John Barnet Stagner (BA1) in Rowan County

The name John Barnet Stagner first appeared in colonial American records in 1753, where he was found in Rowan County, North Carolina. A “Miscellaneous Land Office Record” referred to Barnet Stegnor as a chain carrier surveying land for Hans Waggoner. This is believed to be the same person subsequently found in other Rowan County records identified as Barnet Stagner or John Barnet Stagner or Barney Stagner. I have chosen to identify this man as BA1 to give him a unique identity as there are other John Stagners and another Barnet Stagners.

first land grant

John Barnet Stagner or Barnet Stagner appeared in the records in Rowan County in 1757, 1758, and on the 1759 tax list. He applied for a land grant of 700 acres on the “North Side of the South Yadkin including improvements where he now lives”. There is no date on this document, but it is assumed to be 1759 – 1760. This along, with his chain carrying assignments, seems to put him living on the north side of the South Yadkin River, in the Forks of the Yadkin. On 23 October 1760,  he again applied for 700 acres “lying in the Fork of the Yadkin between Third Creek and South Yadkin River, including an improvement purchased of Claus Thompson”. On 26 September 1761 he applied for another 700 acres in Rowan County in the Forks of the Yadkin on the fork of David Johnson Creek. So he had submitted application for 3 landBarney Loc grants. No evidence has been found for the approval of the grants, but he appeared to live in the “yellow” area highlighted in the map

Barnet was an active participant in the area where he lived. He is indicated as having served on several juries and participated in road building projects. He served as a constable in Rowan County in 1758.  In one notable instance in 1763, a court entry, shows that he participated with Daniel Boone to construct a road from the Shallow Ford of the Yadkin to Salisbury. Daniel Boone and his family also lived in the area.

In the Rowan County Tax List in 1761 was listed three Stagners: Barnet, Honeul, and George.

Early Stagners

You had to be 16 to be taxed at that time, so all three had to be born before 1745. It is not known who Honeul (if that was the correct interpretation of the name) or George were and what was the relationship to Barnet. No further reference was found to Honeul, although there was a Henry Stagner in Rowan County in 1778 and the next mention of a George Stagner was in 1793.  So given the relative preponderance of information found on Barnet in the 1760s, it is puzzling why there was no further information found on Honeul and George if they survived. More on this later.

In 1763 John Barnet Stagner was naturalized by an act of Parliament by taking an oath and a test to prove his loyalty to the English King George the 3rd.

One notable record in 1766 stated that Barnet Stagner was excused from jury duty because Elizabeth Stagner was on trial, Elizabeth apparently being a daughter.

In another instance in 1767 there was a bill of sale from John Stagner to Wm. Frohock for a gray mare, other items & “small improvements joining Barney Stagner’s place where he now lives”. This was important because it was the first mention of John Stagner, who was apparently Barnet’s (John Barnet Stagner’s) son.

From 1753-1768 Barney or John Barnett or Barnet was mentioned approximately 30 times in Rowan County records.

On October 10, 1775 John Barnet Stagner signed his will. Importantly in this will he mentions his wife Elizabeth, sons: John and Barnet, daughters: Sarah, Christiana, Elizabeth, Barbara, Dorothy, Mary. Very importantly he made son Barnet the executor of the estate. He willed his estate and personal property to wife Elizabeth and upon her death to son Barnet. He willed one shilling to each of the other 7 children.Barney Will

It is assumed that John Stagner was the oldest son because he was mentioned along with old Barney in the bill of sale in 1767 and because he was listed first in the will. It is not understood why old Barney would make his younger son Barnet, born about 1754, executor of his estate, unless his older brother John was either not available or maybe there was a rift between the two of them.

[Son John will be discussed soon, but it will be admitted at this time that there was no clear evidence to know whether John even survived his time in Rowan County or if he moved on.  It is believed that he was eventually found in Sumner County, TN and then Warren County, KY.]

Back to old Barney, it is believed that he wrote his will in 1775 because he was anticipating an adventure. One might ask why a 60 year old man would consider leaving his apparently well established farm in Rowan County, North Carolina for the unsettled American back country of Kentucky. It cannot be known for sure the reason why, but it can be noted that the early 1770s in Rowan County, NC was a turbulent time. Remember this was pre-revolutionary times and there was much division among the residents of North Carolina concerning which side they were on. Were they loyal to the English King, called “Loyalists or Tories”, or loyal to those proposing to breaking off from England, the “Patriots”.

Since Barney had recently been naturalized and proclaimed his support for King George 3rd , the assumption would be that he was loyal to the King.

Apparently, the Patriots were making life difficult in North Carolina at the time and perhaps Barney fell in this category and decided that he had had enough and wanted to escape persecution to settle in the west. For a 60 year old man, this would have been a major decision.

It is not known precisely when Barney decided to go to Kentucky, but a record referred to by another researcher indicates that he was at Fort Blackmore, Virginia in November 1776 . According to Lyman C. Draper in “The Life of Daniel Boone”, Daniel made his trip to establish Boonesborough in May of 1775. He set off for the Clinch River to get his family on June 13, 1775 and returned with his family on September 8, 1775. There is no indication in this history that Daniel returned to lead other settlers over the Cumberland pass to Kentucky over the next two years when Barney would have been involved. So if Barney was in Fort Blackmore in late 1776, he and other settlers were likely led over the pass by someone else.

A key figure in understanding Barney’s arrival in Kentucky was that of Hugh Wilson, who apparently married his daughter Christiana. Hugh Wilson was found in Harrodsburg, just west of Boonesborough where another fort had been established. Draper states on page 403 : “In February [1776] William Poage and family removed from Boonesborough to Harrodsburg-…arriving there they learned the interesting fact that Mrs. Hugh Wilson had a month or two before given birth to the first child born in Kentucky [such that the child was born late 1775 or early 1776], who was named Harrod Wilson and grew up to be a worthless man.”

Based on the above two facts it would seem that Barney BA1 could not have arrived in Harrodsburg until at least very late 1776, otherwise one would think he would have been mentioned as a resident of Harrodsburg, which he was not in Draper Book.

A document found years later suggested that Barney had established farm land in the vicinity of Fort Harrod, as his son Barnet later transferred the land. This document suggested that he “raised a crop” in 1776, but if he was found in Fort Blackmore in 1776, he certainly wasn’t raising corn in Harrodsburg in 1776 as the growing season was over

Short History of Fort Blackmore –

by his arrival. So it would appear that Barney must have arrived in Harrodsburg somewhere around the beginning of 1777, just long enough to establish a farm for the next growing season. It does not appear that he had much opportunity in Kentucky. As has been widely reported, he had been made keeper of the Fort springs and as a result was attacked and killed by Indians on June 22, 1777, losing his head in the process.

There was no mention of any other of his family making the trek to Kentucky, except for daughter Christiana and son Barnet , who was stationed there as part of the Virginia Militia in 1779.

Some sources:

[1] Draper, L. C., & Belue, T. F. (1998). The life of Daniel Boone. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. Pages xvii, 403,446

[2] George Rogers Clark Diaries, Collins History of Kentucky, Draper Papers.

He is shown on a monument erected in the area of Fort Boonesborough in 1975 dedicated to the first Kentucky settlers.


Some Additional Information on Barney and Kentucky:

According to THE HISTORY QUARTERLY OF THE FILSON CLUB Vol 3 Louisville, Kentucky, October 1929 No. 5, mid-18th century historian Lyman C Draper “found a Mrs. Thomas who was among the emigration to Kentucky in 1775; her memory is excellent; she was in Harrodsburg fort during the siege in 1777; from her I gathered many facts.” Mrs. Thomas told Draper that:

“In Feb.’76, Wm Poague and family started for Harrodsburg.  On Gilbert’s Creek of Dick’s river overtook (Samuel) Coburn, Jas. McDaniel and Julius Saunders and families camped.  James Ray went to Boonesboro to pilot Poague’s family.  Shortly after starting, a snow storm overtook them, and had to camp a day or two, and Ray killed a buffalo and supplied them with meat.  [Colonel Hugh] McGary, Thos. Denton, Rich’d Hogan, Hugh Wilson and their families were at Harrodsburg.  Mrs Wilson had the first child and it was called Harrod Wilson: Wilson had passed Poague and Calloway on the wilderness [road]…”

She went on to report that “Barney Stagner, an aged Dutchman, the father-in-law of Hugh Wilson, was by general consent appointed to watch the spring at the fort and keep it clean and keep the children from it; and would sometimes carelessly ramble off, saying the Indians w’d not kill so old a man as he.  One day he sent up the branch to its head, half a mile off, was killed, his head cut off and carried away. The little children were for a long time after fearful to go to the spring of evenings lest they should encounter the headless ghost of poor Barney Stagner.  His son-in-law Hugh Wilson

was shot from his horse near the fort, and the animal ran in with blood upon its back.”

Also reported to Draper by Mrs. Thomas “…McGary, Denton and Hogan, and George Clare, an Englishman, hatter (the same who passed Poague on the wilderness road near Clinch and he went direct to Harrodstown, or burg–and Hugh Wilson and father-in-law Stagner also passed Poague and went direct to Harrodsburg) now built cabins on the hill; and something done towards forting the place; but not finished til next spring after [William] Ray was killed.”

So this about all that is known of Barney Stagner, an apparent immigrant from Germany. He may arrived in Philadelphia in 1738. He settled in Rowan County, NC before 1753 and moved on to Kentucky in 1775-6 where he died at the hands of the Indians in 1777. There is no record of any of his family, except for daughter Christiana coming to Kentucky with him. The monument above says Mrs. Barney Stagner, but there is nothing to support that. She is believed to have died later in North Carolina, but no record of that has been found. Son Barnet Stagner was later found in Kentucky as a member of the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War, where he later lived and died in Madison County.

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