"Pioneers in Roane County, W. Va"
Historical Notes
on
The Early Settlement
of Reedy Valley
With Notice of Pioneers
of Spring Creek and The West Fork
by John A House
1906






FOREWORD

We take great pleasure in offering to the public this little volume from the pen of our father, the result of his historical research, which he chose to call "Historical Notes on the Early Settlement of Reedy Valley."

We have witnessed the untiring zeal with which he spent countless days of time, traveling about on horseback, for interviews with the older people of the section, gathering historical information and searching Court House records. The innumerable letters written and answers received from those whom it was not possible to contact personally. Then the infinite care with which the material received was sifted, compared and confirmed to his entire satisfaction. Also the hours of time spent in compiling the information into this volume.

With all this in mind, we know of no other more fitting tribute we can pay to that effort or to him, than to help complete his purpose to preserve for the future valuable information which was fast being lost for all time.

Although realizing the fact that so long a time has elapsed since father wrote this history, we could not bring ourselves to change the content of his work. To have changed its style would have but spoiled it. From time to time, as further information came to his hand on the subject, he made addion of it. Of this we have made careful note where it appeared.

A word of thanks to those who assisted him in his efforts by information furnished, would now be impossible, for they have long passed the possibility of earthly reward. Therefore we can only say that we hope benefit may accrue to any whose ancestral lines may reach back to those persons.

We also hope that to those who know, or have connection with, the section about which he has written, there will be pleasure and benefit in its content.

To us, who knew the country as youngsters, it has been a source of great delight to prepare the volume for publication. We, therefore, express gratitude to those who insisted that it be submitted to the public.

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REEDY VALLEY

The stream known as Reedy is a tributary of the Little Kanawha River, which it unites with on the right side and several miles from where it enters the Ohio at Parkersburg.

The head of Reedy is in the high hills at the head of Mill Creek and the Flatfork of Poca. It flows in a northerly direction some miles to its mouth.

For the most part, the stream flows through wide bottoms and between high hills through a rough broken country.

The soil is mostly fertile, and was very heavily timbered with varieties common to the section. The bottom lands and north and east hillsides and coves were a rich red clay or black sandy loam. The south and west slopes and flatlands on top of the ridges were a lighter soil, running into pale or white clays and soapstone, and the northern branch reaches well up into the limestone region.

The timber on the bottoms was mainly white oak, red oak, poplar, sycamore, buckeye, black and white walnut; elm, water, red, and slippery; and beech and sugar maple everywhere.

Higher up on the rich hillsides was more oak, white, black and red; white and black ash; shellbark and other hickories; mulberry, sassafras, red maple.

On the thinner lands of the southern and western exposures white oak and hickory were the predominating kinds, with scrub beech and some of the lower grades of oak; and on the hilltops were chestnut oak, hickory (white and pignut), maple, black gum, pin oak, spotted oak, locust, chestnut and pine, according to the kind of soil, spice brush, sassafras, ironwood, red bud, witch hazel, sour gum and dogwood. Everywhere dogwood was the commonest of the undergrowth, and with the smaller specimens of the large kinds of timber went to make up the thickets of brushwood which were common, being frequently twined together with grapevines, of which one or two kinds were common, with quantities of bittersweet. Only occasionally on some thin rocky hillside could be found patches of laurel.

Of animal life, the forests were full at the time of the earliest settlements. Bears, deer, wolves, wildcats, and all the smaller animals of eastern America were plentiful, while lynx, panthers and catamounts were less frequent, yet all too common; and an occasional buffalo or elk was brought down by the trusty flintlock of the hardy pioneer hunter.

Serpents were numerous in the woods, especially rattlesnakes, copperheads, and vipers of the poisonous kinds.

There were three species of rattlesnakes and some grew to an enormouse size. The copperheads, however, were the most dangerous, both because they came closer about the cabins and because they struck without warning.

Many were the deaths resulting from snake bites, though they were frequently cured by the primitive remedies of the day, among which milk, whiskey, turpentine, and various decoctions of "yarbs" were most prominent.

The name of Reedy was derived from the vast beds of reeds which grew along its banks and in the shallow waters of its lower course. It is said that at times it was difficult to push a canoe through the tangled mass of vegetation.

It does not now appear just what these reeds were, whether they were the plant commonly known as bulrush, from which so many of the smaller streams of this section received their names, or some of the other reed like grasses still growing along the borders of the stream, or something which has become extinct. There is a water plant which grows entirely across the creek in places of shallow water or in riffles, standing about a foot above the surface of the water in July , which, while not a reed, may possibly have been classed as such by the pioneers.

Neither is it now known by whom the name was first used. Perhaps it just attached itself without any formal bestowal, a kind of spontaneous outgrowth, universally adopted because of its peculiar fitness. I think this the most probable theory, though there are several stories told as to the first application of the name.

One rather interesting version is thus given by Mr. Corder in his history of Roane County, published in the Spencer Bulletin in 1904. The anecdote is supposed to have been related to Dempsey Flesher, who came to the creek one mile below the present town of Reedy about 1837, by his father, Adam Flesher of near Weston.

"Some fifty years ago I was here, it was all in woods then. Our crowd named your stream. There were twelve of us, and we had chased the ‘Injuns' all the way down the Kanawha, and lost their track and the tracks of the ‘hosses' they had stolen oppoisite the mouth of this ‘crick.' We supposed they had crossed over the river, so we made a log raft and crossed over to this side, and shoved up the ‘crick' a piece through a thick growth of reeds, where we hid our raft - so it would be ready for us if we needed to recross the river on our return. We camped there that night, and the next morning divided, nine going down the stream to look for signs, and three, of whom I was one, came up the ‘crick' as far as the forks. William Hardway spoke of the stream as ‘Reedy' and so we gave it that name."

This would have been about 1785-90, and I consider this tradition most probably correct.

The village of Palestine, usually referred to as being at the mouth of Reedy, is on the right bank of the Little Kanawha River, three-fourths of a mile below the mouth of Reedy Creek.

One of the most considerable streams which enters the Little Kanawha River is Reedy Creek. The principal tributary of Reedy is the Right Fork, which comes down from the limestone hills of Jackson and Wood Counties. It enters Reedy two miles by water from the river. It is frequently called Sheppard's Fork, from the descendants of Jonathan Sheppard, who settled on the banks of the stream in 1804.

There are no other large branches below the three forks, although numerous small streams come in from either side, bearing names derived from some family residing on them or from some object or circumstance connected with the stream or its history - as Turtle Run, Two Run, Laurel Run, Sugar Camp, Conrad's Run, Cain's Run. Wolf Pen Run, Folly Run. Turtle Run was named for the figure of a turtle and a book carved on the trunk of a beech tree which stood so near the water's edge that it was sometimes hidden by high waters. When the carving was done or by whom is unknown, though it was probably by the hand of a white man - an early explorer or scout. Nearby under some projecting rocks was found a human skull, thought, from its conformation, to be that of an Indian. By it were some little (clay?) pots.

The Middle Fork of Reedy unites with the Left Hand Fork, or Main Creek, several miles from the Little Kanawha River. It heads against Frozen Camp and Elk Fork of Mill Creek. The bottoms are narrow and the hills high and steep near its mouth, but up the stream a mile or so the bottom lands are wider and the hills less rugged, with wide flats on top of the right hand ridges and spurs. Farther up, at the mouth of what used to be known to the early settlers as Tucker's Run, where Brier Fork comes in opposite, the bottoms are over eighty rods in width.

Some two hundred and fifty yards below the confluence of Middle and Left Hand Forks of Reedy, a smaller branch enters on the right, flowing in an easterly direction. This is known as Right Hand Fork or Seaman Fork of Reedy, and the point of union is denominated the Three Forks of Reedy. The Seaman Fork, so called from a prominent family resident on its water for over eighty years past, is about six miles in length, but more branching than the other forks, so drains a relatively larger territory.

Each branch has several tributaries, from one to two or more miles in length.

The Left Fork of Reedy, which is the main stream, extends into the hills for several miles to its source in the high ridge dividing the waters of Mill Creek and those of the Little Kanawha River. Most of the hills around the three forks are both high and steep. On the north side only is the ascent gradual. In the main the hills rise stately and picturesque, beautiful too, to the lover of Nature, with their ramparts and citadels, seamed and worn by the weather into many fantastic shapes.

Reedy is thirty-two miles from its farthest source, and it drains an area of some one hundred and twenty-five miles.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a spot nearly one mile below the mouth of the creek at Palestine is six hundred and forty-five feet above sea level, and at the head of Sheppard's Fork, eleven hundred and sixty-five feet, one mile northeast of Weed Knob. At the Three Forks, at the village of Reedy, the altitude is six hundred and eighty feet; and on the ridge beyond Stover, between eleven and twelve hundred feet.

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