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18th Century items found at an early cabin site illustrates early frontier life in the Greenbrier Valley

Recently, a friend of mine, Bill Burns, happened upon an early log cabin site just North of Union, West Virginia and Byrnside’s Fort. After finishing most of the preservation work on the items, he let me go through and photograph them. Sites like this provide interesting information on the lives of people in what was the remote frontier in the 18th century. It always blows my mind that you find these large fancy shoe buckles on the frontier.

Lewis and Clark’s “War Axes”

The phrase “Missouri War Axe” really has two different meanings. From my understanding, it was contemporary collectors who termed the “MWA” phrase, referring to what are generally 19th century large flared axe shaped tomahawks, sometimes without shaped cutouts. However, the term was derived, at least in part, from the Lewis and Clark journal descriptions of the “war axes” or “battle axes” they observed in the possession of the western Indians during their famous journey. They ended up setting up a blacksmithing business to cater to this “war axe” trade, both manufacturing new ones, as well as repairing existing examples.

18th Century Betty Lamp From the Virginia Frontier

My metal detecting buddy Bill Burns found this scrap of iron near the cave spring at Byrnside’s Fort. After finding it, he set it on top of a fence post, believing it to be farm junk. After noticing it on top of the fence about a year later, I immediately suspected this to be an early “Betty Lamp,” a type of grease-based lighting device. Basically an iron lamp with a bowl for some type of grease for fuel, a lid of some sort, and a spot for a wick. The shape is right. You can see that there was a hollow reservoir at some point, with a hinged lid. You can see the remnants of the curved upright handle, which would hang on an iron hanger of some sort. This would have been forged out of wrought iron by a blacksmith, and would be consistent with the lighting options available at Byrnside’s Fort during the fort occupation of the site, circa 1770-1782. It also could have been early 19th century. But it’s primitive construction suggests earlier, to me.

Finds and History from a 1690 Colonial American Shipwreck

The attack on Quebec was a failure. They encountered bad weather, which delayed their arrival until mid-October. By this time, None of the forces ever came within a kilometer of the city walls. Several of the ships were damaged by cannon fire from the city. They Count Frontenac, the Governor General of New France, had assembled around 2,700 defenders. The fleet suffered brutal cold weather and smallpox had broken out. Accomplishing nothing, they gave up and headed home, up the St. Lawrence and out to sea. But their misfortunes continued. They encountered storms, separating the fleet and blowing some off-course as far as the West Indies. Four of the ships were wrecked, with two companies of men completely lost.

Spontoon Style Pipe Tomahawks in Colonial America

“Spontoon” style pipe tomahawks are perhaps the earliest style of pipe tomahawk, which itself is a truly North American invention arising from the clash of cultures and power converging in 18th century colonial America. Early europeans arriving in the new world commonly carried pole-arms with them, which were relics-themselves from European battlefields and the old manners of waging war.

A Possibly-Spanish Plug Bayonet

Believed to have borrowed the name of the French city of Bayonne, the bayonet rose to prominence as a vital military weapon during the last half of the 17th c. Arriving in Virginia in the 1670s, the first of the type are referred to as “plug” bayonets, being little more than daggers with tapered handles which were “plugged” into the muzzles of the muskets. Earlier iron-mounted examples were quickly replaced by cast-brass hilted bayonets by the late 1680s, and all were obsolete shortly thereafter.