EARLY CALHOUN HISTORY - Schoolhouse Cave

(03/03/2007)

By Starling Bartlett

For 185 years the Red man disputed with the White man for possession of the continent and during all that time carried on the most relentless warfare, an account of which is recorded in the history of Western civilization.

No wonder then that it required five generations for the combined army of Great Britain and her American colonies to drive them from her shores.

A spirit of revenge arose among them and prompted by it they determined to again possess the land or perish in the attempt.

Thirty-five years after crossing the Ohio they equipped war parties and sent them against the frontiers of Virginia. Every student of pioneer history knows the results.

Three trails, or war paths, were chosen by the parties where their blood was shed.

The first was up the Great Sandy. The second was up the Big Kanawha, and the third was up the Little Kanawha. It was those of the northwest who chose the trail up the Little Kanawha.

This led through what is now Calhoun County. This was the first trail to connect Gilmer, Calhoun, Wirt and Wood counties together, after the white man settled.

Many times the savages were overtaken before reaching the Ohio and made to pay dearly for their invasion.

This trail was used by the early settlers for going to market from Glenville to Burning Springs and on to Parkersburg.

It was a two-day trip. The settlers would take meat and potatoes over the trail and bring back salt and other groceries. The over-night stopping point was a large cave between Fish Pot and Muscle Shoals.

This Indian trail was used for many years after the Indians were gone from the hills and is still visible today.

The first white man to settle in the limit of the cave, which was used in early days as a school, was Stephen P. Parsons. He settled on the banks of the Little Kanawha at what is known today as Devil=s Race Track.

In 1814, his nearest neighbor was up the river where the town of Glenville now stands. He was an actual settler and made his home here. He was soon followed by new settlers in this wild retreat, including Benire Mayse, James Miller and Audrey Sharp.

The first school that was taught in Calhoun county, or within the recent limits of the county, was taught at the cave below Big Bend, at what is known as Fish Pot.

The first teacher was Robert Clifford. His first school was taught in the fall of 1818. About a dozen pupils made up his class. The seats were made by splitting small logs in half and then using wooden pins, trestle style, in the oval sides. The first school house built in the county was in 1824.

School in the cave lasted only a few weeks during the fall months, before the winter set in. Fire was built in one end, and a crack in the roof was a makeshift chimney.

Over the entrance to the cave the early settlers built a wall of hewed logs, with a small opening left which was covered by cloth.

The Bible was used as the first text book. Slates were used in place of pencil and paper, and soft limestone was cut with an ax and trimmed down with a knife to use as chalk.

Some of the favorite games of the early school children were fox and geese and hide and seek, played along the rocks.

The cave was used as a hiding place for the early Indian scout, Dan Duskey, who roamed the area during the same era of that other famous scout, Jesse Hughes. Duskey has a secret niche in the cave where he hid many times from the Indians.

During the Civil War the cave was used as a hideout by both Union and Confederate soldiers, just as it had earlier been used by the settlers in their skirmishes with the Indians.

Many times cattle, horses, sheep and other livestock were safely stowed away in the cave during those early years, and horses were kept there during the Civil War by the soldiers of both sides.

This cave, which is on the banks of the Little Kanawha River, is not easily accessible by good roads, but a trip to it proves very interesting.

The trail and the cave are two of the things left for the later generations to see, as reminders of the struggle the early white man had in settling this area.


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