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Byrnside’s Fort Open House – Farmer’s Day Weekend 2022

Join us on Friday, June 3, 2022 from 5 pm to 8 pm at the site of Byrnside’s Fort, 1 mile South of Union, West Virginia on Willow Bend Road, for an open house. This is Friday evening during Union’s annual Farmer’s Day celebration. Come check out the preservation progress on Byrnside’s Fort, as well as the artifacts we’ve found. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page:

The Discovery of Cook’s Fort on Indian Creek

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.

Special Guest Visits Byrnside’s Fort

This weekend we were honored to have a very special guest visit Byrnside’s Fort. Dr. Ron Ripley is a renowned local historian who authored the fort’s National Register of Historic Places nomination back in 1993. In fact, this is all we knew about the property prior to beginning the project in early 2019. In the materials he prepared, he theorized about the log structure inside the old plaster walls, none of which was visible. On Sunday he got to see the logs with all the plaster removed, as well as check out many of the artifacts and relics we found. We had been waiting a long time to show him everything. It was pretty special.

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.

Locating James Byrnside’s 1774 survey: Tracing Virginia’s Nutty Real Estate History and Translating Handwritten Land Documents

We can trace history through the documentation left by our forefathers in the courthouse land books. When it came to real estate, they spared no ink. I found a circa 1774 survey of the Byrnside’s Fort property from a 1780 land grant by Thomas Jefferson. You’d think it would be easy to use that to …

Read moreLocating James Byrnside’s 1774 survey: Tracing Virginia’s Nutty Real Estate History and Translating Handwritten Land Documents

Last Will and Testament of John Byrnside (1763-1816) 2nd white child born in Monroe County (West) Va.

I recently found the 1816 Last Will and Testament of John Byrnside, who lived at Willowbrook from 1770 through his death in 1816. He was the owner of the plantation itself, beginning in 1788, when it was deeded to him by his father, James Byrnside. John then took over running the plantation, as well as …

Read moreLast Will and Testament of John Byrnside (1763-1816) 2nd white child born in Monroe County (West) Va.

Willowbrook Plantation and Christopher J. Beirne during the Civil War

Confederate officer, farmer, wealthy bachelor, and member of the Skull and Crossbones Secret Society . . . . Check out the documentation we found of “C.J. Beirne’s” agricultural contributions to the Confederate Army, utilizing Willowbrook Plantation, as well as other aspects of his life. So far the receipts from the Confederate Army we’ve found, add …

Read moreWillowbrook Plantation and Christopher J. Beirne during the Civil War