Captain Edmund William Sams was born in 1750 in what was then Lundenberg County, VA. The section his parents lived in became Halifax County in 1752, Pittsylvania County in 1767 and Henry County in 1777. Sams’ parent’s home remained at the same site but changed counties four times in 27 years. Edmund Sams was the son of William Sams Sr. (1717–1779) and his wife Mary. Edmund Sams was believed to be the grandson of James Sams Sr. (c.1689–1726) and Kathryn Allyn. Edmund Sams’ father’s farm was located on Saville Creek, a tributary of the Smith River. William Sams’ farm was located approximately ten miles northwest of Martinsville, VA.
Edmund Sams married Anne “Nancy” Young in the early 1770s. Anne “Nancy” Young was born November 13, 1752 in Maryland. She was the daughter of John Young and Martha Stuart. The descendants of William Gudger (1752–1833) who married Martha “Patsy” Young (1750–1837), a sister to Sams’ wife Anne “Nancy” Young, have greatly embellished the story of the Youngs and William Gudger himself. They claimed John Young was so rich that he considered George Washington just a poor low-class neighbor. John Young may have lived in the Georgetown section of what is now Washington, D.C. but there is no evidence of any great wealth. None of the Young children give any indication of having or inheriting any great wealth. They may have been modestly better off than most of their neighbors in Buncombe County. This appears to have been acquired after moving to Buncombe County and most of it appears to have come through the hard work of the people they married.
Edmund and Nancy Sams moved to Wythe County, VA in the mid 1770s. They moved to the Watauga settlements of what is now Washington County, TN by late 1778. This area was part of the state of North Carolina until 1796. Edmund Sams joined the North Carolina state militia soon after moving to the Watauga settlements and fought against the Cherokee who were allies of the British. Sams rose to the rank of captain while engaged in war against the Cherokee. The Cherokee had waged a very bloody and effective war against the American frontier settlers. This caused the Americans to devote a large force of militia against the Cherokee instead of using them against the British.
William Gudger applied for a Revolutionary War Pension in October of 1832. Gudger said he belonged to the Surry County, NC Militia under Colonel Robert Love during the Revolution. After Gudger’s term of service expired under Colonel Love, he returned home. He later reenlisted and served under Captain Edmund Sams for two years in the war against the Cherokee. He stated that he had a certificate signed by Captain Edmund Sams in regard to his discharge from his two year tour under Sams. Captain Edmund Sams and Col. Robert Love both appeared on behalf of William Gudger and signed statements that Gudger had served under them in the Revolutionary War.
Captain Edmund Sams moved his family to what is now Buncombe County in the late 1780s. Foster Alexander Sondley (1857–1931), the great great-grandson of Sams, wrote that Edmund Sams was one of the first persons to move from the Watauga settlement in what is now Tennessee to what is now Buncombe County. When Buncombe County was formed from Burke and Rutherford Counties in 1792, Captain Edmund Sams was chosen as the first Coroner of Buncombe County. Sams also serviced as a Justice of the Peace and Constable in Buncombe County during the 1790s.
Buncombe County was subject to occasional raids from the Cherokee for a number of years after it was settled. The Cherokee would raid the area fairly often to test Buncombe County’s will to respond. If the county did not send out a party to seek revenge for their raids, the Cherokee would consider this a sign of weakness and increase
the number of raids on the area. Captain Edmund Sams was usually the man placed in charge of hunting down and punishing the raiders. Once Captain Sams and a friend of his were searching through the forest for some Cherokee raiders. Sams and his friend were going up a hill when Sams heard a gun go off. He turned around to see his friend had been shot and was dying. Captain Sams asked the man, “Where is he? Did you see him?” The man said, “Why Edmund, it was your gun.” Sams own gun had accidently fired as they were climbing the hill and it killed his best friend. Captain Edmund Sams grieved over the accident the rest of his life.
Part two will be in next month’s Town Crier.
Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area.
Editor’s Note: On September 10 at 2 pm, the Sons of the American Revolution will hold a grave marker dedication for Capt. Edmund Sams (1750–1845) and William Forster II (1748–1830) at Newton Academy Cemetery in Asheville, which is located just across Biltmore Avenue from Mission Hospital.