Matthew A. Perry: The forgotten mystery of George Washington’s initials

September 27, 2018

The construction of I-64 destroyed one of the most recognizable landmarks in Wayne County history. Known as Chimney Rock, it was a large outcrop located roughly where the on-ramp of I-64 in Kenova now stands.

The most intriguing aspect of that old, mostly forgotten landmark is the fact that engraved in the stone were the initials G.W.

Wayne County lore has said that those were the initials of none other than the father of our country, George Washington. Washington was indeed a surveyor in his earlier years and was believed to have spent much time in the western counties of Virginia.

But, did he survey our county for the crown before his service in the British and then eventually the Colonial Army?

One intrepid Wayne County News reporter decided to tackle this question, in 1923.

In November of 23, a Wayne County News Reporter - who unfortunately didn’t sign his article - traveled to Charleston to speak with people at the State Library, a precursor to our Center for Archives and History. His lone goal was to determine if George Washington had surveyed the land grant that eventually created Wayne County.

The official stance from the state of West Virginia was a no, but with a catch. Washington did not travel to Wayne County and survey the land himself, but a crew that Washington employed did. Washington’s assistant, William Crawford left the Kanawha River where he and Washington were working together and was given the task of surveying the area around the Big Sandy. Atop Chimney Rock, Crawford had a stunning vantage point of the land that would become our home county.

Turning away from the tools of his trade, he carefully carved the initials of his boss, George Washington, into the rock. So, while the stone was not climbed and surveyed by the Father of America, they did bear the initials of that Great American.

I’d like to add a special thank you to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Their tireless work transcribing old letters and newspaper articles is an invaluable resource to the people of West Virginia. Without their hard work, this article, nor many publications would not be possible.

Matthew A. Perry is a history teacher at C-K Middle and writes about the odd side of history at www.theoddpast.com.

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