History of Ritchie County

The following is taken from the book "History of Ritchie County" written by Minnie Kendall Lowther, and published in 1910.
Transcribers are Janet Waite, Earl Cowan, Erin Stewart, Bonnie Ryan, Margaret Udell and Sylvia Cox.

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Chapter I
The Discovery of Ritchie County
Transcribed by Janet Waite.

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As we look with so much pleasure and admiration upon the smiling valley and sunny hill-tops that surround our rural homes, it sounds like a fairy-tale to be told that a little more than a century and a quarter ago, this beautiful landscape was one vast unbroken wilderness--the lair of wild beasts, and the home of the savage Red man. But--

"The Red man is no more,
The pale-faced stranger stands alone,
Upon the river's shore."

Tradition, as well as history, tells us that the first "pale-faced strangers" that ever trod the "Little Kanawha" and Hughes river valleys and stood within the present bounds of Ritchie county, were Colonel William Lowther and Jesse and Elias Hughes.

It was in the year 1772, when the glorious touch of autumn was on every bush and tree, that this brave trio set out on their long and perilous expedition which was destined to result in the discovery of what is now the prosperous little County of Ritchie.

Leaving the place where Clarksburg now stands, they steered their course up the West Fork of the Monongahela river to its head waters, and, crossing over the dividing ridge near the present site of Weston, pursued their journey down Sand creek to its confluence with the Little Kanawha. Here they found a beautiful mountain river upon which the eye of civilized man had, perhaps, never before rested, and being filled with delight at this discovery, and lured on by

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their desire to explore, to penetrate this dense wilderness, and to find the destination of this river, they followed its tortuous course, its meanderings like a "silver thread"- naming the tributaries as they passed along.

The general course of the first one that appeared suggested a more direct route from the point near Weston to the river they were exploring, than the one down Sand creek, and they named it "Leading creek". Cedars adorned the banks of the next stream and they called it "Cedar creek". Then one came out from beneath stately pines, and "Pine creek" was the name given to it. High banks of yellow clay marked the mouth of another, giving rise to the name of "Yellow creek" - which is to-day so far famed for its richness in oil. After this came a tributary "stretching far away among the hills" - a long line of its course being visible, and the name "Straight creek" was bestowed upon it. From toward the evening sun flowed another, which suggested the name of "West Fork". And from the cool limpid waters of another, they quenched their thirst and it has ever since borne the name of "Spring creek".

Little did these pioneers of civilization dream that before a century had passed away, this region was destined to give birth to what is to-day one of the richest resources of our Commonwealth. Scarcely less credible is the romancer's story of the powerful magic wand of "Aladin's Lamp" than the one that historian has woven about "Burning Springs".

In August 1860, when the news went out from this place that the greatest petroleum-producing field then known to the world had here been discovered, the population of this entire vicinity was less than a score, and six months later, on that memorable April morn when the whole country was startled by the firing on Fort Sumpter, it numbered not fewer than six thousand persons. Capitalists and adventurers from every quarter of the globe flocked to this "Eldorado", and immense fortunes came and went in a single day. This was the beginning of the oil industry in our state. And though the population of this region once numbered eighteen thousand, it has now almost returned to "its primitive wilderness".

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After "Spring creek" came another tributary to which the name "Reedy" was applied. And at some distance below upon the bank of a small stream, a huge stone was found standing erect, and "Standing Stone creek" has ever since been familiar to the inhabitant of the Little Kanawha valley.

Farther down a beautiful river united its "gently murmering tide" with the Kanawha, and Jesse Hughes claimed the privilege of conferring his own name upon it. His companions made no protest and the mane of "Hughes river" has ever since occupied a place on the maps of the "Little Mountain State". In 1789, an effort was made to have the name changed to that of "Junius", but the aged citizens still mindful of the debt of gratitiude that was due the brave discoverers, refused to listen to such a change.

Up this river, whose name is so familiar to us all, and upon whose beloved banks so many of our childish feet have loitered, "looking for the spring flowers wild", these weary travelers continued their explorations, and soon a stream of some magnitude came to view in which flocks of wild geese were bathing, and the name "Goose creek" at once suggested these were designated as the North and the South forks of Hughes river; and as they proceeded up the South fork, they discovered a small stream overhung by walnut trees, and it was called "Walnut creek" until 1784, when Col. Lowther, with a company of men, surprised the Indians on this creek, and a battle ensued in which five red men and a white boy

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were killed, and ever since that time it has been known as "Indian creek". The only stream mentioned that does not retain its original name.

After the discovery of Indian creek, these explorers retraced their foot steps to the Kanawha river and continued its descent, and 'ere long the mouth of a stream filled with slate rose before their vision, and the name "Slate creek" was appropriated to it. And shortly after this, the goal for which they had covered so many weary miles was in sight; the mouth of the river had been reached, and this little band stood upon the bank of the bold Ohio, perhaps, among the first Englishmen that ever set foot upon the site that is now marked by the interesting city of Parkersburg; and from here the homeward march began, and in due time they reached the point from which they had started, having made the way possible for the "settlements of the now beautiful and populous valleys of these two rivers".

This little historical drama would hardly be complete without a word in regard to the identity of the heroic actors who were instrumental in bringing it about, and of them we shall now speak:

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THE LOWTHERS. - "Lowther" is a very old name in the land beyond the deep. It is supposed to be of Norman or French origin, and its primitive spelling was "Loutre", or "Louthre" - meaning otter or native; and in the ancient chronicles of the family (in the "Old World") it is said to be frequently met with in this form to-day. But, however this may have been, they came over to England with William the Conqueror, from Normandy in France, during the autumn of 1066, and have ever since laid claim to Brittish soil, though (from here) they have scattered to Ireland and to various other climes. They are distinctively connected with the North of England, where they own large possessions to-day.

Sir William Lowther was the prime minister of William the III, about the year 1695, and was subsequently created first Viscount of Lonsdale; and Sir James Lowther, a very well-known member of the family, who married the daughter of Lord Bute (the first prime minister of George the III), was made the first Earl of Lonsdale, near 1760, and the present Earl (of Lonsdale) in his direct descendant.

Another head of the family, William, Earl of Lonsdale, was Postmaster-General and President of the Council in the second Beaconsfield's first government in 1866; and the Honorable William Lowther, who still survives at the age of eighty-eight years, occupied a seat in the House of Commons, from Westmoreland county, for a quarter of a century, and his son, the Right Honorable James William Lowther (to

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whom we are indebted for this information), has been in Parliament for twenty-seven years, and is now th speaker of the House of Commons.

All down the centuries the name has been associated with the public affairs of Great Britain, and John Langton Sanford and Meredith Townsend in their "Great Governing Families of England", say:
"The history of the Lowthers is that of immense and almost unbroken civil success. Though they date from the earliest feudal period and possess to this time a power more nearly feudal than that of any other family in England, except the Perceys and the Wynnes, they would be defined on the continent as belonging rather to the peerage of the robe than the nobility of the sword. A race of proud, sensitive, and singularly efficient men, they have filled high offices as lawyers, battled bravely as politicians, and performed, once or twice, good service as ministers of the State. From 1300, for five hundred years, there never sat a parliament which was not attended by a Lowther or a Lowther's direct nominee".

The first record that we have of the family in the Western world is in the Pennsylvania colony, on October 22 and 23, 1681, when William Penn granted five thousand acres of land to William Lowther and his sister, Margaret, near "Simpson Tract". They were the son and the daughter of Armstrong Lowther, of York county, England, and their mother was a sister of William Penn. William married Kathrine Preston, and had a son, Thomas Lowther. Margaret became Mrs. Benjamin Poole, and their daughter was Mrs. Richard Nicholson.

But Col. William Lowther was not a lineal descendant of this Pennsylvania family, as some mistakenly think. His parents, Robert and Aquilla Reese Lowther, crossed to America (from Ireland) near the year 1738, and settled in Albermarle county, Virginia. They later removed to the South Branch of the Potomac river, in what is now the Eastern Panhandle of this State, and finally to Hacker's creek, where their lives came to a close.

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They had quite a family of children, but only part of their names are at our command; viz. Thomas, Henry, Jonathan, Joel and William.

Thomas and Jonathan were killed by the Indians. Henry returned to his home in Albermarle county, after lending a hand in the erection of the early forts in Harrison county. Joel probably died in Harrison county, where he settled, and William is the hero of this drama.

COL. WILLIAM LOWTHER was born in Albermarle county, Virginia, in 1742, not long after the arrival of the family in the colonies; and in his early twenties, he was married to Miss Sudna Hughes, sister of Jesse and Elias, the marriage taking place at the home of the Hughes, on the South branch of the Potomac, in what is now Hardy county, near the year 1763; and here, not far from the beautiful old town of Moorefield, they established their home and remained until they removed to Harrison county, in June, 1773. The date of their removal being marked by the birth of their fourth son, Jesse, who is said to have come upon the stage just six weeks after the family reached their new home (in Harrison county), and his natal day was July 21, 1773.

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Col. Lowther had, however, figured in the erection of Simpson's fort, near eight miles below Clarksburg, and West's fort, near Jane Lew, before this time. He played an important part, too, in the conostruction of the "Old Nutter" fort, near Clarksburg, ruins of which still mark the site.

He soon became distinguished for his fearlessness as a frontiersman, and for his unselfish devotion to the welfare of the colonists; was one of the most capable defenders of the settlement in the war of 1774 (and subsequently) and many a successful expedition did he lead against the enemy. He was the first Justice of the Peace in the district of West Augusta; the first Sheriff of Harrison and Wood Counties, and was at one time a member of the General Assembly at Richmond, Virginia. Having served in all the subordinate ranks of military life, he rose to that of Colonel. (Was commissioned Major by General George Rogers Clarke in 1781) "Despising the pomp and pageantry of office", he accepted it only for the good of his country.

On a balmy day in the latter part of October (28) 1814, he passed from earth at his old home near West Milford. The old cabin that had sheltered him through so many eventful years was the scene of his closing hours, and not far away on his own homestead he lies in his eternal sleep. He died rich in love and esteem of the countrymen that he had so faithfully served, and it is said that his name has been handed down to their descendants "hallowed by their blessings".

A pathetic little incident that has been preserved in the family says that when he died his devoted old darkey, "Tobe",

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was seen standing by the fence near the cabin weeping over his loss; and that when this old servant was done with earth, he was laid at his master's feet and a dog-iron was placed at his grave; and to this day this iron is in-tact and serves as a positive mark for Col. Lowther's grave, whose inscription is no longer legible.

After his death, his wife, Sudna, came to this county and made her home with her son, Elias Lowther, on the Flannahan farm, above Berea. Here, near the year 1829, she died, and in one corner of the Flannagan burying-ground she lies at rest. Jonathan C. Lowther, her only surviving grandson, remembers seeing her lowered here. He was born in 1819, and thinks that he must have been a lad of near ten years at the time. He cannot recall her features, but says that she was quite small in stature.

Their family consisted of five sons only; viz. Robert, Thomas, William, Jesse and Elias Lowther, all of whom have a long line of descendants, which are scattered throughout the Union.

It may be of interest in this connection to note that an old cross-cut saw that was once the property of Co. Lowther is now in the hands of his great-grandson, J.M. Lowther, of Auburn. He purchased this saw at Winchester, Virginia, and carried it on horseback to Clarksburg, (West) Virginia, where it was used in sawing timber for the old "Nutter fort", which served as a place of refuge for the inhabitants of the West fork river during Lord Dunmore's war, which antedates the Revolution.

An heirloom in the form of an old land grant which was made to Col. Lowther, on June 8, 1785, and signed by Patrick Henry, on November 14, 1786, while he was Governor of Virginia, is now a cherished possession of the writer. This grant is written upon parchment and conveys two hundred twenty acres to the Colonel on the West fork river, in Harrison county, "which includes his settlement". (Hence our proof of his early settlement at Milford.)

What a mantle of historic interest clusters about these silent remnants of the past how sacred they seem to us! As one gazes upon the signature of this renowned orator with

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a feeling of awe and reverence, through the phonograph of years comes a voice of eloquence proclaiming the immortal words that must ever be the sentiment of the true American heart, "Give me liberty or give me death"!

Col. Lowther's military record is such as to admit his descendants to membership in the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. Mrs. Iva Lowther Peters, of Fishkill, New York, his grand-daughter, several generations removed, and her brother, Earle, having been recently admitted to these societies on his record.

Descendants of Col. Lowther. - Robert Lowther, the eldest son, whose natal day was October 1, 1765, married Miss Kathrine Cain, sister of John Cain, the Slab creek pioneer, and settled on the portion of the old homestead, given him by his father. But at the death of Col. Lowther, he inherited that part of the estate which included the "old cabin", and here, on November 16, 1832, he came to his death by a fall from this cabin while engaged in re-roofing it. His wife, who was born on October 27, 1766, died here on March 25, 1851, and side by side they lie at rest in the old family burying-ground shown in the picture.

They were the parents of five sons and three daughters; William B., Jesse G., Robert, junior, John, James K., Kathrine, Susan and Mary Lowther.

William B. married Miss Margaret Coburn, and was identified with the South fork settlers in this county.

Jesse G., who settled near West Milford, was first married to Miss Nancy Swisher, and ten children were the result of this union. His second wife was Miss Wady Knight, and the two children of this marriage were: the late Dr. Jesse G. Lowther, a well known practitioner of Wirt, Wood and this county; and the late Mrs. Nancy Lowther, of Wirt county. He died at West Milford, on August 25, 1870, at the age of eighty years, and sleeps in the family burying-ground there.

Robert, junior, married Miss Eliza Highland and settled on the old homestead, near West Milford, where he reared three sons and two daughters.

John, who was a prominent medical practitioner, married Miss Elizabeth Pritchard, and lived and died at Clarksburg;

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and the only child of this marriage was the late Evan Lowther, of that city, who died without issue.

James K. married Miss Lydia Knight, and principally spent his life within the walls of the old ancestral cabin, where he died at the age of niney-five years. He had two sons and three daughters, and one of these daughters, Talitha, the last survivor of the family died (unmarried) at the old home, on February 25, 1910.

Kathrine married Thomas Ireland, and they were the first settlers at the mouth of the Middle fork on Highes river, in this county.

Susan became Mrs. Abraham Morrison, and principally spent her life on Brown's creek, in Harrison county. Her family consisted of three daughters, who have all crossed the tide.

Mary Lowther was married to her cousin, William J. Lowther (son of Jesse), and came to this county and settled near Oxford.

Thomas Lowther (the second son of Col. William) was born on March 7, 1767, but his history is rather obscure. However, he married Miss Mary Coburn, and settled on the land given him by his father, near West Milford, and reared a small family. He is said to have died before he had scarcely reached the meridian of life of a malady that the physicians of to-day would term appendicitis; he having undergone a surgical operation without an anesthetic. Tradition says that he was a snake-charmer, that he could wield such power over a poisonous reptile as to be able to handle it without harm to himself. He, too, rests in the family burying-ground on the old homestead.

He was the father of Jesse Lowther, the Cornwallis pioneer; of Elias, an early settler at Webb's mill; of Robert, of Doddridge county; and of one daughter, Mary or Polly, who is said to have married a man by the name of West, of near Jane Lew. (Another source of information says her married name was White.)

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Thomas' descendants in this county are not nearly so numerous as those of the other sons, but they are not a few, however. Among them are Mrs. Matilda McGregor, of Cairo, a granddaughter; Mrs. James Rexroad, Mrs. Emma Lee, the late Mrs. F.S. Moyer and the late Mrs. W.E. Hill, great granddaughters.

William Lowther, the third son of Col. William, was born on the South branch of the Potomac river, not far from Moorefield, on January 27, 1769; and when he was yet in the "frocks of babyhood", his parents removed to Harrison county, and here in the "hot bed" of savage warfare, he grew to manhood.

Though uneducated, he was a man of marked intelligence, and his memory was a veritable stor-house of poineer lore, and of interesting reminiscences of Indian times; for ofter, when a lad, he accompanied his father on his expeditions against the dusky foe, and was an eye witness to the conflict (between the whites and the Indians), at the famous rock at the mouth of Indian run, in 1784, he being then but fifteen years of age. And in after life when listening to a recital of these stirring days from the "Chronicles of Border Warfare," he would often stop the reader in order to correct some misstatement of the historian, so clear, and so retentive was his memory.

Near the year 1789, he was married to Miss Margaret Morrison, who was born on the banks of the Yadkin river, in North Carolina, on May 1, 1768, and with her parents emigrated to Harrison county in her early womanhood. After their marriage, they settled near one mile below West Milford, on the farm that is now owned by the Highlands. Here they reared their family, and here they remained until near the year 1837, when they came to this county, where they spent the evening hours of their lives with their son, Archibald Lowther, at Holbrook.

At one time, near the year 1797, Mr. Lowther went to Ohio for the purpose of seeking a home, and while on the

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Muskingham river, he helped to rear the first cabin where the City of Zanesville now stands, but owing to the prevalence of "fever and ague" in this section, he returned to his home satisfied to remain at West Milford.

Mrs. Lowther was a woman of devout religious character, a Presbyterian in faith, and her old Bible, which was her daily companion, is now in the hands of the writer. It bears the date of "1790", and is still held together by the old leather string that she ever kept about it. Mr. Lowther never made a profession of religion, but his last audible words were a prayer, a most earnest appeal to the Infinite Father of love and mercy. She passed away on May 13, 1850, and he, on November 26, 1857. Both lie at rest in the Lowther burying-ground, near Holbrook, surrounded by the dust of five generations of their descendants.

They were the parents of twelve children, six of whom reached the years of maturity. Five of them married and four of that five were heads of pioneer families of this county.

Alexander, the eldest son (born January 14, 1791), married Miss Sarah Ireland, and was the pioneer of Oxford.

Sudna (born on April 10, 1792), became Mrs. George Willard, and came to this county in pioneer days. (See Middle fork chapter)

William (born on October 31, 1793) married Miss Melicent Maxwell and settled at Cairo.

Robert (born on May 24, 1795) settled in Jackson county.

Rebecca (born on December 20, 1802) died in 1885, unmarried.

Archibald (born on May 17, 1811) the youngest of the family) married Miss Charlotte Willard and lived and died at Holbrook.

Mary (born December 12, 1797), Margaret (born September 27, 1806), Sarah (born September 3, 1800), Elias (born Decembr 27, 1806), Kathrine (born September 21, 1809), all died in childhood; and Jesse (born September 21, 1805) in youth.

Robert, the one member of the family (of William and Margaret Morrison Lowther) that did not come to this county,

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married Miss Mary Hattabough, a native of Kent county, Delaware, who was born on November 2, 1792. The marriage took place near the year 1809, and they remained in Harrison county until some time in the thirties, when they removed to Jackson county, where they died, and where many of their descendants still live. He was a lawyer by profession and was the first resident barrister of Jackson county. He helped to survey the pretty town of Ripley, and almost beneath its shadow his ashes lie. Mrs. Lowther died on July 1, 1851, and he followed her to the grave on April 22, 1856.

Their children were as follows: the late Andrew H. Lowther (1810-1863), of Wirt county; Harriet (1817-1845), the late Mrs. John H. Wetzel, of Ripley; William Wirt (1820), who died at the age of eighteen years while attending college in Indiana; Agnes (B. 1822), who died in infancy; Minerva (1823-1901), the late Mrs. Joseph Smith, of Ripley; Margaret (1826-1899) was the late Mrs. Henry Harpold, of Baltimore; Mary (1828-1899) died at Baltimore, unmarried, and Edward Duncan (1828-1899), who died at Ripley, unmarried.

The Morrison. - Margaret Morrison Lowther, as above stated, was a native of North Carolina. Her father, Archibald Morrison, and his brother, who were of Scotch-Irish birth, emigrated from England to America some time before the Revolution, and settled on the Yadkin river, in North Carolina. Here he married a Miss Fooks, and at the breaking out of the war in 1775, when he enlisted as a soldier in the Continental army, he became separated from his brother, and never heard of him again. But near the year 1788, Archibald Morrison removed from North Carolina to West Milford, in Harrison county, and here he and his wife sleep.

His sons were Alexander, John and William, who rest in Harrison county, where some of their descendants live; Archibald, junior, lies in Ohio; Marshall Reese, in California; Margaret Lowther, and Susan, whose married name is unknown to us, were two of the daughters.

Alexander married Miss Margaret Brake and settled on Hacker's creek in 1824. He was a soldier of the war of 1812, and a curiosity in the form of a briar-root cane, which he

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brought from North Carolina, and upon which he carved the head and face of a man, is still in the family.

Alexander Morrison's son, James Monroe Morrison, was commissioned Lieutenant-General of the U.S. Militia by President Lincoln. He married Miss Sarah Jane Bennett, and they were the parents of the Rev. U.W. Morrison, of the West Virginia Protestant conference.

Jesse Lowther (the fourth son of Col. William) was born on July 21, 1773, six weeks after the arrival of the family in Harrison county. He is said to have been the first white male child born on Harrison county soil.

Near the year 1790, when he was but a boy, he was married to Miss Mary Ragan, a rosy-cheeked Dutch girl, who was born on December 25, 1770, and settled where West Milford now stands. Mrs. Lowther was the daughter of a Revolutionary soldier, and the sister of Mrs. Alexander Ireland, senior. In 1797, they removed from Wes Milford to the Ohio river, and established a home on Neal's Island, four miles below Parkersburg, but they returned to their old home at West Milford, after a few years, where he died in October, 1854. After his death, his wife, Mary, came to this county, and spent the closing years of her life with her daughter, Mrs. William Hall, at Pullman. Here she fell asleep, in April, 1857, and in the Pullman churchyard she lies at rest. Her husband sleeps in the family burying-ground near West Milford.

The writer now has a cane which was once the property of Jesse Lowther, and one which he presented to his brother William. Upon this piece of antiquity is a silver plate which bears the initials of his name "J.L.".

The children of this family were eleven in number; William, the eldest (born in 1791), married his cousin, Mary or Polly Lowther, and settled at Oxford.

Mary Ann was the wife of William Hall, an early settler of the Oxford vicinity.

Sallie married William Norris, and resided on the South fork for a brief time in pioneer days, then removed to Gilmer county.

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Margaret married William L. Mitchell,and died at West Milford. She was the mother of Virginia, the late wife of William I. Lowther, of Pullman; of Margaret, wife of Lewis Maxwell, juior, formerly of this county, but now of Gilmer; of Mrs. Mary Hickman of the West; of William, Cyrus, Madison B., Robert, and Lafayette Mitchell, all of whom have passed on, except Robert and William.

Jesse, junior, who was a physician, went West, finally to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he died. Uriah died in youth.

Dr. Robert married Mrs. Ellen Stringer Huffman, and located at Weston, and from there migrated to Mississipppi, where he died after a nine days' illness of fever. His wife soon followed him to the grave from a broken heart, and the half-brother brought the two little sons, aged four and six years, back to their grandfather, Jesse, near the year 1839. Daniel was educated at Lexington and West Point, and after finishing his college work, came to Harrisville, where he opened a law office, and where he died a few months later, in 1856. William, who was also a lawyer, went to Texas, where he met his death at the hands of a man that he had decided a case against. Huffman, who was a colonel in the Confederate army, and who lost a leg in the cause, died at Clarksburg, unmarried.

Sudna married Armstrong Maxwell and lived and died at West Milford. The members of this family were: Marianne, who married Jesse Lowther (but we can't say what number), Mrs. Millie M. (John) Racey, Mrs. Anna L. (Wm.) Stephens, Mrs. Sudna A. Mitchell, of Gilmer county; Marcellus Maxwell, of Nelsonville, Ohio; and Irwin and William, who have passed on; and Miss Julia Maxwell, of West Milford.

Elizabeth Lowther married Conrad Kester and died in Lewis county, where many of her descendants live.

Drusilla became Mrs. Bradbury Morgan, of Zanesville, Ohio; and Millie was Mrs. Daniel Wyer, of Woodsfield, Ohio.

Elias Lowther, who was born on Neal's Island, in 1801, during the residence of the family there, was married to Miss Selina McWhorter, daughter of Thomas McWhorter, and

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spent his last hours at Palestine, in Wirt county, though he resided at various other points in the state.

He was the father of the following named children: McDuffy and Calhoun (twins), Thomas W., Cammillius, Elias H., John M., who was killed at Elizabeth during the Civil War; Columbia V. (Mrs. John Edwards), Mary M. (Mrs. P.W. Morgan, of Jackson county), all of whom have crossed the tide; and Jesse and Granville S., of Braxton county; Henry M., of Kentucky; W.H. H., of Parkersburg; Mrs. Celina J. (Amos) Lowther, Wirt county, are the surviving members, and they are all well advanced in years. Mrs. J.E. Burns, of Auburn, belongs to this family, she being the daughter of Jesse, and granddaughter of Elias.

Elias Lowther (the fifth and youngest son of Col. William) came upon the stage during the din of the American Revolution. He was born in the old cabin, shown in the picture, on September 16, 1776, and married Miss Rebecca Coburn, sister of his brother Thomas' wife, and remained in his native county until 1820, when he came to this county and erected the first cabin of the Zimri Flannagan farm, above Berea. He was at one time a member of the Richmond Legislature from Harrison county, and was major in the militia. During the latter part of his life he lost his mind, and his last years were spent in the insane hospital at Staunton, Virginia, where he was laid to rest near the year 1845.

His wife, who was born in Harrison county, on December 11, 1779, died a few years later at the home of her son, J.C. Lowther, at the mouth of Otterslide, and on the Flannagan homestead she lies in her last sleep.

Their children were as follows:

Peggy died in youth; Decatur was drowned in the millpond at Berea.

Jesse M. married Miss Lucinda Hall, daughter of William Hall, and spent his last hours near Berea.(See Hall family)

William went to Ohio. Sarah was Mrs. George Starkey, of Harrison county. Elizabeth married Robert Hammond and went to Ohio. Mary was the wife of Thomas Pritchard, of Slab creek. (See later chapter). Dorinda was Mrs. Zibba

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Davis of Otterslide; and Jonathan C. Lowther of Berea, the only survivor of the family is the youngest son.

He is now (1910) ninety-one years of age,and is active as a boy, being able to jump up and crack his heels together. He enjoys the distinction of being the only surviving grandson of Col. Lowther. (See Otterslide for his family.)

The Hugheses. - The Hugheses are of Welsh origin. Family tradition tells us that they crossed the deep with the Lowthers and settled in Albemarle county, Virginia; and that Thomas Hughes removed from there to the South branch of the Potomac river, in what is now Hardy county, and from thence to Harrison county, near the year 1772 or 1773, where he found a home on Hacker's creek. One day during the latter part of April, 1778, while at work in the field, he and Jonathan Lowther were shot down by the stealthy foe. The others who were with them managed in some way to escape injury.

Thomas Hughes was the father of quite a family of children, among whom were Jesse, Thomas, junior, Elias, Job, James, Charles, Sudna, Martha, and another daughter who married Joseph Bibbee, of Jackson county.

Job Hughes married Miss Mary Harn, of Harrison county, in 1791, and later removed to Jackson county, where he rests.

Thomas, junior, who was born in 1754, was lieutenant of a company of Indian spies, at one time. He settled on the West Fork river, in Harrison county, in 1775, but afterwards removed to Jackson county, where he died in October, 1837. He had one son, Thomas, and here our knowledge ends, though there are doubtless many of his descendants in that part of the State to-day.

Of the history of James and Charles, we know nothing, other than that they figured in Indian warfare, and James was among the party that encountered the savages at the time that Macfarlan and Dutchman got their names.

Sudna was the wife of Col. William Lowther.

Martha married Samuel Bonnett, and lived and died on Hacker's creek, in what is now Lewis county. Her sons were Lewis, the Rev. Henry Bonnett, of the Methodist Protestant church, and Elias Bonnett; and one daughter, Susan, married

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a Wagner; another, a Hinzman.

Lewis Bonnett was married to Miss Margaret Means, daughter of Robert Means (and aunt of Robert Means, of Calhoun county), and they were the parents of Henry Bonnett of Troy, and the grandparents of U.G. Bonnett, of Burnt House.

Jesse Hughes, the eldest son, whose history is of more moment to us, was born in the "Old Dominion", in 1750, and in early life, he was married to Miss Grace Tanner, sister of one of the pioneer settlers of Roane county, and near the year 1772, he came to Hacker's creek in Harrison county.

Two years after the discovery of the river that bears his name, we find him engaged in the awful struggle at Point Pleasant, but little else of value concerning his life is in our possession other than that he was a confirmed Indian hater, an intrepid leader, and a prominent border scout.

He resided near Jane Lew, in Lewis county, at one time on the small stream that still bears his name, "Jesse's run," and in a rural burying-ground in this section, strangers have been pointed to a low mound which is said to cover his silent dust, but this is in error. He died at the home of his son-in-law, George Hanshaw, at Ravenswood, in Jackson county, during the autumn of 1829, and near this town he lies in his last sleep. After his death, Mrs. Hughes made her home with her daughter, Mrs. Uriah Gandee, in Roane county, until her death, and in the Gandeeville cemetery, she reposes.

They were the parents of two sons and seven daughters: viz., Jesse, junior, William, Rachel (Mrs. William Cottrell), Martha (Mrs. Jacob Bonnett), Sudna (Mrs. Elijah Runner), Elizabeth (Mrs. James Stanley), Lucinda (Mrs. Uriah Sayre), Nancy (Mrs. George Hanshaw), and Massie, who married Uriah Gandee, the founder of Gandeeville, in Roane county. Mrs. Gandee was the last survivor of Jesse Hughes' family. She died in 1883 at the age of one hundred four years, and was laid in the Gandeeville cemetery by the side of her mother. James S. Gandee, of Higby, Roane county, her son, still survives; and the Hon. Frederick Gandee, of that county, is her grandson.

One of these daughters was captured by the Indians,

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but was rescued the following year and lived to a good old age, but we cannot say which one.

Jesse Hughes' name was ever associated with that of courage and daring, and he "lived many years to enjoy the peace and quietude that the hardships of his early life had so dearly bought". And the beautiful river that bears his name is a more fitting memorial than bronze or marble.

Elias Hughes was born on the South Branch of the Potomac river, in what is now Hardy county, West Virginia, in 1757, and with his parents and the rest of the family, removed to Harrison county in the early seventies.

He, too, served under the command of General Lewis at the battle of Point Pleasant and was one of the last survivors of this desperate conflict.

He had been born and reared in the midst of savage warfare, and his father and a young lady whom he ardently admired having been killed by the ruthless hand of the dusky foe, he vowed vengeance on the race, and the return to peace did not serve to mitigate his intense hatred.

In 1797, two years after General Wayne's treaty with the Indians, leaving his native hills (with one John Radcliffe), he went to Ohio and settled on the Muskingum river, and became the first settler in what is now Licking county; the scene of this settlement being in some old Indian cornfields, near five miles below the present site of Newark, Ohio.

"One night in April, 1800, not long after his arrival here, two Indians stole his and Radcliffe's horses from a small inclosure near their cabins and succeeded in getting away with them unobserved". But finding them missing in the morning, they, well-armed, and accompanied by a man by the name of Bland, set out in pursuit, following their trail in a northerly direction all day and camping in the forest at night; but at the dawn of the next day, they came upon them fast asleep and all unconscious of danger. Concealing themselves behind

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some trees, they waited until the Indians had awakened and were making preparation for their departure, when they drew their rifles to fire upon them; and just at that moment one of them, instinctively clapping his hands upon his breast, as if to ward off the fatal ball, exclaimed in tones of dismay, "Me bad Indian! me no do so more"! But the appeal was all in vain. "The smoke curled from the glistening barrels, the report rang out upon the morning air, and the poor Indians fell dead"! Recovering their horses and securing what plunder the savages had, they returned to their homes, swearing mutual secrecy for this violation of the treaty laws.

But one evening some time afterwards, when Hughes was sitting quietly in his cabin, he was startled by the entrance of two powerful and well-armed savages. Concealing his emotion, he bade them welcome and proffered them seats. His wife, a large muscular woman, stepping aside, privately sent for Radcliffe, whose cabin was near by; and presently Radcliffe, who had made a detour, entered with his rifle from an opposite direction, as if he had been out hunting, and found Hughes talking with his visitors about the murder with his scalping-knife and tomahawk in his belt, and his rifle, which he deemed imprudent to try to obtain, hanging from the cabin wall. There all night long sat the little party, mutually fearing each other, but neither being able to summon sufficient courage to stir; but when the morning dawned the savages withdrew, shaking hands and bidding adieu to their reluctant hosts, using every precaution in their retreat lest they should be shot by the daring borderers.

Elias Hughes was captain of a band of scouts in Indian times, and was a soldier of the war of 1812. He married Miss Jane Sleeth, who, doubtless, belonged to the same family of Sleeths who have a place in the Smithville chapter, and they were the parents of sixteen children. Mrs. Hughes died in 1827, and he passed away near Utica, Ohio, on December 22, 1844, in the hope of a "glorious immortality". Military honors and other demonstrations of respect were in evidence at his funeral, and near Utica he lies at rest.

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Two of his children died in youth, and the rest are as follows: Mrs. Margaret Jones, Mrs. Mary Foster, Mrs. Susana Leach, Mrs. Sudna Martin, Mrs. Jane Hight, Mrs. Sarah Davis, and Kathrine, who never married, were the daughters; and Job, Thomas, Henry, Elias, David, John and Jonathan Hughes were the sons.

Note.- While our resources for this chapter have been principally traditional, parts of it are already a matter of history, as the account of the "Explorations of the Streams" is to be found in "Hardesty's Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia of the Virginias", and other parts in the "Border Warfare" and the "History of Ohio", as mentioned in the foot notes.

To Josiah Hughes, of Roane county; Henry Bonnet, of Troy, and L.V. McWhorter, the historian of North Yakima, Washington, we owe our thanks for valuable Hughes data.

Return to Table of Contents


Chapter II
First Settlers in Ritchie County

Transcribed by Janet Waite.

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More than a quarter of a century had passed away after the discovery of Ritchie county before the coming of the first settlers.

This period had been marked by one of the most important epochs in the hisory of our country. The "Old Independence Bell had proclaimed liberty throughout the land to the inhabitants thereof;" the tyrannous scepter of George III had been withdrawn; and the "White Dove of Peace" had spread her downy wings "o'er a land of the free and the home of the brave".

A new era had dawned. Civilization had taken up a westward line of march, and near the close of the 18th century, Ritchie county was brought into notice by the construction of a State road from Clarksburg to Marietta, which for near forty years, was a leading thoroughfare between the East and the West; and along this road the pioneers erected their cabins, which served as "inns or taverns" for the convenience of travelers.

The first one of these cabins that came within the present boundary of Ritchie county was built by John Bunnell, near the beginning of the year 1800, on the site that is now marked by the thriving town of Pennsboro. Hence the originof the name of the stream near by, "Bunnell's run", which serves as an enduring memorial, although we have been unable to learn "from whence he came or whither he went."

Mr. Bunnell sold his possessions here to John Webster, of New England, who, early in the nineteenth century, built the "Stone house" at the western end of Pennsboro, which became the property of James Martin, in 1815, and remained in the hands of his heirs until the autumn of 1908, when it was purchased by A.J. Ireland.

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Mr. Webster went to Texas and there met his death at the hands of the Indians.

Though the "tenement house" of the builder has long since been silent dust, this historic old mansion has withstood the storms of a century, and still stands, in good preservation, as a monument to his memory.

[ NOTE OF INTEREST: The Old Stone House Mansion is the 
present day home of the Ritchie County Historical Soceity
. ]

George Husher, whose settlement closely followed that of Bunnell, was the next settler in Ritchie county, but his history will be found in the Bond's creek chapter.

Lawrence Maley. - During the early springtime of the year 1803, Lawrence Maley, a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian, built the first cabin in what is now Union district, one mile east of Harrisville, on the farm that is designated as the "Cannon," but better known to the older citizens, as the Mrs. Ann Harris homestead.

Having a wife and eight children, the eldest, a son, twenty one years of age, and finding it necessary to clear a cornfield at once, he built a rude shelter, by driving stakes in the ground, and peeling popular bark for a roof, upon the bank of the river nearly opposite the residence of Grandison Wolfe, which served for a dwelling until the corn had been planted, when he erected a better one, near the present site of the Cannon residence.

His nearest neighbor was then at Pennsboro, but others

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soon found their way into this wilderness, and a settlement was formed, which, for forty years, was known as the "Maley settlement".

Mr. Maley was the paternal grandfather of Ritchie county's most distinguished son, the late General T.M. Harris, and he was a native of Southern Ireland, the son of an Irish nobleman.

He, being one of the younger sons of the family, was committed to the care of his mother's brother, a Catholic priest, to be trained, perhaps, for the priesthood; and finding life very unpleasant under such circumstances, he ran away and came to America, near the close of the Revolutionary war.

Landing in Philadelphia, he drifted into the counrty near by, where he became associated with a family of Seceders by the name of Harper (The Seceders were one of a numerous body of Presbyterians who seceded from the communion of the established church in Scotland in 1733), an association which resulted in his marriage to Miss Agnes Harper, a little later.

Mrs. Maley inherited a small dowery from her father's estate, which she exchanged with a man in Philadelphia, for a thousand acres in what is now the Harrisville vicinity, in 1795; and she and her husband, with their family and possessions, started at once to take charge of this new acquisition; but when they reached Harper's Ferry, after a long and perilous journey over the mountains, learning of the hostility of the Indians in this section, they changed their course, and went to the Shenandoah valley, where they remained, in Rockbridge county, until they came to Ritchie, in 1803.

Mr. Maley did not long survive the hardships of this wilderness life, and in 1808, he filled the first grave that was "hollowed out" in the old "Pioneer cemetery", on the Cannon farm, one mile northeast of Harrisville. His wife rests by his side.
Their children were as follows:
William, Thomas and Mrs. Mary McCoy, all of Illinois; Dr. Samuel, James and John, of Iowa; Mrs. Agnes (John) Harris and Miss Margaret Maley, who lie sleeping in the Harrisville cemetery.

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Mrs. Harris, widow, of the late General Harris, is a granddaughter of this distinguished settler.

The Stuarts and Wilkinsons. - The next pioneers in this vicinity were George and Joseph Stuart, two brothers, and Joseph Wilkinson, son-in-law of the latter, who, with their families, came from Harrison county, in 1805.

Mr. Wilkinson settled on the late Isaiah Wells homestead, Joseph Stuart, at the mouth of Stuart's run, and George Stuart, on the farm that soon after passed into the hands of Thomas Harris, and on which the beautiful town of Harrisville now stands.

Mr. Wilkinson only survived a few years after his settlement, and his remains filled the second grave that was made in the "Pioneer cemetery". He married Miss Nancy Stuart, daughter of Joseph, and was the father of three children: Elizabeth, the only daughter, died in youth, and the two sons, Calvin and Ezekial, went to California.

After his death, Mrs. Wilkinson married Nicholas Shrader, and in the Indian creek Baptist churchyard, she sleeps.

JOSEPH STUART married Miss Margaret Sparks, of Harrison county, and was the father of ten children. He lost his life by the falling of a lumber kiln, while erecting the first store house at Harrisville, and he, too, rests in the "Pioneer cemetery" there. After his death, the family, losing their land in this section, removed to Goose creek.
His children were as follows:
Mrs. Nancy Wilkinson Shrader, Mrs. Elizabeth (Abel) Sinnett, Mrs. Margaret (Thomas) Stout, and Belinda and Rachel, who died unmarried; and Stephen, John, George, Joseph and William Stuart, all of Ritchie county, except for Stephen and John, who went West.

Among the grandchildren of this pioneer who are residents of the county at this time, are Mrs. Lawson Hall, Auburn; Mrs. Lewis Hammer and Mrs. Belinda Hill, Washburn, and perhaps numerous others.

GEORGE STUART married Miss Hannah Harris, daughter of Thomas Harris, and in the Harrisville vicinity they both died. We have been unable to get a list of the names of their

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children, but Mrs. Hannah Jones and Mrs. Sarah Calhoun of Oxford, are some of their descendants.

LEVI WELLS. - Shortly after the coming of the Stuarts, Ashabel Wilkinson made the first settlement on the Dr. William M. Rymer estate; and this same year, 1805, brought Levi Wells with his wife, three sons and two daughters, from Fayette county, Pennsylvania, to the late George Sinnett homestead. Soon after his arrival, the first marriage took place in the settlement, when his daughter, Nancy, became the wife of William Maley.

In 1815, Mr. Wells changed his place of residence to the Pennsboro vicinity, and Patrick Sinnett became the second owner of this farm, which is still in the hands of his heirs, it being the home of his granddaughter, Miss Virginia Sinnett.

Mr. Wells later removed to the Kanawha river, and from him the Elizabeth Wellses are descended.

The Sinnetts - Patrick Sinnett, with his large family, came from Pendleton county, (West) Virginia. He was a typical son of the "Old Erin", having been born there near the middle of the eighteenth century. He had been one of the King's waiters for seven years before coming to America in his young manhood; and finding such service very distasteful, he one day wandered down to the harbor just as a vessle was ready to set sail for the Colonies, and without further deliberation, stepped on board and turned his face toward the Occident. When he landed on these shores, he found himself penniless in a land of strangers, and was sold for his fare, and was compelled to work for three years to cancel the debt, so unjust were the laws, and so unmerciful were the executors at that age of the world.

He served as a soldier in Lord Dunmore's war, being under the direct command of General Lewis at the battle of Point Pleasant; and he also served as an American soldier in the Revolutionary war, which closely followed.

He married Miss Kathrine Hefner, a German lady, and was the father of eleven children. He died at the great age of one hundred five years, some time in the fifties, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Adam Cunningham, junior, on

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the farm that is now the estate of the late Charles Moyer, and here, beside his wife, he sleeps.

His descendants in this county are a host, and, like he, many of them are remarkable for their longevity.

His children were all born in Pendleton county, and were as follows: John, William, Seth, Abel, Henry, Jacob, George, Elizabeth, Sarah, Kathrine, and Phebe.

William and Seth went to Ohio; Henry remained in Pendleton county; and the rest all came to this county; but Kathrine and Phebe both married Chancellors and afterwards went West; Elizabeth became Mrs. James Drake, and Sarah, Mrs. Adam Cunningham, junior, and they with their brothers, John, Abel, Jacob and George, were all the heads of well known pioneer families of this county; but their histories will be found in other parts of this work, all with the exception of George, who succeeded his father on the old homestead.

GEORGE Sinnett was born in Pendleton county, on March 17, 1799, and with his parents came to this county in 1815; and, near five years later, he was married to Miss Mary Rexroad, daughter of Henry Rexroad, and on the old homestead, where he died in 1896, at the great age of ninety-seven years, he spent his entire life.

Having given birth to six children, his wife, Mary, passed away, and in 1843, he was again married to Miss Salome Heaton, daughter of John Heaton, senior, who was born in 1814; and three daughters were the result of this union; viz., Harriet C., Virginia and Josephine. Harriet is the wife of Sheriff John Hulderman, and Josephine is Mrs. "Vel" McDougal, and Virginia is single.

The children of his first marriage were:
Catherine (born in 1822), who married Addison Rexroad; Samuel (born 1824), of King Knob; Hulda (born 1926), who became the wife of John S. Porter and went to some other State; Abel (born 1828), who went to Ohio; Elizabeth (born 1830) married John A. Lowther, of Oxford, and after his death, she became Mrs. Jacob Allender. She still survives. Mary T. (born 1832) became Mrs. Turner and went to Taylor county.

WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM. - The year 1806 was marked by

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the coming of William Cunningham, with his wife, Susana Barbara Handyshel Cunningham, and their ten children, from Culpepper county, Virginia, to the homestead of the late Noah Rexroad, now the property of E.C. Fox and S.M. Hoff.

Mr. Cunningham was one of the most noted pioneers of early days. He was born in Ireland on July 23, 1764, and when he was but a small boy, his parents emigrated to America and settled in Culpepper county, Virginia. He was a first cousin of Thomas Cunningham of Indian fame, and their fathers are said to have crossed the ocean at the same time. He served as a soldier during the latter part of the American Revolution, being then but a mere youth, and was a member of the victorious army at Yorktown, and a witness of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. And in honor of this defeated chieftain he named the town of Cornwallis, where he resided when the stations along the Baltimore & Ohio railroad were located.

When Harrisville was laid out for a town in 1822, he was suddenly seized with the idea of founding a town of his own and forthwith proceeded to have one laid out on the ridge where A.O. Wilson and D.B. Patton now reside, which he named "Williamsburg"; but Harrisville has long since swallowed up most of this proposed village.

He changed his place of residence to Cornwallis near the year 1840, and here he bade adieu to earth in 1863, at the ripe old age of ninety-nine years.

He gave the grounds for the Pioneer cemetery at Harrisville, and within its peaceful bosom his ashes lie. His wife also sleeps here, she having passed on in 1843. (She was of German descent.)

This burying-ground is no longer "a neglected spot", as the historian of a quarter of a century ago termed it, but it is now enclosed by an iron fence, the result of the late General Harris' labor of love.

Many of the pioneers slumber here, and despite the hardships they endured, the inscriptions bear silent testimony to the longevity of their lives.

William Cunningham's sons were: Elijah, James, William, junior, John, Isaac and Henry; and his daughters

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Mrs. Phebe (Jesse)