Felix Renick’s Drawings, his interesting family, and his life as a scavengeologist on the Ohio Frontier

When I first came across this map, I immediately recognized the name, “Renick,” though I didn’t recall seeing it associated with the name Felix. In the Greenbrier Valley, there is still a “town” named Renick (though it’s mostly just an unincorporated neighborhood at this point, or even you could call it a “ghost town”), and there was a Renick’s Fort, built by a William Renick. To my knowledge, Renick’s Fort, although well described as to its location, has never been found – though it’s on my to-do list.

An extremely rare broadside with a map of the Shawnee settlements along the Scioto River, accompanied by a long account of Lord Dunmores War of 1774 and the subsequent captivity narrative of John Slover. The text is remarkable for evidence of the author’s deep respect for the Shawnee and regret for their harsh treatment at the hands of American frontiersmen. Felix Renick (1770/71-1848) Ohio settler Felix Renick was born in Virginia and moved with his brothers to the Scioto Valley in the late 1790s.

As it turns out, Felix Renick isn’t from the Greenbrier Valley – though some of his relatives did settle there. Felix was born in 1770, the son of one of several William Renicks, this one living on the south branch of the Potomac River, in Hardy County (West) Virginia. If the name sounds familiar, the Renick family (sometimes spelled “Renix”) is mentioned numerous times in the notes of the legendary historian, Lyman Draper, and also in Wither’s Chronicles of Border Warfare, as was Felix’s wife’s family – the Sees. It’s strange how many coincidences come together here.

The map is very well illustrated, showing the Shawnee villages and trails in the vicinity of Chillicothe, Ohio, including Grenadier Squaw’s Town (Nonhelema’s village, who was Cornstalk’s sister), the location of springs, Cornstalk’s village, as well as Gen. Andrew Lewis’ Camp Charlotte, during Dunsmore’s War.

In 1757, the Renick family was attacked by a war party of about 60 Shawnee. They found Robert Renick’s wife and children home alone, and kindapped his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Joshua, William, Betsy, Margaret, Nancy, Thomas, and Robert. The war party then went on to a neighboring home, where they found Robert, who was visiting. They then killed and scalped him, in front of his terrified family. The youngest child, shortly thereafter had his brains dashed out against a tree by one of the warriors due to the fact that he wouldn’t stop crying. Joshua, age five at the time, adopted easily into the tribe, and quickly became friends with a young Shawnee about his own age, named Tecumseh. Tecumseh made quite an impression on his white friend, as he thereafter did not want to return to his previous life.

Joshua Renick’s family never could get him to return to life as a British colonial subject in the east. He remained with the Indians, married an Indian woman, and eventually became a chief of the Miami tribe. In 1764, Elizabeth was ransomed by Col. Bouquet’s army, with two of her sons, William, and Robert. Another child returned later. Thereafter, Elizabeth had great difficult in getting any of her kids to return to living as white settlers. It’s an interesting story, to say the least. Now, here’s the connection with the Greenbrier Valley: One of Elizabeth’s children, William, became an early settler of the Greenbrier Valley, constructing “Renick’s Fort,” and then later building a beautiful home.

Here’s the approximate location of Renick’s Fort, as interpreted by me from the first hand documents which are currently known:

The approximate described location of Renick’s Fort in Greenbrier County, W. Va.

It is likely that this fort was more sizable than some of the other neighborhood forts, and was specifically mentioned as having been manned with “embodied corps”. . . .

It is mentioned as being occupied in 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782 and 1783 under [militia captain] Andrew Hamilton. Hamilton seems to have been promoted to major in 1782, at which point William Renick, who had been a Lt. under Hamilton, became Captain.

William Renick was at the battle of Point Pleasant and the murder of Cornstalk . . . . Pensioner Chapman describes its location as at the forks of Spring Creek, which is a tributary of the Greenbrier River in northern Greenbrier County.

Frontier Defense of the Greenbrier and Middle New River Country, by W. Stephen McBride, Kim A. McBride, and J. David McBride, Report No. 375, University of Kentucky, June 1996, at page 58.

In the late summer of 2018, using this description, and a few more, I went looking for Renick’s Fort, and these are my best guesses about where it stood, just going by the descriptions. But the old timers were known to be vague, so who knows. There’s only one way to find out, and I’d love to help look for evidence.

Here’s the location where William Renick ended up after the fort era, in a much more open area, close to the Greenbrier River near the mouth of Spring Creek, i.e., Renick, West Virginia. If you’ve ever driven from the south up to Snowshoe Ski Resort, you’ve probably had your head turned by this beauty on the left hand side of the road:

The Renick home, as seen from US Route 219 in present day Renick, WV. They relocated here after originally living at the site of Renick’s Fort. They are separate properties. This isn’t the easiest home to get a picture of, and I doubt they want me buzzing my drone over their front yard, unfortunately. I’d love to see it up close one day.

Here are some pics from modern-day Renick, W. Va., along the Greenbrier River near the confluence of Spring Creek.

In 1795, Felix married Hannah See, who came from a family with its own history of Shawnee attack and captivity, and one none-less interesting. Frederick See, Hannah’s uncle, had settled on Muddy Creek, in the Greenbrier Valley. A Shawnee war party killed Mr. See and his son-in-law, and kidnapped the women and children. The attack was actually carried out by Cornstalk, on July 16, 1763. Shawnee and a large war party basically destroyed the entire swath of settlements in the Greenbrier Valley. But the Sees got the brunt of it, along with the Yokums and the Clendenins. Together, the brutal attacks on these three families are known as the Muddy Creek Massacre – though the Clendenin attack did not occur on Muddy Creek, per se, but on the Big Levels near present day Lewisburg, WV.

Also during those massacres is when the first cabin/blockhouse of James Byrnside, was burned, causing him to flee with his rifle still propped up on a tree, and his powder horn hanging on a branch. It would be five years before anyone returned to the valley from safer parts of Virginia.

Byrnside’s Fort

In his explorations into Ohio and Kentucky, Felix actually ran into one of these captives, who were relatives by marriage, living in a cabin on the Licking River. She was an old widow now named “Mrs. Johnson” – who was one of the kidnapped children of Frederick See.

The See family lived on “Muddy Creek” at the time they were captured in I’m not sure where on “Muddy Creek” the Sees lived, but I suspect it was in the vicinity, or even within, “Keeney’s Fort.” Keeney’s Fort is sometimes used interchangeably with “Arbuckle’s Fort,” but it cannot be the same place. Keeney’s Fort was there early on, and is even shown in some early maps of the Virginia wilderness in the French Indian War era. Arbuckle’s Fort, on the other hand, wasn’t built until the Dunmore’s War era, circa early 1770’s. Confusing the matter, I believe the Keeney family owned the land upon which the fort was built by the leader of the local branch of the Virginia Militia, Matthew Arbuckle. Was Keeney’s Fort in the same exact location? Somewhere else? Another rabbit hole I desperately need to go down and figure out. And by “need,” I mean I wish I had the time to research it. Someone send me a really big case I can settle, and I’ll take six months off to focus on this history mystery….

Here are some pics of Muddy Creek, in the vicinity of Arbuckle’s Fort, and probably Keeney’s Fort:

The point of land at the confluence of Mill Creek and Muddy Creek. Muddy Creek runs at the tree line in the distance. This is Mill Creek. This point of land was the site of Arbuckle’s Fort, which I believe is a different and later fort than the original Keeney’s Fort, which was probably associated with the See Family.

A pic I took of the beautiful Scioto River near modern-day Chillicothe, Ohio, probably at around the spot where the Indian trail used to ford it. I say that because I took the photo from the old turnpike bridge, and generally those things were placed on the old Indian trails, which were infamous for being uber-efficient, as far as distance, convenience, and elevation goes:

Talking again about Felix, stories told to him from his family members, probably over crackling and smoky log cabin fireplaces, and also probably by the Renicks of Greenbrier, who were in Dunsmore’s War, convinced him to trek out West to the Ohio country, to explore:

Some of our neighbors who had served in Dunmore’s campaign in 1774, gave accounts of the great beauty and fertility of the western country, and particularly the Scioto Valley, which inspired me with a desire to explore it as early as I could make it convenient.

I accordingly set out from the south branch of the Potomac for that purpose, I think about the first of October, 1798, in company with two friends, Joseph Harness and Leonard Stump, both of whom have long since gone hence.

We took with us what provisions we could conveniently carry and a good rifle to procure more when necessary, and further prepared ourselves to camp whenever night overtook us. Having a long journey before us, we traveled slow, and reached Clarksburg the third night, which was then near the verge of the western settlements in Virginia, except along the Ohio river.

The American Pioneer, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1842, pp. 73-80; cited by Ohio History Journal, Felix Renick, Pioneer, by Charles Sumner Plumb, Professor of Animal Husbandry, Ohio State University, https://resources.ohiohistory.org/ohj/search/display.php?page=14&ipp=20&searchterm=crawford&vol=33&pages=3-66

I had never previously heard of Felix Renick, despite having read the new book, The Pioneers,” by the renowned historian, David McCullough, which focuses on the early settlement of Ohio. He was somewhat of an early scavengeologist, really. He combined his artistic talents with his researching and investigative abilities, and also his love of excitement and exploration, to explore this early frontiers, and document what he found. This Chillicothe map is really very well done, and it’s even annotated, with him telling the stories of exciting events, such as the burning of Col. Crawford at the stake, following his disastrous military expedition.

The versatility of Mr. Renick may well be illustrated at this point. He took an active part in historical discussion and led in the work of this new society. A number of his journals and letters that have been loaned to the author are models of good penmanship and are expressed with much clearness of thought, though the spelling and punctuation is more or less deficient, but not unduly so for a pioneer American settler.

Ohio History Journal, Felix Renick, Pioneer, by Charles Sumner Plumb, Professor of Animal Husbandry, Ohio State University, https://resources.ohiohistory.org/ohj/search/display.php?page=14&ipp=20&searchterm=crawford&vol=33&pages=3-66

Later, Felix Renick, and his brother, Robert, became fairly famous for importing fancy English cattle into Ohio, and then selling them to other farmers in surrounding states. One of the areas who brought the cattle was to where his relatives lived in Greenbrier County. For that very reason, many historians say that thanks to Felix, Greenbrier County still today has a great reputation for high quality cattle production.

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