Owing to conflicting claims in the Monongahela Valley, no land patents were issued before 1779, but many tomahawk entries were made prior to that time. Jacob Prickett, who located his claim in 1766, seems to have been the first settler in Marion County. In a deposition sworn to by the well-known Capt. William Crawford at Pittsburgh, he says: “Zachal Morgan, James Chew and Jacob Prickett came out in that year (1766) and I was informed by them that they had settled up the Monongahela.” This deposition may be found in Volume I of the Calendar of Virginia State Papers, issued in 1875 by William Palmer, under authority of the Legislature of Virginia.
From information based on the issuance of a patent for land on which previous improvements had been made, it would seem that Thomas Merrifield settled on Booth’s Creek in 1766, also. In 1772, Jacob Prickett and John, a son of Isaiah Prickett, took up land on Prickett’s Creek, and a year later the same John Chew mentioned in the deposition settled on Buffalo Creek.
from The Making of Marion County (1917), pp 69-70.
The men and women who braved the dangers of the wilds to plant new homes beyond the mountains were, of necessity, strong, fearless, persevering characters, inured to toil and hardships, who fenced in their tiny seedling trees to keep the wild deer from nibbling the tender shoots, and tended their growing crops with their rifles and hunting knives ever near at hand. They were generous, kind, and helpful, strangers always being welcomed at their firesides without question, and hospitably pressed to accept the best their cabins afforded without thought of payment in return. It was no unusual thing for a woman to ride eight miles at night through snow and sleet to aid a neighbor in time of sickness. Many were the privations they suffered.
On one occasion Josiah Prickett and his wife, Charity Taylor Prickett, the first white woman that crossed the Alleghenies, who had been hoeing corn, had nothing for their noonday meal but unsalted greens. On returning to the field the woman found that she was too weak to carry her young babe up the hill, so her husband sent her home, saying he would get some meat. Presently she heard the crack of his rifle and saw him returning, bearing a deer. “And,” says the descendant of this worthy couple, who at 81 years of age remembers the story as she often heard it from the lips of her great-grandmother, “after that they feasted on unsalted venison for many days.”
from The Making of Marion County (1917), pp 74-75.
The one common means of defense adopted by the early settlers was that of building forts and blockhouses, the locations of which were selected with much the same care and deliberation that the modern community expends upon the selection of sites for its district schools. The structure was always built upon the highest hill overlooking the surrounding country, or near a well-known road, for it had to command not only a view of all means of approach, but had to be so centrally located that all settlers in its vicinity could reach the protection of its walls at the first intimation of an Indian attack. Moreover, it had to be in close proximity to a natural spring, for not infrequently its inmates were forced to withstand a siege of many days’ duration.
The type of fortification used by the settlers in Marion County was the stockade fort, which was made of timbers of convenient height placed perpendicularly in the ground, close together, in such a manner as to make a rectangular enclosure. Around the walls of this enclosed court were built cabins for the use of the families of the settlers during a siege. At one or more of the four corners of the stockade were stations constructed for the guards, whose duty it was to watch for the enemy. The outer walls of these guard-houses projected about two feet beyond the line of the walls of the fort, and an open space was left so that the guard could see an enemy skulking close to the walls, as well as approaching from a distance. Prickett’s Fort, at the mouth of Prickett’s Creek, was such a structure.
A garrisoned fort was a place where soldiers were stationed and provided with arms and munitions of war. There were a number of such garrisons west of the mountains, but of ninety or more important and well-known forts in West Virginia only three were in Marion County. These were Prickett’s Fort, at the mouth of Prickett’s Creek, in Winheld District, built in 1773 or 1774; Koon’s Fort, near the mouth of Koon’s Run, built in 1777; and Paw Paw Fort, in Paw Paw District, of which the date of erection is unknown.
Prickett’s Fort, which played the most prominent part in the early history of the county, was erected during Lord Dunmore’s War. There is no record that the fort was actually besieged at any time, but it was a refuge for the settlers in times when roving bands of savages visited the community. Its exact location is in dispute. It stood near the east side of the Monongahela River, above the mouth of Prickett’s Creek, about 1,000 feet from the river. Some claim that it occupied the site of the brick residence of Laban Prickett, which stands on the second elevation above Prickett’s Creek, about 500 feet from the stream and about 1,000 feet from the east bank of the river. Others claim that it stood about 700 feet south of the location described above and about the same distance from the river, on an elevation some 50 feet higher; and some say that it stood midway between these two locations. From the best information that can be obtained, it would seem that the second site described is the correct one.
The late Mr. Job Prickett remembered having seen the ruins of the old fort, and before his death he pointed out the remains of a chimney on that location as belonging to the building. Col. William Haymond was commandant at this fort at one time when danger threatened the community.
Several important events in pioneer life occurred at Prickett’s Fort and in its vicinity. It was to this refuge that David Morgan fled with his two children in the spring of 1779, after he had rescued them from two savages who were pursuing them, and had killed one of the Indians and mortally wounded the other; and it was from this fort that Isaiah Prickett and Susan Ox went out in the spring of 1774 to drive home the cows and were captured by Indians who killed Mr. Prickett and carried Mrs. Ox away into a captivity from which she never returned. It was to this fort that Mrs. William Morgan found her way on the twelfth of April, 1778, after having escaped from Indians who had stolen her from her home at Dunkard Bottom, in Preston County, and had tied her to a tree while they went to steal a horse for her to ride. When they returned with a fine mare and found that Mrs. Morgan had succeeded in untying the knot with her teeth and had escaped, they spitefully stabbed and killed the horse.
Doubtless many are the unrecorded events that centered in the life of this pioneer stockade. Here, perhaps, was the birth of many a romance in which the young swain plighted his troth to his sweetheart and the two sallied forth from the puncheon gates to establish a new home in the wilderness. The descendants from families thus started now largely make up the bone and sinew of this county, while many have gone out to people other states.
from The Making of Marion County (1917), pp 85-9.
In March, 1779, a canoe was seen drifting down the Monongahela River with bloodstains on it, and bullet holes through its sides. This led the settlers to suspect that Indians were lurking in the vicinity, so, in all haste, they gathered into Prickett’s Fort for safety. Not hearing of any disturbance, and being anxious to commence their spring work, they stayed at the fort at night only and worked on their farms in the day time.
Among those who thus took refuge from the savages was David Morgan and his family. At that time Morgan was about sixty years old and somewhat feeble, so he sent his two younger children, Stephen, a boy of fourteen, and Sarah, a girl of twelve, to hoe corn on his farm, which was about a mile distant on the opposite side of the river. Without his knowledge, they took their dinner with them, intending to stay all day.
After the children were gone, Morgan fell asleep and dreamed that he saw them scalped. The dream was so real that he awoke, but fell asleep and dreamed the same thing again. Upon awakening this time he was much disturbed, and inquiring about the children, was informed of their intentions. He immediately started for the farm with his rifle. Upon his arrival there, he found his children alive and at work, but a few minutes later, while talking to them, and at the same time scanning the fields and woods, he espied two Indians coming from the direction of the house. Not wishing to alarm the children more than was necessary, he carelessly remarked that there were Indians watching them and that they must run to the fort and leave him to fight them. He then crossed to a stone fence and hid behind it, delaying action to let the children get away.
When he thought they were at a safe distance, he ran in the direction of the fort, using the trees for protection, the Indians following in swift pursuit. He succeeded in shooting one of the Indians, at the same time dodging the bullet of the other. The two—Morgan and the savage—then approached each other. The guns of both combatants were empty. The Indian threw his tomahawk, cutting off one of Morgan’s fingers; then, catching up a dry ash pole, he struck at him, but the pole broke, and Morgan seized the opportunity to strike the Indian with his gun. In the hand to hand conflict which ensued both were thrown to the ground, and Morgan managed to get the Indian’s forefinger between his teeth, biting it to the bone. Although in excruciating pain, the latter tried to get at his scalping knife, which was held by an apron that he had secured in the cabin and had wound tightly around his body. He sought to obtain this knife by working it up by the blade until the handle was within his grasp. Morgan, knowing that everything would be ended if the Indian secured the knife, took advantage of an opportune moment to seize the handle, and draw it through the latter’s hand, cutting that member to the bone. Morgan then had the advantage of the situation and, holding the Indian firmly, he thrust the knife into his side, wounding him severely; after which, armed with his enemy’s gun, he made his way to the fort and related his adventure.
Morgan was exhausted and unable to return to the scene of the conflict, but men from the fort went immediately in search of the Indian. Tracing him by a trail of blood, they found him, not yet dead, concealed among the branches of a fallen chestnut tree about 200 yards from the spot where the encounter took place. He begged the white men to spare him, addressing them as “brothers,” but they tomahawked him, skinned part of his body, and made a shot pouch and a belt with the skin.
To return to the children: When they started for the fort Stephen outran his sister and, reaching the river, undressed and swam across, landing about one mile below the fort. Securing an old hunting shirt from a nearby farmhouse, he wrapped it about himself and went on his way crying. When his sister reached the river she saw his clothes and rightly guessed that he had swum across. She waded along the edge of the river a mile to keep the Indians from tracking her footprints in the soft earth. Finally she came to the canoe landing opposite the fort, and from there reached home in safety.
from The Making of Marion County (1917), pp 101-4.
The last Indian killed in Marion County met his death at the hands of Levi Morgan who, with his father and brother James, was on his way to pay a visit to David Morgan, who lived across the Monongahela River from Prickett’s Fort. The body of the Indian was placed under the driftwood and undergrowth beside the river. The Indian had evidently been on a marauding expedition as he carried two scalps, one taken from the head of a man and the other from the head of a woman, besides a quantity of gold and silver money. In after years a quaint and curious legend grew up around this Indian. A mill was erected near the scene of his death by a man named Jeffers; and Aunt Betty Jeffers told that as she sat in the door of the old mill the song of a spirit came to her across the water like a voice from fairyland, and Bridget McCallahan, Aunt Betty’s maid, listened to the song of the spirit until the words were firmly fixed in her mind and she committed them to paper:
I am weary, I am weary.
Watching wearily here;
I am weary and uncheery.
In this watchfulness so drear.
Our forests all have faded.
No warriors brave now stand,
Their dust is by the whirlwind tossed,
Mine mingles with the sand.
Its waters are gently parting now,
Adown yon rivers flow;
They beat along the eastern strand
Of the Mo-non-ga-he-la.
I am going, I am going.
My guardianship is o’er;
I am going to the hunting ground—
Farewell, 1 come no more.
It is an interesting bit of evidence of the superstitious spirit of the times to note that Jeffers and McGintly sold their mill soon after its construction.
We are told that the last red man seen in the county stood on a hill and watched the building of the Barnestown mill on Buffalo Creek. Long he stood there, silent and alone; then he passed beyond the brow of the hill, and was gone forever.
from The Making of Marion County (1917), pp 115-7.