Kanawha County, by an Act of Assembly passed January 2, 1809. The present area is 300 square miles. By the act creating the county, John Shrewsbury, David Ruffner, John Reynolds, William Clendenin and Jesse Bennett were appointed to locate the county seat William H. Cabell, in honor of whom the county was named, was born December 16, 1772, in Cumberland County, Virginia . He was descended from a Spanish family long settled in England, representatives of which came to Virginia in 1724. He attended William-Mary College, graduating there from in 1793. He began the practice of law at Richmond in 1794, and was chosen representative from Amherst County in 1796, and served by reelection through six sessions of that body. In 1805, he was elected Governor of Virginia, a position which he held until 1808, when he was chosen a judge of the General Court. In 1811, he was elected a judge of the Court of Appeals, becoming president of that body in 1842, and as such served until 1841, when he retired from the bench. He died at Richmond, January 12, 1853, and his remains were interred in Shocoe Hill Cemetery, that city.
The First Circuit Superior Court held in Cabell County convened at the house of William Merritt, in April, 1809. John Coalter sat as judge. He came from the eastern part of the State for the purpose of holding the court, but upon his arrival was informed by the people that they did not need any court, and furthermore that they did not want to be bothered with warrants, fines, judgments, etc. But the judge, believing that as civil government extended so extended civilization, proceeded to open court, and appointed Edmund Morris clerk of the same. James Wilson qualified as an attorney and was appointed Prosecutor. Then David Cartmill, Henry Hunter, William H. Cavendish, John Matthews, Ballard Smith, Lewis Summers and Sylvester Woodward, attorneys of the State, were granted permission to practice in this court. Of these, Lewis Summers was for many years one of the most able jurists of Virginia, and Sylvester Woodward, who had served as the first State's Attorney of Mason County, afterward removed to New York and became Attorney General of that State.
Bishop Thomas A. Morris.—On a farm, or rather an improvement, in a log cabin which stood seven miles east of the present site of Barboursville, then in Kanawha county, but now in Cabell, on the 29th day of April, 1794, was born Thomas A. Morris, one of the most eminent men whose names appear upon the pages of the Church history of the United States. His parents were members of the Baptist Church, but the son united with the Methodist Episcopal Church in August, 1813; and on Christmas night, 1814, preached his first sermon in the presence of an audience numbering about two hundred, composed of his relatives and friends of the Teays Valley country, among whom he had been born and reared.
We will let the Bishop tell of this, his first sermon, himself, as he told it to a company of friends who gathered at his residence on the occasion of his 79th birthday. Said he, "I had a long, hard struggle to find peace. On Christmas day, 1814, there being no minister present, Thomas Buffington, a licensed exhorter, and I held a meeting for exhortation and prayer. He exhorted and I prayed. When about to dismiss he suggested a meeting for the evening. I said, 'Just as you like’ said he, 'If we do have meeting, will you exhort' With some hesitation I replied, 'Yes, if you judge it best.' Whereupon he announced, 'There will be a meeting to-night at fathers and brother Morris will exhort.' This meeting was on the lower junction of the Ohio and Guyandotte rivers. As it was my first effort at public speaking, I began with fear and trembling, though I had often felt before that I should make an effort in that direction. I spoke some forty minutes with a freedom and unction that surprised myself. I was filled with a strange peace of mind, and concluded: 'This is what I have prayed for so long—that is, I am converted.'"
He married his first wife, Abigail Scales, in the year 1814; the ceremony was performed in the house which still stands in the city of Huntington . In the same year he was granted license to preach, and in 1816, joined the Ohio Conference. For several years he traveled a circuit then served as an elder. In 1836, he was ordained Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was the last of the Methodist bishops to make the rounds of his Conference on horseback. He died in Springfield, Ohio, September 2, 1874.
Who the first Methodist minister here was, is not known, but in a work entitled "Progress of Methodism in Ohio and Western Virginia," bearing publisher's date of 1822, we find the following in relation to the work within the present limits of the county. After speaking of several points on the Ohio, the author notices the work at "Guiandot," and in connection therewith says: "An old man by the name of Miller —a member of the society from Washington county, Pennsylvania, had settled near a place called Green Bottom, between Big and Little Guiandot, and seeing the deplorable state of the people, his pious soul was grieved, and he got up a petition signed by near one hundred persons of every sex and character, and sent it to some of the preachers of the Redstone District, Pennsylvania. The result was that some time in the year 1803 William Steel, then a traveling preacher belonging to the Baltimore Conference, was sent to explore the country. Thus this region was provided for by the Baltimore Conference."
After noticing the Church established here, the writer says further: "At least three traveling preachers have been raised up by this Church, one of whom, Samuel Demont, has already finished his work. He was a young man of deep piety and good natural and acquired ability, and an excellent preacher. He died on his way to work, among strangers, in the year 1820. Old Brother Miller lived to see his wishes crowned with success, and multitudes assembled in his settlement at the quarterly and camp meetings."
One of the other two ministers referred to by the writer was, doubtless, Thomas A. Morris, the celebrated preacher, editor, elder and bishop mentioned above.
The First Baptist Organization within the county was perfected in 1807, and known as the " Mud River Baptist Church ." Its founder was the celebrated John Lee, one of the earliest Baptist ministers west of the Alleghenies. He was born and grew to manhood in the southern part of Virginia, and near the close of the last century, like many others, he crossed the mountains to seek a home in the f Far West." Mr. Lee, before leaving the scenes of his childhood, had become a member of the Baptist Church, and felt it his duty to call others to repentance. He located in Teays Valley, and soon began to proclaim the Glad Tidings to those around him. When he began preaching he was very illiterate, but by persevering industry he not only learned to read, but became well acquainted with the Scriptures. He was remarkably successful in the ministry, and in him was verified the Scriptural declaration, that "God hath chosen the weak to confound the mighty."
By the year 1807, he had organized the Teays Valley Baptist church, which in that year was admitted into the Greenbrier Association, with a membership of fifty-two. Mr. Lee extended his field of labor, and continued to gather in the sheaves. At the meeting of the Association in 1808, the Mud River church, organized entirely by his own efforts, was admitted into the body with thirty-two members. When we remember how sparsely settled was the country at that time, we are astonished at the success that crowned the efforts of this extraordinary man, and at once recognize in him the ordained of God to proclaim the Gospel of His Son to the inhabitants of the wilderness. After a number of years' residence in the valley, Mr. Lee left behind him the two monuments reared by his own hands—the Teays Valley and Mud River churches —and removed beyond the Ohio, where he continued his labors until he passed from among the living.
Guyandotte was established a town by legislative enactment January 5, 1810, on lands of Thomas
Buffington, with Noah Scales, Henry Brown, Richard Crump, Thomas Kilgore, Edmund Morris and Elisha McComas, trustees. The town was incorporated January 20, 1849, and Peter Clarke, John P. Hite, Augustus S. Walcott, Robert Holderby, Alfred W. Whitney, James Emmons, Henry H. Miller, William Buffington, John W. White, Percival S. Smith and Jacob Miller were appointed trustees.
Barboursville.—By Act of Assembly passed January 14, 1813, Barboursville was made a town, on the lands of William Merritt, with Edmund Morris, Elisha McComas, Edmund McGinnis, Sampson Saunders, Thomas Hatfield and Manoah Bostwick, trustees. The town was incorporated January 20, 1849, and was granted a charter February 12, 1867, when Greenville Harrison, Oscar W. Mather, J. V. Sweetland and J. B. Bumgardner were appointed commissioners to conduct the election of corporate officers.
Huntington was incorporated under the title "The City of Huntington," by an Act of the Legislature passed February 27, 1871, and named in honor of C. P. Huntington, of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The first election of corporate officers occurred on the first Thursday in September, 1871.
Marshall College.—A branch of the West Virginia State Normal School is located at Huntington. It was incorporated under the name of "Marshall Academy," March 13, 1838, and by an Act of the Assembly of Virginia passed March 4, 1858, was erected into a college, with Samuel Kilby, Staunton Field, Stephen K. Vaught, George W. Poague, Christian M. Sullivan, William Bickens, John F. Medley, Richard A. Claughton, William H. Farnerden, Samuel F. Mallory, George L. Warner, Frederick G. L. Beuhring, Peter C. Buffington, Charles L. Roffe, James H. Poague, Dr. G. C. Rickets, John W. Hite, St. Mark Russell, Dr. P. H. McCullough, Henry H. Miller and Tarleton W. Everett, incorporators and trustees. Thus it continued until February 27, 1867, when, in compliance with an Act of the Legislature, the State, aided by local subscriptions, purchased it, and it became a "West Virginia State Normal School."
[Source: History of West Virginia ; By Virgil Anson Lewis; publ. 1887; Pgs. 626-632; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack]
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