Performed Outstanding Services In This Section And Is Regarded As Soldier, Surgeon and Statesman
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
With the exception of Andrew Lewis the most noted son of this county was probably Col. William Fleming, who performed great service both as a soldier and a statesman for this country during the French and Indian was and during the Revolutionary war. In 1781 he was chairman of the Council of State, an office which is somewhat similar to that of Lieutenant Governor today so that when Thomas Jefferson resigned as governor he was acting governor of this state for a short time.
His remains are buried and Bellmont, where the Blue Hills golf course is located one mile northeast of the city of Roanoke. The grave is preserved but no conspicuous monument marks the place of his burial.
Colonel Fleming was born in Jedborough, Scotland, on February18, 1729, the son of William Fleming, a prominent Englishman. Col. Fleming’s grandfather was the man who had informed the English of the approach of the Spanish Armada and as a reward for this service was given a large English estate called Westmoreland. The father of William Fleming became financially embarrassed and sold the estate, accepting a political appointment in Scotland.
In his youth Col. Fleming received a very good education since he had a private tutor as s boy and later graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh. He immediately joined the English navy as a surgeon upon graduation. In one of the wars with Spain he was captured and taken to Spain as a captive. In a Spanish prison he suffered agonizing misery and would probably have died had it not been for the fact that a Spanish woman provided him with food and clothing. He was imprisoned in a place that had a courtyard adjoining this woman’s house. From her window she was able to furnish him with supplies which enabled him to withstand the treatment at the hands of the Spanish authorities.
After his release in Spain he came directly to this country arriving at Norfolk in 1755. He immediately entered the army as an ensign of the First Virginia regiment of which George Washington was a colonel and he was likewise regiment surgeon. He was promoted to the rank of captain when stationed at Staunton and when he was engaged in the battle of Point Pleasant he ranked as a colonel.
It was at Point Pleasant that he suffered injuries that rendered him incapable of serving during the Revolutionary war. At Point Pleasant he was shot twice below the elbow and once in the chest. Although very badly wounded he endeavored to take command of the fight against the Indians when his two superior officers were killed. This action caused his lungs to protrude through the wound in his chest and it was thought he would not survive.
On reaching his home in this county he made the following notation is his diary: “Reached home in safety, being just three months gone. Praise be to God.”
He had moved to Bellmont is 1770 and in April, 1773, was married to Nancy Christian. Three sons and three daughters were born to this union and all became citizens of more or less prominence.
For several terms he served as state senator from this district. Because of the fact that he bore the same name as another man who was a member of congress it has been assumed by some historians that he was a member of that body but that is not a fact.
Had it not been for the fact that he suffered lasting injuries at the battle of Point Pleasant he would probably have had a far more brilliant military career and his political career might have been one of more note.
Although he played a conspicuous part in the early history of this section no pictures of him are available today. That is probably one reason why he has not been given the acclaim that is due a man who performed such useful service for his adopted state and country.
-Prepared by Lisa King
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