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 Beautiful Belmont, Part 48 -- A Trip Back to the Future.

by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 47 -- The Story of Elizabeth Zane.

After visiting the grave of our grandmother we crossed the ferry, taking a drive to McCulloch's Leap on the National Pike [near old Route 40], just at the top of the hill east of Wheeling. From there we visited "Indian Rock," on the south side of Wheeling Creek, between Reymann's brewery and the Hempfield railroad bridge crossing the creek. The rock is now broken away and the secret cavern in it is much less impressive. This creek was called "Kanawana" by the Inidans.

Minerva asked me to tell her about the historic incident connected with Indian Rock as we drove toward it. I told her the story as told me by my grandfather, who was a contemporary of Louis Wetzel, a great Indian fighter: In the early morning hours, the people at Fort Henry and in Wheeling had frequently heard the gobble of a wild turkey over in the direction of this rock, which was then in a dense woods extending over the hill clear down to the point where the north markethouse was built. Some had gone out after the bird, but were unable to catch it. On one occasion someone had gone out, the crack of a gun had subsequently been heard, but the hunter never returned. Still the gobble of the turkey could be heard each morning.

About this time, Louis WetzeI, coming in from one of his long, solitary hunts, was informed of the strange incident. He quietly remarked that he thought he could bring in the turkey. He started out after dark. The next morning the gobble of the turkey was cut short by the sharp crack of a gun, and soon afterward Wetzel came in with the scalp of an Indian dangling from his belt. The rock was known to Wetzel, and his cunning instinct told him it was not a turkey that was attempting to lure hunters to their deaths. He concealed himself where he could have a commanding view of the hole in the rock, and waited. Just as day was breaking, the head of an Indian appeared and the gobbling began. A ball from Wetzel's unerring rifle laid the Indian dead in the rock. The body of the missing white victim, scalped and mangled, was recovered and brought to the fort.

"Are you sure the hill was timbered clear down to the markethouse?" Minerva asked. I replied that that was indeed the extent of the forested area at the time of the siege and battle of Fort Henry during the Revolutionary War. A very fine spring of pure water gushed out at the foot of the hill near the edge of the woods something over 100 feet from the markethouse. National Pike, on which we are now riding, was finished to Wheeling in 1817, though the first stake for work on it on the Ohio side was not driven until 1824, so I am informed by our neighbor, James Brown, who certainly has great recollection as to many of these old events. Brown told me that in 1824, Lafayette made a visit by boat from New Orleans to Wheeling, and took dinner at a great banquet held by its citizens in the woods on top of the hill at McCulloch's Leap. Also, in the political campaigns of 1840-1844, the Whigs had held their meetings in the woods on the north end of the hill, and the Democrats on the south end, and that in 1844 he saw eight soldiers of the Revolutionary War on the stand at a Whig meeting, one soldier exhibiting the bridle, spurs, pistol, and saber that he used in the battle of Brandywine.

The afternoon had not quite ended when we arrived back at Minerva's home, so we contnued our drive to the Mountain View, or Blackford schoolhouse, as we had not visited it since the heyday of our literary society meetings before the war. It was a sacred place to us all, and many dear memories were connected with it and with those we used to meet there. As we arrived at the gate opening into the Albert Brown farm from the pike, we stopped for a few moments. On our left just opposite the gate, close to the road in the Morris Cope field, which was then a woods, the first log schoolhouse of this district was built in 1816. It was built with voluntary donations of money, material, and labor. There were two other schools built of logs between 1816 and 1856, when a brick schoolhouse was finally constructed. Another one was built upon the site of the former schoolhouse on the right-hand side of the road. I remember the last log one very distinctly myself, as did Albert Brown, who told me all this. Brown also informed me that he saw General Robert E. Lee when he was here in 1840 trying to sell the Chandler and Woods tracts.

After driving around the old schoolhouse and resting under the oak shade, we returned to Minerva's for tea. It was another May evening -- a perfect counterpart of that one in which I said goodbye to her as I went off to the war -- and the apple trees were again in blossom. After tea and a little stroll to and from the Woods' mansion, Minerva and I seated ourselves on the rustic seat under the apple tree. Minerva began a philosophical discussion about the strangeness of life, and how people and events -- trivial and important -- seemed to pass endlessly into oblivion, calling the significance of all of them into question. I agreed that the course of life really was beyond comprehension, and its meaning was beyond human understanding.

"Now tell me," she continued, turning to more practical matters, "I learn from your mother that you intend to go to St. Clairsville to study law? When do you go?" "I shall go on next Tuesday, unless my plans are changed," I replied. "I have a matter or two to attend to before leaving, and the most important and nearest to my heart and happiness I desire to settle tonight." As I said this, I looked Minerva full in the face in the bright moonlight. I then again asked her to marry me. She looked straight at me, laid her hand confidingly in mine, and said that she would. It was the happiest moment of my existence. Clasping her hand in mine, I pressed upon her lips the second kiss of our lives, in that beautiful May evening under the apple blossoms. Minerva teased me for having waited more than a year beyond my maturity to raise the question again, after she had told me -- four years before -- that we should wait until they were "old enough." We playfully scolded each other like lawyers arguing the merits of a case centered around the long history of our courtship. Then, we both rose. I passed my arm through hers, and we sauntered along the path under the apple trees.

On that evening, we were filled with high hopes and ambitions for a future happy married life, for a pleasant home where Minerva would preside as my one great joy. I am convinced there is nothing more inspiring, more fondly cherished, than the dreams of new lovers. They imagine their future homelife as the haven of all their hopes -- the resting place of love. Minerva and I talked for hours of our future home, and it was decided that after I had completed my course at law and had established a practice, we would be married. How sweet my memory of that night has been, the night Minerva told me she loved me, as the apple blossoms fell upon our clasped hands. We parted with the usual wave, and I soon was gone over the hill.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 49 -- Off to St. Clairsville.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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