Note on Ancestry.com from Katharine Williamson, email@example.com:
JEREMIAH SMITH, CAPTAIN (FRENCH & INDIAN WAR): Sometime in the early history of Frederick County, Virginia, about 1730 or so, three white men from New Jersey entered an area of current day western Frederick County we know now as the Back Creek Valley. These three men were Isaac and
Owen Thomas and Jeremiah Smith. Tradition says that Jeremiah marked off an area of land for a farm and then returned to New Jersey where it is believed he married for the first time, possibly to a Miss Thomas. He had one son, Thomas, by his first wife. The legend concerning the fate of Thomas divides. One tale is that he was captured by Catawba Indians and spent his life with them somewhere in North Carolina. At some point, Jeremiah was led to believe Thomas was alive and contacted Thomas by messenger. Thomas refused to come home and rebuked his father for being an Indian fighter and robber of their lands. The other story indicates that after his mother died, Thomas went south with her people to South Carolina and served in the Revolutionary War, during which time he was killed. Jeremiah mentions Thomas in his will and indicates that he does not know if Thomas is alive, but if he should be, then he is to receive "five pounds current money in lue(sic) of all legacies from me." (A copy of Jeremiah's will is included in my book on Jeremiah) Captain Jeremiah Smith is also well known for his brave battles against the Indians. A roadside marker in Lost City, West Virginia, provides historical information on a famous battle Jeremiah fought with a band of 20 men in the spring of 1756 near Lost City in current Hardy Co.,WV. Smith and his militia surprised a group of French and Indians and during fierce hand-to-hand combat, Captain Smith killed the French captain and found in his pocket detailed instructions commanding the Frenchman to meet a band of 50 Indians who were to assist him in blowing up Fort Frederick.
Much more can be learned in a chapter on Captain Smith and his exploits in "Frederick Co., Virginia: Settlement and Some First Families ofBack Creek Valley 1730-1830", Wilmer L. Kerns, PhD., GatewayPress, Baltimore MD, 1995 May be found in DAR Patriot Index, Volume 1, p. 626
Capt. Smith Was One of the 1st to Tame Early Western Frontier.
Was Capt. Jeremiah Smith, of what is now called Gore, the first settler in the western lands beyond the Shenandoah Valley? Well, yes, and no. Local tradition and folklore all but suggest that he was; however, Wilmer Kerns, in his exhaustive history of the Back Creek Valley, somewhat mitigates this claim.
Kerns maintains that Owen and Isaac Thomas were the first to put down roots as farmers west of the Valley in the 1730s, and that Jeremiah Smith, a native of New Jersey, resided as a squatter on Owen's land. However, as fate and history would have it, the Thomases receded from view, perhaps as early as 1755, while Smith attained prominence as an Indian fighter, road builder, mountain man, land developer, and patriarch of a large clan.
When Smith and two other men, presumably the Thomases, first laid eyes on Back Creek Valley, Great North Mountain was the western boundary of the American frontier. By all accounts, Smith and his companions, on more than one occasion, ventured down from New Jersey and slipped through a gap in the mountains, to the lands watered by Back Creek.
By the mid-1730s, Smith was here to stay. It is known that, in 1736, he assisted Col. James Wood in surveying a plantation farm for Isaac Thomas near present-day Gainesboro. He was then living, as a virtual squatter, on the 806 acres owned by Owen and Sarah Thomas. Come 1749, however, when Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax made his initial land grants in the upper Back Creek Valley, the original Thomas tract was split between Owens widow, Sarah, and Smith.
In time, Smiths holdings would exceed 1,000 acres. He claimed, by squatters rights, some 450 additional acres in 1750 when several neighbors joined him in a petition to Lord Fairfax to grant him the property. This petition, in part, said that the, Rye Land, on Smiths original tract was, so Hilley and Stoney that very little of it is tillable. He received the land, and then an additional 263 acres in two grants, one dated 1754, the other 1762.
By then, the erstwhile squatter had made quite a name for himself. In 1742, he and a certain Robert Heaton were ordered by the Orange County court (Frederick County had yet to be formed out of Orange) to "view and lay" a road between the home of James Caudy (of "Caudys Castle" fame) in what is now Capon Bridge, W.Va., and Isaac Parkins mill near Winchester. This road, for all intents and purposes, was the forerunner of the current U.S. 50. At that time, it seems, Smith built a house along the road; still standing today, it was strategically constructed on a gentle slope so that Indians could be seen coming down off Little Timber Ridge to the west, or through a gap in Great North Mountain to the east.
In due time, Smith would fight these Indians. In 1756, following the decisive defeat of British Gen. Edward Braddock near the falls of the Ohio, a band of 50 warriors, led by a French officer, crossed the Alleghenies and began preying on frontier settlements. After a meeting of local militia captains, called by Lord Fairfax, proved indecisive, Smith took it upon himself to raise a small company of 20 men and marched in a southwesterly direction to intercept the marauding Indians.
Near Lost River in present-day Hardy County, W.Va., the two forces collided and, in fierce fighting, Smith and his men killed five of the enemy, including, so the story goes, the French captain, slain by none other than Smith himself. Allegedly, he found instructions on the officers person detailing plans to attack Fort Frederick in Maryland and blow up its powder magazine.
Records indicate, or, at least, suggest, that Smith sired 12 children by as many as three wives. The story of Thomas, his first-born, is the stuff of legend. Supposedly, the boy and his mother, Smiths first wife, were snatched by Indians sometime between 1740 and 1745. Mrs. Smith died in captivity, but Thomas remained with the Indians, eventually adopting their culture.
From time to time, Jeremiah would seek information about his son from the myriad traders and hunters who passed by his homeplace heading to and from Winchester. Some said they remembered seeing the boy, but could never pinpoint his whereabouts.
In his later years, Smith received word from Jacob Shade, a local Revolutionary War veteran, that his son was living with the Catawba tribe in western North Carolina. Summarily, he dispatched a friend with a message for Thomas, asking him to come home, for he, Smith, was getting old. Thomas, it is said, rejected his father's entreaty, saying that he was content living with the Indians.
Later local historians, T.K. Cartmell, for one, tell a different story. Thomas, Cartmell maintains, went to live with his mothers people in South Carolina and was killed in the Revolutionary War.
Whatever the case, Jeremiah died in 1787, without ever seeing his first-born son again. However, his place in local history is secure as one of the first men to tame the lands west of the mountain wall in old Frederick County.
Adrian OConnor is editorial page editor of The Winchester Star.