Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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One Out Of Seven

By OMER C. ADDINGTON


     Frontier forts were built to guard mountain gateways, river valleys and other strategic points. They also were used as places of refuge for neighboring frontiersmen and their families during times of dangers.

     George Washington organized the defense of Virginia's frontier around a system of forts. When the major danger of French and Indian invasion passed after the French and Indian War ended, and with it the removal of French influence from North America, Indian depredations remained a reality on Virginia's frontier until 1794.

     The settlement of extreme Southwest Virginia, during the last-third of the eighteenth century, followed very closely the standard for frontier fort building and development. The Indians remained an active threat to settlers in this region during and immediately following the American War for Independence. The Kilgore Fort House was one of seven frontier forts extending from Castlewood to Cumberland gap.

     Reverend Robert Kilgore married Jane Porter Green, widow of James Green, in 1785. James was killed by the Indians on December 31, 1782. A traditional story has come down to us that Robert Kilgore (father of the Robert who built the fort house), James Green and a man named McKinney went into the Pound River country of the present day Wise County to hunt during the winter of 1782.

     Indian raids were seldom made on the frontier after the leaves dropped in the fall of the year. However, that particular year a very late raid was made on the Castlewood Settlement on Christmas day in 1782. The same band of Shawnee Indians, making their way northward after attacking the settlement, surprised Kilgore, Green and McKinney in their hunting camp, killing Kilgore and Green. McKinney made his escape and returned to Blackmore's Fort and reported the killings. A party was sent out from Blackmore's Fort to find the bodies. After the bodies were found, they were buried in the hollow a large Chestnut tree on the banks of Indian Creek.

     As a young girl, Jane Porter had lived on her father's fort house called Porter's Fort on Fall Creek near Dungannon. Before marrying Robert, she insisted that her new home be a forth house. Robert did build a fort house on the east side of Copper Creek about one and one-half miles Southwest of Nickelsville.

     Built in the year 1786 of hewn logs, the cracks between the logs in the fort house were chinked with limestone rock, lime and clay mortar. The lower and upper stories were separated into two rooms by log partitions built as strongly as the outer walls. The rooms were arranged so that I the first one were forced, the possibility of retreat into the next room would yet remain, and so on, until a final stand could be made in the northeast room of the upper story. A ladder extended from the first floor to th upper story through a trap door. The ladder could be drawn up and the trap door secured with a heavy wood bar. There were three portholes, one on each side of the building and on on the west end. These portholes could be closed with shutters.

     The large fireplace served to purposes; one, to heat the fort house and two, for cooking. Bread was baked in a baker, and hot coals placed on the lid.

     Over the years the fort house deteriorated. So long as a roof was kept on it, the innermost part remained in fairly good condition, but the roof was neglected and the whole structure rapidly went to ruin. The chimney began to slump and shatter. Fortunately, the Scott County government secured funds to rebuild it, and the fort house was rebuilt. However, it was not restored as it was originally built. Windows were added many years after it was built. There were no windows in fort houses. The log partitions were not replaced when the fort was reconstructed. A stairway was built to the second story to replace the ladder and the trap door was done away with. The chimney was rebuilt with mortar mix whereas the original mortar was lime and clay. The floors were puncheon made from small logs split and smoothed with an axe or plane. The door was made of split timber and smoothed and hung with hinges made by a local citizen, possibly someone at Porter's Fort. The door was secured by a wood bar.

     The Kilgore Fort House is the oldest structure in Scott County. It is the only one of the seven forts to be rebuilt and preserved. The way the fort house was rebuilt may give young people the wrong impression of how fort houses were built on Virginia's last frontier.

     Reverend Robert Kilgore and his wife reared their children and spent the remainder of their lives at the fort house. When they died they were buried near by, but were later removed and re-interred in the Nickelsville Cemetery. Both graves have stone markers.

     Reverend Robert and Jane Kilgore were both born British subjects, but died American citizens. Jane was born in 1761 and died in 1842. Robert was born in 1765 and died in 1854.

Footnotes:

1. History of Virginia

2. R. M. Addington - History of Scott County

3. Ibid

4. Ibid

5. Ibid

6. Ibid

7. Emory Hamilton Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia Vol No.4, 1968

  1. R. M. Addington - History of Scott County

9. Ibid

10. Life of Wilburn Waters - Coli

11. R. M. Addington. History of Scott County

12. Ibid

13. Ibid

14. Emory Hamilton Indian Tragedies - Historical Sketches 01 Southwest Virginia Vol.No.8, 1924

15. R. M,..Addington - History of Scott County

16. Ibid

17.Emory Hamilton -Indians Kill The Phillips Family Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia Vol. No. 191985

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