So, on March 7, 2009 I parked near Rock Point Road and started walking west on the walking trial that once used to be home to the B&O Railroad. After passing through the Hempfield Tunnel (or Tunnel Green), and exiting the tunnel on the west side, I started up the little trial that takes you to the Wetzel Cave. The trial is very short, but quite steep, with very little room to balance yourself along the hillside. I found the cave, snapped a few quick photographs, and decided to proceed on the trail to what is called Wetzel's shelter. I stopped, though, because I noticed a few people sitting near the rock shelter, and rather than bother them, I thought I would just come back on quieter day. As I walked away, I thought it funny that I was not the only person with Lewis Wetzel on my Saturday agenda. Thinking nothing of it, I went home, sprung my clock forward, and called it a day.
Then I awoke the next morning to the headline: Murder in Wetzel County. Robert Maine Jr. is accused of murdering his cousin Gregory G. Maine Jr. in Wetzel County West Virginia which is named after Lewis Wetzel. After the accused committed the act, he then looked for a place to hide out. Having family connections near the Hempfield Tunnel in Wheeling (Ohio County), he then decided to hide out... in Lewis Wetzel's Cave! After the authorities were tipped off they found Maine sleeping in the cave.
(Officer) Laing said his search team initially looked for Robert Maine at a home in the Tunnel Green section of Wheeling. According to Laing, Robert Maine later told investigators he needed rest, but he feared police would track him down if he slept in the East Wheeling home.
"We were actually able to apply the handcuffs without waking him up," Laing said. "The tip was well founded, and citizens in East Wheeling were crucial in providing on-the-spot info that he'd departed prior to our arrival. That's what set the manhunt on the trail and in the woods in motion. That's when we began to tighten the noose."
Lewis Wetzel was a known Indian murderer during the late 1770's, 1780's, and 1790's in the Wheeling area and beyond. A sort of lesser known version of Danial Boone or Davy Crocket; he was a true frontiersman. Members of his family had been killed by Indians, he had been captured by Indians, and his occupation was to kill Indians, guilty or innocent. He was a cold blooded killer, but to the people of Wheeling, Lewis Wetzel was a hero because they lived their life in fear of the Indian. During the two battles of Fort Henry, it was the British and Indians who attempted to kill them, and Wetzel's ruthless way of revenge was admired by those who had endured such attacks.
Indians feared him because they said that his gun was always loaded, and it was. He would put musket balls in his mouth, and while on the run he would spit the balls down the barrel of his gun, load, fire, and kill. Some Indians even thought Wetzel to be something of a supernatural spirit.
There's so much to say about Lewis Wetzel, and that time will come. But today I think it's interesting to go over the fact that while I innocently walked past the mouth of the cave, an accused killer was most likely inside, or was at least soon inside. Just a few hours after my passing of this cave, the others who were at the shelter, and countless walkers, joggers, and bikers on the paved trial, the suspect was aprehended.
Please click on the above photograph, and upon doing so you will be taken to my flickr page. Then scroll over the photograph. You will find notes that explain the location of the cave, shelter, etc.