Shame in Smoke Hole Canyon
I’ve written twice before about Private William Eagle, who enlisted into the 8th Virginia late in 1777 and joined at Valley Forge just before the two-year enlistments of the original men expired. He was evidently just 16 years old. He was the son of very early settlers of Pendleton County, West Virginia’s remote Smoke Hole Canyon and returned there after the war.
He was buried in the beautiful canyon facing a remarkably vertical rock formation that now carries his name: Eagle Rock. Over the years Smoke Hole Canyon became a pocket of Unionism in a region of otherwise intensely pro-Confederate sentiment, a haven for moonshiners, and eventually part of the Monongahela National Forest. His grave, perhaps not permanently marked, was lost for many years until discovered by Forest Service surveyors about 1930 when a new stone was set in the ground.
Photos of the spot on the internet show a pretty and bucolic setting. The stone sits under a sycamore tree and appears well-attended with a crisp and clean American flag. Returning recently from a family vacation, however, I stopped by the site and discovered that it looks nothing like those images. In mid-January the stone was half-buried in frozen debris at the end of a virtual river of ice descending from the ridge of North Fork Mountain. The base of the sycamore’s trunk is rotting. It looks as though an impromptu hiking trail has become a path for water runoff. On a 20-degree day following two days of rain, Private Eagle’s grave was covered by forest debris that had washed down the mountain. Attempts to clear it were fruitless. It was frozen solid.
Perhaps this is a purely seasonal phenomenon, but a Revolutionary War veteran’s grave deserves better care. It appears to me that thoughtless hikers are the culprits. Someone—the Forest Service, Pendleton County, neighbors, a Boy Scout looking for an Eagle Scout project, the DAR or the SAR—should find a way to protect the grave from what seems like inevitable serious damage.
1/26/2019 05:22:22 pm
I live an hour away, I will help clean it up when weather breaks, who will join me.
1/26/2019 06:54:38 pm
Thank you Mark Skiles! I appreciate that.
1/26/2019 07:15:53 pm
I'll join. We might need to check with the National Forest Service because I suspect this is more than just a clean up. Might need to get that trail rerouted (if that's what it is). I'll figure out how to ask.
6/18/2020 03:47:00 pm
12/25/2020 06:31:54 pm
4/1/2023 08:52:58 pm
Mike: Great feedback on the grave site. Last summer I happened upon it. On another topic do you etc. happen to know where the Grove of ancient cedar trees is? Article on it in the Feb. 2012 West Va. magazine. I harvest cedar canes and "art pieces"primarily from dead cedar as a hobby. Would like to go up there. Tx for any guidance you can afford me.
4/6/2023 08:23:26 am
I have a question every time I visit Seneca Rocks I pass the Mountaineer Rd(North Fork South Branch Potomac River)there is a cliff and American Flag on the top and there is a cave in the bottom I see people are fishing . I want to know what is the story of that flag and is there a any trail or access to hike up to that cliff . You are local and have lots of knowledgeable and information about your town thanks
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is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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