Appalachian Thursday – Lover’s Leap

I’m currently researching a story due to release in 2021 that’s set in and around Hawk’s Nest, WV. I found a newspaper account of a 1931 celebratory dinner held at the Lover’s Leap club house at what is now Hawk’s Nest State Park.

A wintry modern-day view from Lover’s Leap.

And like any good author, I bounded off on the rabbit trail of WHY it’s called Lover’s Leap. It seems most states with anything like a mountain have one or two such spots and I wondered what the story would be for this one.

Turns out there are TWO stories with passionate supporters for each. I’d summarize them for you except that George W. Atkinson wrote them out in 1876 in such a way that I’ve simply got to quote him. Let me know which version YOU prefer!

VERSION 1 – Soon after the first settlement of Greenbrier county, a young couple, whose names have been lost in the lapse of time, fled from Fort Union to find a home where they might consummate the height of their earthly hopes-a marital union-which had been denied them by the young girl’s parents, who resided at the fort.

Their steps were directed west ward, with the hope of finding another settlement, there to be duly united in wedlock according to the style and customs of frontier life. On arriving at this romantic spot, beholding the lofty precipice, and being deeply impressed with the scenery sublime, they stood entranced upon its summit.

Whilst drinking in the grandeur of nature, standing upon the brink of the cliff, an overpowering dizziness seized upon the lady; she staggered forward, and before she could be rescued by the strong arm of her lover, fell over the cliff to the rocks beneath. The young hunter, driven to temporary insanity by the loss of her whom he loved dearer than his own life, leaped over the precipice, and like her was dashed to pieces upon the rocks below.

The parents of this couple, knowing their attachment for each other, on learning that they had left the fort, organized a party to pursue them. They started upon their trail, which they managed to keep without difficulty until they arrived at the point from which the fatal leap was taken, and being like-wise infatuated with the grandeur of the scene, halted upon its top crag and surveyed the valley beneath them.

While thus engaged, the limb of a small cedar, which stood upon the margin of the cliff, was noticed to have been split off, and there came upon the party a misgiving that the objects of their search had fallen over the precipice. Search was at once made, and their forebodings proved to be real-there lay, side by side, in the embrace of death, the bruised and mangled forms of the young hunter and his betrothed.

VERSION 2 – An Indian maiden had been commanded by her father-a chief-to marry a young chief belonging to a neighboring tribe. The wishes of the maiden, according to the Indian custom, had not been consulted, and she was frank in confessing to her father that she did not love the person whom he had chosen for her husband; that she loved a young warrior, who was handsome, fearless, brave that she could never marry the chief, because her affection and her life were pledged to the youthful warrior. This confession, of course, only made the father the more determined in carrying out his desires; so he sternly ordered the girl to obey him. She shrank from the impending calamity, and after a consultation with her betrothed, they decided upon flight from the wigwams of their kindred to find another home, where they could live as their hearts directed that they should live-for and with each other.

On arriving at this picturesque spot, and finding that they were pursued, rather than be separated in life, they resolved to die together, and embracing each other they plunged over this precipice, and were dashed to pieces upon the rocks at its base.

Published by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author, wife, child of God.

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