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Volume 6, Number 22 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 October 22, 2014
In this article we will discuss the importance of Fincastle County, Virginia. This county was only in existence four years, but it had a major impact on the westward expansion. Since it was such a large county, it might include some of your ancestors.
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James L. Douthat
FINCASTLE COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Fincastle County, Virginia was one of the most important counties in western Virginia and it only lasted four years. To understand why it was so important, we have to know the background of its creation.
Fincastle came along at a critical time in the westward movement across the Appalachian Mountains. In this movement, Virginia was a key state in development of the western part of the United States prior to the American Revolution. In 1745 the Virginia Legislature established the county of Augusta on territory west of the Shenandoah Valley. This was one of the first major “mega” counties in the country. It contained all of the state from the Shenandoah Valley westward to the Mississippi River and north to the Canadian border. Included in this territory are seven states as they stand now. Since the border between North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia was not fully established, portions of Sullivan and Hawkins north of the Holston River were also part of Augusta County. In fact, Deed Book 1 of Sullivan County, Tennessee has many of the early deeds registered in Augusta County, Virginia.
Augusta County was eventually broken up due to its size. Botetourt County came into existence in 1770 and then Fincastle County in 1772. Fincastle contained the area of Kentucky, most of western Virginia and parts of West Virginia. Botetourt covered the areas north of this to the Ohio River.
Even though Fincastle County only lasted a few years, it played an important part in the westward expansion. Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, gave out land grants on the western waters of Fincastle County to soldiers who fought in the Dunmore’s War of 1774. We have to remember a little about the war to understand some of the conflicts with these grants. General Andrew Lewis raised volunteer troops from the western area of the state to fight and took his men up the Kanawha Valley to Point Pleasant [now West Virginia] where he engaged the Shawnee in battle. Lord Dunmore raised his troops from the eastern portion of the state and marched north to the Ohio near where Wheeling, West Virginia is today. Lord Dunmore sent word to General Lewis to come up to his location so the combined army might engage the Shawnee. General Lewis sent word for Dunmore to come help him fight the Indians down south. The two never met.
When the grants were given out the bulk of them were given to the troops of Lord Dunmore and General Lewis’ troops received only a few of them. The grants were given out according to rank from 200 acres for a private to 5000 for a General such as Patrick Henry and others. These grants are found today in a strange out of the way place, namely “Montgomery County, Virginia Plott Book C”. These grants just said that the recipient was to receive “XXX acres on the western waters of Fincastle County”. The surveyor and interested parties would have to find vacant land to survey for the land. The surveys were actually recorded also in a strange place, “Montgomery County, Virginia Plott Book A-B”. In these books are found the actual plat of those surveys with the “calls” the surveyor used. In many cases, there are listed neighbors and notes that this “...adjoins his patent land...” meaning land listed for the first time in any official record.
The value of these records are found on several levels. First, they are the listing of those first settlers in a particular area from the Roanoke Valley of Virginia into Kentucky and parts of Tennessee. The acreage denotes the rank of the soldier, stated or not. Finally, the listing of neighbors is important to establish a neighborhood wherein spouses might be found in later marriages, etc.
Fincastle was later divided into Washington, Montgomery, and Kentucky Counties. Kentucky County would later become a state. Washington and Montgomery Counties still exist but are much smaller, since many counties were formed from them. The name Fincastle still exists and is now the county seat of Botetourt County.
These very early records of Fincastle County are very important to the research of our ancestors for many families. Knowing the history of an area and understanding how county as well as state lines have changed over the years will definitely help in your research.
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