Alexander Spotswood's Transmontane Expedition

John Fontaine's Journal

Extracted From A History Of Orange County Virginia, by W. W. Scott
(Richmond: Everett Waddey Co., 1907)

Williamsburg, 20th August, 1716. In the morning got my horses ready, and what baggage was necessary, and I waited on the Governor, who was in readiness for an expedition over the Appalachian mountains. We breakfasted, and about ten got on horseback, and at four came to the Brick-house, upon York River, where we crossed the ferry, and at six we came to Mr. Austin Moor's house, upon Mattapony River, in King William County; here we lay all night and were well entertained.

21st. Fair weather. At ten we set out from Mr. Moor's, and crossed the river of Mattapony, and continued on the road, and were on horseback till nine of the clock at night, before we came to Mr. Robert Beverley's house, where we were well entertained, and remained this night.

22d. At nine in the morning, we set out from Mr. Beverley's. The Governor left his chaise here, and mounted his horse. The weather fair, we continued on our journey until we came to Mr. Woodford's where we lay, and were well entertained. This house lies on Rappahannock River, ten miles below the falls.

23d. Here we remained all this day, and diverted ourselves and rested our horses.

24th. In the morning at seven, we mounted our horses, and came to Austin Smith's house about ten, where we dined, and remained till about one of the clock, then we set out, and about nine of the clock, we came to the German-town, where we rested that night - bad beds and indifferent entertainment.

German-town, 25th. After dinner we went to see the mines, but I could not observe that there was any good mine. The Germans pretend that it is a silver mine; we took some of the ore and endeavoured to run it, but could get nothing out of it, and I am of opinion it will not come to anything, no, not as much as lead. Many of the gentlemen of the county are concerned in this work. We returned to our hard beds.

25th. At seven we got up, and several gentlemen of the country that were to meet the Governor at this place for the expedition arrived here, as also two companies of rangers, consisting each of six men and an officer. Four Meherrin Indians also came.

In the morning I diverted myself with other gentlemen shooting at a mark. At twelve we dined, and after dinner we mounted our horses and crossed the Rappahannock River, that runs by this place, and went to find out some convenient place for our horses to feed in, and to view the land hereabouts. Our guide left us, and we went so far in the woods, that we did not know the way back again; so we hallooed and fired our guns. Half an hour after sunset, the guide came to us, and we went to cross the river by another ford higher up. The descent to the river being steep, and the night dark, we were obliged to dismount, and lead our horses down to the river side, which was very troublesome. The bank being very steep, the greatest part of our company went into the water to mount their horses, where they were up to the crotch in water. After we had forded the river and come to the other side, where the bank was steep also, in going up the horse of one of our company slipped and fell back into the river on the top of his rider, but he received no other damage than being heartily wet, which made sport for the rest. A hornet stung one of the gentlemen in the face, which swelled tremendously. About ten we came to the town, where we supped, and to bed.

27th. Got our tents in order, and our horses shod. About twelve, I was taken with a violent headache and pains in all my bones, so that I was obliged to lie down, and was very bad that day.

28th. About one in the morning, I was taken with a violent fever, which abated about six at night, and I began to take the bark, and had one ounce divided into eight doses, and took two of them by ten of the clock that night. The fever abated, but I had great pains in my head and bones.

29th. In the morning we got all things in readiness, and about one we left the German-town to set out on our intended journey. At five in the afternoon, the Governor gave orders to encamp near a small river, three miles from Germanna, which we called Expedition Run, and here we lay all night. This first encampment was called Beverley Camp in honor of one of the gentlemen of our party: We made great fires, and supped, and drank good punch. By ten of the clock I had taken all of my ounce of Jesuit's Bark, but my head was much out of order.

30th. In the morning about seven of the clock, the trumpet sounded to awake all the company, and we got up. One Austin Smith, one of the gentlemen with us, having a fever, returned home. We had lain upon the ground under cover of our tents, and we found by the pains in our bones that we had not had good beds to lie upon. At nine in the morning, we sent our servants and baggage forward, and we remained because two of the Governor's horses had strayed. At half past two we got the horses, at three we mounted, and at half an hour after four we came up with our baggage at a small river, three miles on the way, which we called Mine River, because there was an appearance of a silver mine by it. We made about three miles more, and came to another small river, which is at the foot of a small mountain, so we encamped here and called it Mountain Run, and our camp we called Todd's Camp. We had good pasturage for our horses, and venison in abundance for ourselves, which we roasted before the fire upon wooden forks, and so we went to bed in our tents. Made six miles this day.

31st. At eight in the morning, we set out from Mountain Run, and after going five miles we came upon the upper part of Rappahannoc River. One of the gentlemen and I, we kept out on one side of the company about a mile, to have the better hunting. I saw a deer, and shot him from my horse, but the horse threw me a terrible fall and ran away; we ran after, and with a great deal of difficulty got him again; but we could not find the deer I had shot, and we lost ourselves, and it was two hours before we could come upon the track of our company. About five miles further we crossed the same river again, and two miles further we met with a large bear, which one of our company shot, and I got the skin. We killed several deer, and about two miles from the place where we killed the bear, we encamped upon Rappahannoc River. From our encampment we could see the Appalachian Hills very plain. We made large fires, pitched our tents, and cut boughs to lie upon, had good liquor, and at ten we went to sleep. We always kept a sentry at the Governor's door. We called this Smith's Camp. Made this day 14 miles.

1st, September. At eight we mounted our horses, and made the first five miles of our way through a very pleasant plain, which lies where Rappahannoc River forks. I saw there the largest timber, the finest and deepest mould, and the best grass that I ever did see. We had some of our baggage put out of order, and our company dismounted, by hornets stinging the horses. This was some hindrance, and did a little damage, but afforded a great deal of diversion. We killed three bears this day, which exercised the horses as well as the men. We saw two foxes but did not pursue them; we killed several deer. About five of the clock, we came to a run of water at the foot of a hill, where we pitched our tents. We called the encampment Dr. Robinson's Camp, and the river Blind Run. We had good pasturage for our horses, and everyone was cook for himself. We made our beds with bushes as before. On this day we made 13 miles.

2d. At nine we were all on horseback, and after riding about five miles we crossed the Rappahannoc River, almost at the head, where it is very small. We had a rugged way; we passed over a great many small runs of water, some of which were very deep, and others very miry. Several of our company were dismounted, some were down with their horses, and some thrown off. We saw a bear running down a tree, but it being Sunday, we did not endeavour to kill anything. We encamped at five by a small river we called White Oak River, and called our camp Taylor's Camp.

3d. About eight we were on horseback, and about ten we came to a thicket so tightly laced together, that we had a great deal of trouble to get through; our baggage was injured, our clothes torn all to rags, and the saddles and holsters also torn. About five of the clock we encamped almost at the head of James River, just below the great mountains. We called this camp Colonel Robertson's Camp. We made all this day but eight miles.

4th. We had two of our men sick with the measles, and one of our horses poisoned with a rattlesnake. We took the heaviest of our baggage, our tired horses, and the sick men, and made as convenient a lodge for them as we could, and left people to guard them, and hunt for them. We had finished this work by twelve, and so we set out. The sides of the mountains were so full of vines and briers, that we were forced to clear most of the way before us. We crossed one of the small mountains this side the Appalachian, and from the top of it we had a fine view of the plains below. We were obliged to walk up the most of the way, there being abundance of loose stones on the side of the hill. I killed a large rattlesnake here, and the other people killed three more. We made about four miles, and so came to the side of James River, where a man may jump over it, and there we pitched our tents. As the people were lighting the fire, there came out of a large log of wood a prodigious snake, which they killed; so this camp was called Rattlesnake Camp, but it was otherwise called Brooke's Camp.

5th. A fair day. At nine we were mounted; we were obliged to have axemen to clear the way in some places. We followed the windings of James River, observing that it came from the very top of the mountains. We killed two rattlesnakes during our ascent. In some places it was very steep, in others it was so that we could ride up. About one of the clock we got to the top of the mountain; about four miles and a half and we came to the very head spring of James River, where it runs no bigger than a man's arm, from under a large stone. We drank King George's health, and all the Royal Family's, at the very top of the Appalachian Mountains. About a musket shot from the spring, there is another which rises and runs down on the other side; it goes westward, and we thought we could go down that way, but we met with such prodigious precipices, that we were obliged to return to the top again. We found some trees which had been formerly marked, I suppose, by the northern Indians, and following these trees, we found a good, safe descent. Several of the company were for returning; but the Governor persuaded them to continue on. About five, we were down on the other side, and continued our way for about seven miles further, until we came to a large river, by the side of which we encamped. We made this day 14 miles. I, being somewhat more curious than the rest, went on a high rock on the top of the mountain, to see fine prospects, and I lost my gun. We saw when we were over the mountains the footing of elks and buffaloes, and their beds. We saw a vine which bore a sort of wild cucumber, and a shrub with a fruit like unto a currant. We eat very good wild grapes. We called this place Spotswood Camp, after our Governor.

6th. We crossed the river which we called Euphrates. It is very deep; the main course of the water is north; it is four score yards wide in the narrowest part. We drank some healths on the other side, and returned; after which I went a swimming in it. We could not find any fordable place, except the one by which we crossed, and it was deep in several places. I got some grasshoppers and fished; and another and I, we catched a dish of fish, some perch, and a fish they call chub. The others went a hunting, and killed deer and turkeys. The Governor had graving irons but could not grave anything, the stones were so hard. I graved my name on a tree by the river side; and the Governor buried a bottle with a paper inclosed, on which he writ that he took possession of this place in the name and for King George the First of England (Governor Spotswood, when he undertook the great discovery of the Passage over the mountains, attended with a sufficient guard, and pioneers and gentlemen, with a sufficient stock of provision, with abundant fatigue passed these mountains, and cut his Majesty's name in a rock upon the highest of them, naming it Mount George; and in complaisance the gentlemen, from the Governor's name, called the mountain next in height, Mount Alexander. For this expedition they were obliged to provide a great quantity of horse shoes, (things seldom used in the lower parts of the country, where there are few stones;) upon which account the Governor, upon their return, presented each of his companions with a golden horseshoe, (some of which I have seen studded with valuable stones, resembling the heads of nails,) with this inscription on the one side: Sic juvat transcendere montes; and on the other is written the tramontane order. This he instituted to encourage gentlemen to venture backwards, and make discoveries and new settlements; any gentleman being entitled to wear this Golden Shoe that can prove his having drunk his Majesty's health upon Mount George. HUGH JOKES, 1724.).

We had a good dinner, and after it we got the men together, and loaded all their arms, and we drank the King's health in champagne, and fired a volley, the Princess's health in Burgundy, and fired a volley, and all the rest of the Royal Family in claret, and a volley. We drank the Governor's health and fired another volley. We had several sorts of liquors, viz.; Virginia red wine and. white wine, Irish usquebaugh, brandy shrub, two sorts of rum, champagne, canary, cherry punch, water, cider, etc.

I sent two of the rangers to look for my gun, which I dropped in the mountains; they found it, and brought it to me, and I gave them a pistole for their trouble. We called the highest mountain Mount George, and the one we crossed over Mount Spotswood.

7th. At seven in the morning we mounted our horses, and parted with the rangers, who were to go farther on, and we returned homewards; we repassed the mountains, and at five in the afternoon we came to Hospital Camp, where we left our sick men, and heavy baggage, and we found all things well and safe. We encamped here, and called it Captain Clouder's Camp.

8th. At nine we were all on horseback. We saw several bears and deer, and killed some wild turkeys. We encamped at the side of a run and called the place Mason's Camp. We had good forage for our horses, and we lay as usual. Made 20 miles this day.

9th. We set out at nine of the clock, and before twelve we saw several bears, and killed three. One of them attacked one of our men that was riding after him, and narrowly missed him; he tore his things that he had behind him from the horse, and would have destroyed him, had he not had immediate help from the other men and our dogs. Some of the dogs suffered severely in this engagement. At two we crossed one of the branches of the Rappahannoc River, and at five we encamped on the side of the Rapid Ann, on a tract of land that Mr. Beverley hath design to take up. We made, this day, 23 miles, and called this camp Captain Smith's Camp. We eat part of one of the bears, which tasted very well, and would be good, and might pass for veal, if one did not know what it was. We were very merry, and diverted ourselves with our adventures.

10th. At eight we were on horseback, and about ten, as we were going up a small hill, Mr. Beverley and his horse fell down, and they both rolled to the bottom; but there were no bones broken on either side. At twelve, as we were crossing a run of water, Mr. Clouder fell in, so we called this place Clouder's Run. At one we arrived at a large spring, where we dined and drank a bowl of punch. We called this Fontaine's Spring. About two we got on horseback, and at four we reached Germanna. The Governor thanked the gentlemen for their assistance in the expedition. Mr. Mason left us here. I went at five to swim in the Rappahannoc River, and returned to the town.

11th. After breakfast all our company left us except Dr. Robinson and Mr. Clouder. We walked all about the town, and the Governor settled his business with the Germans here, and accommodated the minister and the people, and then to bed.

12th. After breakfast went a fishing in the Rappahannoc and took seven fish, which we had for dinner; after which Mr. Robinson and I, we endeavoured to melt some ore in the smith's forge, but could get nothing out of it. Dr. Robinson's and Mr. Clouder's boys were taken violently ill with fever. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Clouder left us, and the boys remained behind.

13th. About eight of the clock we mounted our horses, and went to the mine, where we took several pieces of ore; and at nine we set out from the mine, our servants having gone before; and about three we overtook them in the woods, and there the Governor and I dined. We mounted afterwards, and continued on our road. I killed a black snake about five feet long. We arrived at Mr. Woodford's, on Rappahannoc River, about six, and remained there all night.

14th. At seven we sent our baggage and horses before us; and at ten we mounted our horses; we killed another snake, four feet nine inches long. At twelve we came to the church; where we met with Mr. Buckner, and remained till two, to settle some county business; then we mounted our horses, and saw several wild turkeys on the road; and at seven we reached Mr. Beverley's house, which is upon the head of Mattapony River, where we were well entertained. My boy was taken with a violent fever, and very sick.

15th. At seven my servant was somewhat better, and I sent him away with my horses, and about ten the governor took his chaise, and I with him, and at twelve we came to a mill-dam, which we had great difficulty to get the chaise over. We got into it again, and continued on our way, and about five we arrived at Mr. Baylor's, where we remained all night.

16th. My servant was so sick, that I was obliged to leave him, and the Governor's servants took care of my horses. At ten we sent the chaise over Mattapony River, and it being Sunday, we went to the church in King William County, where we heard a sermon from Mr. Monroe.

After sermon we continued our journey until we came to Mr.West's plantation, where Colonel Bassett waited for the Governor with his pinnace, and other boats for his servants. We arrived at his house by five of the clock, and were nobly entertained.

17th. At ten we left Colonel Bassett's, and at three we arrived at Williarnsburg, where we dined together, and I went to my lodgings, and to bed, being well tired, as well as my horses.

I reckon that from Williamsburg to the Euphrates River is in all 219 miles, so that our journey, going and coming, has been in all 438 miles.

Exploration, Settlement and Conflict (1600-1799)