Imagine having the ability to turn back the calendar to the year 1776. The birth of our nation was taking place as our forefathers were going to war with England and drafting the most important document in America’s history in their determination to declare their independence. These and other related events shaped the course of our nation’s future and today dominate the history books. But if this is all you know about the year 1776 and the growing pains of a new country, you haven’t even scratched the surface. In fact, you’re missing out on the stories that are the backbone some truly great history!
Now, you could find yourself some history books and start reading, or you could turn back time and actually see one special event take place right before your eyes! Hear the guns bark and the chaotic shouting that comes from men, women, and children experiencing both bravery and fear! Smell the gun powder and smoke from cabins set afire by Cherokee warriors! History comes to life right in front of you at Wilderness Road State Park near Ewing, Virginia.
The reenactment, felt to be better described as an “on-going living history demonstration,” of the Raid at Martin’s Station is believed by historians to be one of the most realistic in the country. Every spring, hundreds of history buffs and curiosity seekers alike come to Wilderness Road State Park to see the Raid and admire the authenticity of every participant. From Daniel Boone to the Cherokee warriors, each is so authentically dressed that they appear as if they stepped right through the door of a time machine.
And what is so significant about Martin’s Station? Historic Martin’s Station is the re-creation of Captain Joseph Martin’s fort originally built in 1775 near present day Rose Hill, Virginia. It played a short, but key role in the settlement of the American frontier and westward expansion during the Revolutionary War. Located on what would be called The Wilderness Road established by Daniel Boone and leading to Kentucky, the station’s location was described as being “fifty miles in advance of the frontier”.
Joseph Martin was a young, adventurous man who was born around 1740 in Albemarle County, Virginia. After serving in the French and Indian War of the 1750s and early 1760s, he met Dr. Thomas Walker who later selected Martin to lead an expedition into Powell’s Valley to help assert the legitimacy of Dr. Walker’s land claims in the region. Martin was promised 21,000 acres if he and the other members of the expedition were the first to settle on the land. After a difficult journey through the hostile country of the American frontier, the group entered Powell’s Valley on March 26, 1769 and identified a tract of land near the present-day village of Rose Hill, about two weeks ahead of another party.
In the fall of 1769, Cherokee Indians swarmed down on Martin’s Station, causing the men to abandon the area and returning to Albemarle County. After a six-year absence, Martin and fewer than 20 men returned to Powell’s Valley in 1775 and built a permanent station that included living quarters and a stockade, the design of which was described in a letter by John Redd, one of Martin’s men. It was the last fortified station along the Wilderness Road and for many years continued to withstand regular skirmishes between frontiersmen and the Cherokee Indians.
So, would like to see one of these intense confrontations come to life? Then plan to attend the 9th Annual Raid at Martin’s Station May 8th-10th with activities on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The highlight of the event will feature over 400 reenactors as Native Americans swoop onto the scene amid war cries and gun fire. The Raid will take place on Saturday with both daytime and nighttime battles beginning at 1 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. respectively. In addition, visitors can walk through an 18th century market fair, visit a Cherokee Indian camp, listen to Colonial music or take a tour of Historic Martin’s Station, the re-created 1775 frontier fort build to the specifications of John Redd’s letter.
Stepping out of history and back to the present, the Wilderness Road State Park Visitors Center will be hosting world-renowned frontier artists such as Doug Hall, Andrew Knez Jr., Dennis Muzzy, Steve White and H. David Wright. Visitors will be able to shop for 18th century reproductions by the nation’s top artisans. There will also be free seminars on interesting 18th century topics, and the Powder Horn Gift Shop will be open and running the 20-minute high definition film “Wilderness Road, Spirit of a Nation” in the Visitor Center theatre.
So make plans to step back in time to witness the historic struggles of Martin’s Station. Watch as history reveal itself through the dangerous and exciting clash of two nations, one fighting to start a new life and the other fighting to preserve their people’s very existence on America’s first frontier.