West Virginia State Site

Harrison County West Virginia

County History

Harrison was formed from Monongalia by an act of Assembly passed May, 1784, which provided that: "From and after the 20th day of July next the county of Monongalia shall be divided into two distinct counties by a line beginning on the Maryland line at the Fork Ford on the land of John Goff; thence down the said creek to Tygart's Valley Fork of the Monongahela river; thence down the same to the mouth of the West Fork river; thence up the same to the mouth of Bingamon's creek; thence up said creek to the line of Ohio county; and that part of the said county lying south of the said line shall be called and known by the name of Harrison."
Benjamin Harrison, in honor of whom the county was named, was a native of Charles City County, Virginia, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, a Governor of Virginia from 1781 to 1784, and the father of General W. H. Harrison, President of the United States.

The act creating the county provided that the first court should be held at the house of George Jackson, at Bush's Fort, on Buchannan River.

The early settlers suffered severely during the continuance of the French and Indian wars. To tell the story would be to write a volume. Around Nutter's Fort, where Clarksburg now stands, and West's Fort, near the present site of the village of Jane Lew, were enacted many of the scenes in the drama of savage warfare. From the many we select the following:—
The last appearance of the Indians on the waters of the West Fork in the year 1778 was at the house of Samuel Cottrail, near the present town of Clarksburg. "During the night considerable fear was excited both at Cottrail's and at Sotha Hickman's, on the opposite side of Elk creek, by the continued barking of the dogs, that Indians were lurking near, and in consequence of this apprehension, Cottrail, on going to bed, secured well the doors and directed that no one should stir out in the morning until it was ascertained that there was no danger threatening. Awhile before day, Cottrail being fast asleep, Moses Coleman, who lived with him, got up, shelled some corn, and giving a few ears to Cottrail's nephew with direction to feed the pigs around 'the yard, went to the hand-mill in an out-house and began to grind some of the corn. The little boy being squatted down shelling the corn, found himself suddenly drawn on his back and an Indian standing over him, ordering him to lie there. The savage then turned toward the house where Coleman was, fired, and as Coleman fell, ran up to scalp him. Thinking this a favorable time for him to reach the dwelling house, the little boy sprang to his feet, and running to the door, it was opened, and he admitted. Scarcely was it closed after him when one of the Indians with his tomahawk attempted to break it open. Cottrail fired through the door at him and he went off, followed by his companions, several in number, who had been concealed near the house."

Indians on Hacker's Creek.—On the 5th of December, 1787, a party of Indians and one white man— Leonard Schoolcraft—came into the settlement on Hacker's creek, and meeting with a daughter of Jesse Hughes, took her prisoner. Passing on, they came upon E. West, Sen., carrying some fodder to the stable, and taking him likewise captive, carried him to where Hughes' daughter had been left in charge of some of the party. Here the old gentleman fell upon his knees and expressed a fervent desire that they would not deal harshly with him. His petition was answered by a stroke of the tomahawk and he fell dead.
They then went to the house of Edmund West, where were Mrs. West and her sister, a girl of eleven years, a daughter of John Hacker, and a lad of twelve, a brother of West. Forcing open the door, Schoolcraft and two of the savages entered and one of them immediately tomahawked Mrs. West. The boy was taking some corn from under the bed. He was drawn out by the heels and the tomahawk sunk twice in his forehead directly above each eye. The girl was standing behind the door. One of the savages approached and aimed a blow at her. She tried to evade it, but it struck on the side of the head, though not with sufficient force to knock her down. She fell, however, and lay as if killed. Thinking their work of death accomplished here, they took from a press some milk, butter and bread, placed it on a table and deliberately sat down to eat—the little girl observing all that passed in silence. When they had satisfied their hunger they arose, scalped the woman and boy, plundered the house—even emptying the feathers to carry off the ticking—and departed, dragging the little girl by the hair forty or fifty yards from the house; they then threw her over the fence and scalped her; but as she evinced symptoms of life, Schoolcraft said, "that is not enough," then one of the savages thrust a knife into her side, and they left her. Fortunately, the point of the knife came in contact with a rib and did not injure her much.

Old Mrs. West and her two daughters who were alone when the old man was taken, became uneasy that he did not return ; and fearing that he had fallen into the hands of the savages, they left the house and went to Alexander West's, who was then on a hunting expedition with his brother Edmund. They told of the absence of old Mr. West and their fears as to his fate; and as there was no man there, they went over to Jesse Hughes, who was himself uneasy that his daughter did not come home. Upon hearing that West, too, was missing, he did not doubt that both had fallen into the hands of the savages; and knowing that Edmund West was absent from home, he deemed it advisable to apprise his wife of danger and remove her to his house. For this purpose, and accompanied by Mrs. West's two daughters, he went. On entering the door the tale of destruction was soon told. Mrs. West and the lad lay weltering in their blood, but not yet dead. The sight overpowered the girls, and Hughes had to carry them off. Seeing that the savages had just left, and aware of the danger that would attend any attempt to move out and give the alarm that night, Hughes guarded his own house until day, when he spread the sorrowful intelligence, and a company was collected to ascertain the extent of the mischief and try to find those who were missing.

Clarksburg was established by legislative enactment in October, 1785, when the following trustees were appointed: William Haymond, Nicholas Carpenter, John Myers, John McAlly and John Davisson. December 30, 1809, the following additional trustees were appointed: Benjamin Wilson, Jr., James Pindall, John G. Jackson, Jacob Stealy, Daniel Morris, Alexander F. Lanham and Allison Clarke. At the May term of the county court, 1810, commissioners were appointed to contract for the building of a court house on a lot given by Benjamin Wilson, Jr., for that purpose, in the town of Clarksburg. Three commissioners contracted with Allison Clarke, John Smith and Daniel Morris, to erect the building at a cost of $3700, but after considerable work had been performed and $1200 received for the same, a doubt arose as to the legality of removing the seat of justice. To set the matter at rest, the Assembly, January 18, 1811, enacted that the removal should be legal whenever Benjamin Wilson should convey by deed in fee simple the lot to the justices of Harrison county. The town was incorporated March 15, 1849.

New Salem was made a town by legislative enactment December 19, 1794, on lands of Samuel Fitz Randolph. John Patterson, John Davis, Samuel Lippincott, James Davis, Zebulon Maxon, Benjamin Thorp, Thomas Clayton, William Davis, Jacob Davis, George Jackson and John Haymond were appointed trustees thereof.

Bridgeport was established a town by act of Assembly passed January 15, 1816, on lands of Joseph Johnson at Simpson's creek bridge, with' Benjamin Coplin, Mathias Winters, Peter Link, John Davisson, David Coplin, Jedediah Waldo and Joseph Johnson, trustees.
Shinnston became a town by act of February 2, 1818, on lands of Asa and Levi Shinn, with John Righter, David Warmsley, Samuel Shinn, John D. Lucas, Benjamin Wood, Joseph Wilson and Jeremiah Roby, trustees.

Jesse Hughes.—The vicinity of Clarksburg was long the home of Jesse Hughes, the distinguished Indian scout and border ranger. He was bred from infancy in the hotbed of Indian warfare, and came to what is now Harrison county as early as 1770, where for many years he was conspicuous in the Indian wars. Of his ancestry and early life but little is known, but after the storm of war had passed away, he lived many years to enjoy that peace and quiet which the valor and heroism of himself and compatriots had won. He died about the year 1830, at the residence of his son-in-law, George Hanshaw, at Ravenswood, in Jackson county, and is buried at that place. His name is commemorated in that of Hughes river, the principal northern tributary of the Little Kanawha. Early in life he married Grace Tanner, by whom he had the following issue: Jesse, Jr.; William; Rachael, who married William Cottrell; Martha, who married Jacob Bonnett; Sudna, who married Elijah Runner; Elizabeth, who married James Stanley; Massie, who married Uriah Gandy; Nancy, who married George Hanshaw; and Lucinda, who married Uriah Sayre. Massie was the last surviving member of the family. She died in Roane county in 1884, aged ninety-eight years; she was the grandmother of Hon. Frederick Gandy, of that county.

William Lowther.—Henry, George and William were the sons of Henry Low, and were English miners; for their superior skill and meritorious service "titer" was added to their name by royal edict. William had a son Robert, who with his wife, Aquilla Rees Lowther, emigrated to America in 1740, and came to the Hacker creek settlement in 1767, accompanied by their son William, the subject of this sketch, who was born in 1742. The latter married Sudna Hughes, sister of Elias, Jesse, Thomas and Job, of Indian war fame, and settled on Simpson's creek in 1772. Many of their descendants are now living in Clarksburg and the surrounding country.
William Lowther became distinguished as a skillful and courageous frontiersman, and for his unselfish devotion to the good of the colonists. The population of these frontier settlements increased so rapidly that the supply of provisions became insufficient, and the year 1773 was called, in the early traditions of the section, "the starving year." Such were the exertions of William Lowther to mitigate the sufferings of the people, and so great was his success that his name is transmitted to their descendants hallowed by their blessings. During the war of 1774, and subsequently, he was the most active and efficient defender of the settlements in that vicinity, against the savage foe, and many a successful expedition against them was commanded by him. He was one of the first justices of the peace in Harrison county, also the first sheriff of Harrison and Wood counties, and a delegate to the General Assembly of the State. He also attained all the subordinate ranks in the military service until promoted to that of colonel, and by his unassuming good qualities endeared himself to all with whom he became associated. He died October 28, 1814.

Joseph Johnson, the only governor of Virginia ever chosen from a county west of the Alleghenies, lived and died near Bridgeport, in this county. He was born in Orange county, New York, December 19, 1785, his parents being Joseph and Abigail Johnson, the father
a distinguished soldier from that State during the Revolution. When Joseph was five years of age his father died and the family removed to New Jersey, where they resided until 1801, when a second removal was made, this to Harrison county, Virginia. Here Joseph grew to manhood, acquiring by his own exertions that mental culture which afterward rendered him an exemplification of the hackneyed term "self-made." During the War of 1812, he commanded the Harrison Riflemen, doing service on the Atlantic seaboard. In 1818, he was elected a member of the General Assembly, defeating John Prunty, who was a candidate for reelection. In 1823, he was elected to Congress and served two terms, having defeated the distinguished Philip Doddridge in both contests. In 1832, he was again elected a member of the same body, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of Philip Doddridge, and by successive reelection served until 1841, when he declined a reelection and supported Samuel L. Hays, who was, however, defeated by George W. Summers. In 1845, Mr. Johnson was again a candidate and was elected, defeating Gideon D. Camden. The expiration of this term ended, at his own request, his Congressional career. The people in 1847, elected him a member of the Assembly, and in 1850, he was chosen a member of the Constitutional Convention. While serving in that body he was elected Governor of Virginia for the term of one year, by the General Assembly, and upon the adoption of the new Constitution, by which that office was made elective by the people, he was chosen for the term of four years. In 1855, ne retired to private life, and continued to reside in Harrison county until his death, February 27, 1877, at the age of ninety-two years.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson, popularly known as "Stonewall," was a native of Harrison County, having been born in Clarksburg, January 21, 1824. His great-grandfather, a native of England, early in life found a home in the wilds of Virginia, and his grandfather, Edward Jackson, was a prominent surveyor in the Monongalia Valley. Jonathan, son of the last, adopted the legal profession, and located at Clarksburg, soon after which he married Julia, a daughter of Thomas Neal, of Wood county. Four children—two sons and two daughters—were the issue of this marriage, the youngest being Thomas J., the subject of this sketch. His father died in 1827 and his mother in 1831; thus he was an orphan at the age of seven years. He now found a welcome home in the family of his uncle, Cummins Jackson, who resided on a farm eighteen miles distant from Clarksburg, and here remained until he was eighteen years of age, in the meantime performing the usual labor of the farm and attending the schools of the neighborhood. At the age of sixteen he served as constable of Lewis county. He was ambitious, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and in 1842, learning of a vacancy in the United States Military Academy at West Point, he determined to make application for the appointment. His friends cordially supported him, and dressed in a suit of homespun, made his way to Washington, where he at once appeared before the Secretary of War, Hon. John C. Spencer, who was so much pleased with his appearance, that he ordered a warrant for his appointment to be immediately made out.

Young Jackson entered the Academy July 1, 1842, and at the expiration of four years, was graduated with the rank of brevet second lieutenant, standing seventeenth in a class of fifty-nine members.
Among his classmates were Generals:
George B. McClellan,
John G. Foster.
Of the United States Army:
Jesse L. Reno,
D. N. Couch,
Truman Semour,
M. D. L. Simpson,
S. D. Sturgiss,
George Stoneman,
lnnis N. Palmer,
Alfred Gibbs,
George H. Gordon,
Frederick Myers,
Joseph N. G. Whistler,
Nelson H. Davis,
Generals of the Confederate Army.
John A. Brown,
John Adams,
Darbney H. Maury,
D. R. Jones,
Cadmus M. Wilcox,
Samuel B. Maxey,
George E. Pickett,

The Mexican War was in progress, and Lieutenant Jackson was at once ordered to join the First Regiment of Artillery, then at New Orleans.

Complying, he entered Mexico with the army of General Taylor, under whom he served until transferred to the command of General Scott. His military career was one of distinction and rapid promotion. He was engaged in the siege of Vera Cruz, and in the battles of Cerro Gordo, La Hoya, Oka Laka, Contreras, Cherubusco, Molino del Rey, the storming of Chapultepec, and the capture of Mexico. In the conquered city, he received the rank of Major. Returning home with the army, he served in Fort Columbus, New York, in 1848, in Fort Hamilton, New York, in 1849, and was engaged in the Seminole War in Florida, in 1851. February 29, 1851, he resigned his commission and returned to Virginia, where he was elected Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Instructor of Artillery Tactics in the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington which position he filled until the beginning of the Civil War.

Immediately upon the secession of Virginia, Governor Letcher issued to Jackson a colonel's commission, and he took command of a small body of troops in the vicinity of Harper's Ferry. We can here make but a brief recapitulation of his subsequent career. Promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, June 17, 1861, he, on the 2d of July, checked for a time the advance of General Patterson at Falling Waters. He bore an important part in the battle of Bull Run, where, in the language of General Barnard E. Bee, of South Carolina, " he stood like a stone wall." October 7, he was commissioned a Major-General, and in January, 1862, marched into western Virginia, striking Bath and Romney. March 23, he engaged General Shields at Kernstown, and early in May, forced Banks to abandon Front Royal. Hastening his command to Richmond, he threw it against McClellan's rear and saved the fortunes of the Confederate arms at Gaines' Mills. His achievements of the next few days won for him the distinction of one of the great commanders in the world's history. He was engaged in the invasion of Maryland, and September 15, captured Harper's Ferry with more than 11,000 prisoners, then joined Lee in time to do the severest f1ghting at Antietam. October 11, 1862, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General, and witnessed the battle of Fredericksburg in December. May the 2d, 1863, he succeeded in turning Hooker's flank at Chancellorsville, but in the darkness of the evening, as he was returning to the rear with his staff, he was fired upon by mistake by his own men and received a wound from the effects of which he died May 10, 1863. The last hours of the distinguished chieftain have been variously described. Within a few hours of his death he was informed by the surgeon that there was no hope; that he was dying; he answered, "Very good; it is all right." It was Sunday, and a long cherished wish was now to be gratified. In life he had often been heard to express the hope that he might die on the Sabbath day. So it was to be. A few moments before he died, he cried out in delirium, "Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action; pass the infantry to the front rapidly; tell Major Hawks—" The sentence was never completed. A smile spread over the pale face, and he whispered, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." With these beautiful and typical words trembling upon his lips, the Christian soldier sank to eternal rest. His remains repose in the cemetery at Lexington, Virginia. [Source: History of West Virginia; By Virgil Anson Lewis; publ. 1887; Pgs. 543-554; Transcribed and submitted by Andrea Stawski Pack]


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