War between France and England had been smoldering for decades.  It had flared up occasionally when the two powers found themselves on opposite sides in European confrontations and when their colonial forces jostled one another during their attempts at exploration and settlement.  Both powers had used Indian allies to gather information, harass the enemy, and serve as a buffer between their own frontier settlements and those of their opponent.  However, this time France and her Indian allies made an organized effort to drive the weak and disorganized Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia forces from the British frontier. 

The Treaty of Lancaster (1744) had allowed Virginia to expand its western frontier, but it also threatened the territorial goals of the French and forced Indian tribes out of the middle eastern colonies. By 1753, the Shawnees, who had previously regarded the Eastern Panhandle as their hunting preserve, joined the Delawares and Mingoes in abandoning their allegiance to the Iroquois and became French allies.  Many Indians left the Eastern Panhandle and Western Maryland in the spring of 1754, either to join forces with the French or to escape from an area likely to be attacked. 

When attacks on the frontier began, some local residents actively participated in the early, more distant conflict.  Richard Morgan's Company was formed in 1755 as part of Virginia's defense of the frontier settlements from Indian attack.  The muster roll for Morgan's Company included Robert Buckles [1] and Henry Darke as privates and William Chapline as third lieutenant.1  The men probably participated in Braddock's expedition against the Indians in 1755.  When Braddock was defeated on July 9, 1755, the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia frontiers became vulnerable to Indian attack.2 

The scattered British forts and plantations were initially no match against the French-Indian incursions.  Avoiding contact with large British forces, the enemy often attacked small, isolated settlements, destroying cattle and crops, burning homes, and capturing or killing unprotected citizens.  Much of this initial conflict took place to the north and west of the Eastern Panhandle.  Local citizens began to experience the horrors of Indian warfare first hand in the spring of 1756. 

The job of protecting the Virginia frontier fell to Colonel George Washington, who was forced to mount a defense with a handful of men who were poorly trained, clothed, equipped, and paid.  By the end of April 1756, the situation had become so desperate that Washington warned John Robinson that "without considerable reinforcement, Frederick County will not be mistress of fifteen families.  They are now retreating to the securest parts in droves of fifties."3 

The Virginia legislature eventually answered Washington's requests for men, money, and supplies, but Pennsylvania and Maryland were slower to respond, leaving the area bordering the Potomac River open to attack down to the mouth of the Shenandoah.4  The Bakerton area, always easily accessible from the Maryland side of the Potomac, became one of the places most vulnerable to attack in the Eastern Panhandle.  Many of the residents probably fled southward to safer areas, and the few that remained, such as the Engle, Buckles, and Lucas families, had to rely on their own fortified houses for protection.  Few were inclined to join Washington's forces, for it meant leaving their own homes and families defenseless. 

Local Quakers such as the Lucas and Friend families, were faced with another problem — Quakers unwilling to serve in the militia or help construct defenses were being jailed.5  The sons of Israel Friend probably chose this time to move their families to Augusta County. 

Although Virginia established several forts along both forks and branches of the Potomac River, the frequency of Indian attacks continued to increase through the summer of 1756.  The settlement at Conococheague Creek (Williamsport, Maryland) was attacked in August, and after several families on the Maryland and Virginia sides of the River were killed the entire settlement fled to safety.  Reporting the desperate state of affairs to Lord Fairfax, Washington grimly remarked "we are quite exposed, and have no better security on that side, than the Potomac River, for many miles below the Shenandoah; and how great security that is to us, may be easily discerned, when we consider, with what facility the enemy have passed and repassed it already."6  On September 17, 1756, Fort Neally (at Martinsburg) on the Opequon was overrun and all of its occupants killed or captured.7 According to tradition, Robert Buckles' [1] house at the junction of Flowing Springs Road and Halltown Pike was attacked by Indians one night while he was absent with the militia.  His wife and children fled the house, leaving one of the little daughters behind.  The Indians scalped the girl and left her lying in the cabin where she was found, still alive, by the returning family.  She recovered, married, and lived a considerable time.8 Edward Lucas' sons Robert, Benjamin, David, and Isaac were also killed by Indians, possibly during the same raid.9  

The extent of the death and destruction in eastern Jefferson County is not known.  However, the war definitely affected the growth of local population, agriculture, and industry.  Many of the settlers who fled in the spring of 1756 seem not to have returned, and a substantial number of persons obtaining land grants before 1755 sold their property and moved out of the area.  A few local land grants were issued in the fall of 1756 — to George Peaholt, Robert Buckles, and Thomas Goldsberry.  Following the fall of Fort Duquesne in 1758, more settlers began returning to their homes.10  Settlement in the area increased in the early 1760's, although Indian attacks continued in the western portions of the state until 1764. 

The destruction of homes, cattle, and crops by the Indians meant that many of the families that remained in the area had to literally rebuild their farms from the ground up.  Several families, including the Engles, appear to have come through the ordeal with their family and much of their property intact. 

The war probably delayed the development of the iron industry in the Antietam-Bakerton area.  A forge had been built on the Shenandoah River for William Vestal in 1742, and the rapid growth of the iron industry along the Potomac River in the early 1760's suggests that industry might have developed quicker if the area had not been within range of Indian attacks. 


1. Millard K. Bushong, Historic Jefferson County (Carr Publishing Co.: Boyce, Va., 1972), p 497. 

2. Rice, pp. 34, 38, 40. 

3. George Washington, Letter to John Robinson, April 24, 1756, in John C. Fitzpatrick (ed.), Writings of George Washington (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1939), Vol. 1, pp. 331-332. 

4. George Washington, Letter to John Robinson, April 27, 1756, in Writings, vol. 1, p. 338; Williams, History of Frederick County, p. 28. 

5. George Washington, Letter to Robert Dinwiddie, August 4, 1756, in Writings, vol. I, p. 420. 

6. George Washington, Letter to Robert Dinwiddie, August 4, 1756, in Writings, vol. I, p 419; Letter to Lord Fairfax, August 29, 1756, Vol. I, pp. 447-448. 

7. Rice, pp. 50, 51. 

8. Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown (Charlottesville, Va.: Michie Co. Printers, 1910), p. 26.  The anecdote is repeated by Mrs. Frank Buckles in the Christine Bergen Papers, vol. 3, pp. 74-77, Berkeley County, W.Va., Court House. 

9. Ross B. Johnson (ed.), West Virginians in the American Revolution (Parkersburg, W.Va.: West Augusta Historical and Genealogical Society), p. 175. 

10. Rice, p. 52.