Last week, I mentioned I’d have a guest writer in to talk about early effort to survey and settle Mason County. Since his personal journal survives, you ought to hear about it straight from the man who made the first detailed surveys of our county in 1770, so the rest of this article is taken directly (with minor edits and annotations) from the writings of George Washington, future Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and First President of the United States.
“Octr. 5th. Began a journey to the Ohio in company with Doctor Craik, his servant, & two of mine…
“29th. At the mouth of this creek [Mill Creek] which is 3 or 4 miles above two islands (at the lower end of the last is a rapid [Letart Falls], & the point of the Bend) is the Wariors Path to the Cherokee Country. For two miles & an half below this the river runs a northeast course, & finished what they call the Great Bent. Two miles & an half below this again we encamped [Graham Station].
“30th. After about two miles we came to the head of a bottom, in the shape of a horse-shoe [Mason], which I judge to be about six miles round. The upper part of the bottom we encamped on was exceeding good, but the lower part rather thin land, covered with beech. In it is some clear meadow-land, and a pond or lake. The river from this place narrows very considerably, and for five or six miles is scarcely more than one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards over. The water yesterday, except the rapid at the Great Bend, and some swift places about the islands, was quite dead, and as easily passed one way as the other; the land in general appeared level and good.
“A mile or two below this we landed, and after getting a little distance from the river, we came to a pretty lively kind of land grown up with hickory and oaks of different kinds, intermixed with walnut. We also found many shallow ponds, the sides of which, abounding with grass, invited innumerable quantities of wild fowl, among which I saw a couple of birds in size between a swan and a goose, and in color somewhat between the two, being darker than the young swan and of a more sooty color [likely a sandhill crane or great blue heron]. The cry of these birds was as unusual as the birds themselves; I never heard any noise resembling it before. Encamped early just by the old Shawnee town [near the mouth of Oldtown Creek].
“31st. I sent the canoe down to the junction of the two rivers, that is, the Kenhawa with the Ohio, and set out upon a hunting party to view the land. We steered nearly east for about eight or nine miles, then bore southwardly and westwardly, till we came to our camp at the confluence of the rivers [Point Pleasant].
“November 1st. Before eight o’clock we set off with our canoe up the river, to discover what kind of lands lay upon the Kenhawa. The land on both sides of this river just at the mouth is very fine; but on the east side, when you get towards the hills, which I judge to be about six or seven hundred yards from the river, it appears to be wet, and better adapted for meadow than tillage. We judged we went up the Kenhawa about ten miles to-day [Beech Hill].
“2d. We proceeded up the river with the canoe about four miles farther [Southside], and then encamped, and went a hunting; killed five buffaloes and wounded some others, three deer, etc. This country abounds in buffaloes and wild game of all kinds; as also in all kinds of wild fowl, there being in the bottoms a great many small, grassy ponds, or lakes, which are full of swans, geese, and ducks of different kinds.
“3d. We set off down the river, on our return homewards, and encamped at the mouth. At the beginning of the bottom above the junction of the rivers, and at the mouth of a branch on the east side [Tenmile Creek, Lakin], I marked two maples, an elm, and hoop-wood tree, as a corner of the soldiers’ land, intending to take all the bottom from hence to the rapids in the Great Bend into one survey.
“4th. The Ohio from the mouth of the Kenhawa runs thus… to the hills, which the Indians say is always a fire [West Columbia]. At this place we met a canoe going to Illinois with sheep and at this place also, we met with a sycamore of a most extraordinary size, measuring 45 feet round. After passing these hills, there appears to be another pretty good bottom on the east side [Mason/Hartford]. After passing this bottom & about a mile of hills [Sliding Hill] we entered into the third bottom and encamped [near Broad Run].
“5th. I sent off the canoe with our baggage, and walked across the neck on foot with Captain Crawford, the distance, according to our walking, about eight miles, as we kept a straight course under the foot of the hills. This is a good neck of land, the soil being generally good, and in places very rich. There is a large proportion of meadow ground, and the land as high, dry, and level as one could wish; the growth in most places beech intermixed with walnut, but more especially with poplar, of which there are numbers very large. The land towards the upper-end is black-oak, and very good. Upon the whole, a valuable tract might be had here…”
Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical & Preservation Society and director of Main Street Point Pleasant, reach him at email@example.com.