Beverly: The Concise History
Beverly was founded in 1790 as the first county seat of Randolph County, Virginia.
From the beginning it was a market and government center for area settlers. With the completion of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike across Western Virginia in 1847, Beverly thrived.
Early in the Civil War, Beverly was a gathering place for Virginia Confederate troops. Following the Union victory at Rich Mountain in July of 1861, many Southern supporters fled south, leaving their homes vacant.
The Federals occupied the town, set up telegraphs and hospitals, built huts and fortifications, and boarded soldiers in citizens’ homes.
The 1808 Courthouse, as drawn during the Civil War
View of Beverly’s Main Street, 1908
During the war, Rebels raided Beverly four times, twice successfully; but the town, and the territory of northwestern Virginia, remained in Union control.
In 1863, Randolph County was included in the new loyal state of West Virginia.
After the war, refugees and soldiers returned home, houses and businesses were rebuilt, and the town slowly recovered. New businesses were founded in the revived community. Following the founding of the railroad town of Elkins in 1890, much of the commerce and population of the county focused more on the newer city, and in 1899 the county seat was moved to Elkins.
Beverly: A More Complete History
the 1700’s : The Beginnings of Beverly
For more than a century, Beverly was the county seat of Randolph County. Randolph County was formed from land taken from Harrison County in October 1786 by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly. The first court was held in the home of Benjamin Wilson located in Tygarts Valley. Colonel Wilson was a well-known Indian fighter and Revolutionary War soldier. The new county was named for the Governor of Virginia, Edmund Jennings Randolph, who served from 1786 to 1788.
Randolph County was and is the largest county in the state. Randolph County has ten magisterial districts: Beverly; Dry Fork; Huttonsville, Leadsville; Middle Fork; Mingo; New Interest; Roaring Creek; Valley Bend; and Whitmer. The current county encompasses 1,080 square miles; this decrease over its original size was due to parts of the original county being taken for the formation of other counties. It is composed of several parallel mountain ranges with intervening valleys and watersheds. The population of the county in 1830 was 5,000 persons; in 1870 it was 5,563; in 1880, 8,102; in 1890, 11, 633; in 1900, 17,670; in 1910, 26,028; and in 1920 it was 26,804.
Many people from all different backgrounds have lived in and passed through Randolph County. First Nation peoples have lived in this part of the country for more than 12,000 years. Many roads in West Virginia—including route 219—were built on bison trails made by Native Americans such as the Shawnee, the Catawba, the Iroquois Confederation, the Cherokee, and certain Algonquin Tribes.
Two of the earliest settlement families in the Beverly area were the Robert Files and David Tygart families in 1753. The Files family settled where Files Creek meets the Tygart Valley River and built a log cabin. The Tygart family located a short distance up the valley. In the fall of 1754 a Files boy returned home to find his family being killed by Native Americans and the home place being burned. He fled to the Tygart’s home and the pioneers fled. For the duration of the French and Indian wars no other settlers arrived in the area. By 1768 some settlers returned but they were few.
In 1772, Captain Benjamin Wilson led a group to the Beverly area and they built forts for protection from the Native Americans. Wilson was a famous Indian fighter and Revolutionary War soldier. He lived and built a fort three miles south of present day Elkins. Wilson assisted in the building of three forts.
This second settlement wave consisted of nine families: the Westfalls; the Stalnakers; the Butlers; the Whitmans; the Connelys; the Nelsons; the Riggles; the Haddens; and the Morgans. Jacob Westfall Sr.’s fort was built in 1772 near the Files home site. Jacob Sr. came to Randolph County from Hampshire County where he had had a farm. Jacob Sr. and his wife, Judith, had five sons and three daughters.
The Westfalls found and buried the bones of the Files family. Jacob Westfall Jr. was the first Sheriff of Randolph County. Daniel Westfall was a member of the first grand jury of the new county and John Westfall was-the first county clerk. Jacob Westfall, son of John Sr. was the second county clerk and Cornelius Westfall Jr. as the second Sheriff.
Building Thought to be the Westfall Fort
Typical Frontier Dwelling in Western Virginia
The first session of the court of the county was held at the home of Colonel Wilson on Chenoweth Creek on May 29, 1787. At this session a town and court house were planned on James Westfall’s land and he was authorized to lay the town out in lots. The likely county seat was first named Edmunton, in honor of Edmund Jennings Randolph, the governor of Virginia. Randolph County was also named in his honor. Plans were made at this time for the construction of a jail and a courthouse. The log home of James Westfall was used as the first county courthouse.
In 1790, a twenty acre plat owned by James Westfall was laid out in one-half acre lots. Each lot was to be sold for five pounds ($16.67). The buyer had to agree to build a house at least sixteen feet square with a masonry chimney within five years of the purchase date or the lot would be resold by the town’s trustees. The town trustees in 1790 were Hezekiah Rosencrantz, Valentine Stalnaker, Thomas Phillips, John Wilson, Sylvester Ward, Jacob Westfall and William Wamsley.
The twenty-acre town plat included the just completed jail, the log courthouse under construction and the log school house. Prior to the completion of the first jail building, prisoners were housed at the home of the Sheriff. The log schoolhouse was already in use by 1787. By 1787, the town was renamed Beverly. The town of Beverly was chartered in 1790.
James Westfall collected the annual rents on the town lots until he sold the property to William Currence in 1793. Currence was supposed to have collected these rents but it is unknown as to whether or not he did and eventually the rent provision was abandoned.
the 1800’s: Heyday of a Town
Construction within the town grew as the needs of the citizens expanded. The town was the political center of the new county and soon served as the commercial center as more families settled in the Tygart River valley. The two-story, log courthouse, which had been completed in 1789, was unsatisfactory and a committee was appointed in 1808 to build a new courthouse and jail. The courthouse was completed in 1815. The new jail was begun in 1813 and sat on the public square. In 1841, a new and larger jail building was completed on Walnut Street.
The Blackman-Bosworth Store building on Main Street is said to be the first brick commercial building west of the Allegheny Mountains. It started life as David Blackman’s store when it was built primarily with slave labor in 1827. Squire Newton Bosworth, son of Dr. Squire Bosworth, bought the store building in 1881 and in the 1890’s he added the additions on the north side of the building. S.N. Bosworth was born in 1841 and married- Florence A. Brown in 1867. They had nine children. Squire N. served in the Confederate Army as a Sergeant in the Thirty-First Virginia Infantry. He also served for many years as Post Master of Beverly.
By the early 1800’s, Beverly supported hotels, stores, blacksmith shops, gunshops, bootmakers, furniture builder, saddle and leather shops, and a small toy factory. Early roads throughout the valley were nothing more than bridal paths. In the county records of 1789, the court recommended maintenance of these trails be worked once a year to an eight foot width. In 1814 the court ordered a road to be made from Beverly to Buckhannon, but this too was only a bridal path.
The Blackman-Bosworth Store
The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike through Beverly (1840’s)
As populations and commerce increased, better roadways were needed. In 1835, the population of Beverly was 184 including 16 slaves and 2 free African-Americans. The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike was begun about 1840. The man who designed and completed the turnpike was Claudius Crozet, a famed engineer who had served under Napoleon. Crozet visited Beverly often. The initial plans called for the turnpike to cross the mountains south of Huttonsville, which would have located it ten- 12 miles south of Beverly. To induce the Board to change the location to Beverly, the citizens of Beverly raised $3,200.00 for the construction of the road. The turnpike, a major east-west corridor, reached Beverly in September of 1841. Beverly’s population during this period was about four hundred persons. The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike connected the Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River in 1847 and Beverly served as a major crossroad and stopping off point.
Beverly resident Lemuel Chenoweth constructed many of the covered bridges on the turnpike, including the one in Beverly. Lemuel was a respected carpenter and bridge builder. The most known of his extant bridges is the Philippi Covered Bridge. Lemuel also built, a saw mill in Beverly and built his own house overlooking his bridge using many of the construction techniques in his home that he used for bridge building. Lemuel first came to be known by entering a bridge building competition in Richmond, Va. He built and transported the model to Richmond where he set the model between two chairs and then stood upon it and challenged his competitors to do the same. He won the competition.
The Beverly-Fairmont Turnpike was completed in 1852, and gave access to the new railroad which had reached Grafton that same year. The turnpikes were partly financed through subscriptions and tolls collected at tollgates from the travelers. Beverly continued to be the county’s center of commerce until the 1890’s when the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railroad came to the Tygart’s Valley via Elkins.
Education and religion developed as the population of the county and town grew. During the pioneer settlement period youngsters were-often taught at home or at a neighbors. The population was widely scattered and organized schools were not possible. Subscription schools were the next level in education. The school was open to anyone who could pay the tuition. Generally, the teacher of a subscription school traveled to and boarded with the child’s family and taught only the basics. Dr. Squire Bosworth was one of the early subscription school teachers. Thomas Jefferson proposed a free school system in 1796 but apparently it was never put into operation. The public school system was again proposed in 1810 when the Literary Fund was created. This was paid for through fines, penalties, etc. paid to the state. The Literary Fund remained in effect until the Civil War.
Chenoweth’s Covered Bridge at Beverly (now replaced)
The present free school system was established in West Virginia in December of 1863. Unfortunately, the original log schoolhouse located in Beverly, which was the oldest school building in Randolph County, is no longer standing. An academy building was being completed when the Civil War broke out and it was torn down during the War. Rev. W. S. Plumer Bryan, a Presbyterian minister in Beverly, established the Beverly Female Seminary, a private school for young ladies, in 1880. It was housed in the former office of Dr. Squire Bosworth with teachers and pupils boarding in the adjoining home. In the school’s later years it accepted young men as well as young ladies. The seminary closed in 1887 when the pupils transferred to the new public school completed in 1888. The present elementary school in Beverly is contemporary and other grades are bussed to consolidated schools.
The Methodist Church had its roots in Beverly from the time of its settlement. Services were first held in the private homes and lawns of believers. The first “church” was the log home of Dr. Benjamin Dolbeare which was located at the eastern end of the bridge. Dr. Dolbeare was the first physician in Randolph County. He practiced for several years in Beverly before moving to Clarksburg. Lorenzo Dow, brother-in-law to Dolbeare, was a noted Methodist missionary who often preached in Beverly. It is said that he preached on a log near town on his first visits. Bishop Francis Asbury preached in Beverly in 1788 and stayed at the home of Colonel Benjamin Wilson. The first Methodist Church was built of logs and located at the western end of Court Street. The log church was used for almost eighty years until The Civil War. The Union dismantled the church to use the logs for huts. The second frame church was built on Walnut Street in 1867 and used until 1890. The present Beverly Methodist Church was built in 1890 on North Main Street.
The Presbyterians also had their roots from the valleys earliest settlement. Rev. Charles Cummins was directed to preach eight sermons annually in Greenbrier County and Tygarts Valley in 1772. He preached at meeting houses and private homes. In about 1820, Daniel McClean, Jonathan Hutton and Andrew Crawford met at Crawford’s home and organized a church. Matthew Whitman was elected ruling elder. In 1823 Adam See donated three acres to build a church on. In 1831 the church had sixty members and five elders. The present Mingo church was organized in 1841. At that time there were eighty Presbyterians throughout the valley. The present Beverly Presbyterian Church located on North Main Street was built ca. 1870 with an addition added in 1949.
Beverly Presbyterian Church and Collett House
No history of Beverly is complete without speaking of Doctor Squire Bosworth. He was long known as the “Patriarch of Beverly”. Joshua Bosworth was the first of the family to settle in West Virginia. Joshua married Rebecca Squire in Massachusetts and relocated to West Virginia. Joshua and Rebecca had five children of which one was Dr. Squire Bosworth. Squire was born in Montgomery, Massachusetts in 1785 and died at Beverly in 1870. He married Hannah Buckey in 1816 and they also had five children. Dr. Squire was for nearly fifty years the only doctor in Randolph County. He was a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts and studied medicine in Richmond, Va. He studied medicine in Beverly under the tutelage of Doctor Dolbeare and attended lectures in Richmond, Va. He taught school for a time in Parkersburg as well as Beverly. He was involved with the Presbyterian Church; clerk of the county court of Randolph; deputy under Archibald Earle; and represented Randolph and Tucker counties in the Virginia assembly prior to the Civil War. Ten of Squire Bosworth’s descendants became doctors.
Due to Beverly’s location on the strategic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, it was destined to be a focal point during the Civil War. By 1860, there were many differences in life style and economies between eastern and western Virginia. While some Randolph County families had slaves for household help there were no large plantations as in the east. Beverly’s residents held varied opinions about the upcoming turmoil. Many western Virginians did not favor secession, as they felt ignored by the government in Richmond. But the majority of Beverly’s citizens cast their lot with the south.
From the very beginning of the War, Beverly served as a staging and supply point for gathering troops. Local militia and troops sent from eastern Virginia grouped in Beverly to serve the Confederacy. In May of 1861, General Robert E. Lee ordered a Colonel A. Porterfield to transport 1,000 muskets for use by volunteer companies from Staunton to Beverly. General Lee was disappointed in the volunteer enlistment so he sent General Garnett across the mountains with troops from Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee Col. Porterfield made it as far as Philippi before being routed by the Union.
After the Confederate troops were driven from Philippi in June 1861, Confederate General Robert S. Garnett regrouped and fortified two key passes. One was the Beverly-Fairmont Turnpike at Laurel Hill, outside of Belington. The other was Camp Garnett at Rich Mountain, seven miles west of Beverly on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.
David Hart The Hart Farm General Rosecrans
General George B. McClellan brought Federal troops to challenge both positions. Led by local, David Hart, General William S. Rosecrans made a surprise flank attack on a Confederate detachment at Joseph Hart’s farm at the pass on Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861. The Federal troops were successful in capturing the turnpike behind Camp Garnett which led to its abandonment and the subsequent Confederate withdrawal from Laurel Hill and Beverly. General McClellan led his troops into Beverly, securing this vital crossroads for the Union.
Many of the troops camped in town and on Butcher Hill, also known as Mt. Iser. They dug trenches around the hill and constructed numerous cabins, using materials from buildings they had torn down in Beverly. The main camp was in Beverly itself, near the cemetery and academy grounds. Cavalry often camped on Mt. Iser and the fortifications there were used whenever the forces came under attack.
Beverly was raided several times during the course of the War but the Union held on to it. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia was admitted to the Union as a new state. The raids continued however with the final raid occurring on January 11, 1865. General Thomas Rosser led this raid with 300 rebels. He successfully surprised the Union before dawn and captured 580 men and all of the garrison’s supplies, Four hundred Union soldiers escaped to Philippi. General Rosser burned the Beverly bridge and marched his prisoners back to Virginia through deep snow. Beverly was occupied for most of the remainder of the War by Federal troops. A personal narrative by a Beverly resident, Thomas I Arnold, states that “Beverly was paralyzed or blighted -the inhabitants virtually prisoners – guards constantly stationed night and day on each of the four roads leading from town.”
During the duration of the War, passes were needed from the Union to leave town. The passes were usually only good for a day so many residents never left Beverly for four years. Many of the homes in town were used to house sick and wounded soldiers. There were also several epidemics of typhoid, measles and smallpox. Arnold remembers only one fatality of a resident, of smallpox. For the most part, the Union oversaw the town with fairness and sensibility.
After the War, many of the folks who had left returned to find their homes torn down or burned. Those who had supported the Union found favor in political posts for the new state of West Virginia. Beverly, as the county seat of Randolph County, continued to rebuild, grow and prosper. Many new homes and buildings were built in the years following the War.
drawing of a military camp in Beverly
the 1900’s: Progress and Decline
The next significant event in Beverly’s and Randolph County’s evolution was the expansion of railroads. Henry Gassaway Davis in 1889 brought the railroad to Elkins, then called Leadsville. Davis laid out the new town and opened up the area to timbering and mining. The railroad was extended to Beverly in 1891 but Elkins remained the primary shipping center. Within a few years, Elkins had five times the population of Beverly.
As a consequence of the railroad, the new citizens of Elkins began a campaign to have the county seat removed to Elkins. The first county wide referendum was held in 1890 and was defeated. Beverly built a new courthouse in 1894 in the hopes of hanging on to the county but this building burned down in 1897 under suspicious circumstances.
Beverly Main Street (1908)
The court records were returned to the old courthouse for safekeeping. This event revived the efforts to have the county seat moved to Elkins. On the third vote the balloting was close enough to have the election referred to the courts. A number of Elkins supporters, fearing this would cause endless delay, gathered with weapons to make a surprise assault on the old courthouse in Beverly, intending to move the records themselves. Beverly residents heard of the plan and gathered to defend the courthouse and town. A delegation of community leaders, particularly, Dr. Humboldt Yokum, persuaded the Elkins faction to give up their fight and avoid bloodshed. When the court later ruled in Elkins’ favor, the county records were peaceably moved to Elkins about 1899.
The Beverly Bank opened on January 1, 1900. The Hill Store, the Masonic Lodge, the Beverly Store and the IOOF Hall were constructed within the next decade or so giving the town its current appearance. The new prosperity and growth was centered in Elkins, though, and Beverly came to be more of a residential and agricultural community.