A Brief History of the Floyd County, VA Howells


Colonial and Pre-Civil War

            The Howell family history begins with Joshua and Benjamin Howell in the early 18th century.  Benjamin Howell’s will states that Joshua was his brother. As late as 1850 all Floyd County Howells descended from these two brothers.

            Floyd County was created in 1831 from Montgomery and Franklin Counties.  So it is from these two (primarily Montgomery County) that the early Howell records are found.

            Daniel Howell, the eldest son of Benjamin, gives us the clue to the Howell family origin.  On his pension application as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, he states that he was born in 1759 in Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania.  This places Benjamin in Philadelphia Co., PA in 1759 and allows one to estimate Benjamin’s birthdate as about 1735.

            Pennsylvania is actually the expected place of origin for the Howell family.  Whereas the east coast of Virginia was settled by Englishmen arriving directly in Virginia, the western mountainous regions of Virginia were settled by pioneers coming into the state from Pennsylvania.  The reason for this is geographical.  Coming from the east, Virginia settlers were confronted with the Blue Ridge Mountains.  However coming south from Pennsylvania into Virginia, there was a natural highway now known as the Shenandoah Valley.  The Shenandoah Valley and its rich farmlands was a natural lure for the pioneers.  Settlement of this area from the north began in the 1730s & 1740s.

            The Shenandoah Valley however was also widely used by the Indians and this migration trail is also called the Great Indian Warpath.  After 1744, “The Six Nations” of Indians gave up any claim to all of Virginia, however for decades Indian and settlers continued to clash in the Shenandoah Valley.

            Benjamin and his brother Joshua, as shown by the 1850 Census records of their children, moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia sometime between 1763 and 1767.  In 1782, Joshua and Benjamin as well as Benjamin’s son Daniel can be found in Botetourt County, VA.  David Howell, Sr. was still in Botetourt County when he married Jane Allen in 1785 but by the time his father died in 1799, the family was in Montgomery County. 

So the time line for the Howell move south to Montgomery in the area that became Floyd County is (1)1759-Pennsylvania, (2)1763/67-the move into Virginia, (3)1782-Botetourt County, VA, and (4)1799-Montgomery County, VA.  When Floyd County was created in 1831, the Howells it is seen in the 1840 Census were in that part of Montgomery that became Floyd. 

The Howells then date back to pre-Revolutionary War, Colonial America.  The first Howells we know of lived through the Revolutionary War Era. Though this has not been researched thoroughly, at least one Howell fought in the war.  This was Daniel Howell, son of Benjamin and brother of David Howell, Sr.

David Howell, Sr., of the direct line to the Elbert Howell family, was born while Benjamin Howell still lived in Pennsylvania, however by the time he married Jane Allen in 1785 both David and his father Benjamin were on the tax lists in Botetourt County, Virginia.  David, Sr. moved later to Montgomery County (later Floyd County) where he died in 1851.  David, Sr. as the next several generations of Howells were farmers.

There are two direct ancestors in the David Howell, Sr. family, his son David A. Howell and also his son James Howell.

James Howell, b. 1811, married Catherine Russell in 1829.  They had 2 daughters, Martha and Elizabeth.  Martha Howell, b. 1834, married Ishmael Pratt in 1854 and they in turn had three children, Asa, Rosabell and Mary.

Rosabell Pratt, b. 1856, married back into the direct line of ancestors of Elbert Howell in 1878 when she wed George Washington Howell.

Returning to the David Howell, Sr. family, when they moved from Botetourt into Montgomery County, a Howell family line was established there that remained in Montgomery (Floyd) County for over 100 years when Elbert Eden Howell moved to Radford, VA.

David A. Howell, David Sr.’s son, was the first of the direct ancestors of Elbert E. Howell, that was born in Floyd county where he remained for 86 years until his death in 1887.  He is now buried in the Duncan cemetery in Floyd County.  David A., like, his father was a farmer.  He married Charlotte Pratt in 1822 and they had at least 10 children.

Other descendents of Benjamin Howell stayed in the area.  Benjamin Howell, Jr. was a Justice of the Peace for the county.  Descendents of Joshua Howell were also still in the area when the Civil War began.


The Civil War

The Civil War was a tragedy for the Howells as well as the country.  Nine descendents of  Joshua and Benjamin Howell have been identified as Civil War soldiers.  To see how they are related, see the Outline Descendent Trees for Benjamin and Joshua Howell. There are as many as seven more thought to be Civil War soldiers but these have not been positively identified.     

Five Howells enlisted in 1861 during the initial enthusiasm for war that enveloped the country when it was still believed the war would be a short one.  Three brothers, Asa, Joseph, and Mazarine Howell enlisted in the 24th Virginia Infantry while Peredine T. and Anderson T. Howell enlisted in the 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Asa and Joseph both enlisted on the same day, May 16, 1861 but less than three months from the time of his enlistment, Asa Howell was dead at Manassas, VA.  It is not stated whether this was as a result of the 1st Battle of Bull Run the month before or, just as likely, a result of disease.  There is an indication in Joseph’s service record that Asa probably did die of disease because Joseph Howell was absent from the summer of 1861 to February 1862 because of typhoid fever.  Thirty-eight deaths in the 24th VA were attributed to typhoid fever and twenty-five more to pneumonia and “disease.”                                         

The 54th VA Infantry was used during the first part of the war in the southwest section of Virginia.  They were involved in small unit actions not only in Virginia but also in Kentucky and Tennessee.  The 24th VA Infantry, however, became part of Robert E. Lee’s famed Army of Northern Virginia in James Longstreet’s First Corps.

            The fall and winter of 1861-2 passed with the north strengthening their army for what they now saw would be a longer than expected war.  This in turn allowed the south time to strengthen their army and plan their defense.

            Joseph Howell returned to his unit at the end of February.  In March brothers Lorenzo D. Howell and Dillard C. Howell enlisted at Floyd C. H.  Interestingly, Lorenzo enlisted March 13, 1862 in the 4th VA Infantry already famous as “The Stonewall Brigade;” while Dillard, perhaps inspired by his brother’s action, enlisted the next day but in the 24th VA.  Dillard’s service record notes that he was 5’ 10” tall with a fair complexion and light hair and grey eyes.

            Anderson T. Howell, with the 54th VA in southwest Virginia, grew sick and had to be left at Temple Hill, according to the February 28, 1862 muster.  On April 2, Anderson Howell died at his home in Floyd County.

            Lorenzo D. Howell with Stonewall Jackson’s army in the Shenandoah Valley now became part of The Valley Campaign which frustrated the north and won world-wide acclaim.  The 4th VA fought March 23rd at Kernstown then later at Winchester and Port Republic.  Darting back and forth, hitting first one Union army and then another, Jackson marched his troops so far and so fast they became known as “The Foot Cavalry.”

            Following the Valley Campaign, Jackson slipped out of the Shenandoah Valley and re-united with Lee where the Army of Northern Virginia was facing down George B. McClellen’s army a mere 5 miles from Richmond.

            McClellen had moved his army from Washington, D. C. down the Potomac and onto the Virginia Peninsula and fought his way toward Richmond.  Joseph, Dillard and Mazarine Howell participated in the battles on the Peninsula but in May, 1862 Mazarine was wounded and captured in a rear-guard action at Williamsburg, VA.  He died July 26 at the Chesapeake General Hospital.  The Howell family never knew his fate and many years after the war in a family history, they could only say Mazarine was captured and never heard from again.

            Joseph and Dillard in the 24th VA and Lorenzo in the 4th VA were part of the Seven-Days fighting which drove McClellen from the Richmond area.  Lorenzo as part of Stonewall Jackson’s Division was then sent north where he was in the battle at Cedar Mountain.  McClellen was ordered from the Peninsula and Lee, with Joseph and Dillard Howell as part of the 24th Virginia, then moved north precipitating The Second Battle of Bull Run/Manassas.

            Lorenzo was part of the famous flanking movement in which Stonewall Jackson moved his corps around John Pope’s left flank and behind the union’s army.  This led to a vicious fight at Groveton which involved two of the most famous units of the Civil War, The Stonewall Brigade and the union Iron Brigade.  Stonewall Jackson then held off the union army in the Second Battle of Bull Run until Longstreet, including Joseph and Dillard Howell, could arrive and together defeat the union army.  Joseph was wounded, probably in the fighting on August 30th and was, as a result, detailed for light duty with the home guard at Floyd.  The only further record of Joseph notes that he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond on 3/13/1865.

            The brothers Lorenzo and Dillard were now the only two left with Lee’s army which moved from the Manassas area into Maryland where, in September, the Army of Northern Virginia faced George McClellan’s army in the bloodiest day of the war.  There were 23,000 casualties.

            In November of 1862, Beredine Tolliver Howell enlisted at Floyd C. H. in the 54th VA Infantry.  His brother Peredine was already a member of that unit.  Both brothers became officers in the 54th.  Peredine was listed as a 3rd Sargent while on a re-enlistment furlough on May 1, 1862 and by the end of the year he was promoted to 1st Sergeant.  Beredine would have to wait until 1863 to be promoted, ending 1862 as a private.

            The fighting was not yet over for 1862.  Lorenzo and Dillard Howell fought in the battle of Fredericksburg in December before finally building winter quarters.

            The stress of 1862 was perhaps too much for Dillard Howell.  Since his enlistment on March 14th, the 24th VA Infantry had fought at Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Frayser’s Farm, Malvern Hill, 2nd Manassas, South Mountain, Sharpsburg or Antietam, and Fredericksburg. The unit had sustained 425 casualties out of 1150 enlistments.  There were 155 deaths from diseases, primarily typhoid fever but also pneumonia, diphtheria, measles and dysentery.  Fully 50% of the unit were casualties or died from diseases.

            On February 20, 1863 Dillard Howell deserted.  He was arrested and returned to his unit on February 25 so it is possible he was just foraging on his own for food.  Dillard should be given the benefit of the doubt because after his return, he fought on for more than two years including one moment of glory at Gettysburg in 1863.

            Lorenzo and Dillard Howell’s brother, Rutherford, was conscripted on April 6, 1863 into the 24th VA but was unable to do much active service because of his health.  He was not on the unit’s roster for the battle of Gettysburg and on September 28, 1863 was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond with “debility.”  In October he was furloughed.  In February, 1864 he was detailed for light duty in Floyd and finally discharged from service in October of 1864.

General James Longstreet and two of his divisions, including Dillard Howell, were not at the Battle of  Chancellorsville.  They had been detached to southeast Virginia, primarily to gather supplies. 

Lorenzo Howell again was part of a famous flanking movement, the climax of Stonewall Jackson’s military career.  The union army, now under General Joseph Hooker, had opened the fighting smartly with a flank march of their own that left the Army of Northern Virginia trapped between Hooker on their left and General John Sedgwick’s forces on their front.  When Robert E. Lee did not retreat towards Richmond but instead sent Jackson to the left to confront Hooker's army, Hooker seemed to become confused and hesitant.  The next day, May 2, 1863, Jackson’s last flanking movement took place.  Marching westward, Jackson’s corps including the 4th VA totally surprised the union right flank.  Slamming into the union 11th Corps, Jackson routed the union right before darkness set in.  That night, Stonewall Jackson rode ahead of his front line to do some reconnaissance and upon his return was mistaken for the enemy and shot.  He was only wounded and expected to recover but he developed pneumonia and died several days later. 

General Lee took his army northward into Pennsylvania a movement that led to the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.  Lorenzo Howell fought with the 4th VA in a vain attempt to take Culp’s Hill in a fight that lasted two days, July 2nd and 3rd.  The regiment lost 53.3% percent of their men trying to take Culp’s Hill.

Dillard Howell, with the 24th VA, took part in the most famous charge of the Civil War.  Pickett’s Charge is considered by many the high-water mark of the South’s attempt to win its freedom.  The 24th VA was a part of Kemper’s brigade and Pickett’s Virginia division of Longstreet’s Corps.  Mere good fortune allowed Dillard to survive this desperate charge in which fully 53% of Pickett’s division became casualties.

Kemper’s brigade formed the extreme right flank of Pickett’s charge.  As Pickett’s and Pettigrew’s men closed with the union forces, the Confederate right was attacked by the 13th and 16th Vermont regiments. To counter this, General Kemper detailed some companies to face right and hold off this attack.  It is possible that Dillard Howell was part of this movement.  As a result, not all of the 24th Virginia moved into the worst position that a unit can find itself in, a double envelopment.  On the right, the Vermont soldiers formed a wall while the center was held for the union by General Webb, and on the Confederate left the 8th Ohio and 126th New York formed the third wall creating a “killing zone.”

While some of Kemper’s men continued ahead into the union line, the others who were detailed to fight the Vermont troops on their right were not in the worst of the double envelopment.  As a result, Kemper’s brigade suffered 43% casualties instead of  the 65% and 62% casualties inflicted on Garnett’s and Armistead’s brigades which drove straight into the union line and briefly broke it in the area of the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry.

For the Howell family, the war now shifted to the west and the 54th VA Infantry. Peredine Howell had continued his rise through the ranks in 1863 when he was elected 3rd Lt. on February 9th.  The unit had been in many small actions in western Virginia and Kentucky but January 30, 1863 was an indication of  heavier action to come.  The 54th Virginia that day was in its heaviest action thus far at Kelly’s Store, VA.  They only had 13 casualties but it marked the first time this regiment had more than 10.

The 54th Virginia in 1863 moved into the state of Tennessee to cooperate with the Army of Tennessee but after several small fights it became a part of General Braxton Bragg’s Army as the south concentrated its forces.  This brought the Howell brothers, Peredine and Beredine, to the Chickamauga River area in  Georgia where the Army of Tennessee achieved its greatest victory.  After the battle of Chickamauga, Beredine was appointed 4th Corporal for Company B.  Then for the next several months, the 54th VA Infantry was a part of the battle for Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In 1864 then the Howells were fighting in both the eastern and the western campaigns.  Lorenzo and his brother Dillard Howell were serving in Lee’s army and Peredine and his brother Beredine were in Joseph Johnston’s army.

Tragedy struck the Howell family again when the fighting in Virginia began in the Wilderness area.  In fierce fighting on May 5th Lorenzo D. Howell was captured.  Three months later, on Aug. 21, 1864, Lorenzo died at Point Lookout Prison in Maryland.

In the western theater, the 54th Virginia now entered into a period of almost continuous fighting as General Johnston tried to keep the union out of Atlanta.  Peredine and Beredine Howell were in battles at Dalton, Cassville, New Hope Church, Dallas, Mt. Zion Church, Marietta and then finally the climactic battle at Atlanta, Georgia.

In November Beredine Howell was ordered home to Floyd County by the medical board due to illness at which time he had risen to 2nd Corporal.

Peredine Howell remained with the 54th VA participating in the battles of Franklin, Murfreesboro and Nashville, Tennessee.  As of the February 28, 1865 muster Peredine was present and no doubt fought in the last battle in Bentonville, N. C. on March 17-19, 1865. 

In Virginia, Dillard Howell fought on with his unit through all the many battles of 1864.  Following Gettysburg, the 24th Virginia had been sent to North Carolina to recover.  They fought there at Goldsboro in January and Plymouth in April.  Returning to Virginia and the Richmond area, the unit was in the battles at Drewry’s Bluff, Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg. The war continued on into 1865 and Dillard too fought on at Hatcher’s Run, Dinwiddie C. H. and Five Forks until finally Dillard Howell, the one-time deserter, was captured at Burkeville, VA only three days before the surrender at Appomattox.              


Post Civil War

            William A. Howell was David A. Howell’s son.  He and his first wife Lucindia Duncan are buried in the Duncan Cemetery on the Uriah Turpin Farm win Willis (Duncan), Virginia.  They lived at least part of the time in Burk’s Fork in Indian Valley in Floyd County. He and Lucindia had 9 children.  After Lucindia’s death in 1884, William married Elizabeth (last name unknown). 

            George Washington Howell continues the direct line to Elbert Eden Howell, who was his son.  George Howell was born in 1853 and married Rosabell Pratt in February 1878.  They also spent their entire lives as farmers in Floyd County.  Rosabell was buried in the Duncan Cemetery with others of the Howell family however George was buried elsewhere.  They only had two children, Elbert Eden Howell and Flora A. Howell.  The 1890 Census shows Rosabell died early.  Whereas George and Rosabell Howell are living in their own household in 1880, by 1890 Rosabell is gone, probably dead, and George, with his children Eden and Flora are living with George's father William A. Howell.  Interestingly George's brother, Elisha is also living with William A. Howell though Elisha's wife Catherine is still alive. 

            Elbert Eden Howell was born December 25, 1878 in Floyd County.  Elbert's name is listed several different ways in the census and county records, including Eden E., Eden L. and Elbert.  Though by his death he was known as Elbert E., the earliest records are the ones naming him Eden Howell.  When he married Bertha Burnop in 1901, the wedding took place in Radford, VA where he and Bertha spent the rest of their lives.  Elbert was the first Howell of this line to move off the farm and into the city.  He worked at the extract plant and then later in life ran a shoe repair shop on Radford’s main street. 

They lived at 4th and Ingles Street for many years.  After their deaths, their daughter Byra Howell continued to live in this house for about 20 more years.  The lot had a large back yard which contained many plants and trees, including several apple trees.  Elbert Howell had a coin collection which he kept in a cabinet on the ground floor and from which he would give visiting grand-children silver dollars.  Christmas was always a family get-together as it was also Elbert’s birthday.  The family would gather for dinner which Bertha Howell with the assistance of her daughters would make.      

            Bertha and Elbert Howell were married for 55 years before Bertha’s death in 1956.  Elbert was the first Howell of this line to move off the farm and into the city.  He worked at the extract plant and then later in life ran a shoe repair shop on Radford’s main street. 








Major Surname Index / Complete Index