The prehistoric Bens Run earthworks
were located on a terrace of the Ohio
River between the present communities of
Bens Run and Long Reach, in Tyler
County. The earliest eyewitness account of
the earthworks was from the 1808 journal of Lewis Summers, who described it as
"an ancient encampment" with square trenches enclosing an area of ten acres.
In 1818, the journal of Thom Nuttall described the
earthworks as "a small square embankment containing near an acre, with only
one or two openings or entrances."
Later accounts described an oval or
rectangular area of approximately 400 acres enclosed by the remnants of two
parallel walls of earth and stone, six to 12 feet high and 120 feet apart,
approximately four miles in length. A cross wall was reported running from one
long side of the enclosure to the other, with two additional interior walls extending
south from the cross wall. Two earthen mounds were reported within the
enclosure, and several more mounds were located nearby.
The Archeology Section of the West
Virginia Geological and Economic Survey
officially recorded the Bens Run earthworks in 1965. By that time, all visible
remnants of the earthworks were gone, probably through repeated plowing,
although one of the mounds remained. Archeological surveys conducted in the
1990s found no evidence of the enclosure. While it seems likely that there were
earthworks at Bens Run, the true dimensions may never be known. The
discrepancies in the accounts may be the result of embellishment and secondhand
reports. Data for similar enclosures recorded in West Virginia and Ohio support
the earlier, more conservative descriptions.
Written by Darla
- Bailey, Douglas L. "Archaeological Localities at
the Bens Run Earthworks Site." , Report.
Charleston: Strategic Environmental, 1993.
- Fowler, Daniel B. "Ancient Ruins," West
Virginia Collections Management Facility, Moundsville, 1974.
- Riggs, George P. & Nikola Riggs. "Shrouded in
Mystery are the Great Prehistoric Ruins at Bens Run, West Virginia,"
West Virginia Collections Management Facility, Moundsville, 1927.