Chapter 11

 To Whom Much Is Given,
Much Shall Be Required
-- Luke 12:4

Clearly James and Agnes Ware had accrued great wealth while they were living in Virginia.  In the land lottery they held during the years 1770 to 1772, the records show they sold a minimum of 1,100 acres of land.  Some of that money probably went toward preparations for the move to Kentucky, and some may have even gone for the acquisition of new land there.  When the time finally arrived for the actual departure date, it is very likely the Wares rode in wagons that contained everything they owned.  Life would be forever different for them when they reached their destination.

In 1891, George Ranck wrote a compelling history of the Traveling Church.  His detailed descriptions and narrative provide a mind-boggling account of the hardships and difficulties these pioneers faced.  The following paragraphs (in italics) are brief excerpts from his work. (Ref. 2571)  The entire history can be found on the internet.  In reading what these people endured, it is hard not to be inspired.

[This narrative is so fascinating yet quite lengthy because of the colorful words and descriptions used by Ranck.  In an effort to maintain the integrity of the story and yet not copy the entire work, I have had to carefully condense the text - - editing out wording not pertinent to the family history.] 

It was plain that something very unusual was transpiring at an isolated building in Spottsylvania County, Virginia, one Sunday morning in September, 1781... [there was] such a gathering of men, women and children, slaves, pack horses, cattle, dogs and loaded wagons as had never been seen in the county before...  It was "farewell Sunday" at Upper Spottsylvania (Baptist) Church - the next morning the congregation was to start in a body for Kentucky.  Such an exodus, one so strange and so complete, created a profound sensation, even though occurring as it did so near the exciting close of an eventful Revolution...  Most of them were to locate in the neighborhood of Logan's Fort in the Dick's River region of Kentucky, while others would seek the center of what is now called ‘The Blue Grass Region’ and establish new homes a few miles east of Lexington.  They set the day for their departure. . . .  All kinds of property were disposed of, all kinds of arrangements were made and the Farewell Sunday found them heavy-hearted but ready for the start with packing completed, homes abandoned and surrounded by friends who had gathered from far and near to bid them a last and long good bye...  The attention of the assembly was soon turned to the little temporary pulpit which had been hastily erected in the open air, and all eyes were fixed upon... Lewis Craig, the magnetic pastor of Upper Spottsylvania Church... they all knew him. Many of them had participated with him in ‘the great awakening’... some of them had been arrested with him.   

[...]  The remainder of the day, after the dinner that the neighbors had provided, was spent in tearful communings, agonizing embraces and heart-rending scenes, for the emigrants knew what this separation meant.  Some of them were aged, some were feeble, many were helpless women and not a few were poor.  A weary journey of nearly six hundred miles stretched out before them.  They knew that for them there would be no return, that they were leaving home and old Virginia forever...  Before daybreak the next morning Capt. Ellis was astir and giving orders... the memorable journey commenced.

The modern exodus was no small affair for its day and generation.  The moving train included with church members, their children, negro slaves and other emigrants (who, for better protection, had attached themselves to an organized expedition), between five and six hundred souls.  It was the largest body of Virginians that ever set out for Kentucky at one time...  The Blue Ridge was crossed, but how silent and how solemn everything appeared and how few the signs of human life...  They had left behind them the open towns and comfortable villages.  They had seen the last of the old colonial farm-house, the lumbering stagecoach and the cheerful wayside inn...  They had passed the boundary of civilization... the emigrants commenced their march for old Fort Chiswell, more than eighty miles away.  No danger threatened them as yet, and the dry weather which kept passable the roads enabled them to still retain their wagons which became more and more precious in their sight as they realized that soon they would have to give them up.

[...] The trip from New River to Fort Chiswell... was soon made and the weary Baptists gathered with thankfulness about the rude stockade.  They found it occupied by State militia quartered there to protect the lead mines to which the war had given increased importance, and by traders who sold supplies to the settlers who continually sought the protection of the station while on their way to the western country.  The stay at Fort Chiswell was short... they were eager to push on while the weather was good.  And now came the greatest trial they had yet encountered -- they gave up their wagons.  They might have retained them for a little while longer but at a heavy loss... [This] was the place to dispose of them to the best advantage, [but] they had yet to realize how much the sacrifice involved.  Most of the wagon horses retained were provided with pack saddles... not a few pieces of furniture were found at once to be entirely too inconvenient for horseback transportation and had to be disposed of.

[...] Necessary changes and arrangements were soon made... and the travelers broke camp at Fort Chiswell and filed along the road leading through the central portion of what is now the county of Wythe.  This was a very different scene from the one presented at the departure from Craig's Church.  Nearly all the men and some of the women were on foot, the riders being composed in the main of the aged, the delicate and the little children - these last occupying hickory baskets swung to the sides of horses.  Such of the sick as were unable to ride were carried along on litters.  The men and larger boys, each equipped with a flint-lock rifle, a powder horn, a hatchet, a hunting knife and a cup... and all manner of hunting tools and conveniences, guarded the train, drove the live stock and as far as possible provided wild game for the company.  The women carried the young babies or bags or baskets filled with lint, bandages, medicine and such other things as might be needed by the sick, the children or in case of accident... hand mills, parts of spinning wheels, skillets, kettles, and the more substantial domestic articles - all of which had to ‘take their luck’ with wind and weather. 

A great change had taken place in the appearance of the people who now moved in a lengthened line through the mountain valley of Wythe.  Knee breeches and ruffled shirts, hoops and furbelows had disappeared.  The costume of the tidewater Virginian of the day had given place to that of the pioneer, for no other could stand the wear and tear of such a trip.  And so they marched.  And the road, now that most of them had to walk, seemed worse than ever...  Such travelling was especially hard upon the women, and not made any the more cheerful by the reports they had heard at Fort Chiswell of fresh signs of Indians... nor by the sight of the solitary graves of murdered settlers which were met with from time to time along the lonely road.  Their troubles multiplied.  Now whenever they camped at the close of the day, though worn out with travel, the cooking and other duties must be attended to all the same.  And there were no wagons to retire to...  Fearing trouble, they made every effort to reach the stockaded cabins that clustered about Black's Fort in the ‘Wolf Hills’.  Foot sore but determined, they pressed on through the wild but rich and romantic valley watered by the three forks of the Holston River, and the close of the third week of September found them safely encamped at the desired point... .  [Wolf Hills/Abington]

So early in November... the Travelling Church, with the riflemen in the van, started out shelterless from the last Virginia settlement on the route... through the fallen leaves of the naked woods the emigrants slowly made their way down the valley of the Holston...  Greater trials were indeed before them. And they came quickly.  That very night the Indians, attracted perhaps by the light of the fires, attacked the camp. But Capt. Ellis and his riflemen... were not surprised; and such a stream of lead was poured into the darkness that the discomfited savages quickly retreated...  But they were uneasy - one of the pickets was missing.  They found him alas when they had gone but a little distance - lying across the trace before them, dead and scalped; and halting, they gave their comrade and neighbor the burial of a Christian and a soldier.

[...] The disquieting reports they had heard at Fort Chiswell were confirmed.  Kentucky and the road leading to it was beset by savages and they must do like other emigrants who had arrived at the Wolf Hills before them - camp as best they could and wait for a safer time to start again.  It was a terrible disappointment.  The whole trip had been planned with the view of avoiding winter weather, the very calamity which this delay might bring upon them.  The women were heartsick at the prospect.  Though barely three weeks had elapsed since they had started from ‘dear old Spottsylvania’ the time had been so full of cares, discomforts and difficulties that it seemed to them almost a year.  And yet only the easy part of the trip had been made - by far the hardest part was still to come, for nearly two hundred and fifty miles of that terrible solitude ‘The Wilderness’ stretched out before them...  The undaunted pioneers determined all the same to start again as soon as possible and such poor preparations as circumstances permitted were made for the winter travel to which they might be subjected...  [The group] waited, and while it waited its pastor preached again and again, and there were baptisms, washing of feet and many prayers...  It was during this halt at Abingdon that the glorious news came of the British surrender at Yorktown, and the patriotic settlers made the Wolf Hills ring with the firing of rifles and their loud rejoicing.  And so passed the beautiful month of October in which the Travelling Church had hoped to complete its journey, and November set in bleak and dreary.  But with the cold weather came fewer reports of Indian signs... so the Pilgrim Baptists therefore determined to ‘go forward’ now while the Indians generally were seeking winter quarters, preferring to risk the chances of the weather to an indefinite delay and the increase of savages and troubles certain to come with the opening of Spring.

[...]  From this time on the emigrants knew little else but difficulties, privations and suffering.  The weather they had so greatly dreaded now set in, and exposed alternately to rain, sleet, and snow they toiled miserably along the slippery path ‘soaked with blood and lined with solitary graves’ which led them straight up and down the steep and icy sides of the mighty Clinch, directly over the bare and rocky crest of Powell's Mountain...  Rafts had to be built at Clinch and Powell rivers which were too high to be forded, the pack horses had all to be unloaded so that they could ‘swim’ them across, and they travelled when they could travel at all in clothing which they could not keep dry and with their shoes and moccasins so saturated with water that they would hardly stay upon their feet. To add to their discomfort . . . for days at a stretch, until they could supply themselves with corn at such cabins as were still occupied by  daring settlers, they had no bread at all, and  subsisted entirely upon such wild meat as the hunters could procure and upon beef from the dwindled herd of cattle they drove along.

And thus they journeyed, moving southwestwardly... before they reached the Cumberland Mountain, that white, Titanic wall which had loomed up before them in terrific and depressing grandeur day after day.  About the first of December, nearly three weeks after leaving the North Fork of the Holston River, the dauntless pioneers crossed Cumberland Gap.

Cumberland Gap

Nearly three weeks travelling thirty miles!  What a volume of suffering is expressed in that significant fact.  And as they entered Kentucky over the western slope of that stupendous pass of the Cumberland... they knew that many a doleful mile must still be traveled.  The weather had changed before they entered the Gap and their northward way... was made in the snow.  But cold as it was there were times when they dared not kindle fires when they camped for fear of the Indians who continually gave them anxiety...  The road all the way from Cumberland Gap to this point was so bad, the interminable hills so icy and the wind so cutting that the harassed pioneers could struggle over but few miles each day, and time and again, they were troubled and delayed by runaway horses.

[...]  But with all their trials their hearts were lighter for the last great mountain ridge was passed, the interior of Kentucky was reached, and though they were yet fifty miles from their destination, blockhouses were on the route and old friends were waiting to greet them at their journey's end...  Again the Pilgrim Church moved on and about five miles north of Rockcastle River... the pioneers entered Skagg's Trace, so recently stained with the blood of murdered settlers, and followed this branch of the Wilderness Road to the place now known as Mt. Vernon... [When arriving at] the head of ‘Dick's River’... betrayed perhaps by the campfires, they were again attacked by the Indians who only succeeded however in carrying off some of the horses and cattle.  There was no sleep that night in the camp and by daylight... the emigrants were marching toward English Station eight miles away which they reached without further molestation and where they halted for the night with sighs of relief.  They had now reached the anxiously looked-for chain of Kentucky forts and were nearing the lands on which many of them expected to settle. The long journey was drawing to a close.

The next morning with lighter steps and brighter faces... they passed... ‘the Crab Orchard’ and filing northwestwardly through the woods and cane brakes headed for Logan's Fort...  The news of their coming had gone before them. The settlers, some of whom were their own friends and kindred from Virginia, had gathered to meet them, and when they appeared in sight of the stockade they were greeted with a firing of rifles and shouts of welcome which soon changed into a confused but touching scene of hearty hand-shaking, affectionate embraces, eager inquiries, tears of joy and repeated exclamations of delight... They rejoiced together that their wanderings were nearly over and that they would soon enjoy the luxury of permanent homes.

But no time could be wasted, the Pilgrim Baptists halted at Logan's Station only long enough to enable chosen men to select a suitable place of settlement, which was soon found.  They determined to locate on a little tributary of Dick's River, now known as Gilbert's Creek... in that part of the original County of Lincoln which now constitutes the County of Garrard.  The choice was approved by the waiting emigrants, and then for the last time the pack horses were loaded...  Dick's River was crossed... and the wanderings of The Travelling Church were over.  The long and terrible trip was ended at last but those who struggled through it remembered it forever; for each could truly say... ‘How much I have suffered in this journey is known only to God and myself’..."

Motivated by cold weather and the need for safety, the group “made a clearing in the woods at Gilbert's Creek” and it was there they built Craig's Station. (Ref. 2571)   In December 1781 they gathered and had their first worship service.  “The fort being finished the settlers proceeded to locate land about it and cabins were soon put up outside the stockade.  A church was one of the first buildings thus erected.” (Ref. 2571)  It was build on a hill “steep enough for purposes of defense” and as in the stockade, “the settlers brought their rifles with them when they came to worship.” (Ref. 2571)

Thus, Gilbert’s Creek Baptist Church, also known as Craig’s Church, became the worship center for the Ware family for the next few years.

Location of Craig’s Church 1930s

Fortifications for the fort (2537)
Photo courtesy of Gordon Bourne

The continued conflicts with the local Indians took their toll.  In 1783 the church, still under the leadership of Lewis Craig, decided to cross the Kentucky River and move further north.  Talk of the fertile land and good grasses in that region made it even more appealing.  The vast majority of the congregation moved together, with just a few deciding to stay behind.  There were not enough members to fully sustain the Gilbert’s Creek church for long, but fortunately Reverend John Taylor moved to Kentucky during this time, and (by bringing some new congregants with him) he ministered to those still there.  However, even with the infusion of more pioneers coming from Virginia, the church continued to dwindle, and it was officially closed in 1786.  Meanwhile, the congregation under Lewis Craig formed the South Elkhorn Church in Fayette County.

Blue line = Ohio River     Yellow lines = Forks of Licking        Red = Dicks River
Green line = Kentucky River   Orange = Cumberland River    Pink Line = Forks of Elkhorn

The map above shows the route taken by those who came through the Cumberland Gap (shaded blue area) from Virginia.  They crossed the Cumberland River early on in the journey and the Dicks River right before they settled in Garrard County.  When the church moved further north, they crossed the Kentucky River into Fayette County and settled near the Elkhorn.  When James Jr. came in 1791, he brought his family down the Ohio River to the Forks of Licking region.

Blue line = Ohio River     Yellow lines = Forks of Licking     Red = Dicks River
Green line = Kentucky River   Orange = Cumberland River   Pink Line = Forks of Elkhorn      

Blue line = Ohio River     Yellow lines = Forks of Licking     Red = Dicks River
Green line = Kentucky River   Orange = Cumberland River   Pink = Elkhorn River

Courtesy of Kentucky State Land Office Records

By the time James and his family crossed the Kentucky River to settle on the property on which he would ultimately live and die, the Ware patriarch was 69 years old.  According to the History of Woodford County, James had “rendered service in the Revolution, as did several of his sons, and he and his wife, accompanied by the families of their several sons and daughters came to Kentucky soon after hostilities incidents to the Revolution had subsided.” (Ref. 1024)   We can assume from this quote that Agnes actually made it to her new home in Kentucky with James but possibly died during the dangerous years spent at Gilbert’s Creek.  This would account for the lack of burial records or a headstone for her.  She also may have passed away after they moved to Fayette County, and her body was interred in the family cemetery which we know was eventually built on their land.  Those headstones are lost to time.  Even if Agnes only lived long enough to arrive in 1781, that would mean that she and James were married over 45 years!

The young couple who started out their lives together among the wealthy landowners in “civilized” Virginia would end their days in the wilds of Kentucky with few luxuries around them.  This harsh new land demanded much from the people who settled on it.  James and Agnes not only paid for Wareland with cold, hard cash they acquired from selling their Revolutionary War land grant in Garrard County - - but the true value of their home came from the blood, sweat, and tears that watered the rich Kentucky soil.    



A History of Kentucky Baptists by John Henderson Spencer, 1885


with Historical Notes by GEORGE W. RANCK, Louisville, KY., Press of Baptist Book Concern 1891

History of Ten Churches by John Taylor, 1823

History of the Baptists in Virginia by Robert Baylor Semple - From the First Settlement by the Americans up to the Middle of the 19th Century, The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 2005

FREDERICKSBURG BAPTIST CHURCH by Oscar M. Darter, 1960 citing the Morgan Edwards MSSS, American Baptist Historical Society, Crozier Theological Seminary, Chester, Penn.

History of Kentucky Baptists, by Ford, The Christian Repository, March, 1856

Spotsylvania County Records  - Crozier, page 296

The Travelling Church, subtitled "An Account of the Baptist Exodus from Virginia to Kentucky in 1781 under the Leadership of Rev. Lewis Craig and Capt. William Ellis," by Professor George W. Ranck, 1891 and 1910

 Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in Virginia
by: Lewis Peyton
Little - J. P. Bell Co., Inc., Lynchburg, VA, 1938. 

The Wilderness Road by Robert L. Kincaid, 1947

A History of the Baptists of the United States From the First Settlement of the Country to the Year 1845 Volume II  by: John T. Christian, Professor of Christian History in the Baptist Bible Institute, New Orleans, Louisiana

History of the Baptists in Virginia by Robert Baylor Semple - From the First Settlement by the Americans up to the Middle of the 19th Century, The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 2005

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