A “mountaintop Stonehenge that baffles archeologist…” is located 16 miles north-northwest of ACE Adventure Resort. The massive stone walls, a gigantic compound, of Armstrong Mountain have puzzled archeologists since the 1880s.Who built them and why they were built has been debated for more than a hundred years. Col. P. W. Norris did the first real study in 1884 for the Smithsonian Institution – followed by several other attempts throughout the years since.
One report stated that the compound was gigantic. With walls up to 6 feet high and 6 feet to 10 feet wide at the base, these loose stone walls (there was no attempt to quarry or facing, with some rocks weighing several hundred pounds) were said to have stretched eight-10 miles long. Estimated to be thousands of tons of stone, it followed the contours of the mountain. Sitting 1,200 to 1,600 feet above the river, about 300 feet below the summit, the walls formed an irregular oblong enclosure. About 3 miles of the wall faced the Kanawha River.
A single cross wall at a narrow point (widths varied from 100 yards to more than a mile wide) divided the compound into roughly two equal parts, encompassing more than 300 acres. One side supposedly had a reliable water supply, a black flint quarry and two large (20 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall) collapsed circular tower structures.
Below these works, at the base of the mountain, an ancient village (200 acres) was discovered. While building the C&O railroad in 1873, workers uncovered 30 skeletons. All of them were similarly placed and facing east (possibly sun worshippers). Excavated in 1961-1962, it is estimated to have been built by the Hopewell from about A.D. 1 – 500 with three main occupations: Hopewell Era A.D. 500; Woodland Era A.D. 1,000; and the Fort Ancient Era A.D. 1,500.
In 1958, Dr. James H. Kellar, professor of anthropology for the University of Georgia, who studied the works, believed they were used for ceremonial and ritualistic purposes as early as 8,000 B.C.
In an 1877 interview, one of the first settlers in the area related a story from his youth. Paddy Huddleston claimed to have had a discussion concerning the ancient walls with an Indian medicine man passing through the area. The medicine man claimed that ancient lore handed down to him told of a fierce race of white warriors who once lived in this area.
The Kanawha Valley and the New River Gorge areas are full of ancient digs and mysteries. No comprehensive study has ever been made in this area, and much has been lost or destroyed at the turn of the century due to the industrial exploitation of the natural resources of the area. Armstrong Mountain is the perfect example.
Between 1964 and 1965, the Eagle Coal and Dock Co., supposedly destroyed most of the works while strip mining the area. The state knew about the works but did not take actions to make sure they would be preserved.
With most of the walls destroyed and the village site now a baseball field – the mysteries of Armstrong Mountain may never be solved.
In my last blog, “Prehistoric People visited ACE Adventure Resort,” I talk about these ancient people and the fact that arrowheads and other prehistoric items have been found on the property. If anyone should happen to find anything, it should be documented for the National Park Service.