Appalachia, Boone County, Crawley Creek, Dick Johnson, Elizabeth Hart, Fred B. Lambert, genealogy, Harts Creek, Henderson Dingess, Henry Clay Ragland, history, Jacob Stollings, James Hart, John Baker, Lincoln County, Little Harts Creek, Logan Banner, Logan County, Logan County Banner, Mud River, Native Americans, Roane County, Smokehouse Fork, Stephen Hart, West Virginia
From the Logan County Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history written by amateur historian Henry Clay Ragland relating to Stephen Hart and the naming of Harts Creek in Lincoln and Logan counties, West Virginia, dated 1896:
On 13 April 1937, the Logan Banner printed another story about Hart and his relationship to Harts Creek. This latter story was generally derived from Ragland’s 1896 history.
Harts Creek Named After Stephen Hart—A Wanderer And Famous Deer Hunter
Much has been told about Harts Creek in late years, but little is known about the first settler who built his home in the long hollow and gave it a name.
Stephen Hart built a cabin on the farm which Henderson Dingess later owned at the forks of Hart’s Creek. He cared nothing for the soil, but spent his time hunting deer and curing the meat. He didn’t stay long in one place.
Near his cabin he built a house in which to store his cured venison between his infrequent trips to the settlements down the river and was altogether self-sufficient. His neighbors knew little about the man. There is no record of a family reared by him and he told neighbors little of his past history.
His was a roaming nature. He, like the Arabs, pitched his tent where the water was clearest, the game gamest, and the soil most fertile.
To commemorate his short stay at the forks of Harts, neighbors named the creek for him after he had loaded his gun, food stores and skins on a pack mule, and started west.
His few friends heard no more about him, but they remembered him as a “quiet man, a good shot, and a good neighbor.”
Just “around the bend and over the ridge,” Jacob Stollings, John Baker, and Dick Johnson brought their families and built their homes. From descendants of this family comes much of the record of Stephen Hart who gave the creek a name.
Hart’s venison was known for miles around as the tenderest, the most delicately cured meat in the Hart’s section and Stollings, Baker, and Johnson always put in a small supply of Hart’s meat for the winter, sometimes to take an unusually large supply off the hunter’s hands but most times just because they liked the venison.
John Baker married a daughter of Jacob Stollings, and Dick Johnson married a sister of Baker’s. Both men reared large families whose names are familiar in the county’s history.
But Hart left only the name of his beloved deer hunting grounds as a reminder that he had first set foot on Hart’s Creek.
MY NOTE: Of importance, much confusion remains regarding the source for the naming of Harts Creek, essentially relating to the fact that Stephen Hart was born too late to have inspired the naming of the stream. I first attempted to unravel this story when I published a profile of Stephen Hart in a Lincoln County newspaper in 1995/6. Stephen Hart, son of James and Elizabeth Hart, was born c.1810 in North Carolina; Harts Creek appears on a map printed prior to 1824 (Hart was still quite young). In the early 1900s, amateur historian Fred B. Lambert noted that Hart’s father had been killed by Native Americans at the mouth of present-day Little Harts Creek (according to a Hart descendant). Possibly it is Mr. Hart’s father who inspired the naming of the local stream. Problematic to this possibility is the fact that, based on Stephen Hart’s estimated year of birth, his father would have been killed in 1809-1811, which is about fifteen to twenty years too late for an Indian attack in the Guyandotte Valley. Stephen Hart did settle locally. He may well have squatted on Harts Creek land, as Ragland reported in 1896. Based on documentary evidence, he acquired 50 acres on Crawley Creek in 1839. He appears in the 1840 Logan County Census and the 1850 Boone County Census. By 1860, he had settled in Roane County, where he died in 1896–the same year that Ragland published his history. He also left plenty of local descendants in the Mud River section of Lincoln County. How did Ragland garble this section of his history so badly? For those who wish to avoid sorting out this confusing tale, consider this version: at least one early account states the creek was named “hart” due to the prevalence of stags in its vicinity.