The historic Dickson home/farm went up for auction this past weekend, along with all of its contents. We were fortunate to obtain some of the items. The site, known as Spring Valley Farm, is located along US Route 219 in Monroe County, West Virginia, right at the Greenbrier County line. This location, situated on Second Creek, at a gap in the gorge created by the creek, had always been an important stopping point for 18th and 18th century travelers. This large home served as a stagecoach stop and tavern during the mid 19th century and remains in a fantastic state of preservation. This property is also an excellent example of the transition from log cabin pioneer subsistence on the Virginia frontier, to successful upper class planter that symbolized the very beginning of the American Dream.
It’s hard to believe that there are still places like this that exist, where the same family still owns and occupies the same property from the 1770s through 2021, with the same house and many of the same possessions. Of course nothing lasts forever, so we wanted to do our part to help save what could be saved and kept here in Monroe County, West Virginia.
The first Dickson to settle around this location was Richard Dickson, circa 1776. He then later acquired additional property from his brother-in-law, John Knox, in 1837. At that point he began building the large beautiful home you see today, which purportedly included some of John Knox’s existing cabin, or perhaps at least the logs from it.
John Knox is believed to have a fort, or fortified cabin, at the site during the Revolutionary War. Somewhere I read that the only remnant of the original fort is the well, which is now covered by a later structure. I looked down in the well last weekend and could see water reflecting light, maybe 10 feet down. I have an 1786 Connecticut copper coin that was found directly next to the well by a friend of mine. Here’s the coin (copper doesn’t hold up well in the soil), along with a non-dug example, where you can see how it originally appeared:
Here’s the original well from the fort, where the coin was found. Not much is known about it, but supposedly the fort was built right at the tail end of the Revolutionary War, in 1780. There’s no doubt that this was always a strategic location for camping and traveling, right at the gap in the ridges providing access from one side of the southern Greenbrier Valley, to the other side. It was also located along a portion of a well-known Indian trail.
Take a look at the great early cast-iron cauldron we got out of the auction. It almost perfectly matches one that we dug up in the yard at Byrnside’s Fort, 9 miles or so to the south:
Here are some more photos of the house and the beautiful woodwork inside:
One interesting detail I noticed was this blacksmith made trammel almost identical to one we found at Byrnside’s Fort, just slightly smaller. It was stuck up inside the original Knox log cabin chimney:
We were also able to acquire the old 1850s Chickering piano out of the Dickson house’s parlor. It’s in the process of being moved to Byrnside’s Fort.
Here’s the National Register of Historic Places paperwork from the 1970s:74002017_Text
Here are some of the items we were able to acquire out of the house from the auction, including china, old family books, a bed, chairs, a baby cradle, candle sticks, and more:
Some of the other auction items, most of which we were not able to acquire, including some beautiful locally-made furniture:
One great find out of the auction was the Sampson Matthews silhouette. He was one of the two brothers who comprised the infamous Matthews Trading Post, the 18th century trading post located at Matthews Ford on the Greenbrier River in the 1770s. The account books of the post still survive to this day, and they provide much of the knowledge we have about the lives of the early frontiersmen in the wilds of the Virginia borderlands – especially the Greenbrier Valley. I’ve posted before about locating the spot where the trading post once stood.
I believe that this is the original location of the Matthews Trading Post, between present day Ronceverte and Caldwell, West Virginia:
Another great find were three daguerreotypes, which it turns out are members of the Renick family from Greenbrier County, just north of Lewisburg, WV. The two younger individuals are James H. Renick and his wife Mary See Matthews Renick, who lived in the beautiful Renick home, which is still standing along Route 219 close to the northern border of Greenbrier County. I believe the older individual is James’ father, William Renick. I discovered that the reason they were in the home is because James and Mary had a daughter named Eliza Dickson, who lived at the Dickson home.
Yet another great find out of the Dickson house was a grand old mantel that we knew must have been from a wonderful local home. It appears to have been sitting in a barn for many years. I now know exactly where it came from and have already photographed the spot from which it was removed in 1964, which I’ll save for another post.