mortimeyer supposes that Sam's first wife Mary died about 1779.

In 1780 under Col. John Sevier he crossed over Bald Mountian in to Burke County, NC, and marched to South Carolina in time to participate in the Battle of King's Mountain. According to the TNGen Web Project, "Tennesseans in the Revolutionary War", that this battle was a pivitol point in the war. It was not a battle between the Americans and the British Troops, but was a fight of American Rebels against American Loyalist (Tories). It only took about an hour to fight this battle between Militias and when it was over every last one of the Tory troops were either killed or taken prisoner.

Mortmeyer also states that Sam served as a Sergeant under General Daniel Morgan during the Battle of Cowpens on the 17th of January, 1781. Two days later two companies of militia from Greenbrier County, Virginia (West Virginia) arrived. They were to serve as replacements for the Augusta and Rockbridge Militias whose Terms of enlistment were about to expire. This was a golden opportunity for Sam to see his Cousin Captain Alexander Handley. As it turns out this was likely the last time as Alexander was captured and killed not long after by British troops.

Later that year while serving in Colonel John Sevier's command, in South Carolina, Sam met his second wife-to-be, Susannah (Susan) Cowen. At the close of the war Sam returned to South Carolina and married her on February 4, 1782. She was the daughter of Robert Cowen and Susan Wood Cowen. He and Susan settled first in Washington County (then North Carolina), and then to Blount County, TN. In 1809 they moved to Franklin County, TN. (Source: Revolutioary Pension Applications of SW Virginia Soldiers)

Mortimeyer states that when the War with the Cherokee Indians and the Spanish broke out in 1788, Samuel was appointed to command a company of territorial militia. In 1793, He and his company of 42 men were attacked while on patrol along the Cumberland Trail near Crab Orchard. Fifty-six Warriors, mostly Cherokees, led by an Indian called Middle Striker created a panic among the Militiamen, and Samuel's horse was killed while he was trying to save one of his men who had been thrown from his horse during the initial charge.Sam then took cover behind a large tree, where it is said that he surrendered to an Indian just as the Warrior was about to strike him with his tomahawk. This brave then took Sam to the chief where for a time he was safe. Even though he was protected from being killed at that moment he had to suffer the indignity of being beaten with the flat side of the tomahawks of every Indian within reach of him. This diversion allowed the rest of the company to escape. Only a man named Lieper and two others were killed.

A relief party was sent out to recover the missing men's bodies, including Sam's who was thought killed too. When they found the tree where he had been tied, fragments of the paper thought to be the company roll were at it's base. Sam was then taken to Will town, located on Will Creek in what is now DeKalb County, Alabama. While he was being held for three days. He was made to run the gauntlet three times and other tortures. He bore the pain like a man and in the end was spared. He was then adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Cherokees. His captors wanted peace and after three months he was allowed to write the following letters to his brother-in-law Colonel James Scott.

They come from Katherine Keogh White's " The Kings Mountain Men" (Dayton, Virginia,1924)

Will Town, Dec. 10 1792
Dear Sir: I am a captive in this town in great distress and the bearer hereof is a runner from the Upper Towns, from the Hanging Maw, and is going with a talk from Colonel John Watts, with the Governor, on the terms of peace. The people are much for peace ...

Dear sir, I have been much abused and in great distress. I beg for you and John Cowen, and every good friend would go to the Governor and try to get him to send a good answer so I may get away, for if an army come before, I am sure to die. Send word to my wife, and send me a horse down by the Hanging Maw's runner, for I am not able to come with out. Dear friend, do what you can, for I am in a distressed way. No more but______________
Samuel Handly

Mrs White also wrote that "Governor Blount was more than willing to rescue Handly so his answer was favorable to peace. Eight braves escorted Handly to his home in Blount, the only ransom asked being a keg of whiskey. Mrs White and Mortimeyer both have written that when Sam was captured he was about forty and his hair was brown, but when he returned his hair was gray and he was much broken. He maintained contact with his Indian brothers as long as he lived near the Tellico blockhouse, a local trading post.

In 1797, Sam and his family moved to a farm on the Little River in Blount County, TN. Then during the summer of 1800, he moved further west in Blount County. In 1808, Sam and his family finally settled in Franklin County near Winchester, TN.

He is recorded as being a member of the first convention that formed the State of Tennessee. He and Susannah are believed have had eight children.

Sam died August 4, 1840 and was buried in Woods Cemetery, near Mingo Swamp, northwest of Belvidere, TN. (Mortimeyer)

Roger Greenough

Other sites on Samuel Handley:
* Samuel Handley (1776-1852) of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky and Edgar County, Illinois
* Indian Captivity Stories: Samuel Handley (1751-1840)
* Portrait and Biographies of Coles County (1887): biography for J. T. HANLEY, grandson of Samuel and Mary (RIPPLE) HANLEY (pp 448-449)
J. T. HANLEY, a native of the Prairie State, owns and occupies a comfortable homestead in Hutton Township on section 11, and since his residence here has identified himself thoroughly with the interests of the people of his township.

He was born in Edgar County, Sept. 15, 1824, and is a descendant of excellent Irish ancestry, his grandfather, Samuel Hanley, having been a native of Ireland. The father of the latter died while he was young, and when about fifteen years old he ran away from home, determined to try his fortunes on this side of the water. He had read considerably of America, and without bidding his mother, brothers or sisters good-bye, embarked on a sailing-vessel, and with the high hopes of youth, made the tedious voyage from Liverpool to New York. Thence he proceeded to Pennsylvania, where he engaged to work on a farm, and was very successful in his efforts in the New World.

Samuel Hanley married early in life, his bride being Miss Mary Ripple, and they settled near Louisville, Ky., where young Hanley established a distillery and remained in business for fifteen years. He finally sold out, and coming to this State entered forty acres of land at $1.25 per acre in Edgar County, and not long afterward started a distillery there also, which he operated in connection with farming until his death.

He departed from the scenes of his earthly labors in the spring of 1852, when about seventy-eight years of age. His wife had died three years previously, being seventy-five years old. The fifteen children born of this marriage were named respectively,

Joseph, Matthew, William, Lyda, Polly, Sytha. Michael, Anthony, Samuel, Ephraim, John, David, Betsey, Sallie and Savilla.
Most of these are deceased.

Joseph Hanley, the father of our subject, was the eldest child of his parents, and was born near Louisville, Ky., June 9, 1803. He received a very limited education, and upon becoming old enough to labor declined to work in the distillery and was allowed to confine his industry to the farm. Upon reaching a marriageable age he chose for his bride Miss Sallie Hendsley, who became his wife when a maiden of fifteen years. Soon afterward he entered forty acres of land in Edgar County, where he lived twelve years, then selling out went into Pike County and entered eighty acres. This also he sold two years later, and after buying and selling 160 acres, took up his residence in Hutton Township, this county, in the spring of 1836. Here he entered first eighty acres and afterward doubled his landed area, and proceeded with the improvement and cultivation of his property until his death, which took place Jan. 11, 1880. He had been a worthy and esteemed citizen, and a member in good standing of the Baptist Church.

The young wife of Joseph Hanley only lived four years after their marriage, dying while a resident of Edgar County, Oct. 4, 1828, and being only nineteen years of age. She possessed many


lovable qualities and was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. There were born of this marriage four sons

AVilliam, John T., Samuel, and a babe who died unnamed.

Mr. Hanley, in 1832, was married to Miss Sallie Bowen, and of this union there were born eight children, viz. :

Joshua, Jacob R., Michael, Stanley, Mary Ann, David, George and Louisa.
The mother of these died at the home of her husband in Hutton Township in May, 1862, aged forty-six years. She was a lady of many excellent qualities and a member of the Baptist Church.

The third marriage of Joseph Hanley was with Miss Nancy Anderson, and took place in Hutton Township, Oct. 22, 1864. The only child of this marriage was a daughter,

and the mother a few days after her birth was taken with measles, and died Oct. 22, 1865.

The fourth* wife of Joseph Hanley was formerly Miss Mary A. Bates, to whom he was married in April, 1866. Their four children were

Joseph, Arvilla. Marcus C. and Dennis.
This lady is still living.

The subject of our sketch remained under the parental roof during his boyhood and youth, receiving limited school advantages, and early in life became useful around his father's homestead and has spent but few idle days during his whole life. After reaching his majority he went up into Grant County, Wis., where he remained twelve years, during the summer seasons, and spent his winters with his father. He was married, Jan 28, 1850, to Miss Nancy E., daughter of John and Nellie Donelson, who was born May 26, 1831, in Pennsylvania. Her parents were natives of Scotland, and her father was eighty years of age at the time of his death. The mother lived to be nearly as old.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Hanley settled on a farm in Pleasant Grove Township, this county, where they lived one year, and Mr. H. then purchased 105 acres now included in his present farm. He has been remarkably prosperous, and is the owner of 640 acres, comprising the home farm, besides twenty-five acres in Edgar County and forty on section 12, in Hutton Township. His residence is a fine brick structure erected in 1874. The farm is situated near the banks of the Embarras River, five and one-half miles east of Charleston. Mr. Hanley and his wife have no children. They are members in good standing of the Baptist Church, and politically our subject votes with the Democratic party. He has given much attention to diseases of horses, and for the last thirty years has practiced successfully as a veterinary surgeon.

[There is also information on Justin H. Hanley with the William J. Shields biography, p 469. Justin married Lucinda J. Shields, daughter of John and Sarah (Sublet) Shields. In 1887, Justin was Sheriff of Edgar County.]

Farmer's Review Farm Directory, 1918, has info on Handley's and Hanley's. More on Coles County, IL