Pocahontas County History

Pocahontas County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on December 21, 1821 from parts of Bath, Pendleton and Randolph counties. It was named in honor of Pocahontas (1595-1617), the Indian princess who was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, the King of the Confederated tribes of Atlantic Virginia.

Pocahontas is famous for having saved the life of Captain John Smith, founder and Governor of Jamestown, the first, permanent English settlement in America. According to the story, the English settlers had run out of food and went to the Indians seeking corn, but were refused any help. Recognizing that the colony would stare without more food, Captain John Smith attacked the local Indians settlement and secured the provisions necessary to keep the colony going. He was later captured by the Indians and condemned to death. He was dragged to a large stone where his head was to be crushed. Pocahontas, then about 12 years old, begged her father to spare Smith's life. When it appeared that the sentence was about to be carried out anyway, she covered Smith's head with her own body to shield him. Smith was then released and a few days later reached an agreement with Powhatan to allow the settlers to hunt in the area in exchange for two cannon and a grindstone. Pocahontas then spent much of her time with the settlers, learned their language and, when she was 17, married John Rolfe (or Rolph), one of the settlers. In 1616, she accompanied her husband to London where she was received with royal honors for her role in saving Smith and the colony. The following year, she was preparing to return to the colony with her husband but became ill and died, at the age of 22, from smallpox. She left behind her husband and their infant son, Thomas Rolfe. Pocahontas' Indian name was Matoaka.

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.

• 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 August 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 October 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.

Pocahontas County's European Pioneers and Settlers

Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell were the first English settlers to reach present-day
Pocahontas County. In 1749, they built and shared a cabin on the banks of the Greenbrier River near present-day Marlinton. They were discovered in 1751 by Colonel Andrew Lewis who was destined to command one of the armies at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. Lewis was surprised to find the men living apart, with Marlin living in the cabin and Sewell living in a near-by hollow of a very large sycamore tree. The men indicated that they had lived together for awhile, but had a religious disagreement (some accounts indicate that the dispute was over the use of immersion during infant baptisms and other accounts indicate that it was a more fundamental disagreement over religious articles of faith). Sewell decided to move out to keep the peace. Sewell later moved about eight miles south and, for a short time, lived in a cave. He then moved further west and, in 1756, was killed by Indians near present-day Rainelle in western Greenbrier County. Sewell's Mountain is named in his honor. The tree which served as Sewell's home stood as a tourist attraction until 1930. Marlin also did not stay in Pocahontas County long. He returned to the east around 1754.

Fearing for their safety, no one attempted a permanent settlement in
Pocahontas County during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Shortly after the war's conclusion, in 1765, John McNeel (or McNell), from Cumberland, Maryland, built a cabin in the Little Levels valley. He was soon joined by Charles and Edward Kennison, friends from Cumberland. In 1784, the three men took part in the Battle of Point Pleasant.

Important Events in
Pocahontas County during the 1800s

Most of
Pocahontas County's residents supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.

November 6, 1863, Union General William W. Averell, in command of about 2,000 men, drove the Confederate Army from the Greenbrier Valley at the decisive Battle of Droop Mountain. Averell marched his forces from Cheat Mountain to Bartow, to the Little Levels at Hillsboro, and to Droop Mountain. Confederate General John Echols and about 2,000 Confederate troops took up a defensive position on top of the Mountain. Under the cover of artillery fire, Averell split his forces in two, sending one column charging straight up the Mountain and another along an obscure route up the Mountain that passed west of Hillsboro. The Confederate troops did not guard the more obscure route and were surprised when Averell's men charged at them from behind. After a bloody battle that lasted about an hour, the Confederate Army retreated to Lewisburg. After this battle, Union forces continued to meet scattered Confederate resistance in West Virginia, but the Confederate Army's presence in the state subsided substantially.

Pocahontas County Seat

The first meeting of the
Pocahontas County court was held on March 5, 1822. at John Bradshaw's home near Huntersville. Mr. Bradshaw named the town in honor of the large number of hunters who came there during the trading season. John Jordan, William Poage, James Tallman, Robert Gay, John Baxter, George Burner, and Benjamin Tallman served as the county's first Justices of the Peace. John Jordan was named county sheriff, Josiah Beard was appointed county clerk, and Sampson L. Mathews was appointed county surveyor.

Huntersville served as the county seat until 1891 when the county's residents voted to move the county seat to Marlinton. At that time, Marlinton, known as Marlin's Bottom until 1887, had only about 100 residents, but Colonel John McGraw, of Grafton, through the Pocahontas Development Company, had offered $5,000 for the construction of a new courthouse if the county seat was moved to Marlinton. McGraw had purchased much of the land in the area and was able to convince the railroad to extend a line to the town. Once the railroad line was completed in 1901, the town began to grow.



Pocahontas County was formed in 1821 and the original courthouse was built at Huntersville, the first county seat. In 1891, with great plans for the coming of the railroad and a new town at Marlinton, the citizens of Pocahontas voted to move the county seat six miles west to Marlinton. Thus, construction was begun in 1893 on the present courthouse, on property which occupies a full city block on Tenth Avenue in Marlinton. The name Marlinton was changed from Marlin's Bottom only seven years before. At that time there were only five families there. The settlement and establishment of Marlinton is closely related to the development of the railroad and timber industry in the region. And the courthouse itself was the focus for this rapid expansion of the county and the town.
     The courthouse is a two story, brick, Victorian Romanesque structure. It has irregular massing with a central block that has a steep hip roof. On the front elevation, there are two dissimilar towers, one at each corner. The east and west side have projecting gabled pavilions, as well as gabled dormers in the roof on each of these elevations in the Southern portion.
     Inside, a major feature is the vertical board hardwood wainscoting in all the rooms. Doors are original hardwood, as well as the stairs and balustrade with handcarved newel posts of the main staircase. A two story brick jail in simple Romanesque style is located back of the courthouse.
     While M.F. Giesey of
Wheeling, West Virginia was the major architect, he teamed with Joseph Warren Yost, a prominent Columbus architect of courthouse structures in Ohio. At completion in 1895, cost of the courthouse was about $28,000.
     The growing potential of the timber and other resources of the county emphasized the need of a railroad to take the timber to market, rather than rafting it down the river. After many delays due to the financial situation in the nation and changes in location, the first train of the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad finally came to Marlinton October 26, 1900, amidst a wild celebration which included a barbecue, polo tournaments, a football game and welcoming speeches.
     Certainly, the existence of the
Pochontas County Courthouse was a major factor in creating the establishment of the lines of communications, commerce, industry and most recently tourism.
     Additions to the courthouse have been tastefully integrated to fit into the style of the structure.

The courthouse, from the side, as it looks today


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