While Thomas Jefferson became Vice President of the United States in 1797, he also became President of the American Philosophical Society – a position once held by Benjamin Franklin, who founded the society in 1743. When Jefferson arrived in DC to assume these positions, he had with him some massive bones which came out of a cave in the Greenbrier Valley.
The M1841 U.S. percussion rifle, manufactured in Harpers Ferry, (West) Virginia, is one of the best-looking U.S. military issue rifles in our nation’s history. You may know it by its other name – the “Mississippi Rifle,” or by its characteristic brass hardware, short length, and walnut stock. But did you know how it obtained its name, given that it was made in West Virginia?
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.”
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.
At the start of chapter 29 of his Life on the Mississippi (1883), Mark Twain mentions passing by “… what was once the formidable Fort Pillow, memorable because of the massacre perpetrated there during the war … we must bunch Anglo-Saxon history together to find the fellow to the Fort Pillow tragedy.”
Another epic, at least to me, document find during this period of near-apoloclypse. The scavenging must go on. This is a 1768 deed from Anthony Van Schaick, his wife, Christina Van Schaick, and what seems to me to be Anthony’s elderly father, Goosen Van Schaick, for a whole lot of land in the area of upstate New York known as the “Half Moon” which was deeded to the Van Schaick family in the 17th century. It’s roughly located in the area known as the “Sprouts of the Mohawk River.” This is where the Mohawk goes over a large falls, and sprouts into separate channels, going around several islands, at the confluence with the Hudson River.
I was able to find this original document signed by William Ward, from Champaign County, Ohio, dated October 8, 1813. I didn’t immediately recognize the name, but then I realized who this was, and what his connection was to our Greenbrier Valley, and some famous 18th century frontier exploits involving the famous frontiersman, Simon Kenton. …
Solomon Town was a small 18th century Indian village named after an old chief named Solomon. During the Revolutionary War, the notorious Simon Girty lived here, and even brought famous frontiersman Simon Kenton here after saving his life in 1778. This rare double-bladed belt axe was found here. It’s blacksmith forged. The haft is a contemporary replacement.