Baron Pierre Francois de Tubeuf

Pierre Francois de Tubeuf was from the Ales coal basin in France and was “opening up new coalfields in Normandy from 1770 until he set sail for Virginia in May of 1791. One local study described him as “le premier grand mineur de notre pays” or “the first grand miner of our country”.  While he was instrumental in the coal industry in France for many years he accumulated many debts and after the French Revolution decided to emigrate to the New World.

His plans were to set up a French Settlement on the Clinch River in Russell County, Virginia which would include “ a number of people with the appropriate talents and skills.” He had traded some of his lands in France to Richard Smith for 55,000 acres in Southwest Virginia. In May of 1791 he set sail with his eighteen year old son, his niece, “eighteen maitres and twenty five servants, skilled and unskilled workers”, a priest, the abbe Dubois, and his son’s former mathematics professor”. He would call his settlement “Sainte Marie on the Clinch”.

Before leaving Richmond for his lands in Russell County some of his countrymen were lured away to work for people in Richmond with tales of the hardships of the frontier. “Relations with the local people proved to be little better than with the inhabitants of Richmond. The Frenchmen had great difficulty with the English language and experienced very bad treatment at the hands of the backwoodsmen every time they had to trade or bargain for goods. The “black tricks” the people played on them were very disheartening”.(THE FRONTIER DREAMS OF PIERRE FRANCOIS TUBEUF James William Hagy in Virginia Genealogy and Biography. Taken from DeTubeuf to Colonel Harvie October 18, 1791)

Tubeuf spent his first days residing at the Russell County Courthouse before removing to the abandoned home of John English.  English had built his home on Sugar Hill where Guess’s and the Clinch River come together, very near Fort Blackmore, Castlewoods, and Stoney Creek Church. He had been attacked by Indians at least once before and the last attack left his wife and children dead.

Tubeuf and his family were constantly harassed by the local “inhabitants” who he followed up to “the ridge” on at least one occasion.  One of the “black tricks” used on them was to keep Tubeuf from surveying his lands, the “inhabitants” would get Tubeuf and his men to follow them through the woods for hours, ending up back at his cabin.  Jonathon Schoepf mentioned in 1782 the local “Indians” in Northern Virginia embraced the rattlesnake “almost lovingly”.  Tubeuf’s employees would recall snake handling and “displays of dead snakes as among the “black tricks” played by the local inhabitants.”     

“ Two hunters, associated briefly with Tubeuf's enterprise established temporary camp along the north bank of the Clinch, on what Tubeuf thought clearly was part of his land patent. Over the next two weeks, as the hunters searched for deer and other commodities, they were visited by men who "resembled Indians by their coloring" and who appeared almost daily in small groups of two or three to talk in English with the hunters in a friendly fashion about the scarcity of game. but when the hunters began to load their accumulated deerskins and other pelts to leave the site, the "same men" reappeared with reinforcements, all dressed now in "Indian" regalia, and gently  but firmly prevented the hunters from leaving with their kill.  The skins had to stay with the "true owners, not your or your foolish lord who bloodied our good roads with his evil." (Darlen Wilson-Journal of Appalachian Studies- Multicultural Mayhem and Murder in Virginia's Backcountry: The Case of Pierre-Francois Tubeuf, 1792-1795

The Chickamaugans and Shawnees made regular visits in the county to harass the settlers and many, including Tubeuf,  spent the winters in the forts for protection. Tubeuf had a road built from the courthouse to his home and no doubt many of these men working for Tubeuf attended the Stoney Creek Church. In a deposition given in 1859 Jonathon Osborne said he had worked for Tubeuf in the early 1790s.  Jonathon was said to be son of Stephen and Comfort Osborn whose name is found in the Stoney Creek Church records.

While the facts are not clear, Tubeuf’s son, Alexander gave the story that his father was killed on election day in 1791.  His deposition reads;

“Two men passing by the name of Brown and Barrow, came to the house of this deponents father, and after being invited and partaking of dinner and after staying some time and loitering about, taking the opportunity as the father of said deponent turned his face from them one of the said men [which was Brown] gave him a stroke with a gun that he had in his hand, and the cock of the lock sunk appearingly through his scull which sunk him motionless, and in a short time expired– the foresaid not suffering their fury, with an attempt they further proceeded to murder the whole family and fell upon the said deponent with a club, and after receiving several wounds, made his escape out of the house, and Miss Drushane at the same time dangerously woudned. A servant maid attempting from the alarm to cross the river got drownded, and also the house being robbed and the trunks broke open and plundered, and this deponent further saith not.  May 3, 1796"

Although his depositions do not mention “dark skinned” or “Indians” there is a death record in the family papers in France that describe them as “red skins”,  years later in a deposition the niece would also recall them as “red skins”.

There were said to be as many as twelve men involved in the conspiracy although only three were tried for their part.  James Best, Aaron Roberts, and Obediah Paine were held for over a year in jail while Richard Barrow and John Brown aka Bonds were arrested in New Design, Illinois they mangaged to escape. Despite a 500.00 reward they were never found nor brought to justice. John Bond was found on the 1790 Voters List in Hawkins County.

While the community was enraged over the murder and demanded justice it seems the were split by the three conspirators being held in jail for over a year. The two sons returned to France in 1803 but the other French colonist have not been accounted for to my knowledge. The niece made a deposition many years later and apparently was still in the area.

While this is one very logical explanation how the  fairly common French word "malengin"  was introduced into the Southwest Virginia it is still just a theory, but a good one.