10 Years Ago
Week of May 16, 2013
Cemetery Maintenance Tips Shared
Cemeteries receive more attention as Memorial Day approaches. The Fort Seybert Heritage Educational Association volunteers continue to conduct on-site documentation at cemeteries throughout the county as part of the Identification and Preservation Project. The results of this project are available at the Pendleton County Library and are also in the process of being stored at the State Historic Preservation Office in Charleston.
Volunteers have learned conservation and preservation techniques by attending workshops presented by professional conservators.
As Memorial Day approaches, and during other occasions, flowers are placed on the gravesites. Again, it is best to either place the flowers in urns that sometimes are attached to the headstone or placed a few inches from the headstone. Flowers wired or wrapped around a stone can make inscriptions difficult to read. Wiring decorative flowers over the face of the headstone has led to discoloration of the stone. Using the wrong material causes further damage.
This is usually the time of year when maintenance is done. There is a difference between mowing a lawn and mowing a cemetery. Learn the correct way to cut the grass to avoid damage to the headstones. Grass scissors or clippers are best when working close to headstones. A weedeater with the finest string is okay to use. Remove dried grass from the base of headstones when finished because it can also cause damage. Small trees do grow to be big ones and have been known to encircle headstones or intrude into burial sites. Shrubs do this as well. Trees 12 feet or above could be left as they most likely were there when the cemetery was started. Yucca plants were common in old cemeteries; however, they can take over and go beyond the cemetery.
Once a cemetery is cleaned, it would be so helpful if there is a designated cemetery committee who would make arrangements for perpetual care or maintenance follow-up. It is so disappointing to those who come from out of state, clean a cemetery, including tree removal, place headstones in position and build a walk, only to return to find the cemetery needing basic maintenance. An observation, be sure each generation knows the history of the cemetery and whether there is a trust fund established for that cemetery.
There are many “orphan” cemeteries where no descendants can be located.
West Virginia Cemetery Law is now in effect that protects the headstones and burial sites. Permission is required to relocate a burial site.
60 Years Ago
Week of May 30, 1963
County of Pendleton
Organized 175 Years Ago
First Court Held
At Ruddle June 2, 1788
Sunday will be the 175th anniversary of the formation of Pendleton County, one of the oldest counties in West Virginia.
The year was 1788.
The 13 American colonies were still struggling to form an effective union.
It had been only 12 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Since that time, George Washington had led the patriots to victory in their struggle against the tyranny of King George III, and he had assisted with the Second Continental Congress. But he would not take his oath of office as first president of the United States until the following year, 1789.
The day was June 2.
Eight leading citizens of the area, commissioned justices by the governor of Virginia, met in the barn of Zeraiah Stratton at Ruddle six miles north of Franklin, took the oath of fidelity to the Commonwealth, selected a full complement of county officials and made arrangements for the construction of a courthouse.
Thus was formed the county of Pendleton.
And it was none too soon, for the population of the portion of Rockingham County west of the mountains was growing steadily. Travel for these people to the county seat, a distance of 30 to 60 miles across the high and rugged mountains, was burdensome and distasteful.
It was in recognition of this growing population and the difficulty the pioneers had in communicating with the county seat that the Virginia General Assembly on December 4, 1787, passed an act declaring that the portion of Rockingham County west of the Shenandoah Mountain and including parts of Hardy and Augusta Counties on and after May 1, 1788, “shall form one distinct county, and be called and known by the name of Pendleton.”
The act of 1787 provided that the justices should meet at the house of Zeraiah Stratton, but tradition has it that they met in the barn, instead, presumably because there was not sufficient room in the house.
Commissioned justices by the governor of Virginia and given the responsibility of organizing the new county were the following: Robert Davis, John Skidmore, Moses Hinkle, James Dyer, Isaac Hinkle, Robert Poage, James Skidmore, Matthew Patton, Peter Hull, James Patterson and Jacob Hoover. Of the 11 justices thus named, all were present for their first meeting except three, Robert Poage, Peter Hull and Jacob Hoover.
The office of justice in the 18th Century was one of considerable responsibility. They served not only as justices of the peace, but also as a board of county commissioners. They were commissioned by the governor to serve for life. Although citizens of the county could vote for members of the legislature in that day, the justices selected all local officials except the sheriff, and they recommended one of their body to the governor to be commissioned sheriff.
Consequently, at the meeting of the justices on June 2, 1788, they selected the following men to serve as the first officials of Pendleton County: president of the court, John Skidmore; clerk of the court, Garvin Hamilton; prosecuting attorney, Samuel Reed; deputy sheriffs, John Davis and John Morral; overseers of the poor, James Dyer, John Skidmore, Christian Ruleman, Ulrich Conrad and John Dunkle; constables, Gabriel Collett, George Dice, Jacob Gum, Johnson Phares, Isaac Powers, William Ward and George Wilkeson. Robert Davs was commissioned by the governor to serve as high sheriff.
Other business transacted at that first meeting included a decision to build the courthouse on the lands of Francis Evick, and to hold the next court at his house. James Patterson was directed to survey the lot for the courthouse, and Thomas Collett was given the contract for erecting the county buildings for which he was later paid $166.67. Voting places were decided upon, overseers of roads were selected and Moses Hinkle was authorized to solemnize marriages.
Not only was the method of selecting local officials different 175 years ago, but living conditions were different from those of today in many other respects:
- To be a voter a man had to own a plot of 25 acres, including a house 12 by 12 feet; or 50 acres of unimproved land; or a lot and house in a designated town.
- Money was counted in the British system of pounds, shillings and pence. Tobacco was legal currency; 100 pounds of the weed being reckoned equal to one pound in coin.
- The log house was practically universal—the roof of clapboards and the stairway a ladder.
- Food was simple. The staff of life was pone, johnny cake and mush. Pewter dishes were more common than china.
- Farming was primitive. Oxen were the preferred work animals. The harrow was a thornbush. A forked sapling, peeled and dried, made a grain fork.
- Stoves were unknown, and cooking was done in kettles suspended from a hook in the fireplace, long-handled skillets held over the fire, and stone bake ovens.
- Many of the people at that time had no schooling, and those who could write, did so with a goose or turkey quill. Ink was sold in a powder form to be dissolved as needed rather than in a bottle.
- Prominent frontier games played by the children were throwing tomahawks so as to make them stick in trees, and imitating the sounds of animals.
- The penalty for stealing a hog was 35 lashes on the bare back for the first offense; for the second offense, he was to stand two hours in the pillory on a public day with ears nailed fast, and at the end of two hours, his ears were to be cut loose; for the third offense the punishment was death.
Court records indicate that Pendleton had a whipping post, a pair of stocks and perhaps also, a pillory. One Peter Little was ordered into the stocks for 10 minutes for committing a misdemeanor in court in 1790, and another man was sentenced to receive 33 lashes on the bare back well laid on for stealing a hog worth $5.
The boundary of the county as fixed by the act of 1787 was the same as it is today on the north, east and west, but the south boundary extended further south and included the Blue Grass area and the northern part of what is now Highland County.
The new county started off with a portion of approximately 2200 souls, almost exclusively white, fairly evenly distributed among the three valleys of the North Fork, South Branch and South Fork.
Pendleton began its separate existence as the ninth of the counties which now constitute the State of West Virginia.
100 YEARS AGO
By LON K. SAVAGE
Editor’s Note—The following is one of a series of articles on the Civil War. Each weekly installment covers events which occurred exactly 100 years ago.
Port Hudson Attacked; 2nd Siege Begins
Negro troops, who had been growing in number in the Federal armies during 1862 and 1863, came under fire in battle for what is believed to be the first time in the Civil War 100 years ago this week.
It was in an attack on Port Hudson, La., on the Mississippi River, 123 miles south of Vicksburg. Like Vicksburg, Port Hudson commanded the river and, as a result, was a prime target of Federals who were determined to rid the river of Confederates throughout its length. As it turned out, the attempts to capture Port Hudson were remarkably similar to those used to capture Vicksburg.
The Negro troops, many of them mobilized in the area 12 months before, had come from plantations in the area and had long since been performing work for the Federal Army. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, commanding Federal troops in Louisiana, brought them with him in a march northward in early 1863.
Banks’ purpose was to join Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in an attack on Vicksburg, but he never made it far enough north to do Grant any good. In his path lay Port Hudson, manned by 7,000 Confederates, and Banks realized he must destroy that garrison before he could help Grant.
On the morning of May 27th—five days after Grant’s opening attack on Vicksburg—Bank’s men, 13,000 strong, moved out through a dense magnolia forest against the Port Hudson Line.
The affair was a “gigantic bush-whack,” according to one veteran, and he meant it in the literal sense. The magnolias were so thick, the ravines so choked with fallen timber, and the ground so covered with undergrowth, he wrote, “that it was difficult not only to move but even to see.”
Confederate artillery opened on the charging Federals, but they quickly brought up their own artillery to fight back. One mass of Federals charged to within 200 yards of the Confederate line and held on, but they were not relieved and eventually had to retreat.
On the Federal right, two Negro regiments formed for an attack, but before they could charge, Confederate artillery and muskets caught them in open ground and drove them back with heavy slaughter. Another Federal detachment charged through the center but became entangled in a mass of fallen trees and were repulsed.
By nightfall, the Federals had gained commanding positions but had not broken the Confederate line. Their attack had cost them 2,000 men—1,500 of them wounded, while the Confederates had lost only 235. That night, Banks withdrew and prepared for a siege. It was a small scale repetition of Grant’s tactics at Vicksburg, where another siege was underway.
Inside Port Hudson, Confederate Gen. Frank Gardner, with his back to the river and his front facing Yankees, received an order telling him to evacuate Port Hudson and move upstate. The orders had come too late.
Next week: Lee begins Pennsylvania invasion.
70 Years Ago
Week of May 21, 1953
Twenty-Six to Graduate
Twenty-six seniors will graduate tonight at Circleville High School in the twenty-third annual commencement exercises.
To Graduate at Franklin
Sixty-one seniors will graduate Friday night at Franklin High in the fortieth annual commencement exercises.