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History of Hampshire County, West Virginia, from its earliest settlement to the present online

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ampsMre County


Its Earliest Settlement to the










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Hampshire county, the oldest in West Virg^inia, was
foi'med in 1754. It then included nearly all the valley of the
South branch, and its limits westward were not defined.
The present county of Mineral and a portion of Morg-an
were then in Hampshire. In 1785 Hardy county, including-
the present territory of Grant and part of Pendleton, was
taken from Hampshire. In 1820 Morg-an county was cre-
ated, taking- part of its territory; and in 1866 Mineral was
formed from Hampshire. Thus the old -county was re-
duced to its present limits. In 1784 its area was two
thousand eight hundred square miles, with about fourteen
thousand population. Its area is now six hundred and
thirty square miles with about thirteen thousand popula-
tion. In writing the present history no labor or expense
has been spared. The aim has constantly been to present
a faithful narrative of events, beginning with the earliest
explorations and settlements and leading down to the
present 'time. In order to present occurrences in their
proper sequence and relation, the work has been divided
into three parts. The first considers the county of Hamp-
shire as one in a group of counties forming the state.
Many features of history cannot be adequately considered
if restricted to a single county because they concern the
whole state. Part I. of this book, therefore, contains a
synopsis of the history of West Virginia, thereb}^ laying a
broad foundation on which to construct the purely local
history of the county. Part II. contains the county his-
tory. Part III. deals with family history. Each of these
parts is complete and could stand alone ; but the three are
so related that they form one work, the state history beings


the foundation, the county history the superstructure,
and the fjirnil}^ history the finishing-. Every nook and cor-
ner of Hampshire has been ransacked to collect the scat-
tered and disconnected, but mutually related, frag-ments
from which to compile this book. The mag-nitude of this
work ma}^ be partially appreciated when it is stated that
more tha.n thirteen hundred families were visited at their
homes, and a record made of the births, marriag'es and
deaths in each family, not only for the present g-eneration
but often extending' back more than one hundred years.
The result of this has been carefully condensed and is pre-
sented in part HI. The ag-g-reg^ate distance traveled in col-
lecting- this material was no less than three thousand miles;
and if one man had collected the material and written this
History of Hampshire it would have occupied his whole
time for seven hundred days.

While the preparation of the family history was the most
laborious and expensive part of the undertaking-, much
work was required for the other parts. The book has
been written for the homes, and the aim has been to make
it an educational work, not so much for the older people
who probably are already acquainted with much that is in
it, but for the young- whose education has only beg-un. To
this end, special attention has been g-iven to the g-eog-raphy,
l>otany, g-eolog-}^ and mineralog-y of the count}^, and the kin-
dred topics relating- to climate and products. These have
been written from orig-inal investig-ation and observation ;
for no writer had ever before entered that field in Hamp-
shire county, except in the most gfeneral and superficial
manner. It is confidently believed that the school children
of Hampshire will find the way opened for a more intelli-
g-ent and practical understanding- of their county's geog"-
raphy and natural features, particularly of what the moun-
tains contain, how soils are made, and the eft'ects of cli-
mate, and many kindred topics.

The destruction of many of tiie county records during-


the war has been a serious obstacle In the way of fully in-
vestig'ating- many events In the county's early history.
However, no source of Information that could possibly
throw lig-ht upon the subject has been neg-lected. The
compilation of the history of the vv'ar in Hampshire pre-
sented most dlscourag-Ing- difiiculties. There were few
documents and almost no official or unofficial records ac-
cessible. Days of Investlg-ation often were required to fix
a date ; and sometimes the date could be iixed only approx-
imately. The narratives of events were collected from
scores of sources, and v.^ere often so conflicting that to
bring order out of chaos seemed impossible. But, after
months of labor, the chapter on the war Is presented to
the people with the assurance that they will find it an im-
portant and painstaking- record of events as they occurred .
in Hampshire. It Is believed that. In the main features
it is absolutely correct, and in the minor details it contains
very few errors.

It has not been the purpose to g-o much beyond the pres-
ent borders of the county In dealing- with Its history, yet,
so intimately are historical occurrences interrelated, that
a proper handling- of the subject often led the investig-ator
bej/ond the confines of Hampshire. The book is a tolera-
bly full history of the low^er portion of the South branch ,
valley. Trivial matters have been omitted in order to de-
vote more space to what is of g-reater importance. Valua-
ble assistance has been g-Iven b}^ the citizens of Hampshire.
They have cooperated nobly in the work, and if they find
this history a book of value, they helped to make it so.



tate History




It is impossible to say when and where the first vrhite
man set foot on the soil of what is now West Virg-inia. In
all probabiiit}'^ no record was ever made of the first visit.
It is well known that adventurers always push into new
countries in advance of org-anized exploring- parties ; and
it is likely that such v/as the case with West Virg-inia when
it was only an unnamed wilderness. Probably the Indians
who wag-ed war with the early colonists of Virginia car-
ried prisoners into this regionon their hunting- excursions.
But there is no record of this, and history deals with rec-
ords and not conjecture. Sixty-five years were required
for the colonists of Virginia to become superficially ac-
quainted with the country as far west as the Blue Ridg-e,
which, until June 1670, was the extreme limit of explora-
tions in that direction. The distance from Jamestown,
the first colonv, to the base of the Blue Ridge, was two
hundred miles. Nearly three-quarters of a century was
required to push the outposts of civilization two hundred
miles, and that, too, across a country favorable for explor-
ation, and with little danger from Indians during- most of
the time. In later years the outposts of civilization moved
westward at an averag-e yearly rate of seventeen miles.
The people of Virginia were not satisfied to allow the Blue
Ridge to remain the boundary between the known and un-
known countries; and, in ir370, sixt3^-three years after
the first settlement in the state, the governor of Virginia
sent out an exploring- party with instructions to cross the
mountains of the west, seek for silver and gold, and try to


discover a river flowing" into the Pacific ocean. Early in
June of that year, 1670, the explorers forced the heights of
the Blue Ridg-e which they found steep and rocky, and de-
scended into the valley west of that rang-e. They discov-
ered a riverflowingdue north, as far as they could see. The
observations and measurements made by these explorers
perhaps satisfied the royal g-overnor who sent them out ;
but their accuracy may be questioned. They reported
that the river which they had discovered was four hun-
dred and fifty yards wide; its banks in most places one
thousand yards high. Be3^ond the river they said they
could see towering mountains destitute of trees, and
crowned by white cliffs, hidden much of the time in
mist, but occasionally clearing sufficiently tOg"ive ag^limpse
of their rug-gedness. They expressed the opinion that
those unexplored mountains mig-lit contain silver and g-old.
They made no attempt to cross the river, but set out on
their return. From their account of the broad river and
its banks thousands of feet high, one mig-ht suppose that
they had discovered the Canyon of the Colorado; but it was
only New River, the principal tributary of the Kanawha.
The next year, 1671, the g-overnor of Virg-inia sent ex-
plorers to continue the work, and they remained a consid-
erable time in the valley of New River. If they penetrated
as far as the present territory of West Virginia, which is
uncertain, they probably crossed the line into v.'hat is now
Monroe or Mercer counties.

Forty-five years later, 1716, Governor Spotswood of Vir-
ginia led an exploring- party over the Blue Ridg^e, across
the Shenandoah river and to the summit of the Allesfhenv
mountains near the source of the South branch of the Po-
tomac. It is probable that the territory of West Virg-inia
was entered on that occasion in what is now Pendleton
county. It would be unreasonable to suppose that these
exploring- parties were the real pioneers of West Virg-inia.
Daring hunters, traders and adventurers no doubt were


by that time somewhat acquainted with the g-eography of
the eastern part of the state. Be that as it may, the ac-
tual settlement of the counties of Jefferson, Berkeley, Mor-
gan, Hampshire and Hardy was now near at hand. The
gap in the Blue Ridge at Harpers Ferry, made by the Po-
tomac breaking through that range, was soon discovered,
and through that rocky gateway the early settlers found a
path into the valley of Virginia, whence some of them
ascended the Shenendoah to Winchester and above, and
others continued up the Potomac, occupying Jefferson
county and in succession the counties above; and before
many years there were settlements on the South branch
of the Potomac. It is knov/n that the South branch was
explored within less than nine years after Governor Spots-
wood's expedition, and within less than thirteen years
there were settlers in that country.

Lord Fairfax claimed the greater part of the territory
in what is now the eastern panhandle of West Virginia;
that is, he claimed the territory now embraced in the coun-
ties of Jefferson, Berkeley, Morg-an, Hampshire, Hardy and
Grant. But his boundary lines had never been run. The
grant called for a line drawn from the head of the Potomac
to the head of the Rappahannock. Several years passed
before it could be ascertained where the fountains of these
streams were. An exploring party traced the Potomac
to its source in the year 1736, and on December 14 of that
year ascertained and marked the spot where the rainfall
divides, part flowing into the Potomac and part into Cheat
river on the west. This spot was selected as the corner
of I/ord Fairfax's land; and on October 17, 1746, a stone
v/as planted there to mark the spot and has ever since
been called the Fairfax stone. It stands at the corner of
two states, Maryland and West Virginia, and of four coun-
ties, Garrett, Preston, Tucker and Grant. It is about
half a mile north of the station of Fairfax, on the West
Virginia Central and Pittsburg railroad, at an elevation of


three thousand two hundred and sixteen feet above sea

Georg-e Washing-ton spent the summers of three years
surve3'ing- the estate of Lord Fairfax, partly in West Vir-
g-inia. He began the work in 1748, when he was sixteen,
and persecuted it with ability and industry. There were
other surveyors employed in the work as well as he. By
means of this occupation he became acquainted Math the
fertility and resources of the new country, and he after-
wards became a large land holder in West Virginia, one of
his holdings Ivinij as far west as the Kanawha. His knowl-
edge of the countrv no doubt had something to do with the
organization of the Ohio company in 1749 which was g-ranted
500,000 acres between the Monongahela and the Kanawha.
Lawrence Washington, a half brother of Georg-e Washing"-
ton, was a member of the Ohio company. The granting;
of land in this western country no doubt had its weight in
hastening the French and Indian war of 1755, by whif h
England acquired possession of the Ohio valley. The
war would have come sooner or later, and England would
have secured the Ohio valley in the end, and it w^ould have
passed ultimately to the United States; but the events were
hastened by Lord Fairfax's sending the youthful Wash-
ington to survey his lands near the Potomac. While en-
gaged in this work. Washing-ton frequently met small par-
ties of friendl}^ Indians. The presence of these natives
was not a rare thing in the South Branch countr}-. Trees
are still pointed out as the corners or lines of survej^s made
by Washington.

About this time the lands on the Greenbrier river were
attracting attention. A large grant was made to the
Greenbrier company; and in 1749 and 1750 John Lewis
surveyed this region, and settlements sprang- up in a short
time. The land was no better than the more easil}^ acces-
sible land east of the Alleghany mountains; but the spirit
of adventure which has always been characteristic of the


American people, led the daring- pioneers into the wilder-
ness west of the mountains, and from that time the tral-
posts of settlements moved down the Greenbrier and the
Kanawha, and in twenty-two years had reached the Ohio
river. The frontiersmen of Greenbrier were always fore-
most in repelling- Indian attacks, and in carrying- the war
into the enemy's country.

The eastern counties g-rew in population, and within a.
dozen vears after their settlement there was an org-anized
church on the South branch, with regular monthly meel-
ing-s at Opequon. Prior to the outbreak of the Frencli
and Indian war in 1755, there were settlements all along:
the Potomac river, not only in Jefferson, Berkeley and
Hampshire, but also in Hardy, Grant and Pendleton coun-
ties. It is, of course, understood that these counties^ zs.
now named, were not in existence at that time.

The Alleghany mountains served as a barrier for awhilfc
to keep back the tide of emigration from the part of the
state lying west of that rang-e; but Vv^hen peace v/as re-
stored after the French and Indian war the w^e stern valleys
soon had their settlements;. Explorations had made the
country fairly well known prior to this time as far west as
the Ohio. , Immense tracts of land had been granted in.
that wilderness, and surveyors ..had been sent to mark the
lines. About the time of the survey of the Greenbrier
country,, the Ohio company sent Christopher Gist to explore
its lands already g-ranted and to examine West Virginia,
Ohio and Kentucky' for choice locations in vie v/ of obtain-
ing future grants. Mr. Gist, a noted character of his tim«,
and a companion of Washington. a few years later, per-
formed his task well, aiid returned with a report satisfac-.
tor)?- to his employers. ' He visited Ohio and Kentucky,
and on his return passed up the Kanawha and New rivers
in 1751, and climbed to the summit of the ledge of rocks
now known as Hav/k's Nest, or Marshall's Filler, over-


hangfing- the New river, and from its summit had a view of
the mountains and inhospitable country.

In speaking- of the exploration and settlement of West
Virg-inia, it is worthy of note that the Ohio river was ex*
plored by the French in 1749; but they attempted no set-^
tlement within the borders of the state.

Had Virg-inia allowed relig-iou& freedom, a larg-e colony
would have been planted on the Ohio company's lands,
between the Monongahela and the Kanawha, about 1750,.
and this would probabl}' have changed the early history of
this part of West Virginia. A colony in that territory
would have had its influence in the subsequent wars with
the Indians. And when we consider how little was lacking'
to form a new state, or province, west of the Alleghanies
about 1772, to be called Vandalia, it can be understood
what the result mig-ht have been had the Ohio compaJiy
-succeeded in its scheme of colonization. Its plan was to
plant a colony of two hundred German families on its land.
The settlers were to come from eastern Pennsylvania.
All arrang-ements between the company and the Germans
were satisfactory ; but when the hardy Germans learned
that they would be in the province of Virg-inia, and that
they must become members of the Eng-lish church or
suffer persecution in the form of extra taxes laid on dis-
senters by the Episcopacy of Virg-inia, they would not g'o;
and the Ohio company's colonization scheme failed.

Another effort to colonize the lands west of the Alle-
gfhanies, and from which much mig-ht have come, also
failed. This attempt was made by Virg-inia. In 1752 the
House of Burg-esses offered Protestant settlers west of the
Alleg-hanies, in Aug-usta county, ten years' exemption from
taxes; and the offer was subsequently increased to fifteen
years' exemption. The war with the French and Indians
put a stop to all colonization projects. Virg-inia had enough
to do taking- care of her settlements along- the western
borderwithout increasing- the task bv advancing- the fron-


tier seventy-five miles westward. The first settlement, if
the occupation by three white men may be called a settle-
ment, on the Monongahela was made about 1752. Thomas
Eckerly and two brothers, from eastern Pennsylvania,
took up their home there to escape military duty, they
being- opposed to war. They wished to live in peace re-
mote from civilized man; but two of them fell victims to
the Indians while the third was absent. The next settle-
ment was by a small colony near Morg-antown under the
leadership of Thomas Decker. This was in 1758, while
the French and Indian war was at its heig^ht. The colony
was exterminated by Indians the next spring.

In 1763, October 7, a proclamation was issued by the
King of England forbidding settlers from taking up land-
er occupying it west of the Alleghanies until the country
had been bought from the Indians. It is not known what
caused this sudden desire for justice on the part of the
king, since nearly half the land west of the Alleghanies, in
this state, had already been granted to companies or indi-
viduals; and, since the Indians did not occupy the land
and there was no tribe within reach of it with any right
to claim it, either by occupation, conquest or discovery.
Governor Fauquier of Virginia issued three proclamations,
warning settlers west of the mountains to withdraw- from
the lands. No attention was paid to the proclamations.
The governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania were ordered,
1765, to remove the settlers by force. In 1766 and the
next year soldiers from Fort Pitt, now Pittsburg, were
sent into West Virginia to dispossess the settlers by force.
It is not probable that the soldiers were overzealous ii\
carrying out the commands, for the injustice and nonsense
of such orders must have been apparent to the dullest
soldier in the west. Such settlers as were driven away,
returned as soon as the soldiers were gone, and affairs
went on as usual. Finally, Pennsylvania bought the
Indian lands within its borders; but Virginia after that


date, never paid the Indians for any lands in West Virg-Inia.
The foreg"oing- order was the first forbidding^ settlements
in West Virg-inia, north of the Kanawha and west of the
.Alleg-hanies. Another order was issued ten years later.
Both were barren of results. The second will be spoken
of more at leng-th in the account of the incorporation of
part of Ohio in the Province of Quebec.

Settlements along- the Ohio, above and belov/ AVheeling,
were not made until six or seven years after the close of
the French and Indian war. About 1769 and 1770 the
Wetzels and Zanes took up land in that Yicinit}^ and others
followed. Within a few years Wheeling- and the territory
above and below, formed the most prosperous community
west of the Alleghanies. That part of the state suffered
from Indians who came from Ohio ; .but the attacks of
the savag-es could not break up the settlements, and in
1790, five years before the close of the Indian war, Ohio
county had more than five thousand inhabitants, and Mon-
ongalia had nearly as. many.

During- the Revolutionary war, parts of the interior of
the state were occupied by white men. Harrison county,
in the vicinity; of Clarksburg- ,■ and further west, was a
flourishing- community four or five years before the Revo-
lution. Settlers pushed up the West fork of the Monong-a-
hela, and the site of Weston, in Lewis county, was occupied
soon after. Long- before that time frontiersmen had their
cabins on the Valley river as far south as the site of
Beverly, in Randolph county. The first settlement in
Wood county, near Parkersburg^, was made 1773, and the
next 3'ear the site of St. Georg-e, in Tucker county, was
occupied by a stockade and a few houses. Monroe county,
in the southeastern part of the state, was reclaimed from
the wilderness fifteen years before the Revolution; and
Tyler county'sfirst settlement dates back to the year 1776.
Pocahontas was occupied at a date as early as any county
w^est of the Alleghanies, there being white settlers in 1749;


but not many. Settlements along- the Kanawha were
pushed westward and reached the Ohio river before 1776.

The population of West Virginia at the close of the Rev-
olution is not known. Perhaps an estimate of thirty-five
thousand would not be far out of the wa}'. In 1790 the
population of the territory now forming- West Virg-jnia was
55,873; in 1800 it was 78,592, a gain of nearly forty per cent
in ten years. In 1810 the population was 105,469, a gain of
thirt5^-five per cent in the decade. The population in 1820
was 136,768, a gain of nearly twenty-tliree per cent. In
1830 there were 176,924, a g-ain in ten jears of over twenty-
two per cent. In 1S40 the population was 224,537, a gain of
more than twenty-one per cent. The population in 1850
was 302,313, a gain in t'.ie decade of more than twenty-live
per cent. In 1860 the population was 376,388, a gain of
more than twenty-tv/o per cent. In 1870 the population
was 442,014, a gain in ton years of nearly fifteen per cent.
In 1880 the population of the state was 618,457, a gain of
twenty-six per cent. In 1890 the population of the state
was 762,794, a gain of more than twentj'-taree per cent, in
ten years.

Land was abundant and cheap in the early days of West
Virg-inia settlements, and the state was generous in g-rant-
ing- land to settlers and to companies. There was none of
the formality reouired, which has since been insisted upon.
Pioneers usually located on such vacant lands as suited
them, and they attended to securing- a title afterwards.
What is usuall}^ called the '"tomahav/k right" was no right
in lav/ at all; but the persons who had such supposed
rig-hts were usually given deeds for what they claimed.
This process consisted in deadening- a few trees near a
spring or brook, and cutting the claimant's name in the
bark of trees. This done, he claimed the adjacent land,
and his right was usually respected by the frontier people;
but there was very naturally a limit to his pretentions.
He must not claim too much; and it was considered in his


favor if he made some improvements, such as planting"
corn, withi.i a reasonable time. The law of Virginia gave
such settlors a title to 400 acres, and a pre-emption to 1,000
more adjci ling-, if he built a log cabin on the claim and
raised a crop of corn. Commissioners were appointed
from time to time, some as early as 1779, who visited differ-
ent settlements and gave certificates to those who gave
satisfactor}' proof that they had complied with the law.
These certificates were sent to Richmond, and if no pro-
test or contest was filed in six months, the settler was sent
a deed to the land. It can thus be seen that a tomahawk

Online LibraryHu MaxwellHistory of Hampshire County, West Virginia, from its earliest settlement to the present → online text (page 1 of 62)