LEADING CREEK WILDERNESS AREA ONCE INHABITED - Man Drowned Two Infants Because They Were Crying


Several families once lived along this
now desolate stretch of Leading Creek

Large squirrel nest about 12 feet from ground

By Bob Weaver

The waters of Calhoun's Leading Creek, created by tributaries Fivemile Run, Cole Run, Tripett Run, Seth's Run, and Bell Run, travels down a narrow valley for several miles through the Village of Freed, eventually emptying into the Little Kanawha River at Munday Beach, near the long-gone Village of Industry.

Historically, Leading Creek and Yellow Creek, leading away from the Little Kanawha River, have been routes used by earlier explorers for access to the east.

The last four or five miles of lower Leading Creek winds its way through an uninhabited wilderness, dotted by a few pumping jacks along a primitive road that frequently goes through the creek bed.

A Google map of the area defines the wilderness, remembering that Calhoun County is covered about 92% by forest.

Google satellite map says it all, it's a wilderness area

"Murphy Hole" site of alleged murder of two infant children by drowning

Road narrows, entering backwoods; A Blue Heron takes a dip

Perhaps the most famous tale coming from the area, unconfirmed, is that a man named Ed Murphy drowned two infant children in a hole of water in the early 1900s, now called the "Murphy Hole."

Oldtimer Mary Jones, now 91, said Murphy told residents of the remote hollow that "They were squalling, and and I made them quit." The children reportedly belonged to his sister, Molly Murphy.

Jones said a woman named Marge Koontz "fished the infants out of the water hole."

Apparently Murphy was never indicted for the murders, although some oldtimers say he went to prison for another incident.

The lower end of Leading Creek was once populated, with little evidence of any houses to be found.

Some of the names, William and Sarah Hamrick, Tab and Landora Jones, Frank and Ocie Wilt Goodnight, Alex and Dolly Snider, Dick Kellar and the Murphy family, associated with the oft-repeated tale.

A hollow off the main creek, known as Bell's Run, was inhabited by a few families, including George Dawson, Cecil and Della Dawson, Charlie Sandy, and Tom Moorehead.

Albert Moorehead had a blacksmith shop on Bell Run, shoeing horses, making tools, repairing wagons and sleds.

Bruce Ferrell, a well-known Grantsville figure, was born on the creek, where early-comers J.H. "Zeke" Ferrell and Harrison Russell Ferrell lived.

Bruce Ferrell moved from Leading Creek to Brooksville in 1899 and then to Grantsville in 1904.

Tab Jones was the last person to live in the old Ferrell homestead in the 1940s, with the rental arrangement callimg for Tab to pay his rentwith quarts of molasses.

Franklin Trippett, who fought for the CSA, had a home on Trippett Run which runs into Leading Creek just about where the road over the Goodnight Hill crosses Leading Creek.

Cecil and Della Moorehead Dawson
(about 1950) Della lived to age 100

Cecil and Della Dawson raised their eight children on Bell Run, Cecil was an oil field pumper and farmer for 40 years, the children walked through the woods and hollows to Pine Grove school about seven miles away. Della Dawson lived to be 100.

Their children, Georgia Moorehead, Cecil Jack Dawson, Jessee Gene Dawson, Donald Sam Dawson, Janice Sally Dawson Whipkey, Delores Boots Dawson Richards, Larry and Lanny Dawson.

Donald Dawson said most of the families raised crops on any piece of flat land they could find, often living through the winter on canned goods and home-grown meat, unable to get out to the store.

Dick Kellar was a specialist in hog butchering, requiring the head for his services.

Their presence in the area affirms a time where folks once lived in remote areas, with access to the greater world not a priority.


Leading Creek empties into the Little Kanawha River at well-known swimming hole, Munday Beech, near the Calhoun-Wirt County line

If you have additional names or information to add to this story, email bob@hurherald.com