Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Wills De Hass


Antiquarian Wills De Hass (July 4, 1817-January 24, 1910) was born at West Alexander, Pennsylvania. Educated at Western University (now University of Pittsburgh) and Washington and Jefferson College, he practiced medicine in Wellsburg and Wheeling, and in Kentucky and Washington. His early interest in historical and scientific studies led to extensive investigations into regional history and to archeological digging in the Upper Ohio Valley. He was an active member of several scientific and historical societies. While living at Moundsville, De Hass became involved in the excavation of the Grave Creek Mound. When the Grave Creek Mound museum was abandoned about 1844, he acquired possession of the Grave Creek tablet and skull, transferring them to the Smithsonian in 1850. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, De Hass conducted archeological investigations relating to mound builders for the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology.

A writer and lecturer on archeological subjects, De Hass turned to frontier history for his best-known work, History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia, which was first published in Wheeling in 1851. This book contains historical accounts of the settlement of the Ohio Valley and northwestern Virginia, the British expulsion of the French from the region, warfare between settlers and Indians prior to 1795, and biographical sketches of well-known frontiersmen. An ardent Unionist, De Hass recruited the 77th Ohio Regiment from border counties of Virginia and Ohio as the Civil War commenced, and he supported the formation of the state of West Virginia.

Written by Harold Malcolm Forbes


  1. De Hass, Wills. History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia. Philadelphia: H. Hoblitzell, 1851, Reprint, McClain, 1960.

  2. Who's Who in America, 1901-1902. Chicago: A. N. Marquis, 1901.

  3. Norona, Delf. Skeletal Material from the Grave Creek Mounds. West Virginia Archeologist, (Feb. 1953).