The Fort at Job Pearsall's
Job Pearsall was an early
settler on the South Branch River along what was known as the "Great Wagon Road from Winchester to the South Branch." This road continues on to Will Creek in Maryland where Fort Cumberland was later built. Exactly when Pearsall came is not certain,
but it seems that he leased lot #16 of the South Branch Manor from Samuel
Earl. His name appears on the Fry and Jefferson Map of 1751 located
on the east bank of the river astride the road from Winchester. It
was a very strategic place since it lay by the river on the road to the
South Branch and Patterson's Creek Manors and also on an old Indian trail.
Col. Washington first refers to the fort at this site in October, 1755.
In his Council of War on July 10, 1756, Col. Washington stresses that,
"it will be found necessary to maintain a Block-house at Pearsalls, to
secure that difficult pass, and keep the communications open." This was but one fort in the chain of forts designed to protect the Virginia frontier from the Potomac River to the North Carolina border from enemy attacks during the French and Indian War.
Pearsall's fort was used as a supply
base for the other forts of the South Branch and for supplies to go to
Virginia troops at Ft. Cumberland. In a letter to Commissary Walker
dated Jan. 10, 1756, Col. Washington notes that "There are three thousand
weight of Pork laid in at Job Pearsalls." Besides guarding supplies,
troops at this fort were used to protect the neighborhood as well as to
escort messengers and convoys. Both Virginia Regiment and Militia
troops were stationed at Pearsall's at various times, and friendly Indians
were in attendance on numerous occassions.
No clear record exists stating the
exact facilities at Pearsall's. However, there were numerous invoices
supplied by Pearsall for reimbursement for timber used by the soldiers
in construction or repair. Repairs seem to have been made again around
the time of Pontiac's rebellion in 1763 when the fort was reopened.
The fort seems finally to have been out of use by the winter of 1764.
Today the exact location of the site is unknown, although it is somewhere
west of the present town of Romney, West Virginia probably on the hill to the south of US Rt. 50.
update: Although there has been a good bit of research done on land records around early Romney, the location of Job Pearsall's fort is still uncertain. There is the possibility that the reference in the second paragraph above to the "Block-house at Pearsalls" may actually have referenced a location on the west side of the river where Job may have located before moving to the east side of the river adjacent to the growing town of Romney. The fort where the "three thousand weight of Pork [were] laid in at Job Pearsalls" is probably located somewhere between a spot to the south of Rt. 50 near its junction with School Street and westward to the hill facing the new bridge across the river. Part of the hill was removed for the realignment of the South Branch River Road. This is all private property and very little archaeological work has been done in this area that would give us a clue to the fort's location.
Further information on Pearsall's fort and other forts of Hampshire County may be found in:
Frontier Forts Along the Potomac and Its Tributaries,
by William Ansel [a well documented reference to colonial Virginia
frontier forts, the work does have some mistakes as certian types of
records were not researched and this subject is a very difficult one to
get contemporary, authoritative information on; no other work covers the
subject as extensively. Note: Frontier Forts Along the Potomac is available in
Romney on East Main from the law office of Charles Carl (304)822-4187]
The French and Indian War in Frederick Conty,
Virginia, by Norman Baker; Winchester-Frederick County
Historical Society. [This book contains a very good 123 page narrative
about the war on the old Frederick County frontier (including current
counties in West Virginia) and also what is probably the most complete
listing of forts on the Virginia frontier. This book is available from the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society - www.winchesterhistory.org]
Colonial Records of the Upper Potomac, Volume Two, From 1744 to 1748, The Peaceful Years by William H. Rice; McClain Printing Co., Parsons, W. Va., 2012. ISBN 0-87012-818-3.
Colonial Records of the Upper Potomac, Volume Three, From 1748 to 1750, Settlement Expansion by William H. Rice; McClain Printing Co., Parsons, W. Va., 2013. ISBN 0-87012-835-3.
Colonial Records of the Upper Potomac, Volume Four, Surveys and Land Claims Before 1757 by William H. Rice; McClain Printing Co., Parsons, W. Va., 2014. ISBN 0-87012-835-4.
Colonial Records of the Upper Potomac, Volume Five, A Path to Destruction by William H. Rice; McClain Printing Co., Parsons, W. Va., 2015. ISBN 0-87012-854-X. [These four books in the still expanding series of Colonial Records of the Upper Potomac have detailed information on Job Pearsall's land holdings and transactions. Mr. Rice has posited that Job's first location was actually on the west side of the river. It will probably take extensive archaeology to prove the actual location of the fort Col. Washington used. Since the probable locations are on private property it is unlikely such work will ever be done.]
For information on Pearsall's Fort as a point of contact for Cherokee and Catawa Indians during the war, go to:
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Dec. 8, 2010; updated 12/21/15
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