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Gabriel Arthur


Frontiersman Gabriel Arthur is believed to have been the first white person to see the Kanawha Valley, having visited the area with a band of Yuchi Indians in 1674. Little is known of Arthur personally, other than he was a young man, possibly 19, when his great adventure began, and probably of English birth. Guided by Indians, he traveled with James Needham and others sent out by Abraham Wood from Fort Henry (present Petersburg, Virginia) to explore western lands.

Needham was killed by an Occaneechi Indian guide, but Arthur traveled widely with the Yuchis, possibly as their captive though he is said to have married an Indian woman. He ventured as far south as Spanish West Florida (present Alabama) and apparently participated in raiding Ohio Valley Indians. Eventually he reached present West Virginia, likely following either the Big Coal River or Paint Creek to the Kanawha River. The Indians with whom Arthur traveled were welcomed by local Moneton Indians. Their large village is said to have been located on the Kanawha River one day’s travel upstream from the Kanawha’s confluence with the Ohio River.

Arthur’s journey, which began in May 1673, ended with his return to Fort Henry with several Indians and a load of furs in June 1674. Arthur’s mission followed soon after the Batts and Fallam expedition, another Wood’s team, that set out from Fort Henry in 1671 and became the first recorded white Americans to explore the upper reaches of New River.