Abner Vance, Appalachia, Aracoma, Ben Stewart, Ben White, Bluestone River, Boling Baker, Buffalo Creek, Charles Hull, Clear Fork, Dingess Run, Elias Harman, Flat Top Mountain, genealogy, George Berry, Gilbert Creek, Guyandotte River, Henry Clay Ragland, history, Horse Pen Mountain, Huff Creek, Island Creek, James Hensley, James Hines, James White, John Breckinridge, John Carter, John Cook, Joseph Workman, Kentucky, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Logan County Banner, Mallory, Native American History, Native Americans, Oceana, Peter Huff, Rockcastle Creek, Shawnee, West Virginia, William Dingess, William S. Madison
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history concerning Boling Baker and Princess Aracoma, dated March 23, 1937:
Dying Words of Princess Aracoma Related In Story Taken From Banner Files
Though much has been written on the history of Logan county, just as much has been forgotten about its early development.
One of the county’s first historians, Henry Clay Ragland, mayor of the city, church worker and editor of the Logan County Banner, recorded some of the high spots of the development of Logan county in a series of articles which he ran in his newspaper during 1896.
It is from this series of articles that the following story of the early settlement of Logan county is taken.
Records show that a large number of white men first set foot in what is now Logan county in the spring of 1777, when Captain Charles Hull with 20 men pursued a band of marauding Shawnees to the site where Oceana was later built. They lost the trail at Oceana and had to turn back. The Shawnees had raided a white settlement near the falls of New River one spring night and had stolen thirty head of horses. The army captain and his men set out in pursuit but the redskins had too great a start.
Huff Creek was given its name on this expedition in honor of Peter Huff who was killed in a skirmish on the banks of the stream as the men returned home. Huff was buried near the spot where he was killed, which is believed to have been near where the town of Mallory now stands.
Other men on this expedition and who returned to the valley of the Guyandotte later and built homes were John Cook, James Hines, William Dingess and James Hensley.
The first white man really to be identified with what is now Logan county was Boling Baker, a renegade white, but the old-timers would not give him credit for being a white man. They said: “He lived with the Injins and that makes him an Injin.” Baker, however dastardly he was, was indirectly responsible for the settlement of Logan county in 1780-85.
The renegade had one great weakness. A weakness that they hung men for in those days. He was a horse thief. He would take a party of Indians a hundred miles through the mountain passes of Logan county to raid a white settlement in order to steal 20 or 30 horses.
Baker had gone into the business on a large scale. At the head of Gilbert Creek, on Horse Pen Mountain, where the mountain rises abruptly with almost cliff-like sharpness, he had stripped bark from hickory trees and stretched it from tree to tree making a pen in which to keep his stolen stock.
Old settlers of the county who have had the story passed down to them from their great-grandfathers say that the pen was somewhere in the hollow below the road which leads to the fire tower on Horsepen Mountain. It was from this improvised corral of Boling Baker that the mountain was named.
But, back to how Baker was responsible for the settlement of the county.
He left his Indian camps on the Guyan river in the fall of 1780 and visited the white settlements in the Bluestone valley in the Flat Top mountain territory. There he told the settlers a story of how he had been captured by the Indians when he was a young man and had learned their ways. He said he had just escaped from the Shawnee tribe known to be hunting in the Guyandotte valley and was on his way back east to see his father and mother who lived in Boston. Shrewd chap, this Baker!
The settlers were taken in by his story and allowed him to remain with them for several weeks during which time he got the location of all the settlers barns well in mind and after a time departed “back east.”
Soon after the renegade left the Bluestone settlement the whites awoke one rainy morning late in autumn and found every barn empty. The Indians had come with the storm which lashed the valley and had gone without arousing a person. Thirty horses from the settlement went with them.
An expedition headed by Wm. S. Madison and John Breckinridge—son of the Breckinridges who settled much of Kentucky—was made up in a neighboring settlement and set out in pursuit of the thieving Shawnees.
They trailed the party over Flat Top Mountain and southwest to the headwaters of the Guyan River by way of Rockcastle creek and Clear Fork. Trail marks showed that the band had gone down the river, up Gilbert Creek to Baker’s pen and thence over the mountain.
Madison and his 75 men did not follow the Indian trail over the mountain but the redskins probably brought their herd of 50 or 75 horses down Island Creek to the Guyan.
The white expedition chose to follow the Guyan in a hope that they would find the party encamped somewhere along its banks. Scouts had reported that a large tribe of Indians used the Guyan valley as its hunting grounds.
Madison’s party followed the river down to Buffalo Creek—named because the white men found such a large number of buffalo grazing in its bottoms—crossed Rum Creek and pitched camp for a night at the mouth of Dingess Run because “Guyan” Green and John Carter, scouts sent ahead to reconnoiter, had reported finding ten Indian lodges in the canebrakes of an island formed by the joining of a large creek and the Guyan river.
The men rested on their guns for the night and the following morning divided into two parties and attacked the encampment from the front and rear.
In the furious fighting that followed, nine of the thirty Indians in the camp were killed and ten or twelve wounded. Only a few escaped the slaughter of the white men. Among those captured was an old squaw 50 or 60 years old, who by her bearing, was obviously leader of the party. She was wounded but refused to talk.
Near midnight, however, following the massacre of the camp the old squaw felt death creeping upon her and called Madison to her quarters, and told him in broken English the following:
“I am the wife of a pale face who came across the great waters to make war on my people, but came to us and became one of us. A great plague many moons ago carried off my children with a great number of my people, and they lay buried just above the bend in the river. Bury me with them with my face to the setting sun that I may see my people in their march to the happy hunting ground. For your kindness I warn you to make haste in returning to your homes, for my people are still powerful, and will return to avenge my death.”
The proud princess died before morning and the white men buried her “near the bend in the river.” The Indian captives were all killed.
Four days later the men returned to the valley of the Bluestone.
Among those who helped Wm. S. Madison rout the Shawnees and who vowed to possess the valley of the Guyandotte for themselves and their children were George Booth, George Berry, Elias Harman, Ben Stewart, Abner Vance, Joseph Workman, Ben White and James White. All these names are familiar in the county today.
After the Indians were pushed to the west, surveyors allotted the land to the first settlers who had dared, with Madison, to come into the wilderness of the Guyandotte and open it up for the white man.
Madison owned several thousand acres of land on Island Creek, Gilbert Creek and Dingess Run. Other fighters were given like parcels of land.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 23 March 1937
Katherine Wikoff said:
Very interesting! Where was Baker during the fighting? Did he get away?
Brandon Ray Kirk said:
There is a story that he returned to the area many years later (as an old man, not really recognizable) and then moved on and died shortly thereafter. Somehow, someone identified him. It’s just a story. No idea if it is true.
Katherine Wikoff said:
What an interesting and somewhat tragic life then. I wonder if he missed his wife and “adopted” family. I love how your blog posts add such deeply human history to places in West Virginia.