I was glad to see the sign for the scenic overlook. I had been on the road for the past six hours and was ready to get out and stretch. The majority of my trip had consisted of construction zones and rain, except for the half-hour detour through the Flatwoods and Sutton region. While I had originally wanted to explore the Flatwoods area, the bumper-to-bumper traffic had changed my plans and I mentally noted I would have to return to investigate on another day.
I had not realized the overlook was on the northbound side of Route 19 and was almost past the crossover before I realized it. Thankfully, I was able to cross the other lane and onto the turning lane and crossed safely to the overlook.
As I got out and stretched, I was immediately taken in by the view. The overlook on Route 19 is located south of Birch River on Powell Mountain with a view of the Powell Creek Valley to the east and further north the Birch River Valley can be seen. As gorgeous as the view was in the summer, I could only imagine what the view was like in the autumn with the leaves changing color.
After I took some photographs from the vista, I wandered over to the historical marker which stood near the entrance to the rest area. The marker was an official West Virginia Historical Marker for a nearby cemetery known as Young’s Monument: “Off Young’s Monument Rd. (.3M) is / grave site of Henry & Lucinda Young. / A Confed. militiaman or sympathizer, / he was killed by Union troops nearby / on 8 Sept. 1861. Details of Young’s / life and death are scant and confused, / symbolizing divided loyalties, tragic / times and enduring saga of Civil War / in WV, when state was pitted against / state and brother against brother. / New road in 1970 required reburial.”
The story of Henry Young has become a part of the local history and has found its way into the folklore of the region. While little has been recorded of his early life, Young’s death on September 8, 1861 is well-known by folklorists and historians.
The WPA Guide to West Virginia refers to Young’s Monument as “The Lonely Grave,” though it states both Henry and his wife, Lucinda, were buried at the location. Young, according to the guidebook, refused to surrender to the advancing Union army. He bravely stood his ground and maintained a one-man war against the entire advance guard of General William S. Rosecrans’s Army until being shot down. The version makes Young’s death a shoot-out between him and the entire army.
Sutton’s History of Braxton County and Central West Virginia, tells a slightly different version of the story. This version states Young was returning home when he encountered the advance unit of the Union Army traveling on the turnpike over Powell Mountain. Young stepped out on the road and was commanded to surrender by the Union troops. He refused to surrender or flee and standing in defiance of the unit, he was shot down.
McWhorter’s The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia from 1768 to 1795 has the same version, but adds that Young was ordered to halt and ignoring the order was killed. McWhorter states a Federal officer went to the Young homestead and reported Young’s death to his family. After the Union troops left the area, the body was buried in an unmarked grave where Young fell.
McWhorter in his notes places blame on neither side. This version, given to him by Judge William S. O’Brien, suggests Young had not realized the troops were on the road and the troops were startled by his sudden appearance on the turnpike. Young panicked and attempted to flee and was shot down by the Ohio troops who thought him to be a bush-whacker.
Carefully reviewing all the sources and opinions, I believe that the truth lies somewhere in between the accounts given. I do not think Henry Young was a one-man war machine facing down the Union army, nor do I believe that he turned and fled like the Union army maintained.
Years later Henry Young’s wife would join him at this lonely location – their graves would not be marked until sometime after her death. The residents of the region raised money and had the monument placed. Henry Young and his wife would rest at this lonely spot until Route 19 was expanded. Their graves were moved to another location. Note: I’ve read a number of different dates when the monument was placed for Henry Young, but I believe it was placed around 1900. McWhorter’s book includes a letter dated 1903 that states the monument had recently been erected.
Henry’s death has become more than just a piece of regional history – it has become a part of regional folklore. According to legend the headless spirit of Henry Young has been spotted riding along old Route 19. Since the road was expanded and modernized, his ghost has not been spotted as often, though who knows, maybe it still appears on the older roads crossing the mountain.
I finished my break and crawled back into the vehicle, leaving the scenic view behind and headed southward toward another adventure.
Note: I did locate the graves of Henry and Lucinda Young. Though it could be spotted from the road, the Young Monument / Cemetery appears to be on private property, so I paid my respects from a short distance away.