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May 6, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: “The Western Sampson,” Part III

Courtesy Peter Francisco Society.

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Notables: “The Western Sampson,” Part I

It is a pity that this article about Peter Francisco in the Alexandria Gazette is unsigned. Apparently, the author knew Francisco personally and heard the following story while the man himself still lived in Buckingham County. It has been often repeated over the years, the colorful details very. This telling, complete with “Kaintuck” dialect, is particularly charming.


Many other anecdotes are told of Francisco, illustrative of his immense strength and personal prowess. At Camden, where Gates was defeated, he retreated, and after running along the road some distance he sat down to rest himself. He was accosted by a British dragoon, who presented a pistol and demanded his immediate surrender. His gun being empty, he feigned submission and said he would surrender—at the same time remarking that his gun was of no further use to him, he presented it sideways to the trooper, who, on reaching for it, threw himself off his guard, when Francisco, quick as thought, ran him through with the bayonet, and as he fell from his horse he mounted him and continued his retreat. Overtaking his commanding officer, Col. Mayo, of Powhatan, he gave up the animal, for which act of generosity the colonel afterwards presented him with a thousand acres of land in Kentucky.

The following anecdote exemplifying his peaceful nature and his strength, is also told of Francisco. How true it is we cannot say, but we tell it as it was told to us many years ago, while he was still living in Buckingham County.

One day while working in his garden he was accosted by a stranger who rode up to the fence and inquired if he knew where a man by the name of Francisco lived?

Raising himself up from his work, and eyeing his interrogator, who appeared to be one of the “half-horse, half-alligator” breed of Kentuckians, he replied — “Well stranger, I don’t know of any other person by that name in these parts but myself.”

“Well, I reckon you ain’t the man I want. I want to find a great fighting man I’ve heard tell so much about. The feller they say can whip all creation and Kaintuck to boot.”

“I can’t tell you, stranger, where you’ll find that man. I don’t know such a man,” said Francisco—resuming his work as a hint to the other that the conference had ended, but the Kentuckian was not to be bluffed off, as he would term it. “Look ‘ere, stranger,” said he—returning to the charge, “what might your name be?”

“My name is Peter Francisco, at your service.” . . .

Coming next: Buckingham Notables: “The Western Sampson,” Part IV

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