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Mingo, West Virginia

Randolph County has its fair share of a rich and colorful past. The small unincorporated town of Mingo is rich in history concerning everything from wild exploration expeditions to Indian lore and bloody battles.

According to Hu Maxwell’s “History of Randolph County,” the first sawmill in Mingo was built by Edward Woods and John Smiley at the Laurel Thicket in 1822. “The wagon which hauled irons for the mill was the first that crossed the mountain to Mingo,” Maxwell said. Augustus Woods, the driver of the wagon cut the road as he traveled to the town.

There were four original settlers of Mingo: William Mace, Peter Harper, Henry Ritter, and Ferdinand Stalnaker. But before the Mace, Harper, Ritter, and Stalnaker families settled Mingo, David Tygart for whom the Tygart Valley and the Tygart Valley River were named, and Robert Files, for whom Files Creek is named, were the first settlers in the region. According to the County Commissioner’s Association of West Virginia’s “West Virginia History,” around 1754 the Tygart Valley region was in its infancy and at the same time the Hutton family was granted a huge tract of land that includes the present-day village of Huttonsville.

Although the region is famous for wild trails and mountainmen, there was an actual roadway which connected the northern Randolph County region to other parts of the state. U.S. 219, also known as the Seneca Trail, commemorates the Indian trails that were used by the many tribes in the area. The Seneca Trail road winds through the forest from Elkins to Lewisburg.  Mingo was named after the Mingo Indian Tribe, also known as the Iroquois Indians. The CCAWV states that the Mingo Indians were not actually a tribe, but a multi-cultural group of Indians that established several communities throughout the state. “They lacked a central government and, like all other Indians within the region at that time, were subject to the control of the Iroquois Confederacy,” CCAWV reports.

During the early 1700s, northern West Virginia (at that time Virginia) was used primarily as hunting grounds by the Shawnee, Seneca, Delaware, and Mingo Indians. However, the Mingos built semi-permanent log structures in which the whole tribe would live during the hunting season. The present-day Brazenhead Inn, a traditional Irish inn and pub along U.S. 219, sits on the site of the Mingo hunting cabins, owner Will Fanning said. The Mingo Indians continued their hunting traditions in West Virginia, specifically the Mingo and Tygart Valley region, until 1773 when several incidents between Indians and European settlers sparked the infamous battle known as the Dunmore War.

In 1773, land speculator Michael Cresap led a group of volunteers to Fort Fincastle (Fort Henry near Wheeling). The party murdered several Shawnee along the way. Among other atrocities, on April 30, 1774, colonists murdered the family of Mingo Chieftain Tah-gah-jute, who had been baptized under the English name Logan. Although Logan had previously lived peacefully with whites, he killed at least 13 settlers that summer in revenge. Ten members of Logan’s settlement, including two women, were killed and scalped by the settlers. Among the victims were members of Logan’s immediate family, including his wife and all but one of his children. Virginia Governor John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, worried about escalating violence in western Virginia (West Virginia was not an independent state at this time) and decided to end the conflict. He formed two armies, one marching north that consisted of 1700 men led by Dunmore and the other marching south comprised of 800 troops led by western Virginia resident and land speculator Captain Andrew Lewis. Shawnee Chieftain Keigh-tugh-qua, or Cornstalk, along with approximately 1200 Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, Wyandotte, and Cayuga warriors, including Logan, decided to attack the southern regiment before they had a chance to unite with Lord Dunmore’s forces. On October 10, 1774, the Indians attacked Lewis’ forces at the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers. Both sides suffered significant losses.

According to CCAWV, nearly half of Lewis’ officers were killed, including his brother Colonel Charles Lewis. Nonetheless the Indians were finally forced to retreat when Lord Dunmore arrived and joined forces with Lewis. Seeing that they were outnumbered, Cornstalk sued for peace. The Dunmore’s War made Logan one of West Virginia’s most famous Mingo Indians. He gained national fame for his eloquent speech that was delivered during the peace negotiations following the Indians’ defeat. “I appeal to any white man to say if he ever entered Logan’s cabin hungry and I gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and I gave him not clothing. During the course of the long, bloody war Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites that my countrymen pointed as they passed and said, ‘Logan is the friend of the white man.’ I had even thought to have lived with you, but for the injuries of one man. Colonel Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered all of the relatives of Logan, not even sparing my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbor a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.”

More than 230 years later, Mingo is the home to several churches, cozy homes and a few small businesses. You can even stay at the historic Brazenhead Inn and enjoy a homecooked meal or stout at Mike’s Irish Pub. You can visit the site of the Mingo Statue where descendants of the early pioneers wanted to honor the place where the American Indian village stood, now known as Mingo Flats.

Article Credit, 2015: Intermountain News

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