Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Jacob Castle and Shenandoah

Finally--Shenandoah National Park! I had been anticipating this since I realized that Jacob Castle owned land not far from the park. Tim and I had visited Castlewood, Virginia, on a previous trip (see Genealogy on the Road: Castlewood Virginia), but Castle's Woods was not the first place Jacob lived in Virginia.

On I had found an entry for Jacob Castle under "Virginia Land, Marriage, and Probate Records 1639-1850." Although the original land transaction was recorded in the Augusta County court records, the Ancestry entry comes from "Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800." Compiled by Lyman Chalkley and originally published in 1912, the Chronicles contain abstracts of Augusta County court records from 1745 to 1800 and is available online. (The University of Virginia urges caution when using these records; don't assume that just because a piece of information is not in the Chronicles that it doesn't exist.)

One of the entries that mentioned Jacob Castle was a land record dated 17th May 1752. In its entirety it says: " Edward Watts and Elizabeth, of Culpeper, to John Magret, 125 acres. Mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando; 200 acres sold by Jacob Stover to Jacob Castle; Castle sold 75 acres to Jacob Coger, 26th June, 1740, and 125 acres to Elizabeth Downs, present wife of Edward Whats. 33d [3rd?] September, 1742." In other words, Jacob Castle bought 200 acres from Jacob Stover (more about him later) before 26 June 1740; he sold 75 acres to Jacob Coger in 1740 and the remaining 125 acres to Elizabeth Downs (later Watts) in 1742. The land was located at the "mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando."

Jacob Stover is a well-known name in the history of this part of Virginia. He was born in Switzerland in 1688 and emigrated to Pennsylvania with a group of fellow Mennonites, possibly in 1702. He first bought land in Pennsylvania, not long before marrying Sarah Boone, the aunt of Daniel Boone, on 15 March 1714. In 1729 he first visited the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and in 1730 received two grants of land, 5000 acres each, from the Virginia Council.

According to the Family Search Wiki on Virginia Land and Property, "Land grants from this office were given in two ways--to those who brought persons to Virginia (headright grants) or to persons who paid money into the treasury (purchases). Headright grants were issued from about 1618 to 1732. A person was given a patent for a certain number of acres (usually 50 per person) for himself, his wife, servants, slaves, or any other passengers for whom he provided passage." Part of the colorful story surrounding Jacob Stover is that, in the absence of enough people to secure the 10,000 acres he requested, he submitted names for all of his livestock.

It appears that Jacob Stover and Jacob Castle were also friends. When Jacob Stover died in 1741, Jacob Castle was named guardian of Jacob's son, Abraham, who was under the age of 21. For a more complete picture of the peopling of the Shenandoah Valley by Jacob Stover and others, see The German Element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, published in 1907, by John Walter Wayland, available online.

As usual, I learned a lot after I returned home from our trip. Before the trip I had googled "Hawksbill" and "Shenandoah," guessing that the word "Shanando" was a different, older spelling of that lovely word. I found that there was a Hawksbill Creek in the Shenandoah Valley, and not only that, but the highest point of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park was Hawksbill Mountain. There was a great map of Shenandoah National Park and surrounding areas on the Park website. Perhaps from the viewpoint of Hawksbill Mountain, we could see the mouth of the Hawksbill or the point at which it flows into the Shenandoah River, and we could pinpoint the approximate location of the land that Jacob Castle owned.

We entered the park at the northernmost entrance and stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center for our first photos of the valley. I was expecting beauty, but the view of valley and mountains exceeded my expectations.

Why, oh why, did Jacob Castle leave this beautiful place? The gorgeous views may not have impressed the pioneers; we love the mountains because we are on vacation, and we don't have to climb them or go around them to get where we are going. However, as the pioneers found out, the Shenandoah Valley was prime farmland. Some families have lived here and farmed here since the 1700's. We decided it was because our Jacob wasn't a farmer; he was an adventurer.

Shenandoah National Park runs the length of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you can drive it from end to end in 6 to 8 hours. Between the length of the drive and my brother's fear of heights, we didn't make it to Hawksbill Mountain. As Tim pointed out, Couldn't we see Jacob Castle's land from the valley just as well as from the mountain? So we drove back out the north end of the park and headed through the Shenandoah Valley, which was just as beautiful with its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side and the Shenandoah Mountains on the other.

We were nearing the end of the mountain ranges when we suddenly crossed a bridge with a sign that said Hawksbill Creek. I shrieked, and the intrepid Tim again tried to find a way we could get to our destination without losing our lives in a fiery collision with an 18-wheeler. We were really in luck this time. Tim realized that the creek went under the bridge and came out on the other side in the town of Luray. In fact, there was a whole park that ran alongside the creek.

I don't know how far we were from "the mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando," but it was good enough for us. We were standing on the same creek that ran through the land of our ancestor, Jacob Castle.

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