Ohio County, West Virginia
Excerpts from "A Sketch of the Early History of West Liberty and Short Creek"
"The border settlement of what is now West Virginia was the most daring
and heroic enterprise of its kind in American History because it was
the most dangerous. Lewis in his Archives & History says: "When
these barbarian wars were ended, it was found that more men, women and
children had perished at the hands of a savage foe in West Virginia,
victims of the rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife, then had died from a
similar cause in any other region of equal extent in America."
So true was this that about one hundred forts, stockades and
block-houses were erected on West Va. soil to protect the frontier
West Liberty is one of the oldest and most historic towns in the State.
It is located at the head of Short Creek. It was organized in 1787
(Hist. of Upper Ohio Valley, p. 186)
Abraham Van Meter, a noted frontiersman, and probably the largest land
owner west of the Alleghenies (Hodes, Z.T., "Chronicles, p. 81) was the
first person to improve the present site on which West Liberty now
stands; Ruth, one of his daughters, married Reuben Foreman and Hannah,
another daughter, married Providence Mounts. The town was laid out by
the last two named persons and this was the first town organized in the
Ohio Valley (Hist. of Upper Ohio Val., p. 186)
The original trustees, who laid out the town were Moses Chapline,
Zachariah Sprigg Geo. McColloch, Chas. Wills, Van Swearingen, James
Mitchell and Benj. Biggs (Newton - Panhandle History, p. 300)
The first Court for Ohio County was held at Black's Cabin, on Short
Creek, Jan. 16, 1777 (Lewis, "History & Government of W. Va/. p.
Rev. Dr. Jos. Smith, a graduate of Princeton in 1764, one of the four
original members of the Redstone Presbtery and pastor at Upper Buffalo
and Cross Creek said, "There is every reason to believe that this was
the first Civil Court held in the Valley of the Mississippi ("Newton,
Panhandle Hist., p. 156)
The location of Black's cabin is an example of the difficulty of obtaining accurate information from secondary sources.
Lewis says it was on Short Creek. An article by J.S. Bonar in W.Va.
Review, Apr. 1927, says Black's Cabin was on the "site of the present
Presbyterian Church". The History of the Upper Ohio Valley (p. 181)
states that Black's Cabin which originally stood on the site on which
was subsequently erected the Court House in West Liberty, was so called
from having been erected by an individual of that name who came to that
section between 1770-72. He was from Berkeley County., Va., and was an
apprentice to Abram Van Meter, of the same county and state, and was by
him sent to the west to select and locate land and to take the
necessary measures for establishing a claim.
The writer's conclusion, based on the fact that the blockhouse fort in
West Liberty (Or Court House Fort) stood on an elevated site above
Black's Cabin, is that Black's Cabin stood near Court Springs.
On July 16, 1802, F.A. Michaux, M.D., a celebrated French physician and
botanist reached West Liberty and said, "We passed through West Liberty
Town, a small town of about 100 houses built on the side of the hill.
The plantations in this neighborhood are numerous and the soil though
unequal is fertile. (Lewis, Hist. & Government of W.Va., p. 140)
Today in the neglected cemetery on the Dixon farm can be read 4 tombstones of the early settlers:
Reuben Foreman, d. Feb 10, 1828 in his 75th year.
In Memory of Providence Mounts who departed this life May 16, 1813, aged 54 years. His illness continued 14 hours.
Hannah Mounts, who departed this life July 27, 1811, aged 47 years
Ruth V., wife of Reuben Foreman, d. June, 1815.
When the courthouse was at West Liberty it was quite a metropolis.
The Pittsburg Gazette in 1803 refers to Wheeling as a thriving little
river town 12 miles southwest of West Liberty. On court days it seemed
that the whole country would gather at West Liberty and frequently the
crowd would amount to 1500 or 2000 souls. Court day was a gallant day.
Here trials of speed between fast horses would be had and bets of
larger or smaller sums would be offered on favorite animals. So
prevalent was the habit of betting on these occasions that men would
even bet the clothing on their backs when they had no money to gratify
their propensity (History of Upper Ohio Valley, p. 188)
Van Meter Fort or Courthouse Fort which was a blockhouse, was located
at West Liberty and commanded by Maj. Samuel McColloch. It stood on an
elevated site above Black's Cabin and was erected about 1777. (History
of Upper Ohio Valley , p183)
In 1797 West Liberty had a Post office, when there were only eight in West Virginia (Ambler, p. 190)
In 1879, West Liberty had a mill, a home-like hotel, wagon and smith
shops and a few stores. After the County Seat was moved to Wheeling in
1797 the old courthouse was purchased by Zacharias Biggs and used for
many years as a mill, run by horse power (History of Panhandle, p. 301)
Many interesting old farms around West Liberty were taken up as
tomahawk claims and have been handed down from generation to
generation. They have never been sold.
An interesting mound said to be 15,000 years old was opened up this
year (1936) on the Waddle farm about ½ mile from the Short Creek
Many of the early settlers of West Liberty and Short Creek were people
far about the average. They were better educated than most pioneers and
excelled in morals and religion.
In the West Liberty Cemetery is buried General Benjamin Biggs, General
W.B. Curtis and Capt. Wm. Brady, the famous Indian Scout. Theodore
Roosevelt said that Brady was of far higher type than Lewis Wetzel:
"For many years after the close of the Revolutionary War, he was the
chief frontiersman of his own neighborhood. He never killed peaceful
Indians, nor those who came in under flags of truce. Once he was
captured, but when about to be bound to the stake for burning he
suddenly flung an Indian boy into the fire and in the confusion burst
through the warriors and actually made his escape through the whole
pack of yelling savages following at his heels with rifle and
tomahawks" (T.R. Roosevelt in "Winning of the West")
Brady was a devout Presbyterian and a marvelous student of the Bible.
He died at West Liberty in 1796 "Pennsylvania Farmer, 1934"
Benjamin Biggs, one of the original trustees and prominent settlers
commonly went by the name of General Biggs. He had been a Captain in
the Revolutionary War, where he had won distinction by his courage and
devotion to the cause of independence and was promoted at the age of 23
to the command of a company. After the close of the Revolutionary War,
he became an Indian fighter. According to J.S. Bonar he was a Major
General, a Dept. Commander in the War of 1812. He died at West Liberty
at age 71. (History of Upper Ohio Valley, p. 184)
General W.B. Curtis, member and trustee of the West Liberty M.E.
Church, was born April 18, 1821 on the historic ground where the great
battle of Antietam was afterwards fought. IN 1832 his parents removed
to West Liberty. He was a merchant until he became a soldier in 1862.
He married Hannah M. Montgomery, a descendant of General Montgomery,
who fell at Quebec. In 1861 Gen. Curtis was a member of the State
Convention at Wheeling which organized a loyal State Government. For
many years he was a trustee of West Liberty Academy. The part Col. W.B.
Curtis took in the assault on Fort Gregg, Va won him the commission of
General. (Miller & Maxwell, p. 399)
The Short Creek Country, near West Liberty, was appropriated by
horse-racing, fox-hunting, jolly Marylanders and Virginians. Some of
these people were highly educated and refined and noted for their
hospitality, good living, fun and intermarriage.
Among the earliest settlers in northwestern Virginia were the
McCollochs, who emigrated from the south branch of the Potomac in 1770
and located on the borders of Short Creek. The family consisted of four
brothers, Abraham, George, Samuel and John - and two sisters, one of
whom, Elizabeth, was the wife of Ebenezer Zane, who settled at the
mouth of Wheeling Creek.
Samuel, who has been immortalized by his leap over Wheeling Hill,
commanded Fort Van Meter back of the Clinton Consolidated School and
Court House Fort at West Liberty. On the National Road at the top of
Wheeling Hill, there is a marker describing the leap made by Major Sam.
In the short Creek Cemetery there is a large memorial to him. Major
Samuel McColloch is buried back of the Clinton School near the site of
Fort Van Meter.
Abram McColloch, brother of Samuel figured quite extensively in the
early history of Richland District, having engaged to some extent as a
scout among the Indians by whom he received a wound in the hip. It was
not fatal because of a book in his pocket. (Newton, "Panhandle
History", p. 135)
Capt. Geo. McColloch was one of the first settlers of the West
according to his tombstone in the Short Creek Cemetery. He departed
this life May 19, 1830, aged 73. He was an original trustee of West
Major John McColloch married the oldest daughter of Captain John Bukey.
Later he became a trustee of the Fourth St. M.E. church in Wheeling.
The churches here were great pioneer churches. The greatest leaders of
four of the largest American denominations preached in West Liberty.
Ambler in his "History of West Virginia" mentions seven of those
pioneers, Francis Asbury, Joseph Doddridge, Alexander Campbell, John
McMillan, Joseph Cheuvrent, Asa Shinn and George Brown.
Francis Asbury, first Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church and
"greatest builder of the American Church" preached near West Liberty,
at the home of John Beck, Sept 5, 1803. According to Asbury's Journal
he visited the West Liberty community in 1803, 1804, 1807, 1808, 1815.
Asbury's Journal, Sept 5, 1803 reads "We rode to John Beck's near West Liberty. I preached on Acts 3:26."
On Oct 21, 1804, "Rode to John McCollochs, within 1 mile of the Ohio
River; Here my fever rose; I returned to John Beck's; I resolved to
breakfast upon either grains of Ipicacuanna; this broke up my disease
and fever of 50 days."
Aug. 12, 1807 Asbury preached at John Beck's new house. In 1808, the year he visited Wheeling, he rested at John Beck's.
On Sept 8, 1812, he wrote "I presume we had 10,000 at the Liberty Camp Meeting."
Prof. D.B. Rogers of the University of Pittsburgh wrote that the Zanes
and Shepherds came from Wheeling to West Liberty to hear Wilson Lee. He
preached in this territory in 1785, as he traveled the Redstone Circuit.
The Ohio Circuit which was formed in 1787 acquired property in 1793.
The deed states that this real estate was the original Hodges Tract
located in Liberty District. Joseph Hodges, the founder of the Hodges
family of America, was one of the trustees of the Ohio Circuit.
by Rev. J.A. Earl
Portions of this work were re-published in "The Echoer", various volumes, and that is what is transcribed here by K. Torp
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