The Logan County Primary Election is now history. But, what if I told you the results of several local races were because of “history”? Yes, I believe it to be true that our county’s historical past played an important role in the final outcomes of several offices, but especially Circuit Judge, Family Court Judge and the Board of Education. It basically became a “family affair” in six precincts, so to speak. However, before I prove my point, allow me to give you some local history that is the foundation for my opinion.
It was over 200 years ago and in what was much later to become the county of Logan (1823) in the state of West Virginia (1863) and the area was nothing but a wilderness. Deer and elk and Indian trails were the only means of passage, other than the canoe routes that led into the Guyandotte Valley. By the late 1700’s even the last of the Shawnee Indians were being forced from their hunting grounds and encampments. The white man would permanently take possession of the valley following the raid on the the village located on what was known as “the islands,” the present home of three Logan County schools. It was there that Princess Aracoma was mortally wounded, thus beginning our local history. The legendary princess was 60 years-old when she died.
One of the men who accompanied William Madison on the raid of the islands was James Workman, who was the first white settler to make his home in Logan. After viewing the lush valley of the Guyandotte, Workman, along with two brothers, Joseph and Nimrod, in 1794 built a cabin on the islands and planted a few acres of corn. James brought his wife and children to the site around 1795 and they lived there until 1796 before moving up river to another farm. It is likely that repeated flooding caused the family to relocate.
Captain Henry Farley also is one of the first settlers in the Guyandotte Valley. Farley, who also ventured into these hills in the 1790’s, was commander of a group of 50 men near what is now Hinton when they ambushed some 200 Shawnee near Bluestone Creek. After routing the Indian band, Farley pursued the rest of the Indians all the way to Cole River where the trail led over the mountains and down the Guyandotte River. Two miles from Logan at what is now Peach Creek, Farley overtook the band and three Indians were killed.
Darkness allowed the Indians to escape, but the next day Farley set out after the Indians, eventually catching them again, this time killing seven more braves, before eventually losing their trail at the mouth of the Guyandotte.
Fighting alongside Farley was William Dingess, who would purchase 300 acres that included the present site of the Logan County courthouse and a portion of the land that is now Deskins Addition.. In 1799 Dingess built what would be the first permanent white settlement in the valley. In 1800 Peter and John Dingess would join him and build their homes in the fertile land on each side of the islands.
Among some of the members of the fighters with Captain Farley were men whose names consisted of Chambers, Workman, Conley, Toler and Whitt, all of which are now familiar Logan County family names still carried by the descendants of these sturdy Indian fighters who did so much to open up the valley of the Guyandotte to white habitation.
So what does a bunch of Indian fighters decades ago have to do with the recent election? Well, perhaps one does need to know a little more geneological history of the area to fully understand, or at least know the good people of the Chapmanville and Harts Creek areas.
Here are some names one will find intertwined throughout the region, especially throughout the areas of Striker and Bulwark. The names of Adams, Bryant, Butcher, Conley, Dingess, Ellis, Farley and Tomblin can be found on mailbox after mailbox in the Chapmanville area. A check of geneology will reveal many of these people to be distantly related, but related none the less. From my own campaigning over the years, particularly in the Harts area, it seemed everybody knew everybody else in the region, and all had some kind of mutual connection.
While the names of people in the Guyan District admittedly also exist throughout all of Logan County, names I’ve listed above absolutely dominate in the Chapmanville/Harts areas. One need only to check a telephone book to verify this fact.
There were six precincts, all in the Chapmanville area, which spelled doom for certain candidates in tight races. The areas include Bulwark, Striker, Layne, Chapmanville City, Rocky Hill and East Chapmanville. Here’s the breakdown in some of the political races.
For Circuit Judge, Josh Butcher received 1,358 votes in those six precincts compared to Judge Doug Witten’s 1,038. That is a difference of 320 votes in an outcome that saw Witten narrowly lose.
It was even worse in the race for Family Court Judge where Christopher Workman pounded challenger Donna Pratt in the six Chapmanville area precincts by garnering 1,797 votes compared to just 393 for Pratt. Considering the final outcome in that race to be 4,586 to 3,067, a difference of 1,519 votes, one can see the significance of the area results.
The Logan Board of Education race saw one seat clearly decided in the Chapmanville area as Jeremy Farley received 1,504 four votes among 12 candidates for three Board seats. Farley received a countywide total of 2,602, with his closest challenger being Moss Burgess with 1,943 votes. Obviously, Farley was well accounted for in his area.
In Harts (Bulwark) and Striker, where the name Tomblin is widely spread, candidate for Circuit Clerk Tim Tomblin received 304 votes to winner Mark McGrew’s 211. Oddly, however, McGrew won all four other Chapmanville precincts and out polled Tomblin 693 to 623 in all six combined.
In the only other race of significance that saw lopsided results in the Chapmanville/Harts area, longtime politico and former County Clerk Glen Adkins, who entered a federal guilty plea to vote selling in 2005 and resigned as clerk, received a resounding endorsement of 1,241 votes in the area to opposing candidate Harold Porter’s 742, which was a difference of 499 votes. Adkins won countywide by 528 votes, 4,180 to 3,652 for Porter.
Maybe it is just my warped historical mind which sees this past election as a “name game,” but it just seems to me that when you combine the native names of Workman, Farley and Butcher in the Chapmanville/Harts areas, then toss in a few relatives like the Conley’s, Adams, Bryant’s, Hensley’s, Dalton’s, Dingess’ and a few others, well, that simply defined, spells WINNERS.
Now, all that is left for me to do is to figure out this Donald Trump connection to the area. Shucks, I bet his mother’s maiden name was something like Farley, or Workman, or maybe Butcher. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t Williamson.
There’s just got to be some kind of family connection. Right?
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.