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Alfred Beckley: History of Raleigh County

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A brief autobiography of General Alfred Beckley, founder of Beckleyville, VA, (now Beckley, WV), was published in the "Raleigh Index" in 1883 and again fifty-years later in the volume "Memoirs of Raleigh County: Historical & Biographical," compiled by Charles B. Hedrick and published by Wood Printing Co., of Beckley, WV, in 1932. The text is reprinted here, with little emendation, from the 1932 Hedrick text.


History of Raleigh County by Alfred Beckley

"Having resigned my commission in the U.S. Army in October, 1836, during the latter portion of that year I removed to Fayette county with a view of improving my interest in the Moore & Beckley Patent. I took possession of a double log cabin built for me in the Fall of 1835 by Mr. John Killy, Sr., of Bluestone, and I changed the name of my residence from Park Place,a name given to it by my kinsman Clarkson Prince, to that of Wildwood.

"My family -- consisting of my wife, Mrs. Emily Neville Beckley; my two sons, John and Neville; and my son Henry Martin, then a babe in his mother's arms -- joined me in March, 1937.

"This section of the country was then a perfect wilderness, full of deer, bear, and swarms of pests so troublesome that we could not eat a meal without a gnat-smoke at every door, and the milk maid had to be surrounded with like protection. One must have gone through such a trial to appreciate it, now that the clearing of the country has abated this pest.

"Our wilderness was inhabited by a few families here and there, miles apart For example: old Mr. Samuel Pack, under the White Oak Mountain, 12 miles away; old Mr. Henry Hull at Shady Spring, 8 miles away; a Mr. Lawrence at Thomason's old farm, 4 miles; Clarkson Prince at forks of Beaver, 3 miles; old John Pittman at Squire James Scotts residence on the road to Richman's Falls 7 miles; old Mr. John Bailey and John Williams, about 4 miles on the Guyandotte Road; and old Mr. Thomas Warden on Kanawha road, 5 miles; and old Daniel Shumate at Trap Hill, 12 miles. These were all kind, honest, obliging neighbors to my family and myself."


General Beckley then provides one of the most extensive available descriptions of the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike, first known as the Bluestone Road. Beckley was among the prominent settlers who established the turnpike, the north-south route that cross the mountains southwest of the New River Gorge:


"The only road was the old Blue Stone road from Pack's Ferry on New River, running-a-muck at all mountains, hills, hollows, ascents and descents, and all streams, crossing the Jumping Branch, Glade Creek, and Piney River, passing the well known Oak Tree, the 23 mile tree from Pack's Ferry, where the road forked, the direct straight-forward road leading to Kanawha and the road to the left leading to Logan and Guyandotte rivers. The road to Kanawha crossed Little White Stick creek, and descending the 'Rocky Hollow' and running the 'Devils Race Path,' a very rough rocky piece of this nature's turnpike to the head of upper Loop Creek, and down its precipitous, rock bed, crossing the creek 20 or more times, and by the present McCoy Place and mill, and across Arbuckle's Creek to Vandal's settlement in the loop of the New River, then Vandalia, but since Fayetteville, and then on to Cotton Hill, and then crossing same down a large branch called Fall branch to Montgomery's Ferry on the Great Kanawha (or the 'River of the Woods', its Indian title). It required at that, 17 years ago, three or four days of laborious pulling for a wagon and team to go from the 23 mile tree to the Kanawha river.