Logan, WV: Once an Indian Capital City


1280px-Guyandotte_River_West_LoganThe year was 1756.  Finding themselves in a bitter and savage war against the French, Britain mustered thousands of regular soldiers to what was at the time, the very end of the civilized world.

Their mission was simple – make contact with and drive out enemy forces along the Ohio Valley.

The fate of the war would ultimately determine the future of the North American continent — had the English lost this conflict, the people of West Virginia would undoubtedly be speaking French today.

Among the many thousands of square miles of land up for grabs was the region that surrounded the Guyandotte River.

Named for Henry Guyan, a French trader who made the first settlement in the region six years earlier, the Guyandotte River’s territory was a French stronghold.

Soon, a series of bloody mountain battles would test the resolve of England’s most well trained fighting men.

With Virginia’s western frontier a hundred miles to their southeast, the Redcoats found themselves fighting the first of what would soon be many full-fledged military battles on the North American continent.

Unfortunately for them, they would quickly find that unlike the gentlemen engagements of Europe, the rules and ways of war in the New World would be unlike anything the British had previously seen.

Trained to wage war on the open pasturelands of Europe, with rows of disciplined soldiers standing resolute awaiting a volley of enemy bullets, Britain’s Redcoats were unprepared for mountain warfare.

 Among the thousands of English soldiers fighting against a phantom enemy hidden within the virgin forests of the Appalachian Mountains was a soldier named Boling Baker.

Following a failed assault against a French controlled fort which ended in disaster, Baker, a half a world away from home, made the fateful decision to desert the English army.

Hundreds of miles from the nearest English settlement, Baker wandered through the mountains of what is present-day West Virginia.  Though it is unclear how long Baker wandered through the dark forests of the western frontier for an unknown number of days, before eventually being taken captive by hostile bands of Shawnee Indians.

A prisoner of war, Baker was taken by his captors to Chief Cornstalk, a prominent leader of the Shawnee nation.  A council was then held to determined his punishment.  The council ultimately decided to make Baker run the gauntlet (two long lines of Indians armed with clubs and tomahawks).

When it came time for Baker to face his punishment, he reportedly grabbed a tomahawk from one of his bloodthirsty captors and began to fight back with a passion and courage that excited the heart of Chief Cornstalk’s sixteen-year-old daughter Aracoma.

 A princess among her people, Aracoma successfully convinced her father to spare the life of the fugitive English soldier.

The two fell so deeply in love  that Baker chose to forsake his English ways and convert to the Shawnee lifestyle.

After a period of trial, Cornstalk gave Baker his daughter to wed.

Their wedding ceremony lasted for three days and was filled with dancing, bonfires (which may have more closely resembled forest fires) and feasting.

As a present to his young daughter, Cornstalk gave her a tribe of Indians to rule in “a wonderful land in the heart of the forest.”

Aracoma established the capitol of her tribe on an island lying in the center of the Guyandotte River, known today as both Hatfield Island and Midelburg Island.

During the Revolutionary War, American militiamen made capturing the island a top priority, due to the fact that Aracoma and her husband were using the land to stage a series of horse thefts from settlers along the New River.  The island has been controlled by white men ever since.

In 1852, settlers organized the town of Aracoma on the site of the Indian settlement.  Years later, the city changed its name to Logan and the rest is, as they say, history.

Today, the island is owned by Logan County, West Virginia, and has been home to the local high school since the 1957-58 school year.

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