First Stop: Dry Fork
The first point of interest along this historical driving tour of the Sandy Creek Expedition is Dry Fork near the community of Valls Creek. McDowell County Route 9 (CR-9) follows along Dry Fork and the route of the expedition from the boundary line between West Virginia and Virginia to the village of Berwind.
When the Sandy Creek Expedition took place, several men of the families that first settled the “western waters” of the Trans-Allegheny region served side-by-side with their brothers-in-arms, the Cherokees. Heinrich Adam Harman (originally Herrman in his native German language) was one of the earliest settlers on New River. The village of Valls Creek took its name from the Dry Fork tributary of the same name located here. The Creek was probably named for Valentine Harman, a son of Heinrich (Henry) Harman, whose brother was also named Valentine. Henry served on the Sandy Creek Expedition in the Augusta County militia under Capt. William Preston.
After the French & Indian War, Harman and his several sons hunted often in the headwaters of Dry Fork. Each had his favorite hunting area wherein he established camps in order to prepare the skins for transport by packhorses back to his plantation. These camps were called by the hunters’ names, and often the streams upon which the camps were located took on the hunters’ names as well. Jacob’s Fork was named in this manner (after Jacob Harman), as was George’s Camp Branch. Valentine’s nickname was Val, or Voll as it would have been pronounced by his German father. These brothers and their descendents became prominent characters in the unfolding drama of 18th century European expansion westward across the Allegheny and Cumberland Mountains.
Dry Fork is Sandy Creek
Dry Fork was called “Sandy Creek” by the Virginians familiar with it, receiving its current name later in the 18th century. However, on the expedition, Dry Fork was anything but dry. As Lt. Thomas Morton recorded in his journal of the expedition during the first days of March.
“Wednesday, 3rd we cross’d the Creek 19 times in about 8 miles. thursday, 4th, we march’d 4 miles, and cross’d the Creek 14 times. Friday, 5th, we march’d 12 miles, and cross’d the Creek 24 times. The Creek is now in General about 45 or 50 yards.”