FORT FORMAN

 

This place was situate on the east side of the South Branch River in what is now Hampshire County, WV, less than one mile south of Hanging Rocks. Fort Williams was a near neighbor two and one-half miles to the north, while Fort Pearsall at present Romney was only three miles to the south. It was constructed in early 1755 on Lot No 25 of the Fairfax South Branch River survey, the property having been conveyed to Benjamin Forman by Thomas Lord Fairfax on the eighteenth day of August, 1749. This lot as surveyed by James Genn in 1748 was in the form of a parallelogram consisting of 400 acres lying on both sides of the river with about equal acreage on each bank. On July 22, 1754, Benjamin Forman deeded 287 ½ acres of lot No 25 to his son, William, this conveyance including all the land lying on the west side of the river and the northern one-half of the lot lying on the eastern side. On May 25, 1755, the elder Forman deeded the remainder or southeastern portion of this property to another son, John. Buffalo Run flowed across a part of this tract to reach the river.

For many years, highway officials maintained a marker at the point where WV Rte 28 crosses Buffalo Run, indicating thereby that Fort Forman stood at or near that location. But it does not appear likely the fort was built along the above stream. Buffalo Run was situate partly on Lot No 23, property owned by Richard Hoagland, it having been conveyed to him by Lord Fairfax on August 7, 1748 and being the first South Branch River lot sold by he Proprietor. Lot No 23 was contiguous to Lot No 25, as Lot No 24, which ordinarily would have bordered the latter, was entirely on the west side of the river. Hoagland conveyed Lot No 23 to John Foreman on August 12, 1762, but this sale took place several years after the fort had been built. The boundary line between Lots 25 and 23 reached the South Branch River very near the mouth of Buffalo Run, the exact place where the run flowed into the river appearing to be on that part of Lot 25 which had been deeded to John Forman, If the fort had been situate along Buffalo Run and o Forman property, it would then have been at the base of a high hill lying to the north, which would have offered an enemy free opportunity to fire down in to the stockade. It is not likely the planners of the fort would have given the Indians that advantage.

The fort was probably located considerably north of Buffalo Run at or near the intersection of a line drawn N 22 E from the courthouse in Romney with that of a line drawn S 96 E, form the southern extremity of Hanging Rocks, the distance form the courthouse being exactly three miles, air line, and from Hanging Rocks, .87 mile. The old fort would thus have stood on the South Branch River Lot No 25, n that portion thereof which had been conveyed to William Forman, but near the line of Lot No 26, and not far from the brick dwelling now standing and known as the Vance house. This location, within three hundred yards of the river, would have removed the stockade fairly effectively from the range of an enemy occupying the higher ground to the south and east. A drain or small run was and still is near this location, which could have furnished water to the occupants.

In the spring of 1764, during Pontiac’s War, Nimrod Ashby and William Forman left this place to hunt deer at a lick located to the east near the base of Jersey Mountain. On their way t the hunting ground, they were surprised by a party of Indians and both were killed. In December, this affair was officially considered by the VA House of Burgesses when Colonel Addam Stephen, commander at the time of both Hampshire and Frederick County militia, was charged, among other matters, with having taken militia from some of the forts under his command in Hampshire County and marching them to Fort Cumberland and thence to Bedford in PA as escort to a wagon train hauling supplies to the latter place, all contrary to the law that prohibited militia to leave the bounds of VA. The charge also intimated that if soldiers had not been taken from Fort Forman to go on this expedition, then Ashby and Forman might not have been killed. A committee of the House carefully considered this indictment and then found Colonel Stephen blameless as to the death of these men, the record observing, “It appears that during the absence of these Parties from the Posts two Men were killed in the neighborhood of Forman’s Fort by the Indians, and some near Winchester; but that these forts were not more weakened by these Draughts that they usually were upon sending out scouting parties from them.

Several Hampshire contains testified in this case, their depositions having been taken at Winchester before commissioners appointed by the House for that purpose. Witnesses living on the South Branch not far from Fort Forman who deposed included Jacob Castleman, Benjamin Kuykendall, Vincent Calvin, Abraham Kuykendall, and Nathaniel Kuykendall. From the Moorefield section, Abraham Hite, Thomas Parsons and John McCulloch appeared while from Patterson’s Creek, Thomas Douthitt, Silas Hedges, Garrett Reasoner and James Slaughter gave testimony. Henry Enoch from Forks of Cacapon also gave his deposition, probably to the effect that Colonel Stephen detached militia from his fort of accompany the expedition to Bedford.

Forman was generally considered a settler’s fort, but troops, principally militia, were stationed there form time to time as above indicated. George Washington’s correspondence appeared to make no reference to this place. However, like Fort Williams a short distance down the river, Washington was acquainted with Fort Forman because he passed by it several times during the course of his years on the frontier, and he undoubtedly knew the Forman family including Benjamin, the father, and James, William and John, his sons. This defense was probably a blockhouse surrounded by a stockade, its dimensions not being known. It was built as a refuge for members of the Forman family and perhaps their neighbors, who would have included Richard Hoagland, John Blue, John Calvin, sometimes given as Colvin, John Collins, William Watson and Nicholas Casey, all of whom owned river lots near the fort location.

There were at least three individuals by the name of William Forman who lived at one time or another in Hampshire County during the period from 1755 – 1782. A William Forman was killed by the Indians in 1764 as noted. In 1776, Captain William Forman from Hampshire County was killed by the Indians at Grave Creek on the Ohio River along with 21 of his men, including two of his sons. The 1782 census returns for the county tabulates a third William Forman as the head of a family of four persons. The William killed at Grave Creek was a son of the original settler, Benjamin Forman, and he was the builder of the fort which bore the family name. The William listed in the 1782 census returns was probably a son of the man killed at Grave Creek, while the member of this family killed in 1764 was probably a son of James, who was the eldest son of Benjamin.

Richard Hoagland lived within 600 yards of Fort Forman on Fairfax Lot No 23. One day during the Indian troubles, he went out to look for a stray cow. This animal carried a bell around her neck so that she might be more easily located in the woods. Having proceeded some distance, Hoagland heard the bell but something about its tone made him suspicious, for it wasn’t tinkling in the same manner it would have been had it been attached to the cow’s neck. Hoagland then climbed a ridge and circled into a hollow above the sound. He soon discovered an Indian reach out and shake a small sapling on which he had tied the bell. The savage rang the bell at intervals until he finally exposed himself so as to give Hoagland the opportunity for a clear shot. A the crack of the rifle, the Indian pitched over dead, and at the same time, another Indian in hiding nearby jumped up and ran off, which was a fortunate circumstance for Hoagland as his rifle was then unloaded and he would have been at the mercy of the second Indian.

By the close of the French and Indian War, the Forman family owned Lots Nos. 22, 23 25 and 26 of the Fairfax South Branch River survey, these lots containing g in the aggregate 1,360 acres. For a period of more than 60 years, the Formans continued prominent in the affairs of Hampshire County. During the 1790’s, they conveyed portions of their holding by several deeds to William Inskeep. On July 19, 1802, the heirs of William Forman sold 500 acres to Abraham Inskeep, which appeared to be all the remaining land along the South Branch which had been owned by this pioneer family.

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