Samuel Stalnaker was born before 1700 and died in 1769. He was living in Augusta County VA in April 1748. He was captured by Indians June 18, 1755 and his wife and son Adam were killed. He escaped from the Indians and was referred to as "Capt. Stalnaker" in a September 8, 1756 letter from Governor Dinwiddie.
The name Stalnaker is derived from the German word "Stahal" and "Stald" for steel, and "Negel" meaning sharp point or spear. The origin was "Stahlnegel" meaning sharp pointed steel spear. So the word was first applied to a warrior who was armed with such a weapon.
When Samuel Stalnaker was born; where he was born; when and where he was married, is unknown.
That Captain Samuel Stalnaker was the first to arrive in America is proven by the fact that there is no earlier record of the name in German settlements of Colonial New York, Pennsylvania or Delaware.
The Virginia Historical Society believes him to have been one of the Germans who were the first settlers in the valley of Virginia in 1732, in which year Jost Hite and others whose names are not recorded, emigrated there through Pennsylvania. That he was in Bucks County, Pennsylvania is proven by his connection with the Truby family who were settlers near Doylestown, and who came with the Stalnakers into Virginia and West Virginia.
That he was in Augusta County before 1748 is proven by the Journal of Dr. Walker, who states that in April, 1748, he met Samuel Stalnaker on his way to the Cherokees. (Filson Club Papers, No. 13, Page 42)
On March 23, 1750, Dr. Walker again met Stalnaker, who had just come to the place to settle on Middle Fork of Holston River, the last western settlement in Virginia. Here his house was built and here, no doubt, the Cherokees wished to meet the Commissioners of Virginia. On the map of 1751, this settlement is located on the Middlefork of Holston River, a few miles above its junction with the south fork, which is now Washington County, formerly a part of Fincastle, and the first county in Virginia named for George Washington.
The next record we have is in Summers History of southern West Virginia, Page 58, in which is given a register of persons killed or taken prisoners by the Indians in 1754, 1755, and 1756, on the New and Holston Rivers and Reedy Creek. This register states that Samuel Stalnaker on Holston River was taken prisoner, and escaped, but that his wife, Mrs. Stalnaker and his son, Adam, were killed. The official report of this is found in Dinwiddie Papers, Vol. 2, Page 447, in a letter written to Governor Sharpe of Maryland by Governor Dinwiddie dated April 1, 1756, regarding Indian troubles saying "One Stalnaker who was taken prisoner by Shawnees escaped and says he saw six French officers and one thousand from Outboten? Bound to Fort Duquense and the frontier.
Samuel Stalnaker was an explorer, trapper, and guide, the first white man to discover Cumberland Gap, and who hunted and explored in Kentucky many years before Daniel Boone ever entered it.
He was a Captain in the French and Indian Wars, and was a mediator between the Indians and the early Virginia government. He commanded a stockade fort at Draper's Meadows. Dinwiddie Papers, Vol. 2, Page 503; September 8, 1756, Governor Dinwiddie, writing to Colonel Clement Reed, acknowledged the receipt of a letter from that officer, through Captain Stalnaker and said "Give Stalnaker 100 pounds to qualify him to raise his Company and build a stockade fort at Drapers Meadow." The location of this fort is now known as Smithfield, Montgomery County, the first settlement west of the Alleghany Divide and at that time the first on New River.
Summers History of Southwest Virginia, is the first official reference to Stalnaker by his title, the record taken from old Book of Courts Martial held by Augusta Militia, 1756-95.
On July 29, 1756, a council of War assembled at Staunton by direction of Governor of Virginia to determine at what points forts should be built along the frontier for protection of settlers. Captain Stalnaker represented the Holston Settlement in this conference and it was at his request that the Stockade was built at Dunkards bottom on New River and Davis Bottom at headquarters of Middle Fork on the Holston.
An interesting fact is that Captain Samuel Stalnaker’s house was chosen as the meeting place for treating with the Indians by his Majesties’ Commissioners, at request of Chief of Cherokees held at Catawba Town and Broad River in March, 1756.
The last reference we have to this remarkable man we find in a statement to the effect that about 1768-9 J.F. D. Smyth, an English Traveler visited Captain Stalnaker at his home on the Holston River and remained two days. He says he found "the old pioneer still wise in the learning of the wilderness," and that he was able to direct Smyth a new route to Kentucky.
Captain Stalnaker’s death is wrapped in as much mystery as his birth and marriage. We know he had three sons, perhaps more and that his wife and son, Adam, were killed in 1755. Another son, George, was appointed Constable on waters of Holston and New Rivers in 1755, Withers History of southern West Virginia (Page 109-110) writes of George Stalnaker as later of Boltetourt? County in 1770. Of this branch of the family nothing is known.
Captain Samuel Stalnaker and Sarah (Susannah) Williams had the following children:
24th. We went to Stalnaker's, helped him to raise his house and Camped about a quarter of a mile below him. In April, 1748, I met the above mentioned Stalnaker between the Reedy Creek Settlement and Holstons River, on his way to the Cherokee Indians,* and expected him to pilate me as far as he knew but his affairs would not permit him to go with me. This was the Middle Fork of the Holston, which joins the French Broad near Knoxville and forms the Tennessee. The Holston was called by the Indians first the Cat-Cloo, afterward the Watauga. It took its present name from an early hunter and explorer named Holston. Haywood's Tennessee. Samuel Stalnaker was probably, as his name indicates, one of the early pioneers from the Lower Shenandoah Valley or from Pennsylvania, of German descent, the family having numerous representatives in the valley. He was doubtless a hunter and Indian trader who had visited the Cherokees and was acquainted with the route to Cumberland Gap, upon which Doctor Walker had never been, or he would not have needed a guide. It was from him evidently that Doctor Walker received information as to certain localities he was about to visit, as Clinch River, Cave Gap, and other points of which, as he advanced into Kentucky, he gave evidence of previous information. It is not improbable that the route from the Ohio River to Cumberland Gap and the Cherokee country, which at that time was defined and known as "the Warriors' Path," was traveled by hunters and traders, and that Stalnaker was acquainted with it personally or from others. On Fry and Jefferson's Map, 1751, Stalnaker's settlement is put down as the extreme western habitation)
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