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The Kanawha TrailHerds of buffalo seeking easy access to salt licks and grazing lands wore trails through the Ohio Country when it was an Indian no-man's land. Later, Indians found the same trails suitable for their needs whether they were for peaceful purposes or war parties.
The Kanawha or Buffalo Trail followed the Kanawha River from the Ohio River to Cedar Grove, then overland to Ansted. From there it followed the Meadow River and the Midland Trail (now U.S. 60) to Virginia. An alternate of this trail ran through Teays Valley from the Ohio River to the Kanawha River, near St. Albans. Another variation crossed the New River above the mouth of the Bluestone, passed through present Beckley, and followed Paint Creek north to the Kanawha River.
Not only were these paths highways, they were often the 'highest' way. Indians found ridges and summits much easier to travel than the valleys because they were drier, wind-swept of snow, never clogged by flood debris, offered a better vantage point in time of need and were generally safer. Shawnee warriors, intent on raiding Virginia frontier settlements used this trail because of its ease of access to the settlements. This trail was used by the party of Shawnees who took Mary Ingles captive in 1755, during the raid on Drapers Meadows.
Fur traders also used this route for their pelt-laden pack trains. The settlers from the east coast were the next group to use these trails for many of the same reasons the Indians used them.
There were numerous Indian villages along the Kanawha Trail until the middle 1600s. Exotic artifacts such as engraved marine shell gorgets from the eastern Tennessee region, as well as European copper and brass ornaments, and glass trade beads have been found at Pratt and Marmet, Kanawha County, and Buffalo, Putnam County, indicating movement along this route.
The Kanawha Trail also followed a portion of the route called the Ohio Branch of the Great Indian Warpath by William E. Myer in Indian Trails of the Southeast(1928). The Ohio Branch extended from Creek territory in Georgia and Alabama, up through eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia to the New and Kanawha rivers. At the mouth of the Kanawha several trails met. The main trail continued in a northwesterly direction through Ohio to Lake Erie.
First the buffalo and other game animals, then the native Americans and finally the settlers used these trails to get from one place to the other because they followed the natural lay of the land as far as ease of travel went. Today many of these trails have both State and U.S. highways that use the same routes as these earlier travelers.
Darla S Spencer, INDIAN TRAILS
William Fischer Jr., TRAILS/THE KANAWHA TRAIL