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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.

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.

Lead and Gunpowder in the Wilderness – Virginia Lead Mines Part 2

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….

Lead and Gunpowder in the Wilderness: the Virginia Lead Mines – Part 1

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.

Cleaning 250 year-old hewn white oak logs at Byrnside’s Fort

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.