We had great turnout at our first open house at Byrnside’s Fort on Friday evening, June 3, Farmer’s Day weekend 2022 here in Union, West Virginia. Here’s also a couple pics of the Farmer’s Day parade on Saturday was so long, it reportedly took an hour and a half to finish. I was limited to watching it via drone however, since I had chicken wings on the grill. The little town of Union hosts thousands of people each year for this little celebration of rural life. Even for the open house on Friday evening, so many people turned out that I didn’t even get a chance to speak with everyone. We learned some great ideas for the next open house, which we’ll try to get scheduled soon. Thanks everyone for showing up, as well as for the numerous folks who reached out to send regrets. Here are a few pics.
This antique powder horn is dated 1777 and belonged to John Over. He was drafted into the Lancaster County militia in 1777 and sent to guard the frontier gaps and fords along the Delaware River. One can imagine him passing time that summer, scratching his name and date onto his horn, in a manner much like we may doodle during zoom meetings today. He would serve in the subsequent years as well in the war, which we know was quite interesting, since his pension statement survives, detailing his service.
This 18th century iron cooking kettle was found in the yard at Byrnside’s Fort. Here it is next to a larger non-excavated example, which survived at a nearby fort site about 9 miles away. Usually you find them in much smaller pieces. These early examples generally have no markings on them, other than casting marks and designs. This example appears to have been used until completely worn out, and then buried in a nearby pit with other refuse. This was one of those simple necessities which would have been carried over the mountains via pack horse, utilizing precious cargo space. Therefore they were used until the bottom eventually failed, which is probably what happened with this kettle.
Few people realize that there was a Revolutionary War battle in West Virginia’s Greenbrier Valley. It wasn’t fought between the British and Americans, but rather between the native allies of the British and the frontier settlers and militiamen of Virginia’s Greenbrier Valley. I’ve previously researched the site, and even found a human tooth, possibly from the battle. Check out the recent drone footage of the site, which provides a unique perspective on one of West Virginia’s few Revolutionary War sites.
In June of 2019, I wrote about the relatively unknown Gwinn home, well maintained and preserved along the Greenbrier River at a dot-on-the-map known as Lowell, West Virginia. This is now in Summers County, West Virginia, just barely across the border from Monroe County, and indeed originally a part of Monroe County (then Virginia). On Saturday, February 12, 2022, I finally made my way back over there to attempt to acquire some better photographs of the place and surrounding area. Sometimes in the winter time you can get a better view of things, without the leaves on the trees and tall grasses and other foliage. But for some reason this place just really doesn’t like to be photographed, instead preferring to remain in the shadows.
On the evening of Friday, January 24, 2022, I flew my drone over Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The setting sun appeared to be shining a spotlight on the old battleground from Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774. From this angle you get a great view of the perspective of the battlefield. General Lewis’s army was camped right here at the point. However, the battle itself took place throughout what is modern-day Point Pleasant. There’s a lot of history buried on this little stretch of ground….
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….
Cook’s Fort was one of the larger Revolutionary War era frontier forts in the Greenbrier Valley of Virginia (now West Virginia), constructed around 1774, seeing active use from 1774 through the early 1780s. The general location of Cook’s Fort has always been known, though the exact location had been lost to history. A few years ago I tried to locate the fort via metal detector, to no avail. Recently however, archaeologists using ground penetrating radar were able to locate it and subsequently excavated the remnants of the old stockade walls, which are basically dark stains in the ground from the vertical stockade logs having rotted into the soil. The excavation has now been backfilled, and soon grass will once again hide the fort’s outline, so I recently flew my new drone over the site to photograph the actual fort’s outline on the ground.
At the auction of the contents of the Dickson home, I found a small framed silhouette off to the side. On the back was written, “Sampson Mathews.” I knew the name, though I couldn’t immediately place it. I googled it, and then subsequently determined to stay until the end of the auction, if necessary, to bid on this piece. I recalled that the name was familiar, for good reason. A quick google refreshed my memory that Sampson Mathews was one of the Mathews Brothers who owned and operated the “Mathews Trading Post” on the Greenbrier River in the early 1770s, the ledgers of which survive to this day in the possession of the Greenbrier Historical Society. We stuck it out, eventually acquiring the silhouette. I was the only bidder, jumping at the extremely low opening bid, and then breathing a sigh of relief when the hammer dropped. Such is the exciting thing about auctions: the chance at finding hidden treasure at treasure-hunting prices.
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.