A This year marks the 200th anniversary of an 1812 survey expedition
led by Supreme Court Justice John Marshall to establish a river
route connecting the James River near Lynchburg, VA, and the Kanawha
River; this included a section of the Greenbrier River from Caldwell
to Hinton. Forging the route would enhance trading and commerce
between the East and the Ohio River Valley.
The 22-member commission departed from Lynchburg on September
1, 1812, into uncharted waters. Only John Marshall and one other crew
member would complete the entire, month long trip.
The crew traveled up the James and Jackson rivers to the base of the
Allegheny Mountains. They portaged the Batteau by wagon over the
Alleghenies to the mouth of Howards Creek at Caldwell, where they
put in on the Greenbrier River on the 18th. A late summer drought
left the water level quite low in the Greenbrier, and it took the
expedition 10 days to reach the mouth in Hinton. They spent the
night of September 28 on one of the islands at the confluence of
the Greenbrier and New rivers and began the last section of the
expedition down the New on the 29th. They reached their destination,
the mouth of the New at the Kanawha River, on October 9, 1812. The
canal slated to trace Marshalls route was never finished due to
funding issues and the development of railways, which proved to be a
move efficient and economical means of transportation. However, the
path he forged was used in the creation of the railway, U.S. Route
60, and Interstate 64.
The crew’s vessel, a James River Batteau, was first created in the
early l770's by Anthony Rucker, a prominent farmer in Amherst, VA.
These long, flat—bottomed Batteaus were typically between 40-60 feet
long, 6-8 feet wide, and created for the purpose of transporting
goods in shallow water.
These boats aren't seen on the river
Although in April and May, they may just be seen.
of the James River Valley, Andrew Shaw, and his crew of Batteau
enthusiasts embarked on the journey this spring to recreate the
historic 1812 expedition. Sponsored by a young explorers grant by
the National Geographic Society, they build a 43 foot by 7 foot
batteau named the Mary Marshall. They were forced to skip the
23-mile section between Snowden and Lynchburg because of dams impeding the river's flow. They
were welcomed all along their
expedition by local residents eager to learn about the historical
The crew is expecting to put in on the
Caldwell around May 6. Local residents are asked to show them
support and hospitality along the way.
The boat will graciously make two pit stops
for those interested in learning more about their journey. They will
stop in Talcott to engage the students at Talcott
Elementary School. A National Park Service ranger will be on hand to
provide background information on the John Marshall expedition at
this stop. They will also be stopping in Hinton at Batteau Beach to
greet all community members and history buffs.
Due to the uncertain
travel times of a batteau by river, exact dates are uncertain, but
check the Web site regularly for updates,
www.lowergreenbrierriver.org/. There will also be a link to the Web site for
pictures, updates, and to follow their journey in real-time,
McCurdy's article posted on this site on March
3, 2012, John gives us more history of why the
the retracing of certain sections of the
Greenbrier. You can read his article here:
TWISTY MOUNTAIN ROADS AND...
To the left is a Google Earth photo which shows
a short section of what was the original
"Batteau Channel". It starts just to the left of
the new bridge and continues along Rt. 12.
This is a very interesting story of the channels
that were dug out to speed up the delivery of
freight to Alderson and points East and West.
I for one never heard of these channel until