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Pioneering McFarlands

Pioneering McFarlands

By Mary Helen Haines ©2016

Many of our McFarland forefathers who came to North America in the eighteenth century made their homes at the very edge of English settlements. These new settlers were amazed by the abundance of land compared to their previous homes, as well as the fact they could own, not just rent. The first wave of English settlers in the 1600s were now living in settled areas; the new Scots-Irish and Germans in the 1700s were pushed to the frontiers if they wanted to patent their own land. This was risky business because it often led to confrontations with Native-Americans who were beginning to understand the insatiable appetite Europeans had for land and more land.

Several McFarland men died in Indian fights in the 1700s and early 1800s, while others served as scouts and “spyes” in the service of traders, settlers, and local militias. In 1755, just as the French-Indian war was heating up, Native-American raids increased on the New River settlements in Augusta County, Virginia. From May through August families were attacked in their new homes with many people killed or wounded, while others were captured and taken away.*  One of those killed was James McFarland (Chalkey, Vol. 2, p. 510), age 22, son of John and Mary Montgomery McFarland. The attacks caused most of the settlers to abandon their new homes and retreat behind the Blue Ridge Mountains to more protected territory until the war came to an end. However, as soon as the peace treaty was signed in 1763, the settlements were repopulated, which led to more conflicts.

In 1764 an Indian raid attacked the home of William and Barbara Willson, which was located on the banks of the Jackson River in what became Bath County Virginia in 1791. The family was building a new house and “An Irishman was weaving outdoors near the old house...In fleeing toward the house, Barbara Wilson was struck by a flying tomahawk and rendered unconscious ...The weaver escaped with a bullet wound in his shoulder." (Morton, p. 83) The weaver was Duncan McFarland (b. abt. 1700) who eventually purchased this land from the Willsons in 1767. Duncan continued to live here with his sons William (b. abt. 1732), Robert (b. abt. 1725), and Alexander (b. 1750), who are discussed below.

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