County History Wirt WV

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Excerpts from Hardesty's History of Wirt County, WV


In 1783 Britain acknowledged the independence of the colonies and called her soldiers home, but behind she left her savage allies, who, for twenty long years continued to wage a relentless warfare against the frontier, and it was not until Wayne's treaty with the Indians in 1795, that emigration to the western part of Virginia again began. Hundreds of the old soldiers now sought homes in the wide domain of western Virginia.

The first one to find a home within the present limits of Wirt county was William Beauchamp, who settled where the town of Elizabeth now stands, in the year 1796, where he made the first permanent improvement within the Little Kanawha. William Beauchamp was born in 1743 and died in the year 1808, aged sixty-five years. He was the father of David and grandfather of Alfred, both of whom were identified with the business interests of the valley for many years. Then came Benjamin Roberts, Thomas Prebble (Pribble) and Jonathan Shepherd from the south branch of the Potomac, the latter bringing with him his three sons, William, Samuel and Henry. Then Samuel Coe, William Wells, who settled upon Reedy creek, William Petty, John Petty and John Willson, all of whom removed here from Harrison county, Virginia; John Bennett, who settled upon Tucker�s creek, Jacob Bumgarner, Frederick Bumgarner, Andrew Bumgarner, Richard Reeder, Charles Rockhold, Elijah Rockhold and Jepheniah Wiseman. These were the men who laid the foundation for the settlement of the territory now embraced within the limits of Wirt county.

Organization of Wirt County

On the 19th day of January, 1848, a bill passed the Virginia General Assembly entitled "An Act establishing the county of Wirt of part of the counties of Wood and Jackson". The first circuit court convened on the 4th day of April, 1848, at the house of Alfred Beauchamp as prescribed by law, David McComas, Esq., one of the judges of the general court of Virginia, and judge of the circuit superior court of law and chancery of the 19th circuit in the 10th district, presiding. The first duty of the court was the election of a clerk; Albert G. Stringer was elected, with John G. Stringer, H. Kyger, D. Wilkinson and Clermont E. Thaw as his bondsmen. John G. Stringer was then appointed commonwealth�s attorney, and Edward Tracewell was appointed tipstaff or crier of the court, there being neither sheriff or coroner in the county at the time. William E. Lockhart was then appointed commissioner in chancery, and Daniel Wilkinson and William P. Rathbone, commissioners to take depositions. John F. Snodgrass, James M. Stephenson, John G. Stringer, Peter G. Van Winkle, Jacob B. Blair, Arthur I. Boreman, John J.Jackson, Jr., Clermont E. Thaw, John E. Hays and John O. Lockhart appeared in court and presented certificates granting them permission to practice law. Snodgrass was afterward a member of congress; Stephenson represented Wood county in the general assembly of Virginia; Van Winkle was one of the first two United States senators from West Virginia; Blair was afterward a member of congress, minister to Costa Rica during Johnson's administration. Boreman became judge of the 19th judicial circuit, served two terms as governor of West Virginia, and represented the same in the United States senate. Jackson was afterward commonwealth's attorney for Wood county, represented the same in the general assembly, and was president of the Second National Bank of Parkersburg from 1865 until his death. He was the father of Jacob B. Jackson, governor of the State, J. J. Jackson, judge of the United States district court of West Virginia, and J. M. Jackson, judge of the 5th judicial circuit of West Virginia.

District Court

The first county court convened at the house of Alfred Beauchamp, in the town of Elizabeth, on the 23d day of May, 1848. The following justices were present, viz.: Henry Steed, Charles Rector, William Shepherd, Thomas Boggs , John P. Thomasson, William R. Goff, Silas B. Seaman, William P. Rathbone, Daniel Wilkinson and Alfred BeauchampDaniel Wilkinson, Samuel Shepherd and William Smith were placed in nomination for Clerk. Beauchamp, Rector, Rathbone, Boggs and Steed voted for Wilkinson; Goff, Seaman, William Shepherd and Tomasson for Shepherd.; no votes were cast for Smith. Daniel Wilkinson having received a majority of all the votes cast was elected.

John J. Jackson, Jr., was then elected to the office of prosecuting attorney to prosecute causes in behalf of the State in this court; J. C. Rathbone was then elected to the office of surveyor of lands, and J. P. Thomasson was chosen commissioner of the revenue; Selden S. Coe, Benjamin Baker, Alfred Cain and William Parril were chosen constables, or tipstaffs, as they are called in the records of this county. Then the following attorneys were licensed to practice in this court: Arthur I. Boreman, Alfred S. Kenaird, William S. Bird, William H. Safford, John G. Stringer, P. G. Van Winkle, Joseph Spencer, Albert G. Stringer, John F. Snodgrass, Cabell Tavener, John E. Hays, J. J. Jackson, Jr., J. B. Blair, Clermont E. Thaw, Joseph C. Moore, J. M. Jackson and Thomas Hall.

John Foster made application for license to keep an ordinary in the town of Pribble Mills in this county, and his license granted. Henry Steed was recommended to his excellency the governor as a suitable person to be appointed to the office of sheriff.


It was on the 31st day of July, 1863, that a bill, entitled an act to provide for the division into townships of the various counties of this State, was passed by the legislature. That act also provided for the appointment of a committee composed of several prominent men in each county which should perform the work in their respective counties. Under that provision those named for Wirt were Lewis Woodyard, Charles W. Fisher, Abijah Hawley, and John P. Hall. Early in the autumn of the same year these gentlemen secured the services of William Beard, a practical surveyor of Wood county, and proceeded to perform the work, the result of which was the division of the county into seven districts (called townships under the old constitution), as follows: Burning Springs, Clay, Elizabeth, Newark, Reedy, Spring Creek and Tucker.

Burning Springs

Burning Springs district is bounded on the north by Clay district and Ritchie county, east by Calhoun county, south by Spring Creek district, and west by Reedy and Elizabeth districts. The Little Kanawha river flows in a northwest direction through the central part of the district and receives the streams watering the northern and southern parts on either side. Standing Stone creek rises in the northeast part of the district, and flows northwest through Clay and Newark, and discharges its waters into the Little Kanawha. Straight creek flows nearly north and empties into the Kanawha. It is about seven miles long. Burning Spring run flows southwest through the town of Burning Springs, and flows into the Kanawha. Chestnut run has its course in a southwest direction and also flows into the Kanawha.

Sandy Henderson, Jockey Henderson, and Reuben Dye, were the first actual settlers in this district. Jockey Henderson built the first cabin; it stood near the present town of Burning Springs. George Owens, Willis Owens and William Prigmore were the next pioneers who sought and found homes in this then illimitable wilderness. They all came prior to the year 1810, for in that year William and John Petty located and found at that time all of the foregoing named persons then settled in their cabin homes.

The first grist mill was erected by William and John Petty at Burning Springs in the year 1833. 

The first school was taught by John Morehead in a small log cabin in the year 1820. 

The first sermon was preached by a man of the name of John Drake in the year 1813, but no organization was effected until the year 1833, when a Methodist congregation was collected at what has since been known as the Rector church, near the town of Burning Springs. The second church organized was the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, in the year 1858. 

The first Sabbath-school was organized by Alexander Beaty and Samuel Thornton, at the Beaty Church, in the year 1859.

Clay District

Is the most northern in the county. It is bounded northeast and east by Ritchie county, south by Burning Springs district, west by Newark district, and northwest by Wood county. The Hughs river runs west through the district, dividing it into two nearly equal parts. Goose creek, having its source in the highlands in the northern part of Ritchie county, flows nearly south and empties into Hughs river near the centre of this district. Standing Stone creek rises in the eastern part of Burning Springs district, and flows in a westerly direction along the southern boundary of Clay.

The first settler in this district was a man of the name of Graham, who located upon the waters of Standing Stone about the year 1800, and two years after his settlement his two brothers located on the dividing ridge between Standing Stone and Deevers Creek. Soon after, Elijah Rockhold and William Boheer found homes in the valley of the Standing Stone. Boheer lived for several years in a cave. A Mr. Shaw came from Ohio and settled here in 1812, at which time he found, in addition to those already named, Adam Deem, Peter Steed and Isaac Enochs, the latter of whom died in 1858, aged seventy-seven years. In 1830, Thomson Cohen, whose grandfather came from England with William Penn, settled on Parish Fork creek.

Old settlers, yet living, say that the first grist mill was built by Peter Steed about 1825, but the writer could learn nothing of it, save that it had once existed, but the first mill of any note was erected by Robert Malcolm in the year 1834. 

The first school was taught by Johnson Timms in a cabin at Deems bend about the year 1830. The first post office was established at Freeport, at the mouth of Goose creek, about 1842. The first sermon was preached in 1822, at the house of Adam Deems, by no less a distinguished personage than Lorenzo Dow. Among the first members were John Deems, Daniel D. Tarvey, Isaac Dunn, and Jacob Deem. It was a Methodist congregation. The second church organized was the Baptist, and the third the United Brethren. 

Freeport is the only village in the district. It is situated on the north bank of Hughs river, at the mouth of Goose creek. In this district are situated the Vernon Sulphur Springs, much resorted to because of the medicinal properties of their waters. 


The history of which is the history of the district. This town is the county seat of Wirt county. It is situated on the left bank of the Little Kanawha, distant by river from Parkersburg thirty-one miles, but only twenty-one by land. It is in north latitude 39deg., 4min., and west longitude, from Washington, 3deg., 26min.; from Greenwich, 79deg., 26min.; its mean elevation above sea level is 659 feet. 

As elsewhere stated William Beauchamp was the first settler at this place, and was most probably the first in the Little Kanawha valley; he came in 1796 and built his cabin the same year. David Beauchamp and Charles Rockhold came in the year 1799; all three were actual settlers. The next year (1800) Ezikel McFarland came on and erected his cabin near the site of the present town. The Beauchamps built a grist mill in 1803, and from that time until 1817 the place was known upon the map of Virginia as Beauchamps Mills; but in the latter year the name was changed to Elizabeth in honor of the wife of David Beauchamp, her maiden name having been Elizabeth Woodyard. A man of the name of James Davis built the second house on the site where the town now stands. "In 1817," says our informant who came in that year, "there were but six log cabins in the place."

The first merchant was a Mr. Shacklett who opened a stock of goods in 1818, but he was succeeded in 1820 by a man of the name of Hiram Buell, who thus became the second merchant.

The first two-story house in the place was erected in 1816, but did not receive the roof until 1817. The first hewed log house was erected in 1817 by George Rockenbaugh.

The first election was held in 1817; the place was then a precinct of Wood county. Mr. Rockenbaugh was the first blacksmith; he began work the same year that he built his house. The first school in the town was taught by a Mr. Marsh in 1820; he opened the first hotel in the place in the same year. He was succeeded in the school by John Boils, who in turn was succeeded, in 1822, by James Heaton. Samuel Foley opened a hotel in 1829, and Samuel Coe opened another in 1830. Dr. Riggs was the first physician. Dr. Jett was the second; he came in 1831. Dr. James A. Williamson was the third; he located in 1836. Then came Dr. John Truman, the fourth, in 1842. The first sermon was preached in 1800 by the Rev. Lastley Mathews of the Baltimore M. E. Conference, but no organization was perfected until 1809, when a society consisting of the following named members was instituted: James Davis, Dorcas Davis, David Beauchamp, Elizabeth Beauchamp, William Dyer, Elizabeth Dyer, Sylvester Barnes and wife, Robert Barnes, Jane Barnes, Mary Barnes and Charles Riggs. This was the first church organized upon the banks of the Little Kanawha river.

The land upon which the town now stands belonged originally to William Beauchamp and Thomas Tavener, and what is now Court street was the line between the two estates.

Newark District

This district is bounded east by Clay, south by Elizabeth, west by Tucker, and north and northwest by Wood county. The Little Kanawha river flows centrally through the district.  Standing Stone creek enters from the east and discharges its waters into the Kanawha a short distance above the town of Newark.

The first cabin was built by Hyatt Leisure on the right bank of the Little Kanawha river, just below the present site of the town of Newark, in the year 1803. Thomas Prebble, Isaac Enoch, Jacob Deem, Richard Lee, and William Dent came and found homes the same year.

The first white child born within the limits of the district was Rusia Leisure, a daughter of Hyatt and Mary Leisure. The first matrimonial alliance was formed between John Foster and Annie Prebble.

The first grist mill was started about 1804 by Isaac Enoch. It was constructed of logs and, and propelled by water power. He several years later erected a saw mill in connection with it. 

The first school was taught by a man of the name of Johnson Timms, at Silver run, in the year 1811. He taught what was then known as a "subscription" school. The first church was organized by a minister of the M. E. Church, of the name of Reece Wolfe. Among the first members were Hyatt Leisure, William Beauchamp and Richard Lee. There are but two small villages in the district, viz.: Newark and Greenville, the former situated on the right bank of the Little Kanawha, four miles above the mouth of Hughs river. Greenville is on the right bank of Hughs river, two miles from its junction with the Kanawha. 

Reedy District

Is bounded on the north by Tucker and Elizabeth districts; east by Burning Springs and Spring creek; south by Roane county, and west by Jackson. Left Hand Reedy is the principal stream; it flows in a northerly direction, through the eastern part of the district. Right Hand Reedy runs north by east, and empties into Left Reedy. Somervilles fork, Fulls fork, Big run and Thomas run are tributaries of Right Hand Reedy.

The first settler was a man of the name of John Shepherd; he located and built the first cabin in 1806; he erected it on the bank of Left Hand Reedy. In 1807, John Conrad, Peter Conrad and John Hartley found homes beside him, and in 1808 John Smith joined them. Other early settlers were W.R. Wells, Samuel Somerville, John Boggs, John Baker and George Owens. The first white child born within the limits of the district died in infancy, living but a few hours. John Shepherd and Mary (Wilson) Shepherd were the parents' names. The first marriage was that of James Shepherd and Margaret Lockhart.

The first grist mill was erected on the waters of Right Hand Reedy, by John Conrad, in 1810; it was a small water mill, designed for grinding corn only. The first saw mill was built near the site of the first grist mill, by Fidillus Ott, date not known.

The first school was taught about the year 1818, by Dr. Ray, a near relative of William Ray, professor of mathematics in Amherst college, and author of a series of mathematical text books. The building was a log cabin, constructed of beech and lynn logs, such as men could carry. It stood on the bank of Right Hand Reedy.

The first post office was located on Right Hand Reedy and called Zackville.

The first sermon was preached by a Methodist minister, at the cabin home of John Smith, on Thomas run, in the year 1813, but no society until about 1818, when the first class was formed, the members being William Shepherd and wife, Isaac Lockhart and wife, Peter Conrad and wife, Samuel Shepherd and wife, Diana Smith, John Smith and wife, Susan Somerville, Rebecca Somerville and Elizabeth Smith

Pewee, situated on upper Right Hand Reedy is the only village in the district. It was laid out in 1879, by Daniel Cain. It contains a grist and saw mill, two stores, two blacksmith shops, and is the home of two house carpenters and one surveyor.

Spring Creek District

This district is the most southern in the county; it is bounded on the north by Burning Springs, east by Calhoun county, south by Roane, and west by Reedy district. The west fork of the Little Kanawha river flows in a northern direction through the district. Big Spring creek flows north, and divides it into two nearly equal parts. It is nearly thirty miles in length.

The first settlement was made at the mouth of the West fork, in the year 1800, by Barney McGraw, who built the first cabin at that place. Soon after his arrival he planted an orchard - the first in the Little Kanawha valley - consisting of several apple trees. Soon after his settlement he was joined by Jonathan Henderson, William Booher, Peter McCune, James Corbett and Benjamin Roberts

The first mill was built by James Mays, in 1830; it was a saw mill, but in 1840 it became the property of Hiram, David and Archibald DePue, who then added grist mill machinery. Thus they built the first grist mill in the district.

A man of the name of Sledd taught the first school, about the year 1830, in a log cabin on the bank of Spring creek. 

The first sermon was preached by a minister of the name of Thomas Cunningham. The first church, Baptist, was organized by the Rev. Jeremiah Dale. Among the first members were Henry DePue, Virginia DePue, Gilmore Bailey, Archibald DePue and Julia DePue.

The second church was the Protestant Methodist, among the first members of which were Jonathan DePue, Harrison Hildreth, Melinda DePue, David DePue, Ruth DePue, Hiram Buell, V. Vandall and N. Vandall. The first Sabbath-school was organized in 1850, by Alexander Beatty.

The only village in the district is Shirtzville, laid out in 1879, by James Corbett.

Tucker District

Is bounded on the northwest by Wood county, northeast by Elizabeth district, southeast by Reedy, and southwest by Jackson county. The streams are: Lynn Camp creek, which flows in an easterly direction, and empties into Reedy creek. Tuckers creek rises in the southern part of this district, flows northeast, passes through Elizabeth, and discharges its waters into the Little Kanawha. Left Hand fork flows northeast and empties into Tuckers creek.

The first settlers in the district were Lewis Ott, James Woodyard, Jonathan Steele, and Thomson Gates. The first cabin was built by Lewis Ott in the year 1818. Lawrence King, Thomas King, and Andrew Board were other early settlers. The first grist mill was erected by William Lockhart many years ago. 

The first school was taught by a man of the name of James Hall, in the year 1848, at which time there were twenty pupils in attendance. The first public school building was erected in 1864.

The first church was organized in 1847 by Rev. Francis Guthrie. The members then composing it were Jonathan Steele, Mary Steele, Elizabeth Steele, John Bennett, Jane Bennett, Eli Bennett, Catharine Bennett, Jeremiah Sargeant, Joseph Bennett, Arnold Bennett, Thomson Gates, Sarah Gates, John Wim, William Ball and Mary Ball - fifteen in all. 

The Mount Moriah Baptist Church on Tuckers creek was the second organized in the year 1863 by the Rev. M. B. Edmondson. The third was the Dunkard Church, organized with six members by Bishop John Wise, in 1864.