George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 24 September 1784]

24th. And crossed it at the Mouth, as it was thought the river was too much swelled to attempt the ford a little higher up.1 The fork was about 2 Miles & half from Colo. Philups, & the ground betwn. very hilly tho’ rich in places. The Cheat at the Mouth is about 125 yds. wide—the Monongahela near dble. that. The colour of the two Waters is very differt., that of Cheat is dark (occasioned as is conjectured by the Laurel, among which it rises; and through which it runs). The other is clear; & there appears a repugnancy in both to mix, as there is a plain line of division betwn. the two for some distance below the fork; which holds, I am told, near a mile—the Cheat keeping the right shore as it descends, & the other the left.

The Line which divides the Commonwealths of Virginia & Pensylvania crosses both these Rivers about two miles up each from the point of fork & the Land between them is high as the line runs being a ridge which seperates the two Waters—but higher up the fork a good road (it is said) may be had from one river to the other.

From the Fork to the Surveyors Office, which is at the house of one Pierpoint, is about 8 Miles along the dividing ridge.2 At this Office I could obtain no information of any Surveys or Entries made for me by Captn. Wm. Crawford; but from an examination of his books it appeared pretty evident that the 2500 acres which he (Crawford) had surveyed for & offered to me on the little Kanhawa (adjoining the large Survey under the proclamation of 1754) he had entered for Mr. Robert Rutherford and that the other tract in the fork between the Ohio & little Kanhawa had been entered by Doctr. Briscoe & Sons.3

Pursuing my enquiries respecting the Navigation of the Western Waters, Captn. Hanway proposed, if I would stay all Night, to send to Monongahela C[our]t House at Morgan town, for Colo. Zachh. Morgan and others;4 who would have it in their power to give the best accts. that were to be obtained, which, assenting to, they were sent for & came, & from them I received the following intelligence


That from the fork of Monongahela & Cheat, to the Court House at Morgan Town, is, by Water, about 11 Miles, & from thence to the West fork of the former is 18 More. From thence to the carrying place between it and a branch of the little Kanhawa, at a place called Bullstown, is about 40 Miles, by Land—more by Water and the Navigation good.5

The carrying place is nine Miles and an half between the navigable parts of the two Waters; and a good road between; there being only one hill in the way, and that not bad. Hence to the Mo[uth] of the [Little] Kanhawa is 50 Miles.

That from Monongahela Court House, 15 Miles along the new road which leads into Braddocks road, East of the winding ridge,6 and McCulloch’s path, to one Joseph Logston’s on the North branch of Potomack7 is about 40 Miles—that this way passes through Sandy Creek glades, and the glades of Yohiogany, and may be made good. But, if the road should go from Clarke’s Town on the Western fork of Monongahela,8 15 Miles below the [Bulltown] carrying place to the aforesaid Logston’s, it would cross the Tyger Valley River (the largest branch of Monongahela) above the falls therein,9 go through the glades of Monongahela;10 cross Cheat river at the Dunkers bottom (25 Miles from its Mouth) and thence through the Glades of Yohiogany—in all f[ro]m the [Little] Ka[naw]ha 85 Miles.

That the Cheat river where it runs through the Laurel hill is, in their opinion, so incomoded with large rock stones, rapid, and dashing water from one rock to another, as to become impassable; especially as they do not think a passage sufficient to admit a Canal can be found between the Hills & the common bed of the river—but of these matters none of them pretended to speak from actual knowledge, or observation; but from report, and partial views.11

That from these rapids to the Dunkers bottom, & four Miles above, the navigation is very good, after which for 8 Miles the river is very foul, & worse to pass than it is through the Laurel hill; but from thence upwards, thro’ the horse Shoe bottom,12 & many miles higher, it is again good, & fit for transportation; but (tho’ useful to the Inhabitants thereof) will conduce nothing to the general plan, as it is thought no part of the Cheat River runs nearer to the navigable part of the No. branch of Potomack than the Dunkers bottom does, which they add is about 25 Miles of good road. From the Dunkers bottom to Clarkes Town they estimate 35 Miles, and say the Tyger Valley fork of the Monongahla affords good navigation above the falls which is 7 Miles only from the Mouth, & is a Cateract of 25 feet.

1GW used Samuel Kinkade’s ferry to cross the Cheat River (Cash Memoranda, DLC:GW; FAYETTE COUNTY STATE TAX description begins “Return of State Tax for the County of Fayette. [1785 and 1786].” Pennsylvania Archives, 3d ser., 22 (1898): 541–641. description ends , 566, 630).

2John Pierpont (d. 1795) settled here before the War of Independence and married Ann (Nancy) Morgan, daughter of Col. Zackquill Morgan (CALLAHAN [2] description begins James Morton Callahan. History of the Making of Morgantown, West Virginia: A Type Study in Trans-Appalachian Local History. Morgantown, W.Va., 1926. description ends , 34, n.12; AMBLER description begins Charles H. Ambler. Francis H. Pierpont: Union War Governor of Virginia and Father of West Virginia. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1937. description ends , 4–10).

3The 2,500 acres on the Little Kanawha lay 15 to 20 miles above the mouth of that river on the south side. William Crawford in Sept. 1774 offered GW two tracts in this area, one “of about 3000 Som od acres the other about 2500,” and the following March he sent surveys of those lands to Mount Vernon (Crawford to GW, 20 Sept. 1774 and 6 Mar. 1775, DLC:GW). GW had only to enter the surveys with military land warrants in the county surveyor’s office, but it was not done. The coming of the War of Independence put a stop to nearly all that sort of business for GW, and he seems to have been somewhat reluctant to take those tracts anyway (GW to Thomas Lewis, 1 Feb. 1784, and William Crawford to GW, 14 Nov. 1774, DLC:GW). Robert Rutherford, GW’s friend and former French and Indian War comrade (see main entry for 2 Feb. 1771), obtained six grants on the Little Kanawha totaling 1,950 acres in 1785, but there is no record of one of 2,500 acres there for him (SIMS description begins Edgar B. Sims. Sims Index to Land Grants in West Virginia. Charleston, 1952. description ends , 497).

The tract at the fork of the Ohio and the Little Kanawha rivers (now Parkersburg, W.Va.) was to have been equally divided between Crawford and GW. Crawford originally surveyed this land for himself, but finding that the acreage to which he was entitled as a French and Indian War veteran would not cover the whole survey, he wrote GW 12 Nov. 1773 and proposed to split the tract with him if GW would apply some of his military warrants to the uncovered part (DLC:GW). GW agreed and had two warrants ready for his section of the land. However, Crawford for some reason was unable to get a warrant for his part, and rival claims to the land were soon discovered, a fact that apparently discouraged GW from pursuing the matter vigorously (Crawford to GW, 10 Jan. 1774 and 6 Mar. 1775, GW to Thomas Lewis, 1 Feb. 1784, and GW to John Harvie, 10 Feb. 1784, DLC:GW). Although Dr. John Briscoe (1717–1788) of Berkeley County and his sons may have entered a survey for this land, it was not granted to them, for Robert Thornton had apparently staked out a prior claim to 1,350 acres at the mouth of the Little Kanawha in 1773. Ten years later Alexander Parker of Pittsburgh bought out Thornton’s claim for $50 and in 1787 patented the land in two tracts, one of 950 acres and one of 400 acres (DANDRIDGE description begins Danske Dandridge. Historic Shepherdstown. Charlottesville, Va., 1910. description ends , 60, 304; W.P.A. [5] description begins W.P.A. Writers’ Project. West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State. American Guide Series. New York, 1941. description ends , 261; SIMS description begins Edgar B. Sims. Sims Index to Land Grants in West Virginia. Charleston, 1952. description ends , 489).

4Morgantown lay about four miles southwest of Pierpont’s house. Zackquill (Zackwell) Morgan (c.1735–1795) was born in Berkeley County, Va.; moved as a young man to southwestern Pennsylvania where he lived until 1771; and then settled at the site of Morgantown. With the formation of Monongalia County in 1776, he became the first sheriff and one of the first justices of the new county and a few months later was appointed county lieutenant. During 1778 he was suspended from the latter position and was court-martialed for the alleged murder of a Loyalist prisoner. Although subsequently acquitted of the charge, he ceased being county lieutenant before May 1780 (Va. Council Jls. description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 1:234, 348, 2:143, 175; CALLAHAN [2] description begins James Morton Callahan. History of the Making of Morgantown, West Virginia: A Type Study in Trans-Appalachian Local History. Morgantown, W.Va., 1926. description ends , 43; VSP description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends , 1:348). Morgan kept a tavern in Morgantown for many years (MORGAN [2] description begins French Morgan. A History and Genealogy of the Family of Col. Morgan Morgan, the First White Settler of the State of West Virginia. 1950. Reprint. Parsons, W.Va., 1966. description ends , 193–220).

Among the other men who met with GW at Pierpont’s house on this date may have been Albert Gallatin (1761–1849), later Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of the Treasury. Young Gallatin was in the area at this time, trying to establish a store on the Monongahela River a few miles north of the Virginia-Pennsylvania line and attempting to speculate in lands. For his reminiscences of the meeting, told to a friend in old age, see ADAMS [3] description begins Henry Adams. The Life of Albert Gallatin. 1879. Reprint. New York, 1943. description ends , 56–58.

5Bulltown, located on the south bank of the Little Kanawha River in present-day Braxton County, W.Va., was established as an Indian village about 1764 by the Delaware chief, Captain Bull, and a small group of followers. The Indian inhabitants were massacred in 1772 by white settlers who mistakenly blamed them for the murder of a nearby white family (MCWHORTER description begins Lucullus Virgil McWhorter. The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia: From 1768 to 1795, embracing the Life of Jesse Hughes and Other Noted Scouts of the Great Woods of the Trans-Alleghany. Hamilton, Ohio, 1915. description ends , 86–88; BULLTOWN description begins W.P.A. Writers’ Project. The Bulltown Country, 1764–1940. Folk Studies, no. 10. Charleston, W.Va., 1940. description ends , 1–8).

6Winding Ridge stretches across the Maryland-Pennsylvania line between Little Meadows and the Great Crossing of the Youghiogheny, intersecting Braddock’s Road a short distance northwest of the line.

7Joseph Logston of Washington County, Md., lived near present-day Gorman, Md. (see entry for 26 Sept. 1784). He enrolled in the Washington County militia 28 Aug. 1776 (Md. Geneal. Bull., 4 [1933], 17).

8Clarksburg, seat of Harrison County, Va. (now W.Va.).

9The Tygart Valley River runs east of the West Fork River, joining it at present-day Fairmont, W.Va., to form the Monongahela River. Valley Falls, a series of cascades, lies about 12 miles above the mouth.

10These glades were apparently east of the Tygart Valley River, about four miles from present-day Grafton, W.Va., in the area drained by Glade and Swamp runs.

11The Cheat River flows through a deep gorge in the vicinity of Cooper’s Rock, about eight miles due east of Morgantown. Chestnut Ridge, which was often called Laurel Hill, is on the northeast side of the gorge.

12Horseshoe Bottom is on a sharp bend of the Cheat River in present-day Tucker County, W.Va. A group of Germans settled there early in 1774 but left before the end of the year to escape the threat of Indian attacks. Returning two years later, they established a settlement at St. George about two miles downstream (MAXWELL description begins Hu Maxwell. History of Tucker County, West Virginia, from the Earliest Explorations and Settlements to the Present Time. Kingwood, W.Va., 1884. description ends , 19–21, 34–40).

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