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

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 the 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. *I firmly believe that the three brothers were all living in the vicinity of Point Pleasant when the battle occurred. That’s an assumption on my part, not documented fact. But bear with me as I give my reasoning.

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 the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.  They may have lived and farmed in the vicinity of the Greenbrier River somewhere near Lowell, WV since Peter I (likely) was responsible for building Fort Greenbrier, aka Vanbibber’s Fort, near present-day Lowell in Summers County. It was a stockade-type fort with the second story 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, 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;
  4. Nathan was acquainted with both John and Peter Vanbibber; 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 record 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.

Therefore, it is my speculation that Isaac, Peter, and John all three moved from Pittsylvania County, VA north to the Ohio River after 1767 when they disappear from the personal property tax lists of Pittsylvania County. Point Pleasant was the honest-to-gosh frontier where there was the constant threat of a hostile invasion around the clock. There were no more “moves” after that point – that’s my mistaken notation on the Chronological List given in the first image, above stating “Moved” from Greenbrier to Kanawha. They did not move – the new county of Kanawha was formed around them. Once you’ve read the book, I think you’ll agree with me.

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 (II) 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.

Of Matthew Vanbibber, I know not what became of him. 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.

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: 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.