Commission to consider land donation to National Conservancy

Sketch of Arbuckle’s Fort showing some of the key features revealed through archaeology, by Dr. Stephen McBride.
Sketch of Arbuckle’s Fort showing some of the key features revealed through archaeology, by Dr. Stephen McBride.

By Peggy Mackenzie

Greenbrier County Historical Landmarks Commission President Doug Hylton presented a request to the Greenbrier County Commission at their Tuesday meeting to consider making a donation of an historical landmark owned by the county. The county commission will make their considerations known at a later date.

The county owns the 90 degree radius around the stone monument which marks the site of Arbuckle’s Fort in the Blue Sulphur Springs area. Hylton said the Archeological Conservancy, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving the nation’s important archaeological sites, is looking at purchasing the property. He approached the commission on behalf of the conservancy to consider donating the 90 degree radius of the fort to them, should they purchase the surrounding property. The conservancy would then maintain, study, and provide educational opportunities of the site as one large property. The remainder of the property is owned by Dan Clay, who would like to sell the property, and is interested in working with the Archaeological Conservancy, as the future owner, Hylton said. Ownership by the conservancy would insure the future protection of the site.

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Hylton presented the commission with the following historical information on Arbuckle’s Fort:

Located at Blaker’s Mill, at the cont1uence of Muddy and Mill Creeks in Greenbrier County, three miles north ofAlderson, the fort was built in Spring 1774 by Captain Matthew Arbuckle’s Militia Company during Lord Dumnore’s War (Governor of Virginia). The fort was later known as Keeney’s Fort after the landowner.

Garrisoned by Capt. Arbuckle’s Botetourt County, VA Militia Company during Dunmore’s War and Captain William Hamilton’s Botetourt (later Greenbrier) County, VA Militia Company during the Revolutionary War.

Arbuckle’s Fort was the largest of three forts in the Muddy Creek neighborhood of Botetourt County and the site of two battles between the Virginia Militia and Native Americans.

Archaeological excavations have determined that the fort was likely built in two stages with an earlier (1774) rectangular 110 by 40 ft. stockade and a later (ca. 1775-6) more academic two bastioned rectangular stockade with four 110-120 ft long curtain walls.

The excavation efforts have also recovered evidence of internal structures including a blockhouse, a cellar/magazine, one probable cabin with cellar, and a blacksmith shop.

Arms artifacts recovered include gunflints, dropped and tired ammunition, and gun parts which give insights into the two battles and construction changes in the fort.

Other artifacts such as wrought nails and spikes, ceramics, glassware, faunal material, buttons, buckles, and an “X” inscribed possible African American amulet give insights into the construction of the fort, the supply and consumption patterns of the fort’s occupants, and the ethnic make-up of the occupants.

Another artifact recovered; a glass letter seal/cufflink with “Liberty” impressed on it reminds us that the western border war was indeed part of the Revolutionary War. As Matthew Arbuckle, the fort’s builder stated: “Sir, My country Shall Never have to say I Dare not Stand the Attacks of the Indians, or fly the Cause they are So Justly fighting for, on the Contrary I will Lose the last drop of My Blood in Defense of My Country when fighting for that Blessed Enjoyment Call(d) Liberty.”

The archaeological integrity of the site and its rich artifact assemblage, together with historical documentation, give the Arbuckle’s Fort site tremendous potential for research, public interpretation and heritage tourism. Arbuckle’s Fort helps demonstrate the crucial role of forts within a local defensive system, without which the area may not have been successfully settled by Euro-Americans or defended during the American Revolution.




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