Last year, we posted in Curious Carvings some photos of a face that had been carved in a rock in the Lansing, West Virginia area of New River Gorge. Many locals have known about the face carving. A trail was even named after it: the “Face” Loop Trail, a pleasant 1/4 mile loop that passes by a waterfall and hardwoods. The mysterious carving in the rock is the highlight of the short trail.
“Why here? Why just a face? The story is unknown, but the etching’s quality is impressive,” writes Bryan Simon in his trail guide Hiking and Biking in the New River Gorge.
Here is the photo we took on a hike a year or so ago:
And we posted an invitation: if anyone knows a story or rumor about these carvings, let us know.
This fall, we were contacted by the granddaughter of a man who had lived in Lansing, West Virginia: “That rock carving was done by my Grandfather, George Johnson, who lived in that holler.” We followed up with George Johnson’s granddaughter to find out more.
George Lewis Johnson was born in Buchanon, Virginia, in 1892. He moved to Lansing, WV, when he was 9 years old, and at that young age began working in the coal mines. Over his lifetime he was married 3 times, and had 17 children.
“My grandfather was self-educated by reading history books, etc. He also taught himself woodworking and made many pieces of wood-hewn furniture for his family and friends (he personally made me a child’s rocker from grapevine),” writes Johnson’s granddaughter in an email. He carved the rock face near his house, and he considered the face to be a self portrait. He lived in that house, which is no longer standing, most of his life. He died at the age of 83 in 1975.
The facts seem to match another carving a few hundred yards from the face.
George Johnson, thank you for the carvings, and may you rest in peace.
Photos by NRGAG