Ghosts in the Wilderness

To so many of us, genealogy is just a study of names and dates and places where so many of our ancestors have lived. We forget the reality of life doesn't really change through the centuries, just the window dressing. Sure they walked or rode horses or traveled in wagons at 10 miles per day. It took them in many instances a week to travel as far as we will go in an hour. Stop for a minute and digest that. However, they lived as many hours a day and a week as we do, and their lives were as full as ours and sometimes just as hectic. General George Washington remarked that his horse generally traveled at about 5 miles per hour and would do that for 10 hours or so a day. Ok, so George could do 50 mile per DAY, still not a good hours distance for us, is it? And an Indian Brave in good shape (and some of our indianized ancestors) could do about the same. So don't think they didn't get around, they did.
Which brings us to the point of this conversation. About 1970 when I first got the bug(genealogy that is) I was pretty much locked into the state of mind that our poor ancestors must have lived a very boring life, and a very limited one. I gazed into the past through my narrow scope of vision and understanding, and would get very depressed from time to time when I couldn't find any information, and thought to myself, "my God didn't these people ever do anything to be noticed, why did I have such boring ancestry?" HA!!! So, as a matter of public apology, I set down to write of the trails I have followed and tales that I have learned, and grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles, I AM TRULY SORRY!!
Having spent much of my years in the western USA I knew very little of the land where my ancestors first tried to establish their roots in the early colonial years of our country. The last few years I felt it was necessary to set out and try literally to walk in their footsteps. The first trip took me to the Shenandoah. You can see some of the pictures in the section called "An Irish Tale". I took other trips - to Cumberland County, KY and to the Greenbrier Valley of W.VA for just an afternoon. These only whetted my appetite for more. So last spring in May, Kerry,I and our little Blue Heeler Shadow set off for a 3 day trip to look for some very old tracks, based mostly on >little bits of information gleaned from hours of pouring over old journals, histories, and whatever information I could find that I thought might offer clue to lives of the early Murley's in America.
First Stop, Oakland, Maryland. We drove into town about mid-afternoon on a Monday afternoon, after a trip to the local library and several inquiries about a place I had read a few words about called Murley Glade. People looked at me and generally shook their collective heads and murmured "there's no place like that around here". Finally, someone told about a historical society in a building downtown, and we decided to investigate. The lady in the office proved to be most helpful and within a short period of time we were introduced to the gentleman that had written the article. Mr. John Grant, a local historian, proved to be most helpful in relating the limited amount of info known about "The Glade" and furnished us with a map of its location. The next morning, being Tuesday we arose quite anxious to continue our explorations, and within a couple of hours were driving down the beautiful forested trail to our goal. Indeed I knew not what to expect, I didn't even know what a glade was. After a mile or so we exited from the trees into a lower elevation. A short narrow bridge lay before us and water stood in a small lake and some ponds. This was the Murley Glade. It is unmarked and it lies along the McCullough Trail, a pack trail used by early trappers and traders predating the French & Indian War. It is virtually a swamp, it holds its place in history from the fact that on an evening in late September 1784, General George Washington misjudged his distance from his evenings destination and spent a cold dismal evening there. It was raining slightly, as indeed it was the morning that I walked through, and he reported that he had nothing to shield himself but his cloak. I am sure the General would just have soon forgotten about Murley Glade, but I say "Thank You Sir!!" for without this narrative I would have missed the opportunity to stand the ground that was named, I am sure, for one of my forefathers, whichever he was. I stood on the hillside above the glade that morning, and couldn't help seeing buckskin clad riders riding horses through the trees, with wary eyes watching the trees for Shawnee warriors, hoping to finish their journeys safely. We said adieu to Murley Glade.
Our next stop would take us north just across the line into Pennsylvania, as General Washington would have put it, probably a hard days ride (about 60 miles) to see where General Braddock led an Army of British regulars and Virginia Militia in a battle to capture Fort Duquesne from the French. The Fort, later to become Ft. Pitt, was at the falls of the Ohio in a very strategic position. Inroute we stopped at another historic place just a few miles before Braddock’s Grave, namely Ft. Necessity, the site of George Washington’s defeat in a skirmish with the French 3 years before. My desire to see the Braddock's site stems from my own personal theory that perhaps Daniel and Cornelius were there. Ok you say, Larry you are going out on a limb. Well, Maybe. But they were very active Militia Men. I have read, I think, ever muster roll for that period of time and they were never counted as absent, as indeed many of their neighbors were. The militia was there, almost every one in the country was there - Dan Boone, Andrew Lewis, George Washington, the list goes on. Ok, you don't have to believe it, I can't prove it!!!
Then in November 1755 Cornelius and Daniel are listed as dead. Everyone assumes that the report of Daniel’s demise is true, and that another Daniel comes on the scene in 1766. Sorry folks, I don’t believe a word of it. We are not talking huge settlements, big cities, huge masses of people. The Daniel we know, son of Cornelius, was a frontiersman, living in some of the most hostile territory that one could imagine. Lets take into account what we know of him. Mainly that he had resided in Buck’s County, PA for a time before moving with his father to the Brock’s Gap region of the Shenandoah. He was active in the Militia from the start in 1742. Nowhere is found evidence of him missing a single muster. He was a good friend of the Cain Family, he stands in line with his father, Cornelius, and Nicholas Cain, and several of the Brock men for role call, he buys and sells land with his father, and evidently leaves Brock’s Gap about 1751. He reappears in the Greenbrier area in 1766, still close friends with the Cain’s, He IS on the roster of soldiers that fought at Point Pleasant, and frankly I will always believe that Daniel is the same Daniel, son of Cornelius, but you are not required to believe this either, ‘cause I can’t prove it either.....YET!!
After looking at Braddock’s tomb, we drove east about 20 miles to Cumberland, MD. We found the library, and was rewarded in our search with a choice little article written in the 19th Century about the settlers of a small community about 20 miles farther east of Cumberland called Flintstone. We drove down to Flintstone and right in the center of town is a street sign labeled MURLEY’S BRANCH named after some early settlers. We don’t know how early, the earliest settlers remarked that it was named that before they arrived in the early 1800’s. The story is that old Mister Murley is buried on a farm up off the Murley Branch under a walnut tree, I’m sorry, they didn’t mention his first name. He does however have a beautiful valley to gaze upon through the passage of time.
By this time, the hour was getting late and our heads were spinning with pictures of the early Murley's traversing the hills and valleys and set our sight up on spending the next day in the beautiful Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia. We drove south along the Warrior Trail, now know as I-81, and as darkness settled on us looked out to the west as we passed the Brock’s Gap high up in the Allegany Range. Next morning we drove down into the valley of the Greenbrier and into the city of Lewisburg. We spent the next hour or so in the Library looking over maps and searching for new clues about the activities of the area during the time of Daniels residince in the area. Much knowledge and history of the area is available, for indeed this valley is abundantly endowed in tradition, tails of heroism, and indeed portrays the ideas and ideals that made America great, indeed most of the great men of that time were well acquainted with Lewisburg.
A few weeks previous to our trip while surfing the Web I had come across an article about a local group of archeologists that had been involved in excavating the Old Arbuckle Fort south of Lewisburg. It turned out this very morning they were right across the street from the library excavating a room off another old building. We went over and introduced ourselves, and obtained directions to Fort Arbuckle. We drove out of Lewisburg south through the town of Ronceverte, which as far as I can tell is exactly where Daniel’s property was located on the west side of the Greenbrier River along side the Seneca Trail. About a half hours drive later, we drove down along the creek, climbed a gate, and walked up a grassy hillside, and stood with in the perimeter of old Ft. Arbuckle. I don’t think that Daniel or his family spent much time there. There was another Fort called Ft. Spring that was much more convenient to them, but the history would have been much the same - parties of raiding Shawnees under Chief Cornstalk, raiding on a regular basis, people like you and me trying to make a living, raising their families, and living out their lives in a war zone that could have rivaled South Vietnam in the ‘60s and ‘70’s. Because of their bravery and endurance, we are able to live the soft life that we now enjoy, for how long, who knows?
If you are interested in your family, I challenge you to read the histories of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Most of the Murley legend lies there, as well as a lot of the history of our young nation. If you will I promise you a renewed pride in your ancestry, I promise you a renewed interest in yourself and a desire to be close to your present family, and I promise you a better understanding, of the country in which you live, and hopefully a desire to involve yourself in it. Only by understanding history and the facts of the past can we hope to survive tomorrow.
In the past few weeks I have taken on a new and exciting task. There is a set of documents known as the Draper Manuscripts, a history of Colonial America from just prior to the French and Indian War to after the American Revolution written and compiled by a man known as Lyman Draper in the early to mid 19th century. There are about 20 rolls of microfilm containing letters, military records, journals, biographies, etc. I have set a goal to reads them all, I have at the present time made it through 2 roles. I am hooked, this is some of the most exciting stuff I have ever read. I wish I had time to share some of it, but I’m afraid I would never get away from my computer, as I would not know where to stop. But I would encourage you, if you have a library available to you, to get them to read.
One story I would like to share, comes from Joan Cain, the wife of a Cain descendant, about James and Edmond Cain, two of Daniel Murley’s probably very close friends. As the narrator of the story begins it the men (James and Edmond) had just come up out of the Greenbrier Valley. They were dressed in buckskin leggings and loincloths, with their buttocks bare, their hair was smeared with bear grease and braided down each side of their head as Indian style. As it was the Sabbath they proceeded to go to church, as was the custom, only they aroused such a great furor with the ladies because of their appearance. Remember these men were living in a hostile country surrounded by people out to kill them, this was their only defense, to blend in. If these men looked and appeared like this, you can bet Daniel did also.
“Isn’t it great to be a Murley!”

Last Friday
A Genealogy | Chapter 7: Choices | Surname Index