July 01, 2008

Romantic play in West Virginia

‘Aracoma Story’ keeps area history aliveStar crossed lovers. Literature is full of them. Romeo and Juliet, from Shakespeare. “West Side Story” gave us Tony and Maria. Katie and Hubble remembered “The Way We Were” and local history combined with legend to create “The Aracoma Story.”

The story centers around Aracoma, a Native American princess and Boling Baker, a scout for General Braddock about 1760. The Shawnee, led by Aracoma’s father, Chief Cornstalk, captured Baker. Aracoma saved Baker’s life by pleading to her father for mercy. As fate would have it, Baker and Aracoma fell in love, and eventually married. Baker is adopted into the tribe, and they move onto an island in the Guyandotte River. The story then twists and turns, as does the relationship between the Shawnee and the white settlers. Legend has it that Aracoma’s story ended with her death in 1780, and that she asked to be buried on an island in the Guyandotte in what is today the city of Logan.
How the play came about:Flash forward to 1952, when the City of Logan commissioned Thomas Patterson to white an original script depicting the story as part of the city’s Centennial celebration. Based on G.T. Swain’s book “The History of Logan County” and Ernest Howerton’s “When History Began on the Guyandotte”, Patterson’s original script for The Aracoma Story dealt freely with the facts of the tale and placed them in a historical framework. The production proved such a success that it was staged again in 1953.

Then, in 1975, the city brought the play back to life. Because of extensive building on the island, which was the site of the original production, it was felt that Aracoma needed a new home. The play has been produced at Chief Logan State Park since then.
Comment:  Aracoma's tale sounds like it borrows heavily from the Pocahontas legend, with the Indian princess saving the white soldier. I wonder how much of the story is true and how much is romanticized nonsense.

For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

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