Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 2, 1974 · Page 29
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June 2, 1974

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 29

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, June 2, 1974
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5C--June 2.1974 Sunday Gaxette-Mail --Charleston, We*J Virginia Blackwater Tourist Lure front Early Days By Earl L. Core Virginia Univertity The Blackwater River Valley, in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, provides some of the most fascinating scenery, picturesque charm, and romantic mystery to be found in the State of West Virginia. Evidence of this is provided by the concentration of state parks and tourist attractions: lodges, cabins, camp grounds, a ski area, golf course (the highest in the state). The headwaters of the Blackwater are in the almost legendary Valley of Ca- · naan. Tradition has it that the Land of Canaan was discovered and named by a Bible-reading bear hunter and explorer, George Casey Harness, around 1753. On one of his numerous expeditions into the mountains west of his home in the South Branch Valley, he came across the trail of an enormous black bear and followed the animal for several days, until, one morning, he stood on the rim of Cabin Mountain, over looking a wide, well- watered, wooded and grassy valley, whose breath-taking beauty impressed him so that he cried out "Behold! the Land of Canaan!" Homer Floyd Pansier, in his "History of Tucker County" (1962) tells a different story, attributing the discovery to his ancestors. According to this account, Henry Pansier and his two brothers, with their families, were treking westward from the Shenandoah Valley, in April 1800. The families were left in the valley of Red Creek while the two brothers climbed the slopes of Cabin Mountain to see what lay beyond. Cresting the mountain, they beheld the vast panorama of the great valley and Henry Pansier exclaimed, "Besiehe das Land Kanaan!" Regardless of the discoverer, the pronunciation remains today as "Kay-nane" and not "Ca-en." *· The first historical account of a visit to Canaan Valley is given in the journal of Thomas Lewis, a member of an exploring expedition of 40 mounted men which set out from Charlottesville, Virginia, on September 10, 1746, to mark the Fairfax Line. On Oct. 14 they were in what is now known as Canaan Valley, in the vicinity of Glade Run, and were impressed with "the Dismal appearance of the place Being Sufficent to Strick Terror in any hum Creature Ye Lorals Ivey and Spruce pine so Extremely thick in ye Swarnp through which this River Runs that one Cannot have the Least prospect Except they look upwards the Water of the River of Dark Brownish Cole and its motion So Slow that it can hardly be Said to move its Depth about 4 feet the Bottom muddy and Banks h i g h , w h i c h made it extremely Difficult for us to pass the most of the horses when they attemp'd to ascend the farthest Bank tumbling with their loads Back in the River. . .We got all our Bagage over as it Began to grow Dark So we were Obliged to Encamp on the Bank 0 Such a place where we could not find a plain Big enough for one man to Lye on no fire wood Except green or Roten Spruce pine no place for our horses to feed and to prevent their Eating of Loral tyd them all up least they Should be poisoned." The next day they continued their journey. "I wish it were possible for me to give a Just Description of this place that others might Judge what Reason We who were In- gaged in this affair have to Say So. The Swamp (which is very uncomon in places of ye kind) is prodigiously full of Rocks 0 Cavitys those covered over with a very Luxuriant Kind of Moss of a Considerable Depth. The fallen trees of which there was great numbers 0 Naturly Large were vastly Improven in Bulk with their Coats of moss the Spruce pines of which there are great Plenty their- Roots Grow out on all Sids from the trunk a considerable hight above the Surface, covered over 0 Joyned togither in Such a manner as makes their Roots appear like Semi Globs the Loral 0 Ivey as thick as they can well grow whose Branches growing of an Extraordinary length are So well woven together that without Cutting away it would be Impossible to force through them provided they grew on a good v Even Surface tlj3ir Roots to- in which he described in vivid detail the persons and places he visited. This was published in ten installments in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, beginning with the April, 1872 issue and ending with the September, 1875. Strother always wrote under the pseudonym of "Porte Crayon" ("I carry a pencil", i. e., for making sketches). Mount Porte Crayon, in Randolph County, memorializes him. Strother thus describes a night spent in the vast forest: "The gloom of the forest around was intense; the c a m p - f i r e blazed in the centre of a group of lofty firs, whose straight and mast-like trunks were illuminated by its light for a hundred feet without the interruption of a limb, and whose tops interlaced and formed a lofty and almost impervious covering." Sad indeed it is to reflect, after reading these magnificent descriptions, how changed is the Blackwater Country today, in the wake of man's depredations. iXKUilKiTHi POTOMAC HIGHLAND This Summer . . . ... A Short Drive For A Long Escape! June 7-9 Mt. Heritage Arts and Crafts Fest., Harpers Ferry June 21-23 Nancy Hanks Memorial Rifle Shoot, Antioch July 23-27 W. Va. Poultry Festival, Moorefield August 1-4 Beverly Community Week, Beverly August 13-17 Tri-County Fair, Petersburg August 12-17 Mineral County Fair at Fort Ashby Come explore Smoke Hole or ^neca Caverns, ride Cass Scenic RR, visit the home of Peorl Buck, or climb the tallest mountain in W. Va. Crafts?--the finest, at Hermitage Motor Inn, Petersburg; Colonial Craftsmen, Romney; and the Old Mill, Harmon. LOOK FOR THIS EMBLEM Want to hear more? Write us at Dept. C. G. ·MEMBER POTOMAC HIGHLAND TRAVEL COUNCIL P.O. BOX 398 · KEYSER W. VA. 26726 1305DUNMRAVE. 3 blocks west of 1-64 Exit DUNBAR,W.VA. David Hunter Strother's "Blackwater Chronicle'' made region famous as early as 1853. gether with the pines are Spread over the Rocks 0 under the moss like archs. In what Danger must we be, in Such a place all Dangerous places being Obscured under a Cloth of moss Such thickets of Loral to Strugle with whose Branches are all most as Obstinate as if composed of Iron. Our horses and often our Selves fell into Cleffs 0 Cavitys without seeing the danger Before we felt the Effects of it. No ones miss- fortune Was of much Service to the others for in Striving to Evade a Seen Dangerous or Bad place often fell into a worse, frequently we had the Roots to cut 0 the Rocks to Break to free pur horses of whom four or five might have been seen Engaged at a time." We may be certain these were not the explorers who named the land the Valley of Canaan! »· Continuing the story of Henry Fansler, in the spring of 1800, the "History of Tucker County" relates that he separated his family from the little caravan of settlers . and located in Canaan Valley, erecting a crude log cabin. But he "soon found that he had made a grievous mistake. The first winter came early and rough. The snow got nine feet deep and the temperature 40 degrees below zero; his stock starved and froze to death,, his wife was confined with a new baby, and the family barely made it through the winter without starving or freezing to death themselves. There was a short, cold summer in which his crops didn't do much good, and then another long, hard winter followed. Henry Fansler's Canaan turned to the grapes of wrath." After spending three hard winters here, the family moved to a lower elevation at the mouth of the Blackwater River, where the town of Hendricks now stands, and made their permanent settlement here. A century after the explorations of Thomas Lewis and his associates there was still scarcely "a stick amiss" in the vast forest of the Blackwater Valley. Then, in June, 1851 came a party of adventurers from "down East", headed by Philip Pendleton Kennedy (1809-1864) and his cousin David Hunter Strother (1816-1888). Under the pseudonym of "The Clerke of Oxenforde" (with reference to "The Canterbury Tales"), Kennedy wrote a classical account of the region, especially of the magnificent Blackwater Falls. His book, "The Blackwater Chronicle", w$s published in 1853 and made the Blackwater area famous. Illustrations for the book were freehand sketches made by Strother. Kennedy says the region, in 1851; was "entirely uninhabited, and so inaccessible that it has rarely been penetrated even by the most adventurous. The settlers on its borders speak of it in dread, as an ill-omened region, filled with bears, panthers, impassable laurel brakes and dangerous precipices. Stories are told of hunters having ventured too far, becoming entangled, and perishing in its intricate labyrinths." The forests around the headwaters of the Blackwater River, Kennedy continues, "consist principally of spruce, hemlock, and birch, the spruce being valued for its timber and the hemlock for its bark. They are very dense and contain trees of magnificent proportions while they are rendered practically impassable where ever it occurs by the laurel (Rhododendron maximum) which covers abundantly the extremely rough and uneven surface of the ground and forms continuous brakes of great extent. The earth beneath is often carpeted with moss and lycopo- diums, but with the exception of the Oxalis and an occasional trillium, no great variety of flowering plants was observed." But even in these trackless forests there were a few open glades. Kennedy tells how "we rode on down the middle of the wild meadow, through green grass, knee- high, and waving gently in the summer wind, until we reached a small stream, whose banks were overgrown with osiers and other delicate shrubs". * As the party approached the falls: "A scene of more enchantment it would be difficult to imagine. The forest with its hues of all shades of green-the river of delicate amber, filled with flakes of snow- white foam--and the splendor of the rhododendron everywhere in your eye. Picture all this in the mind- then remember that you were far beyond the limits of the world you had known-and say, was it of heaven, or was it of earth!" ^ The exploring expedition wound its way down stream, "and presently turning a rocky promontory that jutted the mountain side, the Blackwater, some hundred yards ahead, seemed to have disappeared entirely from the face of the earth, leaving nothing visible down the chasm through which it vanished, but the tops of fir trees and hemlocks ..." One member of the party, "the Signor Andante" stood on the perilous edge of a foaming precipice, on a broad rock high above the flood. . .demeaning himself like one who had lost his senses, his arms stretched out wide before him, and at the top of his voice ( w h i c h couldn't be heard for the roar and t u m u l t around him), pouring forth certain extravagant and very excited utterances. "The expedition stepped out upon the furthest verge and very pinnacle of the foaming battlements, and gazed upon the sight, so wondrous and so wild, thus presented to their astonished eyes. . .Perhaps in all this broad land of ours, whose wonders are not yet half revealed, no scene more beautifully grand ever broke on the eye of poet or painter, historian or forester." Strother made later visits to the Blackwater country, including one in June, 1852, which he described in "The Virginian Canaan", a short story published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for December, 1853, later appearing in book form. Still another journey was made to Blackwater Falls, in June, 1856 and Strother wrote a lengthy account of it, titled "The Mountains", Pick and pack our fun loving fashions · Swimwoor · Shorts · Tops · Pant Suits · Co-ordinates · Dresses · Lingerie OPEN THURSDAY 'TIL 9 P.M. We honor BankAmwicard Master Charge We Know the Right PERMANENT for your hair! VACATION SPECIALS PERMANENTSl Reg.'10.00 1 [ Reg.'20.00 ~[j Reg.'35.00 ] NahralCurl | BeautiMBody j I JANIE I $g" M_ «10 25 |L S 15 25 i ,«,,,__-- ^_^TM--.--u~._.g._. - . . , , . . , . « « - ^ TIKIT DFTOIICH laMinwIg tjTtnmnfv · C*V7C *"SET tJIOC I Short Hair * / « 3 SHORT HAIR */l« | Whh Coupon I WHh Coupon i._j| No appointment necessary unless* you prefer a special operator. 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