History and progress of the county of Marion, West Virginia

We have designed in the following pages to relate in detail the principal events that have transpired in Marion county from its first settlement to the present. We are aware that the work has many imperfections, but they could not be helped. To write a history without having any authentic or written records to aid us, "Was almost akin to "creating something out of nothing." The early settlers of this section have all died, their children have, with a few exceptions, followed them; and many events of interest in connection with the early history have been lost in oblivion. We have endeavored to rescue as many as possible, however, and herewith present them. In giving the history of the county since its organization, we have aimed to incorporate only the principal events which have transpired, and which are worthy of being preserved. This part of the book is necessarily written in a somewhat rambling manner, for reasons which the intelligent reader can plainly discern.

A considerable amount of the information connected with the formation of the county, and on down to the present has been gleaned from the memoranda left by the late Richard P. Lott, whose purpose was to write a history of the county during that period, having been solicited to do so by the undersigned. The hand of Death interrupted him, however, ere he could commence the work.

In the narrative proper, we have made but little reference to the political history of the county — this will be found largely in the biographical sketches annexed. They are mostly of the men who have taken the most prominent parts in the politics of the county.

For much of the information received, we are indebted to Gov. F. II. Pierpoint, Messrs. Charles Morgan. William Cochran, Robert P. Nixon, Zebulon Musgrove, George Merrill, Luther Haymond and others; besides Wither's Border' Warfare, Doddridge's Notes on Western Virginia, old files of county newspapers, etc.


Table of Contents

CHAPTER I. Introductory... 9
CHAPTER II. First Settlements... 14
CHAPTER III. About the Land Titles held by the Settlers... 18
CHAPTER IV. The Characteristics and Hardships of the Early Settlers... 22
CHAPTER V. Commencement of the Indian Troubles — Forts established, etc.... 28
CHAPTER VI. Murder of Josiah Prickett — Continuation of Indian Atrocities - Murder of Miss Coon — Attack on Fort Harbert... 32
CHAPTER VII. Captain Booth killed — Capture of Captain Cochran — David Morgan's encounter with two Indians... 39
CHAPTER VIII. Horatio Morgan — Massacre of the Thomas Family... 48
CHAPTER IX. Continued Hostilities of the Savages— Attack on the Cunninghams and Capture of Mrs. Cunningham... 53
CHAPTER X. A Boy's Adventure — The Indian's on Buffalo Creek — Levi Morgan's Adventure... 60
CHAPTER XI. Murder of the Mclntires — End of Indian depredations... 66
CHAPTER XII. Progress of Civilization from 1785 to 1819... 70
CHAPTER XIII. The Towns of the County... 73
CHAPTER XIV. Organization of the County - The First Court — The Jail — The Court House, etc... 78
CHAPTER XV. The Irish Riot — The Great Freshet — Completion of the railroad — Suspension Bridge built, etc... 85
CHAPTER XVI. The Churches and Schools of the County... 95
CHARTER XVII. The First Steamboat — The Banks of Marion County — Journalism in the County... 103
CHAPTER XVIII. The War of the Rebellion — Division of the State... 110
CHAPTER XIX. The Mining Interests — The Fire at Fairmont — Marion Militia, etc... 116
CHAPTER XX. The Resources of the County — Its Political Complexion— Conclusion... 126


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At the time when this section of Virginia was first known to the whites, it was occupied by a tribe of Indians known as the Massawomees. As settlements were extended westward and over the mountains, the Massawomees gradually retired until the country between the Alleghenies and the Ohio river was almost entirely unused by them as a regular place of habitation. There soon remained but few Indian villages, and those that did exist contained but small numbers of inhabitants. What is now the State of West Virginia, however, was used as a hunting ground by the savages, and as a battle ground by contending tribes.

In many parts of Marion and adjoining counties evidences of a prehistoric people are found. Implements of war, crockery, and curiously shaped instruments of various kinds are occasionally plowed up in the fields, and, in short, the signs are upon every side; that some of the race of semi-civilized people, who inhabited this country ages before its discovery, dwelt in this immediate vicinity. Some years ago, some workmen, in preparing to build a bridge which spans Paw Paw creek, at the upper end of the village of Rivesville, unearthed three skeletons, which were those of giants, each measuring over seven feet in length. Upon "Fort Hill," about two miles north of Fairmont, were found traces of an aboriginal fort. Along the bank of the Monongahela river, and running through Palatine, where the earth has been washed away by freshets, can be seen traces of an old McAdamized road. It is some feet below the surface and can be traced for quite a distance. The bed of the road seems to vary from ten to fourteen inches in thickness, and the stone is broken with great regularity. The earth above the bed is black and presents somewhat the appearance of an alluvial deposit. It is very probable that this deposit formed the bed of what we now call a McAdamized road, at some former period of the world. Since the settlement of the county, skeletons have been found at various times in the vicinity of Boothsville and other towns. Traces of the Massawomees arc also found in many places. For instance, a mile below Rivesville near the Morgan town and Fairmont pike, upon the farm of Mr. Win. Arnett, there is a very interesting relic in the shape of a large rock, upon which is roughly cut a picture of an Indian leading a bear. Representations of turkey and bear tracks, and other figures are also upon the rock. About twenty-five years ago a large wild cherry tree was by a storm torn up by the roots, leaving this rock with its inscription exposed to view. Other interesting relics may also be found in the county.

After the Massawomees retired from the country lying between the mountains and the Ohio river, the sole permanent inhabitants of that region were the beasts and birds of the forests, until the white settlements were made. During the winter the Buffalo would find their way into Kentucky, and live among the cane-brakes to be found there. As spring approached they would again seek our luxuriant pastures, where they, with the abundance of other game, would fall victims of the savages from Pennsylvania and the country west of the Ohio, who came here in quest of food. As the various tribes who made this a hunting ground were at constant enmity, the fact that they all claimed the territory was sufficient to make it a field of contention; consequently, it was often made the scene of carnage and bloodshed.

Up to the year 1738 all that part of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge mountains was included in the county of Orange. At the fall session of the Colonial Legislature, in the above year, the counties of Frederick and Augusta were formed out of Orange. Frederick county was bounded on the north by the Potomac river, on the east by the Blue Ridge, and on the south and west by aline drawn from the head spring of Hedgeman's to the head spring of the Potomac. Augusta county consisted of all the remainder of the State west of the Blue Ridge, and within the limits were included much of Virginia and West Virginia as they now are, and the territories embraced in Ohio, Indiana and parts of Western Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky. Nearly forty years afterwards, in 1776, the counties of Ohio, Monongalia and Yougbiogania were formed out of the district of West Augusta, and at the same time the boundary between Augusta county and the district of West Augusta was fixed as follows: "Beginning on the Allegheny mountains, between the heads of Potomac, Cheat and Greenbrier rivers; thence along the Ridge which divides the waters of Cheat river from those of Greenbrier, and that branch of the Monongahela called Tygart's Valley river to the Monongahela; thence up the said river, and the West Fork thereof to Bingamon's creek, on the northwest side of said West Fork; thence up the said creek to the head thereof: thence in direct course to the head of Middle Island creek, a branch of the Ohio: and thence to the Ohio, including all the waters of the said creek in the aforesaid district of West Augusta — all that territory lying to the northward of the aforesaid boundary, and to the westward of the States of Pennsylvania and Maryland, shall be deemed, and is hereby declared to be within the district of West Augusta."

And to render the benefits of government and the administration of justice more easy and convenient to the people, this act formed out of West Augusta the throe counties above mentioned. Several years afterwards, the greater part of Youghiogania county, by the extension of the western boundary between Pennsylvania and Virginia, fell within the limits of the former State. The residue was, by an act of 1785, added to the county of Ohio, and Youghiogania became extinct. All that part of the district of West Augusta lying to the northward of the county of Augusta, to the westward of the meridian of the head fountain of the Potomac, to the southward of the county of Youghiogania, and to the eastward of Ohio county, was comprised in the limits of Monongalia county. In its Harrison county was formed out of Monongalia and West Augusta. As Marion county, nearly seventy years afterwards, was taken from the counties of Monongalia and Harrison, we will give an account of the early settlement of the territory in the two latter, now comprising the former.