Category : Family Stories


While William “Big Sandy” Wallen and his son, Joe Wallen, were serving during the Civil War in the 8th Tennessee Cavalry, USA, the rebels made a stop at their log cabin in Kyles Ford along the Clinch River.  They slaughtered their single milk cow, cooking it and eating it.  They then proceeded to throw the bones and scraps into the loft where Mrs. Jane Wallen and her children were sleeping.  One of these children was David Wallen, my great-grandpa.

In the morning, the soldiers loaded up all of her quilts and prepared to leave.  She begged them to leave the quilts, saying, “You’ve eaten all of our food and are starving us to death.  Please leave the quilts so my children don’t freeze to death!”  The soldiers responded by throwing the quilts in the mud for her to retrieve.

Hawkins County was one of many areas that had boys serving on both sides during the Civil War.  Unfortunately, stories like this are not uncommon.  Feelings ran strong on both sides.

This would have happened after October 1, 1863, when the Wallen men enlisted in the army.  So that puts it sometime between that date and April, 1865, when William was mustered out of service.


Here is how the cabin appears today.  It was covered in siding a number years ago to protect it.

wallen log cabin today


He fought for the South & the North


Joseph Banks Wallen was born February 14, 1840 at Kyles Ford, Hawkins (now Hancock) County, Tennessee on the Wallen family farm. He married twice. His first wife was Susan Baker; with her he had two children, Luther Wallen born 1866 and Elizabeth Wallen born 1868. Susan died in 1868 and Joseph B. Wallen married Eliza E. Tignor in 1869, daughter of Anderson Tignor.

Joseph B. Wallen served during the War Between the States for both the Confederate Army and the Union Army. He was conscripted into the Confederate Army and served in the 43rd Tennessee Mounted Infantry at Vickburg. Following the fall of Vicksburg, he, along with other captured Confederates, was paroled and allowed to return to Kyles Ford.

On October 1, 1863 he enlisted in the Union Army at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. He served in Company L, 8th Regiment, Tennesse Volunteer Cavalry and achieved the rank of Sergeant. After the War, Joseph B. Wallen experienced the call to preach the Gospel and became a Primitive Baptist elder. He died August 12, 1912 and was buried with Masonic honors.

Joe Wallen


“Big Sandy” Wallen


William J. “Big Sandy” Wallen was known for his legendary strength. He was born and raised on the Wallen family farm on the Clinch River at Kyles Ford, Tennessee.

He served in the Union Army during the Civil War.   Big Sandy enlisted December 18, 1863 at Camp Nelson, Kentucky.  Big Sandy was 47 years old at his enlistment and evidently the rigors of military life were too much for a man of his age, for he was medically discharged at Knoxville April 15, 1865. Big Sandy Wallen was in Company L, 8th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry and was a Private.

It is said that most of the men would carry 3 bushels of corn to the mill to be ground. Big Sandy was able to carry 7 bushels. He once came upon a group of men and a team of oxen moving a large stone to a building site. The oxen had pulled the stone until they were worn out. Big Sandy said if the men could lift the stone onto his shoulder, he’d carry it the rest of the way to the building site. The stone was lifted to his shoulder and he did carry it the rest of the way.

Big Sandy Wallen was a blacksmith and farmer. He could hold his anvil in one hand with his arm stretched straight out. If he was working on a skittish horse, Big Sandy would knock the horse out with one blow from his fist. My branch of the Wallen family is known as the “Big Sandys”.


Originally posted at

13 Aug 2010

Col. James Robert’s Tories were active on the NW side of the Blue Ridge in the Ashe Co., NC area according to Col. Richard Allen’s pension claims. By family associations it has been suggested that Cornelius Roberts (Neal Roberts) is the son or brother of this man, but this is far from proven. James is also likely to be the father of Happy Roberts who married William Riddle and William Roberts who also appeared on the William Herbert 1774 militia accounts. A James Roberts appears in the area northwest of today’s Martinsville, Henry Co., Virginia, by 1753 and in the late 1760s he is joined by a John and Cornelius. James Roberts may be the man who served at the Battle of Point Pleasant under William Campbell.

On 5 July 1776 the land of James Roberts in Montgomery Co., Virginia was confiscated and sold because he had taken up arms with the British. In 1779 his land in Surry Co., NC was also confiscated by act of the legislature in New Bern.

Benjamin Phipps pension app: ” about the year 1779 or 80 he [Phipps] was engaged in making a crop of corn, when Colonel Roberts, at the head of a company of Tories, came there [to Capt. John Cox’s] and made prisoners of him and William Craig and Beverly Watkins. The Tories carred him to the British Army commanded by Lord Rogers…”

David Cox pension app: “Sometime after this affair a certain Captain Roberts of the Tory party came into the neighborhood with a company of –, and this declarant with Major Love pursued them into — near the head of New River, determined to overtake them but Capt. Baker of North Carolina heard of them and his party overtook, wounded or killed the whole party except Roberts their captain who made good his escape…”

George Morris Esq. – an old Whig on New River: “When friends and neighbors collected and pursued them to one Capt. Patrick John – near where the town of Jefferson now stands where they overtook them committing outrages on the old Captain – they had but a bridel rein around his neck and were leading him out of his gate to hang him when the Whigs came up – fixed on them – killed two of the English – wounded the other – took him prisoner – and Capt. Roberts and the other Tory narrowly escaped.”

In the Draper manuscripts, “Roberts was on his route to Ninety-Six with about 20 men though he did not come with him. Col. Roberts was passing through [now] Ashe County and passed by Benj. Cuthbirth’s and robbed his 5 valuable horses. I think this was 1781. Some time after this Capt. James Roberts, son of Col. Roberts passed through Ashe on the same trail that had been traveled by Col. Roberts. The Captain had but 4 men besides himself, one Tory and 3 British soldiers.”

Capt. James Roberts (son of Col. Roberts) is thought to be the same man who later settles on the Clinch, in what is now Lee Co., Virginia and who raises some of William Riddle’s children. In the 1791 tax list for the lower district of Russell Co., VA (became Lee County) are Joseph and William Ingrahm (m. Happy Roberts [or Rogers] Riddle), James Fulkerson (who lived near James Roberts in Pittsylvania [now Henry] Co., VA and sold land to him in Surry Co., NC), Williamson Roberts, John Rice, George Roberts, Philip Roberts, James Roberts (the Capt.), Thomas Rogers, Aaron Roberts, Doswell Rogers, Thomas Rogers Sr., a second Doswell Rogers, William Tate, John Tate, and the Waller/Wallens: Lewis, Elisha, Thomas, John and William.

Source for much of the facts above: Rodney Veitschegger; replies to a question of mine of Roberts Genforum; Mary E.V. Hill (Riddle Newsletter)

Roberts, Neal

Time-line for Cornelius “Neal” Roberts:

Born before 1746 in Halifax Co., VA, possibly a son of the Tory leader, Col. James Roberts (speculative).

1767 Acquired 400 acres in what is now Henry Co., VA. By 1769 he had a survey of 798 acres along a fork of Reedy or Reed Creek called Grassy Fork or Solomons Branch or Glady fork. Listed as Neel Roberts a tithable to Peter Copland Gent. In Pittsylvania (now northern Henry) Co., VA. In 1769 he had another 398 acres or 798 acres total. Another 800 acres were surveyed off Beaver Creek. This land is northwest of Martinsville. John and James Roberts are in the same area and James’ name first appears in 1753. 1771 – on records of Botetourt Co., VA, living on Beaver Dam Fork of Elk Creek in what is now Grayson Co., VA 1772, 1773 – on records of Fincastle Co., VA after it was formed from Botetourt 1774 Served 29 days under Lieut. John Cox, Daniel Boone and Capt. David Looney in Lord Dunmore’s War: They were left behind to guard the frontier he did not make the march to Point Pleasant with Col. Herbert’s men. June 15 1776 “Roberts with Tories on Elk Creek” (Wm Preston to Edmund Pendleton referring to Col. Or Capt. James Roberts I presume.) 1780 Montgomery Co., VA court record: property confiscated for Tory activities ordered returned due to lack of evidence of participation in the Tory militias. He may have been a member of the Elk Creek militia, but I do not find him on the militia musters (there is a John and James Roberts on the Elk Creek militia muster rolls). 1782 owned 150 acres, Montgomery Co., VA (now Grayson) 1782 Montgomery Co., VA personal tax list: 1 tithe, 0 slaves, 6 horses, 8 cattle

1783 Moved to Russell Co., VA, owned 352 acres along a tributary of the Clinch River.

1787 Sells the 352 acres and buys 200 acres on the Clinch River, also in Russell County. 1788 Killed and scalped by Cherokees, possibly led by Robert Benge on Black Mountain along the border of Lee Co., VA and Harlan Co., KY while digging ginseng.

Cornelius married Mary Benton about 1767 (perhaps a daughter of Sam Benton, her second husband was Rev. Frost. See also William Vaughan below who may have married a sister of hers). Their children: Mary 1768 m. Shadrack Monk (daughter Rhoda married Joseph Riddle), Elizabeth 1770 (d. 1833 Letcher Co., KY m. Abraham Childress, son of John Childress and Rachel Perkins), James 1772 (d. 1858 Pike Co., KY m. Nancy Damron — daughter of Moses Damron and Aggie Owl), Nathan 1774 (m. Abigail Bishop in Knox Co., TN), Amelia 1775 (d. Walker Co., AL m. Edward Frost), Jesse about 1776 (d. 1857 Taylor Co., KY m. Mary Ann Simpson Skaggs), Daniel 1777 (d. 1846 Winston Co., MS m. Elizabeth Kiser), Susanna about 1779 (m. Lot Litteral), Sinai 1781 (d. 1874 Marion Co., TN m. Peter Anderson), Archibald 1784 (d. 1860, Wabash Co., IL, m. (1) Mary Thorpe, (2) Sarah Pennington in Cumberland Co., KY); Isaac 1786 (d. 1839 Caldwell, TX m. (1) Ann Enyart, (2) Rhoda); Mourning 1788 (d. 1866 Jackson Co., AL, m. Jacob Tally 1808). All children were born in Virginia.

Source: Derek Gilbert (Worldconnect); (Mary K. Harris); New River Notes tax lists and militia musters; Jodie Necaise, Roberts Genforum #14436, Teresa Carlson # 14355, Mary E.V. Hill, Riddle Newsletter Vol 4, Issue 1, December 1997.

Roberts, William

William is probably a brother of Cornelius Roberts and more doubtfully a son of the notorious Capt. James Roberts (Tory leader). He shared an 1780 court venue with Cornelius

He is the William Roberts born about 1744 in old Lunenburg Co., VA who married Elizabeth “Betsy” Walling, daughter of Elisha Wallen and Mary Blevins.

1774: William was among those diverted to Capt. Looney’s company on the Clinch and did not fight at Point Pleasant. Instead he was with Capt Looney, Lieut. Daniel Boone and Lieut. John Cox guarding the Clinch frontier.

1780 Montgomery Co., VA court session: George Reeves, James Howell, William Roberts, Neal Roberts, Moses Johnson, Richard Green, Richard Wright, Clem Lee and George Herd were restored their property for lack of evidence that they actively fought against the government.

1782 Montgomery Co., VA personal tax list:    1 tithe, 0 slaves, 12 horses, 13 cattle