Frances Hunter Arbuckle (1750-1834)

Frances was born at sea after her parents set sail for America. She was the daughter of John Henry and Frances Mortimer Hunter. She married three times. First to James Lawrence, Jr. who died shortly after the wedding, second to Captain Matthew Arbuckle and third to Alexander Welch. She married Captain Arbuckle on December 17, 1774 in Botentourt County, Virginia, and they had four children, James Harvey, General Matthew, Thomas and Samuel. Her marriage to Alexander came after Matthew’s death and they had four known children; Agnes, Frances and two unknown.

In a book written about Frances by Ann Royal on Greenbrier County Frances says:

 “I am now (1824) sitting on the site where this fort once stood, not the least vestige of it however remains. It is now the property of Mrs. Welch, whose house and garden stands within the limits once occupied by this fort. From Mrs. Welch, who is now in her seventieth year, I collected these particulars. She is now sitting by me and goes on to relate: ” That she was one of the earliest permanent settlers of Greenbrier and lived within a mile of the fort just mentioned, which was called Fort Savannah. She was then the wife of a Mr. Arbuckle who was in the famous battle of the Point, and spent all his life in guarding the settlements. There was, besides Fort Savannah, another about eight miles northeast of it called Donnallys Fort….”

Frances married Captain Matthew Arbuckle in 1774.

Captain Matthew Arbuckle, ‘‘large of stature and large of spirit,” was born about 1740/41 in Virginia or Scotland. He is listed as serving in the Augusta County, Virginia, militia in 1758–59, was a lieutenant in 1767, and commissioned captain of Botetourt County militia in 1770. He served as a gentleman justice of Botetourt County from its founding in 1769 until 1773.

A hunter and trapper, Arbuckle was probably the first white man to travel from Virginia to the Ohio other than as a prisoner of the Indians. In 1774 he built the stockade on Muddy Creek, Greenbrier County, now known as Arbuckle’s Old Fort.

Commanding a company of Botetourt County militia he served as guide and chief scout for Gen. Andrew Lewis’s 1774 march to Point Pleasant, contributing greatly to the defeat of the Indians led by Chief Cornstalk at the Battle of Point Pleasant. Later he built Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant. He was in command there when a mob of newly arrived and undisciplined militia, who had witnessed one of their number killed and scalped by the Indians, overcame their officers’ and Arbuckle’s attempts to maintain order and murdered the captive Cornstalk.

Soon after 1774, Arbuckle established his residence near Lewisburg, then known as Fort Savannah, and when the town was laid out in 1780 he was the first settler. In 1778 he was active in raising the siege of Fort Donnally, near Lewisburg. On retirement from active military service he farmed his extensive lands and served several public duties. In March of 1781 he was commissioned to lay out a route from Lewisburg to Warm Springs, Bath County. In June of that year, returning from the capital at Williamsburg, Arbuckle was caught in a violent storm near the banks of the Jackson River and killed by a falling tree. He left a widow and six strong sons.

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