Tradition has it that the first inhabitants in Logan were a tribe of Shawnees ruled over by Princess Aracoma. And, while nearly everyone is familiar with the love story involving Aracoma and her pale faced husband, Boling Baker, few know the love story concerning the only Indian survivor of the 1757 raid on Aracoma’s settlement, which occurred on the “islands” that now serve as the home of several Logan County schools, including Logan Senior High School.
The surprise attack by General Madison and his forces lasted for three hours and many dead or dying braves bore silent testimony to the fierceness of the battle; a battle which saw the white men capture 50 horses, many bushels of corn and seven cows. While Madison’s men were busy taking toll of the dead, silencing forever the dying, and burning the wigwams, one survivor of the raid managed to fake his death, inched his way to the edge of the river bank, and rolled down the incline into dense shrubbery.
The Indian’s name was Nagol, and after remaining in the underbrush until the soldiers completed their burning of the village and their arguing over the Indian beads and trinkets before then departing, the Shawnee brave would become the only Indian left alive for hundreds of miles.
With the Indians forced to move further west, more white settlers came to the land of the Guyandotte, where rich, black earth brought forth abundant crops, and where the land was to be had for simply staking it out—all they wanted—and homesteading it.
One such family was the Jasper Cook clan, which consisted of four boys, five girls and the mother. This pioneering family came from the Carolinas and was said to have “no terrors of this strange, unsettled territory.” Their plans for habitation were made before their journey, and they brought with them all kinds of seeds for planting crops, their implements of toil, as well as cattle, hogs, sheep and their chickens. Even the family dog was not left behind.
As for the children’s education, they would teach them from the old and tattered books they had kept in the family for years. The Bible would also contribute a large part to the children’s education. Thus, the family felt sufficient unto themselves, and needed no outside interference.
After nearly a month’s journey, the family arrived in the Guyandotte Valley and were said to be gratified with what they found here. Not a living beast or man came to prowl upon them during the nights, as they slept in the wagons or on the ground. The solitude of their camp was unbroken except for the chirping of the birds during the day and the friendly calls of the whippoorwills and owls as twilight fell over the valley—then came the morning of the disappearance of the family’s youngest child, Winona, who was barely a year old.
The family was grief stricken when Nagol made his appearance, carrying the baby safe and sound. From that moment on he had the sincere good wishes of the white settlers, who allowed Nagol to stay in the camp, but later worried that he might advise his people of their location and have them all wiped out. However, Isabel, the baby’s mother, convinced her husband to let him stay. Nagol was thankful for that and did his best to win the confidence of the entire group.
As spring turned into summer, Nagol was assisting the settlers on how to cultivate their crops. He taught the children how to build canoes and the mothers how to make clothing from the skins of animals. The Shawnee survivor also taught the men secrets of drying meats for the winter.
After a log house was completed, Jasper Cook suggested they build a small one for Nagol, who had been sleeping on the ground, rolled up in a blanket. Nagol shook his head and pointed to a pile of skins he had sewed together to make a wigwam before cold weather set in. As summer, autumn, winter and spring followed each other in rapid succession, and no Indians came, the settlers now believed Nagol’s story of being the only surviving Shawnee.
When the Cooks first settled in the valley, Elizabeth was 16 years-old and described as “the fairest child of the family.” It was said her golden hair lay in tiny ringlets around her shoulders, and her merry blue eyes twinkled with laughter and sunshine. If the girl suspected Nagol’s interest in her, she gave no sign, and went about with her chores of feeding the chickens and helping with the meals.
The months rolled into years, until three of them had passed. Late one afternoon the cows failed to come in to be fed and milked, so Elizabeth went to look for them. After searching for nearly an hour, she finally located them on the other side of the ridge they called “The Backbone”, (the hill that separates Cole Branch from Logan) and was bringing them in when she stumbled and fell over the cliff.
The fall knocked her unconscious, and when she came to Nagol was there and was wetting her face with water. He had been hunting quail when he heard Elizabeth’s screams. She knew that if Nagol had not found her she might have laid there for days among the sharp stones and shrubbery. She turned to thank him but he had vanished into the woods.
She arose and tried to walk but could not, just as the bushes behind her parted and Nagol reappeared. From the security of his arms, Elizabeth raised grateful eyes to his. Nagol smiled down at her and suddenly his lips met hers in what was described as “the maddest, sweetest kiss primitive lips had ever known.” The 19-year-old did not struggle and it seemed that she had been waiting all her life for this one moment.
As Nagol carried her home, she asked: “You won’t tell Pa and Ma what I just done, will you?” “No, me will ask Big Chief, your father, to marry us like he did the palefaces that one day,” Nagol replied.
It was nearly a week before Elizabeth could get out of the house. However, as soon as she felt strong enough to walk with a cane, she hobbled over to Nagol’s wigwam where he sat stringing beads. He arose and held out his arms and she fell into them, a little sob escaping her as red-skinned arms enfolded her and held her close.
“It’s been so lonesome over there without you,” Elizabeth said, as Nagol led her to a bear skin rug laid out on the floor.
The couple was hardly seated when a shadow fell across the threshold. The flap parted and Jasper Cook—the girl’s loving father— stood before them. He had heard their previous conversation and knew what was going on between the two.
For days thereafter a heavy silence hung over the camp. Now and then Jasper and Isabel held long conferences in their kitchen about the situation. The fact of the matter was that the land that they had staked out, and risked everything to homestead, didn’t belong to them at all—but to the Redman sitting so calmly by the fire in the other room.
Throughout time there have been many love stories told, such as “Romeo and Juliet,” many of which had tragic endings, just like “The Aracoma Story.” This saga could end in various ways—either good, or badly. However, I will allow you, the reader, to conclude this mountaineering story in any fashion you choose.
As for myself, I tend to favor “good” endings.
BITS and PIECES
The recent death of a friend of mine’s brother due to a drug overdose, got me to thinking how Logan County has changed during the past 16 years that I have been a magistrate…..statistics show that our “pill” dilemma actually started right after I first took office back in the year 2000…..arrest rates, along with drug related deaths, increased dramatically for several years with many families being torn apart because of addiction…..now that we know that wholesale drug companies shipped over 200,000,000 pain pills into West Virginia in a five year period, it clearly shows who really is at fault, as our state leads the nation in drug-related overdoses……it’s just a damned shame nothing much was ever done sooner than now…..some readers may recall former Logan Wildcat basketball player and all-around athlete, Steve Caudill, a former resident of Central City……Steve, before taking a job with the local regional jail, was a parking ticket writer for the town of Logan…..he also worked at the Federal prison at Mt. Olive near Montgomery…..before leaving Logan Steve was on both my independent league basketball team and Whitman League softball squad; with his help, we won championships at both…..now, I am pleased to announce that Steve has been named State Director of Security for the Division of Corrections…..he is the son of Patty and the late Duke Caudill…..I find it interesting to note that there currently is not a single gasoline station located on Mud Fork, but I can recall when there was six of them at one time or another…..a new law that went into effect June 1 allows for a person to now sue for up to $10,000 in magistrate courts…..the limit previously had been $5000…..speaking of which, last week I mentioned that magistrates are the lowest paid employees of the courthouse…..I, of course, meant lowest paid fulltime office holders, not employees in general…..I hear there’s going to be an old folks get together Aug. 27th at the Logan County Club: it is called the 1971 class reunion of Logan High School…..the dress code will be casual because you can’t much more “casual” than the class of ’71…..the Olympics seem to be going quiet well for the Americans as far as the gold medal count goes…..it is interesting to point out though that each gold medal actually consists of 92.5 % silver…..while on the subject of sports, what do you think about Alex Rodriguez, the talented New York Yankee star?…..a few years back at a Reds-Yankees game in Cincy that was rained out, my wife and I left the game and turned to cross the street when we saw Rodriguez coming straight at us in dress clothes…..he had the “deer in the headlights” look that seemed to say please don’t ask me for an autograph…..seconds later, a taxi cab pulled in and he was gone…..DID YOU KNOW In Nebraska, the state department paid a consultant $200 an hour to the tune of nearly a quarter million bucks?…..the man’s job was to find ways for the state to save money…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Any man who is not something of a socialist before he is age 40 has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist after 40 has no head.”—Wendell Wilkie, 1944…..FINAL NOTE: I’ve always been one of those guys who believe in “sinking with the ship.” For example, not only have I always been a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball fan, but I continue to claim the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia 76’ers as my favorites in football and basketball, respectively. However, over the past several years I have watched the Cincinnati Reds a great deal. I believe the inabilities to successfully bunt by players, and especially pitchers, has cost the Reds many games. It’s my opinion that no player should advance from the minor leagues if that player cannot adequately bunt. I ask, “What are the minor leagues for?”
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.