John Goolman "Cooper" Davidson

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John Goolman Davidson

Also Known As: "Cooper"
Birthdate: (64)
Birthplace: Drumbo, Down, Ireland
Death: March 8, 1793 (64)
Laurel Fork, Wythe County, VA, United States (killed by indians near Beaver Creek)
Place of Burial: United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Davidson; Samuel Davidson; Samuel Davidson; Margaret Thompson Davidson; Margaret Thompson and 1 other
Husband of Martha Draper and Martha (Draper) Davidson
Father of Martha Phoebe Davidson; Martha Phoebe Peery; William Davidson; Andrew Davidson; Nancy Davidson and 8 others
Brother of Benjamin Davidson; William Davidson; Mary Davidson; James Davidson; Daniel Davidson and 2 others

Occupation: Settler, Cooper
Managed by: Sandy Simcox
Last Updated:

About John Goolman "Cooper" Davidson

Served in the Revolutionary War (DAR Ancestor #A030103). Credited for Civil Service and Patriotic Service. (Commission of the Peace and Tax Assessor for Augusta County, Virginia.)

John Goolman Davidson was from Ireland and a cooper by trade, thus his nickname. His father came to Pennsylvania from Ireland with his wife and sons around 1740. By 1741 they were settled in Orange County, Virginia. John later moved to Draper Meadow settlement, and by 1780 was at the head of Beaver Pond Creek in what was then Montgomery County, Virginia (now Mercer County, West Virginia).

A man by the name of Rice had stolen a hog from Davidson, for which he was apprehended, convicted and sentenced to receive on his bare back forty lashes. Rice was so enraged at Mr. Davidson, that he vowed her would have revenge, if he had to bring the Indians upon him. We shall soon see how well Rice kept and performed his vow, and succeeded in having his revenge, although more than ten years had elapsed before the opportunity was afforded him.

Mr. Davidson having some unfinished business at his former home in the valley of Virginia, Rockbridge County, among others, the collection of some eight hundred dollars due him, determined upon a visit to the valley to close up his business and get his money. As was not unusual when some one was going from the frontier into the settlements, it was noised throughout the neighborhood, that Mr. Davidson was going to make the journey. In the month of February, 1793, Mr. Davidson set out on horseback, reached his destination safely, settled his business, collected his money, and started on his way homeward, having with him an extra horse which he was leading. He came over the usual route of travel to Rocky gap, was seen to pass south of that point by a family residing near the pathway. When Davidson did not return home in a timely manner, a search party was organized. The party immediately determined that Mr. Davidson had been killed by a gang of Indians led by a white man, and his horse taken. After eating their breakfast, and gathering up the horses they started out to search for Mr. Davidson's body. Samuel Lusk was with Major Crockett's party, and on the return assisted in the search for the body of Mr. Davidson. So soon as the party reached the settlement, they sent out men along the path leading through Bailey's gap in East River mountain, and on to the Laurel fork of Clear fork of Wolf Creek, and through Rocky Gap, finding on the path on the mountain a hat band recognized as belonging to Mr. Davidson's hat.

On inquiry it was found that Mr.Davidson had passed the settlements south of Rocky Gap before noon on the 8th day of March, and it was discovered at an old waste place at the mouth of Clear fork, that he had there fed his horses. Further investigation at the point where the path left the Laurel fork starting up the mountain, evidence appeared of the blade of a hatchet having been struck into a white oak tree, and that a gun had rested on the hatchet, and near by on the bark of a beech tree was freshly cut the name of "Rice,". Under the root of the tree on the side of the creek, where the water had washed away the earth, the nude body of Mr. Davidson was found, so far advanced in decomposition it could not be removed to his home, and was buried near by where it was found and where it still remains. The statement by some writers that the body was carried to his home and buried is incorrect according to the statements of Mr. Joseph Davidson and Captain John A. Davidson, two of his great grandsons.

Colonel Robert Trigg, in his report to the governor, dated on April 10th, 1793, states that Davidson was killed on the 8th day of March of that year, and that there were twelve Indians in the party, who stole a large number of horses and passed through the center of the Bluestone settlement.

Colonel Robert Crockett had reported in October, 1789, to the governor, the capture of Virginia Wiley, and the killing of her four children by the Indians on October 1st of that year.

On October 17th, 1793, Major Robert Crockett and fifty others, among them Joseph Davidson, John Bailey, James Bailey, Reuben Bailey, Richard Bailey, William Smith and John Peery, sent a petition to the governor of Virginia, informing him of the defenseless condition of the border, and asking for assistance, and stating the killing by the Indians of John Davidson on the 8th day of March 1793, and that of Gilbert on the 24th day of July 1792, and the capture of Samuel Lusk at the same time.

The searching party for Mr. Davidson's body found evidences on the ground that satisfied them that Mr. Davidson, had upon being shot from the tree where the blade of the hatchet had been buried, fallen from his horse which took fright and ran out into the brush and vines on the creek bottom, by which one of the brass stirrups had been pulled off. No doubt remains but that Rice and his party got the $800.00 which Mr. Davidson had with him when killed.

Several years after the killing of Mr. Davidson, Captain William Stowers, then a lad of some fifteen years, while plowing in the bottom where Mr. Davidson was killed, found a brass stirrup which was recognized by the family of Mr. Davidson as one belonging to his saddle, and missing therefrom when his horse and saddle were recovered by Major Crockett and his men.


Much of what is known about John Goolman Davidson comes from the book "Archives of the Pioneers of Tazewell County, Virginia" by the well-respected genealogist and researcher, Nettie Schreiner-Yantis. She states that he "was born prior to 1729, probably in Scotland or Northern Ireland" though no record of his birth or christening has been found. John's son, William, gave his own birthplace as County Down, Northern Ireland, and birth year as 1759, in his Revolutionary War pension application. This makes it likely that John Goolman Davidson or his ancestors immigrated to Northern Ireland from Scotland during the King James Plantation. Son Joseph Davidson states that he was born in Pennsylvania in 1756 or 1762 in his Revolutionary War pension application. Thus a precise date of emigration for the Davidson family eludes us but we can assume that they came to the colonies circa 1760.

Davidson may have earned a living as a cooper (barrel maker) because he is referred to as "Cooper Davidson" in the book "A History of Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory" by David Emmons Johnston, published in 1906 [1]. Davidson and his family were early white settlers in southwestern Virginia in what is now Bluefield. Johnston also contents that Davidson was born in Dublin, Ireland, however it is much more likely that he was from Northern Ireland, as stated in the William Davidson pension application. The origin of John's purported middle name, Goolman, remains a mystery. The middle name does not appear on any period documents related to John Davidson.

According to Schreiner-Yantis, the Davidson family moved on quickly from Pennsylvania to Virginia. She traced their migrations in Virginia through John Davidson's land purchases, called "land patents". The patents were issued by the Loyal Company, which did the land surveys between 1755 and 1778. Not until 1783 were actual titles to land issued. Schreiner-Yantis notes that John Davidson patented land on Dry River in Augusta (now Rockingham) County in 1767 which he sold the following year. He moved several more times, purchasing and selling land along the way, before purchasing land and settling, in 1774, in Montgomery (now Mercer) County, Virginia.

Along with fellow settler, Richard Bailey, Davidson built the Davidson-Bailey Fort in about 1778 in the area of what is now Bluefield, Virginia [2]. The purpose of the fort was to protect the settlers' families from attacks by Native Americans at a time when the area was sparsely populated by whites.

In February 1793 John Goolman Davidson set out on horseback to travel and conduct business in the area and during the journey he was attacked and killed. The stories vary as to who murdered him. It may have been a disgruntled business associate, a white man named Rice who Davidson had earlier had punished for allegedly stealing a pig. Or it may have been a group of Native Americans who were not happy with the whites encroaching on their territory. Possibly it was both Rice and the Native Americans, working together, who perpetrated the deed. Davidson was supposedly carrying $800 when he was killed, and this was missing when his body was found, providing another motive for the crime. His naked body was located by relatives and friends who went in search of him. Some reports say he had sustained a fatal bullet wound. The search party buried him where he was found at Laurel Fork in Wythe County, Virginia. No one was ever charged with the his murder.

DNA tests on the Y-chromosome of living descendants of John Goolman Davidson reveal the family's early origins to be Scandinavian. The Davidson's haplotype is I1, sometimes referred to as the Viking Chromosome.

According to a Dicksie Knight May Family History, John Goolman Davidson was born in the Loch Ness country of Scotland, then went to Ireland to both County Down, North Ireland and then to Dublin, South Ireland. In Ireland he married Martha Draper. Their son William was born in Ireland in 1759. From there, he came to the Conococheague in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, then to Dry River on the Shenandoah, Augusta County, then to Jackson's River and from there to the Crab Creek settlement on New River. Since this settlement was only five miles from the Draper's Meadows settlement Martha Draper Davidson may have been related to the John Draper of Draper's Meadows. The Davidsons lived at Crab Creek until 1776 when they went to Cove Spring Creek (Beaver Pond) of the Bluestone, where he and Richard Bailey built what came to be known as the Davidson-Bailey Fort. The fort was located not far from the present site of Bluefield College just inside the Tazewell County line. Davidson's nearest neighbors were Captain James Moore in Abbs Valley, 12 miles; Mitchel Clay on Clover Bottom, 12 miles; Compton on Clear Fork, 8 miles; and Wright on the head of Bluestone at Springville, 8 miles away. Although the family spent the major portion of their lives defending the frontier for their families and neighbors, neither William nor Joseph, two of his sons received a pension from the Revolutionary War. He owned several tracts of land in and around Wright's Valley between Stony Ridge and Valley Ridge, stretching frm Graham 3 or 4 miles eastward. The city of Bluefield, West Virginia is built on land patented by Davidson in 1774. A home, built by his son Joseph in 1811, still stands. The two-story cabin was moved from its original site in 1939 to make room for the Park Central School. It is now located in the city park near Bluefield College.

Though Davidson is Scot, Goolman is a prominent Irish name as is Burk. The Goolman name reveals an Irish connection for these Davidsons. McComas is also Irish judging from the spelling "Mc" which is Irish, rather than Mac" which is Scottish. The Scottish Davidsons were Royalists during the Civil War in Scotland and some fought with Montrose. The Shells, Pepers and Davidsons had one thing in common - all had lived on the Conococheague Creek in present Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

DAR #A030103

A History of The Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory - By David E. Johnston (1906) Killing of John Davidson - By Emory L. Hamilton

John Goolman Davidson Children and Grandchildren detail

"Mr. (RIchard) Bailey came with his family to the Beaver Pond Spring in ... 1780, and together with John G. Davidson, built the block-house or fort near that spring... "Davidson-Bailey Fort."

Aside from Mr. Davidson and his family, Mr. Bailey's neighbors were Captain James Moore, in Abb's Valley, some ten miles away; Mitchell Clay, on the Bluestone at the Clover Bottom, about twelve miles away; Joshua Day, at the mouth of Laurel Fork of Wolf Creek, about fifteen miles away; Hickman Compton, on Clear Fork of Wolf Creek, eight miles away, and Gideon Wright, at the head of the South Fork of Bluestone, twelve miles away. The sons of Richard Bailey, especially the elder ones, were great Indian scouts and fighters, and were splendid specimens of physical strength and manhood and of great personal courage.

John Bailey, the eldest son, married Nancy Davidson, the daughter of John G. Davidson, and in 1789, he built a log house on the south side of Bowyer's Branch, on the farm now owned by Thompson Calfee--this building is still standing at this writing--and in which Mr. Jonathan Bailey, their oldest son, was born in 1790, and when he was but four days old an Indian incursion into the neighborhood caused Mr. Bailey to take his wife and child on horseback to the fort at the Beaver Pond."

Note from John D. Curtis

Most sources on, identify the parents of John Goolman Davidson as:

  • Samuel Davidson (1703/8 - 1753)
  • Margaret Thompson (1703 - 1797)

Others identify the parents as:

  • William Davidson (1700 -
  • Margaret Thompson (1700 -
view all 18

John Goolman "Cooper" Davidson's Timeline

Drumbo, Down, Ireland
Age 27
July 12, 1757
Age 28
Augusta County, Province of Virginia
Age 28
Age 28
March 17, 1759
Age 30
Tazewell, VA, USA
Age 30
Tazewell, Tazewell County, Virginia, United States
Age 30
Age 31
Rocky Gap, Bland, Virginia, United States