June 18, 1674: Needham and Arthur Exploration Ends

This Week in West Virginia History.

On June 18, 1674, the Needham and Arthur exploration into present-day West Virginia ended. A year earlier, explorer, politician, and militia commander Abraham Wood had dispatched James Needham, Gabriel Arthur, and eight Indian guides on an expedition through the South.

Needham and Arthur traveled from Fort Henry at present Petersburg, Virginia, into North Carolina and Georgia. Needham was killed by one of his Indian guides, but Arthur stayed with the Indians and traveled through what is now Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South and North Carolina, and Virginia. Documentation about the trip is sketchy; although, it appears Arthur made it to either the Big Sandy River in either Lawrence County, Kentucky, or Wayne County, West Virginia. Arthur finally returned to Abraham Wood’s house at Petersburg in June 1674—51 weeks after he’d begun. 

Abraham Wood was responsible for three of the most important explorations of the Appalachian Mountains in the 17th century: his own trip with Edward Bland in 1650, the Batts and Fallam expedition of 1671, and the Needham and Arthur exploration of 1673-74. For many years, the New River was known as Wood’s River.