Abraham Wood of Fort Henry, Virginia, sent James Needham and Gabriel Arthur, the latter probably an indentured servant of Wood, with eight Indians to explore the southwest interior from Virginia. Needham and Arthur were provided with provisions for a three-month journey. They returned just over a month later, and Wood sent them out again and added four horses for their travel. They left on June 25, 1673. The only account we have of this exploration is by Wood, who was not on the trip. He wrote a letter about the exploration on August 22, 1674, to John Richards in England, where the letter remained for many years undiscovered.
Needham and Arthur traveled southwest from Fort Henry, the site of present Petersburg, Virginia, into North Carolina and Georgia. Needham was killed by one of the Indian guides in October. Gabriel Arthur would remain with the Indians, traveling to the present-day states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South and North Carolina, and Virginia. He may have seen or visited Florida and West Virginia. Arthur visited the Big Sandy River in Lawrence County, Kentucky, or Wayne County, West Virginia. In a remarkable feat of survival and an epic journey, Arthur finally reached Wood’s house on June 18, 1674, having been away for nearly a year. This ended Abraham Wood’s sponsoring of explorations.
This Article was written by W. Eugene Cox
Last Revised on June 21, 2012
Briceland, Alan Vance. Westward from Virginia: The Exploration of the Virginia-Carolina Frontier, 1650-1710. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1987.