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Family History of Randolph County, West Virginia


Article contributed by Lu Hickey

Benjamin Wilson, although he left Randolph county soon after its formation, was one of the most widely know and influential men the county has had in its century or more of existence. The following biography is from the American Historical Record, 1873, edited by Benson J. Lossing:

Colonel Benjamin Wilson was born in Frederick County, now Shenandoah County Virginia, November 30, 1747. His father, William Wilson, was a Scotch-Irishman who emigrated from the Province of Ulster Ireland, in 1737 and in that or the following year settled in the Shenandoah Valley Virginia, where in 1746, he married Elizabeth Blackburn whose family was also of Scotch -Irish origin. Before Benjamin had passed his early childhood yeas his father's family was permanently located on Trout run near the South Branch of the Potomac, then in Frederick, now Hardy County West Virginia, 30 miles from Winchester. Here Benjamin reached his manhood. Little is known of him during his minority except that he made himself useful on his father's farm at Trout Run. His opportunities to acquire an education were very limited but he devoted his leisure hours to studies, which tended to fit him for a successful business career. On September 4, 1770, he married Ann Ruddell and soon thereafter became a resident of Tygart's Valley in what is now Randolph county W.VA.

In 1774 he was attached as a lieutenant to the right wing of Lord Dunsmore's army which marched against the old Chillicothe towns on the Scioto River. For a time he served as an aid to Lord Dunmore, the commander-in -chief.. He rendered very efficient service during the campaign, a competent and reliable authority declaring that he acquired by his zeal and attention to duty the confidence of his superior officers. Early in the Revolution he was appointed to a captaincy in the Virginia forces, doing duty mainly on the frontiers; and to the close of the revolutionary struggle he was the organ through which most of the military and civil business of the part of the State in which he resided and transacted. He frequently served as commander of the forces raised to pursue marauding parties of Indians and in all these expeditions he was prompt, influential and conspicuously courageous, as well as prudent and judicious. His distinguished abilities secured him a colonel's commission in 1781. At the close of the Revolutionary War he served for several session in the Legislature of Virginia, from the count of Monongalia.

In 1784 he secured the organization of Harrison County, it being taken from the county of Monongalia. He was then appointed the first clerk of the county of Harrison, but his duties as such did not with draw him from other public duties, nor from politics, although he retained the office until near the close of his life. He was elected and served as a delegate in the Convention of Virginia in March 1788, which ratified the Constitution of the United States. He was a Federalist in politics and was one of the acknowledged leaders of the Federal party in Western Virginia until the close of the war of 1812 when party lines were obliterated, and parties themselves were dissolved the consummation being the election of James Monroe to the Presidency of the United States.

"Colonel Wilson was a man of varied and extensive business operations, of much general information, of genial temper, of stalwart person, of most dignified bearing, of undoubted patriotism, of unimpeachable integrity of character and of the elegance that characterized the true Virginia gentleman of the old school. He was not unmindful of the claims of religion upon him and he sustained to the close of his life an irreproachable Christian character."

Randolph County had two delegates in that famous convention, Colonel Benjamin Wilson and his brother John. The other members from what is now West Virginia were Berkeley County, William Drake and Adam Stephen; Greenbrier, George Glendenin and John Stuart; Hampshire, Alexander Wodrow and Ralph Humphreys; Harrison, George Jackson and John Prunty; Hardy, Isaac Van Meter and Abel Seymour; Jefferson, Robert Breckenridge and rice Bullock; Mercer, Thomas Allen and Alexander Robertson; Monogalia, John Evans and William McCleary; Ohio, Archibald Woods and Ebenezer Zane.

As shown in the case of this record, slender is the thread by which many a valuable historical item is preserved. The dates of the births of William Wilson's children were found on a blank leaf of an old book: "Record of the Fifth Congress".now in the possession of Lewis Wilson of Phillipi who supplied the information for his book. Col. Benjamin Wilson of Clarksburg furnished the dates of the deaths. No one know when or by whom the record was written on the leaf of the old book, but it was there by preserved and numerous descendants--perhaps hundreds--of William Wilson are thereby enabled to trace their family back to the old country. These descendants are found throughout West Virginia and many states.