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The Southern States of America
The History of West Virginia - Chapter I


Geography of West Virginia.

HE State of West Virginia has the most irregular outline of all the American states. It is situated between 306' and 4030' north latitude, and between 040' and 555' longitude west from Washington, or 7740' and 8255' from Greenwich. The area is 24,715 square miles. This is almost twenty times that of Rhode Island, twelve times that of Delaware, five times that of Connecticut, three times that of Massachusetts, and more than twice that of Maryland. The state embraces four distinct physical regions or sections: (1) the Ohio Valley Region; (2) the Cumberland Plateau; (3) the Allegheny Highland, and (4) the Potomac Region. The boundaries of each are well known to those who have given attention to the topography of the state. There are fifty-five counties, and with the exception of two - Berkeley and Jefferson - on the upper Potomac, or in the Lower Shenandoah Valley, and six others - Morgan, Hampshire, Mineral, Hardy, Grant and Pendleton - all lie in the Trans-Allegheny Region and are drained by northwestward flowing rivers into the Ohio. Here, amid these hills and mountains, white men have made nearly two centuries of civil and military history.

Early Explorations.

All over the state are the evidences of the existence of a people now long gone. These consist of mounds which dot the landscape, and implements, weapons and ornaments scattered over the surface or upturned by the plowshare. They are interesting to the antiquarian, but have no place in history, for neither in blood, manners, speech nor law, have these people left a mark in all the land in which they lived. The Indian occupation of this region is an interesting topic. A band of Mohegans was on the Kanawha River in 1670; still later the Conoys or Kanawhas, whose name has been given to this river, were on its upper tributaries ; the Cherokees claimed that portion of the state lying south of the Great Kanawha; the Shawnees were living on the Upper Potomac and along the South Branch of that river in the first half of the Eighteenth century; the Delawares lingered in the valley of the Monongahela as late as 1763, while bands of Mingoes, Wyandotts and Miamis roamed over the whole extent of the state as a common hunting ground.

West Virginia was not included in the first grant made by King James I., in 1606, to the Virginia Company of London. It was, however, included in its chartered limits in 1609, and thus the state became a part of Virginia when the infant colony at Jamestown had existed but two years. It became a land of discovery and exploration. The first West Virginia river known to white men is called New River ; it was discovered in 1641-2 by Walter Austin, Rice Hoe, and their associates. In 1670 John Lederer, a German explorer in the service of Sir William Berkeley, in company with a Captain Collett and nine Englishmen, left the York River, passed the source of the Rappahannock, and from the crest of the Blue Ridge, near what is now Harper's Ferry, looked down upon the Lower Shenandoah Valley, beyond which they beheld in the distance, standing like a towering wall, the Great North Mountain and other summits, in what is now Berkeley and Morgan counties, in West Virginia. The same year Governor Berkeley issued to General Abram Wood, a commission "for ye finding out of ye ebbing and flowing of ye water on ye other side of ye mountains." Under this authority he, the next year, sent out a party of five persons under the command of Captain Thomas Batts for this purpose. They left the site of the present city of Petersburg, on the Appomattox River, journeyed westward to the Blue Ridge, which mountain barrier they crossed, and descended into what is now Monroe county, West Virginia. Pressing onward they beheld the high cliff walls of the canons of New River, and on the evening of Sept. 16, 1671, they reached the falls of the Great Kanawha, where they "had a sight of a curious river, like the Thames at Chelsea, but had a fall that made a great noise." The next day they took possession of the valley of this river for the King in these words: "Long live Charles ye 2d, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, Ireland, Virginia and of all the Territories thereto belonging." Then they set up a stick by the water-side to ascertain the ebb and flow; marked some trees, and discharged fire-arms, after which they began the homeward march. Such was the discovery of Kanawha Falls 237 years ago. Forty-five years thereafter, Alexander Spottswood, lieutenant-governor of Virginia, became interested in exploration to the westward of the Blue Ridge. Equipping a party of thirty horsemen and heading it in person, the cavalcade left Williamsburg and journeyed onward through the Piedmont Region, passed the "great divide," by way of Swift Gap, and descended to a river now known by the name of Shenandoah, but to which the explorers gave that of "Euphrates "-the first Christian name bestowed upon a West Virginia river. Far away to the westward they beheld the mountain peaks, around the "Birth-Place of Rivers," in West Virginia. Such was the origin of the "Knights of the Golden Horse-Shoe," a title bestowed by Spottswood upon those who accompanied him.

Settlements Before 1754.

The first quarter of the Eighteenth century passed away, and all this region remained a primeval wilderness; but the time was near at hand when white men should come to occupy the land. In 1725 John Van Meter, an Indian trader from the Hudson River, traversed the Lower Shenandoah, Upper Potomac and South Branch Valleys, but the honor of fixing the first permanent home of civilized men in West Virginia was reserved to another. This was Morgan Morgan, who, in 1726-7, reared his home on the site of the present village of Bunker Hill, in what is now Mill Creek magisterial district, in Berkeley county. He was a native of Wales who came early in life to Pennsylvania, and thence to the Shenandoah Valley. He was soon followed by some German people from that colony whose ancestral home was Mecklenburg in the Fatherland; they crossed the Potomac at the "Old Pack-Horse Ford" in 1727, and a mile above, on its southern bank, among the masses of gray limestone everywhere visible, they laid the foundation of a village which they called New Mecklenburg. This is now Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia. Soon after Richard Morgan obtained a grant for a tract of land near Mecklenburg, where he made his home. Among those who came about 1734 and found homes along the Potomac River, in what are the present counties of Berkeley and Jefferson, were Robert Harper (at Harper's Ferry), William Stroop, Thomas and William Forester, Van Swearingen, James Foreman, Edward Lucas, Jacob Hite, Jacob Lemon, Richard Mercer, Edward Mercer, Jacob Van Meter, Robert Stockton, Robert Buckles, John Taylor, Samuel Taylor and John Wright. In 1735 the first settlement was made in the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac, in what is now Hampshire county, by four families of the names of Cobun, Howard, Walker and Rutledge. A year thereafter Isaac Van Meter, Peter Casey, the Pancakes, Foremans and others reared homes further up the South Branch, some of them within what is now Hardy county.

A land grant which played an important part in the early settlement of West Virginia was that known as the "Lord Fairfax Patent." In 1681 - forty-five years before a white man found a home in West Virginia-King Charles II. issued letters patent to Ralph Hopton; Henry, Earl of St. Albans; John, Lord Culpeper; John, Lord Berkeley; Sir William Morton, Sir Dudley Wyatt and Thomas Culpeper, their heirs and assigns forever for all the lands situated between the rivers Rappahannock and Potomac, and bounded by the courses of these rivers. Years passed away; the proprietors died, and the vast estate descended to the sixth Lord, Thomas Fairfax, who had wedded Margaret, the only child of Lord Culpeper. At the time of the original grant nothing was thought of its extent west of the Blue Ridge, but as the region drained by the upper tributary streams of the Potomac became known, it was seen that a large portion of it would be included within the limits of this grant. Commissioners were therefore appointed - three by the King, and three by Lord Fairfax - to determine its boundaries. There were delays, but on Oct. 17, 1746, the "Fairfax Stone" was erected at the source, or first fountain, of the North Branch of the Potomac; thence a line was afterward run to the source of the Rappahannock, the present West Virginia counties, within the grant being the whole of Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire, Mineral, nine-tenths of Hardy, three-fourths of Grant and one-eighth of Tucker-an area of 2,540 square miles, or 1,625,600 acres. In 1747 Lord Fairfax employed the boy surveyor, George Washington, to lay off portions of these lands to suit settlers then arriving, and in this, and the two ensuing years, nearly 300 tracts were surveyed. Thus it was that George Washington, who led the American armies in the Revolution, and who was the first President of the United States, surveyed the first farms in West Virginia. Settlements were formed far up the South Branch of the Potomac, even into what is now Pendleton county, and daring frontiersmen sought homes beyond the mountains to the westward. In 1753 David Tygart and Robert Foyle settled on what is since known as Tygart's Valley River, now in Randolph county. The next year Thomas Eckarly and two brothers reared a cabin on Dunkard's Bottom on Cheat River, now in Preston county, and three years later Thomas Decker and others began a settlement at the mouth of what has since been known as Decker's Creek, on the Monongahela River, where Morgantown, in Monongalia county, now stands.

Another land grant played an important part in the early settlement of West Virginia. It was for 100,000 acres in the Greenbrier Valley, made in 1749 to the "Greenbrier Land Company," which consisted of twelve members, among whom were its president, John Robinson, treasurer of the colony of Virginia; Thomas Nelson, for thirty years secretary of the Council of State, and John Lewis, the founder of Staunton, and two of his sons. Four years were allowed for surveys and settlements. Andrew Lewis, afterward General Andrew Lewis of the Revolution, was appointed surveyor for the company ; he hastened the work, and Col. John Stuart, the historian of the Greenbrier Valley, states that prior to 1755 Lewis had surveyed settlement rights aggregating more than 50,000 acres. Thus civilized men found homes in the Greenbrier Valley. The settlements in the wilds of Augusta county were formed in 1738, and by an act of the House of Burgesses in 1753, Hampshire county, embracing all the settlements on the upper waters of the Potomac, and the first unit of civil government in West Virginia, was created. In 1756 Captain Teague sent to the Lords of Trade and Plantations, London, a "List of Tithables" on which was based a census of Virginia. Taking his estimate it appears that at this time there were about 10,000 whites and 400 blacks within the present limits of West Virginia.

If an irregular line be drawn from the Blue Ridge through Harper's Ferry and Charles Town in Jefferson county, Martinsburg in Berkeley county, Berkeley Springs in Morgan county, Romney in Hampshire county, Moorefield in Hardy county, Petersburg in Grant county, Upper Tract and Franklin in Pendleton county, Marlinton in Pocahontas county, thence down Greenbrier River through Greenbrier county, and thence through Monroe county to Peter's Mountain, it will pass centrally through the region in which resided the pioneer settlers of West Virginia at that time.

Wars with Indians.

From the time of the coming of the first settler to the state to the year 1754, white men and Indians had lived together in peace and harmony. But now the old French and Indian War-the final struggle between the French and English for territorial supremacy in America-was at hand, and barbarian warfare was to desolate the West Virginia settlements. The colonial government of Virginia, at the head of which was the lieutenant-governor, Robert Dinwiddie, hastened preparations for defense. Col. George Washington, with the First Virginia Regiment, was sent to the West Virginia frontier. Forts for defensive and offensive operations were speedily erected. Fort Ashby stood on the east bank of Patterson's Creek, in what is now Frankfort district, Mineral county; Fort Waggener was on the South Branch of the Potomac, three miles above the site of Moorefield, in Hardy county ; Fort Capon was at Forks of Capon, now in Bloomery district, in Hampshire county; Fort Cox stood on the lower point of land at the confluence of the Little Cacapon and Potomac rivers ; Fort Edwards was near the site of Capon Bridge, now in Bloomery district, Hampshire county; Fort Evans was two miles south of where Martinsburg, in Arden district, Berkeley county, now stands; Fort Ohio stood where the village of Ridgeley, in Frankfort district, Mineral county, is now situated ; Fort Pearsall was on the site of the present town of Romney, in Hampshire county; Fort Peterson was on the South Branch of the Potomac, in Milroy district, Grant county; Fort Pleasant was erected on the Indian Old Fields, now in Hardy county; Fort Riddle was in Lost River district, Hardy county; Fort Sellers was at the mouth of Patterson's Creek, now in Frankfort district, Mineral county; Fort Upper Tract was in what is now Mill Run district, Pendleton county, and Fort Seybert stood on the bank of the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac in the same county.

The French, with their savage allies, bore down with resistless fury upon the West Virginia border, and around these primitive forts were enacted many of the tragedies and dramas of the wilderness. The Tygart and Foyle_ settlements on Tygart's Valley River, together with those of the Eckarlys on Cheat River, and of the Deckers on the Monongahela, were destroyed, and many persons killed on Greenbrier River. Fierce battles were waged in the vicinity of Fort Edwards, Fort Riddle and Fort Pleasant; bloody massacres occurred at Fort Upper Tract and Fort Seybert, and many a West Virginia family became victims of savage barbarity. After seven years of war, hostilities were ended; then came the conspiracy of Pontiac in 1763, and with it the Muddy Creek massacre in the Greenbrier Valley, in which the entire settlement was destroyed by a band of Shawnee Indians.

Settlements 1760-1776.

Now for a time the Indian wars were ended, and what is known as "the halcyon decade of the Eighteenth century' -1763-1773-was ushered in. Daring pioneers sought homes west of the mountains; James Moss reared his cabin home at the Sweet Springs, now in Monroe county, in 1760; Archibald Clendenin and Felta Youcom, on Greenbrier River, in 1761; in 1764 John and Samuel Pringle fixed their homes at the mouth of Turkey creek on Buckhanon River, in what is now Upshur county; the same year John Simpson, a trapper from the South Branch of the Potomac, built a cabin at the mouth of Elk creek on the West Fork of the Monongahela, where Clarksburg, in Harrison county, now stands; John McNeel found a home on the "Little Levels," now in Pocahontas county, as early as 1765; James Booth came to Booth's creek, now in Marion county, as early as 1765; Zackwell Morgan settled where Morgantown, in Monongalia county, now stands, in 1766; the same year Jacob Prickett brought his family to the mouth of Prickett's creek, now in Marion county; Charles and James Kennison joined John MeNeel on the "Little Levels" of Pocahontas county in 1768; Thomas and William Renick and Robert McClennahan settled at Falling Springs, now in Greenbrier county, in 1769; on a bright spring morning in May, 1770, Ebenezer Zane arrived upon the site of the city of Wheeling, of which he was the founder; Thomas Williams, William McCoy, William Hughart and John Jordan located the same year at and near the site of Williamsburg, now in Greenbrier county; Christian Peters came to what is now Petersburg, in Monroe county, in 1771; Adam Mann, Valentine Cook and Isaac Estill fixed their habitations near him the same year. Jacob Wetzel built his cabin on Wheeling creek, Ohio county, in 1771, and a year later Joseph Tomlinson found a home on the Grave creek flats, where Moundsville, in Marshall county, now stands; James and Thomas Parsons located at the Horse-Shoe Bend, on Cheat River, now in Tucker county, in 1772; William McClung and Andrew Donnally came to the vicinity of the present town of Frankfort, in Greenbrier county, in 1773, and Leonard Morris reared his cabin on the site of old Brownstown, now Marmet, on the Great Kanawha River, in 1774. Thus were the homes of civilized men established over all the region from the Alleghany Mountains to the Ohio River. Speedily were these joined by other homeseekers in the wilderness, and so many came that in 1775 there were 30,000 people residing in what is now West Virginia.

In these years of peace the English sought to extinguish the Indian's title to West Virginia. This was accomplished by the terms of the treaty of Fort Stanwix - now Rome - New York, in 1768, when the Six United Nations ceded to the King of England practically all of West Virginia, except what was known as the "Indiana Cession." This was a region within West Virginia which the Six Nations reserved in their cession to the King, and granted to Capt. William Trent and other Indian traders in consideration of merchandise taken from them by the Indians on the Ohio in 1763. Its extent is shown by the statement that it included of present West Virginia counties within its bounds, one-half of Wood, two-fifths of Wirt, one-third of Calhoun, one-half of Gilmer, one-tenth of Braxton, one-sixth of Randolph, and all of Pleasants, Ritchie, Lewis, Upshur, Barbour, Doddridge, Harrison, Taylor, Monongalia, Wetzel and Tyler-a total area of 4,950 square miles, or 3,168,640 acres. The General Assembly of Virginia repudiated the title and the traders never came into possession of any part of the cession.

The "Province of Vandalia" has the most interesting history of any embryo state west of the Alleghanies. As early as 1756 Governor Dinwiddie had urged upon the English government the necessity of founding a new province in the Ohio Valley. Later the scheme was supported by a number of statesmen, among them Lord Halifax. A petition signed by eminent Virginians went over-sea in 1772, praying for the establishment of a separate government for a province to the westward, to be known by the name of "Vandalia," the capital of which was to be located at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River, now Point Pleasant in Mason county. Within the boundaries as then defined were included forty of the present counties of West Virginia. The charter had passed the seals, but the renewal of the Indian wars and the beginning of the Revolution put an end to the scheme.

Another embryo state west of the Alleghanies was that known as the "Province of Westsylvania," within the bounds of which lay nearly all of the present state of West Virginia. The scheme was inaugurated by Daniel Rogers and others in July, 1776. It had its origin in the condition of the people who had settled in the Monongahela Valley, within the region claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania. Two plans were suggested; one was that they should assemble and send delegates to a convention at Fort Beckett, there to organize a government, and thus become the "fourteenth link in the American chain." A second was that they should send petitions to the Continental Congress, praying that body to declare the said country an independent province to be hailed and known as "Westsylvania." The War of Independence put an end to this scheme, as it had to that of establishing the province of Vandalia.

The "District of West Augusta" was one of the historic and military divisions of West Virginia. It is a name never to be forgotten as long as the history of the state is known. It embraced the whole of northern West Virginia lying westward of Hampshire county, and included two-thirds of the present county of Randolph, one-half of Barbour, one-third of Tucker, half of Taylor, one-third of Preston, nearly the whole of Marion and Monongalia, one-fourth of Harrison, one-half of Doddridge, two-thirds of Tyler, and the whole of Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke and Hancock. Within it lived as heroic and patriotic a people as ever dwelt upon the confines of civilization. They withstood the storm of savage warfare, and were ready for the service of their country at the first drum-tap of the Revolution. The "District of West Augusta" was extinguished by an act of the General Assembly in 1776, when the counties of Ohio, Monongalia and Yohogania were formed therefrom. The latter was largely cut off to Pennsylvania by the western extension of Mason and Dixon's Line, and the residue was added to Ohio county.

More Indian Wars: Battle of Point Pleasant.

The ten years' truce was ended; Indian hostilities were renewed, and the year 1774 brought with it that series of military movements known as Lord Dunmore's War. This resulted from the treachery of both the whites and the Indians. On April 16 of that year, a large canoe filled with white men was attacked by Indians near Wheeling, and one of them in it killed. A party of about thirty frontiersmen hastened to Baker's Station, which was opposite the mouth of Yellow Creek, and in what is now Grant district, Hancock county, where, under circumstances of great perfidy, they killed ten Indians, among whom were some of the relatives of Logan, a distinguished chieftain of the Mingo tribe. War was now inevitable, and the storm burst with all its fury on the West Virginia frontier. Bands of warriors laid waste the settlements, and men and women fell victims to savage barbarity. Messengers bore the tidings of bloodshed to Williamsburg, the colonial capital of Virginia. The governor, John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, ordered Maj. Angus McDonald to collect the settlers on the Upper Potomac and invade the Indian country. He obeyed the summons, and hastened to Wheeling, where he erected Fort Fincastle (afterward Fort Henry). In June, with 400 men - nearly all West Virginia pioneers - he descended the Ohio to the mouth of Captina creek and marched thence to the interior of what is now the state of Ohio, where he burned the Indian towns and laid waste the cornfields. This done, the army returned to Wheeling, whence many of the men returned to their homes.

The war continued, and Lord Dunmore, having ordered Gen. Andrew Lewis to collect an army of 1,500 men in the counties of Augusta, Botetourt and adjacent territory, left the gubernatorial mansion, and hastening over the Blue Ridge, fixed his headquarters at "Greenway Court," the home of Lord Fairfax, which stood thirteen miles southeast of Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley. Here he engaged in mustering a force consisting of a like number to form the northern or right wing of the army destined for the invasion of the Indian country; that under General Lewis was to constitute its southern or left wing. General Lewis made Camp Union, now Lewisburg, in Greenbrier county, the place of rendezvous, and having assembled an army of 1,480 men, began the march of 160 miles through a trackless wilderness to the Ohio River. This force consisted of the Augusta regiment commanded by his brother, Col. Charles Lewis, the Botetourt regiment under Col. William Fleming, and a battalion from the Watauga and Holston settlements, at the head of which was Maj. William Christian. Both regiments reached the mouth of the Great Kanawha River on Oct. 6, 1774, where, on the 10th ensuing, they waged the most desperate battle ever fought with the Indians in the valley of the Ohio. The Indian army, probably equal in numbers to that of the Virginians, was composed of the best warriors of the Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, Wyandotte and Cayuga tribes, led by their respective chiefs, at whose head was Cornstalk, sachem of the Shawnees and head of the Western Confederacy. The battle, beginning at day-dawn, continued until evening, when the Indians, beaten, retreated across the Ohio. The Virginians had seventy-five killed and 140 wounded. Meantime Lord Dunmore with the northern wing of the army had proceeded by way of Fort Pitt, and descended the Ohio to the mouth of Hockhocking River. From there he proceeded through the wilderness to the Pickaway Plains in the Valley of the Scioto-noir. General Lewis having cared for the dead and wounded, crossed the Ohio with 1,000 men and marched for the same destination. Arriving there the two divisions were united, and Lord Dunmore made a treaty known as that of "Camp Charlotte," by the terms of which the Indians were kept quiet for three years. The Virginians returned to their homes well pleased with the results of the war.

West Virginia in the Revolution.

West Virginia did her full part in the Revolution, and may be regarded as the "fourteenth link in the American chain" in the struggle for independence and national life. This is attested by a vast mass of documentary evidence still preserved. The units of government then existing within what is now the state were the "District of West Augusta" and the counties of Hampshire, Berkeley, Monongalia, Ohio and Greenbrier, the latter being formed in 1777. When intelligence of the battle of Lexington reached the frontiersmen of West Virginia, hundreds of them hastened away to old Fort Pitt-then believed to be within the confines of Virginia-where they assembled in convention, and, having by resolution pledged their lives to the cause of American liberty, proceeded to elect John Harvie and John Neville to represent them in the convention at Williamsburg in May ensuing. In this body they were admitted to seats "as the representatives of the people of that part of Virginia which lies to the westward of the Alleghany Mountains." The first company of enlisted men from the south of the Potomac that joined Washington at Boston was Capt. Hugh Stevenson's Berkeley County Riflemen. It left Morgan's Spring, now in Jefferson county, July 17, 1775, "not a man missing," and on arriving at the American camp was introduced by its captain as being "from the right bank of the Potomac." General Washington knew some of these men personally, and passing along the line shook the hand of every man in it.

Capt. William Darke and Captain Beale each organized companies of Berkeley county men for the Fourth Regiment on Continental establishment. Capt. James Parsons with a company of Hampshire county men hastened away to the field and served in the Third Regiment; Capt. Jacob Westfall's Riflemen, from that part of Monongalia now Randolph county, was attached to the Eighth Regiment, and rendered faithful service; Capt. James Booth's Company of Frontiersmen, from what is now Harrison and Marion counties, served in the western military department. Greenbrier county with but 550 effective men had, at one time, 174 of them in service, some in the Continental army and others with General Clark in his western campaigns.

On Jan. 8, 1777, the Continental Congress ordered the West Augusta Battalion to join Washington in New Jersey. This was part of the Thirteenth Virginia, commanded by Col. William Crawford, then stationed at Pittsburg, and known as the "West Augusta Regiment" because its rank and file were composed almost entirely of West Virginia pioneers, whose homes were within the bounds of the old historic "District of West Augusta," men as brave as any that ever faced an enemy. Garrett Van Meter, county-lieutenant of Hampshire county, kept his commissary and quartermaster busy collecting supplies in the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac, and these were sent to the armies-some by way of Pittsburg to General Clark for use in his western campaigns. Edward Snickers went to and fro over the Lower Shenandoah Valley-now Berkeley and Jefferson counties-collecting corn, wheat' and other supplies for the Continental army, and Mabre Maden, of Berkeley, used his teams to haul these to points where needed. John Evans, county-lieutenant of Monongalia, gathered supplies up and down the Monongahela River, and sent them to the Thirteenth Regiment and other troops of the western military department at Pittsburg. In 1776 some of the British prisoners, taken by Captain Barron on the sloop-of-war Oxford, were sent to Berkeley county for safe keeping, and their wants were supplied by the people of that vicinity; and in 1781 the Hesse Hanau Regiment (Hessians) prisoners, 300 strong, were sent to Berkeley Springs in Berkeley (now Morgan) county, where they were guarded and fed by West Virginians until the close of the war. Verily West Virginia did her part in the struggle for independence.

Each unit of government within her limits had its own Committee of Safety, working harmoniously with the State Committee of Virginia, and it may be said that not one of them ever failed to respond cheerfully and with a true patriotic spirit to every requisition made upon each and every one of them, be it for men for the Continental army, or for the Virginia state line, for horses, provisions, clothing or other supplies for the armies battling for national existence. West Virginians were on nearly all the battlefields of that war, and there are more graves of Revolutionary soldiers in West Virginia than in any other American state, outside of the thirteen original commonwealths.

In 1776 Virginia adopted a constitution which continued to be the organic law of the commonwealth until 1830-a period of fifty-four years. It provided for a government having a division of powers -legislative, executive and judicial-but in reality almost all power, instead of being vested in the people, was reserved to the legislative branch, called the General Assembly. This body consisted of two houses-a senate and a house of delegates. The former, when organized, contained twenty-four members, while the latter was composed of two members from each county, chosen annually by the votes of the freeholders. A governor and a Privy Council, or Council of State, consisting of eight members were elected annually by the General Assembly, the latter to assist in the administration of the government. Likewise, the judges of the court of appeals, the general court, judges in chancery, judges in admiralty, secretary and attorney-general of the commonwealth were all elected by that body, but commissioned by the governor, who was vested with the appointing power of all county officials except members of the General Assembly, who, as stated, were elected by the people, whose right to vote was determined by a property qualification. We shall see how the provisions of this constitution produced dissension in the western portion of the commonwealth-now West Virginia.

Development After Revolution.

The Revolution terminated in 1783, but not so the border wars. The Indian nations of the Ohio wilderness had been the allies of the English since 1777, and for twelve years after the treaty of Paris they continued to wage a fierce and relentless warfare upon the frontier civilization. Throughout all these years they carried death and destruction into the West Virginia settlements, and spread desolation throughout the valleys and along the tributary streams of the Great Kanawha and Monongahela rivers, and on the southern banks of the Ohio. Block-houses and stockade forts-places of defensive and offensive operations-were erected in many localities, and the scenes that transpired about them and in the cabin homes nearby in these years are without a parallel in the annals of barbarian warfare. These West Virginians were ever ready to yield up their lives in defense of their homes, and when not engaged in defending them were much of the time on expeditions into the Indian country. Some were at St. Clair's defeat, and others at Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers. This last forever ended the Indian wars on the south side of the Ohio. Henceforth the pioneers dwelt in their cabin homes without fear of savage fury. It may be truthfully said that when these border wars were ended, more men, women and children had perished at the hands of the savage foe-victims of the stake, rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife-in West Virginia, than had died from similar causes in any other region of equal extent in America.

Moorefield, the seat of justice of Hardy county, in the South Branch Valley. was the designated place of rendezvous, and from here marched the West Virginians who served in the National army in its campaign for the suppression of the whiskey insurrection in western Pennsylvania in 1794.

It had been said of the West Virginia pioneers that they belonged to a class of men who were "farmers to-day, statesmen to-morrow and soldiers always." This appears to have been true. When the Virginia Federal convention convened at Richmond June 2, 1788, to take into consideration the proposed form of Federal government - the National constitution-there sat in it sixteen members for the eight West Virginia counties then checkered on the map of Virginia. These counties, with their representatives in that convention, were as follows:

Berkeley County-William Darke and Adam Stephen.
Greenbrier County-George Clendenin and John Stuart.
Hampshire County-Andrew Woodrow and Ralph Humphreys.
Hardy County-Isaac Van Meter and Abel Seymour.
Harrison County-George Jackson and George Prunty.
Monongalia County-John Evans and William McCleery.
Ohio County-Archibald Woods and Ebenezer Zane.
Randolph County-Benjamin Wilson and John Wilson.

Every one of these men were farmers at home; every one had seen military service during the Revolution and Indian wars, and all were acting the part of statesmen now. Who shall say to what extent ! On the final vote, fifteen of them voted to ratify the Federal constitution, but one of them-John Evans, of the county of Monongalia-voting against it. The final vote stood 89 ayes and 79 noes. If the fifteen West Virginia members had voted no, Virginia would not have ratified the constitution, and who can tell what effect such a result would have had upon the formation of the Union?

In the year 1800 there was a busy population which had grown from 55,875 in 1790, to 78,592 at the close of the century. Homes of thrift and industry gave evidence of many years of settlement in the eastern Pan-Handle and along the Upper Potomac, while from the Alleghanies to the Ohio, cabin homes dotted the landscape. Thirteen of the present counties-Hampshire, Berkeley, Monongalia, Ohio, Greenbrier, Harrison, Hardy, Randolph, Pendleton, Kanawha, Brooke. Wood and Monroe - then had an existence ; and Wheeling, West Liberty, Wellsburg, Clarksburg, Parkersburg, Martinsburg, Lewisburg, Romney, Charles Town, Shepherdstown, Point Pleasant and Charlestown, had become towns of importance for that day. Another decade passed away and brought the year 1810, at which time the population had grown to 105,469. The first newspaper published in West Virginia-The Potomac Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser-had been founded at Martinsburg in 1789, and now a half dozen more had been established in other towns. Randolph Academy at Clarksburg, the western representative of William and Mary College, was founded in 1787; this had been followed by other academic schools at Shepherdstown, Charles Town, West Union and Lewisburg, while a system of "Old Field Schools" had grown up in rural districts under the Virginia School Law of 1796.

Western Virginia in the War of 1812.

When the second war with England-that of 1812 -began, West Virginia was ready, as she had been when the war of the Revolution commenced. On April 10, 1812, President Madison issued a call for 100,000 men, and five days later the secretary of war informed Gov. James Barbour that, of this number, Virginia's quota was 12,000. Maj. Samuel McGuire, of Romney, Hampshire county, was the first West Virginian who tendered his services to the governor. He said: "Whenever we are compelled by the insolent and perfidious conduct of a foreign government to relinquish the happy situation in which our country has so long flourished, and resort to war, it becomes the duty of every citizen to make a solemn declaration of his determination to support his government in the prosecution of such a war to the utmost limits of his means." Capt. James Faulkner's Artillery Company of Martinsburg, Berkeley county, was the first West Virginia organization ordered into service, and the second was a company of Light Infantry of the same county; it belonged to the Sixty-seventh Regiment of Militia, of which Elisha Boyd was colonel. On May 21 Captain Buckmaster's company of Light Infantry was ready to march from Jefferson county, and Capt. Carver Willis was enrolling another at the same place. In this month Capt. Nimrod Sanders, commanding a cavalry company, and Capt. James Laidley at the head of a rifle company, both of Parkersburg, Wood county, informed Governor Barbour that they were ready for service. In July, Capt. Samuel McClure's cavalry company, eighty strong, of Wheeling, was waiting orders to march. On August 27 Capt. John Connell wrote General Biggs that he only awaited his orders to march with the Brooke county Volunteers. On the receipt of the news of the surrender of Detroit by General Hull, 250 men of the Northern Pan-Handle assembled at Wellsburg, Brooke county, and declared their readiness to march to the northwest under the leadership of Captain Connell. There were no provisions and a deficiency in arms, but James Marshall, George Getter, Robert Hartford, William Wattenbee and Jacob De Camp, men of means, offered to furnish all supplies and await payment from the National government. Home-woven linen was purchased, and Wellsburg women made it into tents and knapsacks. But it was deemed best to consult the governor as to this action, and await a later movement.

But West Virginia was to have a distinct part in the second war with England. On Sept. 1, 1812, Mr. Eustis, secretary of war, informed Governor Barbour of the order of the President to him to call out and equip, in addition to the state's quota of 12,000 troops, 1,500 more destined to cooperate with the northwestern army, and to have these troops convenient for their march to the western frontier of Ohio. Governor Barbour hastened to comply with this order. He determined to raise these troops west of the Alleghanies, that is, in West Virginia, and accordingly informed the military officers of that region of this intention. Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River, in Mason county, was fixed as the place of rendezvous, and the troops ordered to proceed thither. Brig.-Gen. Joel Leftwich, of Bedford county, Virginia, a veteran of the Revolution, who had been wounded at Guilford, was ordered over the mountains to take command of the brigade collecting at Point Pleasant. He reached his destination at 3.00 P. M., Sept. 26, 1812, where he found 825 men, officers included; detachments were arriving almost daily; none were there from the counties of Hampshire, Hardy, Monongalia or Randolph, but he understood they were on the march and were expected in five or six days. On September 15, Capt. John Connell, of Brooke county, who had been promoted to the rank of colonel, and who had received orders to join General Leftwich at Point Pleasant, issued orders to the militia captains to assemble at Wellsburg in that county on the 22d ensuing. On the same day he wrote Governor Barbour, saying: "The sons of the northwest corner of the state will do their duty." He said his staff was complete, and formed of gentlemen fit and capable of performing service; that he, with his troops, was going to Point Pleasant by water, that being the cheapest and most expeditious way of getting there; and that his quartermaster was then employed in placing the baggage on the boats. He also said that the men in the Light Infantry companies of Captains Wilcoxon and Congleton and Captain McClaney's Troop of Light Horse were greatly disappointed because they were left behind. Colonel Connell, with the troops accompanying him, arrived at Point Pleasant on the second day of October, 1812. General Leftwich writing Governor Barbour ten days thereafter, said that there were then 1,311 men, including officers, and that only a few small detachments were yet to arrive; that the army was being organized and drilled, and that it was a fine body of men, all in high spirits. He had received a letter from the secretary of war ordering him to march as soon as possible to the frontier (northwestern) of Ohio, there to report to the commanding officer of the Northwestern army. On the same day orders came from General Harrison dated "Piqua, Sept. 27, 1812," informing him that his destination was Wooster, in Wayne county (Ohio), forty-five miles west of Canton, and his line of march was by way of New Lisbon and Canton, and that at Wooster the Virginians (West Virginians) would be joined by a brigade from western Pennsylvania, when all would proceed to the Rapids of the Maumee, there to form the right wing of the Army of the Northwest. General Leftwich broke camp at Point Pleasant, and with his troops ascended the Ohio, beyond Wellsburg, and then proceeded through Columbiana and Stark counties to Wooster, and thence to the northwest. John Mallory, commissary-general of General Leftwich's brigade, writing Governor Barbour from Delaware, Ohio, under date of Jan. 24, 1813, informed him that in the past four days he had loaded at that place 700 pack-horses, 60 wagons and 100 sleds with flour and other quartermaster stores; that he was then paying two dollars a bushel for corn, and that the troops had a sufficient supply of provisions and ammunition. He adds: "I am getting tolerably fond of a soldier life if it were not for leaving my family." Henceforth the history of General Leftwich and his West Virginia brigade, with that from western Pennsylvania, is part of that of the Army of the Northwest, of which the two formed the right wing.

Fight for Democratic Government.

The year 1816 is a most important date in the history of West Virginia. The constitution adopted in 1776 had been in force for forty years, and it had been shown to contain many defects. The unequal representation of the counties gave to it a sectional character-all having the same representation-two members-on the floors of the General Assembly, and this, too, regardless of wealth or population. The constitution had been framed by Burgesses representing a population residing exclusively in the Tide-Water Region, and consequently at that time homogeneous in character and identical in interest. Now this was changed, and with the increase of population and the organization of counties west of the Blue Ridge, the principle was reversed, and what had been equal representation had become unequal representation ; and while some of the western counties paid into the public treasury many times the amount paid by some of the eastern counties, the representation of each was the same. As an example of this, Hampshire county in the west, with a population several times as great as Warwick in the east, paid twelve times as much revenue to the state, while both had the same representation in the General Assembly.

Then, too, the limitation of the right of suffrage to freeholders and the elective power vested in the General Assembly, gave to the constitution an aristocratic character. These requirements secured to the east the balance of power and rendered the west almost powerless in all matters of state legislation. In an assembly having 204 members, the former had 124 while the latter had but 80. The result was that the east secured to itself nearly everything in the character of internal improvements. For forty years the state revenues had been collected in West Virginia counties, and yet it appeared that in 1816 but $6,500 had been paid out of the public treasury for improvements west of the Alleghanies, while $123,661.11 had been expended for this purpose east of the Blue Ridge; and that in addition thereto, in the same time, $794,700 of the public monies had been invested in the stocks of the Bank of Virginia and the Farmers' Bank of Virginia, both at Richmond.

The same year the General Assembly created a board of public works consisting of thirteen members, of which number eight were to reside east of the Blue Ridge. A belief obtained that the past policy in regard to public improvements would be continued; there was great dissatisfaction among the men who were felling the forests from the Alleghanies to the Ohio, and mutterings of discontent were heard on every hand. It was evident that a redress of the grievances complained of could never be secured under the existing constitution, and from 1816 the question of a convention to revise that document was agitated. Much opposition was developed, and it was only after repeated failures covering a period of twelve years that the General Assembly passed an act in 1828, providing for taking the sense of the voters upon the call of such a convention. Later in the year the proposition was carried by a vote of 21,896 to 16,646. Of the majority, by far the greater number of votes composing it were cast in the western counties of the state, where the greatest opposition to the existing constitution had been manifested.

The convention assembled at Richmond, Oct. 5, 1829, and it was the most remarkable body of men that had assembled in Virginia since that which ratified the Federal constitution in 1788. It consisted of ninety-six members, of whom eighteen were from the territory now embraced in West Virginia. They were among the wisest and most discreet men of the region they represented. In the organization of the convention, no western man was mentioned in connection with an official position. From the beginning of the session the conflicting interests of the two sections became more and more apparent, and the representatives from each were arranged in almost solid phalanx on opposite sides of nearly every question. At length the work was done, but none of the reforms sought bad been secured. The right of suffrage was still restricted to a property qualification, and the west denied equal representation. Thus all of the objectionable features of the old constitution were engrafted into the new. Upon the final vote upon its adoption by the convention, every delegate from the west side of the Alleghanies voted against it, with the single exception of Philip Doddridge, who was unable to attend, being ill at his hotel. But it was in the popular vote that the opposition of the two sections-the east and the west-was most evident. The total vote cast was 41,618, of which 26,055 were for ratification and 15,563 for rejection. Every county east of the Blue Ridge with one exception, Warwick, gave a majority for ratification, while every county then existing in what is now West Virginia, with two exceptions, Jefferson and Hampshire, voted largely for rejection. In them were cast 9,758 votes, of which 8,375 were for rejection.

Western Virginia From 1830 to 1860.

In 1830 twenty-three of the present West Virginia counties had an existence, and towns and villages dotted the landscape here and there over all the state. By the census of 1830 the population was 176,924, grown to this number from 136,768 ten years before. Its character was that of a vigorous people. In the towns were the country merchants dealing in every line of merchandise; they were men of character and business integrity. When a wholesale dealer in Baltimore was asked where he found his most reliable and trusted retail merchants, he promptly replied: "In Western Virginia." Here were the homes of lawyers, physicians and ministers, and in each class were men of brilliant intellects. In the river valleys and on the rich uplands dwelt by far the larger part of the population; farmers who, in addition to producing wheat, corn, buckwheat, potatoes and fruits for their own use, generally had a surplus to sell to others; they also raised good horses, cattle, sheep and hogs. Still another class dwelt in the "hill country," where they built their cabin homes and cleared a few acres of land on which they produced grains and vegetables sufficient for their own needs from year to year; they had but few domestic animals, and for other food they depended largely upon wild game and fish. Periodically they visited the towns, there to barter venison, skins, furs, maple-sugar and ginseng, for clothing, coffee, medicines, ammunition and other necessities, and then returned to their homes to follow the same routine to the end of their lives. All classes were far removed from the marts of trade, and almost entirely isolated from society, yet they carved out a society of their own and established a code of morals as rigid as any known in older lands.

All were united in an effort to secure equal representation, a fair system of equal taxation, a just share of the public monies expended for internal improvements, and a suffrage law untrammeled by property qualifications. Not one of these had been guaranteed to them by the provisions of the new constitution, and so much were they opposed to it that state division at once became a theme of earnest discussion. As the years passed away the people assembled to give utterance to their grievances. That of unequal representation in the General Assembly was among the most serious. This was set forth in the action of a great convention assembled at Charleston, in the Great Kanawha Valley, Aug. 9, 1841. The object was stated to be "for the purpose of considering the inequalities of the representation in the General Assembly, and the deep interest of the western people in a reappointment of the senators and delegates comprising the General Assembly." Many of the strongest men of West Virginia were present. Judge Lewis Summers was made chairman and Alexander W. Quarrier secretary. The four physical regions, as the commonwealth then existed, were regarded as political divisions. These were known as (1) the TideWater Region; (2) the Piedmont Region; (3) the Valley Region, and (4) the Trans-Alleghany Region, the latter including nearly all of West Virginia. A "memorial" addressed to the General Assembly set forth some remarkable facts. It was shown that an equal apportionment of the 134 members of the House of Delegates would give to each a constituency of 5,532 of white population, and 644 of qualified voters. Instead of this, the following inequalities were shown to exist : the thirty-one delegates from the Trans-Alleghany Region each represented a white population of 7,584 persons and 836 qualified voters; twenty-five delegates from the Valley Region each represented a white population of 5,472 persons and 644 qualified voters ; forty-two delegates from the Piedmont Region each represented a white population of 4,738 persons and 572 qualified voters; thirty-six delegates from the Tide-Water Region each represented a white population of 4,737 persons and 558 qualified voters. In the senate as then existing there were thirteen members from western Virginia and nineteen from eastern Virginia. Each western senator represented an average population of 28,903 persons and 3,256 qualified voters, while each eastern senator represented a white population of 19,448 persons and 2,342 qualified voters.
Such was the unequal basis of representation in Virginia at this time. Thus it was that the east was enabled to secure large appropriations for internal improvements, while the west, as asserted by its people, was unable to obtain its just proportion of the public monies for this purpose. Many instances of this were cited by them.

Once more it became evident to these people that a redress of their grievances could never be obtained under the existing constitution, and they demanded a revision of that document. This was provided for by an act of the General Assembly passed March 9, 1850, and a constitutional convention assembled at Richmond on October 14 ensuing. After months of labor it finished its work, and under the provisions of this constitution came a redress of many of the grievances complained of by the people of the west. The right of suffrage was extended, taxation rendered more equitable, and the basis of representation so remodeled as to secure to this section greater equality in the halls of legislation, and it now seemed that harmony would henceforth exist between the east and the west. But this was not to be.

Geographically, the east was separated from the west by mountain ranges which, so far as trade and commerce was concerned, proved an almost impassable barrier. This was so great that no artificial means of intercourse between the two sections had been made beyond a turnpike road. All trade and commercial relations of the west were with the other states and not with eastern Virginia. Merchants in western Virginia made their purchases in Baltimore, Pittsburg and Cincinnati, and they knew no more of the wholesale trade of Richmond than they did of Boston. The two sections were entirely dissimilar in their social relations. While the east was largely interested in slaves, the west had comparatively few of them, and nearly all labor was performed by freemen. The mode of taxation, as well as that of representation in the legislature, had long been the source of irritation and indeed of strife and vexation between the two sections. For many years the subject of internal improvements created dissension, 'the people of the west asserting that they paid state revenues largely in excess of what they received in the expenditure of public funds in their section. Because of these things, men residing there who had grown old and gray had heard the subject of state division discussed since they were children. Years came and went, and brought John Brown's insurrection at Harper's Ferry. The intelligence that went out from that place on the morning of Oct. 17, 1859, sent a thrill of terror throughout Virginia, and astonished the whole nation. The year 1860 found Virginia in a state of the greatest commotion-a condition unexampled in history unless it be that of France in the early days of the Revolution. Governor Letcher, influenced by the pressure of the times, issued a proclamation convening the General Assembly in extra session. That body provided for a convention of the people of Virginia. There were 152 members, of which 47 were from the west. Every student of history knows what the action of that body was, and the world knows the result. The war came; it furnished the opportunity for the division of the commonwealth, and when the storm had passed away there were two states where one had been before. And now, Virginia-the Mother-and West Virginia -the Daughter-reside upon the ancient estate.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. - Aler, F. Vernon: History of Martinsburg and Berkeley County (Hagerstown, Md., 1888); Atkinson, George W.: History o f Kanawha County (Charleston, 1876); Bickley, George W. L.: History of the Settlement and Indian Wars of Tazewell County (Cincinnati, 1852); Breckenridge, H. M.: Recollections of Persons and Places in the West in 1792 (Philadelphia, 1868); Bruce, Thomas: Heritage of Trans-Allegheny Pioneers (Baltimore, 1894); Cranmer, Gibson Lamb: History of the Upper Ohio Valley (Madison, Wis., 1890), History of Wheeling City and Ohio County (Chicago, 1902); Cutright, W. B.: History of Upshur County (1907); Doddridge, Joseph: Notes on the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia from 1763 to 1783, Inclusive (Wheeling, 1824); DeHass, Wills: History of the Early Settlements and Indian Wars in Northwestern Virginia (Wheeling, 1851); Dunnington, George A.: History and Progress of the County of Marion (Fairmont, W. Va., 1880); Ely, William: History of the Big Sandy Valley (Cattlattsburg, Ky., 1887); Fernow, Berthold; The Ohio Valley in Colonial Days (Albany, N. Y., 1890); Garrison, Wendell Phillips: The Prelude to Harper's Ferry (Andover, Mass., 1891); Gibbons, Alvaro F.: A Century of Progress; or, A Historical Souvenir of Wood County (Morgantown, 1899); Hale, John P. Trans-Alleghany Pioneers (Cincinnati, 1887); Jacob, John G.: Brooke County: Being a Record of Prominent Events in that County (Wellsburg, W. Va., 1882); Kercheval, Samuel: History of the Shenandoah Valley (Winchester, Va., 1833); Lewis, Virgil A.: History o f West Virginia (Philadelphia, 1889); Lewis, Hale and Hogg (joint authors): History of the Great Kanawha Valley (Madison, Wis., 1891); Loudermilk, Will J.: History of Cumberland and Braddock's Expedition (Washington, 1878); Marshall, O. S.: History of De Celeron's Expedition to the Ohio in 1749 (Albany, 1887); Mayer, Brantz: Ta-gah-ju-te: or Logan the Indian and Captain Michael Cresap (1867); Maxwell, Hu.: History of Tucker County (Kingwood, 1884), History of Hampshire County (Morgantown, 1897), History of Randolph County (Morgantown, 1899); Moore, James: The Captives of Abb's Valley (Philadelphia, 1840); Norris, J. E.: History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley (Chicago, 1890); Newton, J. H.: History of the Pan-Handle (Wheeling, 1879); Pritts, J.: Mirror of the Olden Time Border Life (Chambersburg, Pa.); Panghorn, J. G.: History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (Chicago, 1883); Peterkin, George W.: Records of the Protestant Episcopal Church in West Virginia (Charleston, 1902); Price, William T.: History of Pocahontas County (Marlinton, 1899); Ridpath, James: Echoes from Harper's Ferry (Boston, 1860): Sparks, Jared: The Writings of Washington, Vol. II. (Boston, 1846); Seabright, Thomas B.: The Old Pike, A History o f the National Road (Uniontown, Pa., 1894); Stuart, John: Memoirs of the Indian Wars and Other Occurrences (Richmond, 1832); Safford, William H.: The Blennerhassett Papers (Cincinnati, 1861); Thwaites, Reuben Gold, and Kellogg, Louise Phelps: Documentary History of Dunmore's War (Madison, 1905), (eds.) The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775-1777 (Madison, 1908); Withers, Alexander Scott: Chronicles of Border Warfare: or A History of the Settlement by the Whites of Northwestern-.Virginia and the Indian Wars and Massacres in that Section of the State (Clarksburg, 1831); Wiley, Samuel T.: History of Preston County (Kingwood, W. Va., 1880), History of Monongalia County (Kingwood, 1883); Waddell, Joseph A.: Annals of Augusta County (Richmond, 1888); Calendar of Virginia State Papers (11 vols., Richmond, 1875 et seq.); The Washington-Crawford Letters Concerning Western Lands (Cincinnati, 1877); Miller, James H.: History of Summers County (1908).

Historian and Archivist of the State of West Virginia.

History of West Virginia Old and New
In one volume by James Morton Callahan, Professor of History and Political Science at West Virginia University and West Virginia Biography in two volumes by Special Editorial Staff of the Publishers. (1923)

Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3

Myers' History of West Virginia
By Sylvester Myers in two volumes (1915)

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

A History of West Virginia Wesleyan College 1890-1965
By Kenneth M. Plummer (1965) (pdf)

Return to Book Index Page


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