*To learn more about New London history be sure to visit the New London Museum website at



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Women were also confined in the Old District Jail at New London. Susanna Murphy of Henry County was sent there in the summer of 1789. Hugh Dowdell and Susan Dowdell were sent to District Jail at Dumphries, Virginia, a place now also forgotten, and which in Washington’s time was not only a thriving young city but a port of entry on the Potomac. Dumphries still holds to it’s name, yet New London is entirely forgotten. (4 Cal. VSP, 584).
On April 20, 1797, Judges Archibald Stewart and Creed Taylor were in New London and wrote the Governor concerning the securing of the rights of individuals to territory “which may be ceded by compromise”. (8 Cal. VSP, 430.) Judge Creed Taylor succeeded Judge Wythe, who was the first high chancellor of the equity court in Richmond. Taylor at one time presided over the equity court in Lynchburg.
December 6,1793, Captain John Redd of Henry County was recommended by James Callaway of New London as collector of taxes for the New London District. ( 6 Cal. VSP, 273). Colonel James Callaway was the son of William Callaway who made a free gift of 100 acres of his land to Bedford County for establishment of the town of New London and a courthouse. It is said that during the war of independence New London contained some seventy or eighty houses. No doubt Colonel James Callaway who was born December 21, 1763, was a dashing young officer in and around New London. He married three times and had twenty-one children. He died at the early age of 46 on November 1, 1809.
Colonel Thomas M. Clark, in charge of the 53rd Militia of Campbell County wrote the Governor requesting an “old field piece” at New London and another from Richmond. At that time (May 18, 1804) the 53rd Militia had attached to it a company of artillery from Lynchburg. Captain Thomas W. Cooke of Lynchburg was in charge of the artillery.
Lieutenant John Marcheson was in charge of a detachment of soldiers “in defense of military stores at New London belonging to the United States government from May 25, to July 13, 1801.” Marcheson was succeeded by Lieutenant Jesse Webb who “received pay and rations to August 25, 1801.” (9 Cal. VSP, 382).
The records of Bedford County show that on October 25, 1779, Thomas McReynolds was received as Captain of the Militia; Alexander Steel, first Lieutenant, John Helen, second Lieutenant, and John Hunter, ensign. Captain Thomas McReynolds resigned and moved to Moore County North Carolina, where he died. He was the son of James McReynolds who came from Ireland about 1735 and died in what is now Appomattox County some 7 miles south of Spout Springs. Mr. Justice James C. McReynolds, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, is a descendant of two brothers of Captain Thomas McReynolds. His grandparents were first cousins. No doubt these two brothers or grandparents of the great conservative justice were also frequent visitors in old New London and participated in the war of independence.
Samuel Clemens and Pamela Goggin, the grandparents of Mark Twain, the great author, lived somewhere on the line between Bedford and Campbell. They were married in Bedford County on October 23, 1797, but made their home in Campbell. Their first child was John Marshall Clemens, and the father of the great American author and humorist, Mark Twain. Samuel Clemens evidently came to Campbell from Surry County on the lower James river. The records of Surry County show the will of John Clemens, May 2, 1710, whose wife was Mary, and children Samuel, John, and Anne. The executors of his will were his “loving friends” Captain William Brown, Captain Thomas Holt, and Mr. William Thompson. The will of Samuel Clemens (1727) leaves a gun and sword to his brother William. William’s will (1741), mentions his wife Ales, (Alice?) and their five children: Lucy, Elizabeth, Samuel, William, and Henry.
Matthew Talbot, the first presiding justice of Bedford County had been a justice in Lunenburg County in 1746. He died at his home in New London in 1758. His will dated Jan. 4, 1758, was admitted to probate in Bedford County on November 27, 1758. His wife’s name was Jane, and his children were: Charles, Matthew, James, John, Isham, and Mary Arthur. His son Charles was sitting as a justice with his father as early as October 1754, and held office for many years after his father’s death. In November 1758 at the time Matthew’s will was admitted to probate the following justices were sitting: William Callaway, Samuel Hairstone, Richard Stith, Joseph Rentfro, Richard Callaway, Zackery Burnley, Charles Talbot, William Mead and Jermiah Early. At a meeting of the court on June 25, 1771, there was present Robert Ewing, Francis Callaway, William Trigg, and Gross Scruggs. Gross Scruggs was sheriff of Bedford County in 1783. He married Elizabeth Arthur, spinster, in Bedford County, October 4, 1768. The Governor and council on April 25, 1772, appointed the following justices for Bedford County: John Phelps, Robert Ewing, Charles Talbot; Jeremiah Early, Francis Callaway; William Trigg; John Fitzpatrick; Thomas Watkins; Guy Smith; James Callaway; Charles Lynch; Hugh Challis; Francis Thorpe; Joel Meadow; John Pate; Gross Scruggs; Robert Owen and James Donald.
On January 24, 1774 John Talbot was a justice in Bedford and acknowledged the oath of William Mead to an affidavit that he had never received payment for three cattle taken by Captain John Winn who brought the Amelia County Militia to Bedford in 1758 to fight in the French and Indian war against the colony. He claimed 3 pounds and 16 shilling for the cattle. (10 Va. Magazine of History 14). This uprising of the Indians abetted by the French was pretty well general over the whole region from Winchester to the North Carolina border at this time. Washington then only 25-, was quite busy establishing forth along the Blue Ridge Mountains during this period. The Callaway’s, Terry’s and others of old Bedford had pushed further westward at that time and established forts to protect the settlers. The writer hopes to have something more to say about those old forts, their location and names.
Campbell County had two representatives in the general assembly in 1782. They were Colonel Robert Adams, Jr. and William Browne. Bedford was represented at that time by John Talbot and Richard Clark. Henry County was represented by Patrick Henry and Peter Saunders. Benjamin Harrison was governor of the state. Albemarle had Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Walker as her able representatives. Fluvanna was represented by David Ross, who may have theretofore established iron works near New London, and George Thompson.
Long before New London was established as the county seat of Bedford County settlers were pushing upstream along Staunton River, and many settling at the present site of the city of Altavista, established in 1908 by the industrious Lane families. We find among the old records a grant of land, June 14, 1739, to Charles Fisher of 2000 acres on “Staunton river high up the Roanoke river beginning on Otter Creek on the south side and running up both sides of Staunton river.” (14 Va. Magazine of History 342).
When Franklin County was created in 1785, that part of Bedford County south of Staunton river was thrown into Franklin. The first court was held at the home of Colonel James Callaway of New London who had established and iron works in that part of Bedford south of Staunton River. The Callaways’ probably did more than any other family to open up the wilderness and blaze the trail for civilization. Richard Callaway had gone to Boonesboro, in the county of Kentucky, as early as May 1775. He met up with John Todd, who was born March 27, 1750 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and when orphaned went to Louisa County, Virginia where he was educated by his uncle, Rev. John Todd, and later studied law under Gen. Andrew Lewis and practiced for a short time before moving westward into Kentucky, settling near Todd’s Station near Lexington, Kentucky. Richard Callaway settled near Todd. They were Kentucky County’s first representatives to the first general assembly of Virginia. Todd had with a number of others formed the short-lived “State of Franklin.” Perhaps Richard Callaway was one of its organizers.
New London was early selected as a place of education. Even in Jefferson’s time he considered very seriously of establishing the University at that point. At least he thought so much of the location he built “Poplar Forest” near New London and lived there for many years. The present academy, one mile west of the old courthouse site, was chartered in 1795. Before receiving its charter it was a private school for boys. It was first built from money obtained by the sale of lottery tickets. It was governed by a board of 15 trustees. For much information concerning the Academy the writer is greatly indebted to Mrs. Bettie Sue Kirkpatrick of Evington, Va., now 88 years young, and who was its first matron, after the school became co-ed. The writer feels very keenly that the girls who came under the guidance of this estimable lady at old New London Academy shed many a tear when graduation day came and they had to take their departure from such a kindly and understanding person as “Mother Fitzpatrick”, as she was affectionately known by the girls and the boys, who lingered awhile on the campus after classes for a little chat with the pretty lassies of Bedford and Campbell.
In 1826 Professor McConnell was principal. He was succeeded by Nicholas H. Cobbs, afterwards Bishop Cobbs. He resigned in 1830 and was succeeded by Henry L. Davies. Others who taught there were George E. Dabney; Alexander Campbell and Rev. Thomas Brown. In 1849 the Academy received an endowment from Harrison Chilton. In 1851 E. W. Horsley was principal. Mr. Foster was principal from 1851 to 1854. His daughter, Mrs. James R. Guy, was born there in 1852. In 1854 Mr. Carter Harris became principal. He was succeeded by Mr. John H Winston, who was principal during the war between the states. Shortly after the civil war Mr. Winston resigned and was succeeded by Colonel H. C. McLaughlin, A. M., who remained there until sometime after 1872. he was succeeded by Captain William Robin Terry who remained until 1884 when the Academy became a public school. G. L. Brown was chairman of the Board of Trustees during Colonel McLaughlin’s tenure. In 1884 the Academy was taken over by Bedford and Campbell Counties and was governed by a board of five who appointed the teachers and supervised the institution. They first appointed Rev. B. W. Moseley principal and D. W. Read as assistant. On the death of Moseley, Read became principal and remained until 1896 when he resigned after ten years of faithful and efficient service to the school. Succeeding Mr. Read for short periods of time were B.W. Arnold, Mr. Stevenson, and Albert Smith, when Robert Quarles Lowry was appointed and served for ten years most efficiently. During Mr. Lowry’s tenure he was instrumental in building a girls dormitory. Miss Bushong was principal for one year after Mr. Lowry, Mr. O. A. Thomas held the principal’s place for 5 years, then Mr. McDonald for two years, followed by John Alexander Rorer for 3 years. Next came Mr. Oakes, and J. C. Adams who resigned in 1937, succeeded by Mr. Hollingsworth. Among the men outstanding in the medical profession who graduated from Old New London Academy are Drs. Alexander and Thomas Terrell, Dr. J. Sinkler Irvine and Dr. Nicholas Kabler whose home stands today near the “Cross Roads” of old New London. Other outstanding men who graduated from the Academy were Captain Thomas West; Hon. John Goode; Judge E. C. Burks; Major Robert Saunders; Mr. “Crow” Harris, who gave much of his time energy to the welfare of the school.
The Virginia Gazette of October 1, 1803 carries an advertisement of New London Academy.
Thomas Preston, son of Colonel William Preston, and brother of John and Francis Preston, the latter a lawyer and statesman who married Sarah, daughter of Colonel William Campbell, hero of the Battle of King’s Mountain, was a student at old New London Academy in 1799. Colonel William Preston was a familiar figure around New London, before and during the Revolution. He was born in Ireland in 1731, immigrated to America with his parents John and Elizabeth (Patton) Preston in 1740, and died at his seat in Augusta County in 1783. He lived to see the colonies free from England. His son Francis, married Sarah daughter of Gen. William Campbell. They had a son, William Campbell Preston, distinguished United States Senator from Virginia; another son, John Smith Preston, a prominent southern statesman and general in the Confederate Army. Thomas Lewis Preston, third son, served on the staff of General Joseph E. Johnston and was one time Rector of the University of Virginia. Daughters were Elizabeth wife of General E. C. Carrington; Susan wife of Governor James McDowell; Sally, wife of Governor John B. Floyd; Sophonsiba wife of Robert J. Breckinridge; Margaret, first wife of General Wade Hampton. James Preston, brother of John, Thomas and Francis, was governor of Virginia in 1816 and served three years. General William Preston, together with Robert Adams, Jr., Colonel Charles Lynch, brother-in-law of Adams, and Colonel James Callaway, formulated a method to deal with the Tories who were giving aid and comfort to the British and constantly stirring up the Indians against the colonist. Out of their punishment of the Tories there grew an old song of Revolutionary days, a part of which read:
“Hurrah for Captain Boby, Colonel Lynch

and Callaway. They never let a Tory rest

until he cries out, “Liberty”.
These gentlemen brought the Tories before them at “Avoca” (Altivista) and other points, and tried them in a court of their own (without jurisdiction) and summarily punished them by tying a rope around their hands and stringing them up under trees and giving them 39 lashes and making them cry “Liberty.” Out of there Patriotic yet strictly illegal acts grew what is today known as the “Lynch Law”, probably due to the fact that the law passed by the General Assembly in 1782, bore at that time the name of Colonel Charles Lynch. That Act, known as Chapter XV, 7th year of the Commonwealth, reads:
“An act to indemnify certain person in suppressing a conspiracy against this State”’


  1. Whereas divers evil disposed persons in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty, formed a conspiracy and did actually attempt to levy war against this Commonwealth; and it is represented the present general assembly, that William Preston, Robert Adams, Jr., James Callaway and Charles Lynch, and other faithful citizens, aided by detachments of volunteers from different parts of the state, did, by timely and effectual measures suppress such conspiracy: And whereas the measures taken for that purpose may not be strictly warranted by law, although justifiable from the eminence of danger;

  2. Be it therefore enacted that the said William Preston, Robert Adams, Jr., James Callaway and Charles Lynch, and all other persons whatsoever concerned, in suppressing the said conspiracy, or in advising, issuing, or executing any orders, or measures taken for that purpose, stand indemnified and exonerated of and from all pains, penalties, prosecutions, action, suits, and damages, on account thereof. And that if any indictment, prosecution, action, or suit, shall be laid or brought against them, or any of them, for any act or thing done therein, the defendant, or defendants may plead in bar, or the general issue, and give this act in evidence.”

We may assume a number of lawsuits had been filed against these gentlemen, otherwise the foregoing Act would not have been necessary. One wonders if John Hook of New London, who appears to have been quite a litigious person, did not also file suite against Lynch and others who made him cry “Liberty”. It would be interesting to find among the old dusty records of Bedford and other counties the declarations or complaints filed in the courts against these patriots. One may well surmise that the acts of the Tories led Cornwallis to approach the Piedmont section of Virginia with the aim of capturing the Armory at New London and destroying the stores at Staunton and Charlottesville and joining forces with other British troops who had routed the Assembly at Richmond and caused it to flee to Charlottesville and Staunton.


The writer understands there is extant in possession of Mrs. Fleming Saunders of Evington, Va., certain old records dealing with the organization of a church or meeting place which was erected on the campus at New London Academy in 1816. The following persons agreed in October 1815 to pay their respective quotas for the purpose of building a meeting house at New London Academy, “or at such other place as the majority may determine”: William Steptoe; Abner Callaway; James Steptoe; Nathan Read; John Thompson; Henry Brown, William Irvine, Charles Johnson; _________Langhorne. Trustees selected were: William Thompson; John Thompson; N. Price; Henry Brown; Benjamin Witt and S. White. In 1827 a number of people subscribed to a fund for repairing the church at New London Academy. The church or meeting house was non-denominational. Rev. James Turner of the Presbyterian church often preached there. All denominations were welcome and did worship in the old Academy meeting house. About 1860, it was said, the old meetinghouse became unsafe, was sold to the Masonic fraternity. Prudence Lodge was later moved to Evington, Virginia. (Prudence Lodge No. 44), moved across the Turnpike from the Academy and there erected into a building used by the Masons. In those early days there was a Presbyterian church know as Pisgah on the south side of Otter River, not so many miles from New London. The writer understands there stands today a church of that name on the south side of the river.
New London came into existence during the French and Indian War against the British or Colonist. As indicated by the affidavit of Henry Snow, heretofore quoted in this article, mentioning the names of John Thompson, old William Vardeman, John Hall and others, who engaged the Indians in battle from New London to Staunton river, one may well imagine how unsafe life was for the women and children who were left at home while their men ventured out to till the soil or to hunt for game. A militia, in those days was constantly on the alert, although it may have comprised but few men, yet it is certain they were a fearless lot. Their greatest difficulty was in getting arms and ammunition. A gun was a valuable possession. As early as 1754, just as soon as Bedford county was formed, Thomas Snow, a brother of Henry Snow, (Claude Thompson,s great great grandfather) brought a replevin action for the possession of his gun from a “gentleman” who was about to leave the county with it.
To the west and southwest of New London the country was much less populated. There were no towns or villages. Those who had ventured farther on lived either in a fort or close by one. Fort Mayo was then in existence on the Mayo river west of Martinsville, Va. It was also known as Captain Harris Fort. On Smith river, northwest of Martinsville, the Callaways’ had a fort. It was known as Fort Trial. On Blackwater Creek, northwest of the present city of Rocky Mount, Captain Terry had a fort known as Blackwater Fort. Ft. Vaux or Capt. Hogs Fort was located near the present town of Shawsville. Washington visited all the forts from Winchester to the North Carolina border around 1756 and proposed a fort to be built near Salem. Fort William was located on Catawba river about half way between Roanoke and Buchanan. There were a number of other forts stretched along the mountain ranges on the Winchester. Even before the end of the French and Indian War other forts had sprung up to the westward of New London.
In accumulating the data, which the writer passes on to those who are interested in visualizing for themselves the conditions under which the colonist fought for their existence in the late colonial years and for their freedom and independence of Great Britain during the war of independence, he was well aware of his inability to write a connected story concerning these people, their homes, their towns and counties, and has not attempted to so do. He feels that it is far better that each person study the record and tell his own story of the times and people, of the hardships, their valor and patriotism to the cause of freedom which is today enjoyed by us all and should be preserved as a heritage for those yet to come.
All too often today, just as it has been in the past we hear people say they are not concerned about their ancestors, their wars, their trials and tribulations. If those people would only be convinced that the “past is prologue”, and to understand the future- the course we are to take- we should know something of the past. We at least profit by the errors of others, or whether we profit or not from the lives of others, we at least have experiences, as a guide to better roads.
NOTE: This essay written by Claude A. Thompson in 1939 has some obvious errors with spelling and punctuation. As Mr. Thompson was a learned man, it is likely that this essay was an early version that he never edited. Corrections that I have taken liberty with are those that were clearly typographical errors. Everything that was within a quotation has been left exactly as Mr. Thompson wrote it. There is genealogical value as well as historical value to be found in Mr. Thompson’s essay but as always, I encourage the reader to verify all information and sources.

D.S.




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