POINT PLEASANT, West Virginia — This river town has a history of close encounters among clashing civilizations.
The confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers was the site of the decisive Battle of Point Pleasant, fought between Indians and Virginia militiamen in 1774.
Nearly 200 years later, claim some, the spot was also where humans encountered a series of UFOs and Mothman, a human-sized creature with bug eyes and wings. That encounter is, well, less documented, but no less celebrated, at least in some quarters.
I crossed the river from Gallipolis, Ohio, because of Mothman, or at least because of his statue, a “life-size” representation created from descriptions of the creature and erected in the heart of downtown Point Pleasant. The statue is adjacent to “the world’s only” Mothman Museum.
Mothman sightings made headlines in 1966, with many witnesses in and near Point Pleasant swearing to encounters with the horrifying creature. The museum is a repository of archives and mementos concerning the encounters and, of course, souvenirs available for purchase.
As fascinating as the Mothman phenomenon is, I soon found myself drawn to another monument, the 84-foot stone obelisk at Tu-Endie-Wei State Park at the rivers’ confluence. The park’s name comes from the Wyandotte phrase for “point between two rivers.”
I’m a bit abashed to admit I knew less about the Battle of Point Pleasant than I did about Mothman. But I was very happy to discover the beautiful four-acre park and learn more.
George Washington is reputed to have named the site when he stood there, some years before the battle, and proclaimed, “This is a pleasant point.” (The man certainly had a way with words.)
The monument at the point commemorates the more than 50 Virginians who died during the battle against Indian forces led by the legendary Shawnee chief Cornstalk. The victory by the colonial forces against the Shawnees, a potential British ally, is regarded by some historians as the first battle of the American Revolution.
Although more than 200 Indians were killed in the battle, Cornstalk survived. Ironically, today his grave is in the park, just steps from the monument to his white foes.
Nearby is another monument, denoting the place where French explorer Celeron de Bienville buried a lead plate in 1749, claiming the land for France.
Also in the park is the historic Mansion House, preserved now as a museum. The log structure is not much of a mansion by modern standards. But when it was built as a tavern in 1796, it was an oasis of hospitality in the midst of the wilderness.
There are, however, no reports that Mothman ever slept there.
For more information about the Mothman Museum, call 304-812-5211 or visit mothmanmuseum.com.
For more information about Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, call 304-675-0869 or visit tu-endie-weistatepark.com.
— Steve Stephens is the Dispatch travel writer. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @SteveStephens.