Near Fairmont in Marion County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
Sage of Valley Falls
Long ago, when the Great Spirit created Valley Falls, he made a masterpiece, which no writer's pen nor artist's brush has been able to do justice. Here was the ideal site for the ancient campfire of the children of nature to supply their needs, to commune with the Great Spirit and to dream of the happy hunting ground. Indeed, it was the location of one of the largest villages in this area.
The Cherokees who lived here called it the "Evil Spirit Falls." Later, white explorers called it the "Hard Around Falls," which is obvious to the visitors. Later, it became the "Falls of the Big Muddy," or Monongahela, and finally it took the name of (David) Tygart, a pioneer settler of the stream in Randolph County (1753) above Elkins. The head spring is probably a hundred miles away at an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet.
This spectacular series of foaming falls is at the head of a two mile rugged canyon on the Taylor-Marion County border. The topography of the region is predominated by the Chestnut Ridge anticline which is dissected by the river gorge and gives it its mountainous character. The prevalent rock formation
"Who were the first settlers to visit Valley Falls?" Frankly, we don't know for certain. In 1740, Thomas Leggit (ten years of age) went up the Tygart past Valley Falls with his parents to settle Philippi.
In 1731, Charles Poke, a noted Indian trader, had a trading post with the Indians at the then Cherokee Falls. Around 1740 Jean Dupratz, a Frenchman, is reported to have explored here. From 1746 through 1772, various traders, trappers, and explorers visited the Valley Falls area. Among the most important to have visited the area are: Billy Burris, David Morgan, Jacob Prickett, Nathaniel Springer, Jesse York, and Richard Falls. Each of these men has since found his rightful place in the history of West Virginia.
In 1772, John Lewis became the pioneer settler of the Glady Creek-Valley Falls area. In 1776, Major Powers and William Pettyjohn had land claims on Glady Creek. Pettyjohn sold his property to William Linn in 1801.
In 1773, Thomas Parkison, a gunsmith from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, received a 1,000 acre land grant, under the right of preemption, that included the "Great Falls of the Tygart River." Apparently, Parkison
Governor Patrick Henry, of Virginia, in 1784, granted 1,000 acres to David Gray and Samuel Hanway, including the "Great Falls of the Tygart Valley River." Later, it passed into the hands of John Reed, Standish Ford, and Sam Frew. In 1834 Frew sold it to W.W. Fetterman.
That same year, Fetterman built a whip-saw mill and a wagon road from Pruntytown to the falls. He also contracted William Hanley, an English stone cutter, to cut a mill race for water power, using black powder explosive for the first time in the area. Previously, they loosened solid rocks by using hot brush and log fires. J.A. and William Work were employed to build and operate the mill, which supplied most of the lumber used in the surrounding neighborhood. That same year, the Fettermans built their summer home here. It wasn't long until they needed a larger mill. John Bradshaw, an Irish immigrant appeared at Valley Falls as the B & O Railroad was being built and was in charge of its construction. In 1842 he and William Whitescarver decided to build a grist mill at the power site before
Mr. Holman operated the grist mill and later was the second Valley Falls postmaster. He later purchased 700 acres of land near Colfax and rafted timber to Pittsburgh. During the Civil War he was sheriff of Marion County and also was a state legislator to the Wheeling Convention.
The year of 1852 was a momentous one for Valley Falls. The B&O Railroad branch from Baltimore to Wheeling was completed. The first post office had been established in the new B&O Station with William Powell receiving the honors of being the first postmaster. The streets were bustling with traders, lumberjacks, Irish railroaders, and millworkers. During this time, people came to Valley Falls from the East to purchase various Indian relics, traps, tomahawks, pipes, and guns. They also bought and traded furs. In those days, the fur trade was no small business.
In realizing the need for overnight accommodations for food and lodging, the Valley Falls Hotel was established. The hotel was a two story building containing 18 sleeping rooms and sample rooms, a large great hall where most every night folks could be found having a good time with an old time fiddler, round dancers, Virginia reel fans, tap dancers, and clog steppers. The Valley Falls Hall was used for a subscription school, a church, and also for entertainment.
Valley Falls is said to have been a sizeable town with more than 100 houses, not including the business buildings. These are reported to have been on both sides of the river. In its "boom" period, Valley Falls had saw mills, planing mills, feed mills, shoe shops, a coffin factory, a spindle factory, an ax handle factory, and a shoe and blacksmith shop. There was once a Wells Fargo office, as well as a B&O Depot station and a post office.
According to tradition, the mill owners and businessmen employed the town officials and armed them to maintain law and order in this frontier town.
A ferry was kept in operation by the miller to carry folks and grain across the river to the stores, mill, and various other places. The ferry once got caught on a rock and went over the falls with a Daniel Matter on board who survived the "fun." When he surfaced, he had his hat on and his pipe still in his mouth.
In 1863, Bradshaw, Whitescarver, and Gilbert Fetterman became partners and acquired 1,000 acres of land, enlarging an improving their business by remodeling the grist mill, to produce 70 barrels of roller processed flour per day which appeared on the retail market as the "Pride of the Valley" brand.
During the Civil War, Valley Falls was a busy place with the B&O railroad hauling soldiers, supplies and the making of gunstocks. In the cold winter weather, they cut ice for the fine pool above the falls and stored it in sawdust in an ice house for summer use to help preserve foods even on the B&O.
One day, Richard Wood and Warren Nuzom were preparing a log raft near Wickwire during high water, when Wood got stranded on a log and was in for the ride of his life toward the falls. Nuzom saw the plight of his friend and raced down the B&O track several miles, in time to get a boat and save the life of his friend.
The Fettermans once owned the land from Grafton to a mile below Valley Falls, encompassing approximately 6,000 acres. Mr. Fetterman invited a Colonel Spalding, editor of the New York World, to spend the summer at Valley Falls Retreat and write up the progress of the B&O railroad venture, hoping to draw new industries to the Valley Falls area. But, instead of making financial progress, he gained a son-in-law. Colonel Spalding was later killed in the Civil War while leading his Confederate command.
In 1863, news reached the falls area that the confederate raider, General W.W. Jones had captured Fairmont. The Fettermans left on the next train, in such a hurry that the food was still warm on the table, never to return to Valley Falls.
The Warbash Railroad started to build a railroad on the opposite side of the river and graded a roadbed, but stopped before completion. It was later used as a tramway to haul the logs to the log boom in the river.
In 1886 a disastrous fire hit Valley Falls a hard blow, and the town was only partially rebuilt. Two years later, one of the worst floods in our area took place. It swept away many covered bridges, buildings, homes and grist mills. Valley Falls received its industrial death blow and never fully recovered. Three million saw logs, thirty feet high, swept away much of the town. Henry Shaffer was on the hill above when it happened and said, "It sounded like four or five freight trains at the same time." The grist mill was repaired and continued until 1905. By now, all the virgin poplar and white oak were gone, and the post office was closed.
Sarah Bradshaw Canning, daughter of John Bradshaw, lived at Valley Falls around the turn of the century. Mrs. Canning lived in the house that later was known as the "Haunted House." She was the postmistress, and operated a store and a boarding house. The well stocked store supplied most of the needs of this small frontier town, local residents took maple syrup and candy to trade at the Canning Store for merchandise. The Canning Home had a fine croquet ground and was the site of many enjoyable parties.
For several years, Valley Falls has been the playground for Fairmont and Grafton. The B&O carried picnickers and campers to the great scenic wonder many years ago.
In 1911, a movie starring Mable Normand called "The Squaw's Love," was partially filmed at Valley Falls.
Finally, in 1964, after waiting almost a century, Valley Falls became a state park which it so richly deserved. Visitors to Valley Falls can see what remains of this once busy, thriving community, some scattered stone foundations covered with moss and vines, a silent reminded to us of a once forgotten era.
Grist Mill (left) and Whip Mill (right) at Valley Falls. Year 1880
Passengers waiting for a train. Year Unknown
Four women sit in front of the grist mill. Year 1896
Erected by Walter Balderson, Valley Falls State Park.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Railroads & Streetcars • War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels.
Location. 39° 23.246′ N, 80° 5.233′ W. Marker is near Fairmont, West Virginia, in Marion County. Marker can be reached from Valley Falls Road (County Route 31/14) 2.8 miles east of East Grafton Road (West Virginia Route 310), on the left when traveling west. Marker is located in Valley Falls State Park, along the Tygart River Trail, overlooking the old grist mill ruins. It is about a 1/10 mile walk along the Tygart River Trail from the parking lot to the marker. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 720 Valley Falls Road, Fairmont WV 26554, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Valley Falls Whip and Grist Mill (within shouting distance of this marker); Dedicated to the Memory of Thornsbury Bailey Brown (approx. 3.3 miles away); Valley Falls (approx. 3.6 miles away); John Barton Payne (approx. 3.8 miles away); Pruntytown (approx. 3.8 miles away); First Taylor County Jail (approx. 3.8 miles away); Industrial School for Boys (approx. 3.8 miles away); Old Catholic Cemetery (approx. 4˝ miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on September 20, 2022. It was originally submitted on September 19, 2022, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. This page has been viewed 280 times since then and 216 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 20, 2022, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.