Appalachia, Aracoma, Blue Feather, Bluestone River, Boling Baker, Doris Miller, Guyandotte River, history, HorsepenCreek, Huntington, Jim Comstock, John Breckenridge, Little Black Bear, Logan, Logan County, Man, Montgomery County, Native American History, Native Americans, Ohio, Raindrop, Running Deer, Snow Lily, Virginia, Waulalisippi, West Virginia, West Virginia Women, William Ingles, William Madison
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 3 of her composition.
Aracoma has been described as an Indian maiden of exceptional grace and beauty. Perhaps the Virginians she impressed deeply in her dying hours may have believed she had great beauty in youth. Boling Baker is said to have had a fine physique and courageous bearing, which would have given his Indian captors reason for adopting him into the tribe. He is given credit for artful courtship of his love, and it seems likely he must have been skillful to win her away from other suitors the sachem’s daughter must have had.
The long history of their wedding, an elaborate ceremony her father accompanied them to the Guyandotte to perform, is less credible, but not impossible. More stress has been given to Aracoma’s royal estate than Indian customs warranted, but the English settlers had their own traditions of royal pomp and ceremony as patterns to draw from.
The carefree life credited to the Indians in the Guyandotte valley before 1776 reflects the wishful thinking of people whose own lives were filled with toil. Certainly the Indians must have lived stremuous lives, though they may have had an interlude of unusual peace and happiness before family life was saddened by the scourge which overtook them in 1776.
According to the story-tellers, Aracoma and Boling Baker had six children. Their names were Waulalisippi, or Laughing Waters, Snow Lily, Raindrop, Running Deer, Little Black Bear and Blue Feather.
It is said that Baker became despondent and bitter after the death of his children and during the hardships undergone by the colony after disease had reduced its strength. Doubtless the ones who added this detail had seen similar results in other men’s lives. They deduce that it was his desire to recoup the fortunes of the tribe that led him to attempt a bold exploit which resulted in disaster for his settlement.
Legendary history tells us that in the spring of 1780, a stranger appeared at a white settlement on Bluestone River, a man with a woe-begone countenance who recited sorrowful accounts of hardships he had undergone as a captive among the Indians in Ohio. He stayed for several days, familiarizing himself with everything about the settlement, then departed for the east (he said) in the hope of being reunited with his aged parents. The man was Boling Baker, who merely circled back to Flat Top Mountain, where he had left a band of his braves. On a dark rainy night in April, they stole quietly into the settlement and left with every horse there without disturbing a single sleeper.
The outraged settlers realized their recent visitor must have led the raid. Without horses to follow, they could only send for help from the mounted guard at Montgomery, seat of government for Montgomery County, Virginia, in which this entire area was then located. Colonel William Ingles, sheriff of the county, dispatched Colonel Madison and a deputy sheriff, John Breckenridge, with [p. 10] the party which massacred Aracoma’s village a few days later. Her paleface husband was one of the party absent on a hunt that day.
Little is known of Boling Baker after the death of Aracoma. It is said that for many a year afterward, men could read a couplet carved on beech trees in the area: ‘Boling Baker—his hand and knife, He can’t find a horse to save his life.’ Whether the words were carved by Baker or were a gibe directed at him by another, none can say.
The story is told that years later, an aged stranger came wandering up the Guyandotte River, asking questions of those he met. After standing a long time weeping on the mountainside opposite the island where Aracoma had lived, he went on past Horsepen Creek and eventually found lodging for a night in a home near Man. That night he told briefly some of the experiences of his life, which later were recognized to match the known story of Boling Baker. Next morning he was found dead in bed.
Source: West Virginia Women, Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock (1974), p. 10-11.
For more about Doris Miller, go here: https://mds.marshall.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1284&context=sc_finding_aids