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Editorial: Fort Randolph helps tell region's colonial story

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 12:47 AM

In 1776, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio were still frontier areas claimed by the Colony of Virginia, and at first glance, a long way from the events we celebrate this July 4th.

The final draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved hundreds of miles away by the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia and signed by seven Virginians, all of whom hailed from the eastern coastal areas of the colony.

But our region has its own piece of history from 1776 -- one that provides an interesting look into the frontier's role in the Revolutionary War.

The confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers near Point Pleasant, W.Va., was a strategic point for river travel then, just as it is today. Virginia militia in October 1774 defeated a force of Shawnee and Mingo warriors to secure the area for exploration and attacks continued as the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775.

In May 1776, Capt. Matthew Arbuckle led a group of Virginia troops to the area to construct a new fort, which was named Fort Randolph in honor of Virginia leader Peyton Randolph. That compound remained an important military outpost throughout the war for independence, helping to protect the region from the British and their Native American allies.

A replica of the fort was built in the early 1970s and dedicated on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1974. Since the city of Point Pleasant had grown over where the original fort stood, the reconstruction was located in Krodel Park, about a mile from the original site.

Today, visitors can tour the fort and see how soldiers and settlers of the era lived and fought. The complex includes blockhouses, cabins, a blacksmith's shop, woodwright's shop and gunsmith's shop inside the rectangular stockade. Several other structures are located outside the stockade, along with an actual 1800s cabin and a Native American village.

Fort Randolph hosts numerous events during the year, and a special traditional music program is planned for this holiday weekend. Eighteenth Century artisans are featured in August, a gathering of longhunters is planned for September and the annual battle re-enactment is Oct. 4-6.

After the hot dogs and fireworks this week -- or sometime during the year -- we hope residents will make time to visit Fort Randolph and take a trip back to the world of 1776, Tri-State style.

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