Recollections of the Ft. Savannah Village
1963 - 1966
The insurance was not enough to rebuild the mill as it had been so plans were made to construct the Fort Savannah Village. It would include a museum and visitor center with a number of small log cabins where crafts such as blacksmithing, spinning and weaving, cabinet making, etc. could be demonstrated. The village would be surrounded by a picket stockade fence.
Since Lewis Detch and Phil McLaughlin had both gone to William and Mary College in Williamsburg VA, their families were familiar with Colonial Williamsburg, that undoubtedly provided the concept for the Village. Although Paul was too young to be involved with the construction of the main log building, he was impressed when he saw that the pre-stressed concrete beams for the floor were bowed up when they were being transported but flattened out when they were placed on the concrete cap on the old stone foundation.
After the fire, plans were made to develop a tourist attraction similar to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Dr. Montgomery was a pusher – he wanted to have something that fit in with the neighborhood rather than the grocery store suggested by Woodrow Taylor. (The Kroger store was later built where Peoples Bank is now located.) Fort Savannah Village was to have a large log building to serve as a museum and visitor center with a series of small log workshops for crafts such as blacksmithing, weaving, and cabinet making. Dr. Montgomery hired an architect from Charleston, Everheart, to design the visitor center. It would be built on the Old Red Mill foundation that was originally built around 1825 for the Withrow tannery. Earl Sampson was in charge of building the visitor center.
A concrete cap was poured on top of the original stone foundation, pre-stressed concrete beams were placed on the cap, and 3 or 4 inches of concrete was poured on the beams to make the finished floor. Herbert helped his dad build a new wall near the stairwell on the original foundation His dad located the Gwinn House (1 share of ORM stock given to James Gwinn 11/2/63 “issued as payment for large log house and chimney), a double log building in Lowell (near Pence Springs) and had it dismantled. College women and cooks from the College made lunch for the crew gathering the logs.
Bob Callison hauled them back to Lewisburg where Earl Sampson assembled them to form the building walls. There weren't enough logs so additional ones were obtained from a house in Sunlight in northern Greenbrier County. The stones for the fireplace and chimney also came from the Sunlight house [the Hinkle house]. The architect designed the roof trusses which were built on the main floor. Somehow they were hoisted into place on top of the log walls, perhaps by Bobby Callison. There were no gutters on the building to protect the foundation, so large sandstone blocks, 4 or 5 inches thick, were gathered from along the road leading to a farm near Piercy's Mill. Herbert helped bring them back to Lewisburg and place them along the outside wall of the log building along Rt. 219.
Andy McLaughlin located several small log structures and brought them to the Ft. Savannah Village where they would become craft workshops. At that time, most chestnut trees had been killed by the blight, but the roots continued to put up new sprouts that would grow for several years before they, too, were killed by the blight. Dr. Montgomery arranged for a crew, which included Herbert, to go into the woods around Cross Mountain (It is between Williamsburg and Rupert, just south of Cold Knob) to harvest the dead sprouts that were several inches in diameter. Fred Staunton, head of the C&P Telephone office, had a 4-wheel drive truck with a winch and hauled the chestnut poles back to Lewisburg. They were used to build a U-shaped stockade fence around the Village. According to a Gazette-Mail article on 7/21/1963, this was a volunteer project of the Jaycees. Dr. Montgomery, president of the Greenbrier College, arranged for the College to provide the crew with a picnic lunch.
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