Sgt Benjamin Walter Crow
This is a record that was found on his life, written Aug of 2001 by Darlene Chaffin Law, his 3rd great-grand daughter. It has not been changed except for a couple of dates on his children. Here is his wonderful history;
Benjamin Crow was born in the British American Colonies about 1756 or 1757 in the county of New Castle, Delaware. His parents were Walter and Ann(e) Crow. He was a middle child in a family of eight children, whose names were Mary (called Polly), James, John, William, Benjamin, Jacob, Nancy and Rachel. There is no family bible, diary or journal to tell us of this family, only documents showing their area of residence. Understanding the historical setting in which they lived helps us to understand their lives.
From 1760-1764, Benjamin’s father, Walter, was the proprietor of an “inn,” “tavern,” or “public house,” located on the Upper King Road which connected Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Wilmington and New Castle, Delaware1. Whenever a direct and much traveled road was developed within the Colonies, a network of inns, ordinaries and taverns sprang up placed strategically to anticipate travelers’ needs. The trip from Philadelphia to New Castle, made either on foot, by horseback or coach, could be dusty and tiresome. The road was a simple dirt track running through the forest, and the trip took from three to eight days depending on the weather and road conditions. Walter Crow’s establishment, a forerunner of our modern motel, provided weary travelers with a meal and accommodations for the night.
Walter Crow’s inn was located thirteen miles south of New Castle, between Christiana Bridge and Blackburn Bridge. His place was known by “Crow’s Tavern,” or “Sign of the Tun” (the Cask). After he left, it became “Ham’s Inn,” then “Carson’s,” and later “The Buck Tavern.” This region achieved more than local fame as the combined British and Hessian armies launched their Philadelphia campaign from this area in late August of 1777.
In late 1763 or early 1764, Walter moved further West over the Appalachian Mountains into Augusta County Virginia. He purchased land located on the South Branch of Linville Creek near Harrisonburg, Virginia. This was considered the Western frontier and had only been opened to settlement for about 20 years. In mid 1750’s there were many Indian raids through these valleys in conjunction with the French and Indian Wars. Here Benjamin grew to adulthood. One can imagine him as a young adult wearing buckskins or homespun clothing along with homemade moccasins or boots clearing trees or planting or harvesting crops. He would have helped build the log cabin or barns for the livestock. He learned to hunt and trap animals for food, clothing and trade. He would have attended socials to mingle with his neighbors.
Although the colonists were still loyal to England for the most part, they were beginning to feel some dissatisfaction with the continued increase in taxes and control. The discontent grew with the passage of the Stamp Act by Parliament in 1765. The Virginia House of Burgess replied with a paper called “The Declaration of Rights” which caused the Act to be repealed only to be replaced by new taxes on tea, glass and painters materials in July 1767. To enforce the collection of these duties, two Regiments of British soldiers were sent to Boston. This trouble continued to escalate until April 19, 1775 when the first shots were fired at Concord, Massachusetts.
The first written record found of Benjamin Crow is his military service pay slips for service in the Revolutionary War. He enlisted on December 26, 1776 in Captain David Stephensen’s Company of the 8th Virginia Regiment of Foot. He served under the Command by Colonel Abraham Bowman for a period of three years. He received pay of seven and one-third dollars per month. He was promoted to Corporal on August 5, 1777, then to Sergeant March 1, 1778. His pay was increased to eight dollars per month. These dated pay slips show that he received pay for November and December 1777, January through June 1778 at Valley Forge, part of this time he is listed as “sick.” There is a gap in the pay slips from June 1778 to May 1779, when he became a part of Captain John Steed’s Company of the 3rd & 4th Virginia Regiment of Foot, Commanded by John Nevill and his pay was increased to ten dollars per month in Virginia Currency. As of August 1779, he received his pay at Camp Ramapoo, and the very last pay slip dated December 9, 1779 shows he was stationed at a Camp near Morriston, (?). His three-year enlistment ended on December 26, 1779.
Either before his discharge from the Virginia Militia or shortly after, he married Ann Gragg, daughter of Robert Gragg and Lydia Harrison Gragg, neighbors to his family in Augusta County, Virginia.
On September 19, 1780, Benjamin purchased part of 400 acres in Augusta County. This transaction is witnessed by Robert Gragg (Gregg). Two years later, on September 28, 1782, Benjamin and his wife, Ann, sold this property. The witnesses of the sale were Robert Gragg and Samuel Gragg. Just before the sale of this property, on August 18, 1782, Benjamin made a claim in Court to be compensated for a rifle that was lost while serving during the Revolutionary War. “Came into Court Benjamin Crow and made oath that there was a Rifle gun, powder horn, shot pouch and knife taken from Him When a continental soldier in the year 1777 and put into the Magazine for which he received a certificate which he lodged with Walter Crow who also came into Court and made oath that he has lost the said certificate and never received any value for ye same the Court is therefore of the opinion that ye said Benjamin Crow be allowed 7 Pounds 10 shilling for said gun, powder horn, shot pouch and knife and the Same is Ordered to be certified.”
Shortly after the sale of his land Benjamin moved his family to the Holston River Valley in Southwestern Virginia. This area extended into what was then North Carolina and later to become Greene County, Tennessee. This valley lay between the Appalachian Mountains on the East and the Clinch Mountains on the west. In this raw untamed wilderness Benjamin began to clear land and build cabins. He built with the cabins facing each other and a stockade fence with a gate at the ends. These gates were to be closed in case of an Indian attack. This was the home that he prepared for his family. In spite of the fact that one-time tax records “as insolvent and delinquent, as he had gone to the Holston,” moving his family and working hard to reestablish himself must have paid off.
In the book of North Carolina Land Grants recorded for Greene County, Tennessee, “For 10 pounds per 100 acres – to Benjamin Crowe 300 acres in Greene County on south side of Nolichucky River on both sides of Meadow Creek, to watery fork of Meadow Creek. s/Richard Caswell, Governor at Kinston, N.C.; 20 September 1787.”
Then in Deed Book 3, “Benjamin Crow – 200 acres. Consideration of 10 Pounds (No further description) s/Alexander Martin (Governor) at Newbern, N.C. dated 26 December 1792”.
Deed Book 3, “3 October 1799; Benjamin Crow, Greene County, Tennessee To Thomas Pate for $728.00, 440 acres in Greene County (further property description and location not recorded). Witnesses William Rankin, Sally Rankin. (Registered 24 Jan 1801).
Thomas Pate then conveyed this property back to Benjamin Crow.
Benjamin Crow then conveyed this 440 acres to John Neash, on 25 November 1801.
Benjamin Crow sold 30 acres in Greene County to Michael Neese for $100.00. (Registered 5 January 1804)
Benjamin Crow sold 27 acres to Joseph Patterson for $37.00. Witnesses, Thomas McLaughlin, John Reynolds, Robert Gragg. (Registered 24 December 1803).
Benjamin Crow was very active in public and civic affairs. In the records of the Greene County Tennessee Court of Common Pleas there are numerous entries for Benjamin Crow to serve as a jurist, to lay out a road, to act as a witness or to help settle an estate or other legal problems. Benjamin was appointed a Colonel in the local Militia to defend against the Indians. He was on the committee that offered its help to General George Washington in fighting the French.
Then in early 1802, Benjamin Crow with his extended family left Tennessee for the Louisiana territory. Louisiana Territory at that time belonged to Spain who invited settlers to move west of the Mississippi River. The three oldest children were married, and they along with their spouses moved with Benjamin and Ann.
Since Benjamin’s property was located near or on the banks of the Nolichucky River, which flowed into the French Broad River, a tributary of the Ohio River their quickest and easiest means of transporting the large family group to the wilderness would have been via raft or houseboat. This would go along with leaving Tennessee in the spring to take advantage of the higher water flowing down the rivers. What an undertaking to take all of your household items, animals and family members down a wild and turbulent river.
While traversing this river, the first grandchild was born. Walter’s wife Margaret gave birth to their first child a daughter, who they named Elizabeth (Betsy) Waters Crow.
Upon arriving in the Louisiana Territory, they traveled westward until they came to a beautiful valley called Bellevue, there they chose land, erected homes and established farms. Benjamin received a Spanish Land Grant of approximately 1055 acres. His son, Walter received a Land Grant of at least 385 acres.
Prior to 1803 control of the Missouri section of the Louisiana Territory (or New Spain as it was termed) was passed back and forth between France and Spain. In 1803, this land was purchased by the United States from France, known as the “Louisiana Purchase”. In 1805, the area known as Missouri became a part of the Territory of Louisiana and remained so until 1812 when it was divided off and became Missouri Territory. In 1813, Washington County was created. August 10, 1821, Missouri became the 24th State of the Union. Their first census was taken in 1830.
Few records remain regarding the time the Crow family immigrated to Missouri. Among those are minutes of the Board of Land Commissioners, which includes a list of the men in the District of Louisiana in December 1805. This roster is the nearest thing to a census and represents the entire population of the area south from St. Charles to New Madrid. Appearing on the roster were the following men named Crow:
Benjamin Crow St. Louis District, Henry Crow St. Louis District, John Crow St. Louis District, Godfrey Crow St. Louis District, Godfrey Crow St. Louis District, Michael Crow St. Louis District, Walter Crow St. Louis District.
An account of one dramatic experience that Benjamin Crow’s family had while living in this area follows:
At 2:00 AM December 16, 1811, citizens of New Madrid were awakened from their sleep by a violence of the earth they could not understand. The log cabins sat at the epicenter of the first of many shocks which were to last for thirteen months and create unbelievable havoc. Eyewitness accounts of the scene at New Madrid: “The Earth was observed to roll in waves a few feet high, with visible depressions in between. By and by these swells burst, throwing up large volumes of water, sand and coal. When the swells burst, fissures were left running in a northern and southern directions, and parallel for miles. Some were five miles long, four and one-half feet deep and ten feet wide.”
The first thing that happened in the destruction of New Madrid was when the graveyard slid into the Mississippi River. Escarpments in firmer rock below the soil and sand formed rapids and waterfalls in the Mississippi. One waterfall eight miles down river could be heard from what was left of New Madrid. The eastern bank of the Mississippi below New Madrid was raised several feet while New Madrid and the western bank sank about 25 feet.
Two lakes were formed. Reelfoot Lake, 10-mile long, five miles wide, on the Kentucky-Tennessee line, still has the dead hardwood tree trunks standing where they drowned in the 1811 sinking of the land. Lake Francis is 40 miles long and a half mile wide, and also has thousands of tree trunks preserved in the water.
Few people were killed as there was so few living in this almost virgin forest, in this far tip of the Louisiana Purchase. Also, if you wanted to build a quake-proof house, a notched, horizontal log one room enclosure would be about as good as you could figure out, if you suddenly found the earth flouncing up and down beneath you.
The next year in 1812, there was a great revival of religious fervor. Maybe it was because the people were getting more established and settled and they wanted the steadying influence of religion, or maybe it was in reaction to the terrible fright from the recent earthquakes. Many traveling preachers came to the area and held camp meetings and revivals. A man by the name of William Stevenson, who resided in and made his living as a farmer in the Bellevue Valley, had been licensed as a minister in Tennessee. His brother, James whose home was on the Ouachita River in Clark County, Arkansas came to visit him… James lamented the lack of preaching in the wilderness and prevailed upon William to go to Arkansas with him to see the people and preach. James was very influential in persuading Benjamin’s son John to become a preacher. Following these religious urgings, John, returned to Kentucky to attend a seminary. Several members of the family joined with William Stevenson and the Methodist sect.
Shortly after the Crows settled in Bellevue and established their homes, there seemed to be conflicts over the land claims. The land records and disputes started in 1806 and continued all the time that they were living there.
Benjamin must have deeded 137 acres of his grant to his son, Robert, as Robert and his wife sold this land on January 17, 1819. Benjamin and his wife sold their land on October 18, 1818. Walter and his wife sold their land in January 1819. On January 25, 1819, Benjamin and his sons, Walter and Benjamin, signed as witnesses to a Court Administration of James McLaughlin’s will.
Shortly after Benjamin and Walter removed themselves to the Arkansas Territory settling in Clark County. Robert and his wife, moved across the Mississippi River into Southern Illinois, where many of his wife’s family resided. The other children moved to Arkansas along with Benjamin and Ann. Their daughter, Nancy, went with her husband to Bates County, Missouri, and John F. had already settled in Kentucky.
We do find Benjamin on the 1823 and 1829 tax lists for Arkansas. Beginning in July of 1824, Benjamin started applying for a pension from the United States Government based on his Revolutionary War Service. Several letters and affidavits were sent to the War Department in Washington, D.C. In October 1829, his application for a pension was denied because he had no written evidence or proof of his service.
These letters provide evidence that at this time, Benjamin was old, ill and very poor living in Antoine, Arkansas. One letter mentions that he is a member of the Methodist Church. The last known record of Benjamin is the 1830 US Census for Arkansas, Antoine Township. The census shows that the household consisted of one male, age 70-80, one female, age 70-80; and one female age 20-30. Although no specific death record has been found, it is believed that both he and Ann died and are buried in Arkansas.
On August 17, 1977, approximately 145 years after Benjamin’s death, The Sons of the American Revolution placed a marker at the intersection of Highway 26 and Christian Camp Ground Road near Arkadelphia in Clark County Arkansas to commemorate the Revolutionary War Service of Sgt. Benjamin Crow. The marker was placed at what is believed to be the site of his grave.
In all Benjamin and Ann Gragg Crow had eleven children:
1. Elizabeth (called Betsy Waters), born about 1782 in Virginia, married Thomas M. McLaughlin, 8 Dec 1799, Greene County, Tennessee.
2. Walter Crow, born 1783 in Virginia, married Margaret Hutchinson, 20 May 1801, Greene County, Tennessee.
3. Ann Hannah, born about 1785 in Virginia, married James McLaughlin, 10 Jun 1801, Greene County, Tennessee.
4. Mary (called Polly), born about 1786, in Greene County, Tennessee, married Curtis Morris, 20 Jan 1805, Ste. Genevieve District, Missouri.
5. John, born 16 Jun 1787, in Greene County, Tennessee, married Esther Alexander, 23 Nov 1813, Bellevue, Washington, Missouri. (He took a middle name of Finley and added an ‘e’ to end of his surname, making it Crowe.
6. Lydia, born about 1792, in Greene County, Tennessee, never married.
7. Robert, born 22 Jun 1794, Greene County, Tennessee, married Elizabeth (Betsy) Brown, 5 September 1817, place unknown.
8. Benjamin, born about 1796 in Greene County, Tennessee, married Nancy Daniels about 1816, place unknown.
9. Nancy, born about 1798 in Greene County, Tennessee, married Thomas Gragg, 23 Feb 1814, Clark County, Arkansas.
10. James Rankin, born about 1800 in Greene, Tennessee, married Hannah (?), about 1821, place unknown.
11. Rachel, born 19 Apr 1802 in Ste. Genevieve District, Missouri, married Samuel Gibbins about 1820, in Arkansas.