Van Bebber/Vanbibber History

The More you Read, the More you Learn

When I first started researching my ancestor, Matthias “Tice” Vanbibber, I had only read what was published by others on the internet and heard stories from my father. Questions arose, doubts sprung up, and confusion begat confusion. Eventually, I began to rely more on sources – honest to Bob sources such as court records. The more I read from these sources, the more I learned the facts. Let’s face it, however, court records are not the only source of history although it’s the best place to begin your search. Needless to say, I’ve still more to learn about Matthias himself but I’ve done a great deal of research to set the foundation upon which to build his story.

Three Brothers

Three brothers were the progenitors of the Van Bebber/ Vanbibber family of West Virginia and Powell’s Valley of Southwest Virginia and Tennessee. The migration of offspring doesn’t stop there but this is where we find our collective beginnings. The brothers were all sons of (whom I have dubbed) Peter Vanbibber I and Ann Honriette Gooding,* born while the family still lived in the State of Maryland. Memory fails me over the precise point in time but suffice it to say that after the births of their children, Peter and Ann moved to the southern area of the State of Virginia, close to but not quite in the current state of NC. What follows is a timeline of where the males of the family resided during the years provided. Bear in mind that in some cases shown, there was no “migration” from county to county as many fail to understand: These men simply lived in an area that became part of a new county the year it was formed, viz:

Vanbibber Migrations

LINK: Botetourt Co, VA Tithables Lists, 1770-1782

I put the list together by studying the various Tax Lists for each of the above counties beginning with Lunenburg (VA). Note that in 1751 the Vanbibbers are no longer listed in Lunenburg County but are found in Halifax County, VA, a new county formed in 1752 from Lunenburg. In 1767, Pittsylvania County, where our family is found, was formed from Halifax. So you see, it is doubtful that they “pulled up stakes” and moved from county to county but likely found themselves – and their properties – in the newly formed county.

That is until we find them in Botetourt (pronounced “BOT-u-tot”) County. This was indeed an actual move, lock, stock, and barrel, by the three two brothers, Isaac, Peter II, and John. Below is a map showing Botetourt County’s location in 1770 – it encompasses ALL of the mid-southwestern portion of the current state of West Virginia, from its border of Virginia all the way to the Ohio River to the north, just to give you an idea of how large this county was. I have placed red dots under Lunenburg, Halifax, Pittsylvania, and Botetourt Counties to give you an idea about the names of the counties over time. It is my opinion that they were always living in the Pittsylvania vicinity just under the different county names. (For clarification of maps, check out MapofUS.

Botetourt County, VA

By 1778, Greenbrier County was officially formed and took over the region that was once Botetourt. Two of the brothers (Peter II and John) are listed in Greenbrier from 1772 to 1778. What has happened to Isaac? He was listed in Botetourt County until 1774 when he “disappears.” This is because all three brothers were all accounted for in what was still Botetourt County in 1774 but October 10, 1774 was when the Battle of Point Pleasant occurred. All three brothers as well as Peter III were present at the Battle on the banks of the Ohio River. Isaac was mortally wounded on October 10th and died from his wounds on October 11, 1774.

Although I’ve no documentation of the precise locations of the three brothers’ residences in the Greenbrier region (formerly Botetourt County), I can tell you that both Peter II and John lived and farmed in the area of Point Pleasant, West Virginia after moving there about 1785-1786 (1785 is when they are last listed in the Greenbrier County tax list).  They may have lived and farmed in the vicinity of the Greenbrier River somewhere near Lowell, WV since Peter II (likely) was responsible for building Fort Greenbrier, aka Vanbibber’s Fort, near present-day Lowell in Summers County. It was a stockade-type fort meaning the second story was larger and cantilevered over the first story.

Historical Marker for Fort Greenbrier
Fort Greenbrier Historical Marker. See also:

Greenbrier covered the same area of West Virginia that Botetourt previously had. Note the map of Greenbrier County below as it was proposed in 1777 (became effective 1778) (again, see The red dot below signifies Point Pleasant where the Kanawha River empties into the Ohio River. Remember that Lewisburg, the county seat, is only about 50 miles from the south-eastern border with Virginia – that’s to give you an indication of just how far the men traveled to reach the courthouse as well as the nearest fort.

Greenbrier County 1777

How do I know that Peter II and his brother Captain John Vanbibber lived in the area of Point Pleasant?

Enter Daniel Boone.

I recently purchased the book “My Father, Daniel Boone: the Draper Interviews with Nathan Boone,” Daniel and Rebecca’s youngest son. The book is credited to Neil O. Hammon and it is a wealth of information. It turns out that Lyman Draper contacted Nathan Boone by letter then eventually visited Nathan and his wife, Olive Vanbibber Boone, in Missouri, in the fall of 1851. The information that Draper gathered went into what is now known as the Draper Manuscripts of which I believe there are 491 VOLUMES: It was Draper’s intent to write a book someday but suffered from an everlasting and devastating case of writer’s block.

Neil O. Hammon, God love him, went to the effort of capturing this specific section – Draper’s interview with Nathan and Olive Boone – and produced it in book form. It’s the only way of making the info available to the public. Otherwise, the public would need to visit, in person, the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison or a library that contains copies of the microfilm version per locality. I personally prefer my own personal book that I can read at my leisure. More thankful still am I to Lyman C. Draper who recorded for posterity American history through the stories of those who lived in ‘the “Trans-Allegheny West,” which included the western Carolinas and Virginia, some portions of Georgia and Alabama, the entire Ohio River valley, and parts of the Mississippi River valley. ‘ Wisconsin Historical Society.

Chapter 7 of the book is devoted entirely to the time frame that Daniel Boone and family lived at Point Pleasant, West Virginia – at that time Greenbrier County, then eventually Kanawha County (formed 1789), and finally Mason County in 1804. What’s missing is the portion of time during which Daniel and Rebecca lived along the banks of the Kanawha River in what is now known as Kanawha City (that’s probably because young Nathan was living with a family member and attending school over in KY). But let me summarize; you’ll need to purchase the book or borrow it from your local library for other details. The Boone’s moved from Limestone, KY (now known as Maysville) to Point Pleasant, WV about the year 1786. Nathan and Olive regale Mr. Draper with recollections of the Boone’s during that time and of special interest is one specific paragraph that I personally believe was either Nathan “rambling” or Mr. Draper dropping some information. Here’s an excerpt (my apologies for the personal highlights):

Draper Manuscript, Nathan Boone

The Context: Nathan is about to tell Draper the story about the time Jacob Vanbibber (son of Peter II) was captured by Natives in the vicinity of Point Pleasant. There are some very important points in Nathan’s retelling:

  1. Matthias “Tice” Vanbibber is the brother of Nathan’s wife Olive; Matthias and Olive are children of Peter Vanbibber II;
  2. He mentions all three brothers: Isaac, Peter II, and John (I am giving the order of birth);
  3. Peter Vanbibber II, Matthias and Olive’s father, died at Point Pleasant on October 10, 1796; let it be known that his death was suspected in the early part of 1797 as that is when his estate administration is filed in the Court of Kanawha County but no exact date of death is given. Note that Point Pleasant became a part of Kanawha County in 1789. True, Nathan could be wrong about the date that he gives but wife Olive would have corrected him since, after all, that was her father;
  4. Nathan was acquainted with both John and Peter Vanbibber II; in subsequent pages, he gives the story of the Indian attack on John Vanbibber and his heroic slave, Davey, as well as the murder of John’s daughter, Rhoda;
  5. It is this transcript that no doubt started the fallacy that Matthias Vanbibber was at the Battle of Point Pleasant. Note that Nathan begins by talking about Matthias Vanbibber “my wife’s brother” but then begins talking about Matthias’ father Peter II (my numerals but the author calls him [Jr]. What the author may not realize is that Peter [Jr/II] had a son named Peter III who was also at the Battle of Point Pleasant. For reference, you can find his Revolutionary War pension application on file at Fold3 with the complete details). Matthias was only two years old at the time of the Battle in October 1774. The paragraph shown in the image above, put together correctly, should say:
    1. Matthias Vanbibber was a young but grown man. He is my wife’s brother, the son of Peter Van Bibber [Jr] who was in the Point Pleasant battle. [Peter] had two brothers, John and Isaac, and the latter was also killed. Peter died at Point Pleasant on October 10, 1796 at about age sixty-three; John lived for several years after (his son-in-law) Jesse Boone moved to Missouri.
    2. Read in the way that aligns with documented records, it makes much more sense.

CORRECTION: A closer look at the Greenbrier County Tax Lists show that, for example, 1783 A, the Vanbibbers lived in the vicinity of the Greenbrier River before moving to the Point Pleasant vicinity. I made the following from that tax list:

  • John Vanbeber
  • Peter Vanbebber
  • George Alderson
  • Peter Vanbebber Jr
  • Thomas Scaggs
  • Bailey Wood *property situated near the mouth of Wolf Creek on the Greenbrier River*
  • John Alderson *property situated at/near the present town named for him, Alderson, WV*

While I am not a descendant of Bailey Wood, my ancestor Martin McGraw, Jr, married Bailey Wood’s daughter Nancy in 1806 after Monroe County was formed from Greenbrier. And the officiating minister was John Alderson. So, yes, I’ve a bit of a clue about where these men lived.

One other point I’d like to make and that is whether Matthias Vanbibber is actually Matthew Vanbibber, the son of Isaac rather than Peter II. This book and Lyman Draper settled the question for me once and for all. Prior to his visit to Missouri where he spent at least a month with Nathan and Olive Boone, Draper put together family trees for Nathan. These trees are also printed in the book referenced heretofore. Matthias Vanbibber is attributed to Peter Vanbibber II and Marjory Bounds. All but one of the children of Isaac Vanbibber were unknown or unacquainted to my knowledge with Nathan Boone.

The Greenbrier County Court Orders, transcribed by Helen S. Stinson and Larry G. Shuck, both provide information about Isaac’s widow Sarah and her children. Let’s take a look:

Greenbrier County Court Orders, compiled by Julie M Ayres

Click the image above to view it larger (note: citations not provided in this image):

  • Court of Friday 21 June 1785, “Sarah Vanbebber now wife of William Griffey… had SEVEN CHILDREN during her widowhood.” Helen S. Stinson
  • Court of Wednesday 22 March 1786, “Peter Vanbibber is appointed guardian to Matthew, John, Nancy, James, and Isaac Vanbebber...” Larry G. Shuck

That guardianship is only for 5 of the seven children. Two are not listed. Who were they?

  • Martha “Patsy” Vanbibber, the eldest child who married George Yoakum in, I believe, either Botetourt or Greenbrier County. She was born 1756 which means she was born either in Halifax or Pittsylvania County, VA. And
  • Peter, the eldest son, who married his first cousin Elinor “Nellie” Vanbibber, daughter of Peter Vanbibber II – older sister to Matthias and Olive. You’ll find Peter in the 1787 personal property tax list of Russell County, Virginia. He is followed closely by other siblings and his brother-in-law George Yoakum but there is no mention in the records of Matthew or Isaac Jr. This Peter is understood to be the guardian of his 5 younger siblings.

Of Matthew Vanbibber, I know not what became of him, nor does anyone else apparently. Did he die after the guardianship occurred? Did he die en route to Powell’s Valley with brother Peter or perhaps die upon reaching the new location? I just don’t know what became of him. Or, was the name Martha mistakenly written as “Matthew”?

He is most certainly not to be confused with his first cousin Matthias. By my estimation – property tax records, the fact that the children are listed in birth order in the Court Orders – Matthew was probably born about 1760 making him approximately 12 years old at the time of Matthias’ birth in 1772. Isaac Jr., the youngest, definitely was raised by his uncle Peter Vanbibber II and is mentioned in Drapers Manuscripts and Nathan’s stories. Isaac Jr. ended up following the Boone family to Missouri where he met and married Elizabeth Hays, Daniel Boone’s granddaughter through Susannah Boone and her husband William Hays.

Final point: The Greenbrier County Court states on 29 July 1778 that “Sarah Vanbebber widow of Isaac Vanbebber deceased, a pensioner who was allowed by the commissioners of the southern district in the year 1775, raised and maintained her family…” This tells me that Greenbrier County Court had jurisdiction over the subject as well as the matter because Sarah Vanbebber was at that time a citizen/resident of the county. I had read that Isaac Vanbebber was living in North Carolina with his wife when he was killed in the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. Why would Sarah move to Greenbrier, away from her family in NC (allegedly) to be near her deceased husband’s people rather than stay near her own? Common sense tells me that Isaac and Sarah didn’t live in NC – the brothers pretty much stayed near one another. I know I mentioned this in another post but Isaac Vanbibber was a regular customer at the Matthews Trading Post, located then near present day Caldwell, WV – also in Greenbrier County – paying in large quantities of deerskins, “with Van Bebber selling at least 230…”. John Van Bebber is also listed as a customer in the Matthew’s Day Book. History of Greenbrier County by Otis K. Rice, 1986. If Isaac and Sarah weren’t residents of Greenbrier, why do they comprise so much mention in its history?

Last words: It was while Daniel Boone lived in the Point Pleasant and Charleston, WV areas that he earned the title “Colonel.” Historians like to leave “West” Virginia, its counties, people, and its contributions to history completely out of the narrative. Get the book. Open up Google Maps. You’ll learn so much more about the Boones and the Vanbibbers.

* Gooding is the “agreed” surname by several researchers that this was her surname. I’m flexible enough to change it when supplied with ample documentation of the actual surname.
1: I intentionally numbered the Peter Vanbibbers as I, II, III (Peter I is the father of Isaac Sr, Peter II, and John Vanbibber); Peter II (the father of Elinor/Nellie, Peter III, Matthias, and Olive), and Peter III.
2: Isaac Sr. also had a son Peter, whom I dubbed Peter Sr. Peter Sr. married his first cousin Elinor “Nellie” Vanbibber, daughter of Peter Vanbibber II and Margury/Marjory Bounds. Peter Sr. also had a son named Peter, whom I dubbed Jr, who also had a son named Peter. Thus, the method behind my madness.