Most of my ancestral families at one time lived on or near Hackers Creek, spread from the headwaters in Upshur Co. to its mouth west of what is now Jane Lew. Some of them were among the first settlers, and some came later, just after the Revolution. Being back in West Virginia means that on any afternoon, we can wander the back roads and find places that I only knew from documents. Going on the back roads makes it much easier to imagine the settlements and the relationships, since the big towns and the highways are much different now than then.
In 1761, the Pringle brothers, John and Samuel, from the South Branch of the Potomac, deserted from the British army at Fort Pitt. They explored the Monongahela country, and worked for John Simpson, a trapper and trader, who was later based at the mouth of Elk Creek, which eventually became Clarksburg. The Pringles fell out with Simpson, and went up the Tygart Valley and Buckhannon Rivers, to the mouth of Turkey Run, where they lived in a hollow sycamore tree until 1767. They returned to the South Branch, spurring a migration of some of their old neighbors there, who became the first settlers along the Tygart, Buckhannon, West Fork, and Hackers Creek, the first permanent settlements across the mountains in this area, along with the Morgans’ settlements in what are now Morgantown and Fairmont.
We had driven by the sign that said “Pringle Tree Road” many times, since we had moved, and on vacations over the years. I had always, and as late as last month, said, “Oh, no need to go up there, the Pringle Tree is gone and it was just a tree in a field, anyway, I’ve seen old pictures.” But last week a query from a fellow researcher started me looking at Revolutionary pensions, one thing led to another, and I finally realized that Bush’s Fort, where my 4th great-grandmother, Susannah Radcliff Stalnaker, spent her teenage years, was on the Buckhannon at the mouth of Turkey Run. So our Sunday afternoon drive was down to Buckhannon. As it turns out, there is a county park along the river, with a “third generation” Pringle tree at the end of a lush meadow full of wildflowers – forget-me-nots, gill-over-the-ground, tiny white daisies, and a creeper with small lavender and yellow orchid-like blooms that we think is one of the many penstemons.