Note: This story appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 13 newspaper on Page A1.
HOCKINGPORT — To tell this story, you have to go way back: before the days of King Midget and The Ridges, before the Civil War, even before Ohio University was founded.
Actually, you have to go back even further — to the years before George Washington became president and before the Articles of Confederation were ratified.
Indeed, this is a moment about nine months before the first shots were fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, marking the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
It’s a story the Southeast Ohio History Center wants to keep fresh in our minds, a full 245 years later. It’s the story of the Fort Gower Resolves, a landmark moment in American history that took place right here in Athens County. The History Center recently installed a historical marker in the small community of Hockingport to recognize the spot of Fort Gower.
This fort was built here in the fall of 1774 because it’s where the Hockhocking and Ohio rivers meet. It was built by Lord Dunmore’s army, the marker explains, which had traveled here from Virginia to “end the hostilities following the Yellow Creek massacre of the family of Mingo Chief Logan.”
What ensued is now known as Dunmore’s War, according to Tom O’Grady, director emeritus of the History Center. Dunmore had brought two army wings to “Ohio Country” with a goal of them meeting up in Point Pleasant. While Dunmore’s wing moved on from Fort Gower toward the area of today’s Circleville, the other wing was attacked by a large group of Shawnee warriors. The Virginians were victorious in the Battle of Point Pleasant.
Dunmore and Shawnee’s leader, Chief Cornstalk, soon after signed a peace treaty.
The two wings of Dunmore’s army now together, the Virginians made their way back down to Fort Gower here in Athens County.
The “Fort Gower Resolves” refers to resolutions voted upon by the soldiers of Dunmore’s army.
“Many refer to the Fort Gower Resolves as the first Declaration of Independence,” according to O’Grady, “as the men resolved to defend (King George III) as long as he reigned justly over the colonies, but, would defend the colonies against the king if necessary.”
O’Grady pointed out that this event took place 18 months before Thomas Jefferson wrote the actual Declaration of Independence.
The Fort Gower Resolves were later read on the floor of Parliament in March of 1775, O’Grady said. King George III did not rule justly as the colonial soldiers had hoped. The “Shot Heard Round the World” at the Battle of Concord took place months later, leading to the American Revolutionary War.
The marker is located in a cemetery across from the Hockingport United Methodist Church at 28821 Pavillion St., Hockingport.
Here is the full marker text:
Site of Fort Gower
Fort Gower was established by the army of Lord Dunmore near the confluence of the Hockhocking and Ohio rivers in the autumn of 1774. Dunmore’s army of over a thousand Virginians included Simon Kenton, Daniel Morgan, George Rogers Clark, William Crawford, James Harrod, Ebenezer Zane, and Simon Girty. The army came to the Ohio Valley to end the hostilities following the Yellow Creek massacre of the family of Mingo Chief Logan. Following a day long battle at Point Pleasant on the Ohio River and the subsequent Treaty of Camp Charlotte with Chief Cornstalk, Nonhelema, and the Shawnee in the Scioto Valley, Dunmore’s army returned to Fort Gower. Here they composed and voted in support of the Fort Gower Resolves.