Viets shared memories of fort at dedication


GREENVILLE — Wesley Viets gave the following remarks at the dedication of the monument at Fort Jefferson on oct. 24, 1907. Viets was born at Fort Jefferson on Jan. 6, 1835. he was 72 years old when he gave these remarks.

I came to this place nearly seventy-three years ago, and it was then comparatively a wilderness. I have played on this spot hundreds of times and we always called it the war grounds. We would say, ”We will go over to the war grounds and hunt bullets.” We would pick up six ounce bullets that were shot from the old guns, like the old flint lock that we had to load and prime it. Powder was ignited through a flint and we still had them when I was old enough to shoot squirrels in the woods. Pocket money was a little scarce and we boys would come over here and hunt bullets and then mold them into small bullets to use in squirrel hunting.

In regard to the fort, a great many asked me where the old fort was. Now I can’t tell that. I am not old enough to remember. I can remember very distinctly what we called a magazine stood right about where that apple tree stands, and there was another magazine here, and down below the hill was a large spring. There was an underground ditch dug from that magazine and it was dug deep enough that a man could walk from that magazine to this one and from there it extended to the spring below. That was covered with what we called puncheon laid across the ditch and then covered with dirt, and the underground ditch was used for protection in going from one place to another for water. You can see the low place right along there extending to that magazine and from there it goes on down to that old spring, which has been running ever since I can remember and still affords water. Then across on the other hill there is another place that was said to be a magazine. And I can remember when there was a dam from the road across the creek there, which was called a beaver dam, but what it was put there for, I don’t know.

I can remember when there was but one house in this place that stood on the corner there and was burned down three years ago. There was at that time eight or ten log cabins. I can remember when every frame house in this town was raised. Our first school house was built all with round logs. The fire place took wood four foot long. The wood was hauled by the patrons of the school and piled up, and the pupils would go out and chop it. It would take two or three boys to carry the back log, as we called it. The chimney was made of sticks. That was burned down finally and we put up a frame school house on the same spot. We would have school generally three months in the year. About the holidays we had great times. We turned the teacher out and, if he was a little obstinate and didn’t like to come to our terms about a treat, we would take him down to the creek, cut a hole in the ice and push his head in the water for a while.

This small tract of ground which was called the old war ground was all cleared off, not even any stumps on it. We didn’t consider it anything to pick up a bayonet, musket ball, an old lock, Indian tomahawk and bomb shells. In clearing the farm above here, I found in the fork of a tree a part of a bomb shell half as large as my hand. l found in 1869 one bomb shell called an eightpounder. That was filled with powder yet and had the cork in where the fuse was attached, but the powder was wet and would not ignite. We had not yet learned to appreciate these old relics and failed to take care of them, consequently, they were mislaid or destroyed. Only a few years ago, l picked up a half dozen grape shot, scalping knife, and what they called a bullet puller, to pull the loads from the guns. I picked them up right here, just north of the house there. But in regard to the old fort, l have paid little attention to its history.

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