|A History of the County Seat of Calhoun County
By Lorentz C. Hamilton, Sr.
Transcribed from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 3/26/1942
by Norma Knotts Shaffer.
Calhoun county was formed from a part of Gilmer county by an act of
the General Assembly of Virginia, enacted on and in effect from the
day of March, 1856. It may be noted here, parenthetically, that
another act, passed and in effect on the same day, the adjoining
of Roane was formed from Kanawha, Jackson and Gilmer counties.
The boundaries of Calhoun, as set forth in the formation act, were
"Beginning with the West Fork of the Little Kanawha river, where
Gilmer and Wirt county line crosses the same; thence, up the West
to the mouth of Henry's Fork; to the mouth of Beech Fork, thence, with
the dividing ridge between said Beech Fork and Henry's fork, to the
county line; thence, to include all the waters of said West Fork,
the county of Gilmer, to the Gilmer, Ripley and Ohio turnpike, to the
of Cromleys (Crummies) Creek; thence with said turnpike, to the mouth
Bear Fork on Steer Creek; thence a straight line to the head of
Shoals of the Little Kanawha river, thence by the shortest line, to
top of the dividing ridge between the waters of Tanners Fork and
Creek, to the Ritchie county________________Gilmer county line, to the
place of beginning."
The act further provided that the permanent county seat for the new
county should be located at one of three places, Pine Bottom (opposite
the mouth of Pine Creek, on what was later known as the George W.
farm, now owned by Godfrey L. Cabot, Inc., a part of which is occupied
by the Hope Natural Gas Company's Compressing Station for the
of natural gas), the mouth of Yellow Creek (where the town of
is now located), or the neck of the Big Bend (on the farm later known
the James Philip Knight farm, now owned by Lewis E. Smith); the site
be selected at the first general election by such voters of the county
as may be authorized to vote for members of the General Assembly, the
receiving a majority of the votes cast to be the county seat; if
of the three sites receive such a majority, a new election to be held
order of the county court between the two places having the largest
of votes at the first election; until the site should be so fixed, the
circuit and county courts should be held at the house of Joseph W.
or such other place as the county court should designate. The
further provided that the new county should constitute a part of the
judicial circuit of Virginia, of the eleventh congressional district,
forty-eighth senatorial district and the election district, of Gilmer
Wirt (for member of the General Assembly).
I have never been able to ascertain whether the election or
provided for in the act, was ever held, although I have made
search of the county court records heretofore: at the present time,
county court older records are not available, because of the fact that
there is no courthouse, and they are piled haphazardly in the jail
to such extent that they cannot be assorted, nor can be until they are
filed in the new building, the corner stone of which is today laid.
However, all the records of the court are in good condition and
The first circuit court was held at the residence of Peregrine Hays
at Arnoldsburg, on the West Fork of the Little Kanawha river, on
October 6th., 1856, Judge Mathew Edmiston being the presiding judge:
Edmiston lived at Weston, in Lewis county, was judge of the nineteenth
judicial circuit, and was the grandfather of Andrew Edmiston, the
member of Congress from this, the third district of West Virginia;
all circuit courts were held in "a house in Arnoldsburg": by Judge
until the fall term, 1860, when the Court was held at the same place
his successor, Judge William L. Jackson, also of Weston, who was later
a brigadier general in the Confederate army, and who was known as
Jackson, to distinguish him from his more eminent kinsman, "Stonewall"
Jackson: the court was held by the same judge at the same place at the
spring term, 1861.
In April, 1861, the Civil War came on; no further terms of circuit
were held in the county until the September term, 1865, when a term
held in the courthouse at Arnoldsburg by Judge George Loomis, judge of
the sixth judicial circuit of West Virginia; West Virginia having been
formed from Virginia under an act of the General Assembly of the
Government" of Virginia, which took full effect on June 20, 1863.
Judge Loomis continued to hold the courts at Arnoldsburg to and
the May term, 1867; from the September term 1867, to the May term,
he held the same "at Grantsville"; this being the first time that the
Grantsville appears upon the county records.
At the March, 1869, term, a new judge, Robert S. Brown, of Jackson
held the court "at a house in Arnoldsburg, where the Courts were
held", and the August, 1869, term was held at Arnoldsburg.
The November, 1869, and the April, 1870, terms were held by Judge
Finally, at the August, 1870, term, we find the court being held
the new Courthouse at Grantsville", at which place all circuits have
Now, as to why the courts should have been held at Arnoldsburg
from the formation of the county to the May, 1867, term, the records,
available, do not disclose; perhaps the elections, provided for in the
formation act, between Pine Bottom, the mouth of Yellow Creek and the
of the Big Bend, were never held, or the results thereof inconclusive;
all these places were on the Little Kanawha river, while Arnoldsburg
situated on the West Fork of the river, at a point some twelve to
miles from the main river. However, I think it more likely that
the act forming the county was passed, another act must have been
by The General Assembly fixing Arnoldsburg as the county seat, at
for the holding of the circuit courts; but I have not been able to
such act. At any rate, from the language of the General Assembly
act, next herein referred to, the county seat must have been legally
in some manner at Arnoldsburg prior to 1862.
By an act of the General Assembly, enacted February 13, 1862, it
provided that an election be held by the voters of the county on the
Thursday in May "after the present war is over", for the purpose of
the sense of the voters as to whether they should retain the county
at Arnoldsburg, the place now fixed by law, or remove the same to
P. Stump's farm, opposite the mouth of Philips Run. The Stump
included the land upon which a part of the town of Grantsville is now
But, as before stated, on June 20, 1863, the state of West Virginia
began to function. Under its new constitution and by the
act of its Legislature, section 8, chapter 78, Acts 1863, it was
that "if it becomes necessary or desirable to remove the county seat
any county and such removal is deemed advisable be a majority of the
of Supervisors of such county". . . "and it is approved by three
of the voters, such removal may be made."
On the fourth Thursday in May, 1866, pursuant to the act of
13, 1862, evidently without the same being deemed advisable by the
of supervisors, the election was held and the Simon P. Stump farm
upon by a majority of the voters, but not by a three fifths majority.
The board of supervisors refused to certify the result of the
or even to take up and examine the same. The prosecuting
on June 25, 1866, brought the matter to the attention of the circuit
upon an examination of the evidence, such circuit court held that the
had been held according to law (i.e., the 1862 statute of Virginia),
that the greatest number of votes had been cast for the Stump farm,
ordered that the same should, after the rising of that term of court,
permanent county, and that the county supervisors provide suitable
for the holding of court, etc.
At once, thereafter, by a bill of exceptions, C.M. Conley, George
Jr., and M.V. Fleming brought the matter to the Supreme Court of
of West Virginia, in the behalf of the Arnoldsburg proponents, and at
January, 1868 term, it decided the same, the style of the suit being
Conley, et al., vs. Supervisors of Calhoun county, 2 W.Va., 416.
The opinion was rendered by Judge Edwin Maxwell.
The principal questions were, of course, whether the operative part
of the act of 1862 had been repealed by the constitution of West
and the act thereunder of 1863, or impliedly so sepealed by the later
giving the board of supervisors the sole power to hold elections,
the removal of county seats, in other words, if the act of 1862 be
operative, the Stump Farm people would win, otherwise there would be
In the meantime, however, after the case came to the court of
but before any decision thereof, something else came into the
The Legislature of West Virginia on January 22, 1867, enacted a
Acts 1867, chapter 1, page 1, which provided that thereafter the
seat of Calhoun county should be at the farm of Simon P. Stump, on the
Little Kanawha river; that suitable public buildings be erected, and
the supervisors sell all county property at Arnoldsburg.
Thence came the opinion of Judge Maxwell in the Conley case,
term, 1868: it discusses several matters most interestingly and then
the main question as follows: that the act of Virginia, 1862, was
repealed by the act of West Virginia of 1863; that it was, also,
repealed by the constitution and said second act (1863), which revised
the whole subject matter and gave to the supervisors the
of the internal affairs and fiscal concern of a county. This of
wholly invalidated the election held in May, 1866, defeated the Stump
pronents, and apparently blasted their hopes and fixed the government
Arnoldsburg: however, in the last paragraph of the opinion, the Court
and solemnly says that since the county seat has been located at
farm, by the act of the Legislature of West Virginia, enacted January
1867, since this case has been in Court, there is nothing in the case
a question of costs; and it thereupon decrees costs against the Stump
people, dismisses the original proceeding brought by the prosecuting
reverses the order of the circuit court, grants no supersedeas,
the county seat at the Stump farm. A truly Pyrric victory for
victors; they obtained everything except what they wanted.
This settled the matter finally; the county seat has since remained
upon the Stump farm.
It might be noted here that, after all the acts, court decisions,
and especially the act of January 22, 1867, the official site of the
seat is still upon the Simon P. Stump farm, and not at Grantsville.
The judges of the circuit court since the formation have been as
Mathew Edmiston, 1856-60
William L. Jackson, 1860-61
George Loomis, 1865-68
Robert S. Brown, 1869-72
James M. Jackson, 1873-80
Robert F. Fleming, 1881-88
Virgil S. Armstrong, 1889-96
Reese Blizzard, 1897-1901
Warren Miller, 1901-02
Linn Brannon, 1903-04
William A. Parsons, 1905-12
Walter H. O'Brien, 1913-28
Lewis H. Miller, 1929-
For reasons, above stated, it is not possible at the present to
the places of the terms of the county courts or body in lieu thereof,
the formation to 1870. Some years ago, when the records were
accessible, I looked this matter up, but have misplaced my notes; but,
from memory the first county court or board was held at the Joseph W.
house, as provided by the act; later its terms were held at various
along the Little Kanawha river, at Pine Bottom and the Old Bethlehem
about one mile above the site of the present Grantsville, the greater
of the terms being held at the church. It is rather curious to
that, while nearly all the circuit courts were held at Arnoldsburg
fourteen years, no county court was ever held there; all being held at
points from fifteen to twenty miles from Arnoldsburg.
Written February 28, 1942, the date of the laying of the
for the new Courthouse on the Simon P. Stump Farm, now Grantsville,
Virginia, by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Masons
Lorentz C. Hamilton (Sr.).
Addendum: Transcribed from original Court Records from
proceedings of the County Court held June 10, 1856 by Norma Knotts
"The Court this day appointed Alexander Huffman one of the Justices
of this County, according to the Act of Assembly establishing the
of Calhoun, who, together with Anthony Conrad sheriff protempore
of this County, and George W. Silcott clerk protempore of this court,
to the provisions of the said Act establishing this County, after
duly sworn by the Court, proceeded to scrutinize the polls of votes
for the Seat of Justice of said County, and after a time, they
the following report to the Court, viz,
We Alexander Huffman, Anthony Conrad and George W. Silcott who were
appointed according to law to scrutinize the vote cast for a location
a seat of Justice for Calhoun County, beg leave to report that we have
examined polls, counted them, and struck therefrom all persons who we
were not entitled to vote for Members of the General Assembly and find
the result to be as follows, viz, For Pine Bottom 92 votes, For
Mouth of Yellow Creek 102 votes, and for the Neck of the Big Bend no
making by our count a majority of 10 votes for the Mouth of Yellow
over both the other places named in the Act of the General Assembly
the County of Calhoun, But we find that
the vote as above set forth that there is returned by the Poll books
votes for Adam Starchers.
All of which is respectfully submitted June 10, 1856
G. W. Silcott
The Court doth appoint George Downs, George W. Rogers and Robert
commissioners to select the public grounds of this County at the Mouth
of Yellow Creek for the erection thereon of a Courthouse, Jail &
other public buildings necessary, and that they report to court on
all such matter as they may deem pertinent."