First Published (10/30/00)

By Bob Weaver

The Hur Herald has presented a series of stories and pictures about the Bear Fork backwoods, a tract of land once encompassing about 35,000 acres and currently owned by Coastal Lumber Company.

The remote area, parts residing in Gilmer, Calhoun and Braxton Counties, has survived three major events, the timbering of the virgin forest in the early 1900's, the building of a narrow gauge railroad through much of its interior and more than one oil and gas "boom."

Yesterday we took a day trip through the wild and woolly woods with the assist of Howard Williams of Five Forks, a member of the Bear Fork Hunting Club. We barely touched the highlights of the 13,000 acres leased by the club. What an area to explore, remote and beautiful.

Several families inhabited the backwoods starting in the early 1800's, virtually none of them actually owning the land. They received squatter's rights and some of them survived through three generations.

The Lamberts and Parsons are buried in the Lambert Cemetery off the Right Fork of Crummies Creek, including old-timer Perry Parsons, whose wife Pheobe is still living. We also visited the high ridge above the head of Spruce, the Lawson Cemetery not far from Frozen Run. A couple dozen of the Lawson clan buried here with a few Fulks, Sampsons and Smiths. We are yet to visit the Boone Cemetery.

The grade of the Elk and Little Kanawha Railroad can be easily spotted (SEE earlier Bear Fork railroad stories in The Herald). The natural cut between Gilmer and Calhoun at "Burnt Cabin Gap" connected the railroad from Sugar Camp to the Right Fork of Crummies Creek. The railroad split in two directions at the gap on the Calhoun side.

Needless to say there is plenty of deer and turkey with fresh bear tracks all over the place. The area has been known for its highly developed rattlesnakes, one of which was pictured on The Hur Herald.

There has been a tract of virgin timber maintained deep in Bear Fork, now owned by the West Virginia university and college system. Many of the larger virgin trees have fallen in recent years.

The Bear Fork Hunting club, which has a history dating back to the late 1800's, maintains a small recreation area for its nearly 300 members. Incidentally, the area is a private preserve and permission must be granted to roam around.

The Ray and Mildred Groves Rogers property is an unusual piece of privately owned land in the woods, about 30 acres. Mr. Rogers died a few years ago and his wife left the home place, although the family frequently visits it.

One of the better known attractions, not located on main Bear Fork, is Fetty's Cave. It is a large overhanging rock with spacious room underneath for several bands or congregations. Notable is a well-developed spring. The cave has been used hundreds of times over the years for special events and picnics.

This day trip only scratched the surface of the fascinating area. We plan to return. - Bob Weaver

Lambert Cemetery

Bear Fork has thousands of rocks

Buck deer marks his territory

Uphill grade of old narrow gauge

"Burnt Cabin Gap" where railroad crossed from
Sugar Camp to right fork of Crummies Creek

The tracks split at "Burnt Cabin Gap"
coming into Calhoun (a natural gap)

A huge fallen tree part of Bear Fork's virgin timber

Elk and Little Kanawha Railroad grade down main Bear Fork

Bear Fork Hunting Club

Old Ray and Mildred Groves Rogers
property (original Carpenter place)

Fetty's Cave at edge of Bear Fork

Inside Fetty's Cave looking out