Chapter XXXIX - Literary Workers

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 2 County History
Pages 438-462

Hampshire county, which is pre-eminent in many thing's, is not wanting in writers of note. Elsewhere in this book will be found a history of the newspapers and editors who have helped mold and lead public opinion in Hampshire; and in this chapter will be given a sketch of the lives, with extracts from their writings, of those who have ventured farther into the fields of literature.

John J. Jacob, father of Gov. John J. Jacob, published in 1825 a book which possesses much historical value. It was the life of Michael Cresap, the well-known Indian fighter. Cresap lived opposite the mouth of the South branch, on the Maryland side of the Potomac, and after his death, Mrs. Cresap became the wife of Mr. Jacob. The purpose of the book was to correct a widespread error regarding the part taken by Captain Cresap in the Dunmore war. The charge had been made, and was given wide circulation by Thomas Jefferson, and by other writers, that Cresap had murdered the family of the celebrated Indian Chief Logan, and by that act plunged the border into war with the Indians. Mr. Jacob's book undertakes to prove, and it does prove conclusively, that Captain Cresap did not murder Logan's family, and that the Dunmore war was not brought on by anything done by Cresap.

George Armstrong Wauchope, formerly of Hampshire county, but now professor of English language and literature in the university of Iowa, has won a reputation in the field of letters, both as a writer and editor. He was born in 1863, and graduated from the university of Virginia 1884, and two years later received the degree of master of arts, and later that of doctor of philosophy. He taught Greek and Latin, and studied in Germany. He made a specialty of early English and the kindred languages, and won distinction in that field of investigation. He is one of the staff reviewers for The Critic of New York, and the editor of De Quincey's Revolt of the Tartars, and of the Confession. He has written in both prose and poetry. The following sonnet on the death of Dr. William Shrader, who sacrificed his life while experimenting" with the Roentgen rays on consumption germs, will show his style.

O noble friend! high hopes inspired thy breast,
        Who lately wrapped all pale in Azrael's pall
        Was borne from sad Missouri's classic hall.
Thou daredst unclasp old Nature's book, to wrest
From some dim page of her fast-sealed bequest
        To mortals under foul disease's thrall,
        A potent charm, the dread fiend to appall.
Unselfish, thou refusedst needful rest,
But with unswerving toil consumed the night
        On duty, testing the mysterious ray,
        An humble martyr to the cause of truth.
Grasping the white torch of world-girdling light,
Thou hast passed forth, for the high gods did say,
        "Let him, our well beloved, die in youth!"

Photograph - Andrew Wodrow KerchevalAndrew W. Kercheval, born 1824, contributed much to the literary culture of Hampshire. He came from a family eminent for learning. On one side he was related to the Wodrows, an old Scotch family of sterling worth. He inherited French blood from his father's ancestors, who were Huguenots. They fled to England from France to escape persecution. There were two brothers of the name, Samuel and Lewis Kercheval, Samuel dying in London, Lewis making his way to Virginia, and settling near the Chesapeake bay. There he married and reared a family. His sons moving to the Valley of Virginia, William, grandson of Lewis Kercheval the founder of the American family, was one of the earliest merchants of Winchester, and his son, Samuel Kercheval, the historian, was born in Winchester before the Revolutionary war Samuel was the father of twelve children, the eldest, Samuel, being a lawyer, and the father of the subject of this sketch. He came to Romney to write in the clerk's office under Andrew Wodrow, and married the clerk's daughter, Emily Jean Wodrow. He lived for a time in Kentucky, but returned to Virginia where he died in 1840. Sketches of the other branches of the Kercheval family cannot be given here, suffice it to say that men of that family have been prominent in all the honorable walks of life in many states of this union. John Kercheval, a great-uncle of Andrew, was an efficient officer in the patriot array under Washington. He it was who carried the wounded Reverend Charles Myron Thruston, the famous "lighting parson," off the battle field of Monmouth. Benjamin B. Kercheval was a prominent citizen of Detroit, Michigan, and was at one time the law partner of General Cass. Lewis Kercheval, another member of the family, was one of the first mayors of Chicago. Captain Thomas Kercheval was an aid of General Harrison at the battle of Tippecanoe. Another Kercheval of the same family was an early mayor of Nashville, Tennessee.

Andrew W. Kercheval, nearly all his life, was a member of the Romney Literary society and contributed to the success which that society attained. He was a writer for newspapers and magazines, and undertook several pretentious literary works, but never finished any of them. He published a pamphlet of criticisms and notes on a poem, "Idothea," written by Professor Joseph Saliards, of Virginia. But Professor H. H. Johnson, of Romney, is entitled to a share of the credit for that pamphlet, as he and Kercheval wrote it together. Kercheval undertook the compilation of an exhaustive history of the war of 1812, but never finished it. He also revised his grandfather's History of the Valley, but left the work in manuscript. He collected material for a History of the Upper Potomac, but that, too, was left unfinished. He commenced the study of many languages, and acquired considerable proficiency in several of them, He read French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. At the beginning of the civil war he left Romney and went south, not as a soldier, but as a speculator. He had a contract to supply the confederate army at Richmond with soap, and realized a large sum; but the confederate money ultimately became worthless and he lost it all.

Mr. Kercheval occasionally contributed verses to the newspapers. It is all in a dignified, serious, reflective strain, no touch of humor, with no satire in it. The following extracts from longer poems will show the character of his verse:


Gone out the flame of those soul-lighted eyes,
That flashed with glory, beamed with tenderness,
Or rose in joy, and darkliest sank in gloom,
Twin stars of hope and love, of faith and fame!
And hushed that voice discoursing music rare,
That wooed young love, and thrilled the hearts of men,
An anthem rolled through vast cathedral aisles,
Or clarion's blast or harp-string's dying swell:
And that heroic, faithful, generous heart,
Shedding o'er life divinity and power,
Crowning with glory the fair brow of love,
To home, to altars, to bright honor true,
Transformed to marble, by the touch of death!
                         Alas my soul
Is filled with sadness, even nature's face
Hath lost its old, accustomed lovliness,
While memory sorrows for the cherished dead.
Dead? Yet thy life unperishing remains,
High, priceless thoughts, and winged words that bear
Parturient power, and bright example given
To teach us, while we waste or weary here,
Truth, honor, genius triumph o'er the grave!


Prometheus-like, the fire celestial caught,
Explore far fields of action and of thought,
And then, O heart! subdued by toil and pain,
Confess the rock, the vulture, and the chain!
Ah, but to feel, in some awakened hour,
The conscious pride of virtue and of power,
Victorious eagles through the world to bear,
To vanquish death and triumph o'er despair,
To win from fate some envied, high renown,
Or conquest's laurel, else the martyr's crown,
With curious weapon that thyself hadst wrought
In other years — old armories of thought.
Yet this may be ambition's vainest dream,
Like starlight mirrored in a treacherous stream.
O God of Heaven, give me power to feel
Truth in all brightness o'er my spirit steal;
Subdue in me this earth born, lowly pride —
Hark! the good angel whispers at my side:
    "And canst thou o'er life's errors weep,
    Faith's utmost holy vigils keep?
    The oil of gladness sweetly shed
    Upon thy fallen brother's head?
    Affections' soft and shadowy wing
    O'er hearts that hate thee, gently fling?
    Canst thou, with equal mind, and great,
    Brave the Thermopylae of fate?"

Above all fortune, even above the fame
That servile waits upon a great man's name;
Brighter than all of worldly, vain success;
Purer than all its vaunted happiness —
To feel thou hast some path of duty trod,
True to thyself, to country, and to God;
Or won how well in glory's phantom field,
"Non Omnis Moriar," written on thy shield!
Do thou thy duty, duty's path is plain,
And thy life's mission shall not be in vain.

After the war Kercheval returned to Romney and spent the remainder of his life, dying in 1896. He and his sister, Miss Mary S. Kercheval, lived together, and she survived him.

James W. Horn, a resident of Capon Bridge, and a student in the West Virginia university, has occasionally contributed verses to the columns of the papers. One of his best, "Capon River," is here given:


Capon river, sparkling water,
Running, never asking rest;
Old Potomac's southern daughter
Rushing to your mother's breast.

Bathing banks of bramble bushes,
Shoving sand and shells ashore,
Outward each broad breaker pushes,
Reaching for a wider floor.

Moistening massy beds of mosses,
Sprinkling shining silver spray,
Catching leaves the light wind tosses,
Smiling in the glare of day.

Drinking water from the mountains,
Drinking autumn's chilling rain,
Quaffing down the brooks and fountains,
Breaking winter's icy chain.

Stealing summer's sunny showers,
Draining drops that try to stay
On the bright and blooming bowers
That above your sarface play.

Here with gentle calmness flowing,
Making motion merely seen;
Here with, greater swiftness going
Steep and stony banks between.

Sometimes measured murmurs makings
Sometimes music soft and low;
Sometimes into torrents breaking,
Louder music, swifter flow.

Peaceful, cheerful, ever singing,
Not despised although small;
No city walls your echo ringing",
Sounding no Niagara Fall.

Treasured not in song nor story,
Knowing naught of history's page,.
Covered not with fame nor glory,
Acting in the current age.

Yet to me, O, Capon river,
There's no other river flows,
That, of half the joys is giver,
Which your daily song bestows.

Sing more sweetly, sing more loudly,
Through the years that are to be;
Flow more grandly, flow more proudly,
With the seasons, fast and free.

H. L. Swisher was born in Hampshire county in 1870; passed his early years on the farm of his father, on the Levels. At eighteen years of age he became a school teacher in his native county. Later he attended the state normal school at Fairmont, and graduated. After visiting the northwestern states, and making a journey through Manitoba, Assiniboia, Alberta and British Columbia, he spent two years in California, part of the time teaching school. After that he returned to West Virginia and entered the university at Morgan town, graduating in three years. While in that institution he edited the college paper, the Athenaeum. In the meantime he published a small book of poetry, containing about six hundred lines, and dedicated it to his class-mates in the normal school. He contributed numerous articles to the newspapers while in the west, usually in prose, but occasionally in verse. He was one of the authors of the present volume, the History of Hampshire County. Extracts from his published verses follow:


No more the angels come to earth,
    I've heard them say.
This was, in truth, my thought
    Until today;
But now I know they come,
    A bright boon;
For I have seen thy face,
    Lottie Doon.

Not of earth were you born,
    This I know;
You winged your way from heaven
    To us below;
Your smile would change the midnight
    Into noon.
It has banished all my sorrow,
    Lottie Doon.

There is beauty in your face,
    This is true;
But 'tis not half the beauty
    Seen in you.
Your cheeks are like the roses
    Blown in June,
Yet more beautiful your soul,
    Lottie Doon.

For your soul shines in your face,
    Gladdening all,
And to worship at your feet
    I would fall.
Your pathway all through life
    Shall be strewn
With sweet flowers of adoration,
    Lottie Doon.

All homage you may ask
    Shall be given,
Ere from us you shall go
    Back to heaven.
Earth's harps shall for you play
    A glad tune,
If with us you will stay,
    Lottie Doon.


There is many a spot on the old home place
    That I'm wishing and longing* to see,
But the dearest of all is the meadow lot
    And the spring 'neath the old gum tree.

At the harvest noon when the wheat in the field
    Waved a billowy, gulden sea,
Round the clover heads the bumble bees croon
    By the spring 'neath the old &um tree.

Oh, the shade was sweet, and the grass was green
    While, merry harvesters, we
Spent a happy hour when we used to meet
    By the spring 'neath the old gum tree.

The spring bubbled up with a laugh on its lips,
    And danced away to the sea,
While again and again we filled the cup
    From the spring 'neath the old gum tree.

But those days are fled in the din of life
    And never more shall I be
With the harvesters of then (who now are dead)
    By the spring 'neath the old gum tree.

So, there's many a spot on the old home place
    That I'm wishing and longing to see,
But the dearest of all is the meadow lot,
    And the spring 'neath the old gum tree.


We are poor, dear heart, but we will feign
That we a castle have in Spain.
When clouds are dark and storms are high.
Together we will thither fly.

Around it spreads the living green,
Above it bends the smiling sky;
'Twas meant, my love, that you and I
Should reign within as king and queen.

We are sad, dear heart; but we will feign
That we a castle have in Spain,
Where tears flow not and hearts are light,
Where lips are red and eyes are bright.

We are faint, dear heart, but we will feign
That we a castle have in Spain,
Where love doth wield her magic spell
And faith and hope together dwell.

The windows dance a diamond sheen,
The slim spires sparkle toward the sky;
I am sure, my love, that you and I
Ere long shall reign there king and queen.

The following verses are samples of a translation from the French of Beranger, "Shooting Stars:"

Shepherd, say you that in the skies
    Gleams the star that guides our sail?
'Tis so, my child; but from our eyes
    Night hides that star within her veil.

Shepherd, 'tis thought, with mystic art,
    You read the secret of the skies:
What is that star which downward darts,
    Which darts, darts and darting dies?

My child, an erring mortal dies,
    And instant downward shoots his star;
He drank and sang amid the cries
    Of friends whose joys no hatred mars.

Happy he sleeps, nor moves, nor starts;
    After the wine he quiet lies —
Another star is seen which darts,
    Which darts, darts and darting dies.

Marshall S. Cornwell was born in Hampshire county, October 18, 1871. His boyhood was spent on his father's farm, about twelve miles from Romney, where he had the benefit of the country schools. He ventured upon business for himself as editor of the Gazette, at Petersburg, Grant county, West Virginia. He made a success of this, and by his vigorous editorials attracted attention beyond the borders of his county. He was invited by United States Senator Stephen B. Elkins to take charge of the Inter-mountain, a newspaper published at Elkins, in Randolph county, West Virginia. He accepted the position and built up an excellent paper. He filled a position as clerk during a session of the state legislature at Charleston. His health failed, and in 1896 he was obliged to give up his newspaper work. He spent the winter in Florida, where he was not idle, but occupied his time studying the character of the country and people. The result was, he wrote with a keen appreciation of what he saw.

The letter which will be found below was written by James Whitcomb Riley, the poet, and the poem to which it refers is also given:

"Indianapolis, Ind., March 12, 1897.       

"M. S. Cornwell, Esq. Dear Sir: — By the poems you send me, especially the one 'Success,' your gift seems genuine and far above that indicated in verse, meeting general approval. Your own philosophy in last stanzas of 'Success' contains the entire creed of fame or failure for the striver, in any line of art, in this world's order and conditions. You can succeed, but must be of stoutest heart and hope and patience — just as every master before our time. Therefore let us read their lines as well as works, and in between the lines down fathoms deep. Remain firmly superior to all trials; keep sound of soul and always hale of faith in all good things. Work and enduringly rejoice in your work and utter it ever like a jubilant prayer.

"Fraternally yours,                         
"James Whitcomb Riley."        


Two ships sail over the harbor bar
    With the flush of the morning breeze,
And both are bound for a haven far
    O'er the shimmering summer seas.

With sails all set, fair wind and tide,
    They steer for the open main;
But little they reck of the billows wide
    Ere they anchor safe again.

There is one perchance, ere the summer is done,
    That reaches the port afar;
She hears the sound of the welcoming gun
    As she crosses the harbor bar.

The haven she reaches, success, 'tis said,
    Is the end of a perilous trip.
Perhaps the bravest and best are dead
    Who sailed in the fortunate ship.

The other, bereft of shroud and sail,
    At the mercy of wind and tide,
Is swept by the might of the pitiless gale
    'Neath the billows dark and wide.

But 'tis only the one in the harbor there
    That receiveth the meed of praise;
The other sailed when the morn was fair,
    And was lost in the stormy ways.

And so to men who have won renown
    In the weary battle of life,
There cometh at last the victor's crown,
    Not to him who fell in the strife.

For the world recks not of those who fail,
    Nor cares what their trials are,
Only praises the ship that with swelling sail
    Comes in o'er the harbor bar.


Some day through the mists of the earthly night
We shall catch the gleam of the harbor light
That shines for aye on the far off shore
Where dwell the loved who have gone before;
We shall anchor safe from our stormy way
In that haven of rest, some day, some day.
Some day our sorrows will all be o'er
And we'll rest from trouble forevermore:
When over the river's rolling tide
We shall "strike glad hands" on the other side.
In the city celestial, at last we may
Rest in peace, some day, some day.
Some day will close these weary eyes
That shall look no more on the earthly skies,
And over the heart that has ceased to beat
Kind hands will place fresh flowers sweet;
But my soul shall hear the celestial lay,
Sweet pæans of praise, some day.


Give me oh Lord of Life, I pray
A little love lest I should stray.
'Tis this I ask and this alway
Unto the end of life's brief day.

I crave no storm of passion's flood
That madly stirs the human blood,
Only the love of friend for friend —
And it be faithful to the end.

For human hearts have human needs;
And naught of piety or creeds,
Of peace can give to souls forlorn
That stem alone life's battle-storm.

I ask not wisdom — the divine;
For death shall make this soul of mine
To heights and depths of knowledge vast
When outworn dreams of earth are past.

A little love alone I crave
To light my pathway to the grave —
The hand of friendship tried and strong
To steer my shattered barque along,

Until at last the sail is furled
In the wide bay where tempest hurled
Storm-riven wrecks from time's rough sea
Ride safe through all eternity!

Dr. Robert Newman, author of a book on the Treatment of Dropsy, was a noted man in his day. He wrote many books, but published only the one above mentioned. He was philosophical in his tastes; and, while he practiced medicine and achieved distinction in that field, he found time to prosecute investigation along other lines. He was born in Culpeper county, Virginia, in 1770. His youth passed with nothing to distinguish him from others of his age and circumstances. He was the youngest of six brothers, and of a delicate constitution. In 1791 all six brothers joined the army under General Arthur St. Clair, and took part in the battle of November 4, of that year, against the Indians north of Cincinnati. St. Clair's defeat is one of the saddest pages in American history. Of the nine hundred soldiers who went into action, more than six hundred were left dead on the field of battle. They had met the allied army of all the Indian tribes of Ohio and Indiana: With this overwhelming force, they,

"Fought eye to eye and hand to hand;
    Alas, 'twas but to die!
In vain the rifle's deadly flash
Scorched eagle plume and wampum sash,
    The hatchet hissed on high;
And down they fell in crimson heaps,
Like the ripe grain the sickle reaps."

The exhausted and panic stricken fugitives made their escape to Fort Jefferson, near Cincinnati. Among those fugitives was the subject of this sketch, Robert Newman. Of the six brothers who went into the fight, he alone escaped with his life. It might be supposed that he would have been satisfied with his experience and would have been content to return to the quietude of his Virginia home, and remain with his books, of which he was very fond. But, although he loved books much, he loved adventure more; and we next find him seeking his fortune on the banks of the Mississippi, the first years of the nineteenth century. About that time Burr and Blannerhassett were engaged in a mysterious undertaking, never fully understood, but believed to have for its object the setting up of a government on territory of Texas, which then belonged to Spain. At any rate, Burr and Blannerhassett were arrested, together with others, and were tried in Richmond. Robert Newman was, by many, believed to have knowledge of the designs of Burr and his associates. He was summoned to Richmond as a witness, but, if he had any knowledge on the subject, he did not divulge it. He often spoke of the matter, but was careful in his statements, except that he frequently said that he considered the undertaking a speculation rather than a plot against the government of the United States or any other government.

Returning from the south he married Mrs. Elizabeth Hancock, formerly Miss Neale, and made his home on the Potomac at Old Town, where he commenced the practice of medicine. He removed to Romney in 1820, when he was fifty years old, and resided there ever afterwards, enjoying much local celebrity, especially in the treatment of dropsy and consumption.

His views on religion have been spoken of in another chapter of this book, and his history as a physician in still another. It is proper here, in connection with his literary labors, to speak of his scientific studies. He was a man who merited notice in several fields of labor, in medicine, in science, in literature and religion. In astronomy he found pleasure, formulating theories which could not then, and cannot now, be substantiated by facts. Nor did he claim to substantiate them, and he knew of his failure, but he still hoped that the future would show that he was right. He wrote extended treatises on the subject, which he left in manuscript at his death. The outline of his theory of the movements of the heavenly bodies, as contained in his manuscript works, is as follows: Isaac Newton was wrong in claiming that planets, and all heavenly bodies, are held in their orbits by the balancing of the centrifugal and centipetal forces, but these bodies are held apart by the elasticity of their respective atmospheres, which are in contact. He claimed that worlds are not so far apart, nor so far from ours, as mathematicians had calculated them to be; not that mathematics was unreliable as a science, but that correct data had not been obtained on which to base the calculations. He replaced gravitation by magnetism, but in attempting to show how all known celestial phenomena could be thus accounted for, he encountered problems which he could solve only by calling in "electricity" as an assistant to magnetism. Had he been so fortunate as to have attained a thorough education he would not have attributed to electricity everything" which could not be explained.

Richard Newman was one of the founders, and most earnest supporters, of the Romney Literary society. He died January 28, 1843, in his seventy-seventh year.

William Henry Foote is in the foremost rank among the literary men of Hampshire county, where he spent a long life of activity working in the cause of education, the church, and literature. The publication by which he is best known was "Sketches of Virginia, " printed in Philadelphia in 1850, with a second and enlarged edition later. It is the best history of the Presbyterian church in Virginia that had been written at that time; yet, it is not strictly a church history, but deals with persons, places and events.

John O. Casler, author of a book widely read in Hampshire county, Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, has contributed to the cause of literature and history; to the latter by preserving from oblivion facts which were fast passing beyond recall; to the former by writing in a plain and entertaining style. He was born in Frederick county, Virginia, nine miles from Winchester, in 1838. His mother's maiden name was Hieronimous, an old family dating back to the Revolutionary war. In 1841 his father moved his family to Springfield, in Hampshire county, and there the subject of this sketch grew to manhood. Early in 1859 he came to the conclusion, so common with the energetic young men of West Virginia, that the west offered better opportunities than could be found in his native state, and he took his departure, and landed in Cass county, Missouri. He lived two years in that state, and no doubt would have remained had not the signs of the times portended war. He could have found all the fighting he wanted in Missouri, as subsequent events proved, but he preferred to cast his fortunes with Virginia, which he regarded as his home. He, therefore, returned to Winchester in the spring of 1861, and after visiting relatives in Frederick county, he passed into Hampshire, and at Blue's Gap, on the road between Romney and Winchester, he joined the company of Captain P. T. Grace, which had been organized at Springfield, and with nearly all the men he was personally acquainted. His book gives his experience in the war; and it has been consulted with advantage by the authors of the present history of Hampshire. It was published at Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 1893.

Howard Hill Johnson comes of a sturdy race of ancestors remarkable for sterling qualities of mind and heart, and in some instances for broad culture and extensive learning. His father, Colonel Jacob F. Johnson, was for fifty years a prominent citizen of Pendleton county, and represented his county in the legislature of 1872-3. He held many other offices of trust and responsibility. His grandfather, James Johnson, represented the same county in the legislature of Virginia several times, and was a member of the constitutional convention of 1829. His great-grandfather, Joseph Johnson, was born in Pennsylvania of English parents, in the early part of the eighteenth century, and migrated to the Shenandoah valley during that remarkable movement which settled that part of Virginia with the ancestors of the present enlightened population. He married there, and finally settled in Pendleton county about the time of the Revolutionary war, or shortly before, where he raised a family of several children late in life. He was' past age for service, and his children were not old enough to engage actively in the struggle for independence.

The subject of this sketch was born at the old family home on Friend's run, near Franklin, in Pendleton county, Virginia, now West Virginia, February 19, 1846, and was soon found to be, like his elder brother James, almost totally blind. His parents were persons of superior judgment and information, and wisely arranged for the most favorable conditions to give their unfortunate offspring equal opportunities and chances with their more fortunate brothers and sisters. The older brother was entered at the institution for the deaf and the blind at Staunton in 1848, and finished the usual course there in 1855. He became his younger brother's instructor at once, and prepared him for school with great care and ability. Two years later Howard was entered at the same school, and made rapid progress till he was obliged to leave off his training by the opening of the war 1861. By this time James had established himself as a teacher in his native county, and the younger brother's education was little interrupted, as he went immediately into his brother's school, where he was taught just as other children were taught, with the single exception, that his lessons were read to him by his schoolmates instead of by himself. To this circumstance, more than to any other, he attributes much of the success he may be thought to have achieved as a teacher of the blind.

After two years he was considered to have covered enough ground to warrant his being placed in a classical school near New Market, Virginia, under the care of Joseph Saliards, a most remarkable scholar in many respects.

During the two years he spent in this school under his learned preceptor he made considerable progress in mathematics, literature, science, and the languages, and when the war closed he and his brother opened a school of high grade at Franklin, in which many of the young men of the neighborhood who had been deprived by the war of their school advantages, found ample opportunity of preparing themselves for the duties of life and business.

In 1866 the institution at Staunton offered the young student-teacher advantages in the prosecution of his studies, which he availed himself of for one more term, greatly to his advancement. In September, 1867, he began a school at Franklin under the provisions of the free school system which had just gone into effect in Pendleton county. The next year he was called to Moorefield, where he taught the public school for three successive terms, with great acceptance.

During his years of early teaching he had noticed with regret and concern, that there was no provision in the general system for the education of the blind in his native state, and he soon set for himself the task of supplying this defect, and of removing from the fair fame of his beloved state this apparent reproach. Accordingly, in 1870, he realized his most sanguine expectations in seeing the establishment of a school for the education of the deaf and the blind at Romney, in which he was made the principal teacher in the blind department, and where he is at this writing, entering on his twenty-eighth term of service.

In 1877 Mr. Johnson received from the Virginia Polytechnic institute at New Market, the successor to his old friend's school, the degree of A. M. through the kind partiality of Professor Saliards, an honor not unworthily bestowed, and most gratefully appreciated.

He had married in 1868 a Miss Barbbe of Virginia, to whom were born three children, Leila B., William T. and H. Guy Johnson. He lost his wife in 1880, and the care of his little family was kindly assumed by the grandparents, at Bridgewater, Virginia. In 1882 Mr. Johnson married again, his second wife being Miss Elizabeth Neale, daughter of Dr. Hamlet V. Neale of Keyser, West Virginia. George N. and Lucy N. are the only children of this marriage.

The lessons of this sketch are valuable in their bearing on the education and training of blind children. The wisdom and thoroughness of Mr. Johnson's home training are credited by him with whatever he has been able to accomplish, either for himself or his fellows under the like cloud of blindness, to the amelioration of whose condition he has devoted himself with singleness of heart.

Mr. Johnson has written in both prose and verse. His prose writings treat chiefly of educational topics, particularly in relation to the blind. A few selections from his poems are given:


Man, thy virtues shine not faintly;
    But magnificently the}^ blaze.
Say, thy neighbors deem thee saintly:
    Art thou worthy of their praise?


Ah, veiled and clouded in eternal night,
    The opening blossom, and the verdant plain,
And landscapes, smiling in the mellow light,
    On me expend their holy charms in vain.


The fragrance that bursts from the bosom of nature
    And spreads to the star-spangled heavens above —
O, that rich exhalation, ethereal teacher —
    Bids us act by the instinct God gives us to love.


The black austerity of snow clad hills,
Of icy forests and of frozen rills,
Of winter howling through the leafless trees
With notes all mournful as he rules the breeze,
Has rolled its glittering armanent afar
With polar strands and artic seas to war.
Adieu, dread tyrant of the year, adieu
Till ice-wrought shackles bind the world anew.

All hail, thou balmiest season of the year,
The summer's cradle and the winter's bier!
Thee I salute, thou soft, etherial spring
That all the charms of sunny south dost bring,
Of fields conceiving in the warm embrace
Of genial sunshine every living grace
That decks the carpet of the verdant sod
And wafts its grateful incense to its God.

Since last thy banners were unfurled around;
Since last thy presence spread the naked ground
With softest carpeting of heaven-dyed hue,
Sight-soothing green 'neath heaven's expanse of blue,
The summer's heat matured the welcome grain
That waved all golden on the fertile plain.
His withering scepter then the autumn swayed,
And field and forest each his lord obeyed.

Then rose the winter in the endless train,
And spred his snows upon the prostrate plain;
And one interminable shroud of white
Concealed decaying nature from the sight.

Thrice curved the vestal sovereign of the night
Majestic o'er the glittering fields of white,
Ere winter ceased impetuous wrath to vent;
Ere all the fury of his storms was spent,
Then slow retiring to the arctic main
He leaves thee, Goddess, to resume thy reign.

At first, kind subject of the muse's song,
Thy march was doubtful and thy halts were long.
For winter, glittering in his cave of snow,
Was loth to battle with so fair a foe;
Yet, proud and arrogant as foemen are,
He left AEolus to support the war.

In vain, he labored to subdue thy might,
Exhaust thy patience in the airy flight;
In vain, his hostile legions of the air
Around him rallied in their last despair.
Repulsed, and flying in impetuous haste,
They left thee sovereign of a desert waste.

The wandering breezes, ever circling round,
At last submitting, though at first they frowned,
And disengaging their ethereal mold
From wintry vestiges of piercing cold,
Now stand, expectant of thy kind command
To waft thy fragrance o'er the smiling land.

At thy sweet bidding, too, thou vernal Care,
The joyous, swift-winged messengers of air
Will bear to regions yet confined in ice
The greateful tidings of the kind device
That shines effulgent on thy flower-wrought shield
And wakes new vigor in the torpid field.
They'll tell the oppressor of the aching ground,
With songs outgushing from the heart's profound,
To heal the wounds of heartless tyranny,
And, swift dispersing, leave the landscape free;
For once again the bright, celestial fire
Relights the pole, and frantic flames with ire.

When last his chariot coursed its vernal path,
The like indignities awoke his wrath
That wake it now; for fields he left in bloom,
Now lie inhumed beneath an icy tomb.
The sunbeams, dancing on the snowy plain,
Will raise thick vapors to recruit the rain;
Snows disappear as comes the vernal queen;
Their white monotony is lost in green;
They fall, as tyranny must ever fall,
When weak subjection shall for mercy call.

The high, celestial arbiter of light,
Whose flaming disc consumes the shades of night,
Controls thy seasons with omnific sway;
Spring, summer, autumn, even snows, obey;
And, though they war, their conflict is in vain,
As each, unrivaled, in his turn must reign.

The world, long trembling 'neath the wintry king,
Would never smile but for thy soothing wing,
Kind brooding bird, the spacious womb of earth
At thy command teems myriads at a birth.
Thy genial presence, quickening every grain
That, smiling, bursts beneath thy joyous plain,
And shooting upward to salute its queen,
The world is carpeted in living green.
The hills, the vales, the landscapes far and wide,
The rolling prairies, and the mountain side,
Proclaim thy praises, O thou goddess fair;
Their incense rises in the balmy air.

Each shrub, thy altar, and thy priest, each rose
That all the range of fragrant nature shows;
Each grove, thy temple; and thy court, each plain.
No earthly sovereign has so wide a reign.
Dew-dissolved odors on the wings of morn
High toward the vaulted skies are softly borne
From opening petals of symbolic love,
From out the arbor, and from out the grove;
From every turf that feeds the vital stock,
From every cranny in the barren rock.
To thee, O spring, this offering sweet is given;
To thee whose presence makes the world a heaven.

Winged warblers, twittering o'er the world of flowers,
Enchant with melody the fleeting hours;
From nature's orchestra what notes arise
In sweet vibrations through the liquid skies!
Such is the universal feast of spring,
Yet, all her sweetness she herself doth bring.

What, though contending elements should war,
And storms, fierce growling, should "be heard afar!
What, though the clouds should quench the blazing
And spread thick darkness 'neath his highest noon!
What, though the demons of the air attend
And all their terrors to these terrors lend,
Whilst lightnings, blazing in the murky cloud,
Presage in wrath the bellowing thunders loud;
When thunders bursting, from the forger hurled,
In peals terrific shake a startled world;
Still thou art welcome to the earth most dear,
Thou brightest, loveliest season of the year.

Return to the History of Hampshire County WV Index