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Batts and Fallam Expedition


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. The explorers may have followed the river to the falls of the Kanawha in present Fayette County. Some suspect they went only as far as the border of West Virginia and Virginia. They ended their explorations because their Indian guides were afraid of the Indians who lived in this region. 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.

Written by W. Eugene Cox


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