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The Fort at Point Comfort, 1727-1749



We have seen that the fort at Old Point Comfort was discontinued after 1667. In 1706 the whole point of land, containing about 120 acres being deserted, was patented by Robert Beverley. Five years later Governor Spotswood advised that the fort be rebuilt to afford a retreat for ships, when pursued by privateers in time of war, or by pirates in time of peace ; but it was not until 1727 that the Assembly seriously took up the proposition. When finished, which was not till after several years, it was mounted by twenty-two guns, and about 1736 Governor Gooch reported that: "no ship could pass it without running great risk." It was named Fort George, and was made of brick, each nine inches long by four wide and three thick. The exterior wall was sixteen feet distant from the interior one, and the former was twenty-seven inches thick and the latter sixteen inches. Then the two walls were connected by counter walls ten or twelve feet apart, forming cribs, which were probably filled with sand. During this time the fort was under the control of George Walker, "gunner and storekeeper."

It seems that the government built the work without asking the consent of the owner of the land, but in 1744 this difficulty was quieted by their giving William Beverley, son of Robert Beverley, then deceased, 165 pounds for his rights. Five years later another and more fatal difficulty assailed the fort.

In 1749, a hurricane, which has been described as most

Page thirty-six



terrific and disastrous, visited Virginia. The officer in command at Point Comfort was Captain Samuel Barron, ancestor of a line of naval heroes distinguished in three wars. The barracks in which he stayed were a long row of wooden buildings with brick chimneys, running up through the center of the roofs, and Captain Barron caused all his family with the officers and soldiers of the garrison, to muster on the second floor with all the weighty articles they could find; which, it was supposed, kept the houses firm on their foundations, and so preserved the lives of all concerned. The hurricane, however, entirely destroyed the walls of Fort George, and Captain Barron removed with his family to the upper part of Mill Creek, not far off, where he resided during the remainder of his life.'

In 1756, Governor Dinwiddle, commenting on the fort, observed: **It was built on a Sandy Bank; no care to drive the piles to make a Foundation; the Sea and wind beating against it has quite undermined it and dismantled all the Guns which now lie buried in the Sand. " There is no evidence that the fort was ever restored, but as late as 1847 parts of its walls were seen and described.

The customs district, of which Hampton was the sole port of entry, included, on the north side of James River, all of the rivers and creeks from Hampton River to Archer's Hope Creek at Jamestown, and on the south side all the rivers and creeks from Cape Henry to Hog Island. The amount of shipping on the two sides was, however, very unequal, and the inhabitants of Norfolk complained, in 1735, that whereas the north side had only three ships, owned by Virginians, and no other vessels trading there, they of the south side had neither a collector nor a deputy collector, though that region swarmed with vessels owned by Virginians and West India and English merchants.

In 1769, died at Hampton Gabriel Cay, collector of customs. At this time "Wilson Cary was naval collector. The residence of the latter was at "Ceeleys" midway between Hampton and Newport News.



Fort George, Virginia Hist. Register I., 23.



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