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The Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley
provided by A Heritage Enterprise-Your History Connection

Barbour County in the Civil War

Barbour County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 3, 1843 from parts of Harrison,Lewis, and Randolph counties. Most historians believe that the county was named in honor of the distinguished Virginia jurist Judge Philip Pendleton Barbour (1783-1841).

Philip Barbour was born in Orange County Virginia on May 25, 1783. He studied law, and, at the age of 17, moved to Kentucky to manage some business affairs for his father, Thomas Barbour. The businesses failed, and his father was reportedly so angry that he disowned him. Philip then took up the study of law once again and, at age 19, entered the College of William and Mary. He subsequently returned to Orange County and became a successful lawyer. He was later elected to the Virginia General Assembly (1812-1814), represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives (1814-1825, 1827-1830), and served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1821-1823). He later served as a Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (1830-1836) and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1836-1841) where he remained until his death on February 24, 1841.

Some historians believe that Barbour County was named for Philip's older brother, James Barbour (1775-1842). He was the Governor of Virginia (1812-1814), a member of the U.S. Senate (1815-1825), Secretary of War during John Quincy Adams' Administration (1825-1828), and the U.S. Envoy to Great Britain in 1828.

The First Settlers

The first native settlers in present-day northern West Virginia were the Mound Builders, also known as the Adena people. Remnants of the Mound Builder's civilization have been found throughout northern West Virginia, with a high concentration of artifacts located at Moundsville, West Virginia, just north of the county (in Marshall County). The Grave Creek Indian Mound, located in the center of Moundsville, is one of West Virginia's most famous historic landmarks. More than 2,000 years old, it stands 69 feet high and 295 feet in diameter.

According to missionary reports, several thousand Hurons occupied present-day West Virginia during the late 1500s and early 1600s. They were driven out of the state during the 1600s by members of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy (consisting of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca tribes, and joined later by the Tuscaroras tribe). The Iroquois Confederacy was headquartered in New York and was not interested in occupying present-day West Virginia. Instead, they used it as a hunting ground during the spring and summer months.

During the early 1700s, northern West Virginia, including present-day Barbour County, was used primarily as hunting grounds by the Ohio-based Shawnee, the Mingo, who lived in both the Tygart Valley and along the Ohio River northwest of Barbour County, the Delaware, who lived in present-day eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, but had several autonomous settlements as far south as present-day Braxton County, and the Seneca, one of the largest and most powerful members of the Iroquois Confederacy.

The Shawnee settled in villages along the Ohio River, primarily in the area between present-day Wood and Cabell counties. Following the construction of Fort Pitt in 1758 by the British, the Shawnee moved further in-land and built a series of villages along the Scioto River in southern Ohio. These villages were collectively known as Chillicothe and served as their base camp for hunting and fishing in present-day West Virginia.

The Mingo were not actually an Indian tribe, but a multi-cultural group of Indians that established several communities within present-day West Virginia. They lacked a central government and, like all other Indians within the region at that time, were subject to the control of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Mingo originally lived closer to the Atlantic Coast, but European settlement pushed them into western Virginia and eastern Ohio.

The Seneca was one of the largest and most powerful members of the Iroquois Confederacy. Headquartered in western New York, the Seneca were the closest member of the Confederacy to West Virginia, and took great interest in the state. In 1744, the Seneca boasted to Virginia officials that they had conquered the several nations living on the back of the great mountains of Virginia. Among the conquered nations were the last of the Canawese or Conoy people who became incorporated into some of the Iroquois communities in New York. The Conoy continue to be remembered today through the naming of two of West Virginia's largest rivers after them, the Little Kanawha and the Great Kanawha.

The Seneca, and other members of the Iroquois Confederacy, claimed all of present-day West Virginia as their own, using it primarily as a hunting ground. Also, war parties from the Seneca and other members of the Iroquois Confederacy often traveled through the state to protect its claim to southern West Virginia from the Cherokee. The Cherokee were headquartered in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee and rivaled the Iroquois nation in both size and influence. The Cherokee claimed present-day southern West Virginia as their own, setting the stage for conflict between them and the Iroquois Confederacy.

In 1744, Virginia officials purchased the Iroquois title of ownership to West Virginia in the Treaty of Lancaster. The treaty reduced the Iroquois Confederacy's presence in the Ohio River Valley.

During the mid-1700s, the English had made it clear to the various Indian tribes that they intended to settle the frontier. The French, on the other hand, were more interested in trade. This influenced the Delaware, Mingo, and Shawnee to side with the French during the French and Indian War (1755-1763). Although the Iroquois Confederacy officially remained neutral, many in the Iroquois Confederacy also allied with the French. Unfortunately for them, the French lost the war and ceded the all of its North American possessions to the British. The Mingo retreated to their homes along the banks of the Ohio River, and the Shawnee retreated to their homes at Chillicothe.

Although the war was officially over, many Indians continued to see the British as a threat to their sovereignty and continued to fight them. In the summer of 1763, Pontiac, an Ottawa chief, led raids on key British forts. Shawnee chief Keigh-tugh-qua, or Cornstalk, led similar attacks on western Virginia settlements in present-day Greenbrier County. By the end of July, Indians had captured all British forts west of the Alleghenies except Detroit, Fort Pitt, and Fort Niagara. Then, on August 6, 1763, British forces under the command of Colonel Henry Bouquet retaliated and destroyed Delaware and Shawnee forces at Bushy Run in western Pennsylvania, ending the hostilities.

Fearing more tension between Native Americans and settlers, England's King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. However, many land speculators, including George Washington, violated the proclamation by claiming vast acreage in western Virginia. The next five years were relatively peaceful on the frontier. In 1768, the Iroquois Confederacy (often called the Six Nations) and the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Hard Labour and the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, relinquishing their claims on the territory between the Ohio River and the Alleghenies to the British. With the frontier now open, settlers, once again, began to enter into present-day West Virginia.

During the American Revolution (1776-1783), the Mingo and Shawnee allied themselves with the British. In 1777, a party of 350 Wyandots, Shawnees, and Mingos, armed by the British, attacked Fort Henry, near present-day Wheeling. Nearly half of the Americans manning the fort were killed in the three-day assault. The Indians then left the Fort celebrating their victory. For the remainder of the war, smaller raiding parties of Mingo, Shawnee, and other Indian tribes terrorized settlers throughout northern West Virginia. As a result, European settlement in the region came to a virtual standstill until the war's conclusion. Following the war, the Mingo and Shawnee, once again allied with the losing side, returned to their homes. However, as the number of settlers in the region began to grow, and with their numbers depleted by the war, both the Mingo and the Shawnee moved further inland.

Earliest European Settlers

Richard Talbot, Cotteral Talbot, Charity Talbot, and their mother, were the first English settlers in present-day Barbour County. They arrived in 1780. Richard was then 16 years old, Cotteral was 18, and Charity was 20. They built a cabin about two miles northwest of the current county seat, Philippi, along the waters of what would later be called Hacker's Creek. They abandoned their cabin several times due to Indian uprisings, and twice had to leave the county entirely due to the treat of Indian raids. In 1788, Richard Talbot married Margaret Dowden, then 11 years old. They subsequently had 13 children together. His older brother, Cotteral Talbot, married Elizabeth Reger later that same year. Most of the two family's children remained in Barbour County and, for several generations, the Talbot family name was by far the most numerous in the county.

There have only been two recorded incidences of Indians attacking European settlers in Barbour County. The first occurred in either 1781 or 1782. John Gibson and his family, possibly the first settlers on Sugar Creek, were at their sugar camp when Indians surprised and attacked them. The Indians took the family prisoner and, before they had gone far, killed Mrs. Gibson in front of her children. One of her sons later escaped to tell the tale. He never found out what happened to the rest of his family.

The second incident occurred on the Buckhannon River, near Teter's Mill. Families living along the river had been warned of Indian attacks, but because Indians had not been sighted in the area for many years no one expected any trouble. John Bozarth Sr. and his sons, John and George, were drawing grain from the field to the barn when they heard screams coming from the house. George reached the house first. An Indian emerged from the house and fired a gun at George. The shot missed, but George fell to the ground, pretending to be hit. A few moments later, George's father reached the house. The Indian chased the man back toward the field, narrowing missing him with a tomahawk. While the Indian was chasing his father, George ran away in the other direction. As he was running, he found one of his younger brothers limping on a bad leg. Believing that if he stayed to help his younger brother to escape they would both be caught and killed, he left his younger brother to his fate. The Indians killed two of Mr. Bozart's youngest children, including the one with the hurt leg, and took Mrs. Bozarth and two of his sons captive. They were never heard from again.

Important events of the 1800s

The first meeting of the Barbour County court was held at William F. Wilson's home on April 3, 1843. At that time, there were twenty-one Justices of the Peace in the county, and all were present at the meeting. One of the first orders of business was to select a county clerk. Three candidates, Lair D. Morrall, Michael H. Nevil and Thomas Hall, were considered by the assembled Justices of the Peace, with Morrall receiving eleven votes, Nevil five, and Hall three, thus making Lair D. Morrall the county's first clerk.

The next order of business was to nominate a sheriff for referral to the governor. At that time, sheriffs had to have served as a Justice of the Peace. By tradition, the sheriff was whomever had served as a Justice of the Peace the longest. However, it was not clear if Isaac Booth or Joseph McCoy had served the longest as a Justice of the Peace in their former counties. An election was held, with Booth receiving two votes and McCoy receiving sixteen. Joseph McCoy was then recommended to the Governor for appointment.

The county court then selected three places to be used as polls in public elections: Jesse Phillips' home at Sandy Creek Cross Roads, Isaiah Welch's home on Elk Creek, and the County Court House.

In 1852, a covered bridge across the Tygart Valley River was built in Philippi. It was designed by Lemuel Chenoweth, from Beverly. When Mr. Chenoweth presented his plan he placed a wooden model of his bridge between two chairs facing each other and stood on it. "Gentlemen, this is all I have to say," is the only statement he made about his bridge, and he was hired. The bridge was 312 feet long, and made entirely of wood (except the steel bolts holding it together). During its construction typhoid fever broke out among the men working on it. Between fifteen and twenty of the workers were ill at the same time, and work almost halted because other workers could not be found.

The Philipi bridge was the first bridge captured during the Civil War. In 1863, the Union Army was going to burn it down, but Southern sympathizers in the town prevented it from happening. Sadly though, in 1989, an accidental fire almost completely destroyed the bridge. It was reconstructed, as close as possible to the original, and reopened in 1991. It is the only bridge of its kind on the national highway system.

Local legend has it that President Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, held a secret meeting at the bridge shortly after the Civil War began in a futile effort to end the conflict.

There were many southern sympathies in Barbour County. In January 1861, the Confederate flag was raised above the county court house. It remained there until Union troops, under the command of Colonel B.F. Kelley, occupied Philipi on June 3, 1861.

On March 7, 1861 a meeting was held at the county court house to discuss succession for the Union. Only one man, Spencer Dayton, a native of New England, rose to speak in favor of joining the Union. After attempting to speak, a gun was leveled at his chest, and he abruptly removed himself from the meeting by jumping through a court house window.

Fearing for their lives, a group of Unionists later held a secret meeting in Martin Myers Shoe Shop to elect delegates to the Wheeling Convention (a meeting held in Wheeling to decide whether to reorganize the state's government or to form a new state). The meeting was later called the "Shoe Shop Convention." During the meeting, the shop's windows were darkened, the doors were locked, and only enough candlelight was used to enable the clerk of the meeting to write his minutes.

Aware that Unionists had elected delegates to the Wheeling Convention, southern sympathizers posted guards at the end of the covered bridge in an attempt to prevent them from leaving the town. When the time came for the delegates to leave, the only one who would go was Spencer Dayton, the many who had jumped through the court house window to save his life. He waited until past midnight, hoping the sentries would be asleep by the time he came through. As he approached the bridge he whipped his horse to a full gallop and sped across this bridge and onto the turnpike towards Webster.

Although previous encounters between Confederate and Union troops had taken place at Gloucester Port, Baltimore and at Sewell's Point, the Battle of Philippi, on June 3, 1861, is said to have been the first significant land battle between the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War. In mid-May, 1861, Confederate Colonel George A. Porterfield arrived in Philippi with an army of 775 men (600 infantry and 175 cavalry). He then marched to Grafton, and after a very short occupation of the town, returned to Philippi. On the night of June 2 1861, two Union columns under the command of General Thomas A. Morris converged on the city from two different directions in an attempt to trap the Confederate troops. Colonel Benjamin F. Kelley led approximately 1,600 men over back roads from near Grafton to reach the rear of the town and Colonel Ebenezer Dumont led 1,450 men south from Webster. Dumont was the first to arrive. He established cannons on the hill overlooking the covered bridge and opened fire before dawn on June 3rd.. Kelly had barely reached the town's outskirts when he heard the sounds of attack. He rushed to join in, but his troops were approaching from the north and east, leaving the turnpike clear to the southwest. Outnumbered and without artillery, experienced officers, or reliable munitions, Porterfield was forced to call for an immediate retreat along the turnpike to Huttonsville. Thirty men lost their lives during the engagement, four from the Union Army, and 26 from the Confederate Army. Porterfield was immediately relieved of his command. He later demanded an inquiry and in it was praised for his coolness under fire, but criticized for his failure to take precautions against a surprise attack.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, almost all of the county's elected officials supported the South. Many of them left with Colonel Porterfield, or left by themselves soon after the battle. As a result, the county government stopped functioning for about five months (the county court adjourned on May 8, 1861 and did not reconvene until October 7, 1861). On October 27, 1861 elections were held to "fill vacancies." Lewis Wilson was elected county clerk, James Trahern was elected sheriff, Nathan H. Taft was elected prosecuting attorney, and Josiah L Hawkings and Samuel S. Lackney were elected assessors.

Philippi was, for all intents and purposes, deserted during the Civil War. The people who lived in the county avoided the town, preferring to stay in their homes. Most of those who lived in the town at the outbreak of the War moved out.

County Seat

Philippi was established as the Barbour County seat by the Act creating the county. However, the city had been around for a long time before that. The land where the city is now located was originally called "Anglin's Ford," after the land's owner, William Anglin. No record has been found of William Anglin before 1789, but it is very likely that he lived in the area as early as 1783 or 1784.

The land came into the possession of Daniel Booth around 1800. He had lived in the area since about 1787. After he gained possession of the land, it became know as "Booth's Ferry."

The town's current name, Philippi, was established by the Act forming the county. By that time, the land was owned by William F. Wilson. The county court was to be build on two acres of land that would be bought from, or donated by, Mr. Wilson. This was so the court would be near the ferry, and thus giving "convenient and easy access to the water."

Philippi was named in honor of the same Philip Pendleton Barbour that the county was named after. The town was originally called Phillippa, a Latinized version of Philip. However, because of misunderstandings and misspellings, the town came to be known as Philippi. The city was incorporated on February 1, 1871 by an act of Legislature.


Barbour County, West Virginia...Another Look. 1979. Philippi: The Barbour County Historical Society.

Maxwell, Hu. 1968. The History of Barbour County, West Virginia: From Its Earliest Exploration and Settlement

to the Present Time. Parsons: McClain Printing Company.

Rice, Otis K. 1985. West Virginia: A History. Lexington, KY: The University of Kentucky Press.

Williams, John Alexander. 1993. West Virginia: A History for Beginners. Charleston, WV: Appalachian Editions.

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