McBride archeological team returns to Warwick's Fort
The earth gave up more secrets when archeologists and students sifted through the dirt at Warwick's Fort last week. The archeologists arrived in Green Bank on Monday and excavated rectangular segments of the Revolutionary War - era garrison throughout the week.
Drs. Stephen and Kim Arbogast McBride, originally of Greenbrier County, now of Lexington, Kentucky, led the team of scientists. Kim McBride is co-director of the University of Kentucky's Archeological Survey. The couple have conducted extensive research of frontier forts in West Virginia, including Arbuckle's Fort in Greenbrier County, and Jarrett's Fort in Monroe County.
The team excavated Monday through Friday and conducted an open house on Saturday. School groups from Marlinton Elementary Middle School, Green Bank Elementary Middle School and Pocahontas County High School received training and assisted with the dig Monday through Thursday.
Kim McBride gave high marks to local students who helped excavate and sift through the dirt.
"The Pocahontas County students are - I'm not exaggerating - they're among the best I have ever worked with," she said. "The teachers, too, have prepared them beforehand and that makes a big difference."
The archeologists were interested in more than just the fort.
"This is probably our sixth or seventh excavation session at the site and, in the last few sessions, we had identified an area about 200 meters from the main fort that seemed to be a concentration of cast-iron kettle fragments and we found a bullet mold there," Kim McBride said. "But we had only done metal detecting in that area, nothing systematic. So, one of our goals this time was to put in some formal excavation units, where we're sifting the soil and we have accomplished that."
Sifters found a high concentration of ceramic fragments in the new dig area, but little metal, aside from the kettle fragments - leading to speculation it might have been a kitchen area.
"There's not nearly as much in the way of arms artifacts up there compared to the fort, which would make sense if it's a cooking area" she said.
The week's work at the fort and the secondary site uncovered several artifacts from the historic period, including buttons, bullets, a boot buckle, pieces of smoking pipes, a mouth harp, ceramic shards, a pocketknife, hand-wrought nails, as well as prehistoric Native American arrowheads and ceramic fragments.
During Saturday's open house, a steady stream of visitors, including several families with young children, browsed the historic site. Two display cases, filled with recently recovered artifacts, were on display atop a farm wagon. The McBrides greeted all visitors and answered questions about the site - providing an exceptional educational experience.
Bob Sheets, Warwick's Fort landowner and descendent of John Warwick, assisted the McBrides during the open house. Sheets, a schoolteacher and local historian, said he is considering an interpretive site on the property, which would be open at various times throughout the year.
The McBrides first learned of the fort in the late 1980s while reading military pension applications from the late 1700s.ﾠ On the applications, veterans listed the names of posts where they had served and the names of their commanders.ﾠ Several veterans had listed Warwick's Fort in the upper Greenbrier Valley as a duty station on their pension applications.ﾠ
The archaeologists also found reference to the fort in a 1917 issue of The Pocahontas Times, but not the exact location.ﾠ
In 1990, the husband and wife team came to Green Bank to find the old fort.ﾠ Local historian Jimmy Woodell directed the McBrides to the Jamie Sheets farm, where, according to local lore, a fort had once stood. Sheets led the researchers to a point at the confluence of Deer Creek and its North Fork, which overlooked the surrounding countryside.ﾠ The team searched and found artifacts including musket balls, a pipe stem, nails and buttons.
The McBrides first excavated at the site in 2004, when they discovered a wealth of historic and prehistoric artifacts. Returning in the summer of 2007, they made an important discovery when they uncovered remnants of the stockade's walls. Subsequent excavations in 2007 and 2009, assisted by local students, have turned up a wealth of artifacts, telling the researchers more about the fort and the lifestyle of its inhabitants.
Stephen McBride said the fort was likely a diamond-shaped structure with 110-foot sides and two bastions at opposite corners. Bastions provided soldiers a place to fire lengthwise along the exterior wall of the fort.
The fort was built in 1774 during a violent flare-up with Native Americans.
The British had negotiated boundary lines with different tribes farther and farther west and settlers flocked into Western Virginia and Kentucky.ﾠ
Alarmed by the foreign migration into their homelands, Ohio Indian tribes, which had not been part of the treaties, sent representatives to Fort Dunmore (modern-day Pittsburgh) to state their claim and stop the westward encroachment. The natives, including Shawnee and Mingo, were unsuccessful and a full-scale border war ensued, with raids as far east as the Greenbrier River Valley.
In mid-1774, Virginia officials dispatched two companies of militia, commanded by captains George Moffat and George Matthews, to build a fort to protect the Upper Greenbrier River valley. The captains selected a site on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the forks of Deer Creek. The fort is named for John Warwick, who lived in a cabin just north of the garrison.
The border war, known as Lord Dunmore's War, climaxed with the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774. Colonel Andrew Lewis and 1,100 Virginia militia, including Captain Matthews' company from Warwick's Fort, repulsed a day-long assault by an estimated 500 Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware and Ottawa Indians under Chief Cornstalk.
As a result of the battle, Cornstalk agreed to the Treaty of Camp Charlotte and the Shawnee relinquished claims to land south of the Ohio River.
During the American Revolution, the risk of native attacks in the Warwick's Fort area increased once again. The Mingo and other tribes, fighting for the British, raided deep into Western Virginia.
The defeat of the British in 1781 effectively ended the risk of Indian attacks as far east as the Greenbrier and Warwick's Fort was abandoned sometime in the early 1780s.
This year's archeological work at Warwick's Fort was funded by a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council.