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Tunkers, Dunkers and…

The first settlement in the area that later became Pulaski County was a religious group, known as “Tunkers.” This group got it’s start in Germany in the year 1708, when Alexander Mack and seven other men got together to form the group of Seventh Day Baptist, soon becoming known as Pietists. That name tells us immediately that this group was strictly religious. Among other beliefs and practices was that they be baptized by being dipped three times face down in a moving stream of water. Because of their method of baptism they were nicknamed “Tunkers.” Soon after being organized, they were forced by persecution to move to Holland, from whence they came to Pennsylvania from the years 1720-1729, establishing the community of Germantown. Some moved on to New England, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia.
Like other such groups, they learned that Pennsylvania was not quite heaven. Unrest among members brought about a separation that caused Israel, Samuel, and Thomas Eckerlin, Alexander Mack, William Mack, John Negley, and others to move down the Wilderness Road to a point near the New River that they called Mahaniam. This separation came about because the Eckerlins had big plans to improve the Pennsylvania site to the point of making it a religious refuge by erecting expensive buildings to house the set of chimes they had cast for the tower, unknown to the society until they arrived in Philadelphia. The unhappy society sold the bells, and expelled the three Eckerlins.
One of the group of dunkers, Garrett Zinn bought 900 acre of Mahaniam from Samuel Eckerlin; then for fear of the Indians in the area of what is now Claytor Lake, he moved to North Carolina, where he died. His estate then sold the land to William Ingles in 1771. Two days later Ingles sold the same land to William Christian, who had trained with troops there for the Battle of Point Pleasant. He realized the value of the land, and moved from his splendid home that his father Israel had given him, called “Stone House Place” in Botetourt County, to what is known as Dunkard Bottom in 1773 with his wife Ann Henry, sister of Patrick Henry. Along with him came two close neighbors, Joseph Cloyd and Col. William Preston. Joseph Cloyd settled in the Back Creek area of what is now Pulaski County, and Colonel Preston to Springfield, near Draper’s Meadows, now a part of the Virginia Tech campus.
More about Dunkard Bottom next week.
-Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.