Stories from Clifton

Before Pratt was named after a prominent coal company, It was a settlement named Clifton from 1851-1873. Clifton was not a well populated or large settlement, but was considered to be a beautiful place.


 At this point the river makes a short bend, very much in the shape of a horse-shoe, and a more beautiful site for a town cannot be found anywhere in West Virginia. It is a natural location for a city, for in addition to the hundred or more acres of rolling land in this smooth bend of a picturesque river, there is a large coal field all around it, embracing perhaps nearly every class of coal that is found in West Virginia, which is a great source of wealth, and will someday, during its development, afford employment to hundreds of laborers  ( Atkinson, 1876).

These are some of the stories from the town, uncovered in the book History of Kanawha by Geo W. Atkinson (1876):

  •  Clifton was one the home of a Native American community, or a large group of settlers. Out of the 3 settlers that dug cellars for their homes, all 3 found human skeletons. It appears from the quantity of remains found that a square of ground about 10 acres of the town facing the river was a cemetary for the community. Remains were found when digging every cellar, well, and posthole. Also uncovered were earthenware pottery, bone necklaces, carved shells, bone fishhooks, and an image carved into stone.
  •  One of the more prominent settlers, Mr. Marshall Hansford, found in a posthole sheets of rolled copper, and while digging his cellar, found the skeleton of a large-sized man, and a great variety of bones of birds, bears, and other wild animals. To determine the age of the remains, Mr. Hanford offered that just before the remains were discovered, they were covered with sycamores that were fully five hundred years old.
  • Paint Creek, near Clifton was the site of a stone with a carved fish. Someone tried to carry off the stone to use in the construction of a hearth, and broke it, though part of the fish was still visible in 1876.
  • In 1776 or 1777, a man named Robert Hughes was captured by Native Americans, presumably the Shawnee,  in the Clifton area. At the time, only two families were settled in Clifton, and it was considered unsafe to venture too far from the town, as Native American were often seen in the surrounding areas. Apparently, Hughes did not heed these warnings, as he maintained a fish trap at the mouth of Paint Creek, near Clifton, that he checked every morning. He was captured by 5 Native Americans one morning as he went to check the trap. The Native Americans took him about 30 miles up the creek, to their settlement. They stayed within the creek bed, as to avoid leaving any signs or clues for others to follow. Villagers looked for Hughes, but had to abandon the search because of the lack of a trail. Interestingly enough, Hughes returned about two years later. He reported that he had went to the head of Paint Creek, and eventually ended up on the Little Miami river. During his time with the Native Americans, he had learned to speak Shawnee fluently and became familiar with most of their customs. He enjoyed telling the story of his capture to anyone that would listen, and was said to be quite entertaining. He claimed that he was forced to run the gauntlet on two occasions, and that her was saved from being burnt at the stake by the daughter of a chief. He was reportedly a good hunter, and after living with the Native Americans for a year,  was frequently sent off alone to hunt. It was on one of these trips that he escaped to Point Pleasant, and eventually back to his home. Another man was taken along with Hughes, but there is no record of what happened to him.

    Examples of Native American Pottery found in the area



2 Comments to “Stories from Clifton”

  1. That’s wayyy interesting! I love the local history of Pratt. I think Mary Ingles also came our way at one point.

    • You are probably right! I bet she did. I read that book, but regretably, all I can remember are her musings on chest hair. lol. I like the local history, too. Turns out my parents have lots of books on it, I just never knew. I always end up finding the most insteresting things! By the way, are you commenting from the wilderness? I feel so honored!

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