Wirt county was created by Act of Assembly, passed January 19, 1848, and named in honor of the distinguished William Wirt. It has an area of 290 square miles.
The First Circuit Court convened on the 4th day of April, 1848, at the house of Alfred Beauchamp, Judge David McComas presiding. Alfred G. Stringer was elected clerk, with John G. Stringer, H. Kyger, D. Wilkinson and Clermont E. Thaw as his bondsmen. John G. Stringer was appointed State's Attorney. Edward Tracewell was made Tipstaff. William E. Lockhart was appointed Commissioner in Chancery, and Daniel Wilkinson and William P. Rathbone Commissioners to take depositions. John F. Snodgrass, James M. Stephenson, John G. Stringer, Peter G. Van Winkle, Jacob B. Blair, Arthur I. Boreman, John J. Jackson, Clermont E. Thaw, John E. Hays, and John O. Lockhart, attorneys, appeared and were granted license to practice in the courts of this county. Thus was instituted the first Wirt county Bar, and it is doubtful if any bar in the State ever presented a greater array of talent. Snodgrass was afterward a member of Congress; Stephenson represented Wood county in the General Assembly of Virginia; Van Winkle was one of the first United States Senators from West Virginia ; Blair was afterward a member of Congress, Minister to Costa Rica during President Johnson's Administration, and later a judge of the United States court for the district of Wyoming Territory; Boreman became Judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit, served two terms as Governor of West Virginia, and represented the same in the United States Senate; Jackson was afterward State's Attorney for Wood county, represented the same in the General Assembly, and was president of the Second National Bank of Parkersburg from 1865 until his death. He was the father of Governor Jacob B. Jackson, of J. J. Jackson, Judge of the United States District Court of West Virginia, and of J. M. Jackson, Judge of the 5th Judicial Circuit of West Virginia.
Pioneers.Among the pioneers who first reared cabin homes within the present limits of the county, were William Beauchamp, who settled where the town of Elizabeth now stands, in the year 1796; Benjamin Roberts, Thomas Prebble, and Jonathan Shepherd from the South Branch of the Potomac, the latter bringing: with him his three sons, William, Samuel and Henry. Then came Samuel Coe and William Walls, who settled on Reedy creek; William Petty, John Petty and John Wilson, from Harrison county; John Bennett, who settled on Tucker's creek, and Jacob, Frederic and Andrew Bumgardner, Richard Reeder, Charles Rockhold, Elijah Rockhold and Jeremiah Wiseman.
E lizabeth, the county seat of Wirt, is situated on the south bank of the Little Kanawha, thirty-one miles from its mouth. As before stated, William Beauchamp was the first settler here. If the traveler who visits the town will take a stroll into the cemetery near by, he will observe a rude gray sandstone slab, now, like the body of him whose resting place it marks, rapidly crumbling to dust. From it he will learn that William Beauchamp was born in 1743, and died in 1808. Beneath it reposes all that was mortal of the first pioneer of Wirt county. In 1799, he was joined by David Beauchamp and Charles Rockhold, and a year later Ezekiel McFarland came and erected his cabin near by. The Beauchamps built a grist mill in 1803, and from that time until 1817, the place was known as Beauchamp's Mills, but in that year the name was changed to Elizabeth in honor of the wife of David Beauchamp, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Woodyard.
Burning Springs, on the north bank of the Kanawha, has a history which reads like romance. Its recital calls to mind the early days of San Francisco, the metropolis of California. Here was the Eldorado of 1860 and 1861. In the former year news of the discovery of one of the greatest petroleum-producing regions then known on the globe went out to the world from this place. In August of that year there was not a score of souls in the vicinity, and six months later, the morning Fort Sumter was fired upon, there were no less than six thousand persons here. It was a swarming mass of humanity representing almost every nation on earth. Capitalists and adventurers from every part of the continent rushed hither as did many thousand others to California eleven years before. United States Senators, members of Congressone of whom was James A. Garfield,governors of States, and many others high in official position, came in pursuit of what proved to be but another "South Sea Bubble." Fortunes were made and lost in a day, a town arose as if by magic, and in the spring of 1861, the Chicago hotelevery part of which was rendered brilliant by mains filled with natural gas, had arisen upon what was six months before a thicket of underbrush. A single well furnished a sufficient quantity of gas to illuminate the cities of America. It was used for light, for fuel and for generating steam, but at last it failed. It was a dark, stormy night in the winter of 1867, that every light and every fire in the town was suddenly extinguished. The supply in the great natural reservoir had become exhausted, and many families suffered from the extreme cold before a supply of fuel could be obtained from another source.
Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil were shipped from this place within the years 1860 to 1870. On the 9th day of May, 1863, a detachment of Confederate troops, commanded by General Jones, visited the place and kindled the largest fire ever started in West Virginia. One hundred thousand barrels of oil were simultaneously ignited, and the light that night was plainly visible at Parkersburgdistant forty-two miles. ["History of West Virginia" by Virgil Anson Lewis; Published by Hubbard Brothers, Philadelphia, Pa 1889 Transcribed by Veneta McKinney]
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