HISTORY OF FORT LEWIS
Any definite history bearing on the building of Fort Lewis or the date of its construction is very meager. Indian depredations on the frontier of Augusta were frequent and the greatest caution was necessary on the part of the settlers, as well as the civil and military authorities. Governor Dinwiddie, though unpopular, was untiring in his efforts to protect the frontier. In 1755 civilization had not extended far beyond the present confines of Roanoke County. It is almost certain that Fort Lewis had been built and occupied as a point of defense during the previous year. The name is not mentioned in the proceedings of the "Council of War" called by Governor Dinwiddie in July, 1756, which had for its object the establishment of forts to protect our frontiers. A fort to be built at Captain Vause's, on the South Fork of Roanoke River near the present site of Shawsville, is the farthest west of the entire chain of fourteen forts ordered by the "Council of War."
On September 11th, 1754, Governor Dinwiddie wrote to Washington: "Therefore, I now order you to give a detachment of forty or fifty men to Captain Lewis (afterwards General Andrew Lewis). With them he is to march immediately to Augusta County in order to protect our frontier from the incursion of small parties of Indians, and, I suppose, some French. Order him to march immediately and to apply to Colonel Patton, the County Lieutenant, who will direct him to proceed that he may be most useful."
A letter was addressed to Colonel Andrew Lewis the same day, setting forth fully the desires of Governor Dinwiddie, in which he stated, "I now desire you to be as expeditious as possible in getting to Augusta, as I have several letters of some parties of Indians, etc., robbing and plundering our people. I wish you health and success in the command you are ordered on, and I remain, Sir, your friend, etc."
Wardell's "Annals of Augusta," in referring to this, says: "On the sixth of October, 1754, Captain Lewis was on his march to protect the frontier. He went somewhere west or south of Staunton, but to what point we cannot ascertain, and built a stockade fort there to check Indian raids—perhaps it was in the Greenbrier country, or it may have been Fort Lewis, near the site of the present town of Salem, in Roanoke County."
Inasmuch as the record shows that the chain of forts was not established until nearly two years later by the "Council of War," and in that chain is not mentioned the name of Fort Lewis, and as the orders show that Captain Lewis was to apply to Colonel Patton, County Lieutenant, who resided at Pattonsburg, on the north side of the James River at Buchanan, "for further directions," and the further facts that important land grants were given him in the Roanoke Valley contiguous to, and about the site of old Fort Lewis, and his final settlement nearby, all lead up to the well established opinion that it was here that he built the stockade fort mentioned. Even the name "Fort Lewis" is suggestive of the fact that it was at this point he took his stand in the protection of the frontier.
The "Fort Lewis" Home
The historical "Fort Lewis" home, now the property of Frank Burwell Gordon, is one of the few colonial homes of this section of Virginia which has connected with it a history worthy of note.
In August, 1910, Mr. Gordon, after spending fifteen years in South America and taking a world cruise, purchased about one hundred acres of the rich, fertile lands comprised in the original "Fort Lewis" tract, including the old "Fort Lewis" home, which he has since completely remodeled, and of which a halftone engraving accompanies this article.
Mr. Gordon has spent a small fortune in modernizing this old historic homestead. The architectural design is of pure colonial style, presenting an elegance surpassed by few, if any, of the historic homes of the Old Dominion. The architectural designs were furnished by George F. Barber & Company, of Knoxville, Tennessee. The broad avenue leading to the mansion, its towering shade trees, and the massive columns, placed by modern mechanical genius, all lend an enchantment particularly applicable to the great landed estates of Virginia in colonial times.
Situated on an eminence about midway between the Norfolk & Western, which is paralleled by the Virginian Railway, on the one side, and the "rock" road following the line of the "Great Trail" on the other, and in plain view for several miles up and down the Roanoke Valley, as colonializcd and modernized by the present owner, it has become a landmark for travelers either by rail or highway.
"Fort Lewis" of today is not surpassed in elegance and appointment by any home in Southwest Virginia. From foundation to dome material of lasting quality has been employed. The roof is of the latest and most approved tiling. The house is lighted by electricity, furnished by an exclusive generating plant; heated from cellar to dome by one of the most modern hot water plants ever installed in this section of Virginia; a pneumatic system of water supply with hot and cold water in all parts of the house; with the entire lower floor practically remodeled into an immense hall with richly hanging drapery separating parlor and library from the reception hall, and the floors covered with the softest carpets; a large central stairway leading to the rooms above; the interior finish being of the richest of hardwoods, and the best art of the paper makers and decorators, all lend an air of elegance to the place, of which no home in this county or section can boast.
The exterior arrangements of this modern home have been most carefully attended. There is a model garage, modern in all its appointments. Water has been piped to all parts of the place. The stables are the most modern in the country and are well stocked with blooded horses.
History of "Fort Lewis" Home
The original survey on which "Fort Lewis" is situated comprised two thousand two hundred acres of land, to which was subsequently added four hundred and six acres.
Under date of April 5th, 1748, George H, in the twenty-first year of his reign, through Sir William Gooch, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, granted to James Campbell, in consideration of thirty shillings, two hundred and sixty-seven acres of land, lying and being in the county of Augusta on the west side of Roanoke River.
With the patent, all mineral rights were conveyed together with the privileges of hunting, hawking, fishing, fowling, and all other profit commodities and other hereditaments whatsoever.
James Campbell was to pay for every fifty acres included one shilling yearly rents, "to be paid upon the feast of Saint Michael, the Archangel." He was also to improve and cultivate three acres for every fifty included in the tract.
Of this great tract George III, on February 14th, 1761, through Francis Fauquier, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, granted to Alexander Boyd ninety-eight acres of land on the waters of Roanoke for ten shillings.
On August 14th, 1771, Andrew Boyd, administrator for Alexander Boyd, conveyed to Alexander Bain, one thousand two hundred acres, more or less, indicating that Alexander Boyd, either by grant or purchase had become seized or possessed of a large boundary. This same land was mortgaged for £1,142, 6s, l1d, bearing interest from November 27th, 1764. In 1785, Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, for the sum of £6, 10s, paid by Alexander Bain into the treasury, granted by the said Commonwealth unto David Ross, assignee of Alexander Bain, two thousand two hundred acres by survey dated January 11th, 1773, lying and being in the county of Botetourt on both sides of Roanoke River. Four hundred acres thereof was granted to James Campbell by letters patent bearing date February 12th, 1742. One hundred acres, another part thereof, was granted to Colonel James Patton by letters patent, and two hundred and sixty-seven acres (mentioned above) to James Campbell.
This grant also included two patents of ninety-eight and thirty acres, respectively, granted to Alexander Boyd under date of February 14th, 1761, and which had reverted to Alexander Bain; two hundred and forty-eight acres which had been made to Alexander Boyd, and returned by him, and afterwards assigned to Alexander Bain, together with a residue of one thousand and fifty-seven acres never before granted, and which several said tracts completed the original boundary of two thousand two hundred acres.
To this grant Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, set his hand, and caused the lesser seal of the Commonwealth to be attached on September 13th, 1785.
On February 3d, 1784, a further grant of one hundred and fourteen acres was made to Alexander Bain.
In the course of two decades other parties became interested in this vast landed estate, and through either misfortune or mismanagement it became involved, and was sold under a decree of the Federal Court, the deed from Joseph Scott, Marshall of Virginia District, bearing date of December 1st, 1806. and specifying that "By decree of the United States Court pronounced at the May term in 1804, between Phineas Bond, attorney for the creditors of Ezekiel Edwards, plaintiff, and David Ross, John Wickham, and David Hay, defendants," was sold to Thomas Norvell, the entire boundary embracing two thousand six hundred and eight acres. The price paid was $12,900.
Later a portion of this land became the property of Samuel White, of "Fort Lewis," Botetourt County, Virginia. Under date of November 22nd, 1831, Samuel White in his will bequeathed to Alexander White "the mansion house, the land, and other things." This included the present "Fort Lewis" now owned by Frank B. Gordon.
After the death of Alexander White, by decree of the Court at the June term, 1906, the dwelling house and other buildings, including one hundred and fifty-three and three-fourths acres, reverted to Fannie Penn White.
Fannie Penn White in turn conveyed to W. L. Xolen one hundred and forty-nine and twenty-six hundredths acres containing the dwelling house and other contiguous buildings lately described as "Fort Lewis" for the sum of $20,000.
Under date of May 26th, 1900, W. L. Nolen conveyed the same property to S. E. Nolen.
"Fort Lewis," the stockade fort built by General Andrew Lewis, stood a few yards to the southwest of the present mansion.
History of Roanoke County by George S. Jack, Edward Boyle Jacobs; published 1915; Submitted to Genealogy Trails by Andrea Stawski Pack
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