A History of Boggs Run

by Lori Cunningham Whitwam

Captain John Boggs first arrived in the Ohio Valley in 1774, after being stationed for a time at Catfish Camp (now Washington, Pa.). He settled in an area just south of Wheeling, between acreage already claimed by James Caldwell and William McMechen, with a picturesque stream flowing through it. This stream became known as Boggs Run. At the time, this area (Wheeling and the surrounding settlements) was the westernmost point occupied by white men. Across the Ohio River was the Indians' favorite hunting grounds.

Shortly after the Boggs family settled in the Wheeling area, a directive from Fort Pitt declared that war with the Indians was imminent, and Captain Boggs helped with the urgent construction of Fort Henry. Then, during the first year of the Revolutionary War, Captain Boggs was ordered to harvest his crops and move his family 14 miles inland to Rice's Fort on Buffalo Creek. When 1777 became known as the year of the Bloody Indian War, the Boggses and others housed at Rice's Fort were evacuated again to Catfish Camp for safety. Captain Boggs did return to Wheeling to aid in the defense of Wheeling, but arrived too late and found the settlement around the fort burned to the ground. His good friend, David Shepherd, who had a large claim at "The Forks" of Wheeling Creek (about six miles upstream from the Ohio), had left his property to take command of Fort Henry. When all was said and done, he returned to find all but his gristmill burned and his elder son and son-in-law dead.

Captain Boggs' daughter, Lydia, was to become a force in the pioneer community, and later a woman of national importance. She married Moses Shepherd, son of David Shepherd. After the Shepherds returned to The Forks, the Boggs family was transferred to Wolfe's Fort, when Lydia really wanted to return to Boggs Run. She had a deep passion for the land her family owned, and loved the Wheeling area.

moses and lydia

Lydia and Moses Shepherd

In 1781, Wolfe's Fort was in peril of Indian attack, and Captain Boggs moved his family to Fort Henry in Wheeling. On the morning of their departure, Lydia's older brother, Billy, was captured by Indians. Lydia and her mother raced to Newals' Blockhouse, while Captain Boggs and his son, James, stayed to defend the fort and attempt to rescue Billy. The attack was aborted, but no sign was found of Billy. Only in 1783 did he return to Boggs Run, relating the tale of how the Indians had held him prisoner for three months before trading him to the British in Detroit for whiskey and trinkets. He spent the remainder of time as a British prisoner. Finally, he was released in a prisoner exchange. Jane Boggs died from a lengthy illness that same night.

After her mother's death, much of the work of a pioneer woman fell to young Lydia. The family had a few slaves who did the field work, but Lydia spent time on Boggs Run, along with her younger sister, eleven year old Martha, preparing meals, churning butter, tanning leather, grinding corn, caring for the younger children, feeding the animals, washing clothes in the run, weaving, sewing, and otherwise managing the entire household. This went on until Captain Boggs married Sadie, a good-natured young widow with two sons, whom he had met in Washington Town.

The wedding of Moses Shepherd and Lydia Boggs was the biggest social event seen on the frontier. Everyone attended dressed in whatever finery they had, and Lydia wore a gown of black silk, which Moses had brought her from back East. She knew the color was inappropriate, but it was silk and no one else had such a gown, since the normal wardrobe consisted of hide and homespun. All the pioneer families were there... the McMechens, the Caldwells, all the Zanes, the Wetzels and many others from Wheeling, West Liberty, Grave Creek and Shepherd's Forks.

After their first rough cabin at Shepherd's Forks, Lydia and Moses became increasingly prosperous, and in 1798 built the stone mansion located on Wheeling Creek, at the foot of what is now known as 29th Street Hill in Elm Grove. Shepherd Hall was the most astonishing structure anyone had seen in the area, and was Lydia's home for the rest of her life. The mansion is now home to the Osiris Shrine Temple and is used for receptions and the like. Lydia and Moses grew in political influence, and even had the National Road surveyed to run directly by their front gate, despite the fact that it would require more bridges that way. The Stone Bridge and the "S" Bridge still standing in the area are results of this whim of Lydia's.


It was the year that Shepherd Hall was built that Captain John Boggs sold the property at Boggs Run and went on to Ohio with his third wife, Mary (Sadie had died in a fall), and one of his sons and the Barr boys. With the peace with the Indians, settlers were flooding the area, and Wheeling and the surrounding area were becoming too populated for a man with "land fever," as Captain Boggs freely admitted he had.

Boggs Run is now an area of Benwood, West Virginia, in Marshall County and is not to be confused with Boggs Hill Road in Ohio County, which is named for Lydia's brother, Billy. Originally it was considered a settlement associated with Wheeling, which is in Ohio County, so much of what happened to the inhabitants of Boggs Run took place in Ohio County, making locating facts and documents a "two-county" procedure. The site of the Boggs homestead is believed to be in a widening of the bottomland along the Run about a mile upstream from the Ohio River. This area likely bears little resemblance to the area Captain John Boggs and his ambitious daughter, Lydia, would have known. The meadow where their cattle grazed is gone, bisected by Route 2, and filled with retail businesses. "The Run" is lined with homes all the way up to where Boggs Run Road meets Route 86. My father lives in a small apartment right by the northbound Boggs Run off ramp from Route 2, and he can tell stories of Boggs Run going back to the 1920s, and can recount stories told to him about the huge coal mine explosion that killed so many men in 1924, the year he was born. The dead were stacked at the fork of Boggs Run and Browns Run, about two miles upstream from the Ohio.

Much of my family's history (which includes my sister, Linda Cunningham Fluharty) is tied to Boggs Run. My father was born and raised there, living his entire life on The Run, except for the years he spent in World War II and the 20 years we lived "on the hill" in Allendale, not far from the top of Brown's Run Road. The home we lived in when I was born (and where Linda lived her entire childhood) was near the top of The Run, and my aunts, uncles, cousins and paternal grandparents lived in close proximity. Many descendants of the original settlers likely populate the area, and the Boggs, McMechen and Caldwell families who settled the area were among the bravest, most rugged families of their time, responsible for bringing civilization to that part of the Ohio Valley.

Reference: Time Steals Softly by Virginia Jones Harper