Most of us who are interested in the 18th century American frontier know about the brutal and tragic murder of Mingo Chief Logan’s family (his actual name was Talgayeeta, but was referred to as “Johnny Logan” – hence Logan) across the Ohio River from the mouth of Yellow Creek, in what is now West Virginia, in an area known as “Baker’s Bottom,” on May 15, 1774.
But if we dig deeper, we find out that Logan’s subsequent murder spree in Virginia included Logan leaving “calling cards” with the dead bodies of his victims. One of these calling cards still survives today. This artifact uncovers a bit of lost history related to my favorite place: Monroe County, (West) Virginia. It all began on the site of what is today “Waterford Park” horse racing track. along the banks of the Ohio River. This site, then known as “Baker’s Bottom,” was the site where Logan’s family and friends were murdered by rogue white frontiersmen.
Baker’s Bottom, the site of the Yellow Creek Massacre
This is actually the Nathan Hellings Apple Barn, constructed circa 1897. Apparently it was a thing to construct stone and brick barns along the Ohio as cool storage for apples after harvest. At one time there was a big apple industry along the Ohio.
Here’s an old photo I found of Baker’s Bottom prior to the racetrack (Waterford Park) being built around 1950. In the photo you can see the mouth of Yellow Creek on the Ohio side of the river, at the top of the photo. The Apple Barn site, where Logan’s family landed in their canoes, would have been somewhere hidden in the trees along the riverbank.
Here’s another old photo I found on the interwebs with a view of Baker’s Bottom during the actual construction of the race track. It shows how level the bottom was – hence the name, I suppose.
Following the unbelievably brutal and disgusting murder of peaceful members of Logan’s family and tribe in 1774 on this site, an enraged and homicidal Logan went on an epic killing spree into the border region of Virginia’s New River Valley with his band of pissed off warriors. I believe this included present day Monroe County, West Virginia. This isn’t found in any history book, but I’ll explain . . . .
Logan’s Mingo alliance of ex-patriot Shawnees and Cherokees rose up against settlers living on the ridge spanning Virginia and Tennessee in a seven-month killing spree . . . . Logan’s savagery left a wake of scalped corpses littered with vermilion-streaked death hammers as calling cards.
Several survivors and eyewitnesses to attacks in Virginia in the late summer, early Fall, along Virginia’s New River, mentioned seeing one white man with the Indians. Allen Gutchess, Director of the Fort Pitt Museum, explained a few years ago, that the “white man” observed by eyewitnesses was likely Logan himself:
While it is difficult to track [Logan’s] movements precisely [after the Yellow Creek massacre], his distinctive appearance helped identify him; several contemporary observers noted his remarkably light complexion and mixed ancestry. Having grown up in the multi-ethnic community of Shamokin on the Susquehanna River, he spoke uent English in addition to several Native dialects. A female slave captured by Logan in the fall of 1774 noted that one of her captors was “a Large man much whiter than the rest and talked good English.”
Four months after the massacre at Yellow Creek, in August 1774, the family of Balser Lybrook was attacked by a small war party in a frantic, brutal raid. In the course of a few minutes, five people including Lybrook’s three young sons were killed and scalped, and three boys—Theophilus Snidow, Jacob Snidow, and Thomas McGriff—were taken prisoner. To mark the scene of the attack, the party left behind a wooden war club, “well made and mark’d with two Letters IG (well made)” carved into the handle. James Robertson, whose men discovered the club, was certain there was a white man with the war party . . . .Article by Alan D. Gulches, Director, Fort Pitt Museum in Up Front, Western Pennsylvania History, Summer 2015, “Logan’s War.”
We know about the war club with “IG” carved into it, primarily from an August 11, 1774 letter from Col. James Robertson to Col. William Preston. He wrote the letter from Culbertson’s Fort. I saw in one well known history book this spot mentioned as being in Tennessee. It wasn’t in Tennessee, it was in what is now Summers County, West Virginia. Then, it was Montgomery County, Virginia – very close to what is now Hinton, West Virginia, and actually very close to Byrnside’s Fort. In fact, James Byrnside bought much of this land shortly afterwards and lived there with his common law wife.
Here’s the Robertson letter:
Col. James Robertson to Col. William Preston:
Culbertson’s Fort, 11th August 1774
Sir—I was Expecting Orders to Gone Home to Seen Some What About my Affairs. I have a good deal to do before I Can Start to the Expedition Which I would by no means miss if I Can Possibly make outto go. There has been three or four Indians Visiting the Waste plantations Above us on the River they Burnt a House About five miles above the fort Last Sunday, we got word that night of it and I Set out monday morning Early and was Constantly on Search of them untill Last night but there was So few of them they made not the Least Sign that we Could follow I will Send out A party to day and Watch About the Old Plantations as they will Perhaps be Skulking About, the men Seems Resolute for A Sculp or two, and I have Offered £5 for the first Indians hand that will be brought in to the fort by any of the Compy.
John Draper set out Sunday Last with 20 men up Blue Stone (Bluestone River) as far as the Clover Bottoms (I believe this is around present day Kegley, WV in Mercer County, WV), on their march they Came Across the Tracks of four or five Indians they folow’d them Some way but’ they Scatered so they Could not folow them they were making into new River by their Course about the place where they Burnt the House, they Left a War Club at one of the wasted Plantations well made and mark’d with two Letters IG (well made) So that I think there Party to Range with though they are All Distracted Eight or Ten men that Came with me and mastin with the Rest that Came with me will Continue until monday when we must Start as there is Severals of them going on the Expedition.
The party that Came with Draper and Patton will be plenty to Keep the fort and Likewise have a Smart Party to Range with though they are All Distracted Already for Home I Keep the Scouts out as far as the Glades they Cannot See any Signs of the Indians that Road I Supose these Indians Came up Sandy River and In by the Head of Blue Stone. I will make the Scouts go up High on Blue Stone and Watch the Roads that way. Sir I dare say you have a Good Deal of Trouble Geting hands to us, and I am Sure I have a Vaste Deal of Trouble in Keeping them in Tune as they are A Distracted Enough party I assure you my Completes. to your family and Sir I Heartily wish you Luck from your most Obd S.
N.B. I have had a Severe Spell of a Great Cold and the worst tooth Ache that ever was
Here’s an excerpt showing Robertson’s letter in his own handwriting, where you can see the actual shape of the “IG” he mentions having been carved onto the war club:
But was it actually Logan?
It had to have been Logan who led the small band of warriors around the New River valley frontier area in late summer / early fall of 1774. Here’s why. On November 8, 1774, Col. William Christian wrote a letter to Col. Preston. In it he says:
Last Friday was two weeks (Oct. 21) Logan a famous chief went home with a little boy, a son of Roberts on Holston & two of Blackmores negroes. He said he had taken them on the Frontiers next to the Cherokee Country & had killed I think either 5 or 7 people. The boy and negroes will soon be in.
Local tradition has always been that it that Chief Logan was marauding through the area at this time. Family and local oral tradition is often extremely accurate, as has been proven in efforts; to locate old fort sites. This tradition is corroborated by Col. Willia Christian’s November 8 letter. Moreover, there’s a much more interesting piece of evidence proving Logan’s involvement in these attacks.
The “IG” Marked War Club
This antique war club is believed to have been the actual “IG” war club left by the body by Logan – or perhaps one of them, assuming the possibility that he had several for such purpose. It once belonged to Jim Dresslar and he wrote about it in an article for the American Society of Arms Collectors:
This very fine club has good documentation that it was left on a raid in Virginia in 1774; it was made sometime after the French and Indian War, and from the patination and wear, it seems to have been used for some period of time. It is carved with a medium-size ball held in the mouth of an otter, with a short round spike, obviously for the sake of easier extraction from the victim. At the rear of the handle two letters “I G” were cut in the wood. It is 22″ long with a 3″ ball. This club was obtained with some furniture in the vicinity of Kingsport, Tennessee, by an antique dealer who sold it to Mr. Garnett Powell ss a table leg.The Ball-Headed Club of the North American Indian, by Jim Dresslar, American Society of Arms Collectors Bulletin 59:33-37.
A table leg. Geez . . . . Collectors’ dreams are made of such things. On a related note, there were over 40 tomahawks recovered from the battlefield at Point Pleasant, a few months later that same year. I wonder how many of those tomahawks are in our collections now and we have no idea? Anyways, here are some more black and white photos I found in a book:
And finally, some color photos, used in the Allen Gutchess article, which I highly recommend by the way. Everything he does is worth reading:
But was this war club left at the site of the Snidow Attack, as often mentioned?
Let’s look back at Col. Robertson’s letter. The August 8, 1774 letter was written on a Thursday. Col. Robertson mentioned that the attack where this war club was left was “last Sunday.” If that means literally the last Sunday before that Thursday, that places the date of the attack exactly on August 7, 1774. That’s the same date given for the Snidow attack.
But maybe multiple attacks occurred on the same day. Or, maybe that date became the date of the Snidow attack under the assumption that Col. Robertson was referring to the Snidow attack in his letter. As for the location, he said “on the river” and also “up” the river “5 miles.” So let’s examine the distance involved here.
Placing Culbertson’s Fort where it is supposed to have been – at the mouth of “Joshua’s Run” creek on the West bank of the New River – we follow the river for 5 miles, it doesn’t take us to any probable cabin site.
Alternatively, if we follow a direct line for 5 miles, instead of 5 miles along the course of the river, it does, however take us to a possible cabin location. More particularly, it takes us to about the location of Wylie Island, near the confluence of Monroe, Summers and Mercer Counties, West Virginia. Near Bozoo, Monroe County, West Virginia.
This is the general location known today as “Shanklin’s Ferry,” which is at about the confluence of Monroe County, Summers County, and Mercer Counties in West Virginia. I’ve been there may times. It’s a state owned wildlife management area and there’s a beautiful campground there. Well, it’s beautiful in the camping months anyways. Here’s how it looks in the winter time. A little bit muddy:
This is probably very close to the spot. I was poking around the river bank here, according to the photo, on January 19, 2019″
Looking back through pictures, Julie and I were kayaking in the New River at this spot a few years back. Well, this was 2014. Hard to believe it’s been that long.
Looking at the photo below, that’s Culbertson’s Bottom, on the shoreline, in the photo below, in its natural state. Probably not much different of a view than in 1774:
And this below shows the opposite shoreline. You can see why the settlements and forts along this bottom of the New River were on the West side of the river. As with the Ohio, a river cutting through mountains generally leaves a usable bottom on one side, and a steep ridge on the other, wherever the river curves.
There’s great small mouth bass fishing through here.
The photo below, taken during the same kayaking trip, is looking upriver, I believe, towards the Shanklin’s Ferry area, from somewhere near the mouth of Indian Creek:
There was a well known attack on the Snidow and Lybrook children on or around that date – August 7, 1774 – which is well documented. However, therein lies a problem: The location of this incident is generally known, and is at Sinking Creek, about the site of the mouth of Little Stony Creek, Pembroke, Giles County, Virginia. That’s way more than 5 miles up river. It’s more like 20.
Looking at Google Earth, it’s actually more like 19 or 20 miles, as the crow flies, from Culbertson’s Fort to the site of the Snidow attack, and way more if we’re measuring the course of the river:
The below photo shows a view of the New River valley in the vicinity of Pembroke, Virginia, where the Snidow Massacre occurred. The New River runs through the valley below. This was a drone shot from the highest point anywhere around – near Mountain Lake, Virginia, taken while I was on a four-wheeling trip through the mountains.
It seems likely that there was a string of attacks in the early Fall of 1774, as Col. Robertson does imply that there were attacks at more than one plantation – as most small frontier farms were called. One of these attacks must have occurred within 5 miles of the fort, around what is now Shanklin’s Ferry, Monroe County, West Virginia. That’s my county, by the way. This isn’t found in any of the documented history. However, one of the old history books does mention a couple of unnamed victims of attacks that year within the same vicinity:
In 1774, a woman was killed on Culbertson’s Bottom, by the Indians, and about the same time a man by the name of Shockley, on a hill above the bottom, which still bears the name of “Shockley’s Hill.”History of the Middle New River Settlements, p. 14
This particular attack involving the club could have been either of these attacks, as they were both in “Culbertson’s Bottom,” later known as “Crump’s Bottom,” which is long enough to generally include the Shanklin’s Ferry area, I suppose. The attack on Shockley, if it’s the same “Shockley’s Hill,” as it’s known today, is further downstream from Fort Culbertson’s supposed location, at the mouth of Joshua Run, which places it on the other end of Culbertson’s Bottom, closer to Pipestem, West Virginia – at about the site where a guy named Farley later built “Farley’s Fort.” This fort, built a few years later, was actually later owned by James Byrnside, by the way – having bought it from Farley. Thus it seems more likely that the IG club attack may have been the attack which resulted in the killing of the woman.
Here’s a drone shot looking at the mouth of the Bluestone into the New River, and then through the valley where Culbertson’s Bottom, i.e., Crump’s Bottom is/was located.
At the mouth of the Greenbrier River just downstream, a dam was installed by the Army Corps of Engineers, about the site of present day Hinton, West Virginia. Thus close to Hinton, the entire valley is a lake.
Last year we took Granny jet skiing there.
Closer to the actual Culbertson’s Bottom, it’s really still about the same. Check out the 1932 aerial photos from before the dam was installed, as compared with today. It’s not actually that much different.
Just downstream from Culbertson’s Fort, they later built Farley’s Fort, right where the creek, coming from the right, empties into the New River, just before the bend.
Here’s an aerial view looking downriver from just below Culbertson’s Fort, looking South towards the mouth of Indian Creek. It actually looks more like 1774 now than it did in 1932.
But there was also another famous attack during that same string of attacks, which also contains mention of Logan leaving a war club in period documentation, which has to be a separate instance of him doing so:
A little over a month later the ragged war party struck again. On September 23 they attacked Fort Blackmore in Scott County, Virginia, where they managed to capture two black slaves.14 They then continued through Big Moccasin Gap to the neighborhood of King’s Mill on Reedy Creek, attacking the family of John Roberts the following day. Roberts, his wife, and children were all
killed and scalped, with the exception of his 10-year-old son, James, who was captured. Here, Logan tied a note to another war club, leaving it for the whites to find. It had been written for him by a white captive two months earlier and revealed his confusion about those responsible for killing his family.Article by Alan D. Gulches, Director, Fort Pitt Museum in Up Front, Western Pennsylvania History, Summer 2015, “Logan’s War.”
So here we have a mention of a club being left – now with a note – in a completely different location, by the same probable war party. Shockingly, we actually know who wrote the letter for Logan, and have his story in his own words. There was a February 28, 1800 statement given by one William Robinson, who was captured by Logan earlier that year, on July 12, 1774, while working on his farm on the West Fork of the Monongahela. He explained that, while a prisoner in Logan’s village in Ohio, just before Logan left on the warpath, he was the individual who wrote the letter at Logan’s request:
[A]bout three days after this, Logan brought him a piece of paper, & told him he must write a letter for him, which he meant to carry & leave in some house where he should kill somebody: that he made ink with gunpowder, & the subscriber proceeded to write the letter, by his direction, addressing Capt. Michael Cresap in it, & that the purport of it was to ask ‘Why he had killed his people? that some time before they had killed his people at some place (the name of which the subscriber forgets) which he had forgiven; but, since that, he had killed his people again at Yellow creek, and taken his cousin, a little girl, prisoner: that therefore he must war against the whites; but that he would exchange the subscriber for his cousin.’ & signed it with Logan’s name: which letter Logan took & set out again to war. and the contents of this letter as recited by the subscriber, calling to mind that stated by judge Innes to have been left, tied to a war club, in a house where a family was murdered, & that being read to the subscriber, he recognises it, & declares he verily believes it to have been the identical letter which he wrote……Statement of William Robinson, 28 February 1800,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-31-02-0341. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 31, 1 February 1799 – 31 May 1800, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004, pp. 397–400.
This statement was apparently provided to Thomas Jefferson a few decades later. Also with Jefferson’s papers on the subject was a March 2, 1799 letter to Jefferson by Judge Harry Innes, who related his experience and recollection of the 1774 war club and note:
In 1774 I lived in Fincastle county, now divided into Washington, Montgomery & part of Wythe, being intimate in Colo. Preston’s family I happened in July to be at his house, when an express was sent to him as the Cy. Leuit. requesting a Guard of the Militia to be ordered out for the protection of the inhabitants residing low down on the North fork of Holstein river, the Express brought with him a War club & a note which was left tied to it at the house of one Robertson whose family were cut off by the Indians & gave rise for the application to Colo. Preston, of which the following is a Copy then taken by me in my Memo. Book.
What did you kill my people on Yellow creek for, the white people kill’d my kin at Conustoga a great while ago, and I thought nothing of that, but you kill’d my kin again on Yellow creek and took my cousin prisoner, then I thought I must kill too and I have been three times to war since, but the Indians are not angry only myself
Captain John Logan
July 21st. 1774”To Thomas Jefferson from Harry Innes, 2 March 1799,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-31-02-0052. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 31, 1 February 1799 – 31 May 1800, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004, pp. 69–71.
So it must be the case that Logan left at least two separate war clubs. The first being marked “IG” (with “I” commonly used for a “J” in the 18th century) for Johnny Logan, and with another having no mention of initials, but rather having a damned signed confession, albeit in a white prisoner’s coerced handwriting.
But the important thing to me, and part of what interests me in the idea of “Scavengeology,” is determining the exact use and location of this “IG” war club which was owned by Jim Dresslar, and which survived all these years, ironically living a double life as a furniture leg. It can’t have been left at the site of the Snidow and Lybrook attack just due to the distance. Unless, of course, Col. Robertson had drank too much rum due to his tooth ache which he mentioned suffering from, and mixed up his recollections.
But if he didn’t – and there’s really no indication that he did – it must have been left at the site of an unknown cabin attack in what is now Monroe County, West Virginia. Or at least within a few stone’s throw of it. That’s a really cool history tidbit about our little county, which has a knack at being left-out of important history books, in favor of its older brother, and predecessor, Greenbrier County.
If only Col. Robertson had mentioned the name of the settler(s) killed and burned out 5 miles up river . . . . This looks like a job for a scavengeologist.