West Virginia Waterways

West Virginia Waterways

West Virginia Waterways finds its source at the highland watersheds of the Allegheny Mountains. These watersheds supply drainage to the creeks often passing through deep and narrow hollows. From the hollows, rushing highland streams collect in bottom land brooks and rivers. People have lived along and boated on the Mountain State's waterways from the time of antiquity.

On July 13, 1709, Louis Michel, George Ritter, and Baron Christopher De Graffenreid petitioned the King of England for a land grant in the Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown area, Jefferson County, in order to establish a Swiss colony. Neither the land grant or the Swiss colony ever materialized. The Treaty of Albany, 1720, designated the Blue Ridge Mountains as the western boundary of white settlement. [West Virginia Division of Culture and History, West Virginia Memory Project, http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvmemory/timeline.aspx] Orange County, Virginia was formed in 1734. It included all areas west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, constituting all of present West Virginia. By 1739, Thomas Shepherd had constructed a flour mill powered by water from the Town Run or the Falling Springs Branch of the Potomac River. Shepherd along with Isaac Garrison, and John Welton established the presant town of Shepherdstown in todays Jefferson County. October, 1748, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act establishing a ferry across the Potomac River from the landing of Evan Watkin near the mouth of Conococheague Creek in present-day Berkeley County to the property of Edmund Wade in Maryland. Robert Harper obtained a permit to operate a ferry across the Shenandoah River at present-day Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County on March of 1761. [West Virginia Division of Culture and History, West Virginia Memory Project, http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvmemory/timeline.aspx] Thus, these two ferry crossings became the earliest locations of government authorized civilian commercial crafts on what would become a part of the West Virginia Waterways.

Early river traffic

For nearly 15 years, missionaries and "coureurs de bois" confused ideas of a “beautiful River, large, wide, deep, and worthy of comparison . . . with our great river St. Lawrence” that in 1660 and 1662 they were able to described a river below the Great Lakes to France. In 1670, Jesuit Dablon was able to write a good description of this river. Sulpicians Dollier de Casson and Bréhant de Galinée missionaries using their contacts with the native reported in 1671 the aboriginal names of the Ohio or Mississippi (“Ohio,” in the Iroquois language, and “Mississippi,” in the Ottawa language, both mean “beautiful river,” belle rivière). [The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright 2008 Columbia University Press] The French Canadian Sulpicians had replaced the Jesuit Fathers who had replaced the original Récollets. Confused Europe cartographer's ideas, there, about the Ohio Country, remained somewhat beyond the first decade of the 18th Century.

In 1691-1692 the British sent an envoy to the Shawnoe who were called the "Far Indians" by some at this time. Dutchman Arnoult Vielle commanded that float down the Ohio River to as far as the "Falls of Ohio". Captain Arent Schuyler returned to New York from the Minisink Indians of New Jersey in February, 1694. He was told by them that, “six days agoe three Christians and two Shanwans Indians who went about fifteen months agoe with Arnout Vielle into the Shanwans Country were passed by the Minnissinek going for Albany to fech powder for Arnout and his Company.” ["Documents relative to the colonial history of New York" (O’Callaghan, ed.), 4: 98.] On September 11, 1694, Henri de Tonti made his report to the France saying, "We have even been advised that one named Annas (Arias?), of the English nation, accompanied by the Loup [Brasser (1974) wrote that “Adriaen Block (1614) and later colonial authorities usually referred to the tribe as ‘Mahicans,’ ‘Mahikanders,’ and similar names....""By 1662 the name ‘Loups’ began to lose its specificity and was used to refer to several tribes in New England and New York State.”-First Nations] savages has had some speech with the Miami in order to draw them to them, which will give them a strong foothold for the success of their enterprise, if he corrupts them.” [Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l’ouest et dans le sud de l’Amérique septentrionale, 1614-1754, mémoires et documents originaux, edited by Pierre Margry (Paris, 1881), 4: 4.] With the help of a large number of Shawnee, and some from seven other "nations", portering beaver furs with Arnoult Vielle, they arrived in Albany New York with very lucrative end of a two year hunt on the Ohio River Valley. "A band of Shawnee left their hunting grounds on the Cumberland (River, Ky) to follow Viele east to the Delaware river where they established a settlement." [More correctly between the Cumberland and Ohio rivers, “The First Push Westward of the Albany Traders.” Citation: Mississippi Valley Historical Review 7 (Dec. 1920): 228-41. Helen Broshar, Urbana, Illinois] In August, 1699, Iberville reported to France saying, "some men, twelve in number, and some Maheingans who are savages whom we call Loups started seven years ago from New York in order to go up the river Andaste which is in the province of Pennsylvania, as far as the River Ohio which is said to join the Wabash, flowing together into the Mississippi.” ["The wilderness trail, or the ventures and adventures of the Pennsylvania] traders on the Allegheny path, with some new annals of the old west, and the records of some strong men and some bad ones" (New York, 1911) Charles A. Hanna] Perhaps not the first white man to go boating on the Ohio River, but, he was the first well documented as such.

WV Buffalo skin canoes

right|thumb| Perhaps, the only contemporary "painting" of the extinct Eastern Forest Buffalo done in 1687. It would then be the graphic representation (name-sake) of the Fort Ancient Buffalo Site (destroyed in 1600s) on the Kanawha River in West Virginia. Notice the horn representation.There have been hints in the old tellings within circles about skin covered canoes in the Kanawha region. In mixed company, these were met with scoff. Trapper James (Jacob) Le Tort, Sr moved his Penn permit (1720s~30s) trading house near Letart Falls (namesake at Jackson & Mason county's line) from the Allegheny's Beaver Creek area Fur Trade by 1740 where his son married a Shawnee maiden. Along with them, much of his trade was coming from Little Kanawha River tributaries watershed and Mill Creek which reaches into Roane County to the Elk River watershed. Western Virginia "Cherokee" were reported at Cherokee Falls [Quoting Wonderful West Virginia article Sept.1973, Pp.30, "Valley Falls Of Old", Walter Balderson, "The Cherokee who lived here, called it the "Evil Spirit Falls," as they found it difficult to possess it. Later, white explorers called it the "Hard Around Falls," which is obvious to the visitor. Later, it became the "Falls of the Big Muddy" or Monongahelia and finally it took the name of David Tygart, a pioneer settler of the stream in Randolph County (1753) above Elkins. The head spring is about 100 miles away at an elevation of some 4000 feet (near Mingo Flats)...Who was the first white man to visit Valley Falls? Frankly, we don't know for certain. In 1704, Thomas Leggit (ten years of age) went up the Tygart past Valley Falls with his parents to settle Phillipi, it was recorded. In 1731, Charles Poke, a noted Indian trader, had a trading post with the Indians at the then Cherokee Falls. Around 1740 Jean Dupratz, a French- man, is reported to have explored here. From 1746 through 1772, various traders, trappers, and exploriers visited the Valley Falls area."] (today's Valley Falls) in 1705 and continued the many Kanawhan old fields. Soon, these evolved into a fireside cabin culture with the pioneer, too. [Quoting from C. Gist journal 1753, November, "Thursday 15.—We set out, and at night encamped at George's Creek, about eight miles, where a messenger came with letters from my son, who was just returned from his people at the Cherokees, and lay sick at the mouth of Conegocheague (next major stream below Col Cresap's Fort Cumberland, Potomack River, Allegany Mountains.)--CHRISTOPHER GIST'S JOURNALS WITH HISTORICAL, GEOGRAPHICAL AND ETHNOLOGICAL NOTES AND BIOGRAPHIES OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES BY WILLIAM M. DARLINGTON [1815-1889] PITTSBURGH, J. R. WELDIN & CO., 1893.-- Gist [106] mentions Muskingum as though it was the name of the town. He should have written "a town of the Wyandots at the Muskingum," the latter being an Algonquin or Delaware word. The Indians do not, like the whites, give every town or village a name, but they are known by the name of the place, the locality, head chief, etc. "They preferred to describe a man or a river or town, by some quality or remarkable feature rather than designate the object by a name. ("Transactions of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio," Vol. I, p. 235.) Thus Chillicothe towns in Ohio—Upper, Lower and Old—simply meant towns of the Chillicothe tribe of the Shawnese. (John Johnson, in Butler's "Kentucky," last page, Appendix.) Soh-kon, outlet (a village) at the outlet. Shannopin, from the head chief, Kittanning. Kittan, great, ung-on, or at the great river. (See Trumbull on "Indian Geographical Names," Connecticut Historical Society, Vol. II, p. 43, etc.) The Wyandots, or Hurons, were ancient occupants of Central and Eastern Ohio and Northwestern Pennsylvania, to which region they retreated from Canada, to escape the fury of the conquering Iroquois, or Five Nations, in the middle of the seventeenth century. ("American Antiquarian Society Transactions," Vol. I, p. 271-2; id. Vol. II, p. 72. Charlevoix's "History of New France.") The Wyandots are called Tiononaties, Petuns or Petuneuae, Tobacco Indians, from their industrious habit of cultivating that plant. Petun (obsolete French for tobacco derived from the Brazilian) being a nickname given to them by the French traders. ("Historical Magazine," Vol. V, O. S., 1861, p. 263.) In the Mohawk dialect of the Iroquois the name for tobacco is O-ye-aug-wa. (Gallatin's "Synopsis American Aboriginal Archives," Vol. II, p. 484.) In the Huron of La Hontan, Vol. II, p. 103, Oyngowa; and in Campinus "History of New Sweden," in the Mingo.-- WILLIAM M. DARLINGTON [1815-1889] ] They had not been quite like Keetoowah, seldom called to counsel by the Ahniyvwiya. Some migrated north of Daniel Boone's Kentucky settlement before he arrived, but, not all for the assimilation with local Virginia colonizers. There were several different historical tribes in the Kanawhan region during the 18th century to include the Bulltown Delaware. A Mingo Indian statue commemorates the first inhabitants of the tributaries on the Monongahela, Potomac, Greenbrier, Elk, Tygart, and Gauley highland watershed's divide, nearby village of Mingo Flats. ["Nakiska ChaletBed & Breakfast" OCTOBER 1999 V.63, N.10 Wonderful West Wirginia. http://www.wonderfulwv.com/archives/oct99/fea2.cfm] Simply, none were villaging at that particular year on any old fields on the Kanawha River during Salley's expedition.

There is a gap between the Mill Creek low lands and the large Great Kanawha bottoms that was an eastern black buffalo (Eastern Forest Buffalo) migration route. [ Editor's Note: On October 29th, 1771, Washington is at the beginning of the Great Bend which is about 9 miles above Letart Falls. He calls the creek of about four miles below his camp location in West Virginia the "Warrior's Path to Cherokee country", today's Mill Creek (Dr. Archer Hulbert). There is a gap between the Great Kanawha and Mill Creek called the Old Buffalo Trail south."] Wonderful West Virginia Magazine, in July 1976, Pp. 27 & 28, "W.Va. Wildlife 1776", by Maurice Brooks mentions these extinct buffalo achieved two hundred years ago along the Pennsylvania border (omitting person's name). Similarly, "The last buffalo seen here was killed on Little Coal river, in what is now Boone county, about half a century ago (~1826), and the last elk was killed (omitting person's name), on the waters of Indian creek of Elk river, about the same time." [Also documented within is great friend of the Kanawhans: "Andrew Lewis, with four of his brothers, were in the expedition of Braddock, and exhibited marked courage and caution. Samuel commanded the company, and acquitted himself with great ability. Andrew Lewis was twice wounded at the siege of Fort Necessity. After the amnesty, and as the Virginians were marching off, an Irishman became displeased with an Indian, and 'cursing the copper-headed scoundrel,' elevated his gun to fire. At that moment, Major Lewis, who, crippled, was passing along, raised his staff and knocked up the muzzle of the Irishman's rifle, thus doubtless preventing a general massacre." " HISTORY OF KANAWHA COUNTY FROM ITS ORGANIZATION IN 1789 UNTIL THE PRESENT TIME" BY GEO. W. ATKINSON, A. M. CHARLESTON: PRINTED AT THE OFFICE OF THE WEST VIRGINIA JOURNAL (1876).]

Salley bothered not himself to visit Le Tort and his clientele on the east branches of the Kanawha River. Salley explored and named the Coal River as we call it today which was Huntington's Guyandot namesake Guyandotte River and southern Ohio's Shawnee farthest reach hunting land at that time. These folk's period peaked with the Treaty of Fort Meigs. Exposing the buffalo skin boat present in West Virginia is braved in this section with the use of the following quote:

(sic) "In 1742, John Peter Salley and four or five others crossed the entire state of West Virginia without seeing a human being who made the region his home. They descended the New River from near the point where Batts saw it, and passed down the Kanawha to the Ohio, traveling in a boat made of buffalo skins." See Christopher Gist’s Journals, and accompanying papers, published by William M. Dunnington, Pittsburg, pages 253 and 254. [By Hu Maxwell, United States Forest Service, “The Use and Abuse of Forests by the Virginia Indians.” Citation: William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine 19 (October 1910): 73-103. Dinsmore Documentation November 20, 2006.] ["We then proceeded as far as Mondongachate, now called Woods River (New River) which is 85 miles, where we killed five Buffaloes, and with their hides covered the frame of the boat; which was so large as to carry all of our company, and our provisions and utensils, with which we passed down said river, 252 miles as we supposed and found it very rocky, having a great many falls therin, one of which we computed to be 30 ft. Perpendicular and all along surrounded by inaccessible mountains, high precipices, which obliged us to leave said river...From the mouth of the Coal River, to the River Allegany (Ohio River) we computed to be 92 miles, and on the 6th day of May we came to the Allegany which we supposed to be 3/4 of a mile (broad), and from her to the great falls on this river (Ohio Falls Ky) is reckoned 400 and 44 miles, there being a large Spanish open country on each side of the river, and is well watered abounding with plenty of fountains, small streams and large rivers; is very high and furtile soil." The Journal of John Peter Salling "Annals of and American Family" by E. Waddel]

Birch bark canoes

. [THE FRONTIER FORTS OF WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA. Pages 399-436. THE CATAWBA TRAIL, CLARENCE M. BUSCH. STATE PRINTER OF PENNSYLVANIA. 1896. http://www.usgwarchives.org/pa/1pa/1picts/frontierforts/ff33.html]

French Quebec canal engineer Chaussegros de Léry boated down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers in 1729. He was a noted fortifications engineer. A group of canoes under the direction of Charles Le Moyne reconnoitered down the Ohio River in 1739. The curiously found "elephant-like bones" (mastodon) becomes talk in the colonies. The official colonial surveyors traveled the river in large styled birch bark canoes. It has been reported by many historians that much more than a dozen men would paddle these. The frontier clinic doctors often came along to make their "treaty" stops at fur collection villages. The reports and letters were transported by these boaters to Fort Henry Wheeling, West Virginia and Fort Pitt, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before the dams began to be built in 1885, Wheeling was known as the "head of dry navigation" during drought. The path between the two locations was used for dispatch, then, an overnight trip. The officials accompaniment by a few friendly scouts of employ could otherwise quicker canoe [Col. Burd’s Journal, 23d, Sunday, January, Fort Augusta, 1756 quoting, "At 4 O’Clock, P.M., Volunteer Hughes arrived here with a party of 12 men under his command, he had under his eschort the two Indians from Connistogo town, named William Sack & Indian Peter, the said Indians being committed to his care by George Croghan, Esq’r, at Harris’s ferry, to be by him transported heither. I Rec’d said Indians as friends, they delivered me a letter from George Croghan, Esq’r., dated at Harris’s the 20th Curr’t, Intimating to me that hed had sent them to the Ohio on his Majesty’s service, & desiring that I might assist them with guns, poudder, lead & Provisions, or anything else that they might want to enable them to proceed on their journey, and to dispatch them after one day’s rest. 3d, Thursday, Februray, 1756 The Canoe returns & brings William Sack & Indian Peter, they report that the weather was so exceedingly bad they could not travel, and the Creeks and River Impassable, that the snow was so deep they could not walk, and, therefore, were forced to Return. The wheelbarrow makers at work, 2 men making tomhawk handles, 2 making shingles for the Bake house, 6 men clean’g the saw pitt, a party in the woods getting stuff, 6 Colliers at work..."] them and material to Fort Henry and down river to as far as Fort Kaskaskia, a small garrison trading post associated with Colonel George Croghan et al. The block house (small forts) construction material were more often moved on rafts called flatboats.

Another colonial surveyor, gone boating on the Kanawha and Ohio rivers, was Captain Hanson in April of 1774. While on the Kanawha River and quoting from his journal: "16th. We proceeded to Elk River, 6 miles & found the canoe on the opposite shore of New River. Mr Floyd and a stranger went out to hunt; whilst we finished the canoe, which was done when he returned, after shooting a Deer & a Pike 43 inches long." "17th. We called our canoe the Good-Hope, imbarked on board of her, sailed 9 miles down the river, there saw two canoes ashore, which caused us to land, We found Majr Fields in company...The People informed us, that the Indians had placed themselves on both sides of the Ohio, and that they intended war. The Delaware Indians told them that the Shawnese intended to rob the Pensylvainans & kill the Virginians where ever they could meet with them, We parted with them & proceeded to Crab River 3 miles." "18th. We surveyed 2000 acres of Land for Col. Washington, bordered by Coal River & the Canawagh..." "19th. We passed on from hence, passing Pokatalico River at 6 miles, to a bottom Mr. Hogg is improving in all 14 miles, Mr. Hogg confirmed the news we had of the Indians, He says there were 13 People who intended to settle on the Ohio, and the Indians came upon them and a battle ensued..." "20th. We proceeded to the mouth of the Kanawha, 26 miles. At our arrival we found 26 People there on different designs - Some to cultivate land, others to attend the surveyors, They confirm the same story of the Indians. One of them could speak Indian language, therefore Mr. Floyd & the other Surveyors offered him 3 per month to go with them, which he refused, and told us to take care of our scalps..." [From Documentary History of Dunmore's War, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites and Louise Phelps Kellogg, Madison, Wisconsin Historical Society, 1905 pp. 110-17 http://www.wvculture.org/HISTORY/dunmore/hanson.html]

Chief Cornstalk's Shawnese (Chalahgawtha) word for canoe was "Olagashe". Again locally, the Ohio River is also called "Spaylaywitheepi" in Shawnee. [ Allen Eickert; W.J.Jacobs "The Appalachian Indian Frontier" containing "The Edmond Atkin Report and Plan of 1755"] Iroquois (Tuscarora, Mingoe & Canawagh) call the Kanawha River, Kahnawáˀkye meaning "waterway" (transport-way) and "kye" is augmentive suffix. kaháwa' is a noun phrase and means "boat" (canoe). It varies with kahôwö'. Uhíyu' is a verbal nominal meaning the Ohio River or the state of Ohio. It belongs to the semantic field places. Etymology [u] - NsP/I prefix, -(i)h- /river/, -íyu- /be good, beautiful/, -' Noun suffix. Literal translation is "the beautiful river".

Flat boats

George Washington and Christopher Gist raft was destroyed by floating ice stranding them on the Allegheny River's Garrison Island on December 29, 1753. A frigid night allowed them to walk from the island the next morning. Washington also wrote of the coal outcrop burning on the ridge above West Columbia in Mason County as university scholars identify. [Editor's Note: Canoe Landings of the Fur Trade was sometimes confused because of "word-of-mouth." But, Charegree the Indian's map (Library of Congress) of about 1755 shows the upper Shawnee Town at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River. Hanna, in his book short titled "The Wilderness Trail" published in 1911, quotes on page 142 "Dr. Thwaites, in a note to Wither's Chronicles of Border Warefare, states that the Upper Shawnee Town (which a troop of Virginia militia--The Big Sandy Expidition--vainly tried to find in 1756). "was an Indian village at Old Town Creek, emtying into the Ohio from the north, 39 miles above the mouth of the Great Kanawha." There is to this day an Old Town Creek in Meigs County, Ohio. But, it is not quite 39 miles above the mouth of the Kanawha River. This has to do with La Tort's family and trade. Cheregree shows an un-named dot at about the location of Old Town Creek in Mason County (WV) which was not an important enemy village or as a major concern of the French and Indian War. Just below it on his intelligence report map, the Upper Shawnee Town is shown at the very point of the Great Kanawha named as such. The Sauvanoos had removed from the area of Fort Du Quesne. Much of Virginian Major Lewis' 1756 Big Sandy expedition was trooped by Virginia Cherokee. Andrew Montour mustered a few Virginia "Cherokee" for George Washington in 1754. Although, recent scholars identify these as Tuskarora which is likely closer to who they really were, a mix of similar language of whom certain settlers reckon any hill Indians in broad sense as simply "Cherokee".] The civilian Ohio River flatboat era began about the time Colonel Brodhead had command at Fort Pitt, 1778-1781. His reports & letters became public in early 1850s. [Correspondence of Col. Daniel Brodhead To Col. Stephen Bayard, July 9th, 1779, "Whilst I am writing, I am tormented by at least a dozen drunken Indians, and I shall be obliged to remove my quarters from hence on account of a cursed villainous set of inhabitants, who, in spite of every exertion continue to rob the soldiers, or cheat them and the Indians out of every thing they are possessed of." In a circular letter addressed to the lieutenants, Col. Daniel Brodhead headquarters July 17th, 1779, "His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, has at length given me a little latitude, and I am determined to strike a blow against one of the most hostile nations, that in all probability will effectually secure the tranquility of the frontiers for years to come. But I have not troops sufficient at once to carry on the expedition and to support the different posts which are necessary to be maintained. Therefore beg, you will engage as many volunteers for two or three weeks as you possibly can. They shall be well treated, and if they please, paid and entitled to an equal share of the plunder that may be taken, which I apprehend will be very considerable. Some of the friendly Indians will assist us on this enterprise." REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO LOCATE THE SITE OF THE FRONTIER FORTS OF PENNSYLVANIA. VOLUME TWO. CLARENCE M. BUSCH. STATE PRINTER OF PENNSYLVANIA. 1896.-- "...In my Letter of the 24th. Instant, I mentioned the arrival of thirteen of our Caghnawaga Friends (Hanson's Canawagh); They honored me with a Talk to-day as did three of the Tribes of St. Johns and Pasmiquoddi Indians; Copies of which I beg leave to inclose you. I shall write General Schuyler respecting the Tender of Service made by the former, and not to call for their Assistance, unless he shall at any time want it, or be under the necessity of doing it to prevent their taking the side of our Enemies...", George Washington to Continental Congress, January 30, 1776. ] With the assistance of friendly Kanawha and Monongahela Indians his army retaliated hostiles coming down the Allegheny River. His campaigns continued which defeated the war chiefs from Ohio in 1781 who came to power after "White Eyes" died. This clearing of hostiles on the upper Ohio River system aided arrivals from Europe to build flatboats to take them to their new pioneer homes. Some French and Indian War veterans sold their patent surveyed land for cash to frontier settlement arrivals, not wishing to up-root from their already established easterly homesteads. Many settlers came down the Ohio from the Forks of Ohio and young Wheeling, West Virginia located at the end of Cumberland Road, building their flatboats there. By 1800, a variation as a houseboat was called an arc. It included a "fireplace" (Franklin stove?) within the cabin. One of these is recorded being anchored within Crooked Creek embayment near the Boone trading post at Kanawha Harbor.

Kanawha salt was moved down river on flat boats in greater quantity than earlier occasional sack aboard canoes. In 1782, Jacob Yoder launched from the Monongahela at Redstone with a cargoe of produce, according to his friend Jos Pierce of Cincinnati, Ohio, another flatboat captain. This first commercial attempt reached New Orleans having drifted through the dangerous Spanish region. These crews walked back to their home on the Ohio River passing through the deep south's Spanish lands. The shipping of coal on West Virginia rivers began about 1803. Of several, Fort Nelson (Louisville) and Cincinnati (Fort Washington) which latter population was about 950 and some were consumers for example. The population of western Virginia was about 100,000 in 1810. The old river jetties did not stop the usefulness of flatboats. Variations of these were built through the following decades. They were used on the Ohio into the 1900s. They all were difficult to maneuver through the early dam's locks and by that time, steam boat's barges had replaced them.

Mississippi River Pirogue

vessels on the Mississippi River system's shoal waters were similar.

On August 12, 1749, Celeron de Bienville, a French officer and his flotilla of canoes, "encountered two canoes, loaded with packs and guided by four Englishmen". On the 13th, he "encountered several pirogues, conducted by Iroquois, who were hunting on the rivers which intersect the land", the rivers of western Kanawha region on the Ohio River. Of the Great Kanawha River he records: "The 18th, I departed at an early hour. I camped at noon, the rain preventing us continuing our route. I have this day placed a lead plate at the entrance of the river Chiniondaista and attached the arms of the king to a tree. This river carries canoes for forty leagues without encountering rapids, and has its source near Carolina. The English of this government come by treaty to the Belle Rivière." [ J. R. WELDON & CO., PITTSBURGH, 1892. Part 1, Pages 5-83. Journal of Captain Celeron. also: WISCONSIN HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS, XVIII. Céloron's Expedition Down the Ohio, 1749, Céloron, to page 58.]

The West Virginia pioneers along the river built a square sided canoe using boards butted together. The construction is similar to their building these water's more common familiar flat bottom rectangular row boat used for fishing and river crossing of local goods. The smaller and lighter canoe shape was better suited for one person to cross over gentle rapids (portage) and paddle upstream on the Ohio River.

Pirogue mail carrier

The Northwest Ordinance, Congress of the Confederation of the United States unanimously passed it on July 13, 1787. On August 7, 1789, the United States Congress affirmed the Ordinance with slight modifications under the Constitution. In 1787, this canoe began use on the upper frontier river for carrying the mail. Our new United States government paid these boaters to relay mail along the Ohio River in two week intervals between Wheeling, Marietta, Maysville and Cincinnati, with short stops along the West Virginia and Ohio settlements. The candidate had to demonstrate above average boating and swimming skills and was required to be frontier savvy to be hired as a pirogue mail carrier. The mail pouch was strapped secure to his body in case of a boating accident. Fort Henry at Wheeling was the Mail Master's collection point for the Pirogue Mail Carriers.

Military craft and first packet trade

can be considered with its beginnings as founded by the efforts of Major Craig, Fort Pitt, US Army. Fort Pitt's Major Craig wrote to General Knox on March 11th, 1792 and again in a report dated May 11th, 1792 about these better built boats and cost in his reports. [Major Craig to Gen. Knox, 11th March, 1792: "I have contracted for 43 boats, viz: 32 of 50 feet each, 4 of 60 feet and 6 of 55, they are to be one-fourth wider than those purchased last year, viz: 15 feet, to be also stronger and better finished. Delivered here with five oars to each. Price per foot, 8s and 9d’-$1.17 per foot;" To Captain Jonathan Cass, Fort Franklin, dated April 7th, 1792: "The Indians crossed the river below Wheeling on the 4th instant and killed nine persons near that place;" To Gen. Knox, May 11th, 1792: "The 50 boats now ready, will transport 3000 men, they are the best that ever came here, and, I believe, the cheapest;"]

The next year, with the upper West Virginia rivers firmly under Major Craig's control, saw the first regular packet line on the Ohio River, 1793. It was a weekly keelboat trip between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with short stops along West Virginia and Ohio river settlements. Cincinnati merchant Jacob Meyers saw the need in this year. His vessel was built similar to Lewis & Clark's adventure galley, another variation of keelboat. Individual packet's round-trip had taken about a month during the hostle era and of the few, some did not make it. This inspired merchant Meyers to start his 'Line'. So, the great keelboat era had its earnest beginning.

Keel boat mail carriers

An advanced route was scheduled with a relay system in June of 1794. These six rowers and maybe a passenger or two paddled between Maysville, Gallipolis, Marietta and Wheeling. The government mail carriers relayed between their two assigned towns on a one week turn-around. Each team stayed at their landing towns until the next relay team arrived and after the exchange, they soon made departure to ensure the one week delivery. A passenger was to carry his own pouch of food and a weapon was very encouraged for his own personal protection.

Schooners & Brigantines

The keelboat builders, Tarascan, Berthoud & Company of Pittsburgh, built the 120 ton schooner, 'Amity' and the 250 ton 'Pittsburgh' in 1792. In 1793, these were loaded with flour and sent to St Thomas and the other to Philadelphia. Coal used as ballast was sold in Philadelphia at 37 1/2 cents a bushel the next year on two of their brigantines, 200 ton 'Nanina' and 350 ton 'Louisianna'. The largest was the 400 ton brigantine 'Western Trader'. Before 1803, the 70 ton gaffed rigged schooner 'Dorcus & Sally' was built at Wheeling and fitted at Marietta, Ohio. Also, the 130 ton 'Mary Avery' was built at Marietta. The 100 ton schooner, 'Nancy', was launched on June 27, 1808 at Wheeling and among others to include Little Kanawha before paddlewheeler's era. The uncommonly long wild black walnut timber used for hull construction, written in a journal of a coastal purchaser's observer, were a little lighter yet as strong as the heavier oak hull timber used at that time on the east coast. Some shipwrights from Rhode Island arrived about this time to join their neighboring regionals who had already relocated along the river's old growth forest shipyards. A few of these walnut hulled schooners were sold with the freight and of a few were fitted as North American gun cutters (escort/patrol) with others of the US privateers during the War of 1812, one also noted in the Caribbean. January, 1845, Liverpool England, not believing the Marque Home-port and having to be shown the geography thereby not pirates, welcomed the Marietta built 350 ton barque "Muskingum". This was a cheerful first for Ohio River crews. The largest built was Ship "Minnesota" at Cincinnati of 850 ton for a New Orleans owner. A steaming paddlewheeler delivered it. A few local built and crewed Barques made passage to Africa and back to the Kanawha region before the Civil War. These larger vessels moved during spring flood waters, having a little more draft than our earlier more common schooner's berthy 11 foot draft or less, which were more able. The early upper Ohio Valley vessel's cargo included flour, smoked beef, barreled salt pork, glass-wares, iron, black walnut furniture, wild cherry & yellow birch and various beverages. Much of the bulk cargo were stored in flat bottom square-ends 'jonboats' as crates above the hold for some destinations required a davit method of loading and unloading the freight. It was during this era that sorghum and Kentucky variety of tobacco was exported in greater volume from farmers on the western West Virginia's large bottom land's boat landings.

Early steamboats & Civil War Fleet

Robert Fulton built the valley's first commercial paddlewheel steamboat, ", at Pittsburgh and Captain Nicholas Roosevelt sailed it down the Ohio to New Orleans in 1811. But, it was not able to navigate back up river from Natcheys. In 1816, Captain Henry Shreve built the "George Washington" at Wheeling, W. Va. It set the pattern for future steamboats. He named the passenger cabins, calling them staterooms, after U.S. states.

During the American Civil War, Fort Union (Ft Blair) at the mouth of the Little Kanawha River at Parkersburg was the Union Army's supply center to the western states. With no rail road bridges crossing the Ohio River, this depot connected the eastern factory's rail to steamboat packets continuing the supplies west under this Quartermaster's Command, the Upper Ohio Flotilla. Parkersburg was also the recruiting center for the 9th West Virginia Infantry (April 1862, Co K) who were often detailed onboard to protect the packetboats and river crossings on the West Virginia rivers. Reqruiter Col Whaley and Lt Col William C. Starr, Regimental Commander Gen I. H. Duval were under Federal Command at Wheeling, West Virginia. "The regiment was composed largely of refugees, who, having been driven from home, were fighting with a desperation that was not excelled by any troops in any army." [Source: Loyal West Virginia 1861-1865, by Theodore Lang] These with the "amphibious division" were involved in the Battle of Buffington Island. Many of these recruits came from a river worker's tradition.

After the War, the steamboat "Mountain Boy" transported government officials and documents to Charleston from Wheeling after seven years there. The steamboats "Emma Graham" and the "Chesapeake" moved the state's officials and documents back to Wheeling in 1875. After a citizen's vote in August, 1887, the steamboats were again called on to move the state government and records back to Charleston. People of the day claimed West Virginians had a "Floating Capitol".

Waterway considerations of US Congress

The US Congress has many records on waterways with a few here to example. "Monday, December 22, 1834, Mr. McComas presented a petition of inhabitants of the county of Kanawha, in the State of Virginia, praying that a law may be passed directing the judge of the United States district court for the western district of Virginia to hold annually two sessions at Charleston, in the county of Kanawha, instead of Lewisburg; which petition was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary." [Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 1834-1835 Monday, December 22, 1834. Page 115 from 'A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875' "American Memory" United States Library of Congress - website] "The Vice-President laid before the Senate resolutions of the legislature of Virginia, in favor of an appropriation to secure the early completion of the line of water communication between the valley of the Mississippi and the Atlantic Ocean, by connecting the waters of the James River and the Greenbrier River, and for improving the New, Greenbrier and Kanawha rivers which were referred to the Committee on Commerce." [Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1873 Wednesday, March 23, 1870 Page 403] Mr. Ellihu B. Washburne made a motion on January 13, 1859, to the Committee on Commerce to discharge considerations of the James River and Kanawha Company concerning Mr. Ellett's plan for supplying water in the Ohio River. [Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 1858-1859 Thursday, January 13, 1859. Pages 184-185 motion concerning (H. R. 717), (H. R. 720) and (H. R. 694)...laid on the table.] " On March 31, 1870, Mr. Willey submitted a resolution to Congress: The Committee of Commerce Resolved to inquire a survey and examination be conducted under the US War Department. The purpose was two fold. A line of communication from the Chesapeake Bay on the James and Kanawha river and their tributerries to the mouth of the Kanawha River was to be reported back to Congress with Liberty to be presented as a Bill. It was to include a means of transporting military supplies west in case of war. The commercial necessities of the Mississippi River was to be included and considered in this prospect. [Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1873 Thursday, March 31, 1870 Page 437-438] " In 1873, Citizens of West Virginia petitioned the U.S. Congress for aid in the Little Kanawha River's improvement to Congress. Further improvement of the Kanawha River was requested to Congress in that session's Rivers and Harbors bills (8.No.1006) (H. R. No. 3168) [Congressional Record, Senate, 43rd Congress, 2nd Session Page 65] Gradually, the continental railway system and the Great Lakes connecting to the upper Mississippi River became Congress' main attention in much of the later half 19th century. [ Pages 115-459 of the "Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States", 1834-1835; Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 43rd Congress, 2nd Session etc etc United States Library of Congress online website]

Kanawha River dams

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began construction of modern dams on the Great Kanawha River in the late 1880s. The ten French System roller dams, called Chanoine dams, were completed in 1898. These dams provided year round commercial navigation on the Kanawha River for 90 miles from Boomer to Point Pleasant at the rivers mouth. This allowed expansion of the shipyards to include contemporary ocean-going military vessels. In 1921, General John McE. Hyde (ship) was built in Charleston on the Kanawha River by the Charles Ward Engineering Works. It saw action during World War II at Manila Bay, Philippines. Its sister-ship, General Frank M. Coxe (ship), was finished in 1922. It also served as an Army transport vessel and it was later converted to a cruise ship on San Francisco Bay. In the 1930s, the ten Chanoine dams were replaced with four High Lift German Roller System dams. This decade saw a considerable increase in military ship building. These dam locations begin at Gallipolis Ferry forming the pool on the lower Kanawha and Ohio rivers, the Winfield Pool, the Marmet Pool and the London Pool to Boomer. During drought, all ensure at least a 12-feet deep navigation over old shoals contrasting many of nature's other much deeper channels along the way. In 1989, the USACE began construction of larger and longer lock chambers. Today, most tows no longer need to break-tow to pass through to the next pool. This has allowed much less waiting for a lock through. Some tows can approach 800 feet and some nautical authors claim 1000 feet long tows have been made. Smaller pleasure craft can navigate to as far as the Kanawha Falls' public access picnic park and fishing boat ramp while watching for submerged boulders as one might fish above the upper London Pool. Robert C. Byrd (Gallipolis Locks and Dam) at Gallipolis Ferry, WV has a public museum with artifacts on display for the public to view when in the Huntington and Point Pleasant area. [USACE Abstract: Great Kanawha, Archeology of the Great Kanawha Navigation. Web location: http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/about/history/greatkanawha/] [ Archeology of the Great Kanawha Navigation Robert F. Maslowski, Archeologist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (retired). A paper presented the Fifth World Archeology Conference, Washington, DC, June 2003. Web location: Council for West Virginia Archaeology http://cwva.org/research_reports/kanawha_nav/kanawha_nav.html ]


Satisfying eastern tannery's growing demand for beaver more often came to the 'Point' by canoe and raft from the Kanawha region's tributary creeks. Isaac Vanbibber and Daniel Boone trading post was established about 1790 at the mouth of Crooked Creek at Point Pleasant, West Virginia. By this decade, the steel trap increases efficiency as beaver becomes scarce within two decades. Less s brought drainage of many creek's "lakes". A shift to the state's other natural resources begins in ever increasing export quantity and a change to the Riparian zone. The next century brought farmsteads on these naturally "drained" wetland creek bottoms. These settlers saw a slightly different "Topography as the study of place".

A "network" of local produce exchange was carried between the farmer's landings and major town markets along the rivers. To example one pair in the 1880s, the paddle wheelers "Courier" and the "Express" carried the mail between Wheeling and Parkersburg. These two steamboats passed each other daily, boating also with local produce and passengers. ["History of Monroe County, Ohio," by H.H. Hardesty & Co., Publishers, ©1882]

Kanawha Harbor had a great amount of freight and passenger lay-over after the "Old War" of the 1790s. Kanawha salt production followed by coal and timber floats were moved from West Virginia streams to the populace of other regions. A number of river side locations were used for early Industrial Revolution keelboat building in the Kanawha region. Among others are at Leon, Ravenswood Murraysville and Little Kanawha River. Earlier 1800s steamboat building and machine repair were located at Wheeling and Parkersburg followed by Point Pleasant and Mason City. Wooden coal barges were built on the Monongahela River near Morgantown, Coal River and some at Elk River near Charleston before metal barge became the trend. To example as how local water works progressed, Kanawha Harbor's boat building increased after a horse drawn logging "tram" with special block & tackle for the hill-side harvesting was brought into use and some expansion of Crooked Creek. Later, this tram and other steam machinery were used for collecting timber to be used as railroad ties in the railway construction along the Kanawha river. It was finished about 1880. This brought the small steamboat landings of the farmers along the rivers to use the railway. Many railroading spurs were built throughout West Virginia connecting mines to the river boat's barge and coal-tipples.



* [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=101424403 John Alexander Williams. "Appalachia: A History" (2002)]
* [http://www.pointpleasantwv.org/MasonCoHistory/ARCH/Arch_1.htm "WV, An Archaeological Treasure " Online Gallery, Fort Ancients]
* [http://www.gbl.indiana.edu/archives/menu.html "THE OHIO VALLEY-GREAT LAKES ETHNOHISTORY ARCHIVES: THE MIAMI COLLECTION"]
* [http://www.dickshovel.com/up.html "Compact History Geographic Overview" by Lee Sultzman]
* [http://www.dinsdoc.com/colonial-1.htm "Classics of American Colonial History", Dinsmore Documentation]
*"THE DISCOVERY, SETTLEMENT And present State of KENTUCKE"( [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=icufaw&fileName=cbf0004/icufawcbf0004.db&recNum=98&itemLink=D%3Ffawbib%3A9%3A.%2Ftemp%2F%7Eammem_RfmJ%3A%3A Page 100-103] )--1784 Mr John Filson (1747-1788)
* The Appalachian Indian Frontier; "The Edmond Atkin Report and Plan of 1755", edited by Wilbur R. Jacobs, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1967
* History of the James River and Kanawha Company by Wayland Fuller Dunaway

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