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Pettigrew's in Virginia

Replies: 4

Re: Pettigrew's in Virginia

Posted: 1218138726000
Classification: Query
I have done some research on the PettiCrews in Virigina and have the following data. If you could fill in the blanks, I would much appreciate it.


Gary Petticrew

Descendants of John Petticrew

Generation No. 1

1. JOHN4 PETTICREW (WILLIAM3, JAMES2, DAVID1) was born Abt. 1805 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and died August 1848 in Rockbridge County, Virginia. He married MARY ANN MOORE Abt. 1828 in Campbell County Virginia. She was born February 16, 1805 in Campbell County Virginia, and died December 16, 1846 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.


NOTE: I HAVE NO PROOF that John was the son of William Petticrew. I have put him here for a matter of inclusion only. He was born in the correct time frame and in the general vicinity (Campbell County is adjacent to Rockbridge County to the south) to be a son of William Petticrew of Rockbridge County Virginia. He also spelled the name Petticrew rather than Pettigrew which is a good indicator as to which genealogy he belongs. Speculation ONLY!

The following information was transcribed from several different newspaper articles that were copied at the Washington and Lee University Library in Lexington, Virginia. They all document over a period of 100 years the awful tragedy that destroyed the John and Mary Petticrew family December 16, 1846. They lived in a log cabin between the two House Mountains in Rockbridge County Virginia.

An account of the tragedy, as published in
The Lexington Gazette on December 31, 1846, is as follows:

"The feeling of this community was never more severely shocked than when, a few days since, it was announced that a mother and five children were found within a few feet of the ashes of their home, cold and stiff in death. The name of the family was Petticrew.

They removed to the County about two years since, from Campbell. They were once in easy and prosperous circumstances, but misfortune had stripped them of their all; and they sought and found an humble home in the mountains of Rockbridge. No one could be with them long without discovering that they had seen better days, and they soon gained for themselves the respect and sympathy of all the virtuous and good people who made their acquaintance.

"Mr. John Petticrew, the husband and father of this unfortunate family, was absent some miles from home, pursuing his weekly toil, and owing to the deep fall of snow which occurred on Wednesday night, did not, as was his custom, seek his home on Saturday night, but deferred it until Sabbath morning. When within a few hundred yards of the fatal spot, as the writer is informed, he picked up on the snow a half burnt sheet of paper, which he immediately recognized as belonging to himself.

Fears were at once excited, and with trembling heart he hastened on to see whether the tale this half-burnt sheet had told him were true. He saw the chimney, but the house was gone. A few steps more brought him in sight of the lifeless remains of his wife and children. They were lying near each other and from ten to fifteen feet from the ashes of their dwelling. What must have been the feelings of the husband and father with such a scene before him!

"The dead bodies were removed to the house of Mr. William Wilson where an inquest was held by the coroner, Mr. Samuel R. Moore, on Monday. The verdict in the case of Mary Ann-the wife and mother-was, in substance, that she came to her death by violence-whether accidental or inflicted by the hand of some person unknown, is not ascertained. A wound was discovered on the side of her forehead and extending behind the ear, as if inflicted by a blow from a stick. Marks of violence were discovered also on her throat, knees and legs."

The House Mountain Tragedy of 1846
Transcribed from the scrap book of Mrs. Walter W. Dunlap
Rockbridge County Virginia 1933

In the winter of 1846 we had a snowstorm equal in severity to the stormy weather of last February 1899. The snow fell to the depth of fifteen or eighteen inches and was accompanied by high winds. The thermometer fell to 10 degrees below zero, making a storm period memorable in the history of the country.

On the night of December 16th of that year the Petticrew family living between the House Mountains, perished, making a tragedy still fresh in the memory of the older inhabitants of the country. Mrs. Petticrew and her six children lived in this rather secluded place, her husband John Petticrew, being in the employ of Mr. William Alphin, who lived about two miles from their home.

John Petticrew was a plain, unassuming man and respected by all who knew him for his integrity of character. He was in the habit of visiting his family from time to time, arranging for their comfort and support. On Sunday he went home and to his great surprise and distress found the house burned and his family lying around in the yard dead.

Mrs. Petticrew was found in a sitting posture with some clothes thrown around her, her little boy lying across her lap in his night clothes. Two of the girls lay on the ground facing each other, half clothed, a third was sitting on a log and leaning against a stump, while the other two lay on the ground in their night clothes. Their bodies were covered with soot and ashes, and frozen to the ground.

An inquest was held at the home of William Wilson by Coroner, Samuel R. Moore with Drs. Wilkinson and W. P. Rogers as medical experts, who have as their opinion that Mrs. Petticrew had come to her death from violence, there being some wounds on the head and throat. No marks of violence were found on the other members of the family. It was the opinion of many that the Petticrew family had been murdered and suspicion at once pointed to James Anderson who lived about a quarter of a mile from their home, as the guilty party.

Anderson was a man of very bad character, and had a reputation of being a great thief. He was once caught in a bear trap stealing corn from one of the Sniders living in the Baths neighborhood, and on another occasion was whipped at the whipping post for a similar offense.

The night of the tragedy, Anderson and a man from Augusta County went to Billy Brian's who lived in the Hacking's neighborhood, and from there to Augusta County, Anderson not returning to his home for a week or ten days afterwards. He soon moved his family to Botetourt County, and in the spring of 1851, five years afterwards, Sampson F. Moore, a brother of Mrs. Petticrew, received a letter from a man by the name of Wilson, stating that he had information that Anderson had murdered the Petticrew family. Moore went at once to Betetourt and had Anderson and his wife arrested and brought to Lexington.

A man by the name of Taylor had for sometime been a frequent visitor in the Anderson family and had been confidentially told they had left Rockbridge. In the meantime, Taylor and the Andersons had a falling out, the former telling Wilson that the latter had murdered the Petticrew family. The circumstance led to Anderson and his wife's arrest. For some cause, Taylor's and Wilson's evidence could not fully be brought out in court. In all probability this was the turning point in the trial that cheated the hangman out of a job.

On the 14th day of April, Anderson and his wife were indicted by the grand jury in the County Court, the justices composing the court being Robert White, Robert R. Barton, William Houston, John A. Cummins and William A. Caruthers, who were of the opinion that the prisoners be tried before the judge of the circuit court. On the 16th day of April a jury was empaneled composed of John A. Templeton, Tillman Hardy, Samuel M. Wilson, Matthew H. Fry, Joseph C. Couston, Joseph W. Moore, Henry F. Lambert, Jams A. Miller, James East, Richard Parsons, and William Moore.

The prisoners were defended by Robert L. Doyle, L. F. Paxton and Samuel H. Letcher, the two latter making their maiden speeches at the bar. Mr. Doyle made one of his best efforts on behalf of his clients. The jury found James Anderson guilty of murder in the first degree but that Mary Anderson was not guilty of murder. Lucas P. Thompson who was judge of the Circuit Court at that time, set the verdict aside, released Mary Anderson and ordered that James Anderson be tried in the Circuit Court of Bath County, where he was acquitted. Billy Brian, who would have been a very important witness in this case, could never be brought into court.

Another article: John Petticrew
February 1805 - August 1848

This monument was erected by a sympathizing community in 1847. Replaced by the citizens of Collierstown and Buffalo in December 1902.

Mr. John Petticrew and family were natives of Campbell County, Virginia and were in good financial circumstances, unfortunately for him he endorsed for his friends, who failed, and his property was taken for their benefit. He, with his family, came to Rockbridge in 1843 and engaged in the distillery business for Captain William Alphin, who lived where Thomas Alphin now lives, and was in his employ when this sad affliction came upon him. His oldest child Rachael, then 16 years of age, was fortunately from home nursing her sick grandmother, who lived on Kerrs Creek, or she would have perished with the rest.

Rachael married James Reynolds of upper Kerrs Creek, December 24th, 1855. He died December 14, 1857. She reared two daughters, the youngest was born 6-months after her husband's death. The girls married two brothers, Samuel and John M. Knick. Mrs. Samuel Knick had one daughter, two sons, and one grandson. Her husband died September 18th, 1893. She remains a widow.

Mrs. John Knick has three sons and three daughters. These are the descendants of John Petticrew and wife, leaving the name extinct. The foregoing facts were given to the writer by Mrs. Rachael A. Reynolds. Observer, Marmion, December 18, 1902.


The citizens of Collierstown and Buffalo have erected at the graves of the Petticrew family in Oxford Church yard a new monument of white marble with four corner block of the same material for the square on which it stands.

Each neighborhood bore equally the cost. This removes from sight the old gray marble monument erected on the spot by Kelley and Maben in 1847. The inscription is a very verbatim copy of that on the old stone, with this addition: The birth and death of John Petticrew and late of replacement of the new.

The monument was furnished by W. S. Hileman of Lexington, for the very moderate price of $65.00, he doing the lettering free of charge, this making him the largest contributor to the work.

Petticrew is the proper name and not Pettigrew, as spelled on the old stone. The inscription reads: In memory of a mother and five children, who perished in the snow storm of the 16th of December 1946 between the House Mountains.

Mary Ann Moore, wife of John Petticrew, aged 41 years and 10 months.

Judith Annie, aged 14 years and 7 months
Margaret Jane, aged 12 years and 10 months
Lelitia, aged 10 years and 11 months
John Thomas, aged 8 years and 4 months
Mary Elizabeth, aged 6 years and 8 months

The husband and father, on his return, was the first to discover that his house was in ashes, and his wife and five children were cold in death.

Children of JOHN PETTICREW and MARY MOORE are:
2. i. RACHEL5 PETTICREW, b. 1830, Campbell County Virginia; d. October 08, 1908.
ii. JUDITH ANNE PETTICREW, b. May 1832, Campbell County Virginia; d. December 16, 1846, Rockbridge County, Virginia.
iii. MARGARET JANE PETTICREW, b. February 1834, Campbell County Virginia; d. December 16, 1846, Rockbridge County, Virginia.
iv. LELITIA PETTICREW, b. January 1836, Campbell County Virginia; d. December 16, 1846, Rockbridge County, Virginia.
v. JOHN THOMAS PETTICREW, b. August 1838, Campbell County Virginia; d. December 16, 1846, Rockbridge County, Virginia.
vi. MARY ELIZABETH PETTICREW, b. April 1840, Campbell County Virginia; d. December 16, 1846, Rockbridge County, Virginia.

Generation No. 2

2. RACHEL5 PETTICREW (JOHN4, WILLIAM3, JAMES2, DAVID1) was born 1830 in Campbell County Virginia, and died October 08, 1908. She married JAMES REYNOLDS December 24, 1855 in Kerrs Creek, Virginia. He died December 14, 1857.

Last Survivor of House Mountain Tragedy Passes Away
Gazette Correspondence, 1908

The cold hand of death has again been laid on our community and two of our aged friends and neighbors have been summoned to the grave.

Mrs. Rachael Reynolds departed this life October 8, 1908, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. John M. Knick. Mrs. Reynolds was in her 78th year and the widow of Mr. James Reynolds who died many years ago.

Her maiden name was Petticrew and she was the only surviving member of the Petticrew family that was supposed to have been murdered on the House Mountain on the eventful night of December 17, 1846, when mother and five children were found grouped in death crouched around the smoking embers of their burnt home. Rachael was absent from home at the time visiting.

Mrs. Reynolds was a woman of many fine qualities, and died in the fear of the Lord. Her only two daughters, Mrs. J. M. Knick and Mrs. Samuel Knick survive her. Reverend W. W. Wood of the Baptist Church preached the funeral at Collierstown where she was laid to rest.

3. i. RDAUGHTER A.6 REYNOLDS, b. Abt. 1857.
4. ii. RDAUGHTER B. REYNOLDS, b. Abt. June 1858.

Generation No. 3

3. RDAUGHTER A.6 REYNOLDS (RACHEL5 PETTICREW, JOHN4, WILLIAM3, JAMES2, DAVID1) was born Abt. 1857. She married SAMUEL KNICK. He died September 18, 1893.


Notes for ELLA KNICK:

Rockbridge County Tragedy Is Recalled by Descendant 1953

Petticrew Family Campbell Natives

BUENA VISTA, April 25-What has been described as the "most distressing tragedy in Rockbridge County" more than a century ago, was graphically recounted a few days ago by one of the descendants of the family.

Mrs. Ella Knick Chittum of Collierstown, the 72-year-old, great great-granddaughter of one of the victims, substantiated the story as recorded history. The tragedy concerns the Petticrew (later spelled Pettigrew) family. The scene was a log house in a cove facing the south between the two House Mountains. Time was about the middle of December 1846.

Campbell Native

John Petticrew, a native of Campbell County, moved to Rockbridge and fell into straitened circumstances, which necessitated moving his family into a log house between the two House Mountains. There were six children, the eldest being 16 and the youngest six. His wife before marriage was Mary Moore of Campbell County.

The evening of December 16, the story goes was snowy and by midnight there was a high wind. The next morning the snow had drifted and for several days the weather was extremely cold. The fourth day was Sunday and early that morning Petticrew, as was his custom, came home from his work at the distillery of William Alphin. To his horror he found his home burned to the ground and lying nearby were the frozen and half-clad bodies of his wife and five children. The oldest daughter was with her sick grandmother on Kerrs Creek. Strong men are said to have wept when they viewed the corpses laid out for burial and feeling ran high.

Foul play was suspected on the part of a neighbor and his wife who did not bear a good name. They were not with the friends and sympathizers who gathered on the Sunday Petticrew made his gruesome discovery and neither he nor his wife attended the funeral of the mother and her five children.

One source of information has it that Petticrew had had trouble with this neighbor; another was that robbery may have been the cause since it was reported that Mrs. Petticrew had fallen heir to a sum of money. A brother of the dead woman, armed with a search warrant, visited the suspected man's house and there found a coverlet and other articles that had belonged to Mary Petticrew.

Suspect Acquitted

The man suspected was tried in Bath County, but was acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence. He went to Craig County and never again lived in Rockbridge. There was a story that he made a deathbed confession, but an examination of the bodies was inconclusive as to whether death came from violence or from the intense cold following a fire either accidental or intentional.

Victims of the tragedy were buried in Oxford Presbyterian Cemetery. The stone over the grave was shattered by lightning but was later replaced with a monument paid for by friends of the family. Petticrew died in about a year of a broken heart.

The daughter who as away from home at the time of the tragedy married James G. Reynolds and had two children. A number of the Petticrew descendants are living in Rockbridge County.

The photo of Oxford Cemetery shows the monument where the six Petticrews are buried. To the rear of the cemetery is Oxford Presbyterian Church, which has an interesting history. An eight-cornered meeting house is said to have been built on the site as early as 1763. A limestone structure was built in 1811 and the present church was completed in 1867. Mrs. Ella Knick Chittum (photo) of Collierstown reads an account of the tragedy in 1864 that resulted in the death of her great-grandmother and five of her children.



iii. DAU. A. KNICK.
iv. DAU. B. KNICK.

Gary Petticrew
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