The Civil War in Logan County


Dwight Williamson - Guest Columnist



Although during the Civil War Logan Countians were predominantly southern sympathizers, there were those persons of the area who actually believed in the northern cause and enlisted with the northern forces. The names of people like James A. Nighbert, John William Stratton, Henry Clay Ragland, and certainly, Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, are familiar as participants in the War Between the States, and for fighting for the old Confederacy. James Hinchman, whose grandfather (William Hinchman) settled the area of Rich Creek in Logan County when the entire area was wilderness in about 1808, fought for the Union and was a Captain for the Northern forces.

During the Civil War, neither Northern nor Southern armies occupied the county regularly, but several visits were made by different commands, and guerilla raids were not infrequent by either side. Of course, the Logan Courthouse was burned by Northern forces in 1862 after they were fired upon from across the Guyandotte River as they moved from Chapmanville to Logan. While some of these encounters have been handed down by word of mouth over the many years, others have been recorded militarily; yet, even more have been lost in time. One story, which thankfully has not been lost, was told by George R. Hinchman in The Logan Banner back in 1933. The incident took place at what is now the community of Taplin; a place which was called Henry’s Branch at the time of the Civil War.

A band of Southern guerilla forces stopped at a home occupied by the McCasson family at Henry’s Branch. The leader of the band of guerilla forces was Dave Walker, who announced his intentions of taking the McCasson family’s finest horse as the group prepared to leave. When the owner protested, according to The Banner account, “he was beaten with a gun butt and killed.” The wife and a daughter also were dreadfully beaten causing the daughter to become insane. The news soon spread and a posse of neighbors, consisting of both Northern and Southern sympathizers, set out in pursuit of the murdering band. They overtook them on Huff Creek and brought them back to the scene of the crimes.

After his guilt was established beyond reasonable question, and it was determined that the other men had at least mildly protested Dave Walker’s actions, it was decided—without lawyers, a judge or jury—that Walker was to be hanged. He was forced to mount the horse he had stolen, which was then led beneath a sycamore tree. Tobias Riddle climbed the sycamore with a rope which he tied around a limb. The other end of the rope was fastened around the murder’s neck, and the horse was led from under him. The Banner reported that, “Nobody was masked and no participant denied his acts, but everybody was convinced that only simple justice had been done, and no one was ever arrested.” Walker was buried near the river on property at Rich Creek owned by Oliver Perry.

The remaining men that came with Walker were allowed to leave unharmed. It is interesting to note that the name of Rich Creek came about because of the millions of passenger pigeons that had for many years roosted at the mouth of the hollow. The birds’ droppings contributed to the rich, dark soil that proved valuable in farming the area. It was said that the birds darkened the air as they flew, and were so much in each other’s way in flying that many collisions caused them to fall to the ground, while thousands of others “were knocked down with sticks.” The largest roosting area for passenger pigeons, however, was said to be at Copperas Fork of Island Creek at what later became the community of Holden.

Although America once was filled with multi-millions of passenger pigeons, it has long been a mystery as to their sudden disappearance. Some scientists theorized that a great storm may have overtaken them in their migration to South America, while others hazard to guess that they all died of some contagious disease. Either way, the birds, like the story behind the hanging of Dave Walker, are now just a part of our local history.

BITS and PIECES

On November 19, 1909 the Lincoln County Courthouse burned and the arson was suspected to have been done to destroy land records and confuse titles to property…..the coal, oil, gas and timber businesses were booming, and it is thought the idea was to be able to virtually steal some people’s property by destroying records and maps……as you may know, a fire in 1912 burned the Logan County Courthouse, although nearly all of the records were saved; of course, Logan County was booming far more than what Lincoln County was at the time and there was a great deal of property to be had…..PRIDE COMMUNITY SERVICES OF LOGAN COUNTY is most definitely interested in the construction of multi-unit housing in Logan County…..the organization will be building its fourth house in the near future, and probably will seek property for an apartment complex following the completion of the Peach Creek house, the third to be built in that area…..it appears to me that PRIDE has taken the local lead in desperate economic times…..speaking of the organization, I wonder how many people know that Joanne Tomblin, our Governor’s wife, in 1982 served as the Director of Aging Programs for PRIDE…..the late Ervin Queen, who made the organization what it is today, was then the Executive Director…..I should note that Reggie Jones, who is the fine head of the PRIDE organization today, was the catcher on a Babe Ruth League baseball squad I managed back in the day…..the sponsor of the team was Roger McGrew…..I have a theory about the NFL’s sudden increase in blown calls by officials of the games…..since all the replays have been instituted, it means bad officiating, which used to control the outcomes, or at least the point spreads, is being corrected…..that, of course, has negative effects for the gambling professionals and institutions of Las Vegas and elsewhere……millions, if not billions of dollars, are bet each week, and it is a proven fact that officials have been bought off in the past…..a study of 487,375 participants that was recently announced tends to conclude that eating spicy foods, like habanero and other hot peppers, may increase one’s overall health and longevity…..a study that covered a seven year period, showed that those who ate spicy foods 1 to 2 times a week had a 10 percent lower risk of death than those who rarely or never ate them…..those who consumed the spicy stuff 3 to 7 times a week had a 14 percent lower risk of death…..the study suggests spicy foods may have all kinds of health benefits, including boosting metabolism and preventing gastric damage to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer…..I would like to bring this study to the attention of my friend and former newspaper colleague, Jane Watson…..Jane, who, by the way, lives on Cole Street in Logan at the former home of Judge C.C. Chambers, was a superior writer back in 1982 at The Logan Banner……in her column titled “Trumps and Wild Cards” that appeared July 4, 1982, Jane wrote an entire column in which she in her words described my ideas about eating and health “as peculiar”…..Jane, who made good natured fun of my thoughts about cures and preventions for things from the common cold to nervous disorders, to cancer, said my suggestion to prevent stomach cancer was “ lots of red peppers and other spices” and my claim came from “his lengthy study of Italians and Mexicans, who he says, rarely develop stomach cancer”…..now, Jane, see; I told you so…..I plan on re-printing her entire column, as it is quite comical…..election filings for the 2016 Primary will begin Jan. 11 and conclude Jan. 30 in the Logan County Clerk’s office…..with all that is happening in today’s perilous society, both in West Virginia and worldwide, the selection of the next President of the United States will be crucial, and frankly, I have little faith in any of the candidates, democrat or republican…..DID YOU KNOW that over 100,000 Americans have died mining coal, and that 100,000 more died later on from black lung?…..what is sickening to me about this is the fact that the state of West Virginia should have been made rich, but instead the coal industry made numerous individuals filthy rich, and most of them, and their companies, are based in other states, and now are trying to renege on retirement and health benefits that coal miners were promised…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few that are rich.—John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Jan. 21, 1961…..readers might want to check out “Angels of Appalachia” at www.angels ofappalachia.weebly.com…..the new book is written by my sister-in-law Ellen Thompson and co-authored with Lesa Pascious Smith…..FINAL NOTE: In 2016 the United Nations will hold a special session on the global drug problem. Drug policy reformers have long planned the special session to call on world leaders to change the international drug treaties to allow decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. Next year will mark four years since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Some states have since allowed the growing, possession and even gifting of pot. If coal is truly going away, perhaps it is time to study the results, whether negative or positive, of these legalized areas. Right now, it is simply ridiculous that industrial hemp, which during World War II reached a production high of 150 million pounds in the U.S., is legal in 30 states and Puerto Rico, but not in our state. The plant, which will not get users “high” because of a lack of THC, is utilized in producing thousands of products worldwide. In the meantime, allow me to say that as a state West Virginia needs to think far ahead, or else we will be left even further behind.

Dwight Williamson

Guest Columnist

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

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