The Old Stone Wall
by V. L. Martin

Fayette Tribune
August 15, 1935

I have read many interesting articles relating to the old stone wall on Armstrong mountain near Deepwater. It has been my good fortune to visit this point of interest recently in company with 26 Boy Scouts of Troop 91, of Mount Hope, and since there have been many and varied opinions formed as to the origin of this wall and its purpose I hope that my opinion may prove of some interest.

Under the circumstances of my inspection of this wall I was unable to investigate it very thoroughly. However I found it to be a wall made by stones being piled up in a rick and extending continuously along the side of the ridge crossing over the top of the ridge and extending along the opposite side of the ridge at the same distance from the top of the ridge on either side. This wall is very strong or appears to have been at the time it was built at the point farthest back on the ridge and at this point it overlooks a decline in the ridge, while it appears to have been made in the form of a horseshoe and does not connect on the point or the beginning of the hill as you approach it, going up from the valley at Deepwater.

I found, as has been previously stated, that there is a deposit of the black flint within the enclosure of this wall. Specimens of this flint compare favorably with the flint arrow points and tomahawks that I have found in the Garden Grounds of Fayette county, and also on Paint Creek and many points in Raleigh, Wyoming and Logan counties of which I have a collection. However, I did not find any flint other than the black. While some of this would appear to be a white flint I found it to be only the black flint discolored and appeared white, but did not resemble the white flint I have found in other places. Therefore, I feel convinced that within the bounds of this wall must have been the only source of supply of this black flint which is generally conceded to have been made use of by the Indians, and judging by the amounts that have been found in various points, would indicate that it was very much in demand. Therefore it is my opinion that this wall and the deposit of flint must have some connection.

I found that there was a large chestnut tree several feet in diameter that must have been several hundred years old, standing in the wall at the point where it crosses the ridge, and judging from the amount of stone and other evidence I believe this tree to have been standing at the time the wall was built. I found an oak tree about three feet in diameter standing in the wall along the side of the ridge and this tree I believe to tell very much about the age of the stone wall, as it is my opinion that the tree may have come up from an acorn that was in the soil when the wall was built or it may have been a small sapling that stood in the path of the wall. It appears to be unnatural in its form as though it may have been disfigured by the stone when the wall was made or by growing up through the stones. I am reliably informed that judging by the size of this oak that it would be approximately 175 years old, and I believe the wall to be about that age.

After connecting all the information that is available at the location of this wall and a careful study of the early history of this county and early settlement of the state, I am convinced that this wall was made by the pioneer Indian fighters in that section. As stated above I am of the opinion that the wall was built to fortify the deposit of flint. However, under the circumstances it is unlikely that it was built by the Indians for several reasons; if it had been the work of Indians it would have likely been the work of the Indian squaw as my knowledge of Indian habits is, that this would have been their work. This would have necessitated an Indian settlement at or near this point of the wall, and in such case the work of making the implements of flint would have been carried on at that point. However, my study of the evidence found there as compared with that found in other sections where the arrowmaker carried on his work, convinced me that only the raw material of flint was carried away from that deposit as the unusual amount of small pieces of flint such as is found in places where arrow points and other evidence that would indicate an Indian settlement and where the arrow maker carried on his work at a point convenient to his settlement which would have afforded him better protection and access for his people to more suitable hunting grounds. Also, there are several large pieces of flint found in the construction of the wall which would indicate that the builders had no regard for the value of the flint, and this fact would hardly become that of the Indian as he must have treasured a boulder of flint very highly and would have found some substitute for it in the wall.

In this summing up of facts, I feel convinced that such would eliminate the Indian as the builder of the wall and this leaves the mystery to have been the work of either the early settlers of this country or as has been suggested by some, to have been the work of some ancient tribe of people that inhabited this section prior to the Indian. Such information as we have of possibly the mound builders or stone men indicates they could not have built the wall less than many centuries ago, and in this connection, since the wall passes through a very fertile section of virgin timber, it would been completely covered with vegetation and considerably less visible after the lapse of several hundred years in the wilderness.

I find after studying the early settlement of this section of our country that between the ages of 1750 and possibly around the year 1776 there were many conflicts between the Indians and white men. Daniel Boone was making his reputation as an Indian fighter during this time. Our people were engaged in the French and Indian war at t[h]is time. We have record of many invasions and capture of white people in this section during this time. Also, during this period it is not likely that the Indians were very completely equipped with guns and ammunition, and must have made heavy demands on any source of flint for their war material. The white man had been friendly with the Indians prior to this time and also had learned to make use of the flint as did the Indian, and is likely to have gained knowledge of this deposit of flint in the vicinity of the stone wall. Therefore, it is very probably that with the ill feeling with the Indians it would have resulted in an effort by the early Indian fighters to gain possession of this flint deposit and prevent the Indians from using it in warfare against them.

Judging from evidence as felt by the Indians and a study of the records of their invasions and carrying off of the white families, it would appear that their chief settlements were in the vicinity of Paint Creek, Garden Grounds and sections lying east of Armstrong mountain that were more adapted to hunting. This situation would require that entrance to the section of the flint deposit would have been made by the Indians by going down the ridges and entering rather than coming up from the section of the river below. A study of the wall would indicate that it was built to fortify against attack from this section and in the manner as outlined above and as stated before the wall is very strong at the point where it overlooks the decline, which would have been the point of attack by the Indians in trying to effect an entrance to their supply of flint. Also large pieces of flint are found along the ridge leading to the east from the wall for several miles which would indicate an attempt to transport it and left on the way for some reason, while no flint is observed in this manner in the opposite direction toward the river. There has been mentioned a smaller wall in the enclosure of the rock wall. This I believe to have been the second line of defense fortification and possibly high lookout points to observe Indians coming in to attack. Also the fact that the wall now indicates protection against attack from the outside bears out my belief.

In my opinion, this wall could not have been built by a few men in a short while as it required no labor other than carrying stone, and I believe this is to have been done by the ones who were engaged in guarding the flint supply. Should the wall have been built at the period that I contend, about 1760, owing to the sparsely settled country, and excitement it could have been built with very little knowledge of it by local settlers, and in its location it could have been many years before its discovery, and its builders may have moved on with the march of progress or to the great beyond, and the actual explanation of the stone wall may be a mystery forever.

Mount Hope, W. Va.

Native Americans