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Sunday, December 9, 2012

He died warning the settlers - John Douglass: a geocache and history in southwest Virginia

I enjoy a little history with my geocaching. On a recent trip into southwest Virginia I cached along Highway 19 between Abingdon and Lebanon, Virigina. What a fascinating area! My ancestors passed through this area while migrating down the great valley into Tennessee in the early 1770's. The events that later resulted in the establishment of the John Douglass Memorial and cache John Douglass Memorial (GC19MW3) took place just one county north of where they settled. Research shows that they too would have taken precautions against attacks. What exactly happened?

Dragging Canoe

The flat rock

Telling the story
In the days leading up to America's declaration of independence many of the Cherokee began to side with the British. One of the Cherokee leaders named Dragging Canoe rose to the forefront, leading the Cherokee in their opposition to settlers who were invading their lands in Tennessee and southwest Virginia. During 1776 and 1777 many raids were made on white settlements. These led to retaliation during which many Cherokee towns were destroyed. The conflict is known as the Second Cherokee War.  In July 1776 settlers around Fort Black (two years later the name would change to Abingdon) were warned of impending Indian attacks. The son of one of the local pioneer settlers, John Douglass, set out from Fort Black with a friend to warn the outlying settlement of Castle Woods. The two stopped while traveling northwest through the pass in the Clinch Mountain range about noon to eat. John Douglass was sitting on a large flat rock by a stream descending to the North Fork of the Holston when a shot rang out from the woods. He was shot dead. While the account told today does not say it, it is assumed that Douglass was shot by Cherokee Indians. Whether his partner continued on to warn the settlers or whether he fled back to Fort Black is unknown. Today there is a plaque on the very rock where Douglass was killed. The cache is close by too. On 22 July 1776 Dragging Canoe's warriors killed Henry Creswell outside Fort Black. During the next few weeks more Indian attacks took place in the area. Some included British Tory loyalist. It is good to see the sacrifice of John Douglass memorialized with a plaque, a wayside picnic area and a geocache.

Finding the cache: We were traveling northwest on Highway 19 and pulled off on the cut through in the median between the north and southbound lanes. It was cold and windy so sumajhuarmi stayed in the car. Since I began my Coumadin blood thinners a month ago she has been wary of my seeking any cache that could put me at danger of falling. This cache required me to cross over the guard rail and descend a few feet to where the big flat rock sits. The clue took me right to the cache. After signing the log and snapping a few pictures I was back to the car to tell her a little of the story. I couldn't wait to do a little Internet research to learn more about John Douglass. Be sure to visit this location and this cache and remember what took place here.

A special thanks to Cherokeebasketweaver for the photo of Dragging Canoe.




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