Who Haunts Sliding Hill?

Salt furnaces. Coal mines. A beautiful river. And a murder.

Sliding Hill, located in Mason County, West Virginia, has been the site of all of the above.

Sliding Hill is located between the towns of New Haven and Mason, not far from the community of Hartford. Today it is a quiet little place; most residents of the area probably work at the nearby power plant. But in its heyday this stretch of the Ohio River was teeming with people and excitement.

The towns of New Haven and Hartford were named, as you may have guessed, by settlers and entrepreneurs who came to the valley of the Ohio from Connecticut, and named the new settlements after their old homes. In 1856 salt works were built in the area. 

photo of the Jackson Salt Works, from http://www.wvgenweb.org/mason/hartford/hart.html

Processing the salt required coal to fuel the furnaces, so coal mining also became a big industry. With the location of Mason county on the Ohio River, shipment of the salt via steamboat was an easy affair, and the coming of the railroad in the 1880's expedited exports even more. Dairy farming became a growing industry in the rich river bottoms as well. 

In 1774 a major battle in Lord Dunmore's War occurred at Point Pleasant, VA (now West Virginia). This battle officially drove the Native Americans back across the Ohio River, although raids continued for years after the Treat of Camp Charlotte was signed. 

One of the stories about the haunting of Sliding Hill is loosely connected to the fort at Point Pleasant (Fort Randolph). According to this story, an army paymaster was making his way along the river to the fort, carrying with him a quantity of gold with which to pay the soldiers at the fort. A gang of robbers set upon the paymaster and killed him. Hearing soldiers approaching, the thieves quickly left the area, after first hiding the body and burying the gold. Legend has it that the gold was never recovered, and that the area is haunted by the ghost of a man walking along the road.

A dark spot along the road. "Perfect place for a murder," was Jared's comment.
Sliding Hill Creek, a little muddy after all the recent rain.
Two things in this story seem odd to me: first, that the paymaster should have been traveling alone. Surely in those dangerous times, when attacks by Indians were common and the route was a lonely one, there would have been at least one other man with the paymaster. Second, how in the world would there have been time to hide a body and bury the gold? Why would they have buried the gold anyway, if they had time enough to get away? 

The second story of a haunt in the Sliding Hill area was reported in this old newspaper article:

This version, the murder of early settlers who were traveling by canoe and stopped to camp on the riverbank, makes more sense to me, although the statement that they had "much gold" with them seems odd. Why would one carry a lot of gold into the wilderness? Still, it could have been true. It seems unlikely, however, that the robbers would not have come back for the rest of the gold. With so few people in the area, what would have prevented them from recovering it? 

Whichever version is the true story, the belief that an area along the road by Sliding Hill is haunted seems to have been well established. And the sightings reported sound frightening indeed. I suppose we will never know the truth of the story, who was killed and when or by whom.

I wonder, are the ghosts described as horrific haunts on Sliding Hill still wandering, or have they settled gently into their graves after all these years? 

I suppose I will never know the answer to that, either. Only the river would know, and she's not talking.