Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Indian Forts On Virginia's Last Frontier

Omer C. Addington
Special Writer

     The Grand Lodge of Ireland tells us that no charter was ever granted for a Masonic Lodge to Patrick Porter or any other person on the Clinch. This is not to say he was not a Mason.

     At the time Patrick Porter came to the Clinch there was neither law or gospel on the frontier. He and a few other settlers were alone in the wilderness, over a hundred miles from the Lead Mines, the county seat of Old Fincastle County, Virginia. Often it was only natural that they take the law into their own hands now and then, when they had to deal with horse thieves, Indians and renegade whites.

     Unfortunately punishments were not always mild.

     While living on the Clinch, Patrick Porter lived in the counties of Fincastle, Washington and Russell without moving from his fort house.

     Patrick Porter was born in North Carolina in 1739, died on the Clinch 1805. He is buried on what is now the William Banner Farm.

     On March 25,1774, Capt. Daniel Smith; who was the surveyor for Fincastle county, surveyed 225 acres of land on Cove Creek in the Rye Cove for Isaac Crissman. He entered his land grant in Fincastle County March 28, 1774. He built a fort on his land the same year.

     John Redd, who had come to Powell Valley with Capt. Joseph Martin in 1775, knew Crissman and has left the only known description of it. He says, "Rye Cove Fort was about eight miles from the North Fork of the Clinch River, situated about a half-mile off from Cove Creek on the West side. There were several springs at the fort. It enclosed about one half acres of land. Crissman and two members of his family were killed by the Indians near the fort in 1776.

     Further westward in the Rye Cove of Scott County stood Carter's Fort built by the Carter brothers, Joseph, Thomas and Norris.

     James Elkins says in his pension statement filed in 1832, that he served at Carter's Fort in the Rye Cove in the summer of 1777.

     How many years prior to 1777 this fort existed is not known, but the Carter brothers were very early settlers in the Rye Cove with land entries in old Fincastle County in 1774. Since this was the most westward fort in present day Scott County and openly exposed to Indian forays, it is reasonable to think that it was palisaded fort. It stood along the old Hunter's Trace (path).

     Duncan Fort was the home of Raleigh Duncan and stood between Dungannon and Gray's Island on the Clinch River. Raleigh Duncan and his brother John first settled on a tract of land at Hunter's Ford (now Dungannon) in 1772, which they jointly developed into a plantation. John was killed by the Indians in 1775. Raleigh and the widow of John fell into a dispute over the Hunter's Ford land and he moved down the river to another tract of land in 1775 where he built Duncan's Fort.

     Alexander Ritchie Jr., in his Revolutionary War statement says that he lived at Duncan's Fort from March 1778 to April 1779, and that he enlisted again in 1779 and 1780 under Capt. John Snoddy for six months tour of duty for the purpose of guarding Duncan's Fort. In 1786 he was appointed, along with John Alley, as Indian Scouts. He states they left Duncan's Fort every Monday with their provisions on their backs; ranged across Cumberland Mountain and Sandy in Kentucky, returning to Duncan Fort on Sunday. These statements show that the fort was an active military defense from 1778 to 1786 against the Indians on Virginia's last frontier.

     Dorton's Fort according to the Scott County court records was located about one mile southeast of Nickelsville on the Combs farm.

The court records refer to it as " Dorton's Station. When it was built is unknown, but probably in the late 1770s. This was just another strongly built family fort house and there is no record of it ever having a company of militia.

     This was the home of William Dorton, Sr. It is said he was killed by the Indians. William Jr. was in one of the parties that pursued the Indians under Benge after the capture of the Livingston Family.

     Anderson Blockhouse on the Holston was one of the most widely known places on the wilderness Road. It stood in East Carter's Valley on the outer edge of the Holston River Settlement, about four miles southeast of Moccasin Gap. It seems to have been the only blockhouse in the area.

     The Blockhouse was built by John Anderson sometime prior to 1782. It had two rooms, a lower and upper floor. The walls of the upper story extended out wider than the first floor. During the period of greatest travel over the Wilderness Road, John Anderson as proprietor of the Blockhouse was host to hundreds of people who stopped over on their way to Kentucky and the West.

     The people who stopped over at Anderson Blockhouse came down the valley of Virginia and across the Blue Ridge Mountains where they met and rested before heading into the Wilderness.

     At this point in time the Indians remained an active threat to settlers on Virginia's last frontier in 1785:

     The story is told that the Rev. Robert Kilgore when he proposed marriage to Jane Porter Green. She replied, "If you will build a fort house for us to live in I will marry you."

     They were married in 1785 and the fort house was completed in 1786.

     The Kilgore fort house on Copper Creek near Nickelsville is on the east side of the creek.

     President Washington sent Gen. Anthony Wayne with an army to stop the pillaging and murder of the settlers on the frontier.

     At the Battle of Fallen Timbers, August 20, 1794, the Indians were overwhelmed and next year at Fort Greenville they signed a treaty which ceded vast stretches of land in Central Ohio.

     The Indians were led by a Chief called Blue Jacket. He was a white man who had been captured by the Indians when he was very young. His white name was Marmaduke Van Sweaningen.

     There was one other Indian to be dealt with, Chief Benge. That same year he was shot and killed by Vincent Hobbs. This put an end to Indian trouble on Virginia's last frontier. The old forts were not used any more. They were torn down or rotted down.

Resources: Virginia State Papers, Pension statements, Draper Manuscripts, United States History - Chitwood Vol. 1, Scott County Records.

 

By SHEILA NASH

     B. H. Rhodes and Blaine Flanary, Ft. Blackmore, recently recounted some old Indian tales for the Heritage issue of the Star.

     According to Rhodes, "In 1774, the first white men came to the Clinch Valley. They built a fort at what is today Ft. Blackmore, it was made out of logs and was situated at one of two sections. It was in bottom land-about where the old Cox building on the Cox farm is at the river. Or was it up on the hill? Myself I think it was probably in the bottom.

     "There was one white man by the name of Dale Carter. One day, he was outside the fort and he saw some Indians hiding behind some bushes. He began running and hollering "Murder, Murder, Murder." The Indians caught up with him and scalped him.

     "Most of the time the people didn't have any trouble out of the Indians. Most of the Indians in the Ft. Blackmore area were Indian hunting parties that were traveling through the area."

     Both Rhodes and Flanary recounted the tale of the "Turkey Indian." Following is Flanary's version of the tale.

     "There was an Indian that would climb out on the cliff above Ft. Blackmore. Each day, he would climb out on a limb in a tree that stood on this cliff then he would gobble like a turkey. When the white man came out of the fort to shoot the turkey, the Indian would shoot the white man.

     Flanary continues, "One morning, the men decided. to do something about that Indian. So they snuck out of the fort real early one morning and crawled around below the Indian sitting up in the tree, gobbling.

     "They got up to within 75 yards and they shot him off the limb. The site is known as Gobbler's Rock."

 

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