February 19, 1908: The Eccentric Orval Brown Born in Clay County

Feb 19, 2018

Credit e-WV Encyclopedia

An eccentric who would become known as the Clay County Wild Man was born near Lizemores on February 19, 1908. Orval Brown grew up fairly conventionally. He lived on his family's farm, went to school through eighth grade, loved to read, and played outdoors. But, even from an early age, he didn’t like to wear many clothes.

By the time he was 20, Brown had become a local legend. Stories spread about a Tarzan-like man who dressed in a loin cloth and lived in a cave. People paid him a quarter to have their picture taken with him. And he'd sell photos of himself at carnivals and fairs.

Brown's career as a sideshow attraction was interrupted several times. He served in the Army in the early '30s and in the Navy in World War II, before returning to Clay County. In 1950, Brown was arrested for killing his cousin. He claimed insanity and self-defense and spent 18 years at the state mental hospital in Weston. He later moved in with his sister in Nicholas County. Orval Brown, the Clay County Wild Man, died in 2005 at age 97.