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On September 1, 1671, Thomas Batts, Thomas Wood, and Robert Fallam set out from Petersburg, Virginia, with Indian guides to explore beyond the mountains. The colonists who had settled on the eastern seaboard knew very little about what was beyond the Appalachian Mountains. It was hoped a trade route across the continent could be discovered. Acting under a commission granted to Abraham Wood and authorized by the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Batts and Fallam group is credited with discovering Woods River, now called the New.

There is some speculation that the New River was actually discovered in 1654 by Abraham Wood, for whom it was first named, but the 1671 discovery is the first to be recorded. Historians and archeologists have long debated how far west Batts and Fallam reached. The explorers may have followed the river to the falls of the Kanawha near present Gauley Bridge in Fayette County. Some suspect they went only as far as the border of West Virginia and Virginia. Others have suggested they reached Sandstone Falls in present Summers County or present Matewan in Mingo County. More recent archeology and studies assert that the westernmost point of their expedition was very likely in Logan near Hatfield Island.

Woods River retained its name for at least 80 years. The Emanuel Bowen map published in 1749 is perhaps the earliest map calling it the New River. Land grants referencing the river issued in 1750, to the Harmons who settled in present West Virginia, were still calling it Woods River.

In 1763, in negotiations following the French and Indian War, the Batts and Fallam exploration was used in treaty negotiations to bolster England’s claim to the Ohio Valley.

This Article was written by W. Eugene Cox

Last Revised on November 20, 2023

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Sources

Summers, Lewis P. History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1870. Johnson City: Overmountain Press, 1989.

Briceland, Alan Vance. Westward from Virginia: The Exploration of the Virginia-Carolina Frontier, 1650-1710. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1987.

Maslowski, Robert F.. "Batts and Fallam Explorations." Presentation. South Charleston, WV, Marshall University Graduate College, N.d..

Cite This Article

Cox, W. Eugene "Batts and Fallam Expedition." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 November 2023. Web. 21 February 2024.

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