Monday, March 24, 2008

The Melungeons and Fort Blackmore


by Joanne Pezzullo

Attorney Lewis Jarvis was born 1829 in Scott County, Virginia and lived in the area and time period where he knew many of the historical Melungeons such as Vardy Collins, the Bolens, and Zachariah Minor. In 1903 he was interviewed for the Hancock County paper and said; "The white emigrants with the friendly Indians erected a fort on the bank of the river and called it Fort Blackmore and here yet many of these friendly “Indians” live in the mountains of Stony creek."

The Fort:

Daniel Boone and his family lived at Fort Blackmore in present Scott County, Virginia from October of 1773 until March of 1775 and was in command of Fort Blackmore and other forts on the Clinch River in 1774 while the militiamen were engaged in the Point Pleasant campaign of Dunmore's war. Some of these men did not fight at Point Pleasant but were detached and were with Boone guarding the clinch frontier. Were they the 'company of men' -- the 'friendly Indians' who erected Fort Blackmore as Jarvis said? (See William Herbert's men below)

There were seven of the original forts erected in compliance with Lord Dunmore's order, four on the lower Clinch under Captain William Russell's militia command, and three on the upper Clinch under the militia command of Captain Daniel Smith. These forts were erected by the local militia under the supervision of Colonel William Christian who had been sent out to the frontier by Colonel William Preston who was militia commandant for the area.

When Captain Russell received Lord Dunmore's orders for building the forts it happened to be muster day for the militia in Cassells Woods, and he immediately, on June 25, 1774, laid the facts before his constituents and informed Colonel Preston of their actions on June 26, 1774, saying: "My company yesterday voted two forts to be immediately built, I think in as convenient a place as we can get, and we shall immediately begin to build them."

Two weeks later, on July 13, 1774, Captain Russell again wrote to Colonel Preston the following letter showing that his people had changed their minds about the number of forts to be built and states that the forts had already been erected.

"Since I wrote you last, the inhabitants of this river have altered the plan for two forts only, on this river, below Elk Garden, and have erected three; one in Cassells Woods which I call Fort Preston; a second ten miles above which I call Fort Christian; the third, five miles below the first, which I call Fort Byrd, and there are four families at John Blackmores near the mouth of Stony Creek, that will never be able to stand it alone without a company of men. Therefore, request you, if you think it can be done, to order them a supply sufficient to enable them to continue the small fortification they have begun."

Fort Blackmore was built on the north side of the Clinch River opposite the mouth of Rock Branch. The fort was on the extreme frontier of Virginia and was used by hunters, explorers, adventurers, and home seekers for rest and refreshment.

See the Names and Bios of the Men Who were There:

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