Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is an abandoned amusement park in Princeton, West Virginia.


In 1926, entrepreneur C.T. Snidow acquired land around Lake Shawnee near Princeton and began developing a small amusement park which soon became popular for families of coal miners that resided in the area. 1 It featured a Ferris wheel, swing ride, race track, dance hall, and concession stands, along with a lake for swimming and ice skating, 7 8 and cabins for overnight stays. 1 A concrete-lined swimming pool with a 100-foot slide was added when the lake was divided in 1927. 8

By the 1950s, the park one of the state’s largest concrete swimming pools, hiking trails, a golf driving range, a gun shooting gallery, and 16 cottages and cabins. 4 9

A federally-financed study aimed at luring more tourists to the state, completed by Wheeling College in 1965, proposed developing Lake Shawnee into a state historical park at the cost of $1.2 million. 6

The owners were elderly and had little interest in maintaining the property as a tourist attraction, which had become dilapidated. 9 In 1966, it had been proposed that the state acquire the land and redevelop it as a regional Boy Scout center with an emphasis on archaeological education, with a separate area for a motel and a nine-hole golf course for tourists. For the scouts, it was a central location that was uncrowded and capable of future growth with only modest work required to reduce the size of the swimming pool and to renovate the open fields for athletic activities and for use as campgrounds.

On July 6, 1967, the Mercer County Health Department announced that all swimming and recreational activities at Lake Shawnee must cease until it could comply with certain state health regulations that were ordered by the West Virginia Department of Health. 5 The order called for the cleanup of the swimming pool, the installation of filters, and the general cleaning of debris from the area.

Gaylord White, a former employee, purchased the abandoned park with plans to reopen it in 1985. 1 It reopened in the summer of 1987 2 but closed after a 1988 archeological dig uncovered numerous Native American artifacts and human remains on the property. 1 A total of 13 skeletons, mostly of children, were uncovered. The park briefly reopened but closed again after three years.


The land on which the amusement park was built was rumored to be the site of a massacre because of a land dispute in the mid-1700s between the Clay and Draper families. 1 In reality, Michell Clay, the nephew of Henry Clay, and his family settled along the Bluestone River at Clover Bottom in 1775. 3 9 The area had been settled previously by the Shawnees who had fished in the nearby Bluestone River and grew corn in the fertile valley. 9

In August 1783, after Clay had harvested his crop of a small grain and left to hunt game, a marauding party of 11 Native Americans crept to the edge of the field and shot one of his sons, Bartley, dead. 3 9 The discharge of the gun alarmed the rest of the family. In the ensuing melee, a daughter, Tabitha, was killed and dismembered while another son, Ezekiel, was captured.

After returning to the house, Mitchell came across his two dead children. 3 9 He formed a posse and pursued the Native Americans, following them across Flat Top in Raleigh County before overtaking them in Boone County. A number of them were killed but some of them escaped to Chillicothe where they burned Ezekiel at the stake.

Rumors from unsubstantiated sources noted that a young girl on the swing ride was killed when a truck delivering sodas accidentally backed into the ride, striking her, and that a nine-year-old boy drowned in the swimming pool after his arm was sucked down into the drain, with the pool subsequently filled in to prevent further accidents. 1 Neither incident has been verified by any reliable source.



  1. “Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.” The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Stackpole Books, 2014, p. 220-222.
  2. James, Michelle. “The Haunted History of Lake Shawnee.” Register-Herald [Beckley], 25 Oct. 2015.
  3. Donnelly, Shirley. “Lake Shawnee Massacre is Detailed.” Beckley Post-Herald, 3 Nov. 1972, p. 4.
  4. Peters, Ed.” “Lake Shawnee at Scene of Tragedy In Pioneer Years of This Country.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 24 Aug. 1952, p. 7.
  5. “Lake Shawnee Is Closed By Health Department.” Beckley Post-Herald, 10 Jul. 1967, p. 6.
  6. “Development of 11 Historical Sites Recommended in Study.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 21 Oct. 1965, p. 15.
  7. “Many Persons Enjoy Skating On Shawnee.” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 19 Dec. 1926, p. 2-3.
  8. “Shawnee is Preparing for Opening of Season.” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 5 May 1927, p. 8.
  9. Pitts, Phillip. West Virginia Antiquities Commission, Oct. 1976, Lake Shawnee.

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