Augusta Historical Society presents program on first African-American landowner west of the Blue Ridge

Turk McC2Augusta County was once America’s frontier … a rough place of tough settlers and endless struggle. The Augusta Historical Society offers a trip back to that exciting, difficult time at its Annual Spring Banquet April 27. Speaker Turk McCleskey will present a vivid look at those frontier times, at the Great Wagon Road through the Valley, and at an African-American blacksmith named Edward “Ned” Tarr.

Under the descriptive title “The Road to Black Ned’s Forge: A Story of Race, Sex and Trade on the Colonial American Frontier,” McCleskey, who recently published a book under the same name, will introduce the audience to the first African-American landowner west of the Blue Ridge.

The year is 1753. Moravians, traveling down the Valley, stop at the forge of a free black man on the Great Wagon Road south of Staunton. They note the man’s Scottish wife, marvel at the couple’s German fluency, and their literacy. But the tantalizing Moravian records left us wanting more of the story. Now McCleskey’s research has pushed back the centuries to reveal the life and times of this Valley blacksmith. At the ACHS banquet he will draw from that research and his book to tell the tale of a fascinating time and an intriguing man.

The bit of historic time travel will highlight the ACHS annual Spring Banquet 6 p.m. April 27 at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center in Staunton. The evening will include the Society’s annual awards dinner and exciting drawings for special prizes including trips, artwork, and adventure packages – a gliding adventure for example. The event is open to the public. Individual seats are $50 and a pair of Patron Reserved Seats is $150. Since seating is limited, reservations should be made as early as possible. Visit the Society’s website,, for more information, or email Tickets may be purchased at the Artisan’s Shop at the Smith Center, or online through the society’s website,

McCleskey, a professor at Virginia Military Institute, spent 20 years meticulously researching and unraveling the story of Ned Tarr and his life in 18th century Augusta County. His work resulted in a book also entitled The Road to Black Ned’s Forge. He received his doctorate from William & Mary and joined the VMI faculty in 1994. His research and publications have focused on the 18th century frontier, particularly Augusta County. Copies of his book will be available for purchase and signing at the banquet.

The ACHS was founded in 1964 to study, collect, preserve, publish, educate about, and promote the history of Augusta County and its communities. More information is available online.


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