I grew up playing “Cowboys and Indians.” I used to love the trappings of cowboyhood: six-guns, a big ole hat, and boots. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was genetically predisposed to playing an Indian just as much as a cowboy. When we played Cowboys and Indians, it was usually a small group of cousins and friends, and the Indians were always the enemies. Over the years I have discovered that I have met the enemy, and he is me!
Strongly documented in my family tree is a Native American by the name of Arter Dale. “Dale” as he was first called, first appears in family legend as a 15 year old boy, said to be the son of a woman who had died and a man who was “too old to raise him.” Chief Logan, of the Mingo tribe in Ohio had met a man he respected from Southwest Virginia, Patrick Porter. He told him of this 15 year old’s plight, and his desire to be raised in the manner of white people and serve the white man’s God. Porter was reluctant to accept the boy, thinking this must be some kind of trick, and the Mingo would eventually take some kind of revenge. Logan persisted, but Porter walked away without taking the boy. But a couple days on the journey back home, the boy showed up in Porter’s camp, with a note from Logan (who apparently being half “English” could read and write). The note said that he was going to tell the Mingo the boy had died from drowning in the river. Porter finally gave in and took him home with him to Dungannon, Virginia where he had built a cabin and would later erect a grist mill. The boy grew up to manhood among the Porters, learned to read the Bible, and married the daughter of a pioneer settler and raised a large family, moving eventually to a valley called Turkey Branch, near the Hurricane Section of what is now Wise County, Virginia.
I have sought but never found his grave. I was told once that in Indian fashion, his grave had been covered in small rocks. A stone has been erected there, which I am including a picture of in this post. I got it from a submitter on Ancestry.com. I have no way of verifying it, but I know the area where the cemetery is today is a reclaimed former strip mine. It is hard to know if the cemetery is still in tact.
Nearby is the grave of his great granddaughter, Sarah Caroline Dale (Arter Dale, Hardin Dale, Samuel Wilson Dale). Her stone is interesting. It has a tree inscribed in very primitive style. The tree is a symbol of the Mingo, and a sign of peace. A story exists in Ohio of a large Elm tree that was planted where Chief Logan had “buried the hatchet” as a sign of peace. The tree died a few decades ago from Dutch Elm disease, but the tree is a sign of life for Mingo, and has several legends surrounding it. That this area is the setting for John Fox Jr’s “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” is probably unrelated, but certainly complementary to this legend. Sarah’s picture is included here. An early portrayal of her Indian roots. She died in childbirth, the mother of
my great grandmother.
The gift of Chief Logan to Patrick Porter (who was also my ancestor), is my Native American Heritage. Not a lot of native blood, but an honored heritage nonetheless. Arter Dale’s sons signed the petition to form Wise County in 1856. He was listed in two censuses as a Methodist preacher (lay exhorter). Perhaps the first Mingo Methodist?