Yesterday we drove up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the Fort Pitt Museum. For the past two years they had a wonderful exhibit titled, “Pittsburgh, Virginia,” which focused on the events surrounding Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774, when the colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia both challenged eachother for ownership of Fort Pitt, nearly resulting in Pittsburgh becoming part of Virginia. One of our flintlocks and a document signed by Lord Dunmore were on display there, and so we had to go retrieve them, but also got the awesome opportunity of seeing the exhibit while the museum was closed, and also leaving with two of the items. Thanks to Mike Burke for giving us the grand tour. This is such a fantastic museum, and I can’t wait to see the next exhibit coming out in 2023….
“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.
This is the story of the logistics fueling the violent struggle for survival on the Virginia frontier. It’s a story of geography, geology, politics, murder, suicide, and wilderness warfare. It’s taken mostly from the handwritten materials of the legendary Jim Webb, a true Appalachian artist, and a close friend of ours, who is perhaps the last man standing to receive the oral tradition and history, handed down through generations, from the beginning to the end of this story. It’s a story about one important spot in Western Virginia, along the New River valley, near the present-day town of Wytheville, Virgina, at a place usually referred to as Fort Chiswell. It’s a story fueled by the desire for wealth, new opportunities, and adventure.
A popular tool in the days of the 18th century North American frontier was the “fire striker, or “strike-a-lite,” or “fire steel” or, well there are a number of names for these things. The purpose is obviously to start a fire. The design is simple: a piece of carbon steel, which is struck against a piece of flint, chert, or similar rock, thus making sparks, which would then fall onto some sort of tinder, thus creating fire.
Most trade axes found on French influenced archaeological sites were manufactured in France. The sites where trade axes were found coincides exactly with the areas where French influence was felt : Saint-Lawrence valley, the Richelieu and the Lac Champlain region, the Great-Lakes region, south of the Mississippi, etc. In isolated cases, a few French style axes have been found on the east coast of the United States. Some east coast areas must have had provisional, or secondary, trade routes for the French trade goods.
The French folding knife, a.k.a., “clasp knife” imported into the North American Fur Trade was one of the earliest known type of knife to be introduced to the New World – dating back to the 1600’s, possibly earlier. These blades have been recovered from French influenced sites throughout the territory of New France, which extended from Louisiana to Canada.
I stumbled upon some interesting entries in the personal papers of Thomas Jefferson. In his 1772 Memorandum Book, he discusses the real estate ventures of then Colonial, later General, Andrew Lewis’ claims throughout the Greenbrier Valley. And in these paragraphs, he mentions James Burnsides (Byrnside), four separate times, and calls him “obnoxious,” among other things.
This is yet another Biscayne Axe, a metal detecting ground find relic. They aren’t necessarily exciting or unusual, since they all look mostly the same. But they’re the real deal – no doubt about it, if that’s what you’re looking for. This was found in Addison, Vermont. These early 17th and 18th century axes seem to be found more often in Canada than in the U.S.A., but this was was found in the U.S.A. technically.