Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fort Upper Tract

Fort Upper Tract in Pendleton County, WV (Click any photo to enlarge)Pendleton County, WV

Marker Text: Site of Fort Upper Tract, one of the forts erected under Washington's orders to guard the settlements. In 1758, Indians captured and burned it. Captain James Dunlap and 21 others were killed. No one escaped.

Location: On U.S. Route 220 on the northbound side of the road in Upper Tract, WV, about half way between Petersburg to the north and Franklin to the south.

  Today's marker is related to my prior post on Fort Loudoun in present day Winchester, VA. In 1755, George Washington arrived in Winchester to supervise the construction of Fort Loudoun and other frontier forts along the western frontier in Virginia during the French and Indian War. In present day, West Virginia there are several state historic markers indicating the location of these early forts.

Fort Upper Tract along U.S. Route 220 in Pendleton County, WV

Photo taken looking south on U.S. Route 220, south branch of the Potomac would be on the left of the photo.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  According documents left by George Washington, Fort Upper Tract was built between August 21 and November 9, 1756, by a Lieutenant Lomax and 20 soldiers probably aided by local settlers. Washington directed the fort's construction from wood in a quadrangular shape with walls 60 feet long and bastions in all four corners. The fort was to have barracks, a powder magazine, and other necessary buildings all built within the walls. The actual completed form of the fort is unknown.

  According to documents left by William Preston, the fort was destroyed in an Indian attack on April 27, 1758 and eighteen militiamen were killed at the fort. A letter in the Augusta County court records, written following the attack on the fort indicated some of the militiamen killed at the fort were reinforcement sent to Fort Upper Tract from Hog’s Fort in Brock Gap, about 22 miles to the east. Captain Dunlap, himself killed in the battle, had requested help upon spotting Indians in the area. The reinforcements arrived just before the fort was attacked. Local settlers Ludwick Fulk and William Elliot, their wives, and one stranger died with the militiamen.

  No one in the fort survived to tell how it was captured. Fort Upper Tract was apparently never rebuilt. The exact location of Fort Upper Tract is not known, only that it was built within or near the present village of Upper Tract, WV by the Southern Branch of the Potomac in present day, Pendleton County, probably somewhere east of this marker and the river. This marker is all that remains to tell the traveler of the existence of this old frontier fort.

Fort Upper Tract along U.S. Route 220 looking south on the highway  These early frontier forts constructed under Washington's supervision between 1755-58 provided protection for the families who were willing to move to this frontier. Without these forts few families would have been willing to settle these areas. Forts were constructed during the 1750's along the South Branch of the Potomac, the Cacapon River, Patterson Creek, Opequon Creek, and the main Potomac River itself, as well as to the south along the Greenbrier River. Among the better-known forts of this period are Ashby, Edwards, Maidstone, Pleasant, and Seybert. In what is now the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, forts were constructed roughly every 15 miles.

  Early pioneer families moved from their homesteads to the safety of a nearby fort when threatened by Indian war parties. If time permitted, the families brought food, clothing, and valuables with them. Usually, they remained at the fort only as long as necessary. Typical stays ranged from several days to several weeks. On occasion, families lived in a fort for months. When the Indians left the immediate area, the settlers returned home. Forting was a seasonal activity. The greatest need for the shelter of a fort occurred between the months of April and October every year, the period of Indian raiding. Difficult travel made winter warfare relatively rare.

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