West Virginia State Site

Ohio County, West Virginia


Source: "History of West Virginia" by Virgil Anson Lewis
Philadelphia : Hubbard Bros., 1887

[Transcribed by K. Torp

The present area of the county of Ohio is 120 square miles. It was formed from the District of West Augusta, by Act of the Assembly passed October, 1776. The original boundaries were as follows:
"Beginning at the mouth of Cross creek; thence up the same to the head thereof; thence southeastwardly to the nearest part of the ridge which divides the waters of the Ohio from those of the Monongahela; thence along said ridge to the line which divides the county of Augusta from the said District; thence with the said boundary to the Ohio; thence up the same to the beginning."

The Act provided that the landholders should meet at the house of Ezekiel Dewit to choose the most convenient place for holding courts. Such a meeting was held December 8th, 1776.

When the Legislature of Virginia, on the 8th of October, 1785, ratified the report of the surveyors who extended Mason and Dixon's Line, Virginia lost nearly the entire area of Youghiogheny county and the remainder was annexed to Ohio county.
The first Court for the county convened January 16th, 1777, at Black's cabin, on the waters of Short creek, at or near where West Liberty now stands. The Justices were Silas Hedges, William Scott, David Shepherd, Zacharias Sprigg, Thomas Wallen and David McClain. David Shepherd was recommended to "His Honor the Governor" as County Lieutenant; Silas Hedges as Colonel, and David McClure as Major of Militia. The first attorneys who were licensed to practice in the courts of Ohio county were Philip Pendleton and George Brent.

In 1797, Wheeling became the county seat. The first court here was held at the house of John Gooding, and convened May 7th, 1797.

West Liberty was established by legislative enactment November 29th, 1787, on lands of Reuben Foreman and Providence Mounce, with Moses Chaplaine, Zachariah Sprigg, George McCulloch, Charles Wills, Van Swearingen, James Mitchell and Benjamin Biggs, trustees. A branch of the West Virginia State Normal School was established at West Liberty, March 1st, 1870.
Wheeling was first laid out in town lots by Colonel Ebenezer Zane, in 1793. By Act of Assembly, passed December 25th, 1795, it was established a town, with the following trustees: John M'Intyer, Andrew Woods, Henry Smith, Archibald Woods, James Nelson, Robert Woods, Absalom Martin and William Waddle.

December 28th, 1803, new trustees were appointed, as follows: George Knox, William Irvine, Thomas Evans, John Kerr, William McConnell, Joseph Colwell ("Colwell" is scratched out and written in pencil is "Caldwell"), John White and Frederick Beimer.

The town was incorporated January 16th, 1806, when it was made lawful for the freeholders of the town "to nominate and elect by ballot twelve fit and able men being freeholders and inhabitants of the town to serve as Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Councilmen for the same." On the 17th of March 1806, a meeting of the freeholders was held, when Mordecai Yarnall, Moses , Shepherd and George Miller were appointed to receive votes. The following were elected by ballot: Noah Linsley, George Miller, William Irvine, Dennis Capat, William McConnell, John Carr, Joseph Caldwell, Charles Hammond, Frederick Beimer, John White, James Ralson and William Perrine. These met March 22d, 1806, to elect from their number, in pursuance of the Act of March 17th, a Mayor, Recorder, and four Aldermen. George Miller was elected Mayor; Charles Hammond, Recorder; Dennis Capat, William Irwin, James Caldwell and John Carr, Aldermen. The officials appointed George Pannell, Town Sergeant. By an Act of March 11th, 1836, the town of Wheeling was incorporated into the city of Wheeling. Richard Simms, James S. Wheat, Thomas Sweeney, William T, Selby, John Eoff, Moses W. Chapline, Charles D. Knox, David Zane, Z. Jacobs, Dana Hubbard, and John Richie were elected to constitute the Board of Commissioners.

A diversity of opinion has existed relative to the origin of the word "Wheeling," and several theories have been advanced to account for the same. The following, subjoined from Howe's "Historical Collections," appears to be the most probable :

"It is stated in a communication to the American Pioneer by Mr. John White, that Wheeling was originally called Weeling, which signifies "the Place of a Head." The following tradition explanatory of this was obtained from Mr. John Brittle, who was taken prisoner by the Delawares, lived with them five years and acquired their language: "In the earliest period of the settlement of Pennsylvania, some white settlers descended the Ohio river in a boat, and stopping at the mouth of Wheeling creek, were killed by the Delawares. The savages cut off the head of one of their victims, and placing it on a pole, with the face toward the river, called the place Weeling. The Indians informed Mr. Brittle that the head was placed there to guard the river; I presume to guard the camp from the incursions of the whites. Mr. Brittle said that if an Indian were asked, after shooting a deer or a bear, where he had hit the animal, his answer - if in the head- would be, 'Weeling.' "

When Wheeling was first settled (see ante p. 221.) Indian warfare raged along the border. The stockade was the only place of safety. Very early one arose at Wheeling, and in the annals of border warfare no braver deed is recorded than the defense of this Fort Henry against an attack by a band of savages, when the assailants numbered more than thirty times the assailed. (See account of the siege of Fort Henry,. Chapter XI., Part I.)

The Grice Family Massacre. - In 1775, Colonel Shepherd erected a fort at the forks of Wheeling creek. Among the families finding refuge here was one named Grice. After the attack on Fort Henry, in 1777, it was determined to abandon the place. Grice decided to return with his family to their improvement, some two miles distant. Near the mouth of Peter's run, the family was attacked by Indians, who killed, as they supposed, all except one boy, who was carried away captive. When the victims were found, Rachel, a girl of eleven years, was alive. She always insisted that the man who scalped, her had light hair and blue eyes.

Attack on Link's Block House.- In 1780, Jonathan Link erected a block house on Middle Wheeling creek, near the present site of Triadelphia. In the fall of 1781, this rude structure was attacked by a party of fifteen or twenty Indians. Link and two of his men were killed and several were made prisoners. Among the latter was William Hawkins, who promised the Indians to direct them to his cabin if they would spare his life. When approaching the cabin, he spoke to the Indians in loud tones, so as to give his family time to conceal themselves. This they did, but one daughter was discovered and marched away captive. After proceeding a few miles, Hawkins and Presley Peak - also a prisoner- were tied to trees and tomahawked.

Thomas Mills Escape. - July 30, 1783, Thomas Mills started on a fishing excursion from Wheeling, in company with Henry Smith and Hambleton Kerr. The last-named was one of the most efficient of Indian scouts. His father having been killed by the Indians, the son swore vengeance on the race, and no Indian was safe who crossed his path. When the fishing party were near Glenn's run, they were fired upon by Indians. Smith was killed instantly, and Mills wounded by fourteen bullets. Kerr was unhurt, and as rapidly as he could rowed the canoe back to Wheeling. Mills recovered, and afterward located in Ohio, near Shade river.

John Wetzel and Frederick Erlewyne, in the spring of 1785, were captured by Indians. The boys had left Shepherd's Fort to look for the horses. John, - attempting to escape, was shot through the wrist. His companion, refusing to go with the Indians, was instantly killed. The Indians, retreating with their captive, came to the river near the mouth of Grave creek. The settlers from this place, having taken refuge in the fort at Wheeling, had sent three of their number to look after the cattle at the deserted settlement. On arriving, they found the Indians engaged in shooting their hogs. They attacked the savages, killed three of their number and rescued John Wetzel.

The Becham Murder. - A family named Becham settled on Little Wheeling creek in 1783. A few years later, probably in 1787, two sons of the household went one October day in search of the horses. A small party of Indians were on the watch. They caught the horses, and, when the boys approached made them prisoners and made for the Ohio at Grave creek. Four miles from the river they encamped. During the night they tomahawked and scalped the boys and left them. In their haste their work of death was not complete, neither of the boys being killed. Thomas, the eldest, started for help. Arriving at Grave Creek Flats he was kindly cared for and a party despatched to search for his brother. But before aid reached him the savages had returned and completed their murderous work.

The Purdy Family. - James Purdy was an industrious and worthy settler in the vicinity of Wheeling. One night, in 1790, four Indians stepped into his cabin and began their work of destruction on the defenseless family. Mrs. Purdy was knocked down with a war club but afterwards recovered. Purely and two children were left dead, while two daughters were carried across the Ohio to spend ten years in captivity.

The Jolly Family - Another of those atrocious Indian murders was perpetrated in the vicinity of Wheeling, June 8, 1792. The victims were the wife and children of Daniel Jolly, who was himself absent from home. No one in the house escaped. One son, who was taken prisoner, was recovered by the father after seven years.


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