The Local Native American Story
Updated: Feb 9
Fort Ashby is located in Patterson Creek Valley, a fertile and protected valley teeming with wildlife even today. Thousands and thousands of points (arrowheads, spearheads, scrapers, and knives) have been found in the area. These points are from different eras from Paleo Indian (10,000 BC - 7500 BC) through the Late Woodland Period (900 AD - 1600 AD), and may include some from the Contact Period (1600 - 1730). Interestingly, no known tribes inhabited Patterson Creek Valley on a permanent basis. The valley was used for thousands of years as seasonal hunting grounds by many different Indian groups.
There were villages and camps nearby. Mound builders from the Ohio Hopewell culture likely built a mound found in Romney, WV, between 500 and 1000 AD. Romney is 14.4 miles south of Fort Ashby.
Many Indian cultures have used the Barton site along the North Branch of the Potomac River near Pinto, Maryland. Keyser-ware pottery and earlier Page-ware pottery have both been found in distinct villages on the Barton site. Keyser-ware pottery is associated with the Luray culture which migrated from the Shenandoah Valley around 1300 AD. This culture had a village at Barton where there were 30-40 circular houses in a ring, surrounded by a palisade with central plaza, cleared areas and an associated midden. Later, in the Contact Period, the Susquehannock also briefly occupied the Barton site.
Just prior to European settlers arriving in Allegany County, Maryland, Shawnee Indians lived In a village called Opessa Town, in present day Oldtown, Maryland at the junction of the North and South Branches of the Potomac River. Opessa Town was named for the Shawnees' leader, King Opessa. King Opessa had married a Delaware (Leni Lenape) woman in a political alliance. The Shawnee had migrated from the Carolinas up to Pennsylvania and allied with the Iroqois Nation before moving to Opessa Town around 1700 along the Great Warrior Path which stretched from the Carolinas to New York State. Several Delaware Indians joined Opessa's group when they left Pennsylvania for Maryland. There are records of the Catawba Indians attacking Opessa Town twice before the Shawnee tribe left to live in the Ohio country in 1732. In the years after the Shawnee left Opessa Town leading up to the French & Indian War, there were no Indian settlements in the immediate area. Many Indians lived to the North, West, and South, however, and maintained a complex relationship with the Europeans they trusted, continuing trade until the onset of the war.
Many thanks to Suzanne Lee Smith for the information!