A West Virginia Day specialEde
One of the earliest stories about Morgan County is the saga of an early frontiersman and Indian fighter whose name is variously given as Ede, Edes or Eades.
Harold A. Rice of Berkeley Springs mailed a handwritten copy of the legend to John Harrington Cox on October 2, 1916. Cox was an English professor at West Virginia University and an early collector of folksongs and folklore.
In Rice's version, Ede is a trapper in the 1730s along the Cacapon River, near what is now Great Cacapon. He is attacked by a party of Indians and takes shelter in a rock cave above the river. One by one, he shoots the Indians as they come after him.
In another version that's been handed down orally around here, a settler named Eades takes shelter in the rock formation during an Indian assault in the French & Indian War of the 1750s. He pushes his foes off the ledge, one by one, as they come around.
In yet other version that found its way into early history books, Edes and his family lived in a cave above the river for several years. In 1758, Indians attacked the area. Other settlers went to a fort or safe house at Great Cacapon, but the Edes Family stayed in their cave. They were taken captive when the children went out to tend to the cattle and the Indians trailed them home.
Here's the tale that Harold Rice sent to the WVU folklorist in 1916:
About the year 1730, a daring pioneer named Ede placed his winter camp near the mouth of Great Cacapon River, in what is now Morgan County, West Virginia.
He intended to spend the fall and as much of the winter as possible at this location for the purpose of hunting and trapping the numerous fur-bearing animals of that vicinity.
All around him could be seen evidence of the presence of the animals which he sought. He also saw signs which showed that Indians were accustomed to stay at this point on the river. But he was willing to risk his scalp in order to secure a canoeful of rich furs, so he completed his preparation for the winter, making himself comfortable in his little log cabin.
The weather was very pleasant during the Indian Summer and he used the beautiful autumn days to good advantage in selecting locations for his traps up the broad bottoms which he found along the Great Cacapon. He also crossed over to the Potomac, which was only three miles away, and set his traps along her banks where he saw that game was accustomed to cross.
He frequently saw otter much larger than he had seen in his previous trapping, which had been spent on the lower waters of the Potomac. Deer were so plentiful that he had no fear for his supply of food during the winter. Occasionally he saw a bear's track in the mud, but they were not so plentiful, due to the fact that the Indians were partial to bearskin blankets.
During the first few weeks of his stay, in which most of the work that he did was simply preparatory for the winter's work, he exercised considerable caution in his movements, as he was expecting to meet with Indians who would be intent on spending the winter in his locality for the same purpose that he was there.
Weeks passed, colder weather set in, snow came and ice was his means of crossing from one side to the other of the two streams. Ede was a very busy man. He would cross over to the Potomac and spend a few days in looking after his traps. Then he would spend about the same time along the Cacapon, thus visiting all of his traps and "deadfalls" once each week.
On the day before Christmas, while engaged at his usual duties, he felt a twinge as an arrow raked his coonskin cap from his head. As he turned in the direction from which the arrow had come, he saw five stalwart Indians closing in upon him.
Without firing his rifle he turned and ran upstream, dodging from one tree to the next, and occasionally stopping to point his gun at the approaching braves, who would immediately take refuge behind some convenient object.
He soon divined that it was their purpose to get him to shoot, and then to take him alive before he could reload.
Ede began to despair of being able to escape, as each change from tree to tree seemed to give them some advantage. He could imagine himself the center of attraction in a war dance. He could picture himself running the gauntlet and see his scalp hanging from the pole of a wigwam after it was all over.
The unequal race continued along the bank of the river until he reached that great wall of rock that throws itself directly in the path of the on-rushing stream. There was but a single ledge winding itself about the face of that magnificent cliff, and Ede had no more than reached its protection when he paused behind the first jutting rock, turned and shot the foremost of his foes.
Crouched behind and between some projecting rocks on the face of the cliff, he was beyond the reach of the Indians. Try as best they could, either to approach by the ledge on to get within shooting range from the opposite side of the river, they continued to fall before his unerring aim until but one of his late foes remained. This one lost no time in escaping from the place and returning to his tribe on the lower Potomac, where he told tales of the wonderful prowlers of the white warrior.
Ede spent the remainder of the winter undisturbed in his little cabin. When spring came and he had accomplished his purpose, he collected his pelts and returned to the nearest settlement.
He induced others to join him, among the number being a young lady, who became the wife of this intrepid frontiersman, and they returned to Great Cacapon.
A part of the chimney of Ede's cabin home may be seen there to this day, and the fort which bears his name will be an object of interest to people of that section of West Virginia till the river shall cease to flow by it.