Like so many others, I am not related to George Washington, at least to the best of my knowledge. However, I do come from some real characters! Daniel Greathouse is just one of those crazy characters who make up the history of the United States of America, and from whom I descend. The Greathouse family has a great deal of information online to learn more about Daniel, and I will have details for the sources I have used in the Sources Page, if you would like to do more research.
What makes Daniel such a crazy guy is this: he started Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774. Yep, he started a war! So he must be a shady character, then, since he started a war with Native Americans, right?
Not exactly: depending on who you listen to, he could have been a blood-thirsty and brutally immoral monster, or a nice guy who misunderstood his situation, and everything in between. Plus, the War was most likely a result of the ongoing land quarrels between the British and the Native Americans. All these differing opinions of Daniel highlight the turbulent and difficult times into which he born.
Daniel Greathouse was born in 1750,to Harmon Greathouse and Mary Stull. Harmon lived at Holliday’s Cove, on Harmon’s Creek, in what is now West Virginia. This area of Virginia in the 1700’s was the frontier, and Daniel and his brother, Jacob, were frontiersmen. As we look at this time, with our 21st century lenses, we may see frontiersmen as rugged and rough men, with little compassion and great tempers, who cared little for the land, animals, and people they impacted. This is only partially right. After all, this is not the way they saw themselves. Frontiersmen knew they were the only way America could expand: the only way Americans could settle in all the land available. They saw free land, ready to be taken and made better by those hardy enough to make their home so far away from society and civilization.
Native Americans’ Views Differed…
Looking backward, we can understand Native Americans did not see the same picture. Instead, Natives saw White people coming into their homelands, their inheritances, and making homes, destroying forests, and generally looting the land. I imagine a Native American child to have grown up in this area, hearing stories of his ancestors, and knowing this land was to be his someday. He might have climbed a tall tree to see all the land on which his family, and all his ancestors, had lived and died. This would have been such a special area to him, knowing his grandparents, great-grandparents, and generations before had all played on the same land, and were given back to the earth here, too. It would have been here he would have married, like his parents had before him, and here he would have seen his children born. Then, I imagine, one day, he climbed back up his tree to see the lands he would give his children. Instead of the same, sprawling, and familiar land, he saw corners and a creek cut out of his land. Squinting, he might have just been able to make out clearings, with animals and gardens, and a small hut. This hut would not have looked like his, or the huts of his known enemies. However, good land being always fought over, he might have assumed this was a rival moving in on his land, or he might have wondered if these were the White men he had been hearing about lately. I think he might have, next, taken a small group of trusted men with him on a secret mission, to see if these were fiends or foes.
What a sight must have presented the Native Americans who first saw these strange White people on their land. The range of feelings and thoughts must have been as diverse as the people making the discoveries. When I was a kid, I thought Native Americans seeing White people must have been like Elliot seeing E.T. Now, however, we know Natives had some contact with White people for hundreds of years before the 16th century. They must have at least heard stories about White people and the odd traditions they always brought. Now, I think it must have been more like the Goonies finding the ship of One-Eyed Willie. Not that White people are a treasure, but it must have been exciting and scary to finally see what they heard stories about, and the thought of who else might want to know what was found must have quickly crossed their minds, not knowing if there was gain to be had from this find.
It is usually easier to imagine the perspective of the White people who settled in Native American land. Those are the stories we learn in school. Sometimes these are horror stories, from White people who were scared of the Natives. Sometimes these are stories of friendships and mutual learning. Either way, Native Americans must have held similarly different opinions of these White people taking over their lands. Maybe one of the corners the Native American I imagined saw was carved out by Daniel Greathouse (no, I didn’t forget who we were talking about, but I like to set the stage).
One of the Natives who found friends in White men was Chief Logan, of the Mingo tribe. One of the White men who had unfriendly experiences with Natives was Daniel Greathouse. This difference of viewpoints led to so much confusion and bloodshed. In 1763 a Proclamation was issued preventing white settlements west of the Allegheny Rivers and Appalachian Mountains. Not only were there already settlements over this boundary, which were supposed to just be abandoned, but other pioneers had been ready to move out west to make their fortune on land. To the whites, this Proclamation meant the government, far away in Britain with no real concern for them, was simply trying to impose another burden on them to impede them from bettering themselves and their families. To the Natives, it was supposed to give them some recognition as rightful owners of these lands, their ancestors’ lands, where their families are buried, and their children have played, and which no one has asked for but taken anyway.
Back to Daniel…
So, finally the White people have to stay out of the rest of the Native Americans’ lands, right? Well … not settling these lands means less prosperity and land for White people. After all, more Europeans were arriving everyday, and if they couldn’t go further west, they would have to start squeezing into the established colonies. And we had to make those dollar bills (or at this time, coins), so the Proclamation was ignored, and pioneers continued to settle west, and refused to leave their homesteads already passed the boundary of the Appalachians. As you probably figured, this created some tension between White people and Native people. Even friendly Natives were a little ticked off at the settlers who blatantly ignored their ownership of lands, and the authorities who promised recognition but did little to enforce this. Often during this time Natives raided small villages and homesteads.
Daniel Greathouse did not see these raids with historical context to help him understand. He might have known friendly Native Americans, but he spent much more time with the Natives he was fighting on the frontier. He had likely heard of the Mingo tribe before and may have even heard they were friendly with whites. He had also likely heard of Natives thought to be friendly who looted, raped, and murdered whites. He probably thought better safe than sorry, and largely distrusted all Natives.
Then, as Thomas Jefferson (yep, that Thomas Jefferson) said, “In the spring of the year 1774, a robbery and murder were committed on an inhabitant of the frontiers of Virginia, by two Indians of the Shawnee tribe. The neighboring whites, according to their custom, undertook to punish this outrage in a summary way.” Jefferson mistakenly named Captain Michael Cresap as the leader of the “neighboring whites”. It was later discovered to be a man under his charge, our Daniel Greathouse.
Tales differ on what “in a summary way” included. In most versions Daniel and several men heard the Natives responsible for the previous murders were in a bar nearby. Meeting them there, Daniel and his men plied the group of Natives, including a pregnant woman, with alcohol. After they were sufficiently stumbling around, Daniel and his men led the Natives away from the town.
Then the stories start to really diverge…
Some stories are gruesome accounts of how the whites committed unspeakable horrors to the bodies of the Natives. Others simply say the Natives were murdered. Most are relatively silent on the details.
Like before, we needn’t look further than politics to understand the variations in the accounts. Natives could see this as a means to create more nationalism and give a cause and face to their suffering. From their perspective, this horror was perpetrated by these same nasty whites who had been terrorizing them all along, and being friendly obviously gained them no better treatment. It was, from all accounts, well known to whites and Native Americans alike the Mingo tribe was one of the friendliest with the settlers. However, the Europeans weren’t going to miss out on this propaganda gold mine, either. Their position was a little trickier, but they were well-practiced. They knew it would put them at war immediately if they did not condemn Daniel and his men, but afterward they shed a less harsh light on the event.
From History of Roane County West Virginia by William H Bishop published in 1927:
“Daniel Greathouse, Captain, commandant of the small division of Colonel Michael Cresap’s men who killed the party of marauding Indians on the Virginia side of the Ohio at the mouth of Yellow Creek, (a stream emptying into the Ohio river from the north west, nearly midway between Pittsburgh and Wheeling), in which Indian party were “all the relatives of Logan, Chief of the Mingos.” Authority for this killing was denied by Colonel Cresap and by Governor Dunmore, but this act of Greathouse’s initiated the military activities that led up to and culminated in the Battle of Point Pleasant and ending of maraudings and Indian atrocities in the valleys of the Monongahela and the Kanawhas. When one reads the list of robberies, murders and kidnappings by those Indians, of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children of some of the Greathouse men, we do not wonder they did not wait regular military orders. We read in a history, “Our Western Border,” by McKnight, that after the defeat of the Indians at The Battle of Brushy Run, the Indians surrendered to the white men, children of Pennsylvanians numbering forty- nine males and sixty-seven females, and of thirty two males and fifty-eight females… and more than a hundred Virginians.”
This was the beginning of Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774, started by Daniel Greathouse.
You can find a great short video at the West Virginia Encyclopedia website: http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/media/29193.
Where Did Daniel Live?
According to http://greathouse.us his father’s land was surveyed in 1783:
1783, Dec 11 – Survey: Harmon Greathouse, Harmons Creek, 800 acres
Excerpt from 1785 – Land Grant: Harmon Greathouse, Harmons Creek, 800 acres:
there is granted by the said Commonwealth unto the said Harmon Greathouse a certain Tract or parcel of Land Containing Eight hundred acres by Survey bearing date the eleventh day of December one Thousand seven hundred and Eighty three [11 Dec 1783] Lying and being in the County of Yohogania and is Bounded as followeth. To wit:
Beginning at a Large Double Sycamore on the north side of Harmons Creek being a Corner to Thomas Edgington
1) thence North thirty five degrees West one hundred poles to a Black oak on the hill
N 35 degrees W 100 poles
2) thence with Edgingtons Line North fifty one Degrees West one hundred and Seventy two poles to a Black oak Corner to Thomas Edgington,
N 51 degrees W 172 poles
3) thence East fifty seven poles to a Black oak on the River Hill
E 57 poles
4) thence North Twenty one degrees East ninety seven poles to a white oak
N 21 degrees E 97 poles
5) thence North thirty nine degrees East one hundred and Twenty eight poles to a white oak
N 39 degrees E 128 poles
6) thence south seventy eight degrees East thirty four poles to a white oak in Alexander Wills Line
S 78 degrees E 34 poles
7) thence with his Line South Twelve Degrees West six poles to his Corner Black oak
S 12 degrees W 6 poles
8) thence with Wills Line crossing the cove of a Pond South Eighty two degrees East one hundred and ninety poles to a Black oak,
S 82 degrees E 190 poles
9) thence south Twenty degree East sixty poles to a Dogwood and red oak on the north side of Harmons Creek
S 20 degrees E 60 poles
10) South fifty three degrees East one hundred and seven poles to a Black Oak
S 53 degrees E 107 poles
11) south Eighty two degrees East one hundred and Thirty two poles to a Large ash
S 82 degrees E 132 poles
12) South fifty five degrees East Twenty eight poles to Slash oak
S 55 degrees E 28 poles
13) south forty degrees East forty poles to a Sycamore
S 40 degrees E 40 poles
14) south twenty degrees East Sixty six poles to a Sugar tree Corner to Gabriel Greathouse
S 26 degrees E 66 poles
15) South Seventy eight degrees West thirty four poles to a maple on the South Bank of Harmons Creek just above an old Mill race
S 78 degrees W 34 poles
16) thence North forty degrees West Sixty six poles to a swamp oak at the foot of the hill
N 40 degrees W 66 poles
17) thence North Eighty five degrees West one hundred and forty poles
N 85 degrees W 140 poles
18) thence right Line South fifty five degrees West three hundred and five poles to the Beginning With is appurtenances.
S 55  degrees W 305  poles
So, How do I Fit into this Story?
Daniel Greathouse is my 5th Great-Grandfather.
Daniel was the father of John D. Greathouse, who was the father of Samuel William Greathouse, who fathered Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Greathouse, who was the mother of Early Edward “Earl” Webb, who fathered Thurman Casto “Pete” Webb, who was the father of my mother.
One Correction… in Generation 6 above, Ada Mae Elliot is listed as the wife of Charles Lewis Webb. She is still living in Spencer, West Virginia, though. Sorry about this mistake! Thanks.