1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


200th Anniversary Of Greenbrier Expedition

Thanks to Margaret Hambrick for sending a clipping from an Alderson area newspaper, which I have copied below.

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 everyday.

Although in April and May, they may just be seen.

Native 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 event.

The crew is expecting to put in on the Greenbrier at 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, www.vacanals.org/marshall.

In John 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 this year.



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