Patrick County Virginia In The American Revolution

"It is very dangerous to write the truth in war and the truth is very dangerous to come by. When a man goes to seek the truth in war he may find death instead. But if the twelve go and only two come back, the truth they bring will be the truth, and not the garbled hearsay that we pass as history."                                                                 --Ernest Hemingway

                            Patrick County Virginia lost two men in the American Revolution

Samuel Crowley

William Letcher

REMEMBER Patrick County during the American Revolution (1775-1783) was part of Henry County, Virginia, and included part of present today Carroll County south of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Patrick County did not exist until 1791.


In the far western section of present day Patrick County in the summer of 1780 lived William and Elizabeth Perkins Letcher and their baby daughter Bethenia and nine slaves. Letcher, a Patriot was murdered by Tories, pro-British sympathizers in front of his family on August 2, 1780.


Patrick County's oldest marked grave is that of William Letcher (1750-1780), which is today part of the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace, the Laurel Hill Farm in Ararat, Virginia.                 


The Letcher Overlook provides a vista to look across the Ararat River Valley to the Dellenback-Mitchell House and the five acres owned by the    J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace on the other side of the river. Seventy acres are owned on the former Brown land giving the Birthplace 75 acres of the 1500 acres owned by the Stuart Family at Laurel Hill. The Stuart Family Cemetery was the resting place of Archibald Stuart from his death in 1855 until 1952 when he was removed to Saltville to lay beside his wife Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart. Two of their children are believed buried across the river with their great-grandfather William Letcher per the deed that sold Laurel Hill in 1859 out of the Stuart Family and not as this site denotes.


George Washington's visit to Patrick County before the American Revolution

          George Washington, the future Father of our country, visited Halifax County or was it Patrick County or was it Henry County. Confused? Keep reading.

          In the summer of 1756, the British and their colonies in North America had been at war with France and their Native-American allies in the so-called French and Indian War for two years. Raids by the natives on the western frontier of the colony of Virginia spurred the royal governor, Robert Dinwiddie, to write a twenty-four year old colonel in the Virginia Militia headquartered in Winchester, named George Washington with instructions to finish construction on a series of forts.

          Washington felt the “little paultry” forts were too expensive and thought it would be smarter to build a few good forts at strategic locations. He decided to make a tour of the forts and report back to Governor Dinwiddie. Leaving Winchester on September 29, 1756, traveling up the Shenandoah Valley to Staunton (then Buchanan) and then on to Fort Vaux near present day Shawsville. Washington left Fort Vaux for Halifax. Just hours later Native killed several men near the spot were the future first President of the United States passed.

          In 1756, Halifax County, which included the present day counties of Franklin, Pittsylvania, Henry and Patrick, had three forts. The forts respectively named Fort Callaway along the Blackwater River in present day Franklin County, Fort Trial in present day Henry County along the Smith River and twelve miles away was Fort Mayo located on the North Fork of the Mayo River along the present day county line of Patrick and Henry.

          Captain Samuel Harris was in command of Fort Mayo. The garrison included twenty men, but was suppose to be manned with a Captain, Lieutenant, two sergeants, two corporals and forty men. Daily rations for the men included 1-½ pounds of beef or 1 pound of pork with one pound of bread. By 1756, Captain Nathaniel Terry built Fort Mayo. It was small with a twenty feet high log stockade surrounding a blockhouse.

          On October 10, 1756, Colonel Washington wrote that he was “within five miles of the Carolina line, as I was proceeding to the southern most fort in Halifax”. He met Major Andrew Lewis on a return journey from the Cherokee Nation. After visiting Fort Mayo, Washington proceeded to Fort Trial and then to Rocky Mount, where he lodged at the Widow Evans home. He returned to Winchester by October 22, 1756, via Staunton and report to Governor Dinwiddie, who decided to abandon two of the forts in Halifax leaving only Fort Mayo open until 1761.

          The actual location of Fort Mayo is still a topic of discussion. Hardin Hairston confused the location of the fort by naming his home with the same name at a site nearby. Hairston was the third son of Colonel George Hairston and Elizabeth Perkins Letcher Hairston, who along with her first husband, William Letcher, were the great-grandparents of J. E. B. Stuart.

          The traditional site believed to be on Route 628 or north of Route 810 near Stella in Patrick County. A history professor from California, Carol Wahl, using diaries, deeds and topographical maps believes the fort is located in present day Henry County near where The Great Wagon Road crossed the North Fork of the Mayo River near Spencer. Archaeology has not found the exact location of Fort Mayo. So for now, George Washington slept in Patrick County...almost.


Samuel Crowley at the Battle of Point Pleasant 

Patrick County Educator and Historian O. E. Pilson always believed that Samuel Crowley was the first from what is today Patrick County who sacrificed his life fighting for this country. Pilson considered his death to be the first death of the American Revolution as he died in 1774 in Dunmore's War. Crowley known as "Long Hunter" was a scout for Andrew Lewis when he came upon a group of Indians and lost his life died on October 10, 1774, at the Battle of Point Pleasant in present day West Virginia before the American Revolution in "Lord Dunmore’s War" in what was then Virginia. Crowley lived in present day Woolwine where the Smith River and Rock Castle Creeks come together in the triangle of land formed by the two streams. Today, it is almost entirely farmland not far from the junction of Elamsville Road and Route 8 about a mile from the Bob White Covered Bridge. Crowley is buried in the mass grave at the West Virginia State Park at the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers in the powder magazine shown below. He is listed as Samuel Corley.

Battle of Point Pleasant


The following three photos are from the land Samuel Crowley owned in present day Woolwine along the Elamsville Road in the triangle of land where the Rock Castle Creek and Smith River come together.

In an unrelated topic Point Pleasant, West Virginia, was the site of the Silver Bridge collapse of December 1967 and is home the Mothman, the winged creature made famous recently in the Richard Gere movie The Mothman Prophecies.

The bridge today crosses the Ohio River at the site of the 1967 collapse.


American Revolution Discussion Forum

Guilford Courthouse National Battlefield

Library of Virginia

Rev War Bounty Land Search

Rev War Pensions

Claims From Lord Dunmore's War 1774-75

Using Virginia Rev War Records

Rev War Public Service Claims

Rev War Land Office Military Certificates


National Park Service

Library of Congress

Sons of the American Revolution

Daughters of the American Revolution

Marker Text: "200 yards south is "Poplar Grove." Penn's old home and burial place. At age 21 he "won his spurs" leading a company under General Lewis at Point Pleasant. During 1780-81 he organized the first revolutionary troops from Henry and adjoining counties, and led his regiment to aid General Greene in the battles of Guilford Court House and Eutaw Springs. He helped organize Patrick County."

Abram Penn

"Abram (Abraham) Penn, son of George and Ann Penn, born December 27, 1743, spent his childhood in Caroline County, Virginia. He married Ruth, daughter of George, Jr. and Mary Stovall, March 3, 1767, in Amherst County. As militia captain, Abram Penn fought under General Andrew Lewis at Point Pleasant in Lord Dunmore's War, 1774. After moving to Pittsylvania (later Henry) County, he served on the Committee of Safety in both counties and as delegate to the Virginia General Assembly from Henry County. During the Revolutionary War, Penn advanced to the rank of Colonel and in the winter of 1780-1781, organized the only body of Revolutionary troops from Henry and adjoining counties. He led his regiment to join General Nathaniel Greene in North Carolina, March 1781. Later he and his troops joined General Greene in defense of the Carolinas, fought in the Battle of Eutaw Springs, and continued in service through the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Commissioned by the Governor, he administered State and Federal oaths to the officers of Patrick County at its first court, June 1791. In the early years of the county, Abram Penn and seven of his sons served as "Gentlemen Justices." In June 1801, Abram Penn was buried in the family cemetery at his home, "Poplar Grove." The November 1965 issue of the DAR Magazine contained an article, "Colonel Abram Penn, Virginia Patriot," by chapter member, Miss Sydney Penn."

Abram Penn is buried near the site of his home Poplar Grove, which is no longer standing on the Abram Penn Highway west of the Virginia Historical Highway Marker northeast of the Reynolds Homestead.

Interior Views of Poplar Grove, the home of Abram Penn.

Poplar Grove photos Courtesy of Avis Turner.

Abram Penn born December 27, 1743, in Caroline County, Virginia, was the son of George and Ann Penn. They family also lived in Albemarle and Amherst counties. Abram married Ruth Stovall on March 3, 1767, in Amherst County and had a dozen children with her. Some of his descendants and relatives include Poet and Author Robert Penn Warren and Thomas Penn, who fought in the Civil War, built Aurora "The Pink House" and later his family moved to Reidsville to build Chinqua-Penn and became involved with the American Tobacco Company. Abram Penn's career in the American Revolution is varied and hard to trace. There are stories of him at Point Pleasant in 1774,  chasing Tories to the Yadkin River in North Carolina in 1780 after the death of J. E. B. Stuart's great-grandfather in August 1780, Guilford Courthouse in 1781, where he "led a company" and the surrender at Yorktown in 1781. His political career has him mentioned at the first courts in Henry and Patrick counties in 1776 and 1791 respectively. In fact, some sources have the courts meeting at Penn's home "Poplar Grove" along the North Mayo River in what was first in Henry and then Patrick County. His land came from a 1,500 land grant given to the Randolph Family that included such members as Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee.

The site of Poplar Grove in 2007.



Another man from the time of the American Revolution with a Patrick County connection is George Taylor (1745-1823), who tradition holds came from Wales in 1772 and settled along the Mayo River. There is tradition that he served under George Washington during the American Revolution and received a land grant in 1781 on the North Mayo River. There is another story that Taylor was a Lieutenant under Captain John Dillard in the Rev War. Which or neither of these stories is true, the county seat of Patrick County formed in 1791 was named Taylorsville until 1884 when it became Stuart. Although almost always referred to as Patrick Court House, the official name was for George Taylor.