County Had Many Fort Houses

     Scott County had many people slain and captured by Indians in frontier days, yet within her present bounds she had more forts and fort houses than any other county along Virginia's western frontier. In that section lying along Clinch River down to Gray's Island, near the village of Clinch, one can find one of the most interesting settlements along the entire length of the Clinch River. It was settled very early, with residents living there in 1770. In that very short stretch of land from Osborne's Ford to Gray's Island, there was at least three fort houses, maybe four. I think there were fort houses such as that built by Patrick Porter on Falling Creek, and not stockaded forts like Fort Blackmore and Moore's Fort at Castlewood. Fort houses were nothing more than strongly built log houses with port holes for defense against Indian attacks. These fort houses, like the old Kilgore Fort house still standing on Moccasin Creek, west of Nickelsville, could ward off an attack of small parties of Indians, but not sustained attacks by large war parties, and when large attacks were suspected the people who had fort houses went into the larger, stockaded forts. It is known that Patrick Porter left his fort house and sheltered in Moore's Fort during sustained invasions.
     It is most unusual though that within a two mile stretch there would be three, and in this case perhaps four, such fort houses. I find these forts mentioned in at least four pension statements by Indian fighters who served at one time or another in them, as well as deed references. First there was Elisha Wallen who said: "We was organized by law and by the officers named and was divided out along the line of the following named forts, to-wit:
Blackmore's Fort, Rye Cove, Rocky Station, Stock Creek, Dunkin's Fort and Osman's Fort." If this is not enough Charles Kilgore says in his pension statement: "In the following year (1779), in summer, he again volunteered under Captain John Snoddy, Lt. (William) Cowan, for the purpose of guarding Osmon's Fort on Clinch River in said county of Washington. He remained in said fort for three months, with said company, guarding the same."
     To further add to the confusion Alexander Ritchie, Jr., who lived in this very area says: "The men (militia) were arranged from that of a Captain's Company to a Sergeant's Command at the different stations from Blackmore's Fort to Martin's Station about 20 miles from Cumberland Gap, Moore's Fort in Castlewood, Rocky Station (Lee County), Rye Cove Station, Shallow Ford of Clinch, Stock Creek, Osman's Fort, a fort where Lee County courthouse now stands (Mump's Fort), and Dunkin's fort." In an amended pension statement Alexander Ritchie, Jr., says: "He served 6 months, beginning in April, 1780, at Dunkin's Fort." Here we have three militia soldiers, and there are others, telling of serving in the same forts which should establish the truth of their existence, not to mention that they are borne out by deed references. All speak of Osman's Fort, but I have wondered if this could not be a corruption in spelling, and that it was really Osborne's Fort.
     Scott County Deed Book 4, page 553, dated 9 October, 1829, reads:
     "A certain tract or parcel of land, lying and being in Scott County, on the south side of Clinch River, it being a part of the same bottom that joins Bustar's Shoals, opposite a place called Nicholson's Fort, containing 41 acres more or less. Since the Nicholson land was sold to William McClain (his "fish-trap" is mentioned by Elizabeth Livingston when she was captured by Benge in 1794 and led across Clinch River at this very spot) and one William Osborne bought the Ritchie land. It may be that the "Ritchie Fort and Osman's Fort" were one and the same. The Nicholson Fort was the home of Benjamin Nicholson, who after selling his land emigrated to Kentucky. 
     Russell County Deed Book 1, page 13, describes the Ritchie's Fort, lying and being in the county of Russell on the south side of Clinch River, and on both sides of Ritchie's Creek, containing 360 acres." This same land is again sold, this time by William Osborne, of Pendleton County, South Carolina, to James Osborne (not James of Castlewood), and is again called "Ritchie's Fort." This deed is dated 20 October, 1792. Originally this would have been the home of Alexander Ritchie, Sr., who settled on the land in 1772.
     Shallow Ford of Clinch and Stock Creek are unknown to me. I do not know upon whose land they stood as I have not been able to find further references to them. The fort 'where Lee County Courthouse now stands' was that built in 1775 by William Mumps, and evacuated in 1776 when the Cherokees went on the war path, and never reoccupied.
     Dunkin's Fort presents another interesting and challenging fact for researchers. Just where it stood is hard to say, as no further references to it have been uncovered. Raleigh Duncan and his brother, John, settled at the ford of Clinch River in 1772. John was subsequently killed at Moore's Fort in 1774. Raleigh Duncan and his brother, John, were to go halvers in the plantation at the ford of Clinch, but after John's death, his brother, Raleigh and his widowed sister-in-law fell into a dispute over the land and Raleigh moved in 1775, down the river towards Gray's Island and built a house on land that had previously been taken up by William Herbert, and a lawsuit later ensued over this land which gives much interesting data on this settlement. No doubt Dunkins' Fort stood on one of these tracts of land, but which one, I cannot say. Alexander Ritchie, Jr., says again in his pension statement: "That he lived at Dunkin's Fort from March 1778 to April 1779. That he enlisted in April, 1779, and again in April, 1780, under Captain John Snody for 6 months for the purpose of guarding Dunkin's Fort." In 1786 he was appointed an Indian Spy, along with John Alley by Col. Henry Smith, County Lieutenant of Russell County. He states they left Dunkin's Fort every Monday with their provisions on their back, ranged across Cumberland and Sandy Mountains in Kentucky, returning to Dunkin's Fort in Castle's Run."
     And from the Survey Entry Book for Washington County, dated 9 August 1781, which reads: "That Martin Dunken, heir-at-law of John Dunken, deceased, is entitled to 400 acres of land by settlement made in the year 1772, lying in the county of Washington, on the north side of Clinch River known by the name of Hunter's Ford, a little below Phillip Phillips." Phillip Phillips lived near to Clinch River on the land between Clinch River and that owned by Joseph McCorkle, deceased, which land lay "near Hunter's Valley on the waters of Stanton's Creek and on the slopes of Buckner's Ridge." These statements arouse my curiosity and prompt me to ask of those better versed in history than I, was Osborne's Ford (Dungannon) and Hunter's Ford, one and the same, or was Hunter's Ford really further down the Clinch, near Gray's Island, where Benge crossed with the Livingston captives at McClain's "fish-trap" and led them up Stanton's Creek into Hunter's Valley and on northward?


 
 
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