Monday, July 13, 2015

Episode 274 (7-13-15): Virginia and the Ohio River Valley Connect Through Watersheds, Wars, and Westward Migration

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:57)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, photos, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 7-10-15.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 13, 2015.

MUSIC – ~ 20 sec - “Samuel Mason,” by Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand

This week, that excerpt of “Samuel Mason,” by Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand on the 2010 album, “All the Good Summers,” sets the stage for reversing this show’s eastbound opening line.  Because this episode looks WEST, away from Virginia’s Atlantic coastline, back to the Cumberland Gap, and to the Ohio River Valley, in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico watersheds.  You’ll hear a series of sounds that represent past or present connections between the Ohio Valley, or basin, and Virginia’s land, waters, and people; then I’ll follow each sound with a short description of the connection.  Here goes!

SOUND - ~ 2 sec

That cannon sound, from the James River Batteau Festival, represents the Ohio Valley’s role in the French and Indian War, between England and France over control of North America.  Virginia’s colonial charter gave it a claim to the area of the upper Ohio River, and George Washington was involved in the conflicts near modern-day Pittsburgh that touched off the war in 1754.  England’s victory in 1763 gave it control over the Ohio valley and validated Virginia’s legal claim, which would become even more important after the Revolution.

SOUND - ~ 4 sec

This batteau horn sound, again from the James River Festival, recalls the river boats that were one of the ways hundreds of thousands of Virginians traveled into and through the Ohio Valley, during waves of migration from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s.  At that time, much of the area was Virginia’s northwest frontier—for example, Fort Henry, in the Samuel Mason song you heard, was at the site of today’s Wheeling, West Va., which until the Civil War was part of Virginia.  Unlike Samuel Mason, however, most of those leaving Virginia for fortune and fame did NOT become river pirates, but instead found new places to work and settle.

SOUND - ~3 sec

Rapids in the Virginia’s New River represent the river corridors and watershed connections that influence the Ohio Valley’s human settlement, navigation, fish, other aquatic organisms, and water quality.  Beside the New, Virginia rivers whose water ultimately flows to the Ohio include the Big Sandy, Clinch/ Powell, and Holston.

SOUND - ~ 4 sec

The sound of an Ohio River barge in Pittsburgh, where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converge to form the Ohio, underscores the commercial and industrial role of the Ohio and its navigable tributaries, providing over 2500 miles of waterways for moving over 200 million tons of cargo each year.  Over half of that cargo typically is coal; the Ohio River is the location of about 50 coal-fired power plants, providing about 20 percent of the nation’s coal-fired generating capacity.

SOUND - ~ 4 sec

Finally, a saxophone player on the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh, on a windy and rainy baseball-game day, seems a good symbol for the human spirit, independence, and enterprise that—combined with rivers and other defining geographic features—have helped make the Ohio River Valley a key part of the United States ever since it was Virginia’s northwest frontier. 

For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Samuel Mason,” from the 2010 album “All the Good Summers,” is copyright by Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand and Great Bear Records, used with permission.  More information about Andrew and Noah and their bands is available online at  This music was previously featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 232 (9/22/14).

The riverboat horn and cannon sounds were recorded at the James River Batteaux Festival in Lynchburg, Va., on June 15, 2013.

The river barge sound was recorded in Pittsburgh, Penn., on June 28, 2015.

The saxophone player was recorded on Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente Bridge on June 28, 2015.

June 28, 2015, view of Point State Park in Pittsburgh, Penn., marking the convergence of the Allegheny River (left foreground) with the Monongahela River (left background, behind the point) to form the Ohio River (right background).
Coal barge on Ohio River at Huntington, West Virginia, November 6, 2011.


On Fort Henry
*Fort Henry was an active fort from 1774-1784 at the place where Wheeling, West Virginia, now is located.  (The state of West Virginia established as a state on June 20, 1863, by the U.S. Congress, which at the time had military control of that part of the then-Confederate state of Virginia.)  First called Fort Fincastle for one of the titles held by Lord Dunmore, a Virginia colonial governor, the fort was later renamed to honor Patrick Henry.

On Samuel Mason
*Born in Norfolk in 1739, Samuel Mason was a Revolutionary War soldier and a farmer on the western Virginia frontier, but in the 1790s he became one of the most notorious pirates targeting riverside dwellers and boat traffic, particularly in the area around Hurricane Island and Cave-in-Rock on the Ohio River in Illinois.  Mason’s killing in 1803 helped lead to the end of well-organized piracy on the Ohio and other waterways on the early U.S. frontier.  Samuel Mason is the focus of Virginia Water Radio Episode 232 - 9/22/14.

On Virginians’ Migration into the Ohio River Valley
*In 1754, George Washington led a military expedition to the Forks of the Ohio (now Pittsburgh) to drive out the French from Virginia’s northwest frontier.  This expedition helped lead to the French and Indian War over control of the Ohio Valley—the North American part of a global, long-running war between England and France.

*In 1784, Virginia gave up claims to lands north of the Ohio River, the present-day Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois (but kept the future West Virginia).  In the southern part of this territory, just north of the Ohio River, an area known as the Virginia Military District was established to offer settlement areas for Revolutionary War veterans.

*In 1790, Virginia was the largest state (by population), and it produced the state the largest number of migrants in the Ohio River valley and beyond from the 1700s to the 1800s.  Perhaps as many as a million Virginians migrated out of the state.  In the early to mid-1800s, much of this migration used the river valleys of western Virginia and eastern Tennessee to reach the Ohio Valley and beyond.

*Before the Civil War, the Ohio River and Valley were also key areas for slaves seeking to escape along the Underground Railroad.

On Virginia Fisheries Connected to the Ohio River
*Virginia’s watersheds are divided most broadly into those on the Atlantic slope (including watersheds within the Chesapeake Bay watershed) and those in the Ohio River basin.  The Ohio River basin, particularly the particularly the upper Tennessee River system, has a notably larger number of native fish species than does the Atlantic slope.

Encyclopedia Britannica, “French and Indian War,” online at

David Hackett Fischer and James C. Kelly, Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 2000.

Robert E. Jenkins and Noel M. Burkhead, Freshwater Fishes of Virginia, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Md., 1994.

Library of Congress, “The First American West: The Ohio River Valley 1750-1820,” online at

Minnie Lee McGehee, ed., River Boat Echoes: Batteaux in Virginia, Virginia Canals and Navigations Society, McLean, Va.. 1995.

National Park Service/New River Gorge National River, “Batteaux on the New,” available online at

New World EncyclopediaTM, “Ohio River,” online at

Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORANSCO), “River Facts/Conditions,” online at

U.S. EPA, Gulf of Mexico Program, online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Virginia’s Major Watersheds,” online at

Virginia Tech Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, “EFish—The Virtual Aquarium,” online at

Mark J. Wagner and Mary R. McCorvie, “Going to See the Varmint: Piracy in Myth and Reality on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, 1785-1830,” in X Marks the Spot: The Archeology of Piracy, Russell K. Skowronek and Charles R. Ewen, eds., University of Florida Press, Gainesville, 2006.

Waterways Council, Inc., “Ohio River Basin” (2011 profile), online at

West Virginia Division of Culture and History, “Story of Fort Henry,” online at

West Virginia Division of Culture and History, “West Virginia Statehood,” online at

Previous episodes on Virginia connections to the Ohio River basin are available at the following links:
Episode 108 – 4/30/12, on the Ohio River basin generally.
Episode 109 – 5/7/12, on the New River generally.
Episode 162 – 5/20/13, on the Big Sandy River and its three forks.
Episode 177 – 9/2/13, on the history of commerce on the Big Sandy River.
Episode 179 – 9/16/13, on New River Trail State Park.
Episode 184 – 10/21/13, on Clinch Mountain, the Clinch River, and the Holston River.
Episode 232 - 9/22/14, on piracy on the Ohio River in the 1800s by Virginian Samuel Mason.
Episode 260 – 4/6/15, on biodiversity.
Episode 264 – 5/4/15, on New River birds.

Links to all previous episodes are available and grouped by subject category at the Index link above (

This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 - freshwater resources, including groundwater, and influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans.

Biology Course
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2008 Social Studies SOLs:

Virginia Studies Course
VS.2 – physical geography of Virginia past and present.
VS.4 – life in the Virginia colony.
VS.5 – role of Virginia in the American Revolution.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.2 – water features important to the early history of the United States.
USI.5 – factors that shaped colonial America.

World Geography Course
WG.3 - how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.6 - past and present trends in human migration and cultural interaction as influenced by social, economic, political, and environmental factors.
WG.7 - types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Virginia and United States History Course
VU.7 - knowledge of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at