Here’s a long-overdue update on the Byrnside’s Fort preservation project. Almost all the plaster is off the log walls and ceilings. The logs, as well as the downstairs ceilings, were cleaned by pressure washer. It’s been a few days of drying since these photos were taken, and it has turned out nicely.
This is Part 2 on the Virginia New River Lead Mines. Check out Part 1, if you missed it…. These blog posts are excerpts of the materials provided to me by my good friend, Jim Webb, a lifelong resident of the New River area of Virginia, mixed in with some of my editing, commentary, and scavenging experience. One little spot in Virginia, now completely abandoned and mostly lost to history, played an amazing part in American history. During the 18th century on the Virginia frontier, this little known spot was the center of activity, and possibly made the difference between life and death….
This is the best way I’ve found so far to clean the interior side of the original (extremely hard) white oak hand hewn logs. This is the Northwest second floor corner. Since this was eventually turned into a formal entry way, long before the plaster was installed over the logs, they were given various coats of whitewash white paint, in order to make the walls look like they were plaster, rather than logs. Such was the trend, since there was nothing glamorous about having a log plantation house.
“The Girl I left Behind”, also known as “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, is an English folk song dating back to Elizabethan era. It is said to have been played when soldiers left for war or a naval vessel set sail. According to other sources the song originated in 1758 when English Admirals Hawke and Rodney were observing the French fleet. The first printed text of the song appeared in Dublin in 1791. A popular tune with several variations, “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, may have been imported into America around 1650 as ‘Brighton Camp’, of which a copy dating from around 1796 resides in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
I recently discovered additional Revolutionary War veteran pension applications mentioning Byrnside’s Fort. These first-hand narratives, mostly from the 1830s, are the recollections of the 18th century frontier soldiers of the Greenbrier Valley. They’re the best documentation we have on life and service on the Virginia frontier. They paint a good picture of the importance of Byrnside’s Fort, as well as James Byrnside himself during the Revolutionary War era. There’s strong evidence through these narratives that our fort was in active military use from around 1774 through 1782, which for the most part is the entire timeline of Lord Dunmore’s War and the American Revolution.
When you travel in our southern mountains, one of the first things that will strike you is that about every fourth or fifth farmer has a tiny tub-mill of his own. Tiny is indeed the word, for there are few of these mills that can grind more than a bushel or two of corn in a day; some have a capacity of only half a bushel in ten hours of stead grinding. Red grains of corn being harder than white ones, it is a humorous saying in the mountains that “a red grain in the gryste (grist) will stop the mill.”