The VanBibber family originated in Germany, on the banks of the Rhine, not far from the ancient city of Matz. John’s grandfather Isaac VanBiber was the imigrant. John VanBibber was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania about 1733. He was the son of Peter VanBibber and Anna Gooding. Seeking a suitable place to settle, John had wandered over much of the eastern wilderness from Pennsylvania to Tennessee Through some misadventure, he lost his way & all his possessions including his survive-or-die flintlock rifle. Just about to give up in despair, Van Bibber spotted smoke curling skyward from what could only have been a chimney. Charging through the underbrush, he found a pioneer cabin which was little more than a lean-to. Whooping & hollering, he greeted the inhabitant, who welcomed him only as a lonely, hospitable man could do. The man introduced himself as Dan Boone, who fed & boarded Van Bibber, beginning a friendship lasting for decades.
After staying for a time, Van Bibber felt he must take his leave. Boone loaded him up with light trail food and against his protests, one of Boone’s prized flintlocks. It was a beautiful piece, with carved wood stock & fancy brass plating, plus a silver sight made by gunsmith, Michael Kimberlin, of whom research disappointingly fails to turn up any record. John later passed the now-famous Van Bibber rifle to his nephew, through his brother Peter. Mathias, the nephew, who was reputed to have been one of the first sheriffs of Kanawha County, scratched his own monogram in the brass stock plate.
John and his brother Peter were living in Botetourt County, Virginia as early as 1770. John built a cabin on the banks of Crooked Creek at the base of Fisher’s Hill. In the pension of James, son of Peter, born 1766, he said they moved to a settlement on Crooked Creek before he could recollect, and lived there many years, until about 1783, then moved to Greenbrier County. John VanBibber and his brothers Peter and Isaac were with General Lewis at Point Pleasant in 1774.
John married Chlorinda (Chloe) Standifer. They had seven children. The eldest, Chloe, married Jesse Boone, son of Daniel Boone. Rhoda, the second, was killed by Indians at Point Pleasant. Next was James, who married Lois Reynolds and moved to Catlettsburg, Kentucky where he died. Miriam married John Reynolds, once the high sheriff of Kanawha County. Hannah married Goodrich Slaughter of Culpepper County, moved with him to Missouri in 1827 and died in Palmyra in 1832. Margery married Colonel Andrew Donnally Jr. All these children were born in Botetourt County before John moved to Point Pleasant.
On the 5th of October, A. D. 1789, the first County Court for the then new county of Kanawha was held. The following "gentlemen justices" were severally sworn and qualified as members of said Court. Thomas Lewis, Rob't Clendennin, Francis Watkins, Charles McClung, Benjamin Strother, William Clendennin, David Robinson, George Alderson, Leonard Morris, and John Van Bibber.
Thomas Lewis, being the oldest member of the Court, was, by the laws of Virginia, entitled to be Sheriff of the county, and was accordingly commissioned as such by the Governor of the Commonwealth, and took the oath required by law Mr. Lewis thereupon appointed John Lewis his deputy.
William H. Cavendish was appointed Clerk of the Court, and was introduced and took the oath of office. Reuben Slaughter was appointed County Surveyor, and Benjamin Strother, David Robinson, and John Van Bibber were appointed Commissioners of Revenue for the county.
John died in Charleston on March 17, 1820. His estate was appraised on November 12, 1821. The estate was divided between his living children, Col. Andrew Donnally, husband of Marjory VanBibber, James VanBibber, Hannah VanBibber Slaughter, representatives of Chloe VanBibber Boone and Miriam VanBibber Reynolds. John’s wife Chloe must have died before him, because she didn’t share in the estate. The location of his burial is unknown.
John, the daring Indian fighter of West Virginia. He came through the Shenandoah valley of Virginia with his brothers, Isaac and Peter and his sister, Brigetta. Peter came as far west as Greenbrier and built a house and fort on Wolf creek. John was a surveyor and found lands to his liking in Hampshire county and on the Greenbrier river, which he patented.
He married in Baltimore, Chloe Standiford, "tall and fair to look upon." She went with him to live in Bottetout county, Va. A few years later in company with six other men, he made a hazardous trip of exploration to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Reaching Fort Pitt they built boats and loaded them with articles for trading with the Indians and Spaniards. They made a successful trip down the river nearly 2,000 miles to Natches where they disposed of their boats and what remained of their goods and then set out on the journey home. The overland trip through an almost impenetrable wilderness was full of peril as they found when they were set upon by a band of Cherokee Indians who killed several and scattered the rest so that they never came together again. John Van Bibber, alone, without gun or compass and no knowledge of the country became hopelessly lost and wandered for months in the forests of Mississippi and Tennessee, until, almost at the end of endurance, he came upon a cabin in a hollow in the woods. It was the cabin of Daniel Boone on the Holstein river.
Daniel and Rebecca Boone gave him welcome and comfort. Thus began a friendship that lasted all their lives and was cemented by a marriage between their children. His return home was indeed a joyful event. No word had been heard from him during his nine months absence and Chloe Van Bibber had given him up as dead. He found the settlement in great perturbation on account of rumors of Indian depredations, and his presence was needed.
John and Peter's only sister, Brigetta, who had married Isaac Robinson in Bottetout came with her husband and family to Point Pleasant in the party with her brothers. They settled on Crooked creek not far from her brothers. It was not long before they were to suffer a fate that was unhappily too common to the settlers on the Ohio river at that time.
Late one afternoon in the spring of the year of their coming to Crooked creek, their son Isaac, a boy about 8 years old, was fishing in the river some distance from the house. He was disturbed by the sound of shots and yells from the direction of his home, and immediately set off running across the clearing. He arrived to witness a scene of horror. His father lay dead. Indians were in the act of killing his baby brother, two years old, and his mother and 4 year old brother were prisoners. Isaac was made a prisoner and the savages after rifling the house set fire to it and made off with their captives and loot.
It was some hours later than John Van Bibber discovered the ruined home. He went immediately in pursuit and came upon the 4 year old John lying dead in the road. The Indians had a good start and they traveled fast that night so that he never caught up with them and had to return.
It was five years before Brigetta was heard of when she was purchased by a fur trader and returned to Bottetourt county. She related a story of cruelty and hardship. After two days and nights of rapid flight from Crooked creek, the Indians stopped to rest. That night beneath the stars a baby boy was born to her. Next day the journey was resumed, and a few days later, the baby, becoming burdensome to her captors, was killed and body thrown at her feet.
Arriving at the Indian village, Brigetta was made to cook and sew and do the work of a servant. This might have been bearable had not the only solace to her grief been taken from her, when an Indian brave adopted her son.
In 1795, seven years after her capture and two years after her release, George Wayne signed a treaty with the Indians under which all captives were to be released. Brigetta Robinson set out at once to discover the whereabouts of her son. It was a long and tedious journey. In one of the small Indian villages where she was led in her search, she fell ill with smallpox that had broken out in the village, and it was months before she could proceed further.
When at last she found him, she met disappointment and grief in his refusal to accompany her home. After weeks of entreaty, he was finally persuaded to return with her to his uncle's at Point Pleasant, where after four years his constitution yielded to the restraints of civilization and he died.
It was shortly after the murder of Isaac Robinson and the capture of Brigetta, that a great sorrow befell John Van Bibber. One day, with his colored man, Davy, he rowed across the Ohio river to make his year's supply of sugar. His eldest daughter, Rhoda, a beautiful young woman of 19 with abundant auburn hair, decided to row over with 12-year-old Jacob to meet him. As they drew near the shore, a party of Indians appeared and attacked them. Van Bibber, hearing the yells and shots hurried in the river. They were too late. By the time they reached the shore Rhoda had been killed and John made captive, and the Indians were in flight. Van Bibber and Davy pursued and killed four of the Indians, wounding a fifth, who was found dead a few days later. The remainder of the savages escaped with Jacob. He was taken to Detroit, where he soon learned to speak the French and Indian languages and was made an interpreter.
The British at that time, 1787, having little faith in the ability of the United States to hold together, were still in possession of the Northern forts, and were inciting the Indians against the advancing tide of settlers from the States. The British commandant of the fort at Detroit was offering bounties for scalps of white settlers on the Ohio and so Rhoda Van Bibber's scalp with its beautiful auburn hair was sold to the commandant for $60. Jacob told of seeing barrels of scalps of women and children. After Wayne's treaty, Mathias Van Bibber, his cousin, went in search of him and brought him home to his mother after an absence of seven years. He died the following year.
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