On May 29, 1778, Dick Pointer, a black slave, helped save some 60 settlers in the Greenbrier Valley. Warned of an impending Shawnee Indian attack, settlers had taken shelter at Fort Donnally near Lewisburg. The Shawnee arrived the next morning.
Pointer and a white settler named Philip Hammond were the first to hear the alarm. The Shawnee warriors tried to use tomahawks to break through a door at the fort. However, Pointer and Hammond had braced the door using a large barrel or “hogshead” of water. Pointer grabbed a musket, began firing at the attackers, and awoke the fort’s sleeping inhabitants. Pointer and the other settlers successfully fought off the attack, and the Shawnee retreated at dark.
For his bravery, Pointer was granted a life lease to a piece of land. In 1795—17 years after the attack—grateful friends petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for Pointer’s freedom but were refused. He was finally purchased and freed six years later. He died in 1827. He was about 87 years old.
Dick Pointer’s musket and a door from Fort Donnally can be seen in the West Virginia State Museum.