(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

John Selkirk and his family, including a spinster sister of Mrs. Selkirk, were bound for Virginia with a number of other immigrants in the small ship Prudence. Mr. Selkirk, a Presbyterian minister somewhat too liberal for his congregation at Thistlebrae Kirk, in Scotland, had decided to establish a new kirk in the Shenando or Great Valley of Virginia. Arriving in Williamsburg, where his oldest son Andrew was already living, he was introduced to Colonel Matthew Burke, who was developing a large tract of land in the valley and seeking settlers for it. John and Andrew Selkirk together purchased four hundred acres and prepared to set out for the valley. John had asked Colonel Burke how the Indians felt about having their lands occupied by white men but had been assured that there would be no trouble, since the lands had been obtained through treaties and since many Indians had moved farther west to find better hunting grounds.

Stephen Trabue, a friendly driver and guide, was to accompany the Selkirk family on part of the journey to the valley. As they traveled, he explained to them many of the conditions and details of daily living which they might expect in their new homes. Even Nancy Milliken, who had just become Mrs. Andrew Selkirk, would find life in the valley very difficult from that in Williamsburg, her former home.

Seven years later, John Selkirk had a congregation of two hundred in his Mt. Olivet Church, and Andrew had three hundred acres, three indentured youths to help him farm them, a grist mill, and ambitious plans for increasing his holdings and obtaining more helpers, including black slaves. John did not favor slavery, but Andrew saw nothing wrong with it as long as he treated his slaves humanely.

A few of John’s Calvinist church members objected to the joyousness in his sermons. Liking fire-and-brimstone threats from the pulpit, they complained that their minister did not believe in infant damnation and was even scornful of those who thought that certain evil people were capable of practicing witchcraft.

Shortly after Colonel Burke died during a visit to the home of his son Conan, who had married Elizabeth Selkirk and settled in Burke’s Tract, both Conan and John Selkirk decided to move a day’s journey west into Burke’s Land, an undeveloped tract which the colonel had also planned to fill with new settlers. There John established Mount Promise Church, and Conan looked forward to the growth of a thriving new community in what had been the wilderness. Some excitement was caused by a visit from a young surveyor, Mr. Washington, who reported that the French were expanding their colonization along the Ohio River and were moving eastward into Virginia lands. Also, the French had stirred up the Indians, especially the Shawnees, so that they had...

(The entire section is 1147 words.)