Point Pleasant: Supernatural creatures, private eyes and history

Mothman of Point Pleasant

Mothman of Point Pleasant

The Lowe Hotel brought me to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, “where history and rivers meet,” according to the town website. The Lowe Hotel is a grand old riverboat hotel, built in 1901 and originally named the Spencer Hotel. Owned by only three families during its 113 years, the grand old riverboat hotel is a lovely place to spend a night.

My room at the lovely Lowe Hotel.

My room at the lovely Lowe Hotel.

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Point Pleasant is home to a seven-foot tall, winged humanoid called the Mothman, to at least two private eyes with offices downtown (though I can’t imagine what they find to investigate) and to boatloads of history.

Ruth and Rush Finley, who have owned and preserved the Lowe Hotel since 1990, directed me to the river walk that runs behind the hotel, and behind the river wall that protects the town from floods. The river side of the imposing concrete wall displays a series of murals telling the town’s history, from the Shawnee Indians onward. After the French unsuccessfully claimed the land back in 1749, George Washington came through in 1770 and called it a “pleasant point” at the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers.

Chief Cornstalk and Colonel Andrew Lewis

Chief Cornstalk and Colonel Andrew Lewis

The 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant is the focus of the town’s history — part of Lord Dunmore’s War between the Colony of Virginia and the Shawnee and Mingo Indians. Chief Cornstalk was defeated in the 1774 battle and became an advocate for peace, only to be treacherously murdered by American militiamen in 1777.

Anne Bailey in one of the dozens of mural panels along the river walk.

Anne Bailey in one of the dozens of mural panels along the river walk.

Mad Ann Bailey was another intriguing character on the history walls. She became “Mad Ann” after her husband’s death in the war, wearing men’s clothing, riding, shooting, and serving as a courier during the American Revolution.

"Mad Anne" Bailey

“Mad Anne” Bailey

The National Women’s History Museum blog has a wonderful account of her life — here’s a teaser:

Bailey left her 7 year old son with a neighbor and rode up and down the border encouraging men to volunteer their services to join the militia in order to keep the women and children of the border safe.  Bailey often traveled between Fort Savannah and Fort Randolph carrying messages back and forth.  The distance between the two Forts was almost 160 miles….

On her rides Bailey often came across a group of Shawnee Indians.  In one such encounter, Bailey was being chased by them and about to be caught when she jumped off her horse and hid in a log.  Though they looked everywhere for her and even stopped to rest on the log they couldn’t find her.  They gave up and stole her horse.  After they left, Bailey came out of the log and during the night snuck into their camp and stole her horse back.  When she was far enough away she began to scream at the top of her lungs. The Shawnee Indians thought she was possessed and could not be touched by a bullet or arrow.  After this event they saw her often, but they feared her and only watched her from afar.  Therefore, Bailey was relatively safe living in the woods and did not need to fear being attacked by Indians. 

After several years living on her own Ann Bailey met John Bailey, who seemed to enjoy “Mad” Ann Bailey’s rough ways.  They were married in 1785.  He was a “Ranger”, one of the most legendary groups of frontier scouts….

In 1791 Native Americans were planning an attack on the Fort.  The militia discovered that they did not have enough gun powder to successfully fight the Native Americans.  The ride was over 100 miles and very dangerous.  When the Colonel asked for a volunteer none of the men offered so Bailey did.  It is said that she rode the whole way without stopping to sleep or rest. 

I didn’t see much about the 19th and 20th (much less 21st) century history, except for a historical plaque marking one house as a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves.

For a small town (population 4,350), Point Pleasant offers a plethora of stories and legends. The Mothman appeared in 1966-67 before the tragic Silver Bridge collapse of 1967. He became the basis for The Mothman Prophecies, and a number of other sci fi comics, books and movies listed on the Wikipedia page. A museum on Main Street, an annual Mothman festival, and a statue at the center of town also help keep the name and story alive!

I also heard stories of the hotel being haunted by a lady and a little boy, but can’t offer any evidence. I was up past midnight, writing, but then slept soundly and didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary.

coffee grinderI definitely recommend the Lowe Hotel and Point Pleasant if you’re ever in the vicinity. And stop in at The Coffee Grinder for a good cup of coffee and friendly conversation.

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