William McMurry’s Cow Pasture River home, part 2

In part 1 of this series, I explored the available evidence for clues as to where William McMurry and his family settled on the Cow Pasture River in what is now western Virginia in the late 1750s to early 1770s (and probably beyond). I ended that post with an uncertainty as to how to interpret the surveyors’ bearings on three of William McMurry’s land patents.

The surveyors used the metes and bounds method of describing parcels of land, in which the perimeter of the parcel is described using distances and directions. To express direction, the surveyors had used statements such as “south eighty eight degrees west,” and every way I interpreted those bearings resulted in an unclosed polygon. To proceed, I had to first figure out how the surveyors had intended those bearings to be read.

In looking for insight, I found a great body of research called Genealogy of the Berry and Associated Families, by Jim Jackson and Carol Vass (last revised November 11, 2013). In it, they show how such bearings should be interpreted, and they present several worked examples of parcel reconstruction. With this help, I learned that bearings such as “south eighty eight degrees west” were meant to be read as 88° west of due south. Below is an illustration I made to help make these older style of bearings more understandable: Continue reading

William McMurry’s Cow Pasture River home, part 1

cowpastureriverpostcardWhile writing the last post, on the McMurry family’s migrations from Virginia to Kentucky in the late 1770s to early 1790s, I was somewhat vague about where they lived in Virginia. Other than one source—which states that William’s youngest son, Robert McMurry,was born in Fincastle on December 6, 1772—all of the sources I’ve seen state that William McMurry and his family lived on the Cow Pasture River. The location has been more specifically described as being on the lower Cow Pasture River and near a stream called McMurry Creek.

From what I’ve been able to learn so far, there is no tributary to (or anywhere near) Cow Pasture River that is still called anything like “McMurry Creek.” A distant cousin and fellow family historian, John Drye, has contacted the local history society for that area to see if they might have any insight into where McMurry Creek might have been, but he’s gotten no information so far. John suspects that the McMurry farm might have been in the area around Nicelytown, and that area is a leading candidate for me, too.

The Cow Pasture River is fairly long—just about 50 linear miles from source to mouth, but slightly over 80 miles as the river flows, because of the meandering nature of the river. It would be great to be able to be able to narrow down possible locations for the McMurry home along this river.

I’ve been reading through some excellent research notes by Don McMurray (a distant cousin), who’s spent much time, effort and money doing historical research on the McMurrys in Virginia, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere. In his notes were a couple of additional clues to the location of the McMurry property on the Cow Pasture River that made me think it might be possible to start narrowing down possible specific locations.

Continue reading