An American Family History

Captain John Dunkin

  also spelled Dunkin, Duncan  
Chester County was one of the three original Pennsylvania counties created in 1682.

John Dunkin was born about 1744 in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Thomas Duncan and Elizabeth Alexander.

He married Eleanor Sharp.

John and Eleanor's children may have included:

Elizabeth (Betsy) Duncan (1766, married Laughlin),
John Duncan, Jr. (1768, married Polly Laughlin),
Margaret (Peggy) Duncan (1770, married Laughlin),
Joseph Duncan (1772)
Mary Jane Duncan (1775, married James Laughlin)
Sarah (Sally) Duncan (1777, married Laughlin)
Anne Duncan (1779, married William Martin),
Faithful Duncan (1782, Abram Locke)
Eleanor Duncan (aft 1782, married Samuel Campbell)
Polly Duncan (married James Hignight).

On February 1, 1763 John Dunkin petitioned the court to buy his younger sibling's inherited land in Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

On March 1, 1763 Ann Duncan, infant chose her brother, Thomas, to be her guardian.

About 1765, the Duncans settled in Botetourt County, Virginia, near the town of Fincastle.

They later moved to Washington County, Virginia where they settled on the north bank of the south fork of Holson river above the mouth of Spring Creek.

In 1770 the Washington County Court recommended John to Commission of the Peace.

In 1773, John Duncan was added to the committee to find the best way for a horse road between Town House on the Holston and Castlewoods.

In June, 1776, just prior to the outbreak of the Cherokee War, Captain Dunkin led a party of militia and settlers into Powell Valley.

In 1777, John was commissioned a captain in the militia was sworn in as justice of Peace.

In 1777 they moved to Kentucky

In 1780 the Duncans were captured at Riddles and Martin's Station and taken as prisoners to Canada where they were prisoners until the close of the war when they were exchanged and returned to the United States.

When he returned he stated

June 26, 1780, I was taken from Licking Creek in Kentucky County by Captain Henry Bird of the 8th Regiment of his Majesty's forces in conjunction with about eight hundred Indians of different Nations--Viz. Mingoes, Delawares, Shawnees, Hurons, Ottaways, 'Taways and Chippeways.

We marched from our village the 27th, being in number 129 men, women and children. We marched down Licking about 50 miles to the Ohio and from thence up ye Big Miami River about 170 miles to the Standing Stone, and from thence up said river to Larramie's [Lorimer's] Store 14 miles on the head of the Miami; and from thence across by land 18 miles to the Landing on the River Glaise-

-and from thence down said river passing a Taway village and to the mouth of said river about 80 miles at a small village to Miami Indians on the River Miami; from thence down said river about 40 miles to an Indian village called Rose de Boo

--and from thence down said river about 18 miles to Lake Erie, where we went on board the Hope, mounted six pounders, Captain Graves, Commander; and so across the said lake to the mouth of Detroit River, and 18 miles up to the same to the fort and town of Detroit, which place we arrived at the 4th of August, 1780

--where we were kept until the 24th when 33 of us were put on board the Gage, Captain Burnit commander, mounted 8 guns, and from thence to Fort Erie and thence in battles 18 miles down the River Niagara to Fort Slusher, at the head of the great fall

--and from thence in wagons, 9 miles, where we again went in battles down said river to Fort Niagara at the mouth of said river on the 19th;

and on the 5th of September we were again put on board the Ontario, Captain Cowan commander and so across the Lake Ontario to Carlton Island on the 8th, and on the 10th we sent off down the long Sac and into Sandijest Lake, and so down Rapids into Grand River and through a small lake and so the Lasheen.

From thence by land 9 miles to Montreal on the 14th of September, 1780, and on the 17th we were sent into Grant's Island and remained there until the 25th of October, when we were again taken back into Montreal and billeted in St. Lawrence suburbs.

I was put in confinement in the Long Gaol September 1st, and remained in close confinement until the 17th day of October, when I was permitted to go and live with my family with the privilege of walking the town and suburbs.

In 1781

On motion of James Laughlin & John Litten by the consent and Order of the Court they are appointed Guardians of the Estate of Captain John Dunkin & Solomon Litten prisoners with the Enemy in Canady and to use all legal methods for saving and securing the Said Estate whereupon they together With William Davison and John Vance entered into and acknowledged their bond in the Sum of Eight Thousand pounds for the faithful performance of the Same.

After the war, they returned to the Holston area. They had lost their land, their possessions, and the people they had enslaved.

In 1786, Hawkins County was taken from Sullivan County, Tennessee. A Commission including Joseph Martin, James McNeil, John Duncan, William King, Evan Shelby, Samuel Smith, and John Scott were selected to find a site for the county courthouse.

In 1788 John attended the convention as a representative from Sullivan County to consider ratification of the Federal Constitution. He voted against ratification.

Eleanor died in 1816 and John died about 1818.







Watauga Pioneer Neighbors


The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive battle of the American Revoluton. It took place on October 7, 1780, nine miles south of the present-day town of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The Patriot militia defeated the Loyalist militia commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson.

from "Captain John Dunkin of Elk Garden" by Emory L. Hamilton

...The contents of this paper are the unedited words of James H. Laughlin...

Captain John Dunkin (1743-1818), who settled in Elk Garden about 1769, was an only son of Thomas Dunkin. ...

Captain John Dunkin, subject of this sketch, married Eleanor Sharp, daughter of John Sharp...

By 1769 young John Dunkin, with his mother, his wife and children, three of whom were born before leaving Pennsylvania, had reached Elk Garden, where he was made first a Sergeant, and later a Captain in the frontier militia of Washington County, and was very active in protecting the frontier against Indian forays from 1774 to 1778. ...

Samuel Harvey Laughlin states:...

In the year 1777 he went to Kentucky, raised corn, and made improvements by raising a cabin in the forks between Hingstons and Stoners Forks of Licking River. After thus preparing in Kentucky in 1777 and 1778 he moved his family, including his aged mother, and two sisters and their husbands, Samuel Porter and Solomon Litton, out from the Clinch to Kentucky in 1779. I say he removed them, for besides being the head of his family, he was the commander and leader of the immigrants, though Porter and Litton, and others who went along, were men of enterprise and good soldiers and woodsmen. These two (Porter and Litton) had farms begun also by improvements near Martin's Station. Martin's Station was on Stoner's River (or fork of Licking) five miles above its confluence with Hingston or Licking River. Ruddle's Station (pronounced Riddle's) was three miles below the junction or forks, consequently the forts were eight miles apart....

On or about the first of June, 1780, Colonel Byrd.... appeared suddenly before Ruddle's Station as if they had fallen from the clouds or rose out of the ground by enchantment. The people hastily closed their gates and began to prepare for defense, but the show of artillery and the overwhelming number of the enemy appalled the stout hearts. Therefore they surrendered on pledges of personal safety from the Indians, but the whole of their property was given up to the plunder and rapine of the savages. After the fort was sacked, and the march was commenced, many prisoners were forced to carry the spoils on their backs for their captors. Every kind of property was taken.

Hearing the roar of artillery at Martin's Station which greatly surprised the people, two runners, a man named McGuire, and Thomas Berry, a relation of my grandfather, were dispatched to ascertain what was the matter at Ruddle's Fort. They were met on the way by the enemy, and on attempting to retreat were fired on. McGuire's horse was killed and he was taken prisoner. Berry, escaped back to the fort.

On the next day (June 23, 1780) the enemy appeared before the fort and summoned them to surrender. Two hours were given these brave men in Martin's Station to consider - and they were notified if they did not surrender that the Indians would be let loose upon them to deal with as they pleased. They surrendered without firing a gun.

The prisoners taken at Martin's were united with the prisoners from Ruddle's. There was understood to be an agreement between the British and Indians that the prisoners taken at Ruddle's should belong to the Indians, and those at Martin's to the British. Let this be as it may; according to Marshall, Butler, Withers, and other historians of these times the hole of the property of the Americans, including their Negroes, was given to the Indians.

My grandfather Dunkin likely had ten or twelve Negroes, and a fine personal property in stock and furniture, etc., of which he was althogether plundered. After the treaty of Greenville, he got back an old African woman named Dinnah, and a boy. This robbery and captivity reduced my grandfather to poverty.

The prisoners were all taken down the Licking River, by the route which the British had ascended to the Ohio, down that river to the mouth of the Great Miami, up that river as far as navigable, and thence to Detroit, and then to Montreal. My grandfather and my mother who was old enough to remember, often described to me the sight of the falls of the Niagara, as they passed round by a portage on their way to Detroit. In recounting these adventures to me and my brothers, my mother used to dwell upon the hardships of the whole journey from Kentucky. When the march started, my grandfather carried one of his children. All packed what few clothes were allowed them. She said the British treated them humanely. The Indians who had the Ruddle's Fort prisoners sold most all of them to the British for trifles. The British wanted them to exchange for their own prisoners, then in possession of our armies in the colonies.

I do not know, nor do I remember from the relations of my grandfather, or from the statements of my mother or her older sister, Aunt Betty Laughlin (wife of James Laughlin), whether all the prisoners were carried on to Montreal. My grandfather was, however, with his family, and a letter from Uncle Benjamin Sharp gives the reason why he was imprisoned in jail at that place. His eldest son, John Dunkin, Jr., made his escape from the British at Montreal, and his father who was known to have been an officer of standing, was suspected of having aided his son to escape to carry communications across the wilderness through New York to General Washington's army, the headquarters being then perhaps in Pennsylvania. John Dunkin, Jr. reported personally to General Washington, by whom he was well provided for until his father and family were exchanged and met him in Pennsylvania on their return home, they having come through western New York and by Philadelphia, through Pennsylvania and Maryland and to that part of Washington County in western Virginia where, or nearly where he had moved from when he went to Kentucky, and there he continued to live for the rest of his life.

After his return he never went back to Kentucky to look after his land and improvements, and thereby lost a "head right" to one of the best tracts of land on Licking River.

My great grandmother, the mother of my grandfather Dunkin, came from Pennsylvania with him, removed to Kentucky with him, was a prisoner with him in Canada, and returned to Holston with him, being seventy when captured, and lived many years after their return.

On return from Canada the prisoners came by way of Lake Champlain, by Saratoga, down the Hudson by water and across New Jersey to Philadelphia. My mother has often told me of the astonishing scenes of rejoicing in Philadelphia at the final achievement of our national independence as they passed through that city, and of the kindness everywhere of the people to them on their journey.

On the march to Canada and at Detroit and Montreal, my grandfather often saw among the Indians, and associating with the British officers of rank the renegade and incarnate devil, Simon Girty. This demon in human shape dealt in the scalps of American men, women and children, bought and paid for by the British authorities. Girty's influence among the Indians was very great. In history his name descends embalmed in the execrations of all mankind.

My grandfather Dunkin, ever after I knew him, was a taciturn, serious, and rather melancholy man. He was a large stout man, and in his younger days, and until his spirit was broken and his health impaired by his Canadian captivity, and the loss of his property, had been a man of great vigor of mind and body, and fond of hazardous and arduous adventure.

Historical Summary:

The first mention of John Dunkin is found in an old Fincastle County Court record for May 5, 1773, when he was appointed on a road commission to "view" a road from the Townhouse (Chilhowie, VA) to Castlewood. Then on January 29, 1777 he was recommended by the court of newly formed Washington County, Virginia, as a member of the Commission of Peace, serving on that body through November, 1778. He was recommended by the court of Washington County for a Captain of Militia on February 26, 1777, although he had long been in the frontier militia for we find him as a Sergeant in command of Glade Hollow Fort when it was first garrisoned in 1774.

At a court held for Washington County, Virginia, on the 20th of March, 1781, there is entered this interesting order:

On motion of James Litton (brother of Solomon) and James Laughlin, and by consent and order of the Court they are appointed guardians of the estates of Captain John Dunkin and Solomon Litton, prisoners of the enemy in Canada, and to use all legal methods for saving and securing the said estates, whereupon they, together with William Davidson and John Vance entered into and acknowledged their bonds for eight thousand pounds for the faithful performance of the same.

After returning from captivity Captain Dunkin went to live on Spring Creek near Abingdon, VA...

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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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