West Virginia and Her Records
By Mrs. Boyd Wees, Elkins, W. Va
(Read at the Round Table of the National Genealogical Society, March 21, 1931)
Transcribed by K. Torp
The hazards of fire and the fortunes of war have destroyed untold volumes of records in the Virginias. The division of States and of Counties has further complicated matters.
In 1776 the newly declared Commonwealth of Virginia met in Williamsburg and passed an act dividing the District of West Augusta into three counties: Ohio, Monongalia, Youghiogheny. Twenty-five years before this, in 1754, Hampshire County was formed from Frederick and Augusta. From these, the 54 counties in the State have been formed, it is to be hoped, with no more changing boundary lines.
In Hampshire, both fire and War have played havoc. The records at Romney are very disappointing. Many not burned, were carried away during the Civil War, though a few have later been recovered.
Hardy, formerly of Hampshire, has beautifully kept records at Moorefield, dating from 1786.
Monongalia, which formerly included part of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, had her records burned in 1796. From that date, they are well preserved at Morgantown and include a valuable list of Marriage Bonds from 1796-1850. These have been published serially, in D.A.R. Magazine beginning January, 1930. Monongalia also included Marion County in her boundaries, and the older records are still kept in Morgantown.
Since 1840 the Marion County records are kept at the County Seat, Fairmont, formerly called Middletown.
Berkeley County has wonderful records at Martinsburg, beginning 1772.
Harrison County has some old and valuable records at Clarksburg, dating from 1794. An old original survey, signed by George Washington, played an important part in a law suit, some years ago. The survey was used as evidence that there were 250 acres in the plot. The Judge ruled that George Washington always told the truth and his veracity was not to be questioned in his Court. The case was dismissed.
The records of Ohio County, at Wheeling, begin with 1776, though vital statistics begin in 1853, as they did in most counties of the State.
Greenbrier records, beginning 1778, are found at Lewisburg, one of the oldest towns in the state. Her is found the oldest church on the Western Waters of the Virginias, the log building used until 1796 when the old Stone Church was built and is yet standing.
Pendleton County with a new courthouse at Franklin has few old records, most of them have been destroyed, although the County dates to 1787.
Randolph, the largest county in the State, has not escaped. The courthouse at Beverly, burned in 1897, and some records not in the vault were destroyed. These were Chancery and Law Suits, where so much valuable information can be found.
In 1902 the county seat was moved to Elkins and the courthouse was completed in 1907. Despite the fire, the records in Randolph are a gold mine of information. Formed in 1787 from Harrison, the Marriage records begin that year, as do Court minutes.. Land grants are recorded in 1774 and one in 1760. Prior to 1787 the records were kept in Harrison. Some of the old records in Randolph have been copied and it is to be hoped they all will be, age making it extremely difficult to decipher the pages, yellow with time. In Land grants was found a list of Revolutionary soldiers, the officers having applied for men in their companies. Court minutes have also brought to light names of men who were in Colonial and Revolutionary War, as witness the following: "It is the opinion of the Court that VALENTINE STALNAKER was a soldier in the Revolution, and an Indian Fighter, and we recommend his application for Pension."
A list of Revolutionary soldiers who received pensions in Randolph has also be compiled and these three lists have been published by Randolph County Historical Society in their Magazine of History and Biography. Some hours have been spent recently in examining old books seldom used. Minute Books. Levy, Process, Deed Index, Court Order and many others of interest. A ledge of Robert McCrum used in a law suit in 1823, was very quaint, , and many prominent people were his customers. On the fly-leaf was written, "Modesty is one of the chief ornaments of youth," the sentiment alone attesting to its great age. This ledger was also used as Levy Book where one finds land and four horses assessed at 76c.
West Virginia, and especially Randolph County, was the border line between North and South, in the War Between the States. The Battle of Rich Mountain was fought at Beverly and all up and down the Valley the soldiers passed, camped, fought, died. General Lee, McClellan, Rosecrans and many others passed over these mountains and the county is rich in historical association. Near here, John Augustine Washington met his death, and the place has been suitably marked by monument.
The various Patriotic Societies purchased a book in which valuable records are to be kept in the courthouse.
The Historical Society, the DAR, UDC, GAR, American Legion, Spanish American War Veterans, all have records from original sources, such as Confederate Soldiers of Randolph County, 1861; Militia Roll of 107th Regt. June 4, 1851; Superscription Papers for Second Congregation on Tygars Valley; Revolutionary Soldiers complied from Land Grants; Spanish American veterans, Roster of Co. in this county; World War Soldiers of Randolph County; etc., etc.
The burning of the State Capitol in Charleston in 1921 was a calamity. Many valuable records were destroyed that can never be replaced. The County records dating 1789 were not included in this, however.
Kanawha County was named for its principal River. It was here in the early 1770's that George Washington surveyed over 28,000 acres of land to be given soldiers who took part in French and Indian War, and who were given the grants under the Dinwiddies Proclamation of 1754.
West Virginia was fortunate in having as State Historian and Archivist Virgil A. Lewis, who, in his three Reports of the Department, has given us in volumn 3, "The Soldiery of West Virginia in French and Indian War; The Whiskey Insurrection; The Second War with England; The War with Mexico; and Addenda relating to West Virginians in Civil War." Unfortunately the book is out of print, although I hope it may be found in some of the larger libraries.
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