Jacob Chrisman - Magdalena Hite

Jacob Chrisman, progenitor of the Frederick County Virginia Family, came to the Shenandoah Valley in the immigrant train of his father-in-law Jost Hite, in 1731/2. There is, to date, no record of his arrival in America. Naturalization papers issued at Williamsburg October 23, 1745, states that "Jacob Christman" was a native of Worms, which lies somewhat to the north of Swaia. The name "Chrisman" (Christman, Christmann) is of German origin, and means a descendent of Christianus, a follower of Christ.

From the union of Jacob Chrisman and Magdalena Hite came officers in the Revolution and succeeding wars, men active in government, plantation owners, frontier fort builders, and pioneers through the entirety of westward expansion.

It seems evident that Jacob was in contact with the Hite family sometime prior to their appearance in Virginia. Hite is documented as residing close to Philadelphia during the previous sixteen years, and Jacob must have lived nearby as he and Magdalena were probably married about 1728.

The Hite wagon train of twenty families traveled 140 miles or more in migrating from Pennsylvania to Packhorse Ford on the Potomac, near present-day Shepherdstown. By various spellings the Potomac River was known as the Cohongoroota. From this point, a few miles above Harper's Ferry, they had to build their own road another forty miles to reach Opequon Creek, known to local Indians as the Rose Bud. Here they were forced to live in their wagons until crude shelters could be built. Apparently they arrived in early spring, after spending some months at the ford, and it seems likely that they hastened to build log cabins as they were establishing a new frontier in Indian territory.

The Blue Ridge Mountains separate the Alleghenies from the thickly forested piedmont stretching eastward to the Atlantic. Hidden behind the Blue Ridge, the Shenandoah Valley remained unknown for nearly 100 years after the appearance of white settlements along the seaboard. It forms a natural passageway from the Potomac to the Carolinas. Although used as a thoroughfare and hunting ground by many Indian tribes, few had their resident villages in the valley. The Shawnees had one location at Woodstock, with three more near the "Shawnee Springs" at present day Winchester.

The river, known to them as "The Daughter of the Stars," impounding the 40-mile length of Massanuten Mountain between its two branches, provided ample water for the broad, rich valley. In good years three crops of maize were raised. Game was plentiful, with deer, elk, bear, fox, beaver, muskrat and quail, and it had long been common practice by the Indians to clear the valley floor of undergrowth each year by burning, to provide better forage for the roving herds of buffalo.

As their grant of 750 acres from Hite, the Chrismans chose open ground along the Indian trail seven miles south of the Shawnee Springs. The eastern boundary was the tree line along the valley floor, and they later purchased some timber land from George Bowman. The large spring near which they built has been known since 1735 as Chrisman's Spring. Their deed from Hite is dated May 14, 1740, in the Orange County Court. Their house was two miles south of Hite's, and about five miles each from the Bowmans to the south and the Fromans to the west.

There was plenty of limestone rock in open cliff exposures along the creek gullies, already fractured into useful flat-sided shapes and sizes, so it naturally followed that log cabins soon gave way to more permanent structures. The type of building indicates concern for physical safety. And the Hite group, being the first white settlers west of the Blue Ridge, had good cause for concern. Jacob's house, a strong rectangular two-story building with walls perhaps two feet thick, stands a short distance east of the Valley Pike. One account states that the spring could be reached by an underground passage if necessary, and that a log cabin near the house was a powder magazine. The house is still in service as a home more than 230 years later. A stone bearing the date 1751 is visible in the upper north gable.

The stone buildings of other family members, Bowman, Froman and John Hite, were built in 1753. The Bowman house, called Harmony Hall but better known as Fort Bowman, was built with a cellar to serve as a stronghold. It is now open to the public as a museum.

With no roads, there was difficulty in getting supplies. Packhorse trains were used to contact civilization in Pennsylvania and at Fredricksburg. Although Hite and his partners in the land company soon began moving families in to meet requirements of the conditional grants, it was three years after their arrival before a few cabins appeared at the old Shawnee Springs, and Frederick Town, later to be called Winchester, was begun.

Settlers were soon streaming into the valley. Col. James Wood, a native of Winchester, England, and surveyor for Orange County, brought a group to the Shawnee Springs in 1735. There he surveyed 1200 acres, and in 1744 laid out the site of Frederick Town. Several groups arrived through Manassas Gap in 1740 to settle near Front Royal.

In 1748, Lord Fairfax came with a surveying crew, which included George Washington as a sixteen year old boy, to locate his "Greenway Court" five or six miles southeast of Jacob Chrisman on 10,000 acres which he staked out for himself. Here he began his lengthy and futile contest of the Hite claims which he considered to be on his property.

Jacob grew tobacco. It was extremely hard on the soil, and good "tobacco land" became useless "sour land" after only four years of use. Large estates ordinarily planted only about one tenth of the land at any one time and, except for the lower valley area, it did not become a common crop along the Shenandoah. We know that Jacob grew it, for on one occasion recorded in 1745 he was fined 2000 pounds of tobacco for "operating a tippling house without a license." The economy of Virginia was tobacco, and it was used as currency. As late as 1695, preacher's salaries were fixed by law at 16,000 pounds of tobacco a year. Moreover, preachers were not uncommonly found to imbibe of the locally made liquor as well. Records show that Jacob served as constable during 1743-45, and one can only speculate as to the ramifications, if any.

Whether to increase his tobacco land or to provide for a family of maturing boys, Jacob saw fit to buy another 500 acres on Linville Creek, from Thomas Linville, November 13-14, 1746, for a sum of 100 lbs., 5 shillings. Another 500 acre purchase was made June 3, 1755 from Joseph Bryan. This land, which Bryan had bought from Linville, was also part of the original Hite grant. The price was now up to 150 pounds.

A few years later, Jacob sold part of the Linville Creek land to two of his sons, John, age 21, bought 300 acres for 100 pounds, and George, age 16, bought 376 acres for the same amount. The following year Jacob rented 500 acres to Frances McBride, June 1762.

One of the earliest roads built west of the Blue Ridge was from Hite's Mill to Chrisman's Spring. And, in 1738, Jacob joined in a petition to the Orange County Court to have a road opened to the Shenandoah River.

Jacob's land was "processioned" March 8, 1747. The church (Angelican-Episcopalian) required that every four years boundaries were to be examined, old land marks renewed, and records kept in parish books. This also included the settling of disputes. The well being of the church depended upon that of the farmers, so the vestrymen appointed two men to procession each man's land, under supervision of the courts.

The Chrisman children became literate, somehow, as evidenced by their estate settlements showing possession of books, and by their written signatures. It is possible that Jacob may have read German, but he signed his will with a legalized mark.

It is evident that Jacob held slaves, as the estate list of his personal belongings include one. As some succeeding generations of Chrismans are known to have held negro slaves, and the size of Jacob's property practically demanded it, we can probably safely assume that Jacob was a slave owner.

Magdalena is said to have died in 1771. Jacob remarried Mary Nuschwanger, the daughter of Christian and Maria Magdalena Nuschwanger, the daughter of Jost Hite's second wife. Her will, in the Frederick County Court House is dated May 31, 1782, with settlement dated April 6, 1785.

Jacob died in 1778. It was twenty-six years later that his son George, as Administrator, finally succeeded in recording settlement April 4, 1804, in Frederick County Court. The estate totaled 1583 pounds, 19 shillings, 6 pence...a sizeable sum for those days.

Jacob and Magdalena had ten children: Jacob, Abraham, Sarah, Anna Maria, Isaac, John, Rebecca, George, Henry and Magdalene.

Isaac Chrisman - Jane Scott

The birth date of Isaac Chrisman, November 9, 1736, was recorded in the diary of the Rev. John Casper Stoever, Jr., at the time of his baptism, June 5, 1737. From that date, there is a lapse of 24 years until our next written record of him.

There was much activity in the Valley during Isaac's teenage years and beyond. People were moving south along the valley Pike in large numbers. By 1740, all of the land in the Valley had been taken up and people were pushing even farther south.

The French and Indian War erupted when Isaac was 19. Indian attacks ranging from the running off of livestock to massacres of individual families, repeated alarms, "forting in," constant caution and alertness if not actual armed conflict became the way of life. Then a complication developed that was to have a bearing on Isaac's death 18 years later. The years was 1758, the English, hard pressed to force the French out of the Ohio area, invited the Cherokees to come north and help them fight the Iroquois, who were not only allies of the French, but also the major enemy of the Cherokee Nation. The invitation was welcomed, and 600 warriors were sent northward down the Shenandoah Valley. Unfortunately, the valley settlers were unaware of the arrangement. To them, any Indians seen in the valley were to be shot on sight, which they were. To further compound the situation, the British command treated them so badly that they soon withdrew and headed back up the valley, suffering casualties all along the way. Their reaction was predictable, prompt and violent. They turned upon the English who were most accessible to them.

In the extreme southwest of Virginia, settlement had begun along the Holston River in 1750, coming from both Virginia and the Carolinas. By 1755, it had grown to nearly 1,000 persons. Encroachment upon Cherokee hunting ground was sorely resented. The full force of the aroused animosity of the Cherokees was now turned loose upon them, and the settlement was obliterated with such violence that the Colonial government forbade any attempt to resettle. For several years the area was left uninhabited. Then, in 1768, a few settlers again appeared. It was to this area that Isaac Chrisman was to move his family about two years later.

In the meantime, Isaac married Jane Scott and left the Shenandoah Valley. His marriage was probably about 1757 or 8. The Dominion of Virginia extended indefinitely westward, and settlers were pushing into the Cacapon River valley beyond the low mountain separating the two rivers by 25 or 30 miles. It was here on Lost River, the most easterly of the Cacapon tributaries, in what is now Hampshire County, West Virginia, that Isaac next appears, at the age of 25. Courthouse records show that he purchased land from Francis McBride February 9, 1761.

What prompted Isaac's next move is not evident. On August 8, 1769, he sold 36 acres to Joseph Claypool and 350 acres to Abraham Fry, apparently preparatory to moving 300 miles south, for the next year, 1770, finds him listed as a tithable on the Clinch River. This is a tributary of the Holston, paralleling its upper reaches about 15 miles across the thickly forested mountains to the north. The move seems to have been made in the company of several families of relatives. Isaac's brother Abraham and his wife Kezia, their sister Rebecca and husband James Scott, and at least one of James' brothers, Archibald Scott and family, all appear in the Holston area about the same time.

Again for reasons that can only be surmised, Isaac took up land at Rye Cove directly on the Little Moccasin Trail, later to be known as the Daniel Boone Trail to the Wilderness. On March 25, 1774, Captain Daniel Smith surveyed 225 acres for him, and he immediately set about building a fort. At least one good spring was included in the half-acre enclosure. Built about eight miles west of Fort Blackmore, it appears to have been the most westerly fort at that time. It was considered rather unusually large, and was garrisoned with militia from the beginning.

One final event pushed hostilities to the breaking point. Isaac Crabtree, which name appears in the will of one of Isaac Chrisman's sons a number of years later, had been a member of Boone's party when the boys were killed, and bore an enduring hatred of red men. For no other apparent reason he shot and killed an Indian known as Cherokee Billy who was among the spectators at a horse race in a Watagua settlement. The Indians knew that no white man was ever held to account for the killing of an Indian under any circumstances, and their anger flared. The Colonial Government immediately dispatched Boone and Michael Stoner to warn the surveyors and scattered settlers out of Kentucky. By mid-summer, all who survived the wrath of the Cherokee were out. Col. Andrew Lewis was sent north into Kentucky along the Kanawha with a task force. Daniel Boone, William Cocke, William Preston and Arthur Campbell were left to supervise the Holston and Clinch River defenses.

Chrisman's Fort, also called the Rye Cove Fort and later referred to as Fort Lee, was in a strategic position at a crucial time. But "Lord Dunmore's War" involving the West Virginia-Kentucky Ohio River area was demanding men. Isaac was enlisted as a private in the militia under Sgt. John Duncan in Captain Daniel Smith's Company at the Glade Hollow Fort. This was part of the operation of the Point Pleasant Campaign which resulted in the defeat of Cornstalk, the Shawnee chief, and the legal opening of Kentucky for hunting. And, in March of 1775, Boone was commissioned to open up a passageway into the wilderness through the Cumberland Gap, which he set about immediately with a crew of 30 men.

Isaac's days were numbered. Sometime after July 5, 1776, when he loaned Major George Clark 20 pounds and accepted his bond, Isaac and two of his children were killed by Indians somewhere near the fort. On July 20, the Cherokee attacked Eaton`s Station at the forks of the Holston twenty miles south of Rye Cove, and Fort Watauga somewhat southeast the next day. A number of individual deaths occurred and military forays were ordered out.

The Rye Cove area was ordered evacuated by Col. Anthony Bledsoe, then in charge of frontier forces, and everyone was moved into Fort Blackmore. So, for a short time in 1776, the Chrisman Fort stood empty. In the fall, Col. Joseph Martin brought troops and spent the winter of 1777 rebuilding it. On several more occasions it was attacked by Indians, both Cherokee and Shawnee, with a number of casualties. Sometime later it was sold to Thomas Carter, and became known as Carter' Fort.

At Isaac's death, Jane was left with three known surviving children: Isaac, Jr. aged 10 or 11, Gabriel age nine, and Nimrod less than a year old, and possibly Catherine.

Not long after the massacre Jane remarried, probably during the next year, to Nathaniel Hix, by whom she had six more children (Frances, Rebecca, Archibald, James, John and Jean). Nathaniel died in 1801. Jane was continued on the tax rolls until her death in 1825.

Isaac Chrisman - Judah

Isaac Chrisman, the oldest living son of Isaac and Jane (Scott) Chrisman was under 21 years of age in 1784. On August 26, 1784, Isaac Chrisman with the approbation of the Court chose William Robison his guardian.

By a preemption warrant entered 1,000 acres, lying in the county of Washington, Virginia, adjoining his settlement at the Rock Spring Station in Powell Valley and on the upper side of the same, up along the foot of Wallens Ridge.

Isaac was appointed constable on the 19th day of March 1788 in Russell County, and proof of a deed from Isaac Chrisman to Aaron Rutherford was confirmed August 19, 1788. The Washington County land tax listed Isaac Chrisman with 400 acres.

Isaac's wife was Judah, surname unknown, whom he married proba-bly in the late 1780's or early 1790's. The early Russell County marriage records were destroyed in a fire when the courthouse burned. Isaac acquired considerable land holdings, all in the portion of Russell that became the county of Lee in 1792-3, by grant and purchase.

On November 10, 1795, he purchased 400 acres, lying on both sides of Wallens Creek, from James Price of Green County, Tenn., granted to Price. He later sold this land to Richard and William Summers of Wallens Creek area.

On November 28, 1795, he and Judah, his wife, conveyed 534 acres of land, lying on the North side of Wallens Ridge, to Joseph Daugherty of Lee county for 100 pounds, and the same date, 100 acres to Christina Hoover, and 418 acres to Henry Hoover, all in a line of Joseph Daugherty. He acquired considerable land holding after selling.

Issac signed the petition for the division of Russell County in 1792 when the county of Lee was formed, by an Act of the General Assembly, passed October 25, 1792.

He was named one of the first justices for Lee County, Virginia, Dec. 10, 1792. "The justices to be named in the commission of the peace for the said county of Lee, shall meet at the house of Isaac Chrisman in and said county, upon the first court day after the said county shall take place..." He also signed the petition for establishing the town of Jonesville. Isaac was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the county of Lee for the session, November 8-December 27, 1796.

Isaac appears on the 1802 and 1805 tax list in Anderson County, Tennessee. He was also surveyed some land in Anderson County in 1810. Isaac was a old man when he came to Missouri with his son Gilbert about 1823. He is listed in records in Gasconade, Osage and Maries Counties in Missouri.

Isaac and Judah had nine children: Jane, Mary, Margaret, Gilbert, Isaac, Nelly, Aggy, William W. and Stephen.

Judah, his wife was a half-blood Cherokee, her father living with the tribe after his marriage to her mother, and taking part in tribal life. It is a tradition in the family that when Isaac Crismon's wife was a young girl she witnessed the torture of a young Creek Indian captured by her people in one of their tribal wars. Though burned to death at the stake, the victim, true to Indian ethics, did his best to conceal his suffering, and succeeded in so far as his features were concerned, but in spite of his best efforts his hands twisted as the fire licked into his flesh. The incident made a deep impression on the young girl, and is said to be the forerunner of the twisted hands of some members of the family in every generation since. Her indian name in sound, very closely resembles `Wannah'.

Both Isaac and Judah are buried at the old Henry Volmert place on the Big Maries some two miles from Vienna, Missouri.

Gilbert Crismon - Frances

James Helton, who married Isaac Crismon's daughter Margaret, came to Osage County about 1818. The family evidently came by themselves, and stayed a year or two, possibly longer, but started back to Tennessee for a reason present day people can hardly understand--they were out of salt. Furthermore, they had been out of it for almost a year. James Helton had missed the salt canoes that bore the Boone's Lick salt output to market down the Missouri in the fall, and such as was carried out by pack horse went down the north side of the river, remote from his home. It was almost a hundred miles, overland, to The Lick, and after a winter and part of summer without that commodity he decided to go back where supplies were more plentiful.

They had made part of the return journey and had crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis, camping for the night east of Illinoistown (East St. Louis) in the fertile American Bottom, where the oxen had been turned loose to graze. Other campers were around, and he though nothing of it when one of the men spoke to him, asking him his name and destination, which he told him, and answered several questions about his father. The stranger asked him to point out his father, which he did, and James Helton was soon shaking hands with his brother-in-law, Gilbert Crismon, who with his family and parents were on this road to the new country. They talked by the campfire most of the night. When both parties resumed their journey a few days later, after the cattle were rested, they all came back to Osage County together, but were careful to lay in a plentiful supply of salt in St. Louis in case they missed the canoes again. This must have been about 1823. Gilbert Crismon was married in Tennessee before he came to Missouri, and the maiden name of his wife is not known. He and his sons John and James were experts in the horse racing line. He settle on the Big Maries on the place now owned by Herman Volmert about 1831, and spent the rest of his life there. Both his parents died there also and are buried on the place, also.

Gilbert was the father of 14 children: Judah, John, Mahala, Isaac, Sarah, William, Archibald, James, Pleasant, Mary, Telitha, Moses, Stephen and Elizabeth. Of these, Arch, Pleasant, Isaac, Moses, Stephen and Mary "Polly" started for Oregon about 1852. The whole wagon train was poisoned with alkali water at or near present Scott's Bluff, Nebraska, and Moses and Stephen died from the effects of it and were buried on the trail, along with the wife of Isaac and other members of the party. Isaac returned to Missouri and Arch, Pleasant, and "Polly" survived the misfortune and finished the journey to Oregon. They made their homes in the west for the remainder of their lives and have descendants there now.

William Crismon - Martha Jane Miller

William was born 14 January 1821 in Tennessee,the son of Gilbert and Frances Crismon, and died in Maries County, Missouri and buried in Fairview Cemetery. At one time William was Sheriff of Maries County, Missouri.

Martha Jane (Miller) Crismon was born 23 January 1825 in Tennessee, and died and was buried in Catoosa, Oklahoma.

They had three children: Mary Tennessee, Telitha Cumili and Rolla.

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by Lee Case
Last updated on Sunday, November 10, 2002