Two staff members who work at George Washington’s Ferry Farm and Historic Kenmore recently traveled to Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio, two small cities situated across from each other on the Ohio River. Little George went along and visited a few places related in some fashion to George Washington and his era. Here is a collection of photos documenting Little George’s travels!
As we’ve written here, Washington’s first job as a surveyor allowed him to buy thousands of acres of land and grow his wealth. Much of this land was located in modern-day West Virginia along the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers. Some of this land was in modern Mason County, where Point Pleasant is the county seat. He did not own the land where the town itself is situated but he did visit the spot in 1770. He and other former Virginia militia officers were scouting out lands to be in the bounty promised to them for fighting in The French and Indian War.
Statues of Andrew Lewis & Cornstalk
Born in Ireland in 1720, Andrew Lewis immigrated to the Britain’s North American colonies around 1732, settling in the Shenandoah Valley. He surveyed with Washington and, in The French and Indian War, fought with him at Fort Necessity and Fort Duquesne. After the war, Lewis helped negotiate the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, in which the Iroquois relinquished all claims to land east and south of the Ohio. The Delaware, Seneca-Cayuga, and Shawnee in the Ohio country, however, made no such concession and, when settlers moved into their territory, they violently opposed the invasion. In the resulting conflict called Dunmore’s War, Lewis commanded the army of Virginia militia that defeated the Shawnee and Mingo at the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774
“There is a tradition that the Battle of Point Pleasant was the first battle of the Revolutionary War,” writes historian Philip Sturm. This is not the case although the battle certainly had ramifications on the War for Independence. The battle “pacified the Ohio Valley for more than two years. Failure to defeat the Ohio tribes would have meant fighting a two-front war during the critical early stages of the Revolution before the Saratoga victory, October 17, 1777, and the resulting French alliance. Such a two-front war might have brought defeat to the infant independence movement.”
Cornstalk was the leader of the Shawnee during their resistance to encroaching English settlement during Dunmore’s War and ultimately at the Battle of Point Pleasant itself. After the battle, he negotiated a peace, which was then upended by the Revolutionary War. The British invited the Shawnee to join them against the rebelling colonists. Cornstalk, however, traveled back to Point Pleasant in an attempt to warn Virginians of renewed hostilities. Suspicious of him, soldiers held Cornstalk hostage at Fort Randolph.
Replica of Fort Randolph
Located at the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, Fort Randolph was built in 1776 to guard English settlements in western Virginia. It was named for the president of the Second Continental Congress, Virginian Peyton Randolph. Cornstalk’s imprisonment at the fort led to several murders. His son coming to rescue him attacked two Virginian hunters, killing one. As reprisal, soldiers at the fort killed Cornstalk and two other Shawnee. Cornstalk was buried at the fort and his grave now sits in Tu-Endie-Wei State Park where the Kanawha and Ohio meet.
In the 20th century, people in the Point Pleasant area began seeing the Mothman, “a large, winged creature with glowing red eyes . . . usually in or near a vast, abandoned [World War II] munitions facility” dubbed locally as simply “the TNT plant.” Alleged encounters begin in November 1966 and persisted for a year, totaling two dozen sightings. Along with Mothman sightings came increased reports of phones, radios, telephones, and cars failing to work as well as UFO appearances. How in the world are these sightings, be they of a real creature or a case of mass hysteria, related to George Washington or his time? According to “one popular theory, the Mothman’s advent and the subsequent Silver Bridge disaster [when the bridge crossing the Ohio at Point Pleasant collapsed into the river on December 15, 1967, killing 46 people] were linked” to a supposed two-centuries-old curse stemming from Cornstalk’s execution in 1777.
Meaning the “city of the Gauls,” Gallipolis, Ohio, across the river from Point Pleasant, was settled in 1790 by around 500 French immigrants fleeing the French Revolution. In 1825, Lafayette visited the town as part of his grand tour of the United States. “As the last surviving Major General of the Revolutionary War, Lafayette was invited by U.S. president James Monroe and Congress to visit the 24-state Union for what would become his Farewell Tour in the United States of America.” George Washington and Lafayette were exceptionally close and their relationship is often described a one of a father and his adoptive son.