War with Chief Cornstalk brought Col. Lewis and his motley army from Lewisburg…..through the Kanawha
Valley in early October 1774, on their way to Point Pleasant and their appointment with history. They came by way of the Midland
trail, now U.S. Rt. 60, the same trail said to have been chosen by prehistoric buffalo herds. The twisty, over-hill-and-dale
older sections would tend to confirm that. Some contend that the fracas Oct. 10, 1774, in which Cornstalk was trounced, was
the opening battle of the Revolution. Others not. Whether or no, many of Lewis' battle-seasoned men fought on throughout the
Revolution and were rewarded with grants of land after the victory for their patriotism.
One canny Dutchman, Capt.
John Van Bibber, and relatives were with Lewis, whether motivated by patriotism, adventure or greed. As they went through,
they were so impressed by the beauty and seemingly endless natural resources of the Kanawha Valley in forests, wildlife, inexhaustible
species of oversized fish and rich bottoms lands for raising crops they asked that their grant of land be here. They were
given more than 50,000 acres extending from Kanawha Falls westward towards Charleston and north towards Falling Rock up Elk
River. Their names have been all but forgotten, though they are immortalized in granite on the obelisk and other monuments
at Point Pleasant Battlefield State Park. Earlier, John Van Bibber had wandered over much of the eastern wilderness from Pennsylvania
to Tennessee seeking a suitable place to settle and thoroughly enjoying his nomadic freedom. Through some misadventure, he
lost his way and all his possessions including his survive-or-die flintlock rifle. That was not a very healthy situation—with
Indians lurking everywhere, who were taking an increasingly-dim view of the invading hordes of whites—and with no way
to slay game for a growling stomach. Just about to give up in despair, Van Bibber spotted smoke curling skyward from what
could only have been a chimney. He was certain it was no Indian campfire. Charging through the underbrush, joy of joys, he
found a pioneer cabin which was little more than a lean-to. Whooping and hollering—in English so he wouldn't be shot
for an Indian—he greeted the inhabitant, who welcomed him only as a lonely pioneer and hospitable Southerners can do.
The man introduced himself as Dan Boone, who fed and bedded Van Bibber, beginning a friendship lasting for decades. Finally,
Van Bibber felt he must take his leave, and Boone loaded him up with light trail food, probably including jerky and rockahominy,
or parched corn, such as the Indians used, and forced upon him, against his protests, one of his prized flintlocks. It was
a beautiful piece, with carved wood stock and fancy brass plating, plus a silver sight made by gunsmith, Michael Kimberlin,
of whom research disappointingly fails to turn up any record. It is entirely probable that it was the same weapon Van Bibber
used at the Battle of Point Pleasant. It is also probable that several of Cornstalk's braves on the other end of it said,
"Oh, that smarts," since the piece had a bore of about 60 caliber.
Back in West Virginia and the war over, Van Bibber built
himself a cabin on his new land near Kanawha Falls. It is likely that his friendship for Van Bibber is what brought Daniel
Boone to West Virginia, where he built a cabin near what is now the eastern city limits of Charleston, raised a family, and
doubtless a bit of hell, as well as serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses as a representative from Kanawha County, albeit
powerless and ineffective.
Boone was so angry at the inattention given the needs of Virginia's western counties, he
probably sowed the first seeds of unrest and discontent, which eventually made West Virginia a separate state. In bull sessions
with the Van Bibbers and other cronies in Charleston, he cursed the panty-waisted, lace-bedecked, powdered-wigged, perfumed,
self styled aristocrats, who turned up their noses at the rough, smelly, deerskin-clad, uncouth, ignorant wilderness-breaker,
whose name will be revered forever though theirs have been log forgotten. Boone was a practical-type aristocrat.
to some old family records, Boone's son, Jesse, married one of John Van Bibber's younger daughters, Chloe. (He did). Years
earlier, Chloe had been kidnapped by Indians and spirited off to one of their villages in Ohio. Her father, headstrong and
determined as are most of his descendants, grabbed his rifle, mounted his horse and began to search for her although he didn't
have the vaguest notion which tribe had taken her or where. For 84 days he roamed and combed every Indian village in Ohio,
the most likely place to look, since Cornstalk and his ilk had been driven across the Ohio River. For some reason, known only
to the Great Spirit, the Indians feared Van Bibber and let him come and go in peace as they did Boone. He kept a record of
the time it took by cutting notches on a small stick attached with rawhide to his shot pouch and powder horn. Unaccountably,
the twig was highly polished, possibly from his constant rubbing of it in agitation and grief as one would a worry stone today.
Some over-imaginative descendents claimed the notches Redskins he had slain, but that is ridiculous, for he was no murderer
and the notches are marked off in units of sevens or weeks. His persistence finally paid off. John found Chloe and brought
her back home to West Virginia.
John later passed on the now-famous Van Bibber rifle to his Nephew, Mathias, through
his brother Peter) reputed to have been one of the first sheriffs of Kanawha County, who scratched his monogram in the brass
BOONE & VAN BIBBER GO HUNTING
During the autumn of 1804 Nathan Boone and Mathias Van Bibber went on a hunt, planning to go
to the Kanzas; they proceeded up Grand River, trapping on the way to the source of the stream. After having trapped fifty-six
beavers and twelve otters they were visited in their camp by twenty-two Osages who stole all the furs and three horses; the
Indians warned them to clear out as another party of red men were hunting for them.
Boone went among the Osages in the
spring of 1805 in an attempt to recover his stolen property. He first visited the Big Osage town on Pomme de Terre Creek and
from a trader there learned that it was the Little Osages who had robbed him and Van Bibber. When he went to the Little Osage
town he was unable to recognize the thieves owing to their painted faces and changes of rude costume. White Hair, chief of
all the tribe, sent some of his braves to get the horses belonging to the white men, but Boone recovered only two traps—the
horses had been removed to a safe place before the messengers arrived.