Upshur offers rich history: Indian Camp


Upshur County — This series of regular articles explores aspects of Upshur County’s history, culture or people honored by the West Virginia Highway Historical Marker Program. The state register lists 20 of these iconic white plaques in Upshur County, and each article will present as much information on the subject as can be found. This fourth installment will discuss the community known as Indian Camp and its history.

The area now known as Indian Camp served as a dwelling for Native Americans long before recorded history. It is believed that the famous Indian Camp Rock was used as a shelter or campsite during hunting trips, as many native artifacts, such as spearheads and hatchets, were found in the vicinity, though what tribe these would have belonged to is not known. Beneath the rock, ashen remains of campfires several feet deep were also noted by the first white settlers, further suggesting the area’s use as a campsite. One source even states that a human skull was once discovered among the ashes, though its origin could not be determined and no other human remains were discovered in the area.

The Indian Camp Rock was also the site of a small massacre early in colonial history. Seemingly, the only details of this event are preserved on the highway marker itself; it states that in 1772, 250 years ago this year, a hunting party of 12 Native Americans were staying peacefully at the camp when they were attacked by a band of frontiersmen. None of the 12 hunters survived.

More of the area’s history survives post-1800. One of the earliest settlers was Abraham Kline, who lived on what is now the Phillips farm between 1840-50. He built and lived in a log cabin near where the baseball diamond of the Indian Camp Normal School was once located. Over the course of the decade, many other families came to live in and around this part of Upshur County, including those of Samuel McCann, Jason Loomis, and Andrew Casto, who was the first to live between Indian Camp and Sago. Besides the aforementioned families, no one else lived between Sago and Alton prior to 1850.

The famous Indian Camp Normal School got its start in 1913 with a wooden structure erected with assistance from the community on land overseen by the United Brethren Church; it still stands today and serves as a community center. This building opened for classes in the spring of 1914 under the direction of Professor J. H. Ashworth, assisted by E. C. Brooks. Normal schools were institutions designed to train high school graduates to be teachers by giving them a basic teacher’s education. The school saw success until 1918, when it closed due to “adverse conditions” and pressure from America’s entry into World War I and did not reopen.

Also of note is the history of the ministry in Indian Camp. The first preaching performed in the community took place in 1854 under the Indian Camp Rock by a United Brethren minister named Benjamin Stickley. Later, a log church was built on the hill where the present church now stands. The frame structure replaced the log church in 1889, and a newer building was built in 1954. Prior to the construction of the various churches, services were informally held under the Indian Camp Rock and at the homes of community members.

Indian Camp and its neighboring communities are quiet, scenic places that welcome visitors with open arms. Once the winter weather clears and backroads become safer to travel, readers are encouraged to see the sights and learn of the local history for themselves.

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