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18th Century items found at an early cabin site illustrates early frontier life in the Greenbrier Valley

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.

Lewis and Clark’s “War Axes”

The phrase “Missouri War Axe” really has two different meanings. From my understanding, it was contemporary collectors who termed the “MWA” phrase, referring to what are generally 19th century large flared axe shaped tomahawks, sometimes without shaped cutouts. However, the term was derived, at least in part, from the Lewis and Clark journal descriptions of the “war axes” or “battle axes” they observed in the possession of the western Indians during their famous journey. They ended up setting up a blacksmithing business to cater to this “war axe” trade, both manufacturing new ones, as well as repairing existing examples.

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.

Some preservation work on 18th century knives, spoons, and thimbles from Byrnside’s Fort

This was an old knife found in the yard. Fortunately it still had a little bit of the bone handle with the cross cut design on it. Those get really crumbly and want to fall off. Moreover, it’s difficult to restore/preserve the iron portion of the knife without destroying the bone. I did my best though, and glued the bone to the tang, and also put a sealant on it to stop any further crumbling.

#FixedBladeFriday – Who doesn’t love pics of antique knives?

There are plenty of books out there on swords, powder horns, and other objects. But surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot out there on antique American knives. In his 1984 book, Madison Grant wrote one of the definitive books on antique knives, with pictures of many examples, albeit in black and white, and with a …

Read more#FixedBladeFriday – Who doesn’t love pics of antique knives?