The Forts of the Holston Militia
The Real Maiden Spring Fort
Copyright L. J. Fleenor,
All rights reserved
Big Stone Gap, Va.
By: Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr. & Date Carter
Since the publication of The Forts of the Holston Militia by the authors of this article, additional information has been discovered that will rewrite the entire history of two of the frontier forts in Tazewell County. (refer to the chapters on Maiden Spring Fort and on The Liberty Creek Fort)
In summary of the material presented in that book in chapters 10 and 11, Maiden Spring Fort has been presented in Bickleys and in Pendletons Histories of Tazewell County as having been built by Reec Bowen in 1773 on current State Route #91 on a creek entitled on the map as Maiden Spring Creek. This creek flows out of a large cave on the home place tract (LO Q-243) of Reec, where he settled in 1769. As the Shawnee and Mingo threatened what turned into Lord Dunmores War of 1774, Bowen built a stockade around his house, and it came to be garrisoned by the settlers of adjacent Wards Cove.
Several men from the garrison of the Maiden Spring Fort are documented to have fought at the Battle of Point Pleasant, which was the major military action of Lord Dunmores War, and to have served as scouts in the Ohio Valley.
In 1777, Reec and three other men, were commissioned to lay out the route that is now State #91 from the Richlands area by Maiden Springs to Broadford on the North Fork of the Holston.
Reec became a Lt. in the militia at the Battle of Kings Mountain, the turning point of the Revolutionary War in the South. He was killed and buried there.
A magnificent mansion built in 1838 by Reecs family still stands above the site of the Maiden Spring Fort, and contains within its structure two log rooms from the original home of Reec.
Across the hill to the east of Maiden Spring Creek lies Liberty Creek. While doing land grant research on Maiden Spring Fort, reference was accidently found to a previously unknown fort. LO 14-635 to Robert Belsher (Belcher) states a survey point lay beside a little run a little below its source where it breaks out of a high rock, and a second corner is described as, near the old fort in the Higginbothin line. This meant that an unnamed fort lay just off of LO 14-635 on the land belonging to one Higginbothin.
The spelling of the surname varies, but one Moses Higginbottom or Hithinbottom, is documented as having been in a constable in the militia company of the Bowen family.
LO 33-428 documents that this tract shared a common corner with the grants owned by Robert Belcher and Moses Higgenbottom.
The similarities of the locations of the Liberty Creek Fort and Bowens Fort are striking. Both were located near streams that came out of caves in a hillside, and which flow into the Little River, which in pioneer times was known as The Maiden Spring Fork of the Clinch River. Both were positioned so that they could provide protection to the settlers of Wards Cove, which lies to the south. In The Forts of the Holston Militia the issue was left here.
After publication of the book, research on an unrelated matter revealed some significant text in a survey located in the Washington County Survey Book #1, page 245. No grant was ever issued based on this survey. The description of the survey states that it lay on both sides of the Maiden Spring Fork of Clinch River, including the real Maiden Spring . Beginning passing along Youngs line . Opposite the mouth of McAdams Creek, corner to John Bowins land (John was the son of Reec and inherited his fathers land) on Bowens line corner to Henry Davis land . On Hays line . Corner of Campbells land on Garretsons line . At the foot of Morriss knobb . May 16, 1784.
This survey contains the relevant portion of Liberty Creek Valley, including the site of the old fort mentioned in LO 14-635. It documents that there were two Maiden Springs, the real one, and by implication a false one. It strongly implies that the old fort was in reality the original and real Maiden Spring Fort, and that the one built on LO Q-243 was a later one that, together with its cave spring, took over the identity of the spring and fort on Liberty Creek.
What role Reec Bowen or Moses Higginbottom played in this earlier incarnation of Maiden Springs and its fort can only be speculated upon. This mystery certainly rewrites the early history of Tazewell County.