Locating "Indian Willís" Cove

Lowdermilk's 1878 book "History of Cumberland" informs us that Allegany County's Will's Creek and Will's Mountain are named after an Indian named Will who remained in the area after the coming of the white man (see complete story below the map). Lowdermilk describes the location of Will's home as follows: "His wigwam was built in a little cove lying between the west side of Will's Mountain and Will's Knob, about three miles from the mouth of the creek, and in the vicinity of the rocky formation known as the "Devil's Ladder."".

Korns.org contributor Mike McKenzie has long wanted to know where Will's cove is located. Through diligent effort, we can now state with high confidence that we have found the site that fits Lowdermilk's description perfectly. The site, which is a short distance northeast from Corriganville Maryland, is identified on the topographic map fragment that is included below. The reasons for believing this is the correct location are described below the map.

How we found Will's Cove
Lowdermilk provides these clues regarding the location of Will's cove: "Will's Mountain", "Will's Knob", "about three miles from the mouth of the creek"", and "in the vicinity of the rocky formation known as the "Devil's Ladder."".

In the common vernacular of Lowdermilk's day, the word "cove" could be used to describe many things, such as an inlet of a body of water. Based on a visit to Cade's Cove National Park, another apparent vernacular meaning seems to have been this: a level area bracketed by hilly or mountainous terrain. We believe that is the definition Lowdermilk intended, and I was surprised to find that it was not in the 1895 Webster's Academic Dictionary.

Will's Knob isn't identified on any map that I have ever seen. While Lowdermilk doesn't say if Will's Knob is north or south of Cumberland, there is a distinctive knob that is three miles from the mouth of Wills Creek as the crow flies, as identified on the map above.

The key to the problem was identifying the location of Devil's Ladder. With diligent research, we have determined that there once was a striking rock formation called "Devil's Backbone" that was located at the site identified on the map above, just south the knob that is three miles from the mouth of Will's Creek. Click here for Devil's Backbone photographs and other documentation. The formation has long since been quarried away, and its location seemingly forgotten. Once the site of Devil's Backbone, and photographs of it, were located, it seems obvious to Mike and I that it was the location Lowdermilk described as "Devil's Ladder". It isn't unusual for tradtional local names to mutate over time, or to be called something slightly different by different people.

With the sites of Will's Knob and Devil's Ladder thus identified, the location of the "...little cove lying between the west side of Will's Mountain and Will's Knob... is obvious.

L. L. Dietle & Mike McKenzie, January, 2010

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Lowdermilk's story about Indian Will

" The daring trappers who first came to make friends of the Red Man evidently had more regard for the peltries, which were exchangeable for coin, than for the beauty of difficult Indian names, by which mountains and streams were designated; and with the merciless hardihood of their natures they ruthlessly extinguished the aboriginal titles, and cut out for after generations meaningless names, which had nothing to commend them beyond their ease of pronunciation. Thus, we have to-day no "Caiuctucuc," but simply " Will's Creek." Caiuctucuc Creek, and the great mountain which forms the northern boundary of the city of Cumberland, were baptised by the earliest settlers here, as "Will's Creek," and "Will's Mountain." "Will" was a full blooded Indian, who with his family and a few followers, remained in the land of their fathers, and despite the approach of the white men did not remove their wigwams, but received their strange visitors with a kindly greeting, and lived upon terms of intimate friendship with them. His wigwam was built in a little cove lying between the west side of Will's Mountain and Will's Knob, about three miles from the mouth of the creek, and in the vicinity of the rocky formation known as the "Devil's Ladder." He had for a neighbor another Indian, known as Eve. Indian Will exercised a sort of proprietary right over all the land in the vicinity of his lodge, and one of the earliest tracts surveyed, by Colonel Thomas Cresap, at the instance of Governor Bladen, was designated " Will's Town," and was located along the creek from the mouth of Jennings Run, containing 915 acres. The claims of Will to the ownership of property were respected to a certain extent; that is to say, when grants were obtained the settlers did not fail to give him some trifle as a pretended compensation. In referring to this place it became customary with the settlers and trappers to use Will's name as the easiest method of designating it, and in a little while, very naturally, they came to speak of "Will's Creek." Thus the original Indian name for the stream was lost; and the mountain finally obtained its name from the creek.

The date of Will's death is not definitely known, but that event is supposed to have occurred about the close of the revolutionary war, or shortly thereafter. His remains were buried on the very top of Will's Knob, and the place of his sepulture is still pointed out to those who are curious enough to visit it. He left several children, who intermarried with white settlers, and their descendants lived near the Pennsylvania State line, on Will's creek, as late as 1810, but the last of them has now disappeared."

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