Notes By Gregory K. Laughlin:
The following was taken verbatim from "The Talbot - Garton Duncan - Laughlin Families," compiled by Otis Anderson, a copy of which he has kindly supplied to me. Otis has collected many more stories about Captain John Dunkin/Duncan, which I hope to make available in a future update of this site. He was a fascinating man who lived a life full of adventure.
"Several years ago the writer was most fortunate in procuring a copy of the diary of Samuel Hervy Laughlin, born in 1799 and a grandson of Captain John Dunkin. The diary was written in 1845 by Laughlin, a well educated man, from details related by his mother and grandparents who were prisoners of the British in Canada during the Revolutionary War. The contents of this paper are the unedited words of James H. Laughlin, and a copy of the diary is filed in the Southwest Virginia Historical Society Archives at Clinch Valley College, Wise Virginia.
Captain John Dunkin (1743-1818) settled in Elk Garden about 1769. He was an only son of Thomas. This Thomas Dunkin, in early life had immigrated from Scotland to Ireland, having married in Ireland, Elizabeth Alexander, (born about 1710) also of Scottish descent. About 1740 he immigrated to Pennsylvania, eventually settling in Lancaster County where he died in 1760, leaving a wife, one son and four daughters.
Captain John Dunkin, subject of this sketch, married Eleanor Sharp, daughter of John Sharp, and sister of John, Jr., Thomas, and Benjamin Sharp, the latter a King's Mountain soldier. The Sharp family were also immigrants from Pennsylvania, settling near Wallace, in Washington County, Virginia before moving to Kentucky and westward. Captain Dunkin died on Spring Creek in Washington County, Virginia in 1818 and his wife Eleanor in 1816.
The Sisters of Captain John Dunkin were Elizabeth who married Samuel Porter and lived at Castlewood in Russell County, Virginia. Martha who married Solomon Litton, lived at Elk Garden, Russell County. Mary Jane married James Laughlin, son of John and Mary Price Laughlin and lived in Washington County, Virginia. There was a younger sister, name unknown, who married a Mr. Robinson in Russell County, Virginia, and returned to Pennsylvania.
The Dunkin family claim descent from the "Good King Dunkin" of Scotland and contend the true patronymic name to be spelled "Dunkin" and not "Duncan". About 1765, this family, along with the Laughlins, Sharps, and Prices, and perhaps others, left Pennsylvania, first settling in Botetourt County, Virginia, and later immigrating to Washington and Russell Counties.
By 1769, young John Dunkin, with his mother, his wife and children, three of whom were born before leaving Pennsylvania, had reached Elk Garden and here he was made first a Sergeant and later a Captain in the frontier militia of Washington County. He was very active in protecting the frontier against Indian forays from 1774 to 1778. When Powell Valley was evacuated in June 1776 because of the Cherokee war, he led a party of settlers and militia into the valley and guarded them while they brought out their personal property, which they had been unable to do because of the sudden evacuation of the valley.
** From Jerry Jone, via e-mail received October 23, 1998:
About 1749, John emigrated to Pennsylvania, eventually settling in Lancaster County. He settled in Elk Garden, Russell County, Virginia in 1769 ["Indian Atrocities along the Clinch, Powell, and Holston Rivers of Southwest Virginia, 1773-1774" researched and complied by Emory L. Hamilton].
In Orphans Court on February 1, 1763, petition of John Dunkin, eldest son & heir at law of Thomas Dunkin late of Sadsbury Twp in Lancaster Co., Yeoman, decd, that Thomas Duncan died intestate owning 127a in Sadsbury Twp and left several children, some of whom are yet minors, that petitioner is willing to pay the shares of the other children for the land; petition to appraise the land and determine if it could be divided among all the children without spoiling the whole. On March 1, 1763, the court declared: Ann Duncan, infant over 14, dau. of Thomas Duncan late of Sadsbury Twp, chose John Duncan her brother to be guardian; court appoints Andrew Moor of Sadsbury Twp to be guardian of Elizabeth Duncan and Martha Duncan, minor children under 14 of Thomas Duncan late of Sadsbury decd. Appraisal of land returned; it cannot be divided. [Mary Ann Dobson file-- Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Orphans Court Record].
About 1765, this family, along with the Laughlins, Sharps, Littons, and Prices, and probably other families left Pennsylvania and settled in Botetourt County, Virginia, near the town of Fincastle, later moving westward to Washington and Russell Counties ["Indian Atrocities along the Clinch, Powell, and Holston Rivers of Southwest Virginia, 1773-1774" researched and complied by Emory L. Hamilton].
After leaving Pennsylvania in 1769, he moved to Russell County, Virginia on the waters of Clinch River, and settled at a noted place called the Elk Gardens. This was the most remote northwesterly settlement of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge at that time. At Elk Garden he was appointed a Captain of Rangers by a Committee of Safety. This company was a small band of choice spirits, always ready as minute men and qualified by experience and bravery for defending a frontier settlement against the cunning and barbarity of Indian enemies. ["A Diary of Public Events and Notices of My Life and Family etc." by Samuel Hervey Laughlin, from Jan. 1 1845 to ---; file from Duncan Surname Association]
Sgt. John Duncan, commanding fifteen men, including Jeremiah Price, manned the home station at Glade Hollow Fort sometime between 1766 and 1774. ["William King and Virginia Watkins, Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Maellen King Ford; file from Duncan Surname Association]
Minutes of the Washington County Court on January 29, 1770 "ordered that Isaac Shelby, Robert Craig, John Dunkin and John Adair by recommended to his Excellency the Governor as proper persons to be added to the Commission of the Peace of Washington County."
On May 5, 1773, John Duncan was added to the committee to find the best way for a horse road between Town House on the Holston and Castlewoods. The committee reported back to the court on July 6, 1773. The road was partially established, beginning at John Duncan's house in Elk Garden and going to the Town House. ["Twenty-one Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies" by Elizabeth Pryor Harper, 1985, page 76]
Capt. Dunkin lived in the New Garden section of Russell County, Virginia at the time of his capture by the British. He had served as a militia officer on the Clinch since at least 1774, and in 1776 led troops of soldiers to Powell Valley to help people who had evacuated the valley because of Indians, bringing in their belongings. He later moved to Abingdon, Spring Creek, where he died. ["James Litton, 'The Wayfaring Stranger'" by Dorothy Gable, 1964, page 181+; file from Duncan Surname Association]
In June, 1776, just prior to the outbreak of the Cherokee War, Captain Dunkin led a party of militia and settlers into Powell Valley. "Captain Dunkin and his little faithful band, frequently went out and remained for different periods on tours of duty protecting the settlers in this valley and on the road. On one of these tours, he and his company fell in with a band of Indians whom they instantly attacked, killing four and wounding a fifth. They followed the wounded Indian some distance to a place where he had entered a cave. Captain Joseph Martin was along, having with other Rangers, met Captain Dunkin, when it was agreed between the two, that while others kept guard outside, they would enter the cave and take the Indian or kill him. They entered, each with a blazing torch in one hand and a pistol in the other, cocked and primed. After going in sixty or seventy yards, Captain Dunkin saw the Indian's eyes shining in the distance, and take deliberate aim, not knowing that the Indian had a gun, and supposing others to be with him, was so lucky as to shoot him right through the head." ["Indian Atrocities along the Clinch, Powell, and Holston Rivers of Southwest Virginia, 1773-1774" researched and complied by Emory L. Hamilton].
In January, 1777, John Duncan was named as one of the appraisers of the estate of Isaac Chrisman. In February, 1777, John was recommended to the Governor as a proper person to be added to the Commission of the Peace. This Commission was similar to a committee of justices of the peace. Four or five of them would hold court together, and they were considered important men in the county. These courts did more than examine criminals, who were sent to Williamsburg for trial, if the evidence justified the expense. They set prices for food, lodging and liquor. They recommended to the governor names of militia officers, who he then commissioned. John Duncan was commissioned a Captain in 1777.
On July 23, 1777, John Duncan was sworn in as justice of Peace and of the County Court in Chancery. He was present at court sessions November 1777, April 1778, and November 1778. In April, 1778, he was appointed to collect the tithables for the road from Two Big Springs on Copper Creek to the head of Mockison, and the road from Montgomery's old place through Mockison Gap to the North Fork (of the Holston River). ["William King and Virginia Watkins, Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Maellen King Ford; file from Duncan Surname Association]
At a Court held for Washington County of February 26, 1777 "Ordered that John Campbell, James Montgomery, Robert Buchannan, John Dunkin, Gilbert Christian, James Shelby, John Kinkead, John Anderson, William Bowman, Robert Craig, and James Robertson, Gent. be recommended to his Excellency, the Governor as fit and proper persons for Captains of the Militia in the County of Washington." ["Twenty-one Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies" by Elizabeth Pryor Harper, 1985, page 76]
By 1777, Harrodsburg, Boone's Station, and St. Asaph's (Logan's Station) were established, but still depended on the Holston settlements for supplies. In the summer of 1777, the Indians carried on a long siege of these forts. Ammunition ran low, and there were not enough men to dislodge the Indians. Logan slipped out of his fort and took the news to the Holston. The militia responded with 100 men. Col. Bowman, with two companies under Capt. Henry Pauling and Capt. John Duncan, arrived at Boonesborough on August 1. Capt. Duncan was soon succeeded by Capt. Isaac Ruddell, who later moved to Kentucky and established Ruddell's station. With the settlements so strengthened, and winter approaching, the Indians finally gave up and went home. ["William King and Virginia Watkins, Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Maellen King Ford; file from Duncan Surname Association]
On November 25, 1777, John Dunkin and John Kinkead were named as sureties in the sum of 200 lbs for the faithful administration of Henry Sword's estate. At a Court held for Washington County on November 26, 1777 "Ordered that James Laird be constable in Capt. Dunkin's Co. Ordered that William Robinson be overseer of the Road from Castle Run to the 2 springs that John Dunkin, Gent. give him a list of tithables." ["Twenty-one Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies" by Elizabeth Pryor Harper, 1985, page 76]
In 1777, he went to Kentucky, raised corn and made improvements by erecting cabins in the fork between Hingston's and Stoner's forks of the Licking River. He had removed his mother and sister with him to Clinch. After thus preparing in Kentucky in 1777-78, he removed his family, including his aged mother and two sisters, Elizabeth and Martha, along with their husbands out from Clinch to Kentucky in 1779. John removed them because, for besides being the head of his own family, he was the commander and leader of the company of immigrants, though Porter and Litton and others went along, were men of enterprise and good soldiers and woodsmen. These two had farms also begun by improvements near Martin's Station. Martin's Station was on Stoner's River (a fork of Licking) five miles above its confluence with Hingston on Licking--Ruddles Station (pronounced Riddles) was three miles below the junction of the forks. Consequently the forts were eight miles apart. ["A Diary of Public Events and Notices of My Life and Family etc." by Samuel Hervey Laughlin, from Jan. 1 1845 to ---, pages 167-168; file from Duncan Surname Association]
At the November 18, 1778 Court, John Duncan was named as one of the appraisers for the estate of John Barksdale. He, Samuel Porter, and Andrew Colvill were sureties in the sum of 600 pounds for the faithful administration of the estate by John Kinkead. John Duncan was also appraiser for the estate of Humphrey Dickinson. ["Twenty-one Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies" by Elizabeth Pryor Harper, 1985, page 76]
In the spring of 1780, the British decided to destroy the army of John Rogers Clark, which had been causing them so much trouble in the Ohio Territory. Clark was thought to be at Louisville, so an expedition under Capt. Henry Byrd set out. Figures vary, but there were at least 150 British troops, 700 Indians, and several cannon in the expedition. The Indians insisted on first destroying the forts in central Kentucky, claiming they were a threat to their villages north of the Ohio River. So the army traveled up the Licking River to Ruddell's Station, a large fort containing about 300 people. The Indians had never been able to take a Kentucky fort, but when cannon fire knocked down the gate, the station was forced to surrender. Capt. Bird promised that if the men surrendered, the women and children would be allowed to go free. The terms were accepted, but the Indians ignored them. Many of the settlers were killed before the British could stop them. They also killed all of the livestock and burned the supplies of food.
A week later on June 26, this army, with their prisoners, marched on Martin's Station, a much smaller fort with only about 50 people. Here were the John Duncan and Francis Berry family. Capt. Bird laid down the law to the Indians. Unless they promised that the British would have the prisoners and the Indians would have the loot, he would not use the cannon. The Indians knew they could not take the fort without the cannon, so they agreed. Martin's Station also surrendered. Burdened with prisoners and plunder, and being short of supplies, the expedition was cut short ["William King and Virginia Watkins, Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Maellen King Ford; file from Duncan Surname Association]
"The prisoners taken at Martin's were united to the prisoners from Ruddle's. There was understood to be an agreement between the British and Indians, that the prisoners taken at Ruddle's should belong to the Indians, and those at Martin's to the British. The whole of the property of the Americans including their Negroes, were given to the Indians. My grandfather, John Dunkin, had ten or twelve likely Negroes, and a fine person property in stock and furniture, etc., of which he was altogether plundered. After the Treaty of Greenville I think he got back an old African woman named Dinah, and a boy. I remember Dinah on the Holston, but am not sure as to the boy. This robbery and captivity, reduced my grandfather to poverty. As I have hereto stated, nothing but a few rags of clothing was left to him or his family. (Samuel Hervey Laughlin's diary) ["Indian Atrocities along the Clinch, Powell, and Holston Rivers of Southwest Virginia, 1773-1774" researched and complied by Emory L. Hamilton].
There are no official figures of how many prisoners Bird started out with, but only 100 of them reached Detroit. Those who would not keep quiet or could not keep up were killed along the way. Chief Logan, whose family was murdered in 1774, was a member of the raiding party. Capt. Duncan had several conversations with him during the captivity. The conversations must have been friendly--Logan told him that he had two souls, the good one made him kind and humane, the bad one made him savage and cruel. From Detroit they were sent to Montreal to be held as prisoners of war until 1784. Benjamin Sharp said: "The families came to no harm." John Duncan, Jr., escaped from captivity and made his way to the American side in New York.
According to a letter from Adelaide Berry Duncan to her son George: "As the prisoners were leaving Canada, they crossed Lake Ontario in a ship which was very crowded and manned by French-Canadian sailors. A storm arose and the sailors got frightened, and quit work. They started to pray, and cross themselves, when an Englishman, perhaps an officer, came on them and cursed and swore and ripped and tore around and kicked them, and made them get to work. Finally they got safely to land. Francis Berry laughed about it. Sarah Sharp said there were piles of feathers floating in the eddies on the lake shore that looked like white houses--the shedding of many waterfowls on the lake. As our ancestors were coming home they passed near Niagara Falls. All heard its roar and some of them men went to see it but the women and children were too weary to go. ["William King and Virginia Watkins, Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Maellen King Ford; file from Duncan Surname Association]
On return from Canada the prisoners came by way of Lake Champlain, by Saratoga, the place where Burgoyne's surrender in 1777, down the Hudson by water and across through New Jersey to Philadelphia, at the final achievement of our national independence as they passed through that city, and of the kindness everywhere of the people to them on their journey. ["James Litton, 'The Wayfaring Stranger'" by Dorothy Gable, 1964, page 181+; file from Duncan Surname Association]
Upon returning to Kentucky after being help captive in Canada, Capt. John Dunkin made the following statement: "June 26, 1780, I was taken from Licking Creek in Kentucky County by Captain Henry Bird of the 8th Regiment of his Majesty's forces in conjunction with about eight hundred Indians of different Nations--Viz. Mingoes, Delawares, Shawnees, Hurons, Ottaways, 'Taways and Chippeways. We marched from our village the 27th, being in number 129 men, women and children. We marched down Licking about 50 miles to the Ohio and from thence up ye Big Miami River about 170 miles to the Standing Stone, and from thence up said river to Larramie's (Lorimer's) Store 14 miles on the head of the Miami; and from thence across by land 18 miles to the Landing on the River Glaise--and from thence down said river passing a Taway village and to the mouth of said river about 80 miles at a small village to Miami Indians on the River Miami; from thence down said river about 40 miles to an Indian village called Rose de Boo--and from thence down said river about 18 miles to Lake Erie, where we went on board the Hope, mounted six pounders, Captain Graves, Commander; and so across the said lake to the mouth of Detroit River, and 18 miles up to the same to the fort and town of Detroit, which place we arrived at the 4th of August, 1780--where we were kept until the 24th when 33 of us were put on board the Gage, Captain Burnit commander, mounted 8 guns, and from thence to Fort Erie and thence in battles 18 miles down the River Niagara to Fort Slusher, at the head of the great fall--and from thence in wagons, 9 miles, where we again went in battles down said river to Fort Niagara at the mouth of said river on the 19th; and on the 5th of September we were again put on board the Ontario, Captain Cowan commander and so across the Lake Ontario to Carlton Island on the 8th, and on the 10th we sent off down the long Sac and into Sandijest Lake, and so down Rapids into Grand River and through a small lake and so the Lasheen. From thence by land 9 miles to Montreal on the 14th of September, 1780, and on the 17th we were sent into Grant's Island and remained there until the 25th of October, when we were again taken back into Montreal and billeted in St. Lawrence suburbs. I was put in confinement in the Long Gaol (???gh) September 1st, and remained in close confinement until the 17th day of October, when I was permitted to go and live with my family with the privilege of walking the town and suburbs." ["Destruction of Ruddle's and Martin's Forts in the Revolutionary War" by Maude Ward Lafferty, The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 54, No. 189, Oct. 1956, page 312]
An unfactual story states that John Dunkin and Soloman Litton all were captured by Indians and taken to near Detroit as prisoners. Soloman's wife, learning of this, journeyed and solicited the help of Daniel Boone and others to secure their release. After quite an ordeal, Boone's party liberated the group of men, some of which returned to Kentucky with him. It is said that Capt. Dunkin and Soloman Litton remained in Detroit through the winter and returned to the Clinch in the spring of 1781. During his absence, not having word from the family, and believing them to still be prisoners of the enemy in Canada, James Laughlin and John Litton (his kinsmen) were appointed guardians of the estates of John Dunkin and Soloman Litton on March 20, 1781, according to the Washington County, Virginia records. At a Court held for Washington County on May 15, 1781, and inventory and appraisement of the estate of John Duncan was recorded. ["A Diary of Public Events and Notices of My Life and Family etc." by Samuel Hervey Laughlin, from Jan. 1 1845 to ---, page 174; file from Duncan Surname Association]
After the war was over, the Duncans and Berrys returned to the Holston area. They had lost their land, their possessions, and their slaves. They were never repaid for their losses. ["William King and Virginia Watkins, Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Maellen King Ford; file from Duncan Surname Association]
"My grandfather (Captain Dunkin) considered Ruddle, not Riddle as the name is commonly written, as a bad man. When confined on parole, or in close prison at Montreal, he often saw Ruddle, who was his senior officer in the station when it surrendered, walking the streets, finely dressed, and under no restraint, or associating with the British officers." (Samuel Hervey Laughlin Diary) ["Indian Atrocities along the Clinch, Powell, and Holston Rivers of Southwest Virginia, 1773-1774" researched and complied by Emory L. Hamilton].
At a Court held for Washington County on 20th Mar 1781 "On motion of James Litton and James Laughlin, and by consent and order of the Court, they were appointed Guardians of the estates of Capt. John Dunkin and Solomon Litton, prisoners of the enemy in Canada, and to use all their legal methods for saving and securing the said estates ..." ["Twenty-one Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies" by Elizabeth Pryor Harper, 1985, page 76]
In 1786, Hawkins County was taken from Sullivan County, Tennessee. A Commission including Joseph Martin, James McNeil, John Duncan, William King, Evan Shelby, Samuel Smith, and John Scott were selected to find a site for the county courthouse. Apparently, they did nothing about it, and a new commission was named in 1795.
In 1788, North Carolina held a state convention to consider ratification of the Federal Constitution. The conservative North Carolinians were not in favor of the Constitution as it stood, and hoped a refusal to ratify would force Congress to add the Bill of Rights and other amendments. Three of the representatives from Sullivan County were Joseph Martin, John Sharp, and John Duncan. Martin did not vote, but Sharp and Duncan voted no, and the Constitution was not ratified by North Carolina until another convention was held in 1789. ["William King and Virginia Watkins, Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Maellen King Ford; file from Duncan Surname Association]
John Dunkin s will stated: John Dunken of Washington Co. VA, weak in body, ... executors should sell my personal property all and singular at twelve months credit the product to be disposed of as hereinafter mentioned. ... daughter Sally Laughlin, $100; daughter Elenoar Campbell, $50; balance divided among my nine children, to wit, Betsy Laughlin, John Dunken, Peggy Laughlin, Joseph Dunkin, Polly Hignite, Sally Laughlin, Ann Martin, Faithful Lock and Elenor Campbell. Executors to convey to John Laughlin the track of land on which I now live in compliance with a bond given by me to the said Laughlin for that purpose. Appoint my beloved friends Stanton Pemberton and Jonathan King executors. Dated October 2, 1817. /s/ John Dunken. Wit. Thomas McChesney, John Sharp, Jonathan King. Recorded 27 October 1817. Security for executors by Thos. McChesney. [Mary Ann Dobson file-- Washington Co. VA, District Court Record of Deeds book B, vol. 8, pg. 418].
John Dunkin was described as a "taciturn, serious and rather melancholy man. He was a large stout man and in his tougher days and until his spirit was broken and his health impaired by his Canadian captivity, and the loss of his property, had been a man of great vigor of mind and body, and fond of hazardous and arduous enterprise." ["James Litton, 'The Wayfaring Stranger'" by Dorothy Gable, 1964, page 181+; file from Duncan Surname Association]
Information from Dick Buckard gives death date as 6-August-1818 in Whitley Co., Kentucky.
From Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North-Carolina, Convened at Hillsborough, on Monday the 21st Day of July, 1788, for the Purpose of deliberating and determining on the Constitution recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, the 17th Day of September, 1787, Edenton, 1789:
On Friday, August 1, 1788, the convention met according to adjournment, and voted on a motion "on behalf of the state of North-Carolina, and the good people thereof, and by virtue of the authority to them delegated," to ratify "the constitution proposed for the future government of the United States of America by the federal convention, lately held at Philadelphia, on the 17th day of September last." On a voice, vote the motion failed. The delegates were then polled, with the "John Dunkin" and "John Sharpe" listed as nays. Coincidently, also listed among the nays was a Richard Nixon. As the president's ancestor lived in North Carolina during this period, perhaps our ancestors served with his at this convention. See Proceedings, pp. 276-79.