Captain Matthew Arbuckle, ‘‘large of stature and large of spirit,’’ was born about 1741 in Scotland. He is listed as serving in the Augusta County, Virginia, militia in 1758–59, was a lieutenant in 1767, and commissioned captain of Botetourt County militia in 1770. He served as a gentleman justice of Botetourt County from its founding in 1769 until 1773.
A hunter and trapper, Arbuckle was probably the first white man to travel from Virginia to the Ohio other than as a prisoner of the Indians. In 1774 he built the stockade on Muddy Creek, Greenbrier County, now known as Arbuckle’s Old Fort.
Commanding a company of Botetourt County militia he served as guide and chief scout for Gen. Andrew Lewis’s 1774 march to Point Pleasant, contributing greatly to the defeat of the Indians led by Chief Cornstalk at the Battle of Point Pleasant. Later he built Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant. He was in command there when a mob of newly arrived and undisciplined militia, who had witnessed one of their number killed and scalped by the Indians, overcame their officers’ and Arbuckle’s attempts to maintain order and murdered the captive Cornstalk.
Soon after 1774, Arbuckle established his residence near Lewisburg, then known as Fort Savannah, and when the town was laid out in 1780 he was the first settler. In 1778 he was active in raising the siege of Fort Donnally, near Lewisburg. On retirement from active military service he farmed his extensive lands and served several public duties. In March of 1781 he was commissioned to lay out a route from Lewisburg to Warm Springs, Bath County. In June of that year, returning from the capital at Williamsburg, Arbuckle was caught in a violent storm near the banks of the Jackson River and killed by a falling tree. He left a widow and six strong sons.
This Article was written by Joseph Crosby Jefferds Jr.
Last Revised on September 24, 2012
Jefferds, Joseph C. Jr. Captain Matthew Arbuckle: A Documentary Biography. Charleston: Education Foundation, 1981.