Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thomas Bailey Christian of Indian Creek, Virginia

I need to do a round-up of all the information floating around about our ancestor, Thomas Bailey Christian.

In the beginning
There have been stories that TBC was an orphaned Native American going back before the Internet. I will try to lay out here where the stories originated and when. We are 99% sure that he was an orphan and that he was adopted by Thomas Mastin. There are stories that he was the son of Elinipsico Cornstalk and if you read your history books you will find that Elinipsico and his father, Cornstalk, were murdered by American militiamen at Fort Randolph during a diplomatic visit in November 1777.

First written statements - Christian v. Wray

In 1805 Thomas Christian was in a battle over ownership of his land on Indian Creek. In a deposition, John Hankins stated that  Thomas Christian was an orphan.

You can view the documents at Virginia Memory: Chancery Records

(also see Lula Hankins Hunter below)

In 1815 Hezekiah N. "Low Hawk" Whitt wrote a will naming his brother "Thomas B. Christian".  Read the will here.

In the court case ESTATES: MOSES SKAGGS HEIRS, ESTATE CASE # 3871, GREEN CO., KY, 1836  it is stated that the daughter of Liddy Harman was married to Thomas Christian. 

(also see Lula Hankins Hunter below)

In 1844 Thomas Christian helped his friend, Hezekiah Whitt, apply for a pension. This is his statement:
In addition to the certificate given by this affiant, he would state that this affiant was raised from childhood (being Left an orphan) by Captain Thomas Mastin, whom he has often heard say, that Hezekiah Whit, the applicant for a pension in the foregoing declaration, was a soldier under him in the Cherokee Expedition into Tennessee. This affiant knew the said Whit at that time and has known him ever since. This affiant knows nothing of any other service stated by the said Whit, but he believes them to have been performed as stated. Sworn to and subscribed the day and year above written in open court. (signed) Thomas Christian 

In 1853, the year of his death, we do not have Thomas Christian's Death Certificate but we do have his infant son Samuel's which names his parents as Thomas B. Christian and Mary.

Eastern Cherokee Applications
In 1908, the granddaughter of Moses Bailey Wiskilo'tha "Sharp Shooter" Christian applied to the Eastern Cherokee (Application #10464). The application was rejected, which does not really mean anything because many applications were rejected for frivolous reasons or for, in our case, I believe, people did not really know anything about the details of their heritage because it was kept hidden. Remember, the Cornstalks were brutally murdered. Often enrollment would not be granted if your ancestors had never enrolled (our case) but many of the Native ancestors tried to downplay their heritage for safety. You can see a copy of the application at Fold3.com. Here is one note in the application:

H. C. Fink (1)
Justice of the Peace and Real Estate Dealer
Tug River, W. Va.
January 22, 1908

Mr Gunion Miller
Washington DC

Dear Sir,

(Unreadable) I have in regard to claims Eastern Cherokee Indians my great grandfather Mose Christian was Eastern Cherokee (2) Indian and lived with the Indians in Virginia and annually went to the Western part of the W.S. (3)with them.
I had no former opportunity to enroll and do not know why my ancestors did not enroll.
Yours very truly,
JM X Charles

1. People often hired local attorneys to help file their applications.
2. I don't believe people in 1908 knew the difference between Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokee. Cherokee just meant "Indian" to them. That's just my guess for why Shawnee people applied for Cherokee claims.
3. We don't know what this means "Western part of the W.S." - Washington State? Do you know?

Gordon Aronhime
In May, 1982, historian Gordon Aronhime wrote the article Thomas Mastin: Important Unknown of the Early Clinch River Settlement for the Historical Society of Washington County, Va. He does not mention our Thomas Christian.

Jump to 1991-1994 Juanita Sigmon Halstead - Holston Pastfinder
Sometime in the early 1990s, before the Internet, Juanita Sigmon Halstead of Scott Depot, West Virginia wrote short articles for the newsletter Holston Pastfinder. She does not mention Indian stories but she does confirm that our Thomas Christian was adopted by Thomas Mastin. She may have written more about TBC. We need to find out if any of her work has been published.

We know of two quotes about TBC in the HP.

Issue 37-1 (number is hard to read on our copy)
In this note by JSH that starts off about Joseph WRAY Juanita writes "Thomas MASTIN took our Thomas CHRISTIAN, Sr. under his wing when our Thomas was orphaned and our Thomas was with him after he (Thomas MASTIN) and Daniel SMITH left Washington County and went to the Territory South of the Ohio River - TN really." There is more information about TBC on this page email if you would like a copy.

[This note by JSH corrects an earlier article in
HPF 36-18 - we should get that too. ]

Issue 36-42
Partial quote I found on a Google Books search:  "Sumner Co., TN, where he d. c1810. Thomas CHRISTIAN was orphaned & taken into the care of Thomas MASTIN. CHRISTIAN was in Floyd Co., KY c1795/6, found on list of customers at a store owned & operated by John..."

Lula Hankins Hunter - 1998 Message Posts Lula is the descendant of Elizabeth Skaggs who was the sister of our Lydia Skaggs. In 1998 Lula wrote at least two message board posts that apply to TBC.

"Skaggs & Hankins", Beginnings with Never Endings Msg 3-A Here she writes about the Christian v. Wray lawsuit and more...

ESTATES: MOSES SKAGGS HEIRS, ESTATE CASE # 3871, GREEN CO., KY, 1836 This will validates the relationship of TBC, his wife and connects her to her mother Lydia Skaggs and the Skaggs family. Excerpt: "Robert & Moses Beavers & Thomas Christian having married daughters of said Mathias & Liddy Harman"

Agnes Branch Pearlman and the Christian Chronicles
Pearlman, publisher of the Christian Family Chronicles, stated that she did not believe Thomas Bailey Christian was the orphaned son of Nathaniel Christian. She also stated she did believe he was from the old Christian family but she was not sure where he fit in. This statement was posted to the Internet in 2000. I do not know when it was written.

Sheila Jean Adkins Metcalf and Metcalf Family Mews
In 2007, Sheila Jean Adkins Metcalf  started a blog where she writes about her Adkins family links to Cornstalk.  She also has Reed and Blankenship connections. I check on her Chief Cornstalk: Shawnee Lineage post to read the comments and see who is discovering Cornstalk genealogy. 185 comments as of this writing (Jan. 2014).

James Red Wolf
In 2008, James Red Wolf started posting about his family's oral history concerning Thomas Bailey Christian and the Cornstalk family. As far as I know he was the first to write about the Cornstalk connections. Here he describes his connection to TBC:
"I probably have confused a few of you concerning my relation to Thomas and Louisa. I come down through his son James, then James’s son George. Some thought it was Thomas’s son George, but it was his grandson. If I said Thomas's son George, I meant to say grandson. My error. I hope this confusion has been cleared up. J Red Wolf"

I have made a handy link page to his posts.
James Red Wolf Posts

In Red Wolf's posts he mentions quite a few leads that may turn up more documents for us. Please contact me - Catherine dee Auvil - if you find any of these documents and I will add them to their respective WeRelate pages.

1. TBC's sister Sarah "Mountain Raven" Mastin who married Bear Adkins. Sarah in Tazewell and Bear in North Carolina. Bear's papers name Thomas Christian of Tazewell as his brother in law and Executor of Estate. The above was assembled from treaty signings and other affairs where the name is recorded as "son of or daughter of Cornstalk" "Find the Greenbrier, not the place, but the woman. She was a daughter of Chief Cornstalk. Much older than her sister Rachel. Once you find Greenbrier and Reuben Kinnison, you find Rachel again. Greenbrier names Rachel Whitt as her sister. Look for them with William Parrish and his wife Elizabeth Kinnison. Elizabeth was daughter to Greenbrier and Reuben." J Red Wolf

2. Rachel Scaggs who married Hezekiah Whitt "You can only find her “name change” on record, a legal change from her Indian name to Rachel Skaggs. This will give proof to you of her relation to the Cornstalks. Look for her in Montgomery County. She was NOT a Skaggs, keep this in mind." Red Wolf

3. "Tomas Mastin's papers for the orphans are found in Tennessee. (It states he raised 4 orphans) There is also one from Hezekiah Whitt in Virginia for the recognition of Thomas Christian as a Cornstalk orphan. Montgomery County is the place to look." Red Wolf

4. "The younger Hezekiah (Low Hawk) signed for Thomas Christian verifying he was a son left orphaned by the Cornstalk. Thomas in turn signed the same for Hezekiah." Red Wolf

Caryl Lamont, a descendant of Thomas Bailey Christian through Mastin Christian, corresponded with James Red Wolf, typed up the family tree and posted it to Genforum in 2008.

Shawnee Heritage by Don Greene
At about the same time as the Red Wolf postings (2008), Don Greene* published his book Shawnee Heritage I. His book mentions Elinipsico but does not name his children. *Note: Don Greene is controversial in part because he does not name his sources. In spite of that, he has done extensive research and his books are invaluable in the study of Shawnee history.
(2013) I have just received word that Don Greene is looking into the Cornstalk Orphan mystery. Stay tuned.

Cheryl Tate Duke and Appalachian Aristocracy
Since 2010, Cheryl Tate Duke, a descendant of Thomas Bailey Christian through Thomas Scaggs Christian, has enjoyed sharing the family history she has gathered at her website Appalachian AristocracyJuanita Sigmon Halstead was her mentor and they both contributed stories about Tazewell Christians to the Christian Family Chronicles. Cheryl has stated that neither Juanita nor Agnes  ever mentioned a Thomas Bailey Christian-Cornstalk connection to her. [1]

Indian Creek, Virginia
In the summer of 2011 Jo Spencer and I (Catherine dee Auvil) met through the Appalachian Heritage forum. We discovered that we both had ancestors who lived in the small community of Indian Creek, Virginia about the time of the Revolutionary War. Jo has researched the connection between her Indian Creek ancestor, Nikitie Arthur, and the niece of Pocahontas, "Princess Nicketti". To learn that descendants of Nicketti and the Cornstalks all lived together in this tiny Virginia town made a lot of sense to us. We believed, and we still believe, that descendants of Powhatan and Cornstalk hid out in this small Appalachian community to avoid the removal in the same way that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians were able to survive the Trail of Tears by remaining in Tennessee. If you would like to join our study group here is the link

link to study group

DNA clues
In 2012, Kennith Simpson started posting to the Ancestry.com Christian forum that his own personal DNA trail leads from Thomas Bailey Christian back to William Christian, Isle of Man, born 1579-1655. While we are waiting for more DNA studies to support Kennith's line  we do have to acknowledge the changes DNA studies could make to what we believe. If you keep the family stories that TBC was raised by the Cornstalk family it seems to imply that either he or his father were kidnapped white settlers. If you would like to follow these developments here is a link to the Ancestry forum:


That's the state of Thomas Bailey Christian research as of 2013. If I have missed anything please let me know. I will update this post and you can always find a list of known facts about TBC at his WeRelate page. You can find his WeRelate page in a link list I made of all the people we are studying for the Indian Creek group:

Cast of Characters

Catherine dee Auvil
March 2013

Edited: March  15 2013 to add Shawnee Heritage by Don Greene
Edited: March 15 2013 to add Agnes Branch Pearlman and Christian Chronicles
Edited: March 16 2013 to add the will of Hezekiah N. Low Hawk Whitt
Edited: March 20 2013 to add Cheryl Tate Duke and Appalachian Aristocracy
Edited: March 20 2013 to add Caryl Lamont; fixed JRW posts link
Edited: March 20 2013 to add Sheila Jean Adkins Metcalf and Metcalf Family Mews
Edited: May 20 2013 to add Don Greene news 
Edited: May 24 2013 to add Juanita Sigmon Halstead quotes
Edited: May 27 2013 to add Lula Hankins Hunter posts
Edited: June 5 2013 Gordon Aronhime; DNA; 1853 Samuel
Edited: July 9 2013  Added the 1836 Moses Estate statement to the beginning timeline
Edited: Dec 17 2013 Added link to HLHW's will
Edited: Jan 1 2014  Just fixing some typos
Edited: Jan 25 2014 Holston Past Finder Issue number & Metcalf Family Mews Cornstalk post link