Simpson History



Evan Shelby Jr.

Capture of General Evan Shelby's Negro Girl

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, page 17.

After killing John Duncan at Moore's Fort the next strike of Logan, the Mingo Chief, was at the fort of General Evan Shelby, near the present Bristol. At this time General Shelby was away on the Lewis Expedition to Ohio.

On October 6, 1774, the Indians captured a slave girl belonging to Shelby. In a letter dated October 9, 1774, Major Arthur Campbell reports the raid on Shelby's settlement in this manner:

On last Thursday evening, ye 6th instant, the Indians took a Negro wench prisoner, belonging to Captain Evan Shelby, within 300 yards of his home. After they took her some distance, they examined her, asking how many guns were in the fort and other questions relative to the strength of the place. They asked her if the store was kept there now. After they had carried her off about a mile, they saw or heard a boy coming from the mill; they immediately tied the wench and went off to catch the boy. While they were gone the wench luckily got loose and made her escape. She says they knocked her down twice when she refused to tell in what situation the fort was; and she says one was a large man much whiter than the rest, and talked good English. It was the same kind of person Mr. Blackmore saw in pursuit of the Negro he relieved. (1)

(1)        Calender Virginia State Papers, Draper Mss 3 QQ.

Contact: Rhonda Robertson at:

Notes from Mason's Journal - taken while charting the Mason-Dixon Line
Capt. Shelby

1765 Oct 25

Went to Captain Shelby's to desire him to go with us on the North Mountain for to show us the course of the River Potowmack Westward.

1765 Oct 26

Packed up our Instruments and left them (not in the least damaged to our knowledge) at Captain Shelby's. Repaired with Captain Shelby to the Summit of the Mountain in the direction of our Line, but the air was so hazy prevented our seeing the course of the River.

1765 Oct 27

Captain Shelby again went with us to the Summit of the Mountain (when it was very clear) and showed us the northernmost bend of the River Potowmack at the Conoloways [...]"

Legal Proceedings against Evan Shelby in the case of Fornication

The "Real" Tom & Catherine Wheate

From: Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, 27th March 1766, provided by Keith McMullen, who found the same at library at University of California at Santa Barbara [emphasis added]

To His Excellency Horatio Sharpe Esqr Governor and Commander in Chief in and over the Province of Maryland.

The Petition of the Subscribing Magistrates of Frederick County.

Most humbly sheweth That your Petitioners, with great Sorrow and regret find themselves obliged to accuse two of their own Members of a Scandalous Abuse of that Power which your Excellency hath thought proper to intrust them with in joint Commission with your Petitioners.

That without insising upon other irregularities, your Petitioners will Confine themselves at present to the Information they have received of Capt Evan Shelby, and Mr Joseph Warford, in a case of Fornication, as follows.

That a certain Catherine Wheate, Daughter of Conrad Wheate, in the Month of September last, Charged Thomas Hynes, on Oath, before Capt Thomas Price, one of his Lordship's Justices of this County, with being the father of her Bastard Child. Whereupon Capt Price took Recognizance for her appearance at November Court, and also for the Man's appearance and made return thereof accordingly.

That the said Hynes appearing at the said November Court, but the young Woman not appearing, the matter was respited till March Court following.

That Hynes, in the Interim, apply'd to Capt Evan Shelby for a Warrant to take the Child from the said Catherine its Mother, which was granted in the form of a Search Warrant for Stolen Goods; and in pursuance thereof, on the 2nd December Barnett Johnson Constable of Linton hundred, with five more, went to the House of Conrad wheate, and after calling for Whiskey, and making other pretences, at Length demanded of Conrad Wheate to deliver up his daughter's Child, pretending they had an Order of Court for it: Which Wheate demanding to see the order, and finding the same only to be an Order of Capt Shelby's, refused to comply with, because his Daughter was under Recognizance already. Upon which Refusal a Riot ensued, a Door being broke open, and several of the People of the House severely beaten by the Constable and his followers, who seized the Child, and carried it to the House of Ralph Matson where Capt Shelby was, who received the Child from the Constable, and delivered the same to William Hynes. (pp. 131-2)

That Joseph Flint and Thomas Brooks being offered on the young Woman's part as her Security for keeping her Child off the Parish, were refused by Capt Shelby, who also threatened that if ever he catched Conrad Wheat in Maryland he would have him cropp'd for disobeying his Orders in not giving up the Child, and declared that if he had gone there in Person he would have burnt Wheate's House over his Head and at the same time took Bond in his Lordship's behalf of William and Thomas Hynes in the penalty of 100 pounds to keep the Child off the Parish.

That upon Complaint of Conrad Wheate and the others who had been beaten Hynes and the other Rioters were brought before Mr Joseph Warford, where finding the matter more serious than they had imagined, and likely to become a Court Business, Thomas Hynes gets the Girl on his Lap, and (as Mr Warford writes in his narrative) was very Sweet. Whereupon Mr Warford advised the young Man, to a Marriage, which was at Length agreed upon, the Girl's father promising to give the young Couple 30 pounds & a 5 pound Wedding.

That during these Transactions, Capt Shelby demanded of Joseph Warford a Warrant for the young Woman's fine, which Mr Warford refused to Grant he also refused to sign one drawn up by Capt Shelby, and presented to him for that purpose. Whereupon the Capt Signed it himself, had her immediately taken into Custody, and again discharged her upon receiving a Promissary note from Thomas Hynes for the amount of her fine.

That Capt Shelby at Length Proceeded to the Marriage Ceremony, which he performed by asking the young Man whether he would take that Woman to his lawful Wedded Wife? and put the same question, mutatis mutandis to the young Woman; after which he pronounced them to be lawful Man & Wife, saying Jump Dog, Leap Bitch, and I'll be damned if all the Men on Earth can unmarry you.

That the new Couple were put to bed in Mr Warford's own Bed, with the usual Ceremonies of throwing the Stocking &c. Mrs Warford having previously received five Shillings for the use of said Bed. And the whole Proceedings on the Riot quashed at once.

That some time after the young Couple had been left to themselves, the young Man wanted to leave his Consort: and opening the Door would have come out. But was prevented by Capt Shelby, who opposed him with a fork in his hand, which he threatened to Jobb into his Gutts if he attempted to leave his Wife. Whereupon the young fellow retired peaceably, and was found by the Company early in the Morning fast asleep in Bed with his Consort.

That a review of the above cited Transaction may be sufficient to show how incapable either of the above mentioned persons are to sustain the dignified Character wherewith they are invested; and how unworthy of that high trust which their ignorance of the Laws, whereby the Community is to be regulated, their assuming to themselves Powers with which they are not invested, and their turning of the Execution of their Office by indirect Means to their own private Emolument and the scandal of Public Justice, have so grossly abused.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the aforesaid Capt Evan Shelby, and Mr Joseph Warford may be left out of the Commission for the Peace in Frederick County, that the whole Body (otherwise, We hope, respectable) may not be wounded through their Sides or laughed at as their Associates. And, as in Duty bound they will ever pray &c.

27th March 1766 (p. 133)


1719 to 1794

Evan Shelby, Jr., soldier and frontiersman, was baptized in October 23, 1720 at Tregaron, Cardiganshire, Wales. He came to America with his parents, Evan and Catherine Morgan Shelby, about 1734, the family first settling in what is now Antrim Township Franklin County, PA. In 1739, they moved into Prince George's (later Frederick) County, MD where his father died in July 1751. Evan Jr. continued to reside in Maryland, near the North Mountain, Frederick County, in which locality, now a part of Washington County, he acquired, by deed or patent, nearly 24,000 acres of land.

He also became interested in the Indian fur trade and was concerned in trading posts at Michilimackinac and Green Bay. He was in Braddock's campaign in 1755, and laid out part of the road from Fort Frederick to Fort Cumberland. Having served as first lieutenant tn Capt. Alexander Beall's company in 1757-68, he was commissioned by Governor Sharpe of Maryland captain of a company of rangers, and also held a commission as captain under the government of Pennsylvania. He was in the advance party of the force under Gen. John. Forbes, which took possession of Fort Duquesne in 1758, and crossed the Ohio River with more than half his company of scouts, making a daring reconnaissance of the fort. On November 12, 1758, near Loyalhanna, in a personal encounter, Shelby is said to have slain with his own hand one of the principal Indian chiefs. In the same war, he served later as major of a detachment of the Virginia regiment.

For several years he was a justice of the peace. In May 1762, he was chosen one of the managers for Maryland of the Potomac Company. He sustained heavy losses in the Indian trade from the ravages growing out of Pontiac's Conspiracy of 1763, and most of his property in Maryland was subjected to the satisfaction of his debts.

Hoping to better his fortune he moved, probably in 1773, to Fincastle County, in Southwest Virginia, which he had previously visited where he engaged in farming, merchandising, and cattle-raising. He again became a prosperous land-owner and a conspicuous and influential frontier leader. In 1774, he commanded the Fincastle Company in Dunmore's War, and in the battle of Point Pleasant, October 10, 1774, he succeeded near the close of the action to the chief command in consequence of the death or disability of his superior officers. In 1776, he was appointed by Governor Henry of Virginia a major in the troops commanded by Col. William Christian against the Cherokees, and on December 21, he became colonel of the militia of the newly-created county of Washington, of which he was also a magistrate. In 1777, he was entrusted with the command of sundry garrisons posted on the frontier of Virginia, and in association with Preston and Christian, negotiated a treaty with the Cherokees near the Long Island of Holston River. In 1779, he lead a successful expedition of two thousand men against the Chickamauga Indian towns on the lower Tennessee River, for which service he was thanked by the Continental Congress.

By the extension of the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina, it was ascertained that his residence lay in the latter state, and in 1781, he was elected a member of its Senate. Five years later, the Carolina Assembly made him brigadier general of militia of the Washington District of North Carolina, the first officer of that grade on the "Western Waters". In March 1787, as commissioner for North Carolina, he negotiated a temporary truce with Col. John Sevier, governor of the insurgent and short-lived "State of Franklin". In August 1787, he was elected governor of the "State of Franklin", to succeed Sevier but declined the honor.  Having resigned his post as brigadier-general on October 29,1787, he withdrew from public life.

He married first in 1744, Letitia Cox, a daughter of David Cox of Frederick County, MD. She died in 1777. His second wife, whom he married early in 1787, was Isabella Elliott, who survived him. He is buried in East Hill Cemetery, Bristol on the Tennessee-Virginia line.

Shelby was of a rugged, stocky build, somewhat low in stature and stern of countenance. He possessed great muscular strength and unbounded energy and powers of endurance. He was straightforward and at times, rather blunt in speech, absolutely fearless, and always prompt to take the aggressive in any action or enterprise, civil or military, in which he engaged. For a man of his day, he was well educated and noted for his probity and patriotism. He left many descendants, of whom the most celebrated was his son, Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky.


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