Samuel Gwinn is believed to have settled on the Greenbrier River at the same time as his friend James Graham, building a log cabin across the Greenbrier River from Graham, circa 1770. The log cabin is now gone, unlike the Graham cabin, but I did track it down. And there is an old photo of it still standing. Originally this was in Greenbrier County. Then Monroe County…. and finally, Summers County.
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The Gwinn “Manor House” is still standing on the property, built in 1868. It’s a beautiful structure, though I couldn’t get a good vantage point to take a photo of it. I’m sure I looked like a stalker climbing the side of the road to get a look at it. There’s some great info available online from the NRHP application on the Gwinn family and these structures.
The original land grant of this property was to Samuel Gwinn Sr., who along with James Graham (who settled just across the river) were the first permanent settlers of Summers County in 1770. Samuel constructed a large 20 x 25 two story log house which was located 300 yards south of the subject Manor House. The existing Manor House was build by his Grandson, “Long Andy Gwinn, the county’s wealthiest man.
The log house was dismantled in the 1960’s by the Gwinns and utilized in the construction of the Savannah Inn at Lewisburg.”
“Samuel Gwinn Sr., during the period 1771-1776, was a scout and spy on the frontier in the Indian wars and fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant.
Along with James Graham, Samuel Gwinn Sr. was the first permanent settler in the area (Lowell/Pence Springs today). “It was generally believed that this settlement, when made
by Col. Graham was one of the first made in this immediate region, if not the very first.” (Miller p. 49).
According to Samuel’s nephew, Andrew Gwinn, at the Battle of Point Pleasant, Samuel shot an Indian in the heel, that being the only body part exposed from behind the tree the Indian was using for cover. The Indian crawled back to the native lines.
The bottom land, along flood plains, was rich for agriculture and the rolling meadows would provide needed pasture for livestock. Samuel’s property was along the South side of the Greenbrier River while the Graham’s had settled on the North side. Samuel built his home twenty feet by twenty-five feet with two stories. The boys probably slept upstairs while the girls slept downstairs with their parents. Few windows were used in these early homes, mostly due to the threat of attack. A 14′ by 14′ meat house was also built on the property and may still survive. It appears to be constructed near the same time as the log house, built from squared logs. It included hand forged nails, cast iron butt hinges, and a Norfolk lock typical of the time period. The large stone fireplace in the main house provided heat in the winter months and a place to cook throughout the rest of the year. Unfortunately, they did not get to stay in their cabin the whole year.
Life in 18th century near Lowell was perilous. Shortly after Samuel brought his young family to their new home, he was called out on duty to help in the protection against Indian raids. In 1776, he reported spending five months at Arbuckle’s Fort, about 12 miles north of his home.
Arbuckle’s Fort was located where the Muddy Creek meets the Mill Creek. Just a year later he was at Thompson’s fort for another five months. I’m not certain if he always took his family with him to the forts, but we know in some cases he did. In his own words Samuel said “All the people of the settlement took their families to the forts in the summer months where we lived pretty much in common. We would turn out all in a body and work each others corn and potato patches by turns. Whilst we would be working some one or two would be watching for Indians. We worked and watched by turns. We selected from among ourselves some one in whom we had confidence as a sort of leader or Captain- and in this way we got along as well as we could.”
At other times, the families would be at their own cabins. They would only go to the fort if there was a call that the Indians were about. There are numerous cases of reports of Indians. Some families spent only a few days at the fort, while others may have spent months there depending on the threat and the decision of the family. We know of one specific decision, by the Graham family, that proved to deadly.
James Graham and his wife Florence lived just across the Greenbrier River from Samuel Gwinn’s land. There home was of similar construction, but larger with dimensions of 24″ by 30′. Today, there is a pedestrian bridge that still links these two properties. In the late summer of 1777, word spread through the community that the Indians were once again in the area, forcing the whole community to go to the fort. “After being in the fort for a short time, possibly two or three days, and no further signs of Indians having been seen or reported, James Graham, hoping the alarm to have been ill-founded, proposed to those in the fort that, if some of the men would go and stay with him a night, he and his family would go over home. Accordingly, they did so, some of the men in the fort volunteering to go with him. Shortly after he went home, either the same night or later, his house was attacked by the Indians.”
The winter months however, seemed to remain a relative time of tranquility. The Shawnee rarely made raids against the settlers in these cold and snowy months. Samuel said “I returned to my cabin and devoted the winter to hunting.” I’m not certain how long Samuel and his family had to live this way, back and forth between forts and the cabin, but we do know he was stationed at Thompson’s fort in 1778 when word reached the militia that Fort Donnally, just north of Lewisburg was under attack. The attack at Fort Donnally was one of the largest scale attacks by the Shawnee on any fort in the area.
Samuel was certainly one of the sixty -six men who arrived at 4 P.M. to offer assistance. He was at Fort Donnally for five days.