William Shannon – Revolutionary War Soldier

Shannon Cemetery, Shelbyville, Shelby County, Kentucky

This little cemetery sitting at the back of the new Wal-Mart on Hwy 55 in Shelbyville, is the sight of much history.  The Shannon family, led by William Shannon, came to Shelby County, Kentucky, very early in the state’s history, settling on his large tracts of land received for fighting in the Revolutionary  War.  His brothers and sisters soon followed, many of which are buried with him in this small cemetery.

Samuel Shannon, Captain, Pennsylvania Militia, Revolutionary War, April 15, 1750 – Mary 14, 1813.  Martha Shannon, May 10, 1765 – February 23, 1838.

Samuel Shannon, who married Martha Bracken, born April 15, 1750, died May 14, 1813, early followed his brother to Kentucky.  The first record of land to Samuel is dated 1787.  He was closely related to his brother William in business matters; and was one of the chief legatees and the executor of William’s will.  His descendants often speak of his disregard for land, stating that he traded some off for a song, while some he let go for taxes.  Both of these men figured in the early Kentucky legislature.  Both had more or less to do with the early Indian wars and with the Revolutionary War.

William Shannon, Captain, Virginia Line, Revolutionary War, 1740-July 5, 1794.

History of Shelby County, Kentucky, George L. Willis, 1929

William Shannon

The name Shannon, in its different forms is widely distributed throughout the United States.  Although they are supposed to run back to a common ancestry in Ireland, there are several stocks in this country which seem t have no connection with one another.  So far as can be discovered at the present time, the earliest member of the branch to which the subject of my sketch belonged, was Thomas Shannon, who died in Sadesbury Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in April, 1737.  In his will, filed in the office of the Register of Wills, in Lancaster, he names five children, Samuel, John, Margaret, Anna and Thomas.  His farm was divided between his sons, John and Samuel, with the provision that his wife, Agnes, should be supported for the remainder of her life out of the share falling to Samuel.  The other children are variously provided for.

John Shannon is the only one of these children of whom any further record can be found.  He was one of the executors of his father’s will and presumably spent his life on the farm which he inherited.  He seems to have been a man of some standing in the community, for in June 1746, he was given a commission as captain to organize a company of men for an expedition against Canada.  The company was formed and sent to Albany, New York, where they spent the winter.  They were finally discharged, October 31, 1747, the attack upon Canada having been postponed.

John Shannon married Sarah Reid, the daughter of John Reid, of Delaware.  He probably died in the latter part of 1767, for on January 7, 1768, his son John, appeared before an orphan’s court at Lancaster, and asked for a division of the estate.  He was the father of eleven children, one of whom was William Shannon, whose life and adventures are the subject of this paper.

The exact date of the birth of William Shannon is not known, but he is understood to have been the oldest of the family.  His sister, Agnes, was born in 1744, which would place his birth somewhere about 1740.  Not much is known of his early life.  He seems to have settled in Virginia, at an early age, for his name appears on a roster of the militia o Augusta County, in 1758.  There is reason to believe that he was a member of Braddock’s expedition against Fort Du Quense.

During the war of the Revolution, his name appears in the records of the War Department, as ensign and lieutenant in Captain William Lewis’ company of the first Virginia regiment.  The company muster and payrolls carry his name until November 30, 1777, when they show that he had resigned, date not stated.  He probably served again at a later period for he is called Captain Shannon, in the family traditions.  There was a Captain William Shannon, who served as quartermaster under George Rogers Clark in his western expedition, but it has not been ascertained whether it was this one or not.

There is a tradition that he was a captain in Colonel Lochry’s regiment, which was sent down the Ohio River in the summer of 1781, to join General Clark, in his intended expedition against Detroit.  Captain Shannon was sent ahead with seven men to carry a letter to Clark, announcing the approach of reinforcements.  Near the present site of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, they were attacked by the Indians.  Several men were killed, and the rest, including Captain Shannon, were made prisoners.

Lochry, unaware of their capture, was attacked at the south of Lochry’s Creek, a short distance below Aurora, and defeated.  Forty-two were killed, including Colonel Lochry.  Shannon was carried north some distance, but was released or made his escape.

A difficulty arises in connection with this story from the fact that in the Pennsylvania Archives, Volume XIV, Page 698, the Captain Shannon of Lochry’s expedition is called Samuel.  Heitman’s Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army, speaks of a Captain Samuel Shannon, who was captured by the Indians on the Ohio, in 1781, carried north and put to death.  Whether this was same one or another is not known.  It is hoped that something may be discovered which will verify the story.  William Shannon is said to have been very much liked by the Indians, and they showed kindness to him on several occasions.

About the close of the Revolution, he settled in Kentucky.  He was a member of the Virginia Legislature (Jefferson County), in 1790, and of the Kentucky House of Representatives (Shelby County), in 1793.  He was an engineer and surveyed his own land, which he received from Virginia while Patrick Henry was Governor.  He took up large tracts of land in Kentucky – two hundred thousand, it is said.  The present city of Shelbyville, Kentucky was laid out on his farm, and he gave it a plot of ground for a public square.

He was preparing to go as an officer with Wayne on his expedition against the Indians of Ohio, in 1794, when he came to his death in a quarrel with John Felty.  He was struck on the head with a stone and died the next day, July 5, 1794.  He was never married.  His quarrel with Felty, resulted, his descendants say, from his resentment at language used by Felty in the hotel dining room.  In their difficulty he threw a dirk knife at Felty, inflicting a wound from which Felty also died.

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