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Doors to the Past

Ona and Surround country

                            By F. L. Burdette
To the careful observer the location of the Ona and Blue Sulphur section 
in Mud River Valley is of striking interest. 
Extending from Scary in Kanawha County to Barboursville in Cabell County 
is a stretch of country considered in pioneer days especially inviting for 
farm settlements. This section, commonly called Teays Valley, is a region 
composed of gently rolling lands, has an abundance of constantly flowing 
springs, and once had a heavy growth of fine timber. At the time of 
settlement the forests were full of all kinds of native game, and the 
valley was always considered comparatively free from Indian attacks. 
Judged from the lay of the country, the formation of the soil and other 
surface indications, the whole region seems to have once been the bed of 
an ancient lake, or else the course of some large river like the Kanawha. 
Mud River enters this old valley at Mud Bridge about one mile above Milton 
and follows its sluggish course through the lowest part of the old valley 
till it plunges over the Great Falls less than a mile above Blue Sulphur. 
In an inviting part of this river stretch, in the largest bend of the 
river's course, the Ona and Howell's Mill neighborhood is located. 
All the main thoroughfares for travel built in this section of Virginia 
and West Virginia have left the Kanawha River near Scary and followed the 
shorter route through Teays Valley and the lower Mud River country to the 
Ohio at the mouth of the Guyandotte River, or of the Big Sandy at 
Catlettsburg. The Old Virginia State Road, sometimes called the Greenbrier 
Road, the James River and Kanawha turnpike, the contemplated Covington and 
Ohio Railroad, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and the present Midland 
Trail have all followed this route. In this way the lower Mud River 
country has long been on one of the main routes of travel between the east 
and the western country. The eastern section of the Old Virginia State 
Road was begun in the year 1785, and extended from the upper waters of 
James River to Lewisburg (then Fort Union) in Greenbrier County. In 1786 
the road was extended to the mouth of Gauley River on the Kanawha, and 
sometime during the summer of 1787 it seems that some kind of a road was 

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