In 1816, William Alexander Graham traveled from Lexington, VA to Kanawha, VA (now part of West Virginia) with his uncle who was inspecting the military regiments in the western part of the state. Graham’s journal notes the natural history of Virginia, the mineral springs, and some of the characters he met along the way, many of them veterans of the War of 1812.
The House Mountain arrests the attention of the traveler; and as he proceeds up Carrs Creek is metamorphosed into a variety of shapes. At one place it appears a consolidated map; at another it wears the aspect of two mountains: at one time it is a lofty pyramid, at another a huge map of ruins. This remarkable mountain is entirely detached from every leading chain. It rears its proud head in the midst of a valley, evinces its authority by giving what direction it pleases to the clouds that muster in dark array behind it, and dispenseth where it listeth the fructifying shower.
I crossed the North Mountain, amused myself by observing the rocks and trees, the mountain tea (an ever green vine wanders over the ground, it has an agreeable taste & makes a pleasant beverage), the Laurel – Pinus in altis montibus. Hear no sound but the hoarse croak of the raven on the mountains top. . . . .After travelling through a country rough and rugged I find myself in the top of the Warm Spring Mountain. I find myself in the midst of a world of mountains, the prospect wild and magnificent. A small village makes its appearance in the valley below. We are pleased to find that these barren rocks and romantick hills are cheered by the residence of man.
I visited the Warm Spring. The sanative qualities of this water have been incontestably proved, especially in Rheumatick affections. The water has a slightly sulphurous taste and smell; temperature about blood heat. A quantity of air or gas is continually escaping from the bottom of the spring. A considerable quantity of marl is deposited by the water below its source; from which we may infer that the water is impregnated with limestone. . . . . . .
Graham also mentioned his interactions with the different officers that he encountered in his journey.
Passing down a rivulet affording many beautiful cascades, I was saluted by the distant roar of the great falls of the Kanahawa. The wild irregularity with which the water dashes over a perpendicular rock extending from side to side, contrasted with the calm expanse below, gives a deep and sublime interest to the scene.
At this place I was introduced to Major Major William Morris, a man indifferently clad, his face indicating the drunkard. He appeared very glad to see me, said he wished to have a long conversation with the son of an old acquaintance. He and my father were cotemporaries at school. Morris now called for a half pint of whiskey; insisted upon my drinking, took a stiff grog himself, and then conversed fluently and rather eloquently in the following strain“Mr Graham I have met with many difficulties; but am still happy and independent. It requires no little philosophy to support us under the disappointments of this world: happiness however does not depend upon external circumstances; but entirely upon ourselves. . .
“I will give you a description of the manner in which the Osage Indians shoot. Their bows are made in the form of two semicircles; thus the groove for the arrow is at the junction of the two. They always shoot on horseback, throwing themselves into a horizontal position, and putting a foot in each semicircle, the arrow is sent with incredible force; with force enough to pass through the body of a buffalo, whose hide a bullet can scarcely penetrate. This account can be attested by more than two men in the county of Kanahawa, who witnessed the feat, while engaged in trading with the Osages. The wood of which they construct their bows is very elastic; however much bent it will resume its shape, and they are the strongest people in the known world. . . .
Morris having dispatched the first half pint, I now called for a second, when he gave me this account of Gen Jackson. “I had the honour of being invited to the Gen’s house, previous to the declaration of war. He is about my height, slender, lean and spare, has a roman nose. Although wealthy, lives in a small neat log house. He has an amiable wife, no children, is devoid of ostentation. Go to his house he will treat you like a gentleman. His bravery is unquestionable – will fight anything from a mouse to a giant. Insult him, he will be at you in a moment. To judge from his conversation, he appeared to possess more quickness of apprehension, than depth of thought. But subsequent events, have called forth there latent powers, which, without a war, might never have been discovered. The battle of the Horse-Shoe, discovered judgement. This was not precipitate foolishness?” . . .
In William Morris you see the wreck of genius, the ruins of a mighty mind — all produced by the [illegible] of one pernicious habit. . . . . .