Acts of the Legislature of West Virginia
(Wheeling: John F. M'Dermot, Public Printer, 1865)

Chap. 10. - An Act for the Abolishment of Slavery in this State.

Passed February 3, 1865.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:

1. All persons held to service or labor as slaves in this state, are hereby declared free.

      2. There shall hereafter be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this State, except in

punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

(Child Of The Rebellion.West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Copyright 2013.) 

 County Split Evenly On Question of Secession      

The Civil War, that most tragic period in all of American history, came to Wyoming County in a tragic fashion just as it did in much of the country. Though Wyoming County did not become a battlefield of the war, there was sufficient guerrilla action arising from the war that the picture of suffering and death were just as evident. Tradition relates that in the election of 1860 only one vote was cast for Abraham Lincoln in Oceana District. Isaac Edward McDonald (1834-1890), son of Joseph McDonald, won easily Wyoming County’s seat in the Virginia General Assembly as a states’ rights candidate. Thus, the 1860 election results seemed to indicate considerable sympathy in Wyoming County for the cause of states’ rights and for possible secession from the union for the most part, Southern sympathy seemed to have been centered in Oceana and Clearfork districts, while Union sympathies seemed to dominate in Center and Barkers Ridge districts.

 On April 17, 1861, the Virginia General Assembly voted an Ordinance of Secession, subject to approval of the people. Delegate I. E. McDonald, representing Wyoming County, voted for secession and then continued to work in the legislature without returning home to Wyoming County, unlike many of the western Virginia delegates who returned home almost immediately to campaign for or against the secession referendum. On April 25, 1861, the news of the action taken by the Virginia General Assembly reached Oceana where Judge David McComas was presiding, in place of Judge Evermont Ward, over the court session. Judge McComas closed the court and left Oceana without signing the court record. On May 23, 1861, Virginia slated a statewide vote on the question of secession from the Union. The vote totals indicated that 85 percent of Virginians (114,260) wanted to secede from the Union, while 15 percent were against secession (20,352), most of which were votes from western Virginia.

 In Wyoming County, 214 votes were cast in the secession referendum. As the vote turned out, Wyoming County may have been the most evenly divided county in the State of Virginia — if not the entire country. Wyoming County cast 109 votes “for” secession (50.9 percent) and 105 votes “against” (49.1 percent). In June 1861, the county court met at the courthouse to make plans to lay a $2,000 levy, pledging the county’s credit, to raise money to equip Confederate volunteer companies in Wyoming County. Probably because there was sufficient opposition to such an order and to destroy the credit bonds. The county court never met again for the duration of the war, so, for all practical purposes, the local government closed down and did not function in any manner, including the recording of official documents at the clerk’s office and the holding of elections.   
 (Wyoming County Report, Feb. 25, 2013. Blankenship, Paul Ray. “From Cabins To Coal Mines, Volume I.”  Part II of “The Civil War Era 1861-65.” [Transcr. by Candace J. Robinson])

 Civil War-Era Soldiers Joined One of Two Units

Wyoming County’s Civil War soldiers generally joined up with one of two companies. The Confederate soldiers joined Company G, 22nd Va. Volunteer Regiment, and the Union soldiers joined Company I, 8th (W)Va., later 7th WV, Cavalry. Many dozens of Wyoming County men, some for what appeared to be very personal reasons, were members of the Confederate and Union Home Guard units.

 Within weeks, Floyd McDonald (1829-1865), son of Joseph McDonald and brother of Isaac E. McDonald, resigned his position as school superintendent, and began recruiting efforts. William T. Sarver, Erastus Duncan, and James A. Cooke, son of John and Mary Jarrell Cooke, also took up the initiative in support of the Confederate cause. Their recruiting led to the formation of Company G, 22nd Virginia Regiment. Perhaps as an act of defiant irony Floyd McDonald denounced the federal union on July 3, 1861, the eve of Independence Day.

     Company G left Wyoming County for Greenbrier County to join other companies under the command of General William W. Loring. According to Val Husley’s history of the    22nd Virginia Volunteer Regiment, the regiment was made up of ten companies and Company G was known as “The Wyoming Riflemen,” with James Cook as the commanding officer. This commanding officer appears to have been either James A. Cooke (1838-191`5), son of John Cooke III, or James Russell Cooke (1832-1863), son of David Judson Cooke.

 From a letter written by Theodore Freeling Bailey (1839-1926), son of James and Delilah Gore Bailey, and a lieutenant of Company G, 22nd Virginia Regiment, to historian G.P. Goode, dated January 20, 1913, it is known that Company G had a hand in battles at Cross Lanes, Carnifex Ferry, Big Sewell, Broad Fork, Droop Mountain, Fisher’s Hill, Beverly, Petersburg, (W)Va., Lynchburg, and Winchester, in Virginia, and as T. F. Bailey stated in his letter, “... so many I can’t remember...”. T. F. Bailey enlisted June 12, 1861, and served until April 12, 1864.

 At Cross Lane, Nicholas County, (W)Va., Lt. Floyd McDonald led the troops of Company G into the battle, August 26, 1861, as both Capt. Erastus Duncan and Capt. James A. Cooke were absent at the time. Rev. G. P. Good’s notes state that Floyd McDonald received a sabre wound in the arm during the battle but “bound his wound with a red bandanna handkerchief and rode over the battlefield on his big grey stallion with uplifted sword with the command, ‘Give ‘em hell, boys!’.” The Confederates, commanded by Gen. John B. Floyd, won this battle when the Federals were surprised while eating breakfast.

 The Battle of Carnifex Ferry, Nicholas County, (W)Va., took place September 10, 1861, about two weeks after the Cross Lane engagement. Confederate Gen. Floyd, with about 2,000 troops in camp and some 6,000 scattered around the area, had plans to take back the Kanawha Valley. Union General William S. Rosecrans, with more than 6,000 troops, marched from Clarksburg and attacked Floyd on September 10, 1861, the battle lasting all day. Realizing he could not withstand another attack, Gen. Floyd abandoned his position on the hills overlooking Carnifex Ferry during the night and moved southward into Greenbrier County.

 In the Battle of Carnifex Ferry, the Union losses were 27 killed, 103 wounded, and four missing. For the Confederates, none were killed, nine were wounded, and 23 were captured by Federals.

 One of Joseph McDonald’s sons, John Clayborne McDonald (1821-1865), went off to Fayetteville, in Fayette County, in June 1861 to become part of Company K, the Fayetteville Rifles, of which he was made captain. He died in prison about the time the war was closing. William Wallace McDonald, eldest son of Joseph who had moved to Logan County in 1844, was taken prisoner though he was later released. Lewis McDonald, son of Joseph and also Oceana’s second merchant, served in Company 1, 16th Virginia Cavalry. His large, magnificent farm at Maple Meadow, in Raleigh County, was burned by Union soldiers, just as the ancestral McDonald plantation west of Oceana had been.
(Wyoming County Report, Mar 4, 2013. Blankenship, Paul Ray. “From Cabins To Coal Mines, Volume I.”  Part II of “The Civil War Era 1861-65.” [Transcr. by Candace J. Robinson])


On April 9, 1865, the South surrendered and the Civil War officially came to an end. From the fields and from the prisons, war-weary soldiers, Confederate and Union, many of them hungry, lame and diseased, began to make their way home.

 Among Wyoming County soldiers were James Remley Cook, David C. Bailey (1843-1911), son of Isaac and Juda Cooke Bailey, Dudley Milam, Confederates who had been discharged at Leesburg, Virginia, and from there set out for home on foot, carrying their guns, and traveling by night. They survived by eating berries and apples. Once during the homeward trek, they risked stopping at a farmhouse for food. The sympathetic farm woman, a war widow herself, prepared them a basket of food. Before they reached home, however, they had to resume foraging for berries.

 Finally, the soldiers reached familiar territory. It was a great surprise for the wife, Martha Acord Cook, daughter of John and Nancy Harper Acord, and the two children of James Remley Cook who believed him to be dead since there had been no word from him in two years.

 James Remley Cook (1841-1928), son of James Wilson and Debbie Christian Cooke and grandson of Thomas and Ellen Riggins Cooke, served in the Confederate army for three years and ten months, participating in many engagements including the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 1-3, 1863. His elder brother, Ellison Cooke, was also a Confederate soldier who later volunteered to fight the Indians out west.

 Dudley Milam (1846-19??) made it from the war and in 1866 married Emily Louisa Cooke, daughter of Pemberton and Ruth Shumate Cooke.

 Another war-weary Confederate soldier who had been incarcerated in a federal prison at Pt. Lookout, Maryland, was Thompson L. Walker, son of Council and Nancy Bailey Walker, of Mercer County. He left the prison on May 14, 1865, and he made his way as far south as Wyoming County.

 According to the traditional story shared by his descendant Susan Walker Jones, Thompson L. Walker reached a location just south of Oceana. Tired, hungry, and sick, the ex-Confederate soldier decided to hide and rest and then take up his journey on into Mercer County. The place he had chosen to hide and rest happened to be at or near an area that was used as a grazing pasture for cows.

 As fate would have it, one of the young girls who had a cow grazing there was the 15-year-old daughter of William and Juliette Cook Walker, Martilia F. Walker. She, according to the story, discovered the soldier’s presence. She fed him, comforted him, and was mum about his hiding place.

 Like one of those ironic situations found in romantic novels, Thompson L. Walker (1843-1916), ex-Confederate soldier, and Martilia F. Walker (1851-1927), daughter of Capt. William Walker, ex-Union soldier and one of the makers of the State of West Virginia, were married some months later.

 Thompson and Martilia Walker lived at Oceana, built a large home, and reared a large family. Both were buried in the Cook-Elkins Cemetery, Route 10, Oceana, across from Oceana High School.

 Another weary Confederate soldier, Capt. James A. Cook (1836-1915), son of John and Mary Jarrell Cooke, laid down the arms of war at New Market, Va., and began his long, tiring trek back to Wyoming County and to his home at Oceana.

 Capt. Cook had joined the Confederate Army, Co. G., 22nd Virginia Regiment, on July 15, 1861, and was elevated to the rank of captain on May 2, 1862, after the death of Capt. E. A. Duncan. He was in command of troops at Royal Oak in July of 1862, at White Sulphur Springs in the spring of 1863, at Lewisburg in June of 1863.

 Either sick or wounded, Capt. Cook was confined for a time to the CSA hospitals at Charlottesville and Danville, Va., in June and July of 1864. Shortly, on November 22, 1864, Capt. Cook gave up his command, having submitted his resignation on September 9, 1864. For the remainder of the war, Capt. Cook was with Wharton’s Division in southwestern Virginia.

 Shortly after returning home in 1865, Capt. Cook married Nancy E. “Nannie” Shumate, the daughter of Daniel and Narcissa Burgess Shumate, of Raleigh County. They settled at Oceana and about 1870 “Captain Jim” Cook built The Mountain House, a highly patronized hotel located near the public square at Oceana which bore a wide reputation for hospitality. Capt. Cook and his wife operated and maintained The Mountain House for nearly 40 years, until 1907 when it was destroyed in the fire which destroyed most of Oceana. In the hotel, the Cooks reared their large family: Ida Kate (1868-1907), who married John O. Sanders; William George (1869-1938), Robert Lee (1874-1951), Fred E. (1877), Heber (1881-1943), Grover C. (1883), James Day (1885); Otway (1887). At least two children died in infancy, Ellie (1886-1886) and Clinton C. (1889-1889), and another son, Ashton M. (1879-1889), died young. Capt. James A. and Nannie Shumate Cook were buried in the Cook Cemetery, at Oceana, as were a number of their children.

While dozens of war-weary soldiers tried to make their way back home to Wyoming County, there were those soldiers whose earthly remains would forever lay in graves far away from their homes. Perhaps the first war fatality from Wyoming County was Capt. Erastus A. Duncan, Confederate leader of the “Wyoming Riflemen” which became part of Co. G, 22nd Virginia Infantry. A few months after the war began, Erastus A. Duncan (1830-1861), a resident of Oceana, relinquished his job as deputy sheriff, left his wife and young family of four children (Rufus, John, Sarah, and Rebecca), and journeyed to Charleston where he enlisted in the Confederate cause on July 3, 1861.

 Duncan was elected captain of the “Wyoming Riflemen” on July 8, 1861. His war record indicates that he was at Lewisburg in August of 1861, at Camp Defiance and at Cotton Hill in October of 1861. Captain Duncan probably died in the Greenbrier Valley from a non-battle cause, perhaps some disease, in December of 1861. War records do not specify exactly when, or where, or how, Capt. Duncan died.
(Wyoming County Report, June 11, 2012. Blankenship, Paul Ray. “From Cabins To Coal Mines, Volume I.”  Part II of “The Civil War Era 1861-65.” [Transcr. by Candace J. Robinson])

List of Union Recruiting Officers in West Virginia

NAME: Lewis Ballard

RANK: Recruiting Agent in Greenbrier, Monroe, Raleigh, Mercer, Fayette and Wyoming Counties

MEMORANDA: Order dated December 10, 1863. Under call for 300,000 men.   (Child Of The Rebellion.West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Copyright 2013.) 

Home guards for both sides rampaged during Civil War

The tragedies of war, some wanton and cruel, began to hit closer to home as units of Home Guards, both Union and Confederate, went rampaging throughout Wyoming County, pillaging, destroying, and performing wanton acts which resulted in the deaths of family, neighbors, and one-time friends. More often than not there appeared to be no reason for the wanton destruction and killing except that friends and neighbors held opposing views or sympathies than did the perpetrators of such wanton acts. Sometimes it appeared that personal conflicts between individuals were settled under the guise of war. One of the early episodes of wanton killing occurred in early 1862 when John “Crap” Allen (1819-1862), son of John and Nancy Daniel Allen, was captured and finally killed at Walnut Gap, which was a route of travel into the Kanawha Valley near the present location of Kopperston. It is possible that his death was a revenge killing precipitated by the death of Lt. Ferdinand Neumann on Indian Creek.

 John “Crap” Allen, known Confederate sympathizer, was captured by some of Lt. Ferdinand Neumann’s Union troops with the aid of Ralph Lafferty, Allen’s brother-in-law. As a prisoner, “Crap” Allen, described in a history of Company I, 7th WV Cavalry, as a “noted guerilla and horse thief,” was taken to Charles Stewart’s home on Laurel Fork, and afterward was placed under the guard of Ralph Lafferty, Richard Elkins, Owen Smith, and John J. Mitchell, who were given the assignment of delivering Allen to Union forces in the Kanawha Valley. They started to Charleston, got to Walnut Gap, which crosses from Kopperston over into Boone County, when they apparently decided they didn’t want to make the long trip. The four guards told Allen that he might escape by running for his life. Allen decided to run. Viciously, Lafferty and Elkins shot him.
They left Allen’s body where it fell. Nine days later the body was discovered and buried. The murder of John “Crap” Allen inspired an old ballad, lost to history now, but some of the words were: “Look on the right, look on the left, goin’ o’er Walnut Gap, Look to the left, look to the right, and you’ll see ol’ Crap.”

 This episode illustrates again the extent to which families were torn and divided. John Allen’s brother-in-law, Ralph Lafferty, was among the men to help capture and finally murder him on Walnut Gap. Lafferty was married to Allen’s sister, Elizabeth Allen. John Allen’s younger brother, Britton Allen (1826-1911), was a member of Capt. Lewis Cook’s Wyoming County Militia, a federal unit mustered to duty April 1, 1862.

 In August 1862, the McDonald plantation, already pillaged of foodstuff and supplies, was burned by Union partisans. The McDonalds, without doubt the most Confederate family in Wyoming County, had been targets practically since the first shot of the war was fired. The wanton destruction by Union partisans essentially destroyed most of the McDonald family property. The McDonalds were certainly Wyoming County’s wealthiest and most affluent family prior to the war. The McDonald plantation, located about four miles west of Oceana where the Clear Fork Valley Golf Course is now situated, was established by Capt. Edward and Kesiah Stephens McDonald with the help of slaves in 1802. The self-sufficient plantation consisting of many thousands of acres was inherited by two of the McDonald sons, William McDonald and Joseph McDonald, both of whom were more than sixty years of age when the war erupted. A third son, Stephen McDonald, had died in 1852 and his family had moved west before the outbreak of the war. William McDonald died in 1862. Joseph McDonald lived out the war but died in Tazewell County, Va., in 1866. Two of Joseph McDonald’s sons, Floyd and John, died in the Confederate Army.

(Wyoming County Report. April 8, 2013. Paul Ray Blankenship. From Cabins To Coal Mines, Volume I.”  Part seven of “The Civil War Era 1861-65.” Transcribed bu Candace J Robinson)

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