While driving a familiar route between Bluefield, West Virginia, and Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, this past week we stopped at the Crab Orchard Museum near Tazwell, Virginia.
This is the site of one of the earliest settlements in this part of western Virginia. We learned that Over Mountain Men from Tennessee and North Carolina at the Battle of King's Mountain learned of available, fertile land in this area and many of them came here to settle.
A plaque tells that the first settler was Thomas Whitten, who came here with his family in 1771, which was well before King's Mountain. According to a history of Tazwell County, Witten was of English descent and had come from Maryland in 1766, settling first in what is now Giles County, Virginia. At Crab Orchard he built a fort that protected his family and neighbors from Indian attack, after troubles began around 1772-3.
The reconstructed fort sits on a knoll above the museum. It's a surprisingly small structure, one room with a loft, without windows but with gun ports near the top.
The museum building is a modern structure housing artifacts and interpretative displays, which overlooks a reconstructed pioneer settlement.
The area around the museum is well landscaped with flowers, a split-rail snake fence, and artifacts.
The sign at the entrance suggests starting the tour in the Museum's Gallery. We'll do just that tomorrow.