Every town has it own interesting start, but few can claim that their founders lived in a sycamore tree.
John and Samuel Pringle are considered by many to be the first settlers to occupy the region that would eventually become Buckhannon, West Virginia.
It all began in 1761, when the brothers, who were from the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, decided to desert from their military post at Fort Pitt, located near modern day Pittsburgh, during the French and Indian War, taking with them William Childers and Joe Linsey.
While Childers and Linsey were captured at Looney’s Creek in 1762, the Pringle brothers entered the employment of John Simpson, a trapper and trader, and stayed with him until 1764, when an argument broke up the group.
“John and Samuel Pringle followed the Tygart Valley and reached the Buckhannon River country and Turkey Run,” located in Upshur County, eventually finding a hollowed sycamore tree that they decided to live in, according to hackerscreek.org.
Sycamores are West Virginia’s largest trees native and can grow over 100 feet tall.
“The hollow was supposed to have been so big that an eight-foot fence rail could be turned inside the tree,” according to wvencyclopedia.org.
The brothers stayed in the “Pringle Tree” until the fall of 1767, after John visited the South Branch River settlements and learned that the war had ended, meaning they were no longer wanted men.
They returned home and told their story, drawing the interest of William and John Hacker, Alexander and Thomas Sleeth, John, George and Edward Jackson, Thomas and Jesse Hughes, John and William Radcliff and John Brown. Samuel Pringle led this group back along the Buckhannon River in the fall of 1768 to settle the land for themselves.
This would begin the movement of settlers traveling into central West Virginia, though the original land claims would not be recognized by the Virginia government until 1781.
A historic marker can be found on U.S. 119 north of Buckhannon that marks the location of the Pringle Tree, which is now a third generation descendent of the original.
Another historical landmark is Pringle Tree Park in Buckhannon, which “marks the first permanent settlement west of the Alleghenies in Virginia, settled by Samuel and John Pringle in 1764,” according to visitbuckhannon.org.
More information about the history of the Pringle Tree can be found at buckhannonwv.org.