Tucker County History
Tucker County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 7, 1856 from parts of Randolph County. According to the 1860 census, there were 245 families, and sixteen slaves, living in the county at that time.
The county was named in honor of Henry St. George Tucker, Sr. (1780-1848). He was born on Dec. 29, 1780 in Mattoax, Va. (some sources indicate Williamsburg, Va.). He graduated from William and Mary College in 1798, studied law, and became a prominent Virginia jurist. He enlisted in the Continental Army during the War of 1812 and served as a Captain of a regiment of Virginia cavalry that participated in a major battle near Baltimore in 1814. He was later appointed Brigadier General of the Virginia State Militia. Following the war, he represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives (1815-1819). He then served as a member of the Virginia State Senate (1819-1823), a superior court judge (1824-1831), President of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (1831-1841), and professor of law at the University of Virginia (1841-1845). He was named Dean of the faculty during his second year at the University of Virginia and played a large role in the writing of the school’s honor code. In 1841, he declined an offer by President Andrew Jackson to become his nominee to join the U.S. Supreme Court, opting instead to assume the Presidency of the Virginia Court of Appeals. He died on Aug. 28, 1848.
The First Settlers
The first native settlers in West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands (Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, and Tucker counties) were the Mound Builders, also known as the Adena people. Remnants of the Mound Builder’s civilization have been found throughout West Virginia, with many artifacts found in the Northern Panhandle, especially in Marshall County.
The following is a brief overview of that history:
- Several thousand Hurons occupied present-day West Virginia during the late 1500s and early 1600s.
- During the 1600s, the Iroquois Confederacy (then consisting of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca tribes) drove the Hurons from the state and used it primarily as a hunting ground.
- During the early 1700s, the Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, and other Indian tribes also used present-day West Virginia as a hunting ground. West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands was inhabited by the Tuscarora. They eventually migrated northward to New York and, in 1712, became the sixth nation to formally be admitted to the Iroquois Confederacy. The Cherokee Nation claimed southern West Virginia.
- In 1744, Virginia officials purchased the Iroquois title of ownership to West Virginia in the Treaty of Lancaster.
- The Delaware, Mingo, and Shawnee sided with the French during the French and Indian War (1755-1763). The Iroquois Confederacy officially remained neutral, but many in the Iroquois Confederacy allied with the French.
- When the French and Indian War was over, England’s King George III feared that more tension between Native Americans and settlers was inevitable. In an attempt to avert further bloodshed, he issued the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Proclamation was, for the most part, ignored.
- During the summer of 1763, Ottawa Chief Pontiac led raids on key British forts in the Great Lakes region. Shawnee Chief Keigh-tugh-qua, also known as Cornstalk, led similar raids on western Virginia settlements. The uprisings ended on Aug. 6, 1763 when British forces, under the command of Colonel Henry Bouquet, defeated Delaware and Shawnee forces at Bushy Run in western Pennsylvania.
- 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.
- In April 1774, the Yellow Creek Massacre took place near Wheeling. Among the dead were Mingo Chief Logan’s brother and pregnant sister. Violence then escalated into Lord Dunmore’s War.
- On Oct. 10, 1774 Colonel Andrew Lewis and approximately 800 men defeated 1,200 Indian warriors led by Shawnee Chief Cornstalk at the Battle of Point Pleasant, ending Lord Dunmore’s War.
- The Mingo and Shawnee allied with the British during the American Revolutionary War (1776-1783). One of the more notable battles occurred in 1777 when a war party of 350 Wyandot, Shawnee, and Mingo warriors, 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. Following the war, the Mingo and Shawnee, once again allied with the losing side, returned to their homes in Ohio. As the number of settlers in the region grew, both the Mingo and the Shawnee move further inland, leaving western Virginia to the white settlers.
Tucker County’s European Pioneers and Settlers
The first Englishmen to set foot in present-day Tucker County in 1736. They were members of an eight-man survey team, led by William Mayo, that was sent into the Potomac Highlands by Lord Fairfax to establish the boundaries of his land holdings. In 1746, a second survey party sent by Lord Fairfax, led by James Gunn and including George Washington, also traveled across the county.
In 1762, James Parsons was captured by Indians in Hardy County and taken captive to Ohio. He escaped and made his way across present-day Tucker County to reach his home. Seven years later, in 1769, he returned to the county with his older brother Thomas and built a temporary cabin just north of present-day St. George. They used the cabin as a second home, frequently traveling back-and-forth across the mountains. The next Englishmen to set foot in the county were probably Samuel and John Pringle, deserters from Fort Pitt, and a trapper named John Simpson. They passed through the county in 1764 or 1765.
In 1766, John Couch became the first settler in present-day Tucker County. He built a cabin near present-day Parsons and stayed for six years before moving to Tygart Valley to join his two brothers who had settled there in 1772.
In 1769, Christopher Neugen settled near Holly Meadows, lived there awhile, and then moved away. In 1771 (or 1772) Thomas Howell, who had been captured by Indians and taken beyond the Ohio River, escaped and passed through the county on his way back to Virginia. He died soon after reaching Virginia.
Thomas Parsons, a prominent citizen who lived near Moorefield, listened to Howell’s tales of a beautiful valley he had passed through and decided to see it for himself. About 1773, he traveled over the mountains and visited present-day Tucker County. A year later (1774) his sons, Thomas, Jr. (1730-1804) and James (1740-1813), moved to the county.
In March 1774, John Minear (1732-1781) and about a dozen families also moved into the county, settling just north of present-day St. George. However, that summer Lord Dunmore’s War broke out and, fearing for their lives, the settlers abandoned the county for nearly two years. A land dispute between the Parsons brothers and Minear’s colony was settled when Minear agreed to allow James Parsons to have the land in-and-around Horseshoe Bend and Thomas Parsons to have the land in-and-around Holly Meadows. When the original Minear settlers, including several additional families, returned to the county in 1776 to restart their colony, they settled about two miles south of their original settlement, closer to present-day St. George.
Tragedy struck the county’s early settlers in April 1781 when three of its leading citizens, John Minear, Daniel Cameron, and Jacob Cooper, were killed by Indians in present-day Barbour County as they returned to their homes from Clarksburg to obtain legal patents for their lands.
Important Events in Tucker County during the 1800s
The residents of Tucker County’s were fairly evenly divided during the Civil War, with most of the residents in the St. George area strongly in favor of the Confederacy and most of the residents in the Dry Fork area strongly in favor of the Union.
On July 11, 1861, following the Confederate Army’s defeat at the Battle of Rich Mountain in Randolph County, Confederate General Robert S. Garnett and about 4,000 Confederate troops retreated towards Elkins, and then headed north into Tucker County. On July 13, 1861, about 6,000 Union troops, commanded by General Thomas A. Morris, attacked Garnett’s troops at the Battle of Corrick’s Ford, near Parsons. General Garnett was killed during the battle, becoming the first of seventy-seven Confederate Generals to be killed in action during the Civil War. Garnett’s death led to a rout of the Confederate forces.
The Tucker County Seat
The 1856 act creating the county specified that the county court was to be held on the lands of Enoch Minear on the east side of Cheat River, and that the land was to be called Saint George (the area had been known as Westernford) in honor of Henry Saint George Tucker, Jr. (1828-1863). He was the son of the county’s namesake and had a distinguished military career, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate Army. He died in 1863 from a fever at the Battle of Malvern Hill during the Civil War. He was serving as the clerk of the House of Delegates when the county was formed.
The first session of the county court took place on May 22, 1856, with William Ewin, Jacob W. See, Solomon Parsons, William Rust Parsons, and Arnold Bonnifield serving as Justices of the Peace. Elections were held that day throughout the county to elect the county sheriff (Jesse Parsons), county clerk (Arnold Bonnifield), circuit clerk (Arnold Bonnifield), prosecuting attorney (Rufus Maxwell), assessor (Daniel C. Adams), and surveyor (Solomon Bonner).
In 1888, a fire destroyed much of St. George and, in that same year, the railroad decided to by-pass the town when constructing its line to Leadsville, present-day Elkins. The rail line led to the formation of Parsons, which grew rapidly and by the mid-1890s had more residents than St. George. Parsons was named for Ward Parsons, who owned the land the town was built on.
In 1889, and again in 1890, Mr. Parsons and other leading citizens of Parsons petitioned the county court to hold a popular election to relocate the county seat from St. George to Parsons. An election was held in 1890, but Parsons narrowly failed to obtain the necessary 60 percent majority vote to become the new county seat.
In 1892, Mr. Parsons and 694 others from the Parsons area again petitioned the county court for another election. Another election was held, but, once again, Parsons narrowly failed to obtain the necessary 60 percent majority to become the new county seat. Yet another petition was filed in 1893, and, in April of that year, by a vote of 1,110 for and 514 against, the necessary 60 percent majority for moving the county court from St. George was achieved, and Parsons became Tucker County’s county seat.
However, several leading citizens of St. George, led by Adam C. Minear and William M. Cayton, claimed that there were voting irregularities. In May 1893, they asked the county court to overturn the election decision. The county court denied their request. In July 1893, Minear and Cayton appealed the county court’s decision to the state government, requesting an injunction on the county seat’s relocation to Parsons until their claims concerning the voting irregularities were investigated. Tiring of the legal maneuvering, the citizens of Parsons, led once again by Ward Parsons, put together a vigilante group of more than 200 armed men who, on the evening of Aug. 1, 1893, marched on St. George intent on stealing the courthouse records. The citizens of St. George gathered on the street leading to the courthouse intending to repel the invasion.
Fearing many deaths, Sheriff Will E. Cupp ordered the growing mob to disperse. When the Parsons’ vigilantes arrived, most of St. George’s residents who had gathered by the courthouse dispersed. The Parsons’ vigilantes then broke into the courthouse, stole the court records, and even stole the bell hanging from the courthouse’s tower. They then returned to Parsons and established a temporary courthouse in a nearly completed store on Main Street. The court continued to operate out of the store until 1900 when a permanent courthouse was constructed.