In 1926, Conley T. Snidow converted this property to Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. The park attracted numerous people, but rare accidents claimed the lives of at least three children. Despite the owners' unsuccessful attempts to reopen the abandoned amusement park, the park’s haunting history has attracted archaeologists, tourists, and ghost hunters. The land where the amusement park stood was home to the Shawnee in the early 18th century. Most of the Native peoples had left this part of Virginia when Mitchell Clay and his family settled on this land in 1775. At that time, they were unaware of the thousands of Shawnee Indians who had lived on this land or the hundreds of Native American graves that filled the ground beneath their feet. In 1783, the Clay children were murdered on the property; a headstone marks the location where they were attacked.
Shawnee Indians inhabited
this property during the Fort Ancient Prehistoric Period, which lasted from
1000 A.D. to
An infection killed
approximately three thousand Indian children around 1282. The recovered corpses
were indicative of a disease that caused bone and dental deterioration.
Archaeologists from Marshall University and Concord College excavated over 25,000
artifacts: pottery shards, beads, necklaces, and tools. These artifacts showed
that two Indian villages were present on the present-day location of the park.
Many people believed that Mitchell Clay and his family were the first to
inhabit this property, but the discovery of approximately three thousand Indian
children’s corpses corrected this false belief.
In 1775, Mitchell and Phoebe Clay settled on the site.
They were the first white settlers in Mercer County, West Virginia. Mitchell and
Phoebe had thirteen children: David, Tabitha, Bartley, Ezekiel, Mitchell,
Rebecca, Obedience, Mary, Patience, Nannie, William, Henry, and Sallie. Tragedy
struck the large family in August of 1783, when eleven Shawnee Indians raided
the Clay settlement. Mitchell Clay and his older sons were not home during the
raid, so his wife and children were defenseless. The Indians killed and scalped
Tabitha and Bartley, and they abducted Ezekiel. Phoebe Clay and her other
children escaped from their log home. Mitchell and his sons returned to a
gruesome scene. Upon learning about Ezekiel’s abduction, Mitchell went to the
Indian village in Chillicothe, Ohio. His efforts to save his son’s life,
however, were unsuccessful because the Shawnee burnt Ezekiel at the stake
moments before his arrival. Mitchell buried the three children on his property.
In 1937, Conley T. Snidow erected a memorial to honor the lives of the three
In 1926, Conley T. Snidow obtained the land that
previously belonged to the Clay family. Snidow converted the property into Lake
Shawnee Amusement Park. The park featured swimming ponds, a Ferris wheel, a
swing set, and many other attractions. Snidow built cottages that families
could rent for ten dollars per weekend. Snidow’s reasonable prices attracted
many families, especially coal mining families. In fact, over ten thousand
people came to the park during Fourth of July weekends in the 1940s. This
picturesque getaway, however, claimed the lives of at least three children. In
the 1950s, a soda truck backed into a little girl while she was waiting in line
for the swings; she died immediately. Two boys also drowned in the swimming
ponds. The one boy got his arm stuck in a drainpipe, and his mother found his
body floating in the water when she came to pick him up from the park.
Following this accident, Conley Snidow closed Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in
1966. Before Snidow closed the park, Father Clifford Lewis and Edward V.
McMichael conducted small exploration projects. The two men discovered pottery
fragments, beads, and pieces of jewelry. They did not discover any human remains
because they limited their explorations to several inches into the soil.
Their small discoveries sparked the curiosity of archaeologists, especially
Emory Jones. Emory Jones, an amateur archaeologist, excavated a small segment
of the property between October and December in 1975. He discovered the remains
1985, Gaylord White became the new owner of the property. He worked at the
amusement park when he was a teenager, so he desired to reopen the park. White
kept the park open for three years, but astronomical insurance costs forced him
to close the park. White then planned to use his land for mud bogging. His
plans prompted archaeological field teams from Marshall University and Concord
College to launch a rescue excavation in 1988. The field teams uncovered more
corpses and over 25,000 artifacts. Gaylord White permitted the field teams to
conduct a second excavation during the summer of 1989. During the two excavations, the field teams
discovered 23 to 25 children’s corpses. Archaeologists estimate that
approximately three thousand Indian bodies remain in the ground.