Our extended stretch of cloudy and rainy weather continued yesterday, as the remains of Hurricane Florence swept through our area. We received our third day this month with one or more inches of rainfall, with a total of 1.05 inches from the storm. Through September 17, we have received a total of 6.45 inches of rainfall as compared to a 30-year average of 3.15 inches for the month. Regardless of what we receive over the rest of the month, September is already the sixth consecutive month in which we have received twice or more the average amount of rainfall.
What has made it worse has been the high humidity levels we have experienced for the past two months and the nearly continuous 11-day stretch (beginning on September 7) with no sunshine, except for some brief periods in the afternoons of September 13 and 17. We have had dense fog and drizzle most mornings and measurable rainfall on every day of the stretch, including three days with one or more inches of accumulation. It was during this soggy period that we attended and participated in the 50th Treasure Mountain Festival—Pendleton County’s biggest annual event.
Although we have attended the prior eleven festivals, this was the first one in which we actively participated. Barb worked with the Sew and Sews Quilt Guild of Pendleton County to host the fair’s annual Quilt Show, in which many of her quilt products were displayed. The table runner and lap quilt that won first and second place ribbons (respectively) at the Tri-County Fair earlier this summer also won first and third place ribbons at the Quilt Show—a very pleasant surprise for her. Also, this year, we attended (for the first time) the annual restaging of the April 28, 1758 siege and burning of Fort Seybert. This is the historic event for which the Treasure Mountain Festival was named.
The construction of Fort Seybert in eastern Pendleton County was commissioned in 1755 by George Washington after the fateful loss of the colonial invasion of Fort Duchesne (later Fort Pitt) to remove French forces that had become established in present day Pittsburgh, PA. The battle ignited the French and Indian War (1755-1763) which threatened to halt and repulse British colonial expansion into the Allegheny Mountains. The Shawnee and Delaware Indian Tribes, who opposed the gradual movement of pioneer settlers into their favored and sacred hunting grounds, joined forces with the French to drive the colonial American settlers back to their original territorial boundaries east of the Alleghenies.
One of the more significant skirmishes that framed the early years of the war was the 1758 attack and burning of Forts Upper Tract and Seybert in Pendleton County, which also resulted in the brutal massacre of most of the settlers who sought refuge in those forts. The attack by 30 or so Shawnee and Delaware Indians was led by Chief Killbuck, who was seeking vengeance for prior alleged offenses by prominent British settlers, including Thomas Cresap. The Indians had attacked and burned Fort Upper Tract, killing all of its inhabitants, just days before arriving at Fort Seybert on April 22. Uncertain of how many forces were garrisoned at the fort and realizing their closing proximity to Colonial support forces, the Indians quietly surrounded the fort in the early morning fog. Unbeknownst to the Indians, a large party of the fort’s defenders had recently headed east over Shenandoah Mountain to secure provisions. When two of the settlers (a man and woman) emerged from the fort, the Indians quickly subdued and captured them, but in so doing made the occupants aware of their presence.
This incident touched off rounds of periodic gunfire as the settlers defended the fort. One of Killbuck’s war party was seriously injured, and his survival remained in question throughout the battle. Realizing that his success was not assured, Killbuck offered surrender terms to the settlers, promising that if they abandoned the fort their lives would be spared. Since the fort’s complement was reduced, the settlers agreed to Killbuck’s terms and surrendered the fort—although two of the defenders lagged behind. This led to a period of mutual distrust that caused confusion on the part of both the invaders and the settlers. Eventually, the invaders decided to kill some of the settlers. As the settlers were being separated into two parties (one that would be spared while the other would be killed), some of the settlers managed to escape, which ensured the story would be known and raised fears by the Indians that they would soon be pursued by Colonial forces. The Indians then killed the doomed group of settlers with their tomahawks and set fire to the fort. After burning the fort, they marched the surviving settlers to the west, over the mountains, to evade pursuit.
In the process of invading the fort, legend states that the Indians took all the settlers’ valuables and stored them in a large iron cook-pot to carry them on their journey back to their Ohio homelands. The pot was suspended on a pole and carried by two of the warriors as they trudged up the steep mountains. The heavy weight of the pot laden with their plunder caused the Indians carrying it to repeatedly fall behind. To quicken their pace and avoid capture, they decided to bury the treasure along the way and retrieve it later when it would be safer to carry it. Little did they know that this would be the last time the Indians would travel into Pendleton County, so the treasure was never retrieved. Although many attempts have been made to retrace the war party’s path, the buried treasure from Fort Seybert has never been found. Thus, the legend of Treasure Mountain was born.
We enjoyed the mock performance of the legendary siege and burning of Fort Seybert. It was a fitting celebratory climax to the annual Treasure Mountain Festival. We were surprised by the large crowd in attendance despite the inclement weather and periodic showers. We only hope that the battle and the passing of Hurricane Florence will clear the air in our area and herald the return of sunshine and dry weather to Pendleton County. We truly need a break from the gloom.