The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Sewell Mountain

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Sewell Mountain SW of Buster Knob, Fayette County, WV
Lee Tree Marker on US-60 near Myles Knob
Sewell Mountain, or Big Sewell Mountain, in eastern Fayette County, is among the highest mountains in southern West Virginia, and its crossing was long the highest point on the historic Midland Trail (today's U.S. Route 60), one of the most important passages across the central Appalachian Mountains.

Union and Confederate forces bivouacked on the mountain during the Civil War, though battle never erupted, and General Robert E. Lee first saw his war horse, Traveler, on Sewell near present-day "Lee's Tree" in the village of Maywood.

Sewell extends roughly 10 miles NE to SW across eastern Fayette County, following the general trend of the Allegheny Mountains of the Appalachian Mountains. It rises steeply on its eastern front, climbing more than 1,000 feet above the valley of the Meadow River at Rainelle, WV. Its western flank descends gradually to the northwest from the plateau regions of central Fayette County, above the New River Gorge, to the valleys of the Ohio River.

Despite its relative height, the mountain is levelly crowned, and its uplands are a productive pasturage, though known for their severe winter snows and short growing seasons. Several summits along its backbone rise to more than 3,000 feet above sea level: from northeast to southwest, they include Myles Knob (elev. 3,460 ft.), Buster Knob (elev. 3,278 ft.), Ford Knob (elev. 3,360 ft.), and Walnut Knob (elev. 3,442 ft.). Union and Confederate troops encamped on the mountain within sight of one another in 1861 on Myles Knob and nearby Buster Knob. After several weeks of rain, however, General Cox, the Union commander, withdrew during the night, and Lee decided to withdraw southern forces east, leaving the mountain and the westward Kanawha Valley to the Union.

The mountain and the nearby town of Sewell, WV, take their name from reclusive pioneer Stephen Sewell, who may have been killed by Indians nearby in the late 1700s, though his remains were never found and no history of his death was chronicled. He first settled with Jacob Marlin near present-day Marlinton, WV, when the region was still a wilderness.

Present-day U.S. Route 60 (US-60) traces the original course of the earlier Midland Trail, ascending Sewell west of Rainelle in an upland pass near Myles Knob at Maywood -- the highest point on the highway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Its course across the mountain is winding and subject to heavy winter snows.

WVAMAPS Map showing summit on Sewell Mountain

Map showing Sewell Mountain