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Lewis County, WV
History

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[Source: History of West Virginia; By Virgil Anson Lewis; publ. 1887; Pgs. 636-640;

Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack]

 

LEWIS COUNTY

Lewis county was formed from Harrison by an Act of Assembly passed December 18, 1816, by which the boundaries were defined to be: " Beginning at the head of the left hand fork of Jesse's run; thence a straight line to the mouth of Kincheloe's creek; thence up said creek to the dividing ridge; thence a west course to the Wood county line; thence to include all the south part of Harrison down to the mouth of Buchannan river; thence a straight line to the beginning." The act directed that the first court should be held at Westfield and appointed the following named commissioners to locate the county seat: Edward Jackson, Elias Lowther, John McCoy, Lewis Maxwell and Daniel Stringer.

The county was named in memory of Colonel Charles Lewis, who was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant. He was the youngest son of John Lewis, the pioneer settler of Augusta County and a brother of General Andrew Lewis who commanded the Virginians at Point Pleasant.

Weston, the county seat, was established a town, under the name of "Preston," January 1818, on lands of Daniel Stringer and Lewis Maxwell; Henry McWhorter, William Peterson, James M. Camp and Robert Collins were appointed trustees. By an act of February 20, 1819, the name of the town was changed to "Fleshersville." This, however, does not appear to have been satisfactory, for on the 19th of the following December it was enacted that “the town established in the county of Lewis, by the name of 'Preston', afterward changed to 'Fleshersville,' shall hereafter be known by the name of 'Weston.'"

The first settler on the site of the present town was Henry Flesher. The exact date of his settlement is not known, but he was residing here as early as 1784, for in that year, while engaged in hauling logs to build a stable, he was attacked by a party of Indians then ravaging the settlements on the West Fork. The gun discharged at him had been loaded with two balls, both of which took effect in Flesher's arm. Thus wounded, he fled to his cabin, closely pursued by two savages, one of whom was so close upon him as to strike him with the butt end of his gun as he entered the door. The blow seemed to throw him forward into the house. His wife closed the door and the Indians made no effort to force it open. Still, the family felt insecure, and as soon as the savages had withdrawn they left the house and concealed themselves in the forest. One member of the family — a young lady — succeeded in finding the way to Hacker's creek, where she gave the alarm. Early next morning, Thomas Hughes with others started out and succeeded in escorting the Fleshers to the settlement.

Alexander Withers, the author of that rare and valuable work, "Chronicles of Border Warfare," is buried at Weston. He was a representative of one of the oldest families of Virginia, the emigrant ancestor being John Withers, who owned an estate in Stafford County. This he devised to several heirs by will bearing date August 29, 1698. One of his heirs, William Withers, who was born in Lancaster, England, in 1731, and who was the definite ancestor of the historian, did not arrive in Virginia until 1745. For a time he was the private secretary of Governor Dinwiddie, and afterward located in Dinwiddie county, at a place called Kingston. In 1761; he wedded Priscilla Wright, of Nansemond county, by whom he had issue, one of whom, Enoch K. Withers, married Jannet Chinn (a daughter of Jannet Scott, a first cousin of Sir Walter Scott), and settled at Green Meadows, six miles distant from Warrenton, the county seat of Fauquier county. Here on the 12th day of October, 1792, Alexander Withers, the author of “Border Warfare," was born.

After graduating at William and Mary College, he studied law, and August 10, 1815, married Melinda Feslier. He came west of the mountains in 1827, and at Clarksburgh met Joseph Israel, with whom he contracted to publish a work on the early settlement of Western Virginia. Mr. Withers traversed the territory taking his notes, and the "Chronicles of Border Warfare," published at Clarksburgh in 1831, is the result of his labors. He died at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Jannet S. Tavenner, near Parkersburg, January 23, 1865. He was an accomplished scholar, and spent much of his time in the study of the Greek and Latin classics.

Jonathan M. Bennett, who won for himself the proud distinction of being the "best Auditor Virginia ever had," was a native of this county. He was born in what is known as "Collins' Settlement," October 4, 1816. His paternal grandfather was Joseph Bennett, who emigrated from Scotland and settled in Augusta County, Virginia, before the Revolution. His father was William Bennett, the eldest son of Joseph, who was born in Pendleton County, Virginia, and removed to what is now Lewis County, in the year 1800. Jonathan M., the subject of this sketch, married Margaret F., a daughter of Captain George W. Jackson, a soldier in the War of 1812, and a brother of Judge John G. Jackson, the first judge of the District Court of the United States for West Virginia. She was also a cousin of "Stonewall" Jackson.

In March, 1836, Jonathan M. Bennett was made deputy sheriff of Lewis County which office he held until 1838, when he was appointed deputy clerk of both county and circuit courts, holding the same for several years. In 1843, he was admitted to the bar and entered into a partnership with Judge Gideon D. Camden, which continued until 1852, when Judge Camden went upon the bench. When Gilmer County was formed he became its first Commonwealth's attorney. He was elected the first mayor of Weston in 1846. In 1851, he was appointed one of the commissioners to receive subscriptions to the Weston and West Union Turnpike. In 1851, he was elected to the General Assembly of Virginia, and became an active and prominent member of that body, in the session of 1852-1853, materially aiding in the passing of laws to put in force the great reforms contemplated by the Constitution of Virginia which had just been ratified by the people. Among the benefits obtained by him at that time for his county were the appropriation of large sums of money to macadamize the Weston and Fairmont, and Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpikes, and the establishment of a branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia, at Weston, with a capital of $300,000. In 1853, he was elected president of the bank, which incapacitated him for reelection to the General Assembly. This position he held until 1857, when Governor Henry A. Wise appointed him first auditor of Virginia, which office he continued to hold until 1865, when he was rendered ineligible by the test oath — he having followed the fortunes of his native State during the late war.

To his intimate friendship and personal influence with Governor Wise can the people of Lewis county justly attribute the location of the Hospital for the Insane in their midst, for he virtually permitted Mr. Bennett to name the commissioners who located it. In 1858, he was a prominent candidate for Congress, leading for many ballots at the Democratic convention which finally nominated General Albert G. Jenkins. After the Civil War he returned to Weston, where he continued in a successful and lucrative practice of the law until his death.

In 1872, he was elected to the Senate of West Virginia, and served four years as a leading member. In 1871, he, A. W. Campbell and General John J. Jackson were appointed commissioners by the State of West Virginia to adjust with Virginia their respective proportions of the public debt of the old State, and made an able and accurate report concerning the same. Afterward, as chairman of the finance committee of the West Virginia Senate, he prepared and submitted a more comprehensive report on that subject, which placed West Virginia in a still more favorable light. These reports have ever since been relied on by our State as her defense on this important question. In 1876, he was appointed Awarding Judge for West Virginia to the Centennial at Philadelphia. He died at Weston, October 28, 1887.

[Source: History of West Virginia ; By Virgil Anson Lewis; publ. 1887; Pgs. 636-640;Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack]


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