Jacob Castle: Clinch Father?
by Gordon Aronhime
as appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier on January 29, 1965
Though the title might be disputed by other localities, Castlewood on the Clinch is inhabited by people who think their locality is the most prominent area on the river. regardless of this, it is certainly the oldest community along the Clinch. There is good proof it was settled in 1769 by a group of men led by one John Morgan who may have come from North Carolina to settle tracts of land in that beautiful section of rolling upland meadows.
Little is known about the men who followed Morgan from wherever he started to the area to settle, and even less is known about the reason for the section being called Castlewood or Cassell's Woods, though such it has been called for barely under two hundred years.
Was this section named for a Jacob Castle?
The following is an article on Jacob Castle in which every fact, if stated as fact, is true, and yet in which nothing stated can be proven to belong to any previous fact. It is on such disconnected truths which might or might not be related that Judge Williams built his interesting, but probably incorrect, article. This is such an article. No claim is made for its historical accuracy, but it will, it is hoped, make interesting reading.
It should not be supposed that Jacob Castle was not a real man any more than it should be supposed that Stephen Holston was a real man. In fact, Jacob Castle was a man of many daring deeds, just as was Holston. Castle, too, was a hunter, an explorer, and a man of considerable mystery on the frontier. It is easy to put together a story of his life and deeds from the proven facts just as did Judge Williams on Holston
Sum is Greater Than Whole
The only thing is that such a life of Castle like that of Holston, will prove, in spite of all the elements of logic and sense, that the sum of the parts will, in these two cases, be greater than the whole. In spite of this, the account will be given here as if the writer -- having warned the reader to the contrary -- believed implicitly in what is said. Do not let this fool you.
The date of birth of Jacob Castle is unknown, though it must have been about the same year as that of Dr. Thomas Walker -- 1715. This makes him a contemporary of such great pioneers as Evan Shelby, Col. Wm. Preston, the elder Valentine Sevier, and John Shelby.
Though it is not certain, it is likely that Castle (Kassell) was born in Germany and emigrated quite young, with his parents, to America as did the Welsh Shelbys and others.
Whatever his origins, whatever his birth, Jacob Castle appears first in Virginia at the end of the decade of 1730. On 26 June 1740 he sold a portion of 200 acres of land he owned on the mouth of Hawksbill Creek on "Shenand" which he had bought earlier from the notorious Swiss, Jacob Stover, that earliest of settlers of families in the Valley of Virginia.
He sold the balance of this land two years later and, by 1746, was living on the extreme edge of the settlements in Augusta County. He is listed in that year as a worker on the road from Adam Harman's on New River to Roanoke River.
We hear nothing more of Castle until 1749 when his name appears in a famous petition for a road from Ezekiel Calhoun's on Reed Creek to the New River. This petition begins "We petitioners, being the frontier inhabitants of this Colony, labor under great inconvenience for want of a road . . ."
Adam Harman, mentioned above, and Castle seemed to have had an innate animosity for each other and on 17 May 1749, Castle was accused by Adam Harman with threatening to aid the French. Since the French and Indian war broke out less than six years later, this was a serious charge. A called court on the following Monday, 22 May, tried Jacob Castle for high treason. He was acquitted.
Brave Men of Spirits
The court record gives an insight into a man probably of high spirits, brave to the point of extreme boldness, and undoubtedly a somewhat manic foolhardy individual. The Harman family was not noted in the 18th century, at any rate, for being timid people, so these two hot-headed pioneers struck sparks in their encounter. After the trial excitement subsided, Castle was ordered to be one of the workers on the road sought in the 1749 petition, and the court order of 1750 so names him.
We know nothing of Castle during the next eleven years. We do have the record that he had served in the militia when needed, as the muster rolls of the county, as early as 1742, list him as a soldier. The next item of 1761 is not as a soldier, but an entry for 100 acres of land near the Great Falls (Foote's Falls) of New River. On 19 November 1762, he was ordered to place a value on an improvement made by a neighbor.
In contrast to these peaceable entries, the final mention of him in Augusta County is dated 22 June 1764, in which Jacob Castle is listed as "no inhabitant." This is merely another way of saying he had vanished into the wilderness.
Castle seems to have been by nature an undomesticated animal and there is every likelihood that he went off on one of the famous "long hunts" but by himself, and without the usual return at the end of a year or two. His whole history shows him moving further and further west as the settlements came along. This time he just picked up and moved so far into the wilderness that nothing disturbed him.
This middle part of 1760s, it should be remembered, was the era in which Daniel Boone did the same thing. It may be that Castle's shines and roughness got him into trouble and he chose the trackless wastes of the banks of the Clinch to cover his disappearance. Game abounded, there were caves in which to live, there was a supply of water. He could plant a little corn if he wished and this was perhaps the life he really preferred.
May Have Met Morgan, Boone
It is quite possible that he may have met John Morgan or told Daniel Boone, that one-man communications center of the frontier, about Castlewoods and Boone made the arrangements that sent Morgan and his group to Castlewood in 1769. Certainly when this group came into the area in 1769 they knew they were coming to a region known as Cassell's Woods!
If Castle did this, he undoubtedly got something,, probably a gun or a horse, for his "rights" to the land. At any rate, he certainly did not get an acre of ground in the area.
Many years later, an old man named Jacob Castle lived along Copper Creek and is the ancestor of most of the Castles who live in the lower part of Southwest Virginia. This old Jacob Castle, as is proved by the pension statement of his son Basle, made fifty years later in Lawrence County, Kentucky, was in the Virginia troops at King's Mountain. This same Jacob Castle died soon after the turn of the century.
Was this the same Jacob Castle who had first appeared in Shenandoah in 1738? Was this the same Jacob Castle who squabbled with Adam Harman in 1749? Was this the same Jacob Castle who disappeared from the New River Section in 1764? Was this the same Jacob Castle who discovered and named Castlewood? Was this the same Jacob Castle who later lived on the waters of Copper Creek?
Each reader must make up his or her mind on the data given. It is certainly as good an explanation as has yet been offered as to the name of Castlewood.