Make your own free website on

Lead Mines and Revolutionary War

Let's Correct This History!
by Deborah Shelton Wood

This day and age, there is no excuse for erroneous history.  As a native of Wythe County, Virginia, I can truly say we are intolerant of falsehoods that are perpetuated by those with money or power.
I want to set the record straight about one thing that has been bothering me for decades as I trace my Wythe County history back to Captain William Herbert, a patriot and a religious leader.  He was more than that.   Without his expertise, there would not have been a Shot Tower on the New River and perhaps there would not have existed AMERICA!!
This important tribute made by William Herbert who was asked to come to the "then wilderness" of Virginia by Col. John Chiswell has gone without recognition for too long!
The Civil War era Jackson family has taken credit for what my ancestor did.  William Herbert is barely mentioned and Thomas Jackson has been credited with building the Shot tower in 1802?
William Herbert was a Welshman and he was working for William Watts in Bristol England, helping him build the first ever Shot Tower in existence.  When Chiswell asked for the best metalist and ore mining expert in England, he was given my ancestor's name.   William Herbert knew how to build a shot tower and produce lead for ammunition only because he had helped William Watts.   Many years later, Watts patented the method.These facts are told in the great books by Mary Kegley and family of Wythe County.
There are old postcards telling of the Shot Tower producing the ammo needed for the Rev War. Little else.
William Herbert was convinced to come to Fort Chiswell as Col Chiswell had discovered rich ore mines while exploring a cave nearby.   He could find no one who could make a go of mining this rich ore.  He convinced Herbert and his extended family to come live here.  Herbert was given many acres of land and homes were built for his families.
Soon thereafter, the facts were brought up by those in charge, that the mines were located on land that had been protected  in a treaty to the "Indians".  The operation was shut down and Chiswell took the homes and land away from the Herbert families.   As folks who had lived in the city most of their lives, they knew not how to farm or make any other living. Herbert's children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews had to move and find any work they could.
As plans were made for the American Revolution, those in power including another of my ancestors, William Byrd, and his parter Chiswell, rushed to Herbert to ask him to again produce the lead ammo needed for the impending war.
William Herbert did as asked and they sent to him, dozens  of slaves for helping work the furnace and mines.  We know the Revolution would have been lost without this vast resource of ammuntion and the knowledge that William Herbert possessed in making the first Shot Tower in this country.  Unfortunately the slave workers will never be thanked or acknowledged.
Herbert also ran the first Ferry across the New River.  It's possible that the Shot Tower was improved or rebuilt after Herbert's death by the Jacksons who lived on a small part of Herbert's land much later on.
And the ferry was then operated by the Jacksons and what had been called Herbert's Ferry is now called Jackson's Ferry.
I feel William Herbert deserved credit where due.  His descendants are many and we celebrate the victory of America and we know the true story.
I've asked the State Dept of VA many times to erect one roadside sign to honor the acheivements made by Herbert.
And I've asked my contemporary, Delegate Thomas Jackson of Wythe and Carroll Counties, VA to help with this.  We were classmates at Austinville Elem. School in the 1960's.  I've yet to have a reply from either the State Dept or Mr. Jackson.
Below is the Historical Marker on display near the Shot Tower; deceptive wording and incorrect date for Herbert's arrival.

Perfect example of deceptive raod marker
William Herbert came much earlier and he also built the first Shot Tower

Postcard below does not mention Herbert, but does correctly state that this Shot Tower is from Revolutionary War era.

A True Historical Postcard - from Jeff Weaver
Hard to find early photo of Show Tower correctly id from Rev Times

William Herbert's genealogy page.

My email

Thank you for reading and caring!