Upshur County

West Virginia


Formed in 1851 from Randolph, Barbour and Lewis counties and named for Abel Parker Upshur, distinguished statesman and jurist of Virginia.

County seat: Buckhannon

Elevation: 1,440

Area: 354.86 square miles

Leading industries and chief agricultural products: lumber, coal, natural gas, clothing; livestock, dairying, strawberries and corn.

Points of Interest: WV State Wildlife Center - French Creek Game Farm

Upshur County History

    Upshur County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 26, 1851 from parts of Barbour, Lewis and Randolph counties. The county was named in honor of Abel Parker Upshur (1790-1843).

    Abel Parker Upshur was born on June 17, 1790 in Northampton County, Virginia. He studied the law and was educated at Yale and Princeton Universities. He was admitted to the bar in Richmond in 1810. He practiced law there for 10 years and then moved back to Northampton. He served as a member of the Virginia General Assembly (1820-1826), a judge in the Virginia general court, and a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-1830. He then served as President John Tyler's Secretary of the Navy (1841-1843) and Secretary of State (1843). He was killed when a new cannon accidently exploded on board the steamer Princeton at Mount Vernon, Virginia on February 28, 1843. Thomas Walker Gilmer, the Secretary of the Navy and the namesake of Gilmer County, was also killed in the explosion. President Tyler was present for the testing of the new gun, but survived the explosion.

    Samuel and John Pringle were the first Englishmen to set foot on the present site of Upshur County. They reached the present county in 1762, after deserting their post at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) in 1761. They lived in the county for about three years, just a short distance from the present site of Buckhannon. It was said that they lived in the hallow of a giant sycamore tree. With their ammunition nearly exhausted, John Pringle returned to the South Branch River settlements for supplies around 1765 and discovered that the Indian wars had ended and that they were no longer wanted men. John returned to the county to inform his brother of the good news and the two of them then moved back to the South Branch River settlements. In 1769, Samuel Pringle, his wife Charity (Cutright) Pringle, and several other families returned to the Buckhannon area. Among the new settlers were John and Elizabeth Jackson and their sons, George and Edward, Thomas Hughes and John Cutright.

    Buckhannon, the county seat, was legally established on January 15, 1816 on the lands of Robert Patton, Jr. The town is named for Delaware Indian Chief Buck-on-ge-ha-non, who was known as the George Washington of the Delaware Indians. His favorite hunting grounds were located near the present city. The land on which the town was formed was owned by Elizabeth Cummings Jackson. Her son, Colonel Edward Jackson, platted the town in 1815. His grandson was Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, the famous General who served under the command of Robert E. Lee in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The town was incorporated by the Virginia General Assembly in 1852.

Upshur County, West Virginia

The following description is from Hardesty's 1883:

Prior to the year 1784, the territory now composing the county of Upshur was a part of Monongalia county, but in that year it became a part of Harrison, and as such remained until 1787, when a portion of it was taken to form Randolph county. The remainder continued to be a part of Harrison until 1816, when another portion was cut off to form a portion of the new county of Lewis In 1843 Barbour was formed and the remainder was included in that county. Eight year' passed away and the people became wearied with long jaunts to Beverly, Weston and Philippi to attend court. Accordingly a petition was circulated, numerously signed and sent to Richmond, praying the general assembly to provide for the formation of a new county. The prayer was heard with favor, and on the 26th day of March, 1851, that body passed a bill entitled "An act to establish the county of Upshur out of parts of the counties of Randolph, Barbour and Lewis." Thus was the new county checkered on the map of Virginia.

The act provided that "so much of the counties of Randolph, Barbour and Lewis as is contained in the following boundary line' should be included in the county now to be formed: Beginning at a rock or milestone on the Staunton and Parkersburg turnpike road, ten miles east of Weston in Lewis county, running thence a straight line to the head of Sauls run, a branch of Finks run; thence to the mouth of Pringles fork of Stone Coal creek thence up said fork to the forks of said fork; thence with the ridge dividing the waters of said forks to their head waters and with said ridge to the head of French creek above Taylor Townsend's farm; thence to the mouth of Cherry Camp fork of the Little Kanawha river; thence to the mouth of the Buffalo fork of said river to the Braxton county line, and with said line to the head of the Right Hand fork of the said river, thence to the three forks of the right hand fork of Buckhannon river, thence to the head nearest branch of Middle Fork river; thence down said river to the fording where the road leading from Teter's on the Valley river, to Houses mill on the Buckhannon river, crosses said Middle fork; thence to the fording of the Buckhannon river, at or near Henry Jackson's; thence to Michael Strader's on Peeks run, including said Strader's; thence with the ridge dividing the waters of the main Pecks run from the waters of the branch on which Colonel John Reger now resides, thence with said ridge so as to divide the waters of Pecks run from Big nun to Gnatty Creek mountain; thence to the mouth of the run on which John Low resides, so as to include Mr. Cum; thence so as to include all the waters of said run to Peel Tree mountain; thence running west to the Harrison county line thence with said line to a stone standing on the Line of Lewis and Harrison counties, and on the dividing line between Lost Creek, Rooting creek and Jesses run; thence a straight line to the mouth of Rovers run, a branch of Hackers creek, and thence to the beginning. The enclosed area to form one distinct and new county, to be called and known by the name of Upshur county."

The sixth section of the bill provided that the justices of the peace appointed for the said county of Upshur, "before entering upon and exercising any of the duties of said office, shall take the several oaths required by law, after which they shall meet at the house of Andrew Poundstone, in the town of Buckhannon, on the first Thursday after the third Monday in April next, and, a majority of them being present, shall proceed to appoint a clerk of the county court, and such other officers as are now required by law, shall nominate suitable persons as sheriff and coroner, to be commissioned as such by the governor, and shall fix upon a place in said town for holding the courts until the public building, shall be erected."



The settlements in the vicinity of the present town in Buckhannon in the year 1770 were about as follows: Samuel Pringle, John Pringle, William Pringle, John Cutright and Samuel Oliver lived on Cutrights run, a branch of Buckhannon river, three or four miles above where the town of Buckhannon is now situated. Thomas Carney, Zacharias Westfall and George Casto resided on Stony run, about two miles above town, Joel Westfall on the West side of the river, below Radcliffs run; Abraham Carper still lower down in the bend of the river, on the farm now owned by Levi Leonard, Jacob Brake lived below the mouth of Finks run, where Daniel Carper now resides Henry Jackson where the old fort had been in 1780, about one and a half miles below town, Edward Jackson where the town is now situated; Jacob Hyre, on Finks run, and had a little mill where William D. Farnsworth now resides; -- Allman, Jacob Lorentz, George Bozarth lived higher up on Finks run; John Hyre, Philip Reger, John Tingle, Jacob Schoolcraft, Leonard Simon and Solomon Collins on the Brushy fork of Finks run Jacob Post on the east side of the run above the mouth of Little Sand run, where Isaac Strader now lives; John Strader, John and Abram Crites, Abraham Post John Jackson, Anthony Rohrbough and George Bush still lower down, farms adjoining each other, Joseph Davis on the west side of the river near the mouth of Turkey run, where Adam Carper now resides; David Casto lived over the ridge, where one of his sons has since resided. The persons here mentioned composed almost the entire community at that day, and all have long since passed away, and their lands, as a natural consequence, have passed into other hands. One generation passes away, and another takes its place.

The Founders of the Town

The land upon which the town has been built was granted originally to Elizabeth Jackson nee Cummins, the wife of John Jackson; she transferred it to John Patton, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, who, in 1815, sat Benjamin Reeder, his attorney in fact, to lay out the town. Mr. Reeder secured the services of Jacob Lorentz, John

Jackson and Joel Westfall, the' latter two being surveyors, and thirty lots were surveyed, eighteen of which were sold, the price paid being twenty-five dollars per lot. Soon after, Mr. Patton sold his lands to Joseph Ward, who in turn, in 1821, transferred it to Daniel Farnsworth, who came from Staten Island, New York. The purchasers of lots in the embryo town had not occupied them, the marks indicating their location has disappeared, and Mr. Farnsworth cultivated the land; but in 1824 the owners became uneasy and demanded a re-survey. In compliance with their request Mr. Farnsworth, John W. Westfall and Augustus W. Sexton, a surveyor, re-located the lots.

Daniel Farnsworth erected the first house in 1822; it was a two-story hewed log structure, built on contract, by Joel Westfall; it yet stands (1883) on lot No. 27, and is occupied by J. J. Farnsworth, grandson of the original owner. The second was a small log house erected by George Nicholas, on

the lot now owned by Levi Leonard. The third was built by Levi Paugh, who, soon after its erection, sold it to Zedekiah Lanham. The first blacksmith was Isaac Farnsworth, who began business in 1822. The second was Zedekiah Lanham. Levi Paugh was the first shoemaker. Waldo P. and Nathan Goff were the first machinists. They commenced business in 1831. Weedon Hoffman and Richard P. Comden doing business under the firm name of Hoffman & Comden, were the second. The first election was held at the house of Daniel Farnsworth, in 1829. The first house of worship, known as the "Old Carper Church,' was erected by the Methodists in 1822. The first Baptist Church was built in 1824. Henry Comden was the first Methodist minister, and occupied the pulpit in the Carper Church for several years. He was a man of much power and considerable eloquence. It is related that on a certain occasion while delivering a sermon, his wife Mary, whose memory is yet cherished by many of the aged men and women of the valley, was not at all satisfied with her husband's exposition of the text so, going forward and taking her position in the pulpit "delivered, says one venerable informant, "one of the most able discourses ever heard within the walls of the old church"

The First School

Was taught, in a primitive log cabin, by a Mr. Haddox. It was opened about the year 1797, and the cabin stood on the farm now owned by Levi Leonard on

The County was Named

For Abel Parker Upshur, an eminent jurist and statesman. He was born in Northampton county, Virginia, on the 17th day of June, 1790, and was educated at the College of New Jersey, read law in the office of William Wirt, in the city of Richmond, where, in the year 1810, at the age of twenty years he was admitted to the bar. Here he successfully practiced his profession until 1824, when he returned to his native county, which, in 1826, he had the honor to represent in the general assembly.

The same year he was appointed a judge of the general court of Virginia and in 1829 was made a member of the convention which (framed the celebrated constitution of 1830. Under it ho sat upon the supreme bench until 1841, when he entered the cabinet of President Harrison as secretary of the navy. In 1843 John Tyler who had succeeded to the presidency upon the death of Harrison, transferred him to the department of date, and in his need, in the navy department, placed Thomas W. Gilmer, of Virginia

Mr. Upshur was an able writer, a contributor to the periodical press, the author of a work entitled "An Inquiry into the Nature and Character of the Federal Government," and also a number of essays, reviews, addresses, etc. Almost every one is familiar with the story of his tragic death

It was on the 28th day of February, 1844, that an excursion from Washington to Mount Vernon took place. The steamer was the Princeton, one of the finest vessels in the American navy. She had just arrived home from an extended cruise in foreign waters, and was armed with the celebrated paixhan guns, the largest then used in naval warfare. About noon, having on board the president his cabinet, many members of congress, and others, to the number of five hundred' she steamed down the Potomac to the place of destination, where, after a few hours sojourn emit the beautiful scenery, the party re- embarked. The big gun on the forecastle we. heavily loaded to give a parting salute to the shades of the illustrious dead reposing there. A passing steamer fired a salute, and the secretary of the navy gave the order to discharge the gun, the match was applied and the gun burst into a thousand fragment", The report died away in long echoes along the shores of the Potomac, the smoke was wafted along by the breeze and Abel P. Upshur, secretary of state, Thomas W. Gilmer, secretary of the navy, Virgil Maxey, late United States minister to Belgium, Colonel Gardner, member of congress from New York, Commander Kennon, and several others, were still in death. Thomas H. Benton, United States senator from Missouri, and Captain Stockton were severely wounded. The terrible disaster cast a deep gloom over the entire nation.