By Dyer Anderson
The descendants of Captain John and Elizabeth Carr Boggs gathered April 29 at Seneca Rocks Presbyterian Church for their 11th biennial reunion. COVID had caused the cancellation of reunions since 2018.
John Boggs was captain of the Pendleton Home Guards, later Company A, 46th West Virginia Volunteers of the Union Army in the Civil War. He and Elizabeth had settled on a farm near Seneca Rocks. Boggs was a leader in community affairs and was a delegate to the Wheeling convention which established West Virginia as a state in 1862. He served as a delegate from Pendleton County for two non-consecutive terms in early West Virginia legislatures.
The pull of West Virginians to their roots was captured by John Denver in his classic “Country Roads.” There is ample confirming evidence. For example, the Pendleton County Historical Society has members in 26 states. Of the 31 attendees at this Boggs reunion, only two currently reside in Pendleton County. Reunion participants came from as far away as Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Past reunions have attracted family from Colorado, Texas, and Florida.
Pressure to have a reunion came from those outside the county wanting contact with their roots. The chair of the reunion committee from its inception in 2000 has been Howard Boggs of Keyser. The committee has Dyer and Anne Anderson of Annandale, Virginia, Greta Skidmore Evick and Charles Evick of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and the late Browning Boggs of Franklin. They have served for 23 years.
The John Boggs family and the Union sympathizers were concentrated in Union Magisterial District in the northwest section of the county, north of Riverton. Over the years descendants have been prominent in county affairs. Grandson Gordon Boggs was elected to two terms as clerk of court in the early years of the last century. He married Elsie Byrd, a local historian and author, for example, of “The History of Franklin.” She was a charter member of the Pendleton County Historical Society and was an officer and leader for 38 years. Her daughter, Elizabeth, served as president for a period and daughter, Grace, later served as vice president. Grace left the family home to be used as a county history museum, cementing the family legacy in local affairs.
The Seneca Rocks church is the perfect venue for the reunion. Historically the family worshipped there and was instrumental in building the church. Family elders hauled river rocks in horse drawn farm wagons to the construction site. Others were active in fundraising. The family immigrated from Ireland but were Protestant, presumptively Scots Irish Presbyterians. The lunch was catered by Lucy Kisamore who has done the honors admirably for years and has become a de facto family member.
The reunion program included memorializing those who died since the previous reunion. There was a raffle of door prizes. Smoke Hole Caverns generously donated a door prize. Other prizes were membership in the Pendleton County Historical Society and a subscription to The Pendleton Times. Howard Boggs gave a door prize in memory of his late wife, Annette, who was a valuable member of the reunion committee. The traditional prime door prize is a large painting of the Boggs Mill, a family landmark and a North Fork institution. The picture rotates among raffle winners.
A key item of business was the selection of new reunion committee leaders. The new leaders are Candice (Boggs) DeVore of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Jan (Boggs) Miller of Delphos, Ohio. The meeting adjourned to allow visiting the Boggs House Museum in Franklin, which has undergone major renovation since the last reunion.
An interesting additional fact of the Boggs family story is that John Boggs’ older brother, James, was a Brigadier General in the Virginia Militia, subsequently the Confederate Army. He was also the Pendleton delegate to the Virginia General Assembly. H.M. Calhoun in “Twixt North and South” reports on divided family loyalties in the war. It is truly remarkable that these first-generation immigrant men would rise to be top leaders in their organizations. John was the senior Union officer in the county and James was the senior Confederate officer. Both were elected as county delegates to their respective state legislatures. James Boggs died early in the war, 1862, so one would assume there was no chance for the brothers to reconcile.
Between now and Treasure Mountain Festival many weekends will feature family reunions. Pendleton County is a place many folks are from. Similarly, it is a place many people love to return to for a visit. The half century success of the festival demonstrates the point. Plans are for a Boggs reunion next year, reestablishing the practice of even-year reunions. The manuscript “Boggs Descendants of Pendleton County WV” will be updated.