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Dunkard Bottom

On the very night that Mary Draper Ingles returned to her home at Draper’s Meadows(now a part of the Virginia Tech Campus), after escaping from her Shawnee Indian captors, her husband, William, and his brother-in-law, John Draper, were camped on a high ridge some twenty miles away that would some day become the village of Newbern, about a mile from a bold spring on property called Round Glade, at the present Exit , Interstate 81. The men were returning with heavy hearts, after a failed trip into Indian Territory trying to obtain information as to the whereabouts of Mary and other family members who had been captured and carried off into Shawnee country following the massacre that took place on that fateful morning of July 30, 1755
As they crossed New River heading homeward, it is very likely that they talked about the future time when William would build a cabin on the river for his family, and maybe a tavern, and possibly even establish a ferry to transport the great number of people, animals, and vehicles that would surely be traveling the old Indian trail in search of western land and wealth. All of this was only a dream of William’s , but when he reached home it began to come true, because there was his wife, Mary waiting for him. It was a happy reunion, but yet a sad one, because the couple’s children were still held by the Indians.
They continued to search for the children, but in the meantime William built the cabin near the river, and in 1762 he received a license to operate the historic Ingles ferry that would operate continuously for almost 200 years. He also constructed Ingles Tavern on the bank of the river, a part of which stands to this day. Areas on each end of the ferry were settled with land on the west side of the river developing faster, because of the westward movement that was taking place along the Great Road.
People were seeking not just land, but freedom of worship, meat to feed their families, and the riches of the land above and below the surface. Many moved on, and many stayed on the west side of the ferry to establish homes, farms, and businesses.
And Fort Frederick was established on the west side of the river for protection from raids by still unsettled Indians.
One particular group of people that settled in the area was a German Baptist group known as Dunkards, who at the time were considered rather odd because of their different religious habits and rules. Doctor Thomas Walker referred to them in his journas as “an odd sect of people who do not shave their beards, refuse to sleep in beds, practice celebicy, and eat no meat”. This particular religion originated in Germany, and members came to America in the eighteenth century and formed a group in Pennsylvania that became known as the Ephrata Brethren. When several of their members pulled away from this group, they came down the Great Road and settled on fertile soil and well lying land on the west side of New River. They called this settlement Mahanian, (meaning “two camps”)
At first they prospered, but being a docile people, they were soon discouraged by Indian attacks. Some went back to Pennsylvania and some disbursed to other areas. After about ten years the splinter group from Ephrata were no more. The location of their settlement became known as Dunkard Bottom, a name that is familiarly referred to in historical and legal documents to this day. Several families from Mahanian settled in different parts of what today is Pulaski county; names such as Weiser, Mack, and others.
The brethren back in Pennsylvania were probably not surprised when the family Eckerliin and others returned. In trying to discourage them from leaving in the first place, they had described the people in our area as “riff-raff and the dregs of society”. I’m sure the settlers had a much higher opinion of themselves.
When the Dunkard people left the area they left their village of well constructed houses and rich farm land that was purchased by two men who would make their marks in the area that became Pulaski County, James McCorkle and William Christian.
Next week we will go deeper into the history of Dunkard Bottom, discussing McCorkles Store and the village of New Dublin.

-Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski with his wife.