Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Early Haven

Ft.-Blackmore

By Susan Cox

     When people think of Virginia during the early 1770's, they usually think of the Tidewater region, and of such people as Patrick Henry and George Washington. There is another part of Virginia, however, which was just as important though less well known Ė Southwest Virginia. In the history of Southwest Virginia, such people as Daniel Boone, Colonel William Preston, Logan, and Benge were important. Among the important places of Southwest Virginia during the early 1770's was the town of Ft. Blackmore.

     The land in the area that is now Ft. Blackmore was, before the coming of the white man, was a rich woodland. The dense forests abounded with all kinds of wild game, including bears, deer, turkeys, and many smaller species.

     Stony Creek and the Clinch River were filled with many kinds of fish. The river valleys had rich, fertile soil, perfect for farming.

     Although the area offered nearly ideal conditions for living and hunting, no group of Indians lived there on a permanent basis. Instead, several groups of Indians commonly used the land as a hunting ground, shared by all in relative peace. No permanent, recorded settlement was made in the area. The land was never over hunted, but left in its natural state for all to benefit.

     Though the exact details of the settlement of Ft. Blackmore are unknown, legends exist which give the general information. The most widely accepted legend is as follows: During the 1760's, a young man named David Cox accompanied Daniel Boone on a long hunting expedition from Cox's home in Yadkin River Valley of North Carolina as for as present-day Elizabethton, Tn. There, Cox left Boone's party and went north, passed through Big Moccasin Gap, traveled through what is now Scott County County to the Clinch River at the mouth of Stoney Creek.

     Because of the good hunting offered by the area, David Cox decided to stay in the area now known as Ft. Blackmore, to hunt and trap. Soon, he was captured and carried off by a group of Indians. He was held prisoner for a period of time believed to be two to four years. Cox eventually escaped from the Indians and returned to his home. He told such a glowing account of the Valley of the Clinch that a few families were convinced to attempt a settlement near the mouth of Stony Creek.

     A variation of the legend says that one Captain John Blackmore Sr. came with some men, including Cox, to build the fort before they brought their families. Among these may I have been James Green, who records show settled in Ft. Blackmore in 1772; and Joseph Blackmore, John Blackmore Jr., John Carter, and Andrew Davis, all of wham, along with Captain John Blackmore Sr., were recorded as having settled the area in 1773. As of July 13, 1774, -- only four families were recorded as living in Ft. Blackmore. It is assumed that this record represents four clans, or family groups, rather than four households. David Cox, who married Captain John Blackmore's daughter, may I have been considered a member of the Blackmore clan. The settlement at Ft. Blackmore is thought to be the oldest in Southwest Virginia.

     While the origin of Ft. Blackmore remains somewhat a mystery, the location of the fort is known. The fort stood on an ancient flood plain on the north bank of the Clinch River, almost directly across the river from the small stream known as Rocky Branch. The fort crowned a small rise which is the highest point of the flood plain, about seventy-five paces from the river at low water. On the south side of the river, on either side of Rocky Branch, are two tall limestone cliffs which were frequently used by the Indians to spy upon the settlers. At the edge of the river, near the fort, was a spring which the settlers used for water. The sight of the fort was probably chosen because of the availability of water and the protection from the Indians offered by the river.

     On a small hill near the river slightly to the east of the fort the old fort graveyard. Here the final resting places of the early pioneers are marked by rough, unmarked stones.

     Life in the fort was subject to suffering and hardships. It was the custom for settlers to live on their farms and make improvements during the winter, when the Indians were not on the warpath. At the beginning of warm weather however everyone was forced to move to the fort to protect themselves from Indian attack. Since Ft. Blackmore was for many yearson the edge of the frontier it was especially was open to Indian raids. Often settlers within the fort couldn't leave to work in the fields without an armed guard. A military escort was frequently needed to bring food from King's Mill, near Kingsport. At times of unusual thick coming attacks, food became quite scarce.

     The early population of the fort was transient in nature. Most residents were hunters explorers, or home seekers who stopped at the fort only long enough to rest, then traveled on to other areas to make their homes.

     A few settlers remained for longer periods and remain somewhat well known. Among them are Capt. John Blackmore Sr., John Blackmore Jr., and Joseph Blackmore. Together, the Blackmore family owned all of what is now Ft. Blackmore and most all of the area's best farmland. They were the area's most prominent family, and it is from Captain Blackmore that Ft. Blackmore takes its name.

     Another prominent citizen of early Ft. Blackmore was Daniel Boone. He settled in Castlewood in the fall of 1773 after his attempt to establish a settlement in Kentucky failed and his teenage son James and companions were killed by Indians.

     While his family was at Castlewood, Boone spent at least part of the winter at Ft. Blackmore. He is thought to have been on a hunting expedition. Trouble with the northwestern Indians began when the family of Captain John Logan, Chief of the Mingo nation, was massacred at Yellow Creek, Ohio. Logan mistakenly believed the attack was committed by a Captain Cresap, who was stationed at the time near Ft. Blackmore. Logan gathered a small group of warriors and led a bloody attack on the settlers of the Clinch and Holston Rivers.

     At this time, Ft. Blackmore was at risk from Logan with his band of Mingo, Shawnee, and a few Cherokee, and the rest of the Shawnee from the north and from the Cherokee from the south.

     During the summer of 1774, Indian attacks on Ft. Blackmore were so incessant that the settlement was almost in a state of siege. Food and ammunition were scarce. Even the usual hunting expeditions were too risky.

     A regional commander of the area, Captain Campbell, was sent to range down the Clinch River for twenty miles, protecting Ft. Blackmore. Enemies were on all sides of the struggling settlement.

     During this time, many surveying parties were in Kentucky, having departed shortly before the Indians began showing signs of hostility. Colonel Preston, the highest ranking military officer in Fincastle County, of which Scott County was a part directed Captain Russell at Castlewood to find two reliable woodsmen to warn those in Kentucky of the dangers of Indians attack. After receiving their orders on Saturday, June 25,1774, Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner left Castlewood on Monday, June 27, 1774. Sixty-one days later, they returned to the Clinch on August 26, after walking 800miles.

     Upon his return, Boone found that Captain Russell had already left for the Point Pleasant campaign against the Indians. Boone sent a message asking to join the campaign, and was asked to raise a force and meet the troops at the Great Levels of Greenbriar. On the way, he was met with orders to return to the Clinch Valley and defend it against the Indians during the absence of the Fincastle Militia, which was fighting in the Ohio River.

     Boone was disappointed at not being allowed to join the Point Pleasant Campaign, but he performed his duties as defender of the forts on the Clinch River very well. He traveled from fort to fort as he was needed spending at least some time at Ft. Blackmore.

     On September 21, 1774, Captain Thompson, the first commander of Ft. Blackmore, left the fort with his small garrison for the Point Pleasant campaign. This left Captain James Looney in immediate command, with a force of eleven men "some of them indifferent."

     Two days later, Chief Logan attacked Ft. Blackmore with his band of warriors. Outside the fort, they captured two slaves belonging to John Blackmore. Since two men are being referred to here, it is assumed that the first "John Blackmore" is referring to John Blackmore Jr. Logan was so angry about the unavailability of white scalps that he paraded the captured slaves back and forth in full view of the fort for about a quarter of an hour, hoping to draw out the garrison inside the fort. Logan then killed many horses and cattle, and took the slaves away with many other horses and cattle. Left behind at the fort was a painted war club, a token of defiance.

     After this attack, the Indians made frequent appearances near Ft. Blackmore. Captain Looney, however. Lacked enough men to be able to pursue the Indians.

     In the early part of October of 1774. Captain Looney, the commandant of Ft. Blackmore was at his home near Kingsport, concerned for the safety of his family following Indians attacks near his home. In a letter dated October 6, 1774, Colonel Campbell says that Sergeant Moore was in charge of Ft. Blackmore. It is assumed that Sergeant Moore was the second-in-command left in charge by Looney when he was away.

     While Looney was away, between October 2nd and 8th, Logan's forces (without him) crept along underneath the bank of the river, intending to make a sudden attack and either capture the fort or cut off the men outside. The men of the fort were sitting on logs some distance from the gate of the fort, and did not see the natives because the river bank underbrush hid the Indians.

     Dale Carter, who was with the other men about fifty-five paces from the fort, saw the Indians and yelled. "Murder, Murder" to warn the men of the fort of imminent danger. These men managed to reach the door of the fort before the Indians, and escape unharmed.

     When they failed to get into the fort, Logan's forces turned on Carter, who was still outside the fort, The first shot fired missed him, but the second wounded him in the thigh. Before he could escape, the Indians killed and scalped Carter with a tomahawk.

     Meanwhile, a Mr. Anderson and John Carter had returned to the outside of the fort with their guns, to defend Dale Carter. Too late to prevent Dale Carter's death, they tried to prevent the Indian's scalping of the body.

     Anderson shot at the Indians who was involved in scalping the dead Carter, and John Carter shot at another. The results of this are not known, but the Indians returned fire at Anderson and John Carter narrowly missing both. By this time, other men of the fort had climbed into the nearest bastion and had begun firing at the Indians. The Indians fled into the woods, free from pursuit due to the fortís Inadequate garrison.

     Soon after Daniel Boone and Capt. Daniel smith brought 30 men to Ft. Blackmore to track down the Indians. Near the fort they found many tracks, but the tracks were lost in the forest and the Indians were never captured.

     Since Captain Looney had been away from Ft. Blackmore at his home at the time of Dale Carter's murder, the settlers at Ft. Blackmore wanted a leader who lived nearby. They petitioned the highest officer in Fincastle County, Colonel William Preston, to make Daniel Boone a captain, and give him control of Ft. Blackmore, Moore's Station, and Cowan's Fort. This petition was approved, and Boone took charge of Ft. Blackmore.

     During the month of October, Boone and his riflemen were often called to Ft. Blackmore, sometimes finding and briefly fighting the Indians, sometimes unable to find them. Boone was the most active commander on the Clinch at this time. On October 10, 1774, the Southwest Virginia militia defeated the Indians at Point Pleasant. For all practical purposes, this ended Dunmore's War, of which the Indian raids on Ft. Blackmore had been a part. The Shawnee Nation threw themselves upon the mercy of Governor Dunmore and agreed to meet any peace terms. They agreed to return all prisoners, stolen horses, and other plunder. The Mingo at first refused to accept the terms of peace. This may have been because Chief Logan, having just returned from his bloody raiding expedition on the Holston and Clinch Rivers, was not present at the negotiations. Governor Dunmore then sent a force of 250 men to destroy the nearest Mingo Village, bringing the tribe into submission.

The Cherokee, though not a part of the battle or peace conference at Point Pleasant, nonetheless showed a disposition toward peace by putting to death those of their tribe who had been implicated in the murder of Daniel Boone's son and his companions.

 

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