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Points of Historical Interest in West Virginia

Barbour County - Philippi

The Battle of Philippi, also called The Philippi Races, was fought in Barbour County, June 3, 1861 in and around Philippi, Virginia (now West Virginia) as part of the Western Virginia Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the first organized land action in the Eastern Theater of the war. The Union victory in a relatively bloodless battle propelled the young General McClellan into the national spotlight.

Town of Philippi, Barbour County

1897 Bird's eye view of Philippi, Barbour County, WV.
Drawn by T. M. Fowler

Source: Library of Congress

Philippi Covered Bridge

The oldest and longest covered bridge in West Virginia and one of only two remaining in Barbour County. It is the only two-lane covered bridge still in use on a Federal highway.

The Philippi Covered Bridge spanning the Tygart Valley River at Philippi, West Virginia

[Source: Appalachian Blacksmith's Association at http://appaltree.net]

[Source: Barbour County Chamber of Commerce]

The bridge was commissioned by the General Assembly of Virginia and constructed in 1852 by Lemuel Chenoweth, a well-known Appalachian bridge builder, to provide a link on an important segment of the vital Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike between Beverly and Fairmont. It is one of few surviving "double-barreled" (two lane) covered bridges in the United States.

The bridge was used on 3 June 1861 by both Union and Confederate troops after the Battle of Philippi Races, by some reckonings the first land battle of the American Civil War. The bridge was the first to be captured in the war by either side and was used for a time as a barracks by the victorious Union troops.

The bridge narrowly escaped burning in April and May of 1863 at the time of the Confederate raids on the B&O Railroad west of Cumberland, Maryland. Orders were issued by General William E. Jones for the burning of it and of the covered bridge at Rowlesburg, but the intercession of several locals of Southern sympathies (especially Elder Joshua S. Corder) saved both.

[sources: wikipedia.org, "The Echoer" and Appalachian Blacksmith's Association]

Berkeley County - Morgan's Chapel in Bunker Hill

Bunker Hill, West Virginia in Berkeley County,
Located on Winchester Pike (U.S. Highway 11) at its junction with West Virginia Secondary Route 26 south of Martinsburg. It is the site of the confluence of Torytown Run and Mill Creek, a tributary of Opequon Creek

At Bunker Hill in 1726, Colonel Morgan Morgan founded the first permanent settlement of record in Western Virginia. In commemoration of this event, the state of West Virginia has erected a monument in Bunker Hill State Park, and has placed a marker at the grave of Morgan Morgan, which is in a cemetery near the park.

Bunker Hill Mill, County Route 26, Bunker Hill vicinity, Berkeley County, WV
Source: Library of Congress

Bunker Hill's Mill Creek Historic District is the site of the Bunker Hill Mill, a gristmill that contains 19th and 20th centuries milling equipment, still in operating condition. The mill was constructed in 1738 and rebuilt in 1890 and serves as the only mill in the state featuring dual water wheels. One of the three churches in the historic district, Bunker Hill Presbyterian Church, was built in 1854.


Source: West VA archives
"Christ's Church"

Morgan's Chapel, dating from 1740-1750, was one of the first places of worship in Berkeley County. Bunker Hill was the home of Morgan Morgan, whose descendants founded Morgantown.

(On Rt. 26, 0.2 miles West of Rt. 11)

The first Episcopal church (Christ Church) in what is now West Virginia was erected at Bunker Hill by Morgan Morgan in 1740.

Morgan Morgan built his cabin between 1731 and 1734. The cabin was restored as a Bicentennial project in 1976, using many of its original logs. Located along West Virginia Secondary Route 26 west of Bunker Hill, it is a historically furnished museum.

Greenbrier County - Fort Donnally

Picture courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives

Greenbrier was formed from Botetourt and Montgomery counties in 1778.

Donnally's Fort was within two miles of the present town of Frankfort, in Greenbrier county

Andrew Donnally was a colonel by virtue of his being sheriff of Greenbrier County when it was formed in 1778, the year of the attack on Fort Donnally. Being sheriff of a Virginia county automatically made him the commander of the county militia, and thus making him a colonel.

Donnally owned the valley, or at least a large part of it, where he erected the stockade to protect the settlers from Indian forays. Several pioneer forts and many bloody engagements mark the history of Greenbrier County

In 1778, Wyandot and Mingo Indians attacked this fort, several miles west of Lewisburg. Philip Hammond and a slave, Dick Pointer, held off the attackers until Matthew Arbuckle and Samuel Lewis arrived from Camp Union. In return, Pointer was granted his freedom and later received a pension.

After Donnally sold his holdings in this valley he moved to Charleston and bought a river bottom farm where present Kanawha City is. Colonel Donnally died there and was buried in a little grave yard there on the south bank of the Kanawha. There the dust of him and family remained undisturbed until construction of the West Virginia turnpike. Then the graves were moved to another location.
[Source: West Virginia Archives]

Hardy County - Moorefield

Moorefield was settled by Conrad Moore. The first court of Hardy county was convened at Moore's home in 1786

It was originally chartered in 1777 and named for Conrad Moore, who owned the land upon which the town was laid out. Moorefield is located at the confluence of the South Branch Potomac River and the South Fork South Branch Potomac River

Hardy County Courthouse
Hardy County Courthouse
Located at Corner of Elm St. (formerly Franklin Street) and Winchester Ave. (formerly Rockaway Street) in Moorefield
[Source: National Registry]

From the National Registery of Historical Places:
The Old, or "First," Hardy County Courthouse was constructed in segments, the first built in 1792-93 and the extension added about 1833. A contract for the first section, fronting on Franklin (now Elm) Street, was let by April 1792 to Abel Seymour for the original amount of £150. This was apparently completed by late 1793, with other workers having been employed at additional cost to "finish" the structure. Question of need for a new courthouse in 1833 led to a decision to erect the second portion of the "L"-shaped building, to be used as a clerk's office.

The 1792-93 section had 18 inch thick brick walls placed atop a sound stone foundation. Approximately 25' x 50', the structure included the court room on the second floor, and the lower level was open so that horses could be taken through the arched, brick passageway into the open courtyard to the back. The gabled roof was topped by a belfry which housed a bell used to announce court sessions. Brickwork was of Flemish bond, and a carved and bracketed cornice underlined the roof's edge.
Also of brick, but with walls only 12 inches thick and in a stretcher bond, the second section was a two-story, 50' x 25' addition. Facing Rockaway (now Winchester) Avenue, this segment was placed about six feet from the courthouse, the front ranging with that structure on the gable end. German influence in a slightly upturned gable is prevalent in the addition. Containing two rooms above and two below with a fireplace in each, it was origi nally roofed with tin. This section was connected to the courthouse by a platform and stair.
Over the years the building has undergone a number of changes. At some unknown date between 1860 and 1900, the open stairway between sections was roofed over, and a floor at ground level in the old courthouse closed off the courtyard. A porch, built about 1902 and surrounding the Elm Street and Winchester Avenue fronts, was removed in the latest refurbishing, indicating fine federal lines in the original courthouse building. Windows in the two segments were of various sorts and remained so until remodeling in 1972 when all were replaced by 9/9 or 6/6 double-hung sash. Entrances have been changed as the building has served various functions; now there are two on the Winchester Avenue side. The brickwork has been painted white, and a retaining wall about two feet high and three feet deep serves as a planter around the front. Remodeling was accomplished under the direction of Miss Marjorie Pierce of Weston, Massachusetts, an architect with a fair amount of experience in restoration work.

Willow Wall
(McNeill Family House)

Willow Wall original plan

Willow Wall, U.S. Route 220, Moorefield, Hardy County, WV
[Source: Library of Congress]

Willow Wall is one of West Virginia's most impressive early nineteenth-century structures, built circa 1812. The "U" shaped brick mansion contains a total of thirty-eight rooms. It was built by Daniel McNeill on the site of his earlier log house which is said to have had the same configuration. Exterior features of note are the handsome double tiered portico and the Palladian windows on each wing, which if somewhat provincial in design are beautifully executed. The central block contains four rooms, two on either side of a large hall, which is papered with French scenic wallpaper. Doors opening into the hall have handsomely framed arched transoms. Rooms in the rear wings are only slightly less elaborately trimmed. During the War Between the States, the house was used as a hospital by both Confederate and Union troops, the rear porch and wings being used as operating theaters. Willow Wall, little altered from its original condition, is still owned and maintained in excellent condition by the McNeill family
[Source: "Library of Congress"]

"Willow Wall is an antebellum mansion located in Old Fields, Hardy County, West Virginia. According to local legend, it took seven years to build this enormous late-Georgian plantation house. The house features magnificent hand-carved woodwork and 43 mortise and tenon, six-over-six windows. Almost all of the window panes are original - surprising since this was the site of the Civil War Battle of Moorefield, which was fought on August 7, 1864."
Read more on our
Hardy County site

Ohio County - Roseby's Rock

Rosebys Rock, Wheeling, WV
Laying its first stone in 1828, the Founders of the B. & O. projected it from Baltimore, to the Ohio River. Twenty-four years later, Christmas Eve, 1852, the last rail of the 379-mile line was laid at Roseby's Rock, 18 miles east of Wheeling, W. Va.

Issued by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in honor of the Centennial of Wheeling, West Virginia, August 1936


Roseby's Rock, 1852
In 1848 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) began construction of a rail line between Cumberland, MD and Wheeling, VA (now West Virginia), a 200 mile long route over the Allegheny Mountains through the roughest region that had ever been traversed by a railroad in the US. Work began from both ends; westward from Fairmont and eastward from Wheeling. On December 24, 1852, the last spike was driven at Roseby's Rock, 18 miles east of Wheeling. Between Cumberland and Wheeling, eleven tunnels had been bored and 113 bridges constructed. The bridge completed across the Monongahela River, was then the largest iron bridge in America. At Tunnelton, the route passed through the Kingwood Tunnel, the longest railroad tunnel which had yet been constructed in the world. The first through train from the Atlantic coast to the Ohio River arrived at Wheeling on January 1, 1853, carrying the president of the B&O and distinguished guests and officials.
[Source: Wikipedia.org]

By the fall of 1851, up to 5,000 men and 1,250 horses were employed to push the construction toward completion. Monthly construction payrolls often reached $200,000. Generally the workers were paid promptly, but sometimes they were not. Benjamin Latrobe worked out in the field to keep up both the work schedule and the morale of the track crews. In Baltimore President Swann maintained the enthusiasm of the owners at the same time that he was arranging fresh 6 percent loans, often sold at a discount. As the grading of the roadbed was completed, the pace of track laying increased. The 200 miles of new line west of Cumberland, plus the necessary sidings land yards required 22,000 tons of iron rail, nearly all of it imported from England at $40 per ton.

The line was completed to Fairmont, on the Monongahela River, 124 miles west of Cumberland and 77 miles from Wheeling, on June 22, 1852. The regular operation of trains to Cumberland and Baltimore was started at once. President Swann had promised the people of Wheeling that the road would be finished by New Year's Day, 1853. The last rails were laid and the last spike driven on Christmas Eve, 1852, at Roseby's Rock in a narrow valley eighteen miles southeast of Wheeling. Near the track closing was huge glacial rock, named for Roseby Carr, the superintendent for laying rails for that portion of the line.

Excerpt from the "History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad", 1995, by John F. Stoves

Roseby's Rock got its name from Roseby Carr, the engineer who completed the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to that point. His great grandson, Thomas Carr Sparks worked for the railroad for many years.

Another oldtimer who was present that day was Patrick Hanly. Born in Strokestown County, Roscommon, Ireland on December 22, 1836, he emigrated to America in 1852 and settlted at Fairfax, Virginia. He tried to enlist in the Civil War but a track foreman was too valuable for cannon fodder.

He died at Uniontown, PA on July 26, 1922.

C.L. Hafner was the engineer of the Engine "Delaware" which pulled the first section of the "Jubilee" train from Baltimore, Md. to Wheeling, Va on that first run.
[Source: "The Echoer"]

Kanawha County - Burning Springs
In 1773, the Van Bibber Brothers (the first Europeans to settle the upper Kanawha Valley) discovered natural gas bubbling through the water which ignited to the astonishment of everyone. George Washington and Andrew Lewis purchased the spring in 1775 as a real-estate investment, though its value as a source of fuel was not understood. Salt-works were developed at and near the springs in the late 1700s, but the demand for gas and oil were not developed until the mid-1800s, and their presence in the salt brine was an inconvenience.

From "West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey" by Charles E. Krebs, D. Dee Teets, 1914:

The Kanawha Valley was early noted for its natural gas, even before the white man had invaded the region. It is quite probable that the "burning springs", an outflow of natural gas and salt water, along the Kanawha river, where the Warfield anticline crosses the river, 9 miles east of Charleston, had already attracted the attention of the native Indians and they were making use of them in their own primitive way long before the white man had crossed the Alleghanies.

Historians claim that Gen. George Washington visited the Kanawha Valley as early as 1775, and while camped at the "burning springs" (now Washington Springs), nine miles east of Charleston, preempted the spring along with other lands given to him for military service by the State of Virginia, and that in his will this natural gas wonder, including one acre of ground around it, was deeded to the public forever in the following language:

"The tract of which the 123 acres is a Moiety, was taken up by Gen. Andrew Lewis and myself, for and on account of a bituminous spring which it contains of so inflamable a nature as to burst forth as freely as spirits and as nearly difficult to extinguish."

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