Home | Archives | Email Me | Search | What's New

Guyandotte Oldest Town

Oldest Town In Cabell
Took Name From River

   Guyandotte, the oldest town in Cabell County, was named for one of the rivers bordering it.   Historians disagree whether the river was named for James Guiann, a French trader said to have explored its valley on foot in early times, or for the Wyandotte Indians who sometimes roamed there.
   The town is located on a portion of Lot 42 of the savage Grant, alloted to John Savage.  Named first in the grant, he was an officer who served under Col. George Washington at the Battle of Great Meadows.  He sold his land to William Buffington of Hampshire County, who bequeathed it to his children.


Painting of 1821 titled "Big Guyandotte," by French artist, shows busy town , Ohio River traffic.
    When Thomas and Jonathan Buffington came to lot 42 in the spring of 1796, they cleared land, put in a crop and probably erected a cabin before Thomas returned to Hampshire county for his family.  Perhaps they had a few neighbors by that time.  It is said that Jonathan built his house on the east side of the Guyandotte, while Thomas chose a site on the west side for his home.

   SETTLEMENT increased rapidly after 1796.  In 1802, Kanawha County Court appointed William Huff as constable for the neighborhood at the mouth of the Guyandotte.  In the same year, William Merritt, John Russell and Thomas Buffington were chosen to view a road leading from Merritt's Mill to Van Bibber Ferry on the upper side of the Guyandotte River, and Jeremiah Ward was named overseer of the road from Big Sandy to John Morris' home on Mud River.
   In creating the county of Cabell, the Virginia Assembly in 1809 named a commission of five men from communities outside the new county to select a location for its county seat.  The commission reported on May 9, 1809, fixing "the mouth of Guyandotte, on the upper side, in the middle of a field occupied by William Holderby" as the site.
   No settlement at this location was mentioned either in this report or in court records of the time.  There must have been a few houses, including a trading post where goods for shipment on the river could be stored and a hotel or "ordinary," where travelers on the road from Kentucky to Charleston, open since about 1800, were accommodated.

   IN 1810, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act establishing a town by he name of Guyandotte, to be located on 20 acres of land owned by Thomas Buffington.  Names as trustees were Noah Scales, Henry Brown, Richard Crump, Thomas Kilgore, Edmund Morris and Elisha McComas.
   Three years later, the General Assembly authorized the sale of town lots, which were probably sold at auction.  Thomas Buffington signed the deeds and collected the money.  One of the purchasers was James Gallaher from Gallipolis, who immediately floated his house down to Guyandotte, set it on his lot and went into business.  He held interests in a store, a tannery, a shoe and saddle shop, a saw and grist mill, a distillery and a carding mill during the next 16 years.
  With increasing traffic on the river and road, the rise of the timber industry on the Guyandotte River and growing business in general stores and factories, the town prospered.  Tradition tells that the William Holderby who occupied the field where the courthouse was located also kept the Holderby Hotel, which was well patronized by travelers and timbermen.

   A TRAVELING French artist paused on the bank of the Ohio opposite Guyandotte in 1823 to sketch the town.  His sketch, which hangs in the Huntington Galleries, shows at least a score of buildings, including several businesses or manufacturing enterprises.  Flatboats, steamboats and a ferry appear to be moving on the river.
   The Cabell County Court convened in Guyandotte for the first time on Oct. 8, 1810, though an order shows that the contractor's work on the courthouse was not accepted until August of 1812.  From the beginning, there had been disputes about the courthouse location.  In 1814, Barboursville was designated as the county seat and it remained there until confusion arising from the Civil War caused it to be returned on March 27, 1863, to Guyandotte, where it continued until 1865, then was moved again to Barboursville.
   In 1830, the Guyandotte Turnpike Company built a road on the north side of the Guyandotte River to Barboursville.  Thereafter, the stage line used this road instead of the old pike.

   WITH STEAMBOATS and stagecoaches making daily stops, discharging passengers from all directions for transfer, Guyandotte continued expanding.  By 1835, the village contained 40 dwellings, five store houses, a steam grist and sawmill and carding machine, one saddler, two cabinet makers, several other artisans, a primary school and a house of public worship free to all denominations, in addition to its hostelries.
   Incorporated in 1848, the Guyandotte Bridge Company completed a suspension bridge over the Guyandotte River in 1852.  A navigation company chartered in 1849 built locks and dams in the Guyandotte River.
   The town was incorporated in 1849 and its corporation limits were enlarged twice during the 1850's.  Beautiful homes being erected by this time gave the town a dignified and prosperous appearance.
   Other enterprises being planned, including a bank and a railroad, did not materialize, die to the onset of the Civil War.

   PEOPLE WEST of the mountains were predominantly Union in their sympathies, but Guyandotte and its vicinity were chiefly Southern.  Savage Grant settlers came principally from Eastern Virginia and family loyalties changed slowly in early times.

  To show the town's Southern sentiments, citizens of Guyandotte erected a flagpole on the banks of the Ohio River in November of 1860 and hoisted a Confederate flag thereon.  A company was organized on Dec. 10 to protect the flag, which was kept flying until April 10, 1861.  n this date, A. G. Jenkins spoke to the company, which disbanded and followed him to his home.  Later that day, at the Old Greenbottom Church, the men from Guyandotte met with others from Mason County and organized the Border Rangers with Jenkins as captain.  In the following month, this company was sworn into the Confederate service.

   A Federal recruiting office with Col. K. V. Whaley in charge was opened in Guyandotte in September of 1861 to protect the town from rebel invasion.  On a peaceful Sunday night, Nov. 10, 1861, when it was believed no enemy force was within 80 miles, some 800 Confederates under Jenkins and Col. John Clarkson suddenly raided the town.

   APPROXIMATELY half of Col. Whaley's 180 men were captured; to these were added a dozen civilians known to be Union sympathizers.  The next morning the entire group was started of at a run for the Confederate prison in Richmond.

   Later in the day, Col. J. L. Ziegler arrived from Ceredo with his 5th West Virginia Volunteers.  A number of civilians know to be Southern sympathizers were captured and dispatched by boat for the Federal prison at Camp Chase.  Then torches were applied to the town, and all its principal buildings, including the Buffington mill, the hotels and a number of residences were destroyed.

   A proud town lay in ashes from which it never rose to full height again.  The innocent suffered along with those who had taken part in the civil strife.

DORIS C. MILLER
For  The Herald-Dispatch, 1976

From the collection of Dr. & Mrs. John Maxwell Bobbitt.
Submitted by Mary Bobbitt Richardson. 24 Aug 2007
Typed for the Cabell County WVGenWeb by Candie Freeman.


Templates in Time