“Betsy Bell Hill,” by D. Kemper Wood [R550] [S074] It is worth noting that there is also a “Betsy Bell Hill” near Staunton Va.

“Among the Alleghany Mountains of Virginia, there is a wooded elevation which tradition has named Betsy Bell Hill. The name is wrapped in deep mystery, and of it little is known, except what has been handed down by word of mouth from the early settlers. That a lovely, vivacious maiden, whose name was Betsy Bell, once resided in these parts seems well established. The story relates the tale of an ugly feud, a thrilling romance and a heart-breaking tragedy. What part each played in the final ending nobody knows.

“Betsy Bell Hill, twenty miles north of Clifton Forge, is located on the Cowpasture River, at a point known as Wallawhatoola - (Indian for cowpasture). Formerly, a dirt road crossed the hill, winding up the south side like the letter S, and sloped sharply down the north side. Today a modern highway cuts straight through it. On the south side of the hill, near the old dirt road there is a stone pillar marking the spot where once stood a crude, log Presbyterian Church building. Here the early settlers worshipped. Male members of the congregation always carried a loaded mountain rifle when attending church. The bible was chained to the pulpit and near it stood a rifle for emergency use by the minister. Many Indians from the Ohio Valley and eastern Virginia sought shelter in the Alleghanies. For possession of these fertile river valleys and bountiful hunting grounds, they fought each other, ambushed and massacred the whites. Because of the treacherous redskins, the settlers sought mutual protection in religion, community settlements and in the use of firearms.

“John and Elizabeth Bell were proud of their eldest daughter, Betsy. The Bell family were members of the Community Church. Many times Betsy had remarked that when she married the wedding would be in the little log church. In all activities of the village and community as a whole, this charming young woman was a favorite. Tall, athletic, with long raven-black hair, dark, sparkling eyes, striking personality and full of life, she attracted immediate attention everywhere. A lover of horses, she kept her own white horse plump, slick and well-groomed. Betsy Bell, always riding astride, was criticized by the elderly women, admired by the men and boys and envied by the girls. Galloping over the hills, through the woods and across the fields, her dark hair streaming in the wind, she presented a picture of youthful vigor and charm. Warned of Indian treachery, she boasted that her horse could outrun the swiftest redskin.

“The Bell family resided in a simple log house located on a tract of land at the edge of the village. Adjoining it was the property of the Porters. Because of an argument over the location of a fence line, Simon Porter and John Bell became bitter enemies. Unable to agree, neither would assist the other in building the fence. Consequently, Simon built a fence three feet back on his own land, and John Bell did the same on his side. As time passed, a dense hedge of brush, briars and matted vines grew up between the two fences, forming an ugly blockade. For a long time this monument of spite and hatred continued to be a subject of gossip and ridicule. But as strange as it may appear, the hostility of these men seemed only to bind the other members of the two families in ties of closer friendship.

“Naturally, the spite fence was a source of embarrassment. Since childhood, Oliver, the eldest son of the Porters, and Betsy Bell had been warm friends. To them, the enmity of their fathers was something to be endured, for nothing could change it. Sandy-haired, sharp of eyes, toughened by hard work and tanned by the sun, Oliver was a typical youth of those far-away pioneer days. He too, loved to ride. Frequently, after the day’s work was done, the two would meet at the foot of the hill, Betsy on her prancing white horse and Oliver on his black charger, and ride in the late evening’s glow. Their friendship grew rapidly into a romance which led straight toward marriage. When their engagement was announced, the fathers of both were furious, while everybody else rejoiced. But these spiteful men could do nothing about it, since the ties of love cannot be severed by all the hatred and feuds of the world. The young couple, assisted by friends, arranged for their wedding in the little log church. The appointed time was for ten o’clock on a November day. The church had been appropriately decorated with evergreens, pine, spruce, cedar and a sprig of mistletoe over the door. A protective guard of honor had been appointed and invitations to friends delivered.

“Their last ride together before their marriage was planned for the evening prior to the wedding day. They met at their accustomed place just as the last rays of the setting sun tinted the clouds with a crimson hue. Galloping up the hill they waved and shouted gleefully to some friends standing in the church door. As they rounded the curve, Betsy Bell was on the inside and a shade in the lead, her long black hair rippling in the wind as they passed from sight.

“The next morning the minister, invited guests and guard of honor assembled in the little church, but the bride and groom did not appear. The one whispered word on every lip was-- “Indians”. There was no other explanation. An atmosphere of horror and depressing gloom settled over the saddened group. In every village home the sense of sorrow was profound. But in the homes of the stricken families there was a deep sorrow, and a grief that could not be assuaged.

“In days gone by, many weird and ghostly tales have been told by superstitious neighbors who happened to cross that hill in the dark hours of the night. Some claim they were passed by a white horse bearing a female rider in deep and mournful thought. Others say they had seen a white charger racing up the hill at terrific speed, and on the horse’s back, a woman with long black hair streaming on the breezes of the night. However true these tales may be, posterity will persist in the name Betsy Bell Hill."