Sept. 1, 1671: Explorers Set Out Westward from Petersburg, Va.


Explorers Thomas Batts, Thomas Wood, and Robert Fallam set out on a momentous expedition westward from Petersburg, Virginia, on September 1, 1671. At the time, white settlers knew almost nothing about the land west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The explorers’ exact route is unknown, but they likely crossed into present West Virginia in Monroe County and then followed the New River. From there, it’s difficult to match their journal up with actual places. However, they likely made their way to the Falls of the Kanawha River at what is today Gauley Bridge in Fayette County.

At one point, they described a breathtaking view that everyone who has ever set foot in the Mountain State can relate to, writing, “A pleasing tho’ dreadful sight to see, the mountains and Hills as if piled one upon another.”

The explorers ended their expedition because their Indian guides were afraid of the Indians who lived in our region. Although they failed in their ultimate goal of locating a trade route across the continent, Batts, Wood, and Fallam provided the earliest known written description of present West Virginia.