Sharp-eyed travelers visiting the charming historic district at Sutton, West Virginia, may observe that two streams tumble out of the hills to join the Elk River there. The uppermost stream is "Old Woman Run," and the lower "Granny Creek." One might suppose they were named for two elderly women, but this wasn't the case, according to the late John Davison Sutton.
In his "History of Braxton County and Central West Virginia," published in 1919, Sutton, grandson of the town founder, described the naming of the two streams, the origins of which appear to be entirely unique and coincidental.
"It might be of interest to some to know how Granny's Creek received its name," Sutton wrote on page 40, referring to a survey being made in the wilderness on the upper Elk in the early 1800s.
"At the time the survey was made, there was great danger of the Indians, and, there being no settlement, the surveying party had to live as best they could. In the party was a young man who complained of the hardships and often made the remark that if he were at home with his grandmother he could get green beans and other vegetables to eat, and the surveyor called the stream 'Granny's Creek,' a name which perhaps it will retain until grandmothers are no more."
About a mile upstream of the mouth of Granny Creek, Old Woman Run comes bounding out of the hills, and perhaps its tale is more fascinating.
"This stream empties into the Elk River at the upper end of the town of Sutton, and Granny's Creek at the lower end," Sutton explained.
"These streams run parallel feet distance and heel not far apart. Lying between Granny's Creek and Old Woman's Run is a break in the formation, and there are many large cliffs of rock—dens where, in early days, wild animals gathered in great numbers to shelter. As late as 1870, it was difficult to raise pigs or lambs in the neighborhood.
"A few years after the settlement had been established, there was a very large she-bear which made its home in this wilderness of rocks and laurel and reared several broods. and hunters gave it the name of 'old woman.'
"The bear had escaped for several years. It was known by its very large tracks. At last, it was killed a little above where Moman Rhea now lives, and the citizens gave the stream the name of Old Woman's Run."
Today, Old Woman's Run joins the Elk just above the landscaped lawns of the Cafe Cimino Country Inn, one of the Mountain State's best known country inns, and the many pebbles and cobbles that have been carried out of the creek form the delightful riverbank there.
For more information on visiting the area, contact the Braxton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
There are many remote campgrounds in West Virginia, but few are as remote as Baker's Run Campground and boast their own ghost. Only 30 minutes from Interstate 79, the campground near Sutton, West Virginia, may feel remote as a result of the way it tucks into the Allegheny foothills on the Elk River at the back of Sutton Lake, and that's much of its allure. Read the full story here.