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In 1731, or thereabout, a man named Joist Hite purchased from the patentees the grant of a large tract of land in the lower Valley near the Potomac, and proceeded to introduce settlers from Pennsylvania. The newcomers were, however, soon confronted with the claim of Lord Fairfax that Hite's grant was included in his grant of the "Northern Neck," and that consequently no deed from Hite could convey a good title. The immigrants were discouraged. They could not go back, and could not safely remain where they were. Many of them, therefore, pushed on up the Valley to a region where no lordly patentee claimed title, and where even no Indians dwelt or had wigwams.

John Lewis was the leader of the pioneer band. They could bring little with them--only some bedding and clothing, a few necessary implements, seed corn, and the Bible. Thus equipped--their goods and effects on pack horses--came men, women, and children. There was, of course, no road--only the trails of Indians and buffaloes.

It is a question why Lewis came so far from the Potomac (more than a hundred miles) before he settled down. He passed over rich alluvial lands, and came to the rocky and hilly region near the site of Staunton. Perhaps there was a scarcity of forests and springs of water in the region traversed, and timber and fountains were indispensable. But probably another consideration urged him forward: He had lately had a bloody feud with a lordling in Ireland, and wished to be clear beyond the domain of Lord Fairfax.

In the wake of John Lewis came wave after wave of people of the same race. They climbed the hills, waded the streams, and crept through the forests. Like an invading army they "subsisted off the country." Game was abundant--bears, deer, turkeys, and some buffaloes and elks. For many years there was no lack of fresh meat, and that the first comers had to eat meat without bread for at least twelve months. They located at their will and pleasure on the public domain, built cabins, cleared land, and planted corn.

The land was all before them where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.

When an individual with his family came to a grove of timber and a gushing fountain, we may imagine him saying: "This is my rest, and here will I dwell." Hardly had they provided shelter for their families, when they began to erect log meetinghouses in which to assemble for the worship of God, with schoolhouses hard by. They believed in God and the Bible, and had a high regard for the schoolmaster, plain and unlettered as most of them were. The majority of them were farmers and mechanics. A few had been merchants. There was not a sprig of nobility nor a so-called cavalier amongst them. One of them, whose immediate descendants were highly distinguished, was probably a house builder; another, whose posterity have graced the pulpit, the bar, and the halls of Congress, was a ship carpenter; and a third, whose descendants have been equally distinguished, was a weaver.

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