CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the Boy Scouts on their way to their new camp in Fayette County, I find I want to share with them something about the area that they will be visiting.
You must be conscious that our untamed country was but an uncultivated wilderness, inhabited by many creatures and used by numerous Indians, believed to be the first settlers here, who had thumped down the paths as a hunting ground.
The territory was rich and beautiful and had its share of fresh water. The fur trade was the biggest commodity. Wars between the Indians and whites were fierce, violent and savage.
West Virginia has been populated for several thousand years. Few Indians were known to have lived here. By the time white settlers had secured independence from England, they had completed their settlements to the Ohio River Valley. In the early 1800s, Missionary John Cross took the road west from Lewisburg to the Kanawha Valley. After he had moved down from some of the most craggy and rugged mountains he ever had seen, Cross saw the Gauley River and New River, which formed the Great Kanawha River. The spacious waters were spread out and calmly flowed over the Kanawha Falls, a very picturesque site, indeed.
Thomas Jefferson was extremely impressed with our state. On the map, the state looks like an enormous pan with two handles. The limestone base is where an ancient ocean flowed.
In the long past bygone days, the earth around here was covered with plants and their leaves, branches and boggy pockets where after many years became coal and oil.
Around the state you will find ancient mounds. The two largest are at South Charleston, in the business district, and Moundsville, near the old state penitentiary. When opened, these spectacular objects were found to be tombs.
At Indian burial grounds at Mount Carbon, at the mouth of Armstrong Creek and the Kanawha River, several of us joined archaeologists in digging to where skeletons were openly and plainly seen. Frankly, I had an unholy emotion, as I participated in shoveling, thinking perhaps I was digging where I should not have been.
The walls on the steep mountainsides were as exciting to see as are other earthworks. These walls are tearing apart as time goes by. Archaeologists, Indians, and scholarly scientists and others have examined the ruins.
Now, I wish to share a story from more recent times, a sensational murder case.