American Primitive, Appalachia, Aracoma, Battle of Point Pleasant, Camp Charlotte, Chief Cornstalk, Chief Logan, Circleville Elm, genealogy, history, Horn Papers, James Logan, John Breckenridge, Lawnsville, Logan, Lord Dunmore, Michael Cresap, Native American History, Native Americans, surveyor, Tahgahinte, The Aracoma Story, Thomas Dunn English, Thomas Patterson, West Virginia, West Virginia Women, William Madison, William Penn, William Preston
Doris Miller (1903-1993), a longtime educator, historian, writer, and poet operating in the area of Huntington, West Virginia, composed this biography of Aracoma, a well-known Native American figure who lived in present-day Logan, West Virginia. This is Part 4 of her composition.
One other detail of the legend, not generally known but occasionally heard, is the story that Aracoma was Cornstalk’s daughter by adoption, that her mother was a sister of Cornstalk who had married Chief Logan and died soon after Aracoma’s birth. For this reason, the infant was taken into the lodge of Chief Cornstalk, where there were squaws to rear her, and this kinship by marriage and common interest in Aracoma was the secret of the alliance between the two famous Indian leaders who joined forces at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. There is nothing in Aracoma’s dying words to refute this claim—she still would have considered Cornstalk her father and have been the last of his line, through a niece. But Logan’s words do carry a refutation.
At the time Logan made this speech under the Circleville Elm, and it was written down to be dispatched to Lord Dunmore at Camp Charlotte, where peace was being negotiated, he could not have said, “There runs not a drop of my blood in any living creature” if Aracoma had been his daughter.
Some historians have discounted Logan’s speech, but it is fully in keeping with the man pictured by his contemporaries in the Horn Papers and other sourcebooks of American history. Scottish Lord Dunmore must have [p. 10] accepted it as authentic, when it was brought to him wrapped in a wampum belt by a man he had sent to fetch Logan.
Logan had been friendly to white settlers of Virginia and Pennsylvania. As a boy, he lived in the home of James Logan, former secretary of William Penn, who educated the youth, a son of a friendly Indian chief. Thereafter Logan bore the name of his foster-father instead of Tahgahinte, his Indian name. Chief Logan remained friendly to the settlers until his family was treacherously murdered by white men. Later it was established that Colonel Cresap was not a party to the deed, though Logan thought so for a long time.
Colonel Madison who led the Virginians against Aracoma’s settlement, is said to have been a son-in-law of Colonel William Preston, a noted Virginia surveyor. Some of the earliest land surveys in present Logan County were recorded in names of members of the Preston, Madison and Breckenridge families, and it is quite likely others went to men who served under Madison and Breckenridge of the Battle of the Island, or members of their families. So the Legend of Aracoma came into the Guyandotte Valley in the memories of the white settlers who came first after her, and in their imaginations.
Another reason for discounting the story that Aracoma was the daughter of Logan is her name. Cornflower seems the logical name of a daughter of Cornstalk.
The residents of the Guyandotte Valley have treasured their legend and have honored the name of Aracoma in many ways. In the early 1800s, the town which grew up in the area of Aracoma’s settlement and grave was known as Lawnsville. During the 1850s, Thomas Dunn English, a physician and poet who was the first mayor of the town, insisted on changing the name to Aracoma, which it remained until its incorporation as a city in 1907. The change then may have been due to men’s custom of referring to the town as “Logan Courthouse” rather than by its true name. Since that time, the name of Aracoma has been given to a smaller community in the county.
When Logan County observed its Centennial in 1952, Thomas Patterson, the author of American Primitive and other well known plays, was commissioned to write a drama based on the legend of Princess Aracoma. The pageant was produced on successive days of the celebration and was considered one of the highlights. [p. 11]
Source: West Virginia Women, Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock (1974), p. 11.
For more about Doris Miller, go here: https://mds.marshall.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1284&context=sc_finding_aids