Frederick Garst I, 1842

Frederick /Garst/ I
Given names
Indian Garst
Name suffix
MarriageMagdalena RauchView this family
( after death)

Birth of a sonHenry Garst
( after death)

Birth of a sonWilliam Garris
( after death)
Birth of a sisterMary Gerst
about 1761/62 CE (1762)
Birth of a sisterMagdalena Garst
January 11, 1763
Birth of a sisterAnna Garst Gerst
May 1, 1764
Birth of a brotherJacob Garst
January 14, 1766
Birth of a brotherAbraham Garst
March 4, 1770
Death of a paternal grandfatherTheobald Gerst
about June 1770
Death of a paternal grandmotherMagdalena Catherina Buerck
after 1770

Military Servic 1780

Birth of a daughterMary Magdalena Garst
May 3, 1782
Birth of a sonFrederick Gerst
January 15, 1784
Birth of a daughterAnna Garst
August 2, 1785

Death of a motherMary Elizabeth Strathalter
about 1788
Birth of a daughterElizabeth Garst
August 1789

Birth of a sonJacob Gerst
December 20, 1790

Birth of a sonJohn N. Gharst
November 10, 1796
Birth of a sonPeter G. Gharst
June 19, 1799
Birth of a sonGeorge B. Garst
June 29, 1800

Marriage of a childRichard GordanAnna GarstView this family
January 15, 1801
Death of a fatherJohann Nicolaus Gerst
October 1801
Note: The will of John Nicholas Garst was written October 20, 1801, and proven at Botetourt October Court…

The will of John Nicholas Garst was written October 20, 1801, and proven at Botetourt October Court 1803.

Marriage of a childJoseph EcholsMary Magdalena GarstView this family
December 10, 1805
Death of a sonHenry Garst

Marriage of a childJohn N. GharstChristina PeffleyView this family
March 20, 1821

Marriage of a childJohn N. GharstChristina PeffleyView this family
March 20, 1821
Note: John Gharst and Christina Peffley were 1st cousins, John Gharst is the son of Frederick Garst I, bro…

John Gharst and Christina Peffley were 1st cousins, John Gharst is the son of Frederick Garst I, brother of Magdalena Garst, Christina's mother.

Marriage of a childPeter G. GharstBarbara BrubakerView this family

Death of a sisterAnna Garst Gerst
June 19, 1821
Marriage of a childGeorge B. GarstKatherine MarkeyView this family
November 12, 1824
Marriage of a childFrederick GerstSarah FrantzView this family
March 15, 1829

Death of a sisterMagdalena Garst
April 1, 1829
Death of a brotherAbraham Garst
January 10, 1835
abt 90 yr

Death 1842
MHN in relation to Theobald Gerst b. 1702:
2000 (158 years after death)

Our Garst Family in America Number:
2000 (158 years after death)


Family with parents
Birth: November 1, 1727 25 25Sembach, Pfalz
Death: October 1801Botetourt Co., Va
Marriage Marriage
Birth: Lancaster Co., Pa
Death: 1842Salem, Roanoke Co., Va
Birth: Lancaster Co., Pa
1761/62 CE
Birth: about 1761/62 CE (1762) 34 30Lancaster Co., Pa
1 year
Birth: January 11, 1763 35 31Lancaster Co., Pa
Death: April 1, 1829Botetourt Co., Va
16 months
Birth: May 1, 1764 36 32Pennsylvania
Death: June 19, 1821Clark Co., Oh
21 months
Birth: January 14, 1766 38 34Lancaster Co., Pa
Death: February 7, 1854Roanoke Co., Va
Birth: March 4, 1770 42 38Dauphin County, PA
Death: January 10, 1835South Bend, In
Family with Magdalena Rauch
Birth: Lancaster Co., Pa
Death: 1842Salem, Roanoke Co., Va
Marriage Marriage
Birth: May 3, 1782Lancaster Co., Pa
Death: October 28, 1870
21 months
Birth: January 15, 1784Lancaster Co., Pa
Death: August 11, 1850Limestone, Washington Co., Tn
19 months
Birth: August 2, 1785
Death: October 22, 1858Clark Co., Oh
Death: 1812
Birth: December 20, 1790
Death: December 6, 1879
6 years
Birth: November 10, 1796Botetourt Co., Va
Death: Salem, Roanoke Co., Va
3 years
Birth: June 19, 1799Botetourt Co., Va
Death: April 30, 1869Illinois
13 months
Birth: Botetourt Co., Va
Death: Kentucky
Birth: August 1789

Frederick Garst I settled on the west branch of Carvin's Creek where the old Greenridge Fort was located. He lived there until around 1820 when he moved to land on Mason's Creek at Erma Springs. He built a log house on Mason's Creek living there until his death in 1842. The log house on Mason's Creek was burned by hunters in the early 1900's.

Indians lived in the area when Frederick Garst I came to Carvin's Creek. The Cloyd massacre was in 1764 and happened not too many miles from Greenridge near Amsterdam in Botetourt County. While the French and Indian War was over in 1763, limited Indian raids continued until the Battle of Point Pleasant in which the Indians were defeated, moving the frontier west of the Ohio River. Frederick Garst I was known in the area as "Indian Garst" because of his prowess as an Indian Fighter. One of the stories which has come down through the years is that he was in the mountains splitting rails when an Indian raiding party of five or six men came upon him. They made signs that they were going to carry him away and kill him. Garst begged them to let him finish splitting the huge log that he was working on. He also asked their help, having them place their hands in an opening of the log which he had made with a wedge, all pulling to open the log. He immediately knocked the wedge out of the log, pinning their hands. They were then his prisoners and he proceeded to slay them. This affair won him the name of "Indian Garst." It is said that roving Indians never bothered the Greenridge area again.

The following was taken from the family Bible of Frederick Garst I which was a German language edition, published in 1790 in Germantown PA. The original Garst book states the bible came down through the Anna Garst-Gordon line to its owner at that time, Mrs. C.B. Smith, Rt 2, Jamestown, Ohio. It has a leather binding and brass clasp, and the paper is very brittle. It has a limited number of dates and historical items, such as this entry by John Gordon, Sr., July 10, 1859: "This book sent to my mother by her father Frederick Gharst about the year 1830. He died about the age of 90 years." and this, "My mother deceased at the age of 73 years, 2 months and 20 days, Oct. 22, 1858." And this, "My father deceased Dec. 17, 1857, aged 83 yrs., 7 days." All written by Anna's historian son, John Gordon, Sr. Mrs. Smith kept the Bible in her lock box at the bank.

"It is believed that Frederick Garst's boyhood was spent on his father's 174 acre farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, though the details of those early years are not known. In the year 1778, he married Magdalena Rauch, daughter of John Rauch (Rough or Raugh), on whose farm George Washington and his soldiers camped in the Revolutionary War. Frederick served in Captain Casper Stoever's Company, 8th Class, Second Battalion, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Militia, in the year 1781. Frederick's brother, John Nicholas Garst, Jr., also served in Capt. Stoever's Company, 7th Class, Second Battalion, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Militia, in 1781. Their cousin, Dewalt Garst, Jr., served in Capt. John Gossert's Company, First Class, 8th Co., second Battalion, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, probably Bethel Twp. Reference PA Archives, 5th Series, Vol 7, page 162. Following his honorable discharge, Frederick Garst I, his young bride and his brothers, Jacob and John Nicholas Jr., along with others migrated to southwest Virginia in covered wagons following Indian trails down through the Shenandoah Valley into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The brothers built log homes located only a few mile apart. There is, or was as late as 1950, an old structure known as the Indian Garst Fort located about three and one-half miles from Salem, VA, in the Green Ridge neighborhood, and was the home of Frederick Garst I, better known in the area as "Indian Garst" because of his fame in Indian conflicts. The Fort was built entirely of hand-hewn white oak logs on a sandstone foundation. The building measured 24x30 feet, and was built over a very large spring, which assured an abundance of water during an attack. Alongside of it, in the basement or cellar, were stored provisions to last for weeks in the event of siege. The basement ceiling was 10 feet high. The walls of rock are cemented together with a mortar of clay and lime. The foundation logs are two feet square and become somewhat smaller as the walls extend upward. All the logs of this three-story structure above the basement are perfectly dove-tailed together and fastened with wooden pins, as are the rafters. The floors are also hand-hewn, with a narrow stairway to the upper floors. Peep-holes were used in watching and repelling the attacking Indians. As of 1950, only one of these remains whereas the others were replaced with windows. The door and window frames, hinges, shutters, and locks were hand made. The first and second stories have four rooms each. Partitions and other interior lumber in the fort are sawed white oak boards 16 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches thick. A leaking roof caused the logs on the upper half of the third floor to decay. They have now been removed, and the roof lowered to a 6 1/2 foot ceiling. This building, among the oldest in Roanoke County, is now owned by a non-family member who has indicated that it was going to be taken down, so the possibility that it is still standing today is probably remote at best. "When past middle-age, Frederick made a trip on foot from Virginia back to his old home in Pennsylvania. He was described as somewhat eccentric, though very brave and fearless. In the spring of 1842, Frederick Garst I, was found dead at the foot of a high cliff of rock, and the general belief was that he accidentally fell from the top of the cliff. It is known that he spent much of his time in life hunting.... his hobby.

"About three miles from Salem, VA, on the summit of a hill, on the farm of Rev. John H. Garst, are located the graves of Frederick and Magdalena Garst, in a private Garst Burying Ground, covered with honey-suckle vines. On the wide head-stone is carved:

FREDERICK GARST MAGDALENA GARST of Indian Fame nee Rauch 1752-1842 1752-1845

"Anna Garst, dau. of Frederick Garst, I_[9]. Born Aug. 2, 1785, died Oct. 22, 1858. Married, Jan. 15, 1801, Richard Gordon, son of Giles Gordon, a Revolutionary War soldier. Richard was born Dec. 12, 1774, in Buckingham County, Virginia, died Dec. 17, 1857, in Clark County, Ohio. They had seventeen children, and raised them all to maturity, except Eliza, who died at age 17. "Anna Garst came with her husband and older children, to Highland County, Ohio, stopping on White Oak Creek, where there was a small settlement. They traded their wagon and one horse for fifty acres of land, and built a house and a round-log barn on it. At one time, there seemed to be imminent trouble with the Indians in Clark County, some sixty miles from White Oak, and our Gordon family started the 375 mile trip back to Virginia, settling on Mason's Creek, near Salem. On October 7, 1816, they again started for Ohio-- such was the pioneer spirit! They came to the home of an aunt and uncle of Anna, Mary (Garst) and Christian Frantz, and later bought a farm on which they lived the rest of their lives. The back part of the farm joined the Frantz farm, located four miles from Springfield, Ohio. Both Richard and Anna were buried near the orchard on this farm, as was the daughter, Eliza, who had died 10 years earlier. They were buried in hand-made walnut caskets, hewn from a solid walnut log. After Anna and Richard had been buried some 60 years (Eliza 70 years) they were moved to Bethel Twp. Cemetery, where they have a suitable monument. The solid walnut caskets were still in a good state of preservation. "Anna had been a member of the Church of the Brethren for 47 years before her death, and Richard transferred from the Episcopalian to the Brethren Church. Neither had much education in school, she being married at fifteen, but they lived their busy lives in such a way that their children were impressed with the great importance of industry, honesty, and morality, summed up in Christianity. "Note: Fuller records are in possession of Anna's great, great granddaughter, Mrs. Rollin A. Stukey (Mary Ruth Powell) of 321 N. Walnut St., Van Wert, Ohio."

From the Peffley-Peffly-Pefley book we find additional information concerning Frederick I and his "Indian fort." It reads: "The old Indian fort is located on the farm of Josiah Showalter in the "Greenridge" neighborhood. The exact date of the building is not known. It is built of hand hewn white oak logs on a foundation of native sandstone. The floor is also hand-hewn. The enormous chimney is typical of pioneer days. A narrow stairway winds to the upper stories. "There were loop-holes up-stairs for shooting at attacking Indians. Only one is left, the rest having been replaced with windows. "The basement of this old fort is more than ten feet high, the walls of rock, cemented together with a mortar made of clay and lime. In this basement is a very large spring, assuring a plentiful supply of fresh water during an attack. "The first and second stories contain four rooms each. The third story is a low one room attic. "It is said that when there was an Indian alarm neighbors gathered here for safety. They could live there for days in perfect comfort. "Frederick Garst is said to have gained the sobriquet of "Indian Garst," through the following incident. One day he was on the bluff above Mason's Creek splitting oak rails. He was working on a log when a party of six Indians surprised him. They said they were going to take him away and kill him. He, being able to speak their language, said he would go with them if they would first help him split the log. They agreed and he asked them to place themselves three on each side of the log, putting their hands in the crack while he drove the wedges in. After they were in position, he quickly knocked the wedge out of the log, pinioning their hands. He then knocked each Indian in the head and went home to dinner. "He was a man of tireless energy. Late in life he made a trip to Pennsylvania and back on foot. In 1842, he climbed the bluff across Mason's Creek. His body was found at the bottom of the cliff the following morning. Here he was buried and the rock is called "Indian Rock" to this day."

The book entitled, "Early Marriages, Wills, and Some Revolutionary War Records, Botetourt County, Virginia" provides what appears to be the marriage record of Anna Garst. It reads: "Gordon, Richard, and Ann Ghant, Frederick Gaunt surety-- Jan. 4, 1801." Because of the similarity in spelling and also because further searches have not uncovered either the name Ghant or Gaunt in other local records, it appears that these surnames were quite possibly misspelled. An example of the similarities were: Gordan vs Gordon, Anna vs Ann, Ghant vs Gharst, and Garst or Gerst vs Gaunt.


Frederick Garst Will (written 29 January 1838, proven 19 September 1842):

In the Name of God, Amen: I, Frederick Garst of Botetourt County and State of Virginia, being weak in body, but of sound mind, for which I thank God, do make and declare this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all others which I may have made heretofore.

1st, recommending my immortal spirit to the God who gave it, and trusting in the merits of my Blessed Saviour for pardon and remission of all my sins, as to the worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me, I give and dispose of it in manner and form following to wit:

First, I will order and direct that all my past debts and funeral expenses be paid as soon as convenient after my decease by my executors, hereinafter named and appointed.

2nd, I give and bequeath unto my wife Magdalene fifty cents for her full share of my real and personal estate besides hundreds of dollars which I have already paid her: she having left me and my house ever since the 23rd day of August eighteen hundred and twenty two; that is to say, having gone away without a cause.

3rd, I give and bequeath unto my oldest son Frederick fifty cents for his full share of my real and personal estate besides confirming to him the land and money I have already given him.

4th, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Anna, the wife of Richard Gordon, fifty cents besides confirming to her such land and other property as I have already given her.

5th, I give and bequeath to my daughter Magdalene, the wife of Joseph Echols, fifty cents for her full share of my real and personal estate, besides confirming to her such other property as I have heretofore given her.

6th, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Elizabeth fifty cents for her full share of my real and personal estate, besides confirming to her the two tracts of land lying on Lewis mill branch in this county, and other property which I have already given her.

7th, I give and bequeath unto my son Jacob fifty cents besides confirming to him such land and other property as I have already given him.

8th, I give and bequeath unto my sons Jacob, John, Peter, George, and William all my lands lying in Montgomery and Bedford Counties in this state, to wit, two lots in Spring(field?) on the waters of the north fork of Roanoke, two acres containing a mill seat, just below the lots aforesaid a small tract joining Brillhart and others, and my share of the Purgatory Creek tract containing by estimate one hundred and forty acres, which my brother Jacob and myself hold in equal partnership in Montgomery, and four lots in Hardisville in Bedford.

9th, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Anna's children and my son Jacob's children all the land I own in Botetourt County in this state, to be equally divided among them from heirs to heirs.

10th, I give and bequeath to Anna my daughter and Jacob my son whatever personal property may remain of my estate after paying debts and funeral expenses for the purpose of raising their children viz: to each one according to the number of children, provided always that my daughter Magdalene is to have my loom, my walnut chest, and my armchair from and out of the personal property above named.

11th, I do hereby nominate and appoint my trusty friend Christian Stoutemeyer to be my guardian of this my last will and testament, and my worthy and trust worthy friends Michael Miller and George Trout -- executors of this my last will and testament.

Lastly, it is my will that if any of my children or others to whom I have left anything in this my last will and testament shall attempt to break this will they shall have no part in my estate, but the share left to them shall go with the residuum of my estate.

In witness whereof I have hereunto affixed my hand and seal this 29th day of January 1838.

Signed and published in the presence of Henry A. Edmundson John B. I. Logan

(Signature of Frederick Garst)

At a court held for the County of Roanoke on the 19th day of September 1842, the last will and testament of Frederick Garst Deceased was proven by the oaths of H. A. Edmundson & John B. I. Logan, witnesses thereto and is ordered to be recorded.

                    A Copy Teste
                    Saml W. Jeter, (?).C.

[From Roanoke County (Virginia) Will Book 1, pp. 15-16, Transcribed by Judy Garst Schramm and Dwayne Wrightsman]


The Garst Fort Reports on the Garst Fort and Garst Family compiled by Betty Crawford Garst. (March, 1999)

See MEDIA tab of this individual to view fort photos.

The fort was called at various times, The Old Greenridge Fort, The Old Indian Fort and the Swartz Fort.

Over the years a great deal has been written about the fort but two questions have never been answered:

  1. Who built the fort?

  2. When was it built?

The land on which the fort stood can be traced back to Robert Brenkenridge, who was given a grant to the land on April 6, 1769. The grant states that it is for a tract or parcel of land containing 308 acres in the county of Augusta, on the branches of Carvins Creek, and branch of the Roanoke River. (Augusta County patent No. 38-6 April 1769 - Pt. Bk. 1768-70, pg. 557 -- See map "Kegley’s Virginia Frontier" pg. 512).

The land was sold to William McClanahan on December 1, 1789 by the sons of Robert Brenkenridge, William and John. It had been conveyed to them by the will of their father. It was a certain tract of land lying in the County of Botetourt on the branches of Carvins Creek, a branch of Tinker Creek and was granted to Robert Brenkenridge by patent bearing the date April 6, 1769 and contained by estimation 308 acres more or less. (Botetourt County Dd. Bk. 4, pgs. 153-154).

The next owner was Christian Houts (Houtz). Deed is dated July 13, 1790 (Botetourt County Dd. Bk. 4, pg. 189).

A deed dated July 9, 1799 shows that Christian Houts sold the land to John Myers. (Botetourt County Dd. Bk. 7, pg. 16).

John Myers sold the land to Frederick Garst, Jr. This deed is dated April 13, 1818. (Botetourt County Dd. Bk. 13, pgs. 333-334).

Frederick Garst, Jr. sold the land to John McCauley. The deed is dated April 25, 1839. (Roanoke County Dd. Bk. C, pg. 207).

John McCauley divided the tract of land. Henry Garst bought 153 acres more or less. Charles Houtz bought 158 acres more or less. The fort stood on land Charles Houtz bought. Deed dated May 23, 1848. (Roanoke County Dd. Bk. C, pgs. 341-343).

Charles Houtz sold his 158 1/4 acres to Christian Swartz. Deed dated September 1, 1852. (Roanoke County Dd. Bk. L, pg. 8).

Christian and Catherine Swartz deeded 151 acres, one rood and twenty-one poles to Jacob and Mary Showalter. Mary was their daughter. The deed states it is being given for the love and affection which they hold for their daughter and in the furtherconsideration of the maintenance and care of Christian and Catherine. A remaining small tract was sold to John Medley by Christian Swartz. Deed dated May 28, 1880. (Roanoke County Dd. Bk. D, pg. 447).

Jacob built a new house next door to the old fort in 1894. Mary had died on October 24, 1885. He then married Amanda Worley.

My husband, John Allen Garst, Sr. often played in the old fort during the 1930's. Jacob and Mary Showalter were his Great Grandparents.

His Grandmother, Rosa Showalter, who married Lewis Allen Garst, was born at the old fort. Lewis Allen was a descendant of John Nicholas Garst, Sr. and his son Frederick Garst, Sr. Lewis Allen died on December 10, 1896. Ira Allen, his son, my husbands father, went to live with Jacob and Amanda Showalter at the age of two (2). He remained with them until he entered the army on June 6, 1917.

Other owners of the fort property were Josiah Showalter, son of Jacob, C.G. Brillhart, A.D. Rusher, W.O. Dalton and Roy Webber.

The fort was torn down when Interstates 81 and 581 were built.

A staff correspondent for a Salem newspaper wrote an article in 1938 on the Garst Fort. He had been looking for the oldest house in Roanoke County and believed he had found it. He describes it as a three-story building at the front, where it rested on the side of a hill. It was four stories in the back, with a stone base forming the foundation. A cold clear steam of water, gushing from a rock formation ran through the center of the natural rock floor. Storage bins were built against the wall on both sides. The third floor had recently been lowered when the building was re-roofed, but when he had visited several years before writing the article it had been intact as originally planned. Under a sloping roof was a long garret room. He found remnants of a hand loom, a quilting frame, handmade rocker crib and other furniture and parts of a cobblers outfit. Some childrens’ shoes handmade of rawhide hung from the rafter.

There was a large open fireplace on the first floor. A wide rock chimney was narrowed at the third floor and set out about two feet from the wall. A square peephole that was invisible from the outside was behind the chimney. The reported called this the sentry tower. He said that the story goes that the fort house was originally enclosed by a stockade, but he found no markings of this.

Walnut trees formed a shady grove about the old fort.

Elizabeth Bowman, a granddaughter of Jacob Showalter, gives a description of the way the fort was constructed. It was a 40-foot square building. (P.H. Trout gave the outside dimensions as 26 feet 3 inches by 31 feet 3 inches), made with hand hewn logs of white oak. Some of the logs were two (2) feet thick. The logs were dove tailed together and fastened with wooden pins. The rafters were also fastened with pins. There were four large rooms on each floor with twelve foot ceilings. There werethree stairways secured with wooden pegs. There were eighteen inch hand hewn floors of pine over twelve inch logs. The window frames, hinges, shutters and locks were handmade. The cellar had two feet thick stone walls cemented together with a mortar of clay and lime. The ceiling was fourteen feet high.

It was said to have had port holes or rifle holes, which had been replaced by windows.

Pictures of the fort can be found in "Kegley’s Virginia Frontier" (pgs. 516-517) and Helen Prillman’s "Places Near the Mountains" (pgs. 247-248).

The spring was capped and piped down grade from its location when Interstates 81 and 581 were constructed, according to Elizabeth Bowman.

A report by Walter S. Hunt, Jr. on December 20, 1957 gives the location of the fort. It was at the intersection of Rts. 626 and 628 on a dirt road one (1) mile north of the airport. The fort had been razed at the time of this report.

Who did build the fort?

It is possible an early settler or settlers built it. Settler’s started out with their goods packed on horses and traveled until they found a spot they liked, usually near a spring. They cleared the land and built a dwelling. Some were squattersor claimed "tomahawk rights." Later he may have packed up and moved on leaving the property vacant.

This building was larger than most early log houses built by these early settlers even one to be used as a fort house. In "The Architectural Heritage of the Roanoke Valley," Whitwell and Winborne give the dimensions of an early log cabin as 10 feet by 16 feet. A cabin 21 feet by 28 feet was described as being larger than most. (Garst Fort was 26 feet 3 inches by 31 feet 3 inches). Robert Brenkenridge was in a position to know the land was vacant and applied for a grant to the land in 1769.

It is unlikely that Robert Brenkenridge or his sons built a fort house on the land. Robert died in 1772. Clara White, Local Historian, tells me he would have been more likely to build a fort at his home place, if he were going to build one.

The next owner, William McClanahan only held the property from December 1789 to July 13, 1790, about seven months. It is safe to eliminate him as the builder.

Christian Houts (Houtz) could have built a fort house, but that seems unlikely since there had been no reports of Indian sightings or raids in the Roanoke Valley since the Revolution. There were reports of Indians having been seen on the Roanoke, Mason’s Creek and Back Creek during the war and there were raids in the southwest frontier of Virginia during the early 1790's. The last report of a raid in Southwest Virginia was April 1794 in Lee County. Christian Houtz owned other land in the area he had bought in 1788 and it is possible he already had a dwelling on this property.

He sold the fort property in 1799. There seems to be no reason for future owners to have built a fort house.

Could it have been one of a chain of forts that were to have been build along the frontier for protection of the settlers?

Three forts were proposed for the Roanoke Valley: Fort Lewis at James Campbell’s place, west of Salem; at James Mason’s place on Back Creek; and at Neal McNeal’s place which was northwest of Great Lock near William Carvin’s place.

The fort at James Mason’s was never build and it has been a widely held belief that the fort at McNeal’s was never built.

In October 1756, George Washington made an inspection tour of the forts. On his way to Vause’s Fort near Shawsville, he followed a road from Hollins to Salem. He made no mention of a fort at McNeal’s. It is possible it was built after the touror he could have failed to mention it for some unknown reason.

Forts were not only used to garrison the Militia, but was also a refuge for the settlers of the area in time of danger. The nearest forts were Fort Vause at Shawsville, Fort Lewis, west of Salem and Fort William, west of Fincastle. Since all of these forts were some distance from the area, it seems some type of fortification would have been built here.

Although there were specifications for how the forts were to be constructed as to size and design, we don’t know how closely these specifications were followed. We know little about many of the early forts because no drawings or written descriptions were left.

This building was large enough to accommodate a number of people. It had a spring in the basement which provided a ready supply of water. It was in the vicinity of where a fort was to have been built. (Map P512 - "Kegley’s Virginia Frontier" andgrant to Robert Brenkenridge 1769 - 308 acres).

This building was used as a dwelling by a number of families. Many alterations were probably made to the building. It is unfortunate that no architectural or archaeological studies were ever done.

Unless some paper turns up in the future on the early forts, the two questions, when was it build and by whom, will never be answered.

Addendum to the Garst Fort or Fort House

Was this really a fort or fort house as everyone has always believed or was it just a large log house built after 1790.

This house fits descriptions of early log houses given by Michael S. Shutty, Jr. in "An Old House in Greenville, Virginia.

It was a log house with two stories constructed over a stone basement. The front of the basement was built into the hillside leaving the back above ground. This allowed easy access to the basement from an outdoor at ground level.

In "The Architectural Heritage of the Roanoke Valley," W. L. Whitwell and Lee W. Winborne give a description of early log houses in the Roanoke Valley.

They were a simple building constructed of hewn squared logs piled one on top of another after the desired height was reached, poles were laid across to form joists for the loft. The loft was continued up about four feet above the loft floor to give headroom. They had a gabled roof. A chimney was placed on a gabled end. Often the log houses were covered by an outer covering of boards. This description fits the Garst house.

Large logs were used in the construction of the house but there were other houses built in the Roanoke Valley in the 1800's that used large logs. Examples are the Moses Brubaker and Laban Waldon houses.

Placing a house over a spring, though perhaps not common may have been done by some German builders where feasible. An article on the German Seventh Day Baptists of Snow Hill, Pennsylvania describes the nunnery built for celibate men and women. The first portion of the complex built in 1814 was built over a spring. Not only did they have a built in water supply but also the water running through the basement provided natural refrigeration ("old order notes" - spring - summer 1998, pgs 54 and 55)

Those who say it was built by a Garst maybe right. Frederick Garst, Jr. bought the land in 1818 and lived there. Not much is known about Frederick, Jr. but deeds show he owned many tracts of land in the Roanoke Valley. He also had a large family, eleven children by his first wife and ten children by his second wife. He sold his land in 1839 and moved to Limestone, Tennessee.

Many of the early settlers could not write and if they could write they had little time to do so, thus, we only have oral histories handed down from one generation to the next. We know these histories are not always reliable. This leaves us with many unanswered questions.

Brief History of the First Garsts in the Roanoke Valley

The first deed at the clerk’s office, Botetourt County to a Garst was to John Nicholas Garst, Sr.

A certain tract of land containing one hundred and ten acres was conveyed to him by Jacob Crider. It was on Carvin’s Creek. The deed is dated December 13, 1790. The name on the deed is Nicholas Cash but with cross-reference and the help of HelenKessler, we proved this was Nicholas Garst (Botetourt County, Dd. Bk. 4, pgs. 220-222).

He bought fifty acres from William McClanahan adjoining this land. The deed is dated February 8, 1791 (Botetourt County, Dd. Bk. 4, pgs. 238-239).

Nicholas had three sons; Frederick, Sr., Jacob and Abraham, who settled in the valley.

There is no evidence that a fourth son, John Nicholas, Jr., ever came to the valley. In his will Nicholas wrote "As my son, Nicholas lives a considerable distance from me, it is my will that there shall be no vendue." The original will, written inGerman, and its translation can be found at the clerk’s office, Botetourt County.

Four of Nicholas’s daughters married sons of Michael Frantz, II. Anna married Daniel, Marie Elizabeth married David, Mary married Christian and Catherine married Peter. His son Jacob married a daughter, Christanna or Chirstine (several spellingsof the name are found on deeds).

There is no evidence that there were any members of the Frantz family in Botetourt County before 1790. No deeds or grants for land could be found prior to this time. It is likely that they came about the same time as the Garsts. Nicholas and Michael II were members of the Little Swatara Congregation of the German Baptist Brethren on Little Swatara Creek in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Nicholas came to America aboard the "Isaac" from the German Palatinate, arriving on September 2, 1749 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He settled in Bethel Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on the Little Swatara River. He was a member of the old German Baptist Church (Dunkard).

Tax records show that he owned and paid taxes on 174 acres in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania from 1771 to 1790. He died in Botetourt County in 1803.

Deeds and grants show that his sons, Frederick, Sr., Jacob and Abraham were large land holders. Abraham sold his lands in 1833 and moved to St. Joseph County, Indiana. He died there in 1835.

Frederick and Jacob remained in the Roanoke Valley. Frederick died in 1842 and is buried in the Garst Cemetery atop a hill on Kessler’s Mill Road. Jacob died in 1854 and is buried in the Lockett - Garst Cemetery off Parkwood Drive.

We often read in local histories of Botetourt County and the Roanoke Valley that Frederick Garst, Sr. lived at the Garst Fort. Deeds prove he never owned this property. The only evidence is here say. Some of his descendants have said he lived there. His son, Frederick, Jr. did own the property and lived there for twenty years, 1818-1839.

Frederick, Sr. owned other property in Botetourt County before he bought land on Mason’s Creek in 1812, where it is known he did live.

The "tale" about how he came to be called "Indian Garst" is also often written about. There are several different versions. This is one:

He was on a bluff above Mason’s Creek splitting a log, when he was surrounded by six Indians. They said they were going to kill him. He could speak the language, so he told them he would go with them if they would help him finish splitting the log. He asked them to get three on each side, put their fingers in the crack and pull. As they pulled, he knocked out a wedge closing the log on their fingers. He then killed them with his ax and went home.

It is unlikely it ever happened. When he came to the Roanoke Valley in the 1790's, there had been no reports of Indian sightings or raids in the valley since the Revolution. He was still in Pennsylvania in the 1780's. Records show that he was serving in the Pennsylvania Militia in 1781. His son Frederick, Jr. was born there is 1784. He is first found on Botetourt County tax lists in 1796. Nicholas and Abraham are on the tax lists in 1791 and Jacob is found on a tax list in 1793 for the first time.

There are many descendants of John Nicholas Garst, Sr. living in the Roanoke Valley today.

Reports on the Garst Fort and Garst Family compiled by Betty Crawford Garst. (March, 1999)


History of Southwest Virginia

1746-1786; Washington County 1777-1870

Lewis Preston Summers.

The Virginia Frontier 1754-1763

L. K. Koontz

Our Garst Family in America

William Tell Garst

The Architectural Heritage of

The Roanoke Valley - W. L. Whitwell and Lee W. Winborne

Journal of the Roanoke Valley

Historical Society Vol. 10 #2

"The Big Fort" - Mary Kegley

Journal of the Roanoke Valley

Historical Society - Vol. 9 #2

Settlement Defense of the Frontier

A Seed Bed of the Republic

Robert D. Stoner

Kegley’s Virginia Frontier - F. B. Kegley

Places Near The Mountains

Helen R. Prillaman

Roanoke 1740-1982

Clara White

Roanoke Times

Salem Times Register

Elizabeth Bowman -- Information on Showalter Family

Joyce Bowman -- Provided snapshot of fort and Elizabeth Bowman’s Paper on the Garst Fort

Botetourt County Clerk’s Office Deeds, Wills, Surveyor’s Records

References - Continued

Roanoke County Clerk’s Office Deeds, Wills, Surveyor’s Records

Roanoke County Clerk’s Office Deeds and Wills

Virginia Room - Roanoke City Library - Microfilm - Tax Records, Census Records, Grants

Virginia State Library - Grants

History of Roanoke County, Salem, Roanoke City - William McCauley

Preliminary write up about the old Fort at Green Ridge

P. H. Trout - May 15, 1953

This report has several errors --

The property on which the fort stood was a grant to Robert Breckenridge not William Carleton. Frederick, Sr. did own land that was a grant to William Carleton but this property was on Mason’s Creek. I traced deeds back to Carleton. (See map on page 562, Kegley’s Virginia Frontier for location of Carleton grant. Map Page 512 for Breckenridge grant).

Frederick, Sr. never owned the property the fort stood on. The only proof we have he lived there is here say. His son, Frederick, Jr. did own the land from 1818-1839 and lived there. (Deeds, Tax records and Census).

He does not say when the Garsts came to the Roanoke Valley but gives the impression they were here at an earlier date then facts support. Careful research of deeds, grants and tax reports show that they came about 1790.

Old Garst Fort or Old Swartz Fort.

Recorder Weller S. Hunt - Dec. 28, 1957

Fort had been razed at time of report.

Original owner - Frederick Garst, Sr.

Builder - Frederick Garst, Sr.

Tradition says that house was built in 1767.

Deeds show that Frederick, Sr. never owned property. Careful study leads to the fact that it is not known when it was built or by whom.

See report complied by Betty Crawford Garst on the Fort and Garst Family.

Misinformation Found

"Related Families of Botetourt County Virginia" by J. William Austin II and Rebecca H. R. Austin, Page 157 - (6) 5

Magdelena Rauch Garst was born in 1752 - Died in 1845 - She was not born in 1782? Died 1871? As reported here.

Frederick Garst, Sr. was not the progenitor of the Garst family in Roanoke - Botetourt County areas. John Nicholas Garst, Sr. was the progenitor of the family. He was the first Garst to buy land in the Roanoke Valley in 1790. Frederick was his son. The house on Garst Mill Road was the Jacob Garst house. (Brother of Frederick) He applied to build a water grist mill on his land and was granted permission in February, 1803. (Bot. D.D.. Bk. 11 - Pg 131)

The only place that we know for a fact that Frederick Garst, Sr. lived was on Mason’s Creek.

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