Jawbone Park, Buckhannon
Ross Straight, 2000
Chief Buckongahelas, known as the Washington of the Delaware, holds his son, killed by Captain White in 1773. The Buckhannon River and later this town were believed named for this great Delaware Chief
The legend has it that Captain William White shot and killed Mahonegon, for whom the area’s Boy Scout Camp is named, in June 1773. The statue depicts a grief-stricken father holding the body of his dead son, with a bullet hole in the abdomen. The legend also holds that Buckongahelas accomplished revenge, killing White about a decade later.
Buckhannon artist and sculptor Ross Straight was fascinated with the story of Buckhongahelas since boyhood days, after hearing it from his grandmother, whose family was among the original settlers. He crafted Upshur County’s first contemporary piece of public art: a statue to Buckongahelas cradling the body of his just-killed son, Mahonegon.
The 650-pound bronze sculpture- Buckongahelas and His Son Mahonegon- now graces Buckhannon’s Jawbone Park. It was Straight’s first major work, and he had plenty of skeptics when he first announced his dream and presented a terra cotta maquett (*model) in December 1997. Much of that skepticism centered on whether Straight would be able to raise the $21,500-plus required for the statue. The statue itself is worth considerably more, because he made no money on the project.
Straight presented the model to Buckhannon’s late Mayor Elizabeth Poundstone and members of the city council. A resolution of support was quickly passed, supported construction of the statue and installation in Jawbone Park.
As Ross continued his work on the sculpture, he also did his own fund-raising. The end result was a marvelous piece of community art. Not only has it enhanced the community, it owes its existence, in addition to Straight’s vision and tenacity, to community support- financial and otherwise. Local realtor French Armstrong donated the huge block of sandstone for its base. Local residents and businesses contributed cash and in-kind donations.
Sutton sculptor Bill Hopen waxed the mold for Straight, and George Houston’s Xcel-Premet Foundry in Huntington did the bronzing. Hopen welded the pieces together, and in June, Hopen, Straight, local stone sculptor George Brown, and Kathy Brunt of Charleston installed the statue.
When the statue was dedicated in 2000, representative of three Native American tribes, including the Delawares, who once lived and hunted in this area, participated in the ceremony.