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Greenbrier County, WV History

Lewisburg, 1913
Lewisburg, 1913
[source: Library of Congress]

Prior to the arrival of European settlers around 1740, Greenbrier County, like most of West Virginia, was used as a hunting grounds by the Shawnee and Cherokee Nations. This land, which they called Can-tuc-kee, was thought to be inhabited by ghosts of Azgens, a white people from an eastern sea who were said to be killed off by the Shawnee's ancestors. According the the legend, the area was owned by the bones and ghosts of the Azgens, who would permit responsible hunting but, according to Black Fish, "we are never allowed to kill the game wantonly, and we are forbidden to settle in the country...if we did, these ghosts would not rise from their caves and mounds and slay us, but they would set father against son and son against father and neighbor against neighbor and make them kill one another." Thus, while hunting parties were permitted to camp and exploit the area, permanent settlements east and south of the Spay-lay-we-theepi (Ohio River) were forbidden. [Source: Allan W. Eckert (2001). "The frontiersmen: a narrative". Ashland, Ky: Jesse Stuart Foundation. ISBN 0-945084-90-0. Page 65-66.]

Shawnee leaders, including Pucksinwah and, later, his son Tecumseh, were alarmed by the arrival of the European settlers. In the first place, they viewed the white settlements as violating the Azgen taboo. Second, they feared for the loss of their hunting lands, which they viewed as being vital to their survival. Last and not least, they correctly suspected that it was only a matter of time before the white settlers would cross the river and invade their homelands in present-day Ohio. Id.

By 1774, the Earl of Dunmore, then governor of colonies of New York and Virginia, decided to raise an army of three thousand to go against the Shawnees in their homeland in present-day Ohio. Half of these men were inducted at Fort Pitt, while the other half assembled at Fort Union, the site of present day Lewisburg, under the command of General Andrew Lewis. By early October of that year, Lewis' force had marched downstream to the mouth of the Kanawha River, currently the site of Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia, where they fought a famous but indecisive battle against a Shawnee force led by Hokoleskwa, or Cornstalk. Id.Page 78, 98-99.

European settlers were subjected to a number of raids by Native Americans during the colonial period, including a raid on Fort Randolph and later on Fort Donnally, then inhabited by 25 men and 60 women and children. The most heroic of the defenders of Fort Donnally was an African American slave named Dick Pointer. Pointer, said to have stood 7 foot tall, defended the log door, giving the settlers enough time to awaken and defend themselves against the attack. Pointer later addressed the Virginia General Assembly and gave a moving appeal that "in the decline of life" he be freed for his defense of Fort Donnally. Historic accounts differ as to whether the legislature ever provided his freedom. His grave is marked beside Carnegie Hall in the county seat of Lewisburg along with a historical marker placed prominently in the midst of the Lewisburg Cemetery. Pointer’s musket is on permanent display at The North House Museum in Lewisburg.

The county was officially chartered in 1782.

The Civil War came to the county in 1861 and several battles were fought in the area including Lewisburg in May 1862 and White Sulphur Springs in August 1863. Both battles resulted in Union victories.

What is said to be the oldest golf course in the United States was founded in 1884 just north of White Sulphur Springs by the Montague family.

During the decade prior to World War II, several Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were located along the Greenbrier River.

During World War II The Greenbrier hotel was used as a hospital, and also an internment center for axis diplomats who were stranded in the United States during the war. When the war ended, it was returned to its former use as a hotel.

Later, during the Cold War, The Greenbrier served as the site of a secret congressional bunker, built as part of the United States Continuity of Operations Plan.


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