main gallery page       <previous       next>


Place of Skulls

Long before Wheeling, West Virginia, became the peaceful river city it is today, before simple frame dwellings gave way to the richly detailed Victorian architecture that still remains, even before a few log cabins surrounding a rustic fort appeared on a high bluff overlooking the river, a series of events was unfolding that would have an effect reaching into the present. This was the time when the earliest settlements were being established in the western part of Pennsylvania, and a few adventurers were beginning to make exploratory excursions down the Ohio River. They soon ventured into the territory inhabited by the Delaware. The land along the eastern shore of the river was protected by the Delaware nation and their chief Hahinguypooshies, or Big Cat. In an effort to warn and intimidate intruders, the chief and his warriors placed the decapitated head of a prisoner on a pole near the mouth of a small creek. Nothing could be clearer in meaning than a sun-bleached skull placed near the pathway into one of the richest hunting grounds existing in that time. Historians claim that the Delaware word Wihling, or Wih for head and -ling for place, has evolved to become Wheeling. Other variations reported are Weel-ung or Wih-lunk. Most writers agree that these are documented facts and are the origin of the name of Wheeling Creek and eventually of the city itself.