The Forts of the Holston Militia
Colonel John Tate's Fort
All rights reserved
Big Stone Gap, Va.
By: Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Chapter 23 of The Forts of the Holston Militia by Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr. and Dale Carter is about Tates Fort. Since publication of that book much additional information has come to light. The site was toured by the author and Jerry Fraley, who is a descendent of both Col. John Tate of Tates Fort, and of Frederick Fraley of Moores Fort at Castlewood.
In summary of the material in the book, during the Great Cherokee War of 1776 great numbers of refugees were created when the Cherokee drove the settlers out of Lee County. Many initially went to Carters Fort in Rye Cove, and when that fort was laid siege to, they were then sent on to Fort Blackmore. The Holston Militia planned a counter attack on the Cherokee settlements in the Smokey Mountains, and decided that they could not do so and maintain a garrison at Fort Blackmore. The refugees there were sent on into the interior to Houstons Fort on Big Moccasin Creek east of present Gate City, Virginia.
The crowding at Houstons Fort was untenable, and Col. John Tate, who had gotten a grant for land just upstream to the east from Houstons Fort (LO 20-217) recruited 15 20 families of refugees to accompany him to his home, where a fort was erected.
Today, one can see Stuarts Chapel, which defined the northwestern corner of Tates grant. It was built at the beginning of the Civil War, and its workers were drafted into the Confederate Army before the job was finished. The Stuarts are intermarried with the Tates.
Remains of the lime kiln where the bricks for the church were made are still in evidence near the center of the Tate grant. Perhaps the mortar was made here, and perhaps there were both a brick kiln and a lime kiln. It was a stone chimney built into the dug out side of a hill. The dug out and some of the stones are still in evidence.
Mr. Charles Eastly, and his nephew Gary Eastly, spoke at length about their knowledge on Tates Fort. Their family has lived on the Tate lands as long as their knowledge goes back. Charles is in his 80s, and recalls the spring where Col. John Tate got his water. He does not know the location of the fort, though he knows of its existence. This spring is the only spring on the Tate grant. The fort would have had to have been no more than 150 yards from this spring likely on the nearest high ground.
This spring is nearly in the center of the Tate Grant, and comes out of a thirty foot limestone bluff about ten feet up the bank of Big Moccasin Creek. It is really the outlet of an underground cave stream. Fifty yards to the south of the spring, and situated by the road, is an ancient abandoned house. Its front steps are well dressed limestone, and the dressing markings on the riser surface made by the stone mason who carved them is identical to those of the steps of Stuarts Chapel. I believe it very likely that they were made by the same artisan. The space between the road and land above the spring bluff is the only hill top flat land on the Tate grant. It is about the size required for a stockade large enough to house the 30 some families known to have forted in Tates Fort. Redundant circumstantial evidence thus points to this as the site of Tates Fort. The house standing there now likely was built about the same time as Stuarts Chapel.
The big bottoms in the southeast corner of the grant are known to this day as the Tate Bottoms, though no one around can remember anybody by that name owning them. Gary owns them now. Turning ones back to the Tate Bottoms and looking north one sees the old house seat of a log cabin torn down by Gary. He and Charles identify it as the Fugate home. It was a log cabin with port holes in the walls, and which were plugged with wooden stoppers. Indians attacked that cabin and killed Fugate's wife. Fugate and Col. John Tate chased the Indians to Wise County, where they caught up with the Indians, and Fugates horse fell on him and killed him, and Tate returned home.
All of this is oral tradition known to the Eastlys, and was not passed down to them from some modern published material. It is genuine oral tradition.
To the east of the Fugate cabin site, and overlooking the Tate Bottoms from the highest hillock to their north, is the Tate Cemetery where Col John Tate is buried. He has an original legible tomb stone, against which leans a modern Government Issue Revolutionary War Veterans tomb stone, like that placed by the DAR. This cemetery is not on the topographic map.
About half a mile to the southwest of Stuart's Chapel, just to the west of Fraley's Hollow, is a second Tate Cemetery. It is off of the grant of Col. John Tate, and is on the land grant to Zachariah Fugate. There are graves within it that are old enough to have been of the generation of the Cols children. There have been burials within this cemetery as recently as the 1940s.
JERRY FRALEY IN FRONT OF STUART'S CHAPEL
SITE OF TATE'S FORT
THE GRAVE OF COL. JOHN TATE
JERRY FRALEY, DESCENDENT OF BOTH THE
FRALEY'S AND THE TATE'S
JERRY FRALEY STANDING IN THE
TATES FORT SPRING
KEY TO TOPO OF COL. JOHN TATE'S LAND AND FORT
A) The newer of the two Tate Cemeteries
B) Stuarts Chapel
C) Lime Kiln
D) Fort spring is to the south across the creek
E) Fort site is to the north across the road
F) Site of Fugate log fort house
G) Site of Col. John Tate's grave in the original Tate Cemetery