My day job is focused on flood issues, particularly with regard to stream gauges, the levels at which they flood, and what impacts may occur. With more than 300 stream and tide gauges in Virginia it takes quite a bit of traveling to identify flood stages and impacts, and I’ve been to most of the gauge sites. As I was using Google Earth to look at one of the sites, I came across an historical nugget – Fort Christanna. Virginia has an extensive history in the New World, and I was surprised that I had neither heard of this Fort nor driven by it on my many excursions to the area.
The Fort is located about two miles south of the Town of Lawrenceville in Brunswick County, Virginia, and was established in 1714 by the Royal Governor Alexander Spotswood. The Fort’s name is derived from the combination of Christ and England’s Queen Anne. At the time, this area was considered the frontier of Virginia. Fort Christanna was situated within a 36 square mile tract of land set aside for the Saponi and Occaneechi Indians.
Image: Google Earth
It was intended to function as a trading post and a safe haven for the members of several small tribes. During Spotswood’s tenure as Royal Governor (1710-1722), he also established the Virginia Indian Company to support this endeavor and take advantage of the fur trade. The Charter for the Fort included provisions for Rangers to patrol the area and a functioning school for the tribal children.
The Fort design was a pentagram with a cannon at each point. A Wikipedia entry states “The five large cannon once at the fort are supposed to have been buried in the well; its location is currently uncertain.” The Fort only lasted until 1717 when it lost its support from London and the Virginia House of Burgesses. Eventually, the area was overtaken by settlers and the tribes moved out.
Painting by John Kincheloe
An interesting report titled ‘Colonizing the Virginia Frontier: Fort Christanna and Governor Spotswood’s Indian Policy’ is available at http://www.academia.edu/208038/Colonizing_the_Virginia_Frontier_Fort_Christanna_and_Governor_Spotswoods_Indian_Policy
For a good overview of the development of the Fort Christanna park, click on this link and select the Program pdf.
The Fort Christanna site is managed by the Fort Christanna Site Development Committee and the Brunswick County/Lake Gaston Tourism Association, Inc. http://www.brunswickco.com/ftchris.asp