LOWER MILL CREEK PART 2
RIPLEY

Ripley lies mostly on the north bank of Mill Creek, thirteen miles from its mouth, by rail, or eighteen and one half by water.

The town was laid out in 1831, for the purpose of making it the County Seat of the newly organized county of Jackson, by Jacob Starcher, then owner of the land, which was the site chosen by the commission appointed by the General Assembly to make such location.

The act creating the County of Jackson from parts of the counties of Kanawha, Mason and Wood, was passed on the first of March, 1831, the site was selected on the bank of Mill Creek, above the mouth of Sycamore, the following September. On the 28th of March, 1832, Jacob Starcher conveyed two acres to the county, to be used as a public square and site for the county buildings, the title to be vested in the county so long as it was used for that purpose.

On the 27th of September, 1832, bids were called for the construction of a Court house.

The contract was let to James Smith, for $3,700, and the building, which was of brick, one story high, and thirty six feet square, with a separate building, also of brick, seventeen by thirty four feet, to be used as a county jail, was finished and received by the county court on the 28th of October, 1833, and at once occupied.

Prior to that time, the court had met in May and June, 1831, at the house of John Warth, on the Ohio River, and afterward at the house of Joel Sayre, one mile or more below the mouth of Sycamore.

This building stood until 1858, which it was replaced by the present court house, which was completed September, 1858, and received by the county court on the 11th of that month.

The contractor was Joshua Staats, and the builder was N.H. Bonnett.

The court house is two stories in height. The lower story is of stone and contains the jail room and residence of the Jailor, above is the Court Room, Jury rooms, Sheriff’s office, etc.

The County and Circuit Clerks’ Offices are in a separate building, built in 1879, by J.T. Blades, at a cost of $3,800, and supposed to be fireproof.

The Court House is getting rather dilapidated, and will soon have to be replaced by a new building. The solid sandstone steps and door sills are worn away by the many feet which have passed back and forth over them in the past forty seven years. Some of them being almost worn through.

How many have gone in and out over these steps and for what varied ends and purposes, some seeking justice, yet perhaps not finding it. Some with schemes of self aggrandizement. Were they successful?

Rich and poor, high and humble, old age, middle age, youth and childhood, male and female, have all contributed to the wearing away of these steps.

Out over them have passed the prisoner, in bonds no longer, but once more a free man, and the criminal under sentence of death.

The slave and his master have been here, the bond and the free.

The best legal talent of the state and soldiers and orators of National fame have passed over these steps, or from them addressed the listening multitude.

Ripley is forty three miles north of Charleston, thirty six south of Parkersburg, and thirteen from the Ohio River, and lies on the Parkersburg-Charleston Turnpike.

Its altitude above the sea level is given by Lewis in his Handbook of West Virginia, at five hundred ninety nine feet. The United States Geological Survey places the southwest corner of the Court House Square at six hundred fifteen feet, the intersection of the first cross street with the Spencer Pike at the foot of the hill, six hundred thirty seven feet, and Green Run bridge at five hundred ninety three feet.

The town lies on a beautiful slightly rolling plateau, elevated above the first bottoms of the creek about twenty feet, in a wide valley, and surrounded by high hills. Mill Creek compasses it on two sides, and Sycamore on the third, while to the east is a hillside.

The writer in the “Gazetteer of Virginia” says of Ripley, in 1833-

“Ripley, the principal village and seat of justice of Jackson County, is three hundred fifty miles north of Richmond, and three hundred forty one west of Washington. Situated in latitude thirty eight degrees, fifty two minutes north, eight miles above Wright’s Mills, and twelve from the Ohio River, on the Great Mill Creek, at its confluence with Sycamore Creek. It is a flourishing village, although but recently established.

From its location in the valley of Mill Creek, and its being in a direct line between Charleston on the Kanawha, and Parkersburg, in Wood County, it is anticipated it will one day be a place of some trade.

At the present time, it contains besides the ordinary county buildings, which are substantially built of brick –

12 dwelling houses

2 hotels

1 common school

1 mercantile store

1 mill wright

1 house joiner

2 smith shops

1 tanyard

1 boot and shoe factory

2 tailors

2 lawyers

2 physicians

1 bricklayer

1 sawmill

Population about one hundred persons.

Dr. Joseph Mairs was the first resident physician.

Joseph Bowland was the first blacksmith, having opened a shop as early as 1824.

The first merchant at Ripley was Alfred Beauchamp (probably from Elizabeth) in 1833. He opened his store in a small frame house, on the site occupied in 1890 by the residence of C. H. Progler.

A few months later, in 1833, James and Nehemiah Smith entered the mercantile pursuit.

Two hotels were erected in 1833, operators William Carney and Jacob Staats.

The town, though “laid out” in 1831, was not incorporated until 1852, when Clermont E. Thaw, a practicing attorney, was chosen Mayor.

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CHURCHES

The Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1840. The class was reorganized in 1879, and worshiped in the Southern Methodist Church until 1889, when their present Church was built. Major Progler, Contractor. There were in 1885, thirteen communicants.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, class was organized by Reverend Samuel Black. In 1858, they employed Jonathan Conker and Major C.H. Progler to build a house, which continued in use until the late 1800’s, when house and lot were sold, and a fine brick building erected on the corner lot.

Their Sunday School was organized in 1856, with James A. Park, Superintendent.

The Baptist Church. The first society of this denomination was organized by the Reverend Jonathan Smith, mainly through the strenuous efforts of Reverend Richardson. In 1874, in connection with the lodge of Free Masons, they erected a two story building, the lower story being used as a Church, and the upper for lodge purposes.

The Protestant Episcopal Church was built in 1874, and the United Brethren building known as “Martin Chapel”, from the Reverend J. W. Martin, the first minister in 1888.

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CENSUS – 1850

The census report for 1850 shows Jackson County had  

Population
     White, Male      3,405      Female      3,075           6,480
     Colored, Free       11       Slave,            53               66

Total Population      1840:      4,890   1850:    6,544

Born in Virginia,      5,215
U.S. Not in Virginia, 1,108
Foreign, 121

Dwellings,     1,034      Families,       1,040

Farms,      602
   Acres improved,      28,384
   Unimproved          235,139

Horses and mules   1,708
Cattle                     5,956
Sheep                  11,062
Hogs,                       905

Wheat                 16,630 bu.
Rye and Oats      44,396 bu.
Corn                 257,242 bu.
Potatoes             15,640 bu
Peas and Beans         71 bu.
Barley                       46 bu.
Buckwheat           3,181 bu.
Hay                    1,954 tons

Maple Sugar       18,826 lbs.
Molasses                459 gal.
Tobacco              4,473 lbs.
Wool                31,028 lbs.

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SCHOOLS

The first school house was of the type common in the backwoods.

About 1833, John Riley taught a school in an old log house on the Cleek farm, just above town.

From 1836 to 1840, Mrs. William Starcher, nee Sarah Evans, taught in one room of her own house, a one story brick, situated on the lot owned by J. C. Hood in 1900.

In 1840, money was raised by subscription, and a frame schoolhouse erected on the lot where B. F. Riley resided in 1890.

Daniel G. Morrill, a local preacher, and later Clerk of the County Court, was the first teacher. These were all subscription schools, and usually for a three month term.

The first free schools were in this house, but in 1869, the Board of Education bought the hotel of Major Progler, which was used as a school house until 1888, when the present building was erected on the same lot.

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LODGES

Ripley Lodge A. F. & A. M., was organized April 13, 1857.

Joseph Smith

J.L. Armstrong

J.A. Park

Willard Chalfant

J.P. Harper

C. N. Austin

George Bord

W. H. Watson, and

James Armstrong were among the earliest members.

Ripley Lodge I. O. O. F. was organized April 15, 1858. Among the charter members were:

F. P. Turner

C. H. Progler

J. L. Armstrong M. Chalfant

J. A. Park

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MILLS

The pioneer woolen mill was erected in 1866, by F. R. Hassler, F. W. B. Hassler, and C. H. Progler, at a cost of $10,000. This enterprise continued in different hands, J. L. Armstrong, J. J. S. Hassler, and others being at different times variously interested, until 1883, when operations were suspended. In 1889, the building and machinery were destroyed by fire.

The first grist mill was built on the creek opposite the present site of the present mill, in 1824, by Jacob Starcher and his son William. I

t was run by water power, and was purchased later by Armstrong and Smart, and sold by them to Joel Sayre, in 1837. Sayre and his son Jacob operated the mill until 1839, when Jacob became the sole proprietor.

The following year, Jacob Sayre rebuilt the mill on the opposite side of the creek, rebuilt the dam, added a bolting chest for manufacturing flour, and machinery for sawing planks.

In 1842, a carding machine, also run by water power, was added to the mill.

Jacob Sayre sold the plant to John McGrew in 1853, who put in new burrs for corn and wheat, and attached steam power. In 1864, D.K. Hood took charge of the mill, and in 1888, it was changed to a full roller process mill, with a capacity of one hundred fifty barrels of flour a day.

The earliest settlers sieved their meal, buckwheat, or flour, if they had any, with a “sarch” or sieve, made of deerskin stretched over a bark hoop, with holes punched in it.

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BRIDGES

The creek at Ripley was from the first on, an inconvenience to the people of Ripley and vicinity in passing back and forth, though it furnished a means of transportation before there were any roads built.

A canoe or pirogue hollowed from a poplar log served as means of ferriage at the ford near Ripley, when the water was high, followed later by john boat and skiff.

Late in the forties, the first bridge was built by Daniel Roush, but fell down the same year. It was remodeled and rebuilt by Jonathan Conker. The bridge now spanning the creek above the mill dam was built about fifty years ago, by B.R. Cunningham.

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ROADS

It is said the first wagon road was cut out from Ripley Landing to Ripley by Jackson Smith, date not given, prior to this there had been only pack horse trails.

In opening a new road in pioneer days, there was no digging or grading. All that was required was to cut away the underbrush and saplings that grew in the way, and cut and roll the logs out of the proposed track. If the logs were too large, or the girth of the trees too great, they simply swerved to one side a little, and around them.

By following the bottoms, generally after the country was settled, up the creek banks all side grades were avoided.

After road digging was commenced, every Friday and Saturday through the summer was road work day, unless the condition of the roads did not demand it, or it would interfere with general muster.

Twelve men with axes, mattocks, guns, and broad hoes, could make as much road, kill more game, drive center of more targets, tell a dozen times as many yarns, drink fifty times as much domestic whiskey and have a hundred times the fights and fun that two men can now, with a team and plow and scraper.

The old Charleston pack horse trail from the settlements at Neal’s Station and Mineral Wells, and other points along the Ohio River to the Kanawha Salt Springs, lay through Ripley years before any settlement was made on Mill Creek, over which salt was carried to the settlements.

About 1837, the road was made from Ravenswood to Ripley, over which for many years most of the supplies for the town were carried.

The Parkersburg and Charleston pike was opened in 1855, and the narrow, primitive road to Spencer and beyond was relocated, widened, improved and put under toll.

The building of the Ohio River Railroad in 1887 quickened the business of Ripley, and gave it new life. Much wagoning of supplies was done up Mill Creek and the villages of Cottageville, Angerona and Evans grew proportionately, while the town of Millwood laid out at the mouth of the creek became a port of entry and exit for the whole of Lower Mill Creek. But it was the opening of the Mill Creek Valley Road, in November, 1887, that gave Ripley direct and easy communication with the outside world, and made it in progressiveness, hustle and business by long odds the leading town in the county.

This road, a branch of the Ohio River Railroad, was commenced in 1885, which year the preliminary surveys were made, and completed two years later. It does not cross the creek, depot and station being in West Ripley, beyond the bridge.

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NEWSPAPERS

The first newspaper printed in Ripley was the product of a joint stock company, composed by J.L. Armstrong, John H. Riley, John M. Greer and William T. Greer. It was called the Jackson Democrat, was edited by W.C. Whaley and Lee C. Sayles, and made its first appearance in 1874. At the end of six months, Sayles was superceded by Monroe Whaley, and a year later the paper died.

In 1877, J.J.S. Hassler and George B. Crow purchased the plant and resuscitated the paper under the title of “Jackson Herald”. Mr. Crow retired at the end of four months, and in 1878, Hassler sold the Herald to George W. Biggs, of Preston County, and he in 1879 to H.B. Bishop, of Wheeling. In 1881, D.D. Karr and M.M. Russell became editors, and in a few months, Karr, who had come into complete control, sold the subscription list and good will to E.C. Smith, of the Jackson Bugle, at Ravenswood.

H.W. Deem, a Jackson County School teacher, next came in as proprietor, and editor, issuing his first paper July 13th, 1883. Deem soon made the Herald the organ of the Republican party in Jackson County, and one of the best county papers in the state.

In 1896, C.F. Prickitt, and J.S. Woodell began the publication of the “Mountaineer”, which has since passed into the hands of a Mr. Walkers.

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RIPLEY IN 1905

Ripley had in 1905 seven mercantile and grocery establishments. Of these, the A.M. Carson Store Co. and O.J. Morrison do an immense business, keeping several clerks busy all the time, and there are always customers waiting to be served.

2 Hardware stores

2 Furniture stores

1 Flouring and 1 planing mill

2 Banks, the Bank of Ripley, established in 1891, and the Valley Bank in 1893.

2 Jewelers

1 Drug store

5 Resident physicians

8 Attorneys-at-law

2 Newspapers

2 Harness shops and 2 Blacksmith shops

1 Barber shop

1 Butcher and Meat store

7 Hotels

5 Churches

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EARLY COURTS

The writer in the Gazetteer previously quoted, says of the judicial system of Jackson County in 1833 –

“County Courts are held quarterly on the 4th Monday of March, June, August and November.”

Circuit Superior Courts of Law and Chancery are held on the 10th April and September by Judge Summers. The names of the first county officers were:

Members of County Court –

John Warth, of Warth’s Bottom

George Casto, of Tug Fork

Barnabas Cook

George Stone

Gilbert Boswell, of Cow Run

Henry Sherman, of Little Sandy

Ephraim S. Evan, of Evans

Benjamin Wright, of Wright’s Mills

John McKown

Tapley Beckwith, of near Ravenswood

Clerk of Court Benjamin Wright

Sheriff John Warth (the oldest justice)

Assessor George McCarvey

Constable George H. Warth

School Commissioners:

Henry Sherman, of Little Sandy.

William Sheppard, of Right Reedy.

Thomas Cain, of Reedy.

Jonathan Casto, of Grass Lick.

Gilbert Boswell, of Cow Run.

Thomas Boggs, of Spring Creek.

John Warth, of Warth’s Bottom.

Ephraim S. Evans, of Evans.

George Stone.

Jesse Carney, of Mill Creek.

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“PAUPER” SCHOOL LAW

This Board of Commissioners was appointed under the provisions of a law enacted in 1817. There were to be “not less than five, nor more than fifteen discreet persons” appointed by the county court in each county, whose duty was to dispense the “Literary fund” in their county. To ascertain the number of “poor” children in their county, how many the fund would educate, what sum it could pay for their education, and to send these to school, if the parents or guardians “would provide them with materials for writing and ciphering”.

The “Literary Fund” was created from sales of escheated lands, military fines, forfeits, etc.

Owing to the approbrium attached to the “pauper fund”, but few took advantage of it, and most of the children of the pioneers grew up with little advantage in the way of “book learning”, though graduates in the school of woodcraft and the rugged virtues – and vices – of the backwoodsman.

The school commissioners in 1852 (Wirt was then a county) were:

A. Flesher, Superintendent

E.S. Evans

G. Bazzler (Gilbert Boswell)

D.W. Sayre

J. Carney

William Hicks

J. Casto

George Stone

J.C. Sisson

William, Goudy

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FIRST COURTS

The Board who located the County Seat at Ripley, September, 1831, were:

William Spurlock

John Miller

John McWhorter

John McKay (McCoy)

Cyrus Carey

The first Bar of Ripley comprised –

Isaac Morris

Thomas A. Hereford – Prosecuting Attorney

Charles Henderson

James M. Stephenson

Henry J. Fisher, all of whom were sworn in May 31, 1831.

Judge Brown says the first resident lawyer was Robert Lowther, grandson of William Lowther.

The first grand jury empanelled consisted of:

Andrew Lewis, foreman

Ezekiel McFarland

Nehemiah Smith

Isaac Sherman

Soloman Harpold

Henry Sherman

Isaac McKown

Charles Smith

Abel Sayre

David Stanley

Gideon Long

Joseph Rader

James R. Wolf

John Crites

Jabel Bowles

John Harpold

Jonas Casto

Isaac Pfost

Elijah I. Rollins

John Casto

Thomas Carney

James Stanley

There is no record of what business was done by this body.

Louisa Bonnett swept and cleaned the court rooms for the first term of court at Joel Sayres.

September, 1831, James Rader, Peter Cleek, and John D. Riley were appointed to contract for the building of a county jail.

William Bonnett was the first jailer, and William Bonnett, Jr., and Silas Carney, guards.

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ORGANIZATION OF JACKSON COUNTY

Jackson County was formed March, 1831, from portions of Wood, Mason and Kanawha counties. Since its formation, a portion of Mason County has been added, and a large part of its original territory has been taken to constitute Roane and Wirt Counties. The county was first divided into townships in 1863, by John Johnson, Robert R. Riley, George L. Kennedy, Abraham Slaughter, and George Cleek.

Wright’s Mills was at that time the center of activities of the community, with a school, church, store, etc. Later, Joel Sayre built a mill at Ripley, John Armstrong opened a school and the Methodists had a church.

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RIPLEY CEMETERY

Ripley graveyard lies in the northeast corner of the village, on the point between Green Run and a small tributary which flows north, wholly in the limits of Ripley. It comprises a little flat extending across the point, a gentle slope reaching down to the brow of a smart declivity on the west, and to the east a steeper hillside bordering on the public highway.

The southern part is a little dell and an addition from an adjoining field, much of which is too steep to be suitable for burying purposes, the more so as the ground falls away to the west, which throws the foot of the graves higher than the heads.

I have seen many finer situations for cemeteries, but never a prettier resting place of the dead, the northern and central parts being one of the finest groves in the county. In the older or northwestern and northern portions, the primeval forest is still standing, large beeches so thickly clustered, that in places the sun scarcely reaches the ground, their trucks thickly carved with names or initials and dates, some made over four score years ago, while their gnarled branches form a dense canopy over head, and everywhere cedar, blue myrtle and bluegrass and bright flowers.

The graveyard is sixteen rods on east, north and south, and twelve on the western side.

Next the road, it is enclosed with an ornamental iron fence, on the others by plank.

There are many fine and costly monuments, other old fashioned marble slabs with carved names and roses, lambs, or weeping willows above, some sandstone and flagstone slabs, and many without any marker whatever. It would now be impossible to number those who have gone to lie down in this beautiful spot, for of some graves, no outward sign is left.

The first grave was that of Mrs. William Parsons, who was buried here with infant in 1808.

The oldest inscriptions are –

P. S. 1821

M. S. 1822

C. S. 1829

They are all children’s graves, with flagstone markers, and are of the Starcher family.

The caretaker came from France to New York, in 1852, and to Ripley in 1853.

He is a small man, and talks with a decided “burr” to his tongue.

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NEW CEMETERY

The new cemetery on Pine Hill is on top of a high ridge, fronting the Sycamore Bridge, and extending east nearly to the head of Green Run.

The hill is very steep, especially on the north, and crowned originally with a pine woods, but there is a good broad road of easy ascent, and the graveyard, which is ten by fourteen rods, lays very nicely.

A part of it is laid off into lots, marked with fir trees at the corners, and there is ample provision for driveways and walks.

As yet, there are but few graves, though the cemetery was opened several years ago. It is perhaps a half mile from the Court House.

The very first settlement at Ripley was made by Captain William Lowther Parsons, in 1804. He was in the Buckhannon Settlement during the last Indian War, where he served as a “Spy”, or Indian Scout. There he married Susan Fink.

As soon as peace was assured, he moved to Warth’s Bottom, this was in 1796 or 1797. A few years later, he purchased a tract of five hundred fifty acres of land at the mouth of Sycamore, on to which he moved in 1804. He built his humble log cabin on the bank of the creek somewhere between where George Armstrong now lives and Sycamore. Perhaps there is no one living who could identify the exact spot.

His father, Charles Parsons, moved on Sycamore, just above town, probably not far from the bridge, and it is not unlikely on the same farm.

The land joining Captain Parsons on the south is spoken of as a “tract of land joining the Thomas Adams Survey”, which may have referred to Parsons’ land.

In 1808, Susan Parsons died and was buried on the farm on the low point, at the mouth of what is now called Green’s Run (Green Run is a name with less gruesome surroundings). After this, Parsons sold the farm to Jacob Starcher, just the date of this sale, I believe is unknown, but it was after the death of his wife, and before his enlistment in the army, in the war of 1812.

Starcher was a resident of the farm until his death, in 1838.

Where the town now stands, he plowed and he sowed, he reaped and he mowed, and over the surrounding hills he hunted deer, bear and other wild game.

As early as 1824, he built a little mill by the creekside, and in 1831 laid out the town of Ripley, and donated the people two acres of ground for a public square.

After the death of Starcher, the homestead was sold to Thomas Graham, a soldier of two wars, who came from Ireland when a child.

It is said he planted the orchard, some of the trees of which are still bearing after sixty five years.

Meanwhile, other pioneers had been settling along the creek bottoms, to the head of the stream.

Some of them were the Bonnets, Harpolds, Castos, Wolfs, Hyres, Raders, Rollinses, etc., whose history will be given later.

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THE GREEN MURDER CASE

There have been several tragedies in Jackson County which have brought the criminals behind the bars of the Ripley jail.

Among these were some who were acquitted, others who received terms in the penitentiaries at Richmond, or Moundsville, and two unfortunates who were made to answer to the old Jewish law “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”.

The first of these was Charles Green, born in Harmony, Butler County, Pennsylvania, October 7th, 1828. He appears to have been of a vicious cast from a child, when quite small, it is said he commenced a career of crime that ended on the gallows, by stealing pennies from his father, and planting them by a tree to grow. To avoid numerous floggings to which he was often treated, he stole his father’s cowhide and hid it. The weapon was not found until after a long search, when he “enjoyed a liberal use of it for five minutes”.

It is further said that when sent to school, he stole some tacks from the teacher and hid them in a little girl’s bonnet. She received a whipping for the theft. These petty pilferings were continued as he grew up, increasing in frequency, boldness and amount stolen, until he grew up spending his time in the streets in lying, fighting, drinking, swearing and stealing. Sometimes he would have to keep in hiding from the police.

The crime story continues with the assertion that once he and his cousin shot a little girl in the legs with a shot gun “for fun”.

In a riot at Philadelphia, he set fire to a Roman Catholic Church.

That, when about seventeen, he began handling counterfeit money, later he went west, where he shot and wounded a man in a row.

He spent about four years in the west and on the Mississippi river, stealing, swindling, drinking and gambling. He seems to have been at this time wholly bad, though while younger, he had some short lapses of remorse and penitence. But, the crime story continues, -

He was in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 9th, 1849, where the police got after him for passing counterfeit money, hiding through the day, at night he shipped as fireman on the steamer Planter, bound for Pittsburgh. The river being very low, the boat stuck in shallow water at Buffington’s Island, and after twenty four hours ineffectual labor, trying to get past, the boat was laid up, and the hands paid off and discharged on the 20th of July. The Planter tied up to the Virginia shore, opposite the foot of the island.

Green spent several days carousing on shore, on either side of the river, until his money was spent. On the 24th, he and one Timothy Fox went down to Ravenswood to look for work at a saw mill. They went to Ravenswood, stopping at the house of Mr. Wells, and after standing around the mill a while, applied for work to a Mr. Barr, who was building a chimney, failing to get employment, they started to return to the boat.

Green, it is alleged, had decided in his mind to rob Fox if they did not obtain work, and on the return, having selected a stout club, under the pretense of using it as a cane, stepping behind Fox, he knocked him down and then thinking “dead men tell no tales”, continued to beat him until life was almost extinct. $51.25 was the reward of his crime.

Just after crossing (Little) Sandy, he met a woman, Lucinda Barringer, and above that passed a man named Roliff, and a little later came to where two men were making hay.

Crossing the river, he obtained lodging and “slept soundly that night”. Next morning, he started to Marietta, but got on a boat which was passing, and went to Wheeling, where he was arrested the next morning, and kept in the Wheeling jail three days, until the 31st, when he was delivered to John S. Thorn and Timothy Donahue, who had come up from Ravenswood to take him into custody. These men brought him to Ravenswood, and he was tried before a justice and confessing his crime, was sent to jail at Ripley on the 3rd of August, and “chained down by the legs”. Having broken his chains several times, he was chained and handcuffed.

Meanwhile, Fox died in the greatest agony. Green’s case was called at the September term of the Circuit Superior Court, but continued until March for trial.

David McComas was Circuit Judge.

Henry J. Fisher, Prosecuting Attorney.

D. G. Morrill, Clerk of the Court.

N. S. Smith, Sheriff.

M. B. Armstrong, Deputy Sheriff.

D. G. Morrill, Clerk.

The prosecuting witnesses were:

Jesse Gandee

Ellis Nesselrode

John S. Thorne

T. O. Donavan

Duncan McKinley

Noah Staats

Henry Lays

David Staats

A. F. Merriman

John N. Wheatley

Z. S. Thorn

Jackson Roliff

Charles Phillips

Lucinda Barringer

F. W. Smith and William L. Bird were appointed Attorneys for the defense.

All of the Grand Jury at the March term are now dead (1905) but E. H. Rader. Clarmont E. T. Thaw assisted in the defense of the prisoner.

Green was tried, and by the following veniremen, found guilty of murder in the first degree:

Thomas Paxton, foreman

Leonard R. King

John H. Chase

Henry Lane

George W. Fields

John Lee

Elisha Stewart

Abraham Pfost

Spencer Adams

Jacob B. Hyre

Nelson Koontz

William Harpold, a brother of Mrs. Green.

The trial commenced on the 23rd of March, 1850, and the verdict brought in on the 28th.

On April 1st, Green was sentenced to be hanged, on the 10th of May, but was reprieved until the 12th day of the same year, when he was hanged on a scaffold which had been erected up the run above the graveyard, which has since been known as “Green’s Hollow”.

Such was the end of Charles Cook Green.

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THE JOHN F. MORGAN CASE

The other public execution was on the 16th of December, 1897, and the victim of the popular clamor for vengeance, was one John F. Morgan, a young man of heretofore good character.

Morgan, on the morning of the 3rd of November, 1897, is generally supposed to have possibly, with the help of another, murdered Mrs. Chlora Green, a widow living on Grass Lick, eleven miles from Ripley, her daughter Matilda Pfost, and her son James Green.

Morgan was captured the same evening, tried on the 5th, and found guilty the same night, and sentenced on the morning of the 6th, three days after the commission of the crime.

It is supposed this speedy prosecution may have been to prevent an effort at lynching the prisoner by the enraged neighbors.

A little more than a month later, he was executed on a scaffold built on the old Ripley farm, not far from the homestead, and about a half mile above town.

The hanging was in the presence of an immense throng, and amid scenes the most revolting and disgraceful. The people seemed to think the whole affair was a sort of picnic or “show” gotten up for their amusement.

On the opening of the next Legislature, Honorable J. S. Darst, a State Senator from Jackson County, introduced a bill abolishing public hangings, which speedily became a law.

Since the Morgan execution, homicides have been common in Jackson County.

There was little effort made to ascertain if Morgan had any accomplices or coadjutors in his crime.

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OTHER HOMICIDES

Of the earlier homicides tried at the court house was a Negro deckhand on a steamboat, who had pushed a man overboard in a row, and the man being drowned the negro was brought to Ripley for trial. This was, I think, some time in the 50’s, and if I remember rightly, Mr. Monroe Miller, of Millwood, who was my informant, was on the jury.

I think the jury compromised on murder in the second degree, or manslaughter, or perhaps it resulted in a mistrial.

Under the old Virginia laws, the penalties attaching to a crime committed by a colored man were much heavier than those applied to the white race. However, the man was not hung.

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ANCIENT VIRGINIA LAWS

Under the old time laws of Virginia, Ripley had its whipping post, which stood out on the Sycamore road.

Its prisoners confined for debt, in the county jail, one of whom was Isaac Flesher, who lived just across the creek above Ripley, and was imprisoned at the instance of John Warth, the creditor. Flesher, under some provision of the law, sold his farm to George Casto, Sheriff, in August, 1834, “together with the appurtenances and all singular lands and tenements, houses, orchards, etc., etc.,” and there is on Record in the Clerk’s Office, a deed conveying tow women, slaves of John Boggs, which is as follows:

“This indenture made the 11th day of April, in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three, witnesseth, that for an in consideration of natural love and affection, I do hereby convey to Thomas Boggs and John Newson, my two female Negro slaves Betsy and Hannah, in trust for the benefit of my son, Lawrence Boggs, during his natural life, and after the death of my son, Lawrence Boggs, I do give the said slaves, Betsy and Hannah, and their increase, to the children of my said son Lawrence, lawfully begotten, or to the heirs of such child or children of my son Lawrence, lawfully begotten, such portion as their parents would have inherited.

On testimony whereof, I have here unto set my hand and seal the day and year above written.

(Signed) John Boggs (L. S.)”

The Debtor’s imprisonment law was enacted February 12th, 1823, and provided –

When debtors were confined in jail, the complaining creditors be responsible for prison fees, to be paid at the end of each sixty days. Debtors were liable to creditor for such expenses whether released under “insolvent law” or not.

Convicts and slaves were kept separate from other prisoners and each other.

Prisoners to have sufficient and clean bedding, medical attendance, stoves, etc. Free Negroes could be hired out to work out taxes at not less than eight cents per day.

The Whipping Post was for numerous petty offences, such as stealing, swearing, drunkenness, and disturbing worship, etc.

For the last named, the penalty was “where offenders cannot pay fine, he or she shall receive upon his or her bare back, ten lashes, well laid on”.

The last three offences named were little noticed, at least on the frontiers.

Merchants were required to pay a license to sell goods manufactured outside of the state.

Delegates to the General Assembly received $4.00 a day, and $4.00 for each twenty miles traveled, and all tolls and ferryings.

Some of the County Court Clerk’s fees were:

Recording Deed in Deed book:  $1.00
(or .03 each 30 words)

For Acknowledging, recording on Minute book, posting on front door of Court House, etc. :  .50

Recording plat of 6 courses :  .50

Each additional course:  .03

Recording Mortgage or Trust Deed :  1.00

Recording Will, if not contested:  .50

Entering license for tavern or saloon, making out bond, etc.:  1.00

Issuing Marriage License and recording Certificate of marriage :  1.00

Administering Oath:  .12

Annexing Seal of County to papers:  .37

Until 1831, the Mill Creek people had to go to Point Pleasant for these things, and prior to 1804 to Charleston.

Sheriffs received:
For serving warrant:  $0.30

For summoning witnesses:  .21

For summoning coroners, jury and witnesses:  3.15

For putting in stocks:  .42

For whipping :  .50

For serving attachment against absentee debtor :  .63

For carrying person to jail, per mile :  .10

For selling property under execution
If Less than $5.00:  .25
If over $5.00 :  5% of balance

About Jackson County in 1831, Judge Brown in his Centennial Address, has to say:

“There was no assessment on property. All male persons and all female slaves were assessed $1.62 ½ each.

Every able bodied man could be compelled to work the roads four days each week.

They frequently had to walk twenty or thirty miles to work roads, and go to Point Pleasant to court and to muster.

Jurors and Justices received no pay, and had to bear their own expenses.

There was no school tax.”

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RIPLEY DURING THE CIVIL WAR

There was no battle fought at Ripley during the Civil War, so far as I know, though both Union and Confederate soldiers occupied the village at different times. It is probable, however, that the southern forces were not regularly enlisted men, but either independent troops or merely bushwhackers.

O. Jennings Wise was at one time stationed at Ripley, and Captain Boggs held the place for a while during the first years of the war.

There was a camp at the old fair ground in the mouth of the first hollow above town. General Lightburn stopped here on his retreat from the Kanawha, in September, 1862.

It is said one of his soldiers was killed by lightening in a heavy storm the night he camped here. My informant, David Latimer, said he was present when the grave was opened some years later.

There were many tragedies in both Jackson and Roane Counties during the war, some of special atrocity and uncalled for barbarity.

There are said to have been two southern men killed on the hill just out from Ripley, and there may have been cases in the town of which I have not heard, as I have made no inquiries, such matters not falling within the scope of this volume.

I give below a list of residents of Ripley, said to have been in the army.

Union:

John Horn

Ed Horn

Daniel Smarr

J. W. Smarr

Madison Smarr

Joel Ewing

James Smith

Henry Casto

Solomon Hood

George Lanfried

Stephen Dodd

Confederate:

William Lipscomb

Frank Turner

V. S. Armstrong

George Armstrong

Gallatin Park (killed)

Cas. Dilworth

Abraham Park

Julius Progler

Robert Mate

James McKown

Anthony Dilworth

Wm. Maginnis

Wm. B. McMahon

Josiah Dilworth

Charles Sayre, Sr.

F. W. B. Hassler

Alfred Armistead

Daniel Tenthory

Joseph Legenver

M. J. Kester

Edw. Phelps

Joe Smith

W. A. Grimm

Wm. Maguire

Lew Keeney

This company of Confederates was organized in May 1861, and may include some not citizens of the town. It was known as Company B, 22nd, Virginia, and William Lipscomb was Captain, and Benjamin Chase color bearer.

In the Mexican War, ten soldiers were enlisted at Ripley, three of whom were citizens of the town, viz, John A. Mackintosh, Gilbert Harvey, and James Cabene.

n the Second War of Independence, the War of 1812, Captain William L. Parsons, then living perhaps on Sycamore, raised a company of men among the settlers along Mill Creek, Sandy, Ohio River and vicinity. They rendezvoused a time at Point Pleasant, and then marched overland to Norfolk, Virginia.

Many of these volunteers were old Indian fighters. Little is known of their service. I am informed that the historian, Professor Lewis, has the roster of the company.

Daniel Deweese says the “Ripley Squad” was enlisted in April, 1847. The company was recruited by Elisha McComas, afterward Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The names of the squad from Jackson County were:

John MacKintosh

Jim Cobine

Nath Workman

Bob Alexander

Nath Young

Jim Perry

Layfayette Parsons

Ike Meadows

Balas Deweese

Henry Cunningham

Hyrd Harvey

David Hill

Isaac Cunningham

Will Lucas

John Goff, Reedy

Will Cunningham

Jim Workman

Jim Stewart, Reedy

Oliver Stewart, Reedy

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