Traveling WV: Mystery Paintings

One wall is covered by a sweeping mural of a western landscape, complete with an American Indian village. (WCHS/WVAH)

What do you get when you have an old farmhouse, a mystery man, incredible paintings, and a possible wild west outlaw connection? You have the makings of a great story that all comes together in the small town of Craigsville in Nicholas County. Woods Farm owner Patrick Woods says this story was passed down to him through several generations, beginning in 1857 when his family farm was established. Here's how the story goes, a stranger asked Woods great grandfather if he could rent a room for the winter before the turn of the century, his grandfather agreed. While the stranger was kind, he was also very private, always carried a pair of pistols, keeping to himself while keeping his upstairs door locked at all times.

When the stranger suddenly disappeared, the family discovered his room painted and completely covered with detailed murals. Scenes from the western frontier, an ocean voyage, a small rural town, and an Indian village to name a few. Most intriguing were the subtle clues left behind that may have hinted at the artists identity. The initials "WD" were painted on a barrel, while the large ship was dubbed the "W. Dalton". Could the stranger have been a member of the infamous Dalton Gang of wild west fame? This assumption seemed to be confirmed when a new local school teacher disappeared shortly after the mystery man departed, that teacher turned out to be a Pinkerton detective. Is it possible that he was tracking the mysterious artist?

Patrick Woods says he believes the Dalton gang connection, but his biggest concern now is finding a way to preserve the beautiful paintings left behind on his family farm. Unfortunately the old farmhouse is deteriorating quickly and water damage is already visible on sections of the ceiling. These rare paintings are in certain danger of being destroyed. "I simply want to find a way to preserve the paintings" says Woods, "even if it means they have to leave the farm and become part of a museum collection." No one has come forward at this point to help, but Woods is hopeful that sharing the story behind the paintings will inspire someone to get the ball rolling toward preserving them. Woods can be reached at (304) 618-0904. Karen Price, a friend of the family is also trying to help. She can be reached at (304) 549-9862.

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