FORT JOHN PARKER

FROM “FRONTIER FORTS ALONG THE POTOMAC AND ITS TRIBUTARIES”

BY WILLIAM H. ANSEL, JR.

This defense was located on Lot No. 44 of the Fairfax South Branch survey in the eastern end of the big loops made by that river two and one half miles southeast of Springfield, West Virginia. It was on the west side of the stream upon a bench or plateau overlooking the bottomland. The fort might be closely located at the intersection of a line drawn S. 35 E. from the town square in Springfield and a line drawn S. 83 15 E. from the Lower Rocks at the place where West Virginia Route 28 now crosses the South Branch River, the distance, air line, from the former being 2.62 miles and from the latter, 2.94 miles. To the east of the fort at a distance of one hundred yards or so, the South Branch flowed along the base of Jersey Mountain. A spur of this mountain, extending in a northwesterly direction toward what was then Ross’ mill, overlooked the fort, and from this elevation, it was possible for an enemy to fire into the stockade and at any persons showing themselves around the premise.

On November 9, 1756, the “fort at Parker’s on the South Branch” was included with the list of defenses extending across the Virginia frontier, and it was stated to be ten miles from Ashby’s fort on Patterson’s Creek and was garrisoned with thirty men.

On June 13, 1756, while at Fort Cumberland, Washington wrote to Captain Robert McKenzie ordering him to instruct Lieutenant Neugent of the King George militia to immediately proceed with his command to John Parker’s on the South Branch and while there, to not only protect the inhabitants about the fort but to also assist them in harvesting their crops.

This fort appeared to have been well out of the beaten paths or trails of the early settlers. However, an early road led down the western slope of Jersey Mountain from where Three Churches is now located to the South Branch and then crossed the stream at a point where a ferry was later established less than a mile form Parker’s mill. It then led out of the bend of the river toward present Springfield, passing the fort location at a distance of about four hundred yards. When and by whom this road was first constructed is unknown, but it is still in existence, and that portion lying on the western slope of the mountain is still being used. It was one of the early trails leading from Winchester to the west, and it might well have antedated the road leading from Fort Ashby to Fort Edwards by way of present Springfield, Slanesville and Sandy Ridge, now know as the Springfield Grade.

Kerchival reported that in the summer of 1756, a woman by the name of Hoagland left this fort to go to the bottomland along the river to pick peas. She was accompanied by two men as guard, one of whom was also named Hoagland. They had not proceeded far when they were fired upon by Indians concealed in the brush and weeds near the cultivated field. No one was hit by the shooting, and Hoagland then called to the woman to run back to the fort while he and the other rifleman took up positions behind trees and by their firing, they would attempt to hold the Indians at bay. The two men and the woman reached the fort in safety. While this shooting was going on near the fort, Indians posted on the mountain across the river were engaged in firing at men working in adjacent fields. These men all retreated toward the fort, but one of them, James Newkirk, was struck by a bullet which passed through his thigh. With the help of his companions, he also reached the fort.

Kerchival stated that the foregoing incidents took place at a fort about seven miles below Romney which would place the events at or near Fort Parker. But the fact that persons by the name of Hoagland were involved would indicate that it occurred near Fort Forman three miles north of Romney, as Richard Hoagland owned Lot No. 23 of the Fairfax South Branch River survey, which adjoined the Forman property and the probabilities are that members of his family were involved in this incident, as there is no records that nay persons by the name of Hoagland lived near Fort Parker.

Fort Parker was named for John Parker, the owner of the real estate upon which it was constructed, he having purchased Lot No. 44 consisting of 350 acres from Thomas Lord Fairfax on July 24, 1749. Two other forts on the frontier bore the name of Parker, one on Patterson’s Creek near land owned by George Parker and later named Fort Cocke, and the other on North River constructed on land owned by Thomas Parker. The two latter forts are shown on Washington’s map of the frontier as “G. Parker” and “T. Parker” respectively.

As above state, John Parker’s fort stood upon a plateau above the bottom lands, and all the lower ground was commanded from the fort. At the foot of the bench or plateau on which the fort was located, a large spring was and is situate, and this source furnished water to the soldiers garrisoning the fort and to other persons stationed there. The defense consisted of a barrack surrounded by a stockade of logs and was probably of the same dimensions as Forts Ashby and Cocke. The log barrack was in existence and was used as a dwelling until the late years of the nineteenth century. The foundation stones supporting the buildings can still be seen at the location. About 200 feet north of the fort is an ancient cemetery, the graves marked with native stone, but without inscriptions of any kind. The persons buried there are unknown. It may have been a Parker family cemetery and John Parker, the early settler might be interred therein. But since the gravestones are unmarked, it could well have been a burial ground for the Parker family slaves.

Indians were in the vicinity of this for t on several occasions during the war. In September, 1756, Ensign Charles Smith of the Sixth Company of the Virginia Regiment, while on a scout with twelve men on the south Branch and in the vicinity of Fort Parker, encountered a band of Indians and after a short skirmish, one savage was killed and Smith’s men captured several scalping knives, together with four French muskets.

This fort may have been built by John Parker and his four sons, but probabilities are that it was constructed by soldiers of the Virginia Regiment under the direction of Lieutenant John Bacon in the autumn of 1755, and in the same manner and of the dimensions of Forts Ashby and Cocke on Patterson’s Creek.

John Parker died in 1760 before the Indian troubles were over. He left surviving his wife, Elizabeth, who later married Thomas McGuire; four sons, Robert, Richard, Nathanial and Aaron; two daughters, Elizabeth, who married John Hall, and Catherine , who married William Forman

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