James Roark (1740 - 1792)

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Birthplace: VA, USA
Death: Died in Floyd, Kentucky, United States
Managed by: Erica Isabel Howton, (c)
Last Updated:

About James Roark

James Roark, one of the brothers who came from Ireland was with his son and brother William, on the verge of joining the British Army at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, when he had a dream or vision. In this dream he seemed to be traveling between two walls when an angel with drawn sword appeared before him, warning him to turn back and telling him that he was on the wrong road. When morning came the brothers heeded the warning and joined the Colonial Forces. There they served until peace was declared. James Roark always called himself, “God’s Soldier”, firmly believing that the vision was sent to him from God.

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From the book "History of Tazewell County and Southwest Vir ginia, 1748-192 0", by William C. Pendleton, the followin g excerpt is taken:

The year following the massacre of the Evans family anothe r frightful tragedy was enacted in Baptist Valley, when th e Roark family experienced a fa te similar to that which be fell the family of Jesse Evans. Tradition is ve ry apt to e rr in fixing the dates of incidents similar to those of whi ch I am writing, though it be accurate as to the locality w here such even ts take place and the circumstances connecte d therewith. Bickley, who h ad to depend on tradition, plac es the massacre of the Roarks in the year 1789, when it act ually occurred in 1780, as I have ascertained from existin g records. The following account of the tragedy is given b y Dr. Bickley:

"James Roark lived at the gap of the dividing ridge, betwee n the waters of the Clinch and the Sandy Rivers, through wh ich passed the Dry Fork road, and which has since been know n as Roark's Gap. Early in 1789, a band of Shawnee Indian s left their homes in the west, and ascending the Dry Fork , fell upon the defeseless family of Mr. Roark and killed h is wife and several children. Two sons and Mr. Roark were f rom home and, it m aybe, thus saved their own lives, as th e Indians were rather numerous to have been beaten off by t hem, even if they had been at home.

This was the only instance that I have met with, of the Ind ians visiting the settlements of Tazewell before the winte r had been clearly broken. There was a heavy snow on the gr ound at the time.

From this time forward the Roarks became deadly enemies o f the Indians, and sought them, even beyond the limits of t he county. Mr. Roark and one of his sons (John), were after wards killed in a battle, fought at what was then known a s the Station bottom, within the present limits of Flo td C o., KY."

In a publication of the State Historical Society of Wiscons in, gotten out in 1917, I have found a report which shows t hat the Roark massacre occu rred on the 18th of March, 1780 . The report was made by Major John Taylor to Col. Willia m Preston, then county lieutenant for Montgomery County, an d is official. The original report, now in the possession o f the Sta te Historical Society of Wisconsin, was procure d by the late Lyman C. Draper from the descendents of Col . Preston. The report made by Major Taylor to Col. Presto n is as follows:

"Sir: The 18th Instant the Indians was In this Neighborhoo d and Fell in at James Roark's where they Scalped seven o f his children And his wife. They are all Dead only one gir l. They took Seven Head of Horses Five of which was the pro perty of Wm. Patterson. This part of yr. County is In a sce ne of Confusion And I make no doubt but the Country will Br eak up without they Can Get Some Assistance. I am as yet Li ving at home but Capt. Maxwell's Compy are Chiefly Gathere d together in Small Parties. Corn is very Scarce Here but i f a few men could be raised I think they Could be found. Si r, if you have resigned yr Commission Pray let the County L ieut. Have this Latter or a few lines from yr Self whic h I think will Answer a better End. I expected a few line s from you By Capt. Moor but Don't hear of any. My family i s In Heralth As I hope yours and I am Sir yr. Mo st Hum Srt . (Signed) Jno Taylor Head Clinch 23rd March 1780.

CB the Murder was Committed In seven Miles of here."

Major Taylor was the same man at whose home Mrs. Jesse Evan s and her daugh ter sought refuge after her children were k illed by the Indians in 1779... ..

James Roark must have lingered for several years upon the s cene after his wife and children were murdered by the India ns. He was living the re in 1783 when Hugh Fulton ran the l ine between Montgomery and Washington counties. The last Co urse in Fulton's survey is from the west end of Morris' Kno b, and is as follows: "Thence from said Knob north crossin g the spurs of the same, and Paint Lick mountains the nort h fork of Clinch by John Hines plantation, and over the rid ge by James Roark's in the Baptist Valley, to a sugar tre e and two white oaks on the head of the Sandy."

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James Roark's Timeline

1740
1740
VA, USA
1769
1769
Age 29
Tazewell, VA, USA
1781
1781
Age 41
VA, USA
1792
1792
Age 52
Floyd, Kentucky, United States
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