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Public Notices

April 16, 2014

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Revolutionary War Vet Gets His Due, Marker

Sun Photo by Bill Jones

Tim Massey, commander-in-chief of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge, right, welcomes the audience to Saturday's Patriots Day ceremony off Knob Creek Road in Cocke County.

Originally published: 2010-04-19 12:46:23
Last modified: 2010-04-20 05:53:51

Historic Groups

Stage Ceremony

For Joseph Conway

ON THE WEB: Video at



BRIAR THICKET -- The Tennessee Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) held its annual Patriots Day Celebration in this Cocke County community on Saturday morning.

The service, which had never before been held in East Tennessee, featured a grave-marking ceremony for Lt. Joseph Conway, a veteran of seven years' service during the American Revolution with the military forces of Virginia.

As part of the Saturday event, Greene County resident Tim Massey, commander-in-chief of the Society of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge, honored Joseph Conway as one of three brothers who spent a bitter winter encampment at Valley Forge with Gen. George Washington's Continental Army.

Conway and three of his brothers survived service in Virginia's military forces during the American Revolution, according to Massey.

But part of Joseph Conway's Revolutionary War service was spent as a British prisoner of war on a prison ship in the harbor of Charleston, S.C., according to Mohawk historian Donahue Bible, who has heavily researched the Conway family.

After the war, Joseph Conway became the third of three Conway brothers who moved to what was then Greene County, N.C., according to Bible, who also spoke during Saturday's event, which was held on the land along Knob Creek Road that Joseph Conway once owned.

The event began shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday at the Conway family cemetery, on land now owned by Carroll Holdway.


About 200 people, including a number of Conway descendants, braved the threat of rain to watch, listen and take photos during the ceremony.

Period music for the occasion was provided by the Watauga Fifes & Drums from Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton and authenticity was added by re-enactors clad as 18th century Tennessee frontiersmen.

A welcome to the audience was offered by Massey, commander-in-chief of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge.

Terry Davenport, general president of the Sons of the Revolution, another heritage association similar to the Sons of the American Revolution, offered greetings.

David Whaley, president of the Sons of the Revolution who was dressed as a Tennessee frontiersman for the occasion, then described the arduous lives led by Revolutionary War soldiers such as Joseph Conway.

Following Whaley's remarks, Rick Hollis, the president of the Tennessee Society of the Sons of the American Revolution also spoke before historian Bible took to the microphone.

Following Bible's remarks, representatives of various historical organizations, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution and the Sons of the Revolution came forward to formally salute the grave of Joseph Conway on which wreathes had been placed earlier.

After flint-lock rifle salutes to Conway and the fallen veterans of all American Wars, Ronnie Lail, president of the Watauga Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, admonished audience members not to allow their children to forget men such as Joseph Conway.

Lail also presented SAR membership certificates to Pastor Steve Owenby, Owenby's father Carson Owenby and the pastor's son, Joshua Owenby.


In an article published in the Fall 2009 edition of the newsletter of the of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge, Bible had written that Joseph Conway's brother, Capt. Henry Conway, had purchased a 600-acre North Carolina land grant on the north side of the Nolichucky River at the mouth of Little Chuckey Creek in 1784.

What became the village of Warrensburg developed later near Henry Conway's property, Bible wrote.

Two of Conway's daughters married sons of John Sevier, who was Tennessee's first governor. A third Conway daughter married James "Devil Jack" Sevier, a nephew of John Sevier, according to Bible.

A few years after Henry Conway purchased land along the Nolichucky River in Greene County, Joseph Conway purchased four North Carolina land grants, totaling nearly 1,000 acres, on the south side of the Nolichucky about a mile downstream from Henry Conway's property.

When Cocke County was carved from Greene County in 1797, Joseph Conway's property became part of the new county, historian Bible said.

Because of his service in the Revolutionary War, Joseph Conway also had been granted some 2,400 acres of land in the Virginia Military Reservation in what would later become the state of Ohio and apparently divided his time between his holdings in Tennessee and his property in Ohio, prior to his death at age 45 in 1802, according to Bible.

Although a fire that destroyed the Cocke County Courthouse in the 1870s destroyed Joseph Conway's will along with other early records, a copy of Conway's Will had been filed in Highland County, Ohio, because he owned property there as well, Bible said on Saturday.

Using the Ohio will, historians have been able to deduce that Joseph Conway was buried on the land he owned in Cocke County, historian Bible said.

After finding a Conway family cemetery, that contained grave markers for Joseph Conway's granddaughter and great-granddaughter was found on property known to have once been owned by Joseph Conway, historians decided that Joseph Conway likely was buried in the same cemetery as well.

Bible said there was no identifiable headstone for Joseph Conway in the cemetery, but noted that his grave likely was marked only with a "field stone" that wore away over the years.

A new marker identifying Joseph Conway as a Lieutenant in Virginia's 14th Regiment of Foot (18th century parlance for infantry), has been placed in the Conway family cemetery, which is located in what is now a hay field on a farm along Knob Creek Road in Cocke County just across the Nolichucky River from Greene County.

Bible purchased and had installed the new military-style grave marker for Joseph Conway.

A third Conway brother, William Conway, purchased a 600-acre North Carolina land grant on the north (Greene County) side of the Nolichucky River near the mouth of Lick Creek in 1783, according to Bible.

Their sister, Susannah Conway Crosby, also moved, with her husband and children, to Greene County in the 1790s to land they purchased along Lick Creek, Bible wrote in the 2009 newsletter article.

On Saturday, Bible said the graves of William and Henry Conway had been marked earlier.

James Sevier Conway, son of Henry Conway, became the first elected governor of Arkansas when it became a state in 1836. Elias Nelson Conway, another son of Henry Conway, also served as an early governor of Arkansas, according to Donahue Bible.

In addition, Bible said, Henry Conway's grandson, Ambrose Hundley Sevier, served as a U.S. senator from Arkansas.

For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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