William McMechen was the first settler on a bottom about five miles below Wheeling, which bears his name, and on which the city of McMechen now stands. He came from the South Branch of the Potomac River about the year 1773, and took up a tomahawk claim to a large tract of fine bottom land. His wife, nee Sidney Johnson, came with him and was the first white woman to make her home on that bottom. The land of Mr. McMechen, known as McMechen's Bottom, extended down to the Narrows above the Flats of Grave Creek, and it was on this land that Captain William Foreman and a number of his men were murdered by a party of Indians under Half King, Wyandot chief, on the 27th of September, 1777.
Mr. and Mrs. McMechen were among the many early settlers who endured the horrors of Indian war from 1777 until after the Battle of Fallen Timber in August, 1794, and the treaty at Greenville a year later. They had many unpleasant experiences with Indians. On one of their forays into Northwestern Virginia, they stole all Mr. McMechen's horses. He started in pursuit of them on foot and followed them almost to the Great Lakes but failed to overtake them and recover his horses. When he arrived home he found that his wife and family were gone. They had concluded from his prolonged absence that he had been slain or capyured by Indians, and Mrs. McMechen, with their children and negro servants and property, had removed to Red Stone Old Fort for safety. They remained there for several years and then returned to the bottom and settled there permanently.
McMechen, West Virginia
SOURCE: News-Register, Wheeling, WV, Sunday, 5 Jul 1992.
(Copied from Tri-County Researcher)
In the year 1771, Capt. William McMechen II traveled to Virginia to establish a "tomahawk claim" in the area extending from McMechen Run to Boggs Run in Marshall Co, WV. Under the tomahawk claim, the state of Virginia permitted settlers to claim 440 acres of land in the state by blazing a tree in a corner of the property and then carving their initials on its trunk. Captain William McMechen is said to have been the second settler in the area, Ebenezer Zane being the first. The Boggs family settled in the area between Boggs Run and Caldwell Run in 1772. Six years later, the Boggs and McMechen families fought in the Revolutionary War. After the war, Virginia Gov. Patrick Henry awarded all men who fought in the War up to 2,000 acres of land. Capt. William McMechen claimed an additional 1400 acres of land beyond "The Narrows" of what is now West Virginia St. Rt. 2.
The captain had six children. Benjamin McMechen, who married Nancy Boggs and had fourteen children, took over farming the land upon his father's death. The town of Benwood is said to be named after him.
When Benjamin's sons became of age, he gave them the choice of running the family farm or receiving a college education. Shepherd McMechen chose to operate the farm, while his brother, James Hanson McMechen, went to college and became a pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Then the Civil War broke out in 1861, causing a rift between James Hanson McMechen and his son, William Meade McMechen. While James was a "a staunch Union supporter," William joined the Confederate Army and fought against the Union under Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Gen. James Longstreet, as a lieutenant in the cavalry. William was captured in the Shenandoah Valley in the later stages of the war. He met his future wife, Virginia Rutherford, in Winchester.
The Civil War tore the family apart and as a result, William's branch of the family fled the area after the South was defeated. William moved to New York City and then got involved in the mining business in Colorado. That branch of the family moved to Colorado and has been there ever since.
When Shepherd McMechen died, his wife, Alcinda Cockayne, inherited all the McMechen land and then sold a majority of the property to the B & 0 Railroad.
NOTE: Story told to News-Register reporter by Edgar McMechen of CO on a visit to the home of his gr-gr-gr-grandfather, Captain William McMechen.