Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mingo Flats

The name of the road attracted us:"Mingo Flats Road." Why was it called that, and where did it lead? A little further along US Route 219 we discovered that the road came again to the highway, apparently making a loop. We turned left, to see what might be seen.

Beautiful scenery abounded and there were so many places to take photos we would never have made it to the inn where we were staying if I was driving. "Stop!" I'd say. "Back up!" Larry obliged over and over, but finally even I had to admit that we needed to move along.

I looked up the history of this place when we got home to see where it might have got its name. It had apparently been the site of a large Native American village at one time; later settlers believed the natives to be Mingos (a tribe, described as people who had been cast off by the Iroquois) based on local legend and passed-down stories. Even in 1920 there was great dispute over what tribe might have encamped there. We were told by present-day residents that it was a "winter camp" but that seems unlikely to me. Pocahontas County in winter is a snowbound place, and I can't see why Indians would have camped there when they could have been comfortable in a more southern location. According to online documents the Indians grew "winter corn" here so perhaps that is where my informants got the idea of it being a winter camp.

Today there is a small community still located at Mingo Flats; the turn-of-the-century and older buildings are mostly well-maintained. This view looks over what used to be the general store and post office. Hidden in the trees near the center of the photo is the old two-story schoolhouse.

This is a closer view of the store, which appears to be vacant but still cared for.

As we wound up the road past the cluster of buildings, we were startled to see a beautiful stone sculpture of an Indian standing sentinel beside the road.
About 100 or more years ago, this was the Huttonsville to Marlinton Pike, a main thoroughfare through the mountains. Today it is a one-lane country road meandering in the hills alongside of US 219 in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. How did the statue come to be in this place?

I looked online when we returned home and discovered that descendants of the early pioneers wanted to honor the place where the ancient Indian village had stood. Remains of the village were visible to the first settlers, although clearly abandoned for many years. According to some reports, there were burial mounds in the area. An online full-text copy of "Monument to, and history of the Mingo Indians; facts and traditions about this tribe, their wars, chiefs, camps, villages and trails. Monument dedicated to their memory near the village of Mingo, in Tygarts River Valley of West Virginia" provides the background on the statue, the arguments for and against its erection, and even some of the speeches given on the date of its dedication (September 25, 1920--we took these photos almost 90 years to the day later).

We spent a good bit of time in the small park around the statue. It's restful and quiet, a place to contemplate the history of the land the statue overlooks. Today you might never think of the past as you drive down the smooth asphalt of Route 219, but this statue made us stop and look back to what once was.

We left and continued driving along the quiet road, through deep woods turning to fall colors. Then we encountered this:

Another statue? This one was actually erected before the Mingo monument, and was placed in honor of the Confederate soldiers from the area who died in a battle on Valley Mountain under the command of General Robert E. Lee. The monument, according to an article on the Smithsonian Institution's website, "was originally unveiled July 23, 1913 on Valley Mountain, near Mingo, in the proximity of where General Robert E. Lee's army was encamped for 30 days during the Civil War."
Who was the sculpture of these two statues? Was it the same person, or two different artists? Why were the people of this particular community driven to erect monuments to the past? To these questions I have not yet searched for answers, and the young soldier below isn't telling. Perhaps someone reading this knows, or perhaps I will discover what I want to know in archives somewhere.

For those who wander up Mingo Flats Road, the efforts of its past residents have provided a surprising trip into history and an opportunity for many generations after them to stop a moment and reflect on those whose feet traveled the ground beneath us.


Angela said...

Hey Granny Sue!

Those statues are a great find! Thanks for showing them to us. I'll be sure to try to find them if I'm in that area.

Robert E. Lee is a direct line ancestor to some friends of mine in Maryland. I think it's cool! lol

Mama Suzy's Mountains of Stories said...

Granny Sue,
I, surely, do love traveling through hollars and byways of our great state with you and Larry. Thank you so much.
Suzi "mama"

Granny Sue said...

Angela, surprises like this are so much fun. It's why I like taking the roads less traveled :-)

Granny Sue said...

There is so much to see in this one state, Suzi, that I wonder if I will ever see it all. Think of how long it would take to dicover all there is to be seen in this world. Lifetimes. I'm glad you're "traveling" with us.

Anita said...

They used to have a little wool festival there that I went to a couple of times. I don't know if they still have it or not.

A couple of weeks ago, as I made my twice monthly trip between my mom's in WV and my house in Maryland, I was lamenting the fact that I'm always traveling on someone else's schedule. When I was single, I thought nothing of taking the scenic route or seeing what was up "that road".

Matthew Burns said...

Granny Sue,
Thanks for taking me home for a few minutes with this post. Now it makes sense why the early settlement in that part of WV took place in the upper Tygart Valley. The Native's already had the land cleared. The book, Border Warfare, I believe it was written by McWhorter, talks about the early settlement of this area (and the first accounts of what was found there). This whole area was considered a primo spot by the Native Americans prior to white settlement. Also, only a mountain separates Mingo from the Bulltown settlements (another hotspot for Native settlements). There is some evidence, although not proven that Tecumseh was born in this area.

While the weather might have been harsh in the winter, the rest of the year is great there. Hunting excellent, river bottoms fertile, clean water, centrally located when you travel by river, right on the main trail which followed the tops of the mountains, plentiful bounty of nature in the form of nuts (walnut, hickory, chestnut, etc.), berries (raspberries, blackberries, huckleberries, etc.), and it was relatively sheltered from attacks from other tribes. We have to put ourselves into their mocassins when ascertaining what constitutes a great place to live. In that day and time, this would have been paradise! (To me, it pretty much still is.)

Oh, and I believe Mingo is located in Randolph County. It is near the Pocahontas County border but still in Randolph.

Now i'm waiting for your post on Slatyfork (which you would have passed through on this trip). Now there is a little town with a colorful history (and home of Wilma Lee Cooper, star of the Grand Ol' Opry and 2008 Inductee of the WV Music Hall of Fame).

You know me, I'm always wanting to know more. Can't wait for your next post.

Matthew Burns said...

Also, I want to add that there are a few known burial mounds in this area as well. A few have been excavated, and other are known to have been plowed under years ago. So that proves there was settlement there for at least a thousand years or so. I believe they have some photo's of the excavation of one of the mounds on the WV Division of Culture and History website. A friend of mine and I are collected information on mounds and other earthworks that are/were found in WV. You'd be surprised at where all we have found them. Most shocking to me. was a mound in the middle of the town of Cass! Yes, Cass! Never would have thought of a mound there. It's gone now though.

Matthew know you have a great post on your hands when folks go back and re-read it and keep making comments,lol.

Granny Sue said...

Matthew, thank you for the clarification as to which county--I thought I was still in Pocahontas, but now I do recall passing the county line.

I still doubt the natives would have made this a winter camp--I can see being there for 3 seasons but why would they stay in a place that required a great deal of work to be warm and where movement would be limited by the snow? Why not travel (as they did easily and frequently) south to the Carolinas, for example, for winter, and spend spring, summer and fall in the mountains? Of course, it could have been the large amount of game available-that might have kept them over the winter, but it seems unlikely to me.

I think I have McWhorters book, so I'll look into it. I also have the one about the Allegheny pioneers (2copies, in fact) and there may be more information there.

I never knew there were mounds in that part of WV, being most familiar with the ones in the Ohio Valley. That's interesting. I expect those in the Mingo area are gone now? If they were in the bottomgrounds, they were certainly plowed under. Sad to think of that.

Granny Sue said...

Anita, I didn't know about the wool festival. that would be fun to check out. I know what you mean about being on someone else's schedule. I used to drive across state to VA to care for my Dad once a month and was always in a hurry so I couldn't explore. I am happy to be able to carve out a little time here and there these days.

Susan at Stony River said...

I *love* this post. What a poignant and inspiring find these statues are. Can't help but think that Mingo Flats sounds like a great name for a band, or a novel... I'd stop to check it out too!

Ron@Reno said...

Hello, What a surprise to find this post. I was searching the inet about Mingo because as a child I spent alot of fun times there. My Grandfather lived in Mingo Flats just up the road from the Indian statue and general store. He had a farm there and it is still there today. The entire area looks mostly unchanged from when I was there in the early 60's. (looking from Google Earth).
At that time the store was the hub of activity and also served as the post office. Mingo is actually one of the best places on earth nestled in the middle of a National Forest. I do remember alot of talk about Indian mounds and such. There also is a hidden cave up the road a piece. Also alot of fossils can be found in the creek banks. Looking forward to more posts here. Thanks. Ron


I live on Mingo Run - the living room of the old farm house here was originaly an Indian cabin.
It was closed in the late 1880's,
2 walls and 2 sets of windows.
There are 2 sets of Indian graves nearby and an Indian Ring.

Anonymous said...

Just checked out the statues with my father today. (4/2/13)
What a way to travel back in time when things were simpler and slower-paced. I love the peaceful look of the area, but it has really grown up further up the road. History in the middle of nowhere. That's what makes Mingo special. By the way, if you go up to the Indian statue and say " What are you doing Indian" three times, the statue will say "nothing".

Anonymous said...

I used to travel that road lot in the late 60's. Anyone have the story about the Mothman of Mingo Flats?

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