In 1755, Major General Edward Braddock’s was defeated near Fort Duquesne (located at Point State Park, Pittsburgh), which was part of the Virginia wilderness at the time. Afterward, all British forces retreated north and east into the colony of Pennsylvania, leaving the Virginia wilderness unprotected.
In 1756, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie appointed George Washington as head of the Virginia militia and asked that he assess the Crown’s military clout in the Virginia wilderness. Washington determined that forts located 20 miles from each other offered little to no protection to most wilderness settlers, who would be captured or killed before they would make it to a fort.
It wasn’t until the spring of 1774, just prior to Dunmore’s War (also known as the Point Pleasant Campaign, in which my 5th great-grandfather John Kelsay fought), that the actual military defense of Virginia’s western frontier began en masse. Although many more forts were constructed in the Virginian frontier during this time, there were still too few for adequate protection.
For example, along the Buckhannon River, only two forts were erected: Buckhannon Fort, situated at Red Rock (about two and a half miles west of Buckhannon, destroyed on 8 March 1781/2 by Native Americans led by renegade settler Timothy Dorman) and Bush Fort (about a mile and a half northeast of Buckhannon at the junction of Turkey Run and Buckhannon River, also destroyed by a raiding party.)
An Uncommon Woman, written by Laura Frantz, tells the tale of Tessa Swan and Clay Tygart, two atypical people living in the 18th-century western Virginian wilderness near Buckhannon River.
Tessa Swan is a hardworking, kindhearted, straight-shooting woman whose best friend was abducted by a local tribe when they were children. Then, when she is a teenager/young adult, her father and brother were murdered by the Shawnee. These traumas could have hardened Tessa’s heart, but, instead of breaking her, these experiences have tempered her, making her more resilient.
As a child, Clay Tygart, whose parents were Quakers, was abducted and raised by the Lenape. A hero of the French and Indian War, he is sent to oversee a fort in the Buckhannon River area. He brings with him a woman named Keturah, Tessa’s childhood friend who had been abducted.
Although Clay and Tessa are attracted to one another, Clay struggles to remain indifferent. That is until Tessa is captured by a war party, and Clay must rescue the woman who has captured his heart.
An enduring, evocative love story steeped in history, An Uncommon Woman brings the past to life. From the first word to the last, I felt as if I were living alongside Tessa in that transcendent yet treacherous pre-Revolutionary western Virginian wilderness. The only downside to this novel, for me, was that the story ended much too soon.
- “Virginia Frontier Defenses 1719-1795,” by Roy Bird Cook. Volume I, Number 2 (January 1940), pp. 119-130. http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh1-2-4.html
- “The Writings of George Washington,” by Jared Sparks. Volume II (1846), pages 133-137. http://www.wvculture.org/history/frenchandindian/17560407washington.html