April 1, 1788: The Clendenins Start Their Journey to Kanawha Valley


On April 1, 1788, George Clendenin, along with family members and about 30 Greenbrier County Rangers, departed from present Lewisburg to make a new home for themselves in the Kanawha Valley. The previous year, Clendenin had purchased about 1000 acres of unsettled land, which would eventually become the heart of Charleston.

Upon their arrival, Clendenin’s group built a two-story fort and sturdy cabins to protect against Indian attacks. The stockade, originally called Clendenin’s Fort, was later renamed Fort Lee to honor Virginia Governor Henry Lee.

That same year, Clendenin pressured the Virginia General Assembly to create Kanawha County from parts of Greenbrier and Montgomery counties. In 1794, he convinced the Assembly to establish 40 acres of his land as the town of Charlestown, named in memory of his father. The name caused confusion, though, because of the other Charles Town—in Jefferson County. So, the Kanawha County town was eventually changed to Charleston.

By the mid-1790s, the Clendenin family had become frustrated with the government in Richmond. They sold their Charleston landholdings to Joseph Ruffner, whose family would soon make a fortune in the Kanawha Valley salt industry.