Kilgore's Fort House

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Southwest Virginia Project
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This article is one of a series on the forts of southwest Virginia during the period of Indian Hostilities, (1774-1794). The accompanying map shows the location of the forts in the Powell, Clinch, and Lower Holston watersheds. An index to these forts is found at List of Forts of Southwest Virginia. The location of many of these forts is known only approximately, and different sources sometimes suggest different locations. Much of the information in these articles is based on Emory Hamilton's article "Frontier Forts".




Kilgore's Forthouse is located on Copper Creek a mile and one-half southwest of Lebanon, Scott County, VA. It appears on some maps labeled "Dorton's Fort" though this is a cartographic mistake. Dorton's Fort was located in the nearby area, but was not the same as Kilgore's Fort. The location of Kilgore's Forthouse is shown by marker 12 in the accompanying map.


Kilgore's Fort is a simple Forthouse. That is, it was a strongly fortified home, designed for the protection of a single family. Their home is notable for being the only surviving forthouse in southwest Virginia, with the possible exception of Rocky Station in the Powell River Valley, in Lee County. The accompanying photograph shows the Forthouse as it appeard prior to 1932. Note that some features have been modified from what the original construciton was likely to have been. In particular, note the presence of the glass window pane, which would have been unknown on the frontier in 1790 (not to mention unwise, given the purpose of the forthouse as a "fortification. The chimney is of brick construction; in 1790 it would have either been of undressed field stone, or more likey, "wattle and daub" construction. Creosote build-up in the chimney represented an ever present fire-hazard, and it was common to build the chimeny so that it leaned outward from the house, but held in place by wooden poles; in the event of a chimney fire, the poles could be quickly knocked down, and the chimney separated from the house. Copper Creek lies unseen on the far side of the house.



Kilgore's Fort was built shortly after the marriage of The Reverend Robin Robert Kilgore to Jane Porter Green, in 1792. Jane was the daughter of Patrick Porter, who had previously built a forthouse on Fall Creek, near Dungannon VA. Jane's first husband, James Green, was killed by Indians while hunting with Rev. Robert's father, Robert Kilgore Sr, and "a man named McKinney" at the mouth of Indian Creek on the Pound River. Jane's mother was Susannah Walker, daughter of John Walker and Ann Houston,who had settled near his soninlaw Patrick Porter. Many of the extended John Walker family were killed or captured by Indians during this period. Even though their home was constructed towards the end of the period of Indian Hostilities, it is not surprizing that both Robert and Jane had reason to secure their home as much as possible from Indian attacks.


Photographs of Kilgore's Fort House are fairly common the web. Here's a list of links with different photos.

  1. Includes an uncommon view of the house from the rear.
  2. Frontal view
  3. from National Register application, dating to about 1973, and prior to renovation
  4. not the best quality, but nice sunlit dappled atmosphere
  5. winter view
  6. [ Wikipedia article, incudes photograph from Source:Addington, 1932 History of Scott County.

National Register Application

snippets--needs LOTS of clean up

original application is at [] in pdf format.

The Kilgore Fort House is a two-story timber structure with gable roof and rests on a limestone foundation. On the northeast gable end is a massive stone chimney laid i n lime mortar with two insets or splays that narrow the stone p i l e i n its r i s e to the stack. The building5 construction is i n the simplest form, being of hewn rectangular timbers, V-notched a tthe comers. Originally, structural and defensive strength was enhanced by a heavy interior timber partition notched into the walls exposing the ends to the cxterior, thus forming two rooms on both floors. This parti- tion has been removed by sawing the wooden members off a t the interior w a l l surface. The f i r s t , second and a t t i c floor j o i s t s a r e also s e t into the structural timbers. The second floor openings are apparently their original small size, indicating the defensive nature of the building; the f i r s t floor windows existing on the north and west have been enlarged. The doorways and all window openings are finished by simple framing boards. The roof presently has rough shingle shakes but is deteriorating. Interior flooring is missing for the most part on the fir s t floor, but most of the buarding remains i n t a c t on the second and a t t i c stories. A steep ladder stair (closed stringers with treaders) remains, linking the first and second floors, and a ladder leads to the attic level.

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE Page 3 . , . SIGNIFICANCE I PERIOD ( On* or Mar. .. A r o p l . 1 0 )Pre.Col-bioni [7 16th Century 18th C.nrwy X)th'Ccn,vy [7 17th C-ntury n 19th Cmtwy a 15th C-nrury sPrctruc DATEIS) (rlppIlc.bre a n d n o v n ) ARE*. O F

S I G N I F I C A N C E (C.C& 0". Ori(0.s a. A m m I t . )A k iginm1 Q Educatim P liricol U r h n Plsnninp Pnh6sto.iEnginreving R.ligion/Phi. rn Other fS -clhJ nisto.ic 1ndu.1l o p h H i s tory Apricultun 0 I""."ti.. C] Scirnc. a Archimclu. Londscop. 0 Sculptwe Archihctun Socuol/Hun.n- Cannc. Litentun it.rion Cmnuni=otiom 0 Mitilory Thcorsr Casenotion Music Tmnspatotion . STATEMENT O F S I G N I F I C A N C E8 ! ,A Z 0 1 - I- U 3 LZ: I- VI Z - W w VI Frontier Forts were b u i l t to guard mountain gateways, river valleys, and other strategic points, and a l s o a s places of refuge for neighboring frontiersmen and t h e i r families during times of danger. Subsequent to Braddock's defeat, Colonel George Washington organized the defense of i r g i n i a ' sfrontier around a system of such f o r t s stretching the length of the Valley from the Potomac to North Carolina. While the major danger of French and Indian invasion passed with the Treaty of Paris (1763) and the removal of French influence from North America, Indian depredations remained a r e a l i t y on the frontier. The settlement of extreme Southwest Virginia during the last-third of the eighteenth century followed very closely the standard for frontier development. The Indians remained an active threat to s e t t l e r s in this region during and immediately following the American War for Independence. The Old Kilgore Fort House was the l a s t of a chain of frontier forts extending a t one time from Castlewood to Cumberland Gap. Built a t the end of the f i r s t , more dangerous, generation of settlement on this new Virginia frontier, the Kilgore Fort House represents a transitional type I of structure. By circa 1785-90, strongly-built and fortified houses were taking the place of the e a r l i e r blockhouse and stockaded forts. Robert Kilgore's Fort House represents this stage in frontier social and architectural 1 I development. Both the lower and upper stories were separated into two I rooms by log partitions b u i l t as strongly as the outer walls thcrnselves, suggesting a defensive strategy with the potential f o r several l a s t stands Although threatened on several occasions, the K i l g o r e House survived the I .I i l a s t Indian uprising. i Robert Kilgore lived in the old house until h i s death in 1854 a t the I agc of eighty-eight. He was a prominent primitive Baptist minister as 1 well as a farmer. He was pastor of Nickelsville Baptist Church for more I than forty years; and his namesake of a later generation l e f t Southwest Virginia t o become an Evangelist of national repute. The Manuscript census returns for 1850 indicate that Kilgore Fort House was a f a i r l y I prosperous farm i n the ante-bellum period. While a younger Robert Kilgore and his family were operating the farm, the elder Robert lived on i n re- i tirement a t the house he had built. Kilgore Fort House is i n advanced structural deterioration due pri- marily to the breakdown of the mortar in the stone chimney causing it to lean downhill and consequently push the upper portion of the building in that direction. A majority of the timbers, however, a r e i n good condition. I Page 4 , . Farn 10-300- UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Uuly 1969) NATIONAL PARK SERVICE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES 8.. t a s the focal point for a public wayside park. The efforts and pre- liminary plans by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Lenowisco Planning Distric Commission, Scott County Planning Commission, and the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission assure that the Kilgore Fort House w i l l be properly restored and that the recreational and parking areas w i l l not infringe on the historic aspects of the building. Its picturesque site on a gentle slope beside Copper Creek lends to the fort house an isolated frontier quality chat w i l l be respected by these plans. The Kilgore Fort House is perhaps the oldest building i n the county and even in its present condition, a significant landmark. Indeed, its importance is national in scope, being one of the few extant structures i nsouthwestern Virginia that represents the early westward movement into Kentucky, Tennessee and beyond. INVENTORY - NOMINATION FORM Pam0 1 (Continuation Sheet) SCOTT FOR NPS USE ONLY E N T R Y N U M E RD.TE I - Page 5 r9. MAJOR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES I 1 Robert M. Addington, HISTORY OF SCOTT COUNTY, VIRGINIA, 1932. Howard A. HacCord, "Forts i n Colonial Virginia," VIRGINIA CAVALCADE, XX (Autumn 1970): 5-11. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850: Free Inhabitants and Agriculture. 1 SW I 0 . I I I A P P R O X l U I T E A C R L I G E O F NOMINATED P R O P E R T Y : 1 314 a-cxe-s $LIST A L L STATES I N 0 COUNTIES FOR P R O P E R T I E S OVERLAPPING S T A T E OR COUNTV BOUNDARIES S T A T E :CODE L A T I T U D E 4 N D L O N O l T V D E C O O R O I N 1 T E I 0 O E F l N l N G T H E C E N T E R Po1NT OF 4 P R O P E R T VO F LESS THAN T F N A C R E SL I T l T U D E Seconds 36' 44 ' 05 ' 0 . 0 LONG4 T U D E Monu1.s S-condl 0 . 82 26 03 11. As the d e s i n a t r dState 1,laison Officer for the Na- tlonai tlislor c Preservatton Act of 1966 (Public L a w 89-hh0. I hcreby nomlnate this property for inclusion n the S;lt onal R r l s t e rand ccrLify that it has been ev;iu.,terI orcordrng to tile crtterta and procedures set forth ti" the Sattonal Park Service. The recommended level of s c n f i c a n c eof this nornlnatlon is: Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission /.lanuary, 1972 1 S T R E E T A N D NUMBER: t- I Room 1116, Ninth Street State Office Buildine i T tleVa. Historic Landmarks Commission I T A T F :S T A T E :S T A T E : lc ' T;i:;,;:; (12. STATE LiAlSON OFFICER CERTIFICAIION I I hereby certify that thts property is mcluded in the NatlonsI Reg ster. S T A T E . , . I I I 1 Chtef, Offlce of Archeology sndHlslor#c Preservalron 1 FORhl PREPARED BY - N A M E *NO T I T L E : Virginia Historic Landmarks Comm ssbpn S ORCANIL*TION taff D A T E CODE - C O D E ' - C O D E - I Date 1 ATTEST: I 1 1 Keeper of The N s l l s lRed ster bate COUNTY: COUNTY: COUNTY: CODE - CODE - CODE - Page 6 U N I'I'I*: I> S7'A-I'L;S LSSEE V A i L f < Y AU'TI-10;-.: 1'1'Y TEN N