In Death Visits Canaan, we learn about the author’s discovery of a solitary gravestone in Canaan Valley. This rough, hand-carved stone shows the initials of a nine-year old, and his date of death, December 5, 1880. That makes this gravestone the oldest dated object known to exist in Canaan Valley.
Through extensive research, Dr. Michael discovered the identity of this nine-year old and the basic details of his family’s ill-fated adventure in the Canaan wilderness. Death Visits Canaan describes life on the Appalachian frontier and the numerous adventures that characterized the lives of thousands of enthusiastic boys who matured rapidly in the unforgiving mountains of West Virginia.
The best part of Dr. Michael’s novel may be his descriptions of the mountains, forests, and wildlife awaiting those families who ventured into the great wilderness that existed as late as 1890. Extensive stands of prolific chestnut trees and gigantic black cherry trees provided an important food source to humans and wildlife, while ever-present black bears, mountain lions, and timber wolves presented daily challenges. We experience the countless obstacles facing early settlers, and ultimately we learn the details of one boy’s untimely death, the first known to occur in Canaan Valley.
About the author:
Dr. Edwin Michael, Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Ecology at West Virginia University, has devoted over 40 years of his life to the study of West Virginia’s wildlife. That experience was the basis for his three, historical fiction novels, A Valley Called Canaan, Shadow of the Alleghenies, and Death Visits Canaan.
Dr. Michael was born on Plum Run in Marion County, and attended public schools in Shinnston and New Martinsville. He received a B. S. degree in Biology from Marietta College, and M. S. and Ph.D. degrees in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M University. Dr. Michael continues to research and write about the wildlife of West Virginia, especially those living in the high mountains.