(03/19/2013)

ILL FEELINGS LINGER AFTER 150 YEARS

By Eva Margaret Carnes
West Virginia Review
January 1944

Calhoun's county seat spent its youthful days in traveling. The county was organized April 14, 1856, at the home of Joseph W. Burson at Pine Bottom and meetings were held here through August.

Then it was moved to a "residence near Peregrine Hays," according to the records. Peregrine Hays was the big-time politician of the county and together with Absalom Knotts, the senior justice of the county, had things pretty much his own way.

And Peregrine had property at Big Bend. But there was some revolt against his authority, for in May of 1857 an order was entered to move the court to the store of Betts and Stalnaker, and at least one meeting was held here.

The following day Hays supporters rallied and the order was rescinded. The next two meetings of the court were devoted to acquiring two acres of land and having a courthouse built. This frame structure cost $675 and the first term of court was held there in September.

There was dissatisfaction in the ranks. The June term of court in 1858 was held "at a house in Arnoldsburg" and an agent was appointed to rent the county property at Big Bend.

A year later Hays was still fighting for the former location and an order was entered to purchase an additional acre of land from Hays adjoining the Big Bend courthouse.

The next day the order was rescinded and plans went ahead for the construction of a courthouse at Arnoldsburg. It was to be a pretentious affair and the plans for the Wirt County courthouse were being used.

But for some reason - the county paid the contractor several thousand dollars - it never progressed beyond the foundation stage and court continued to meet in a rented house.

Court records are missing for the period of 1861 to 1868 so the story of this migratory court must be told from tradition.

Early in the Civil War the court moved to Grantsville and a courthouse was erected, only to be destroyed by fire before the court could occupy it.

Then came the board of supervisors, replacing the county court under the new constitution of the State of West Virginia. This board met for sometime at Old Bethlehem Church and then returned to Grantsville where a courthouse was constructed.

But all was not quiet in the courthouse question.

At the meeting of the board in March it was ordered that a guard be employed to protect the courthouse "from fire at night."

At the same meeting it was ordered that the seat of justice be moved back to Arnoldsburg, in compliance with a legislative enactment which repealed a previous enactment and placed the courts at the same point where they had been held at the beginning of the Civil War.

The next day the order was rescinded and the board defied the Legislature and remained in Grantsville.

They did, however, order an election to be held in October to determine the location of the courts. But their defiance was short lived and in August they met in Arnoldsburg, the records having been hauled there by A. M. Campbell. In October they were back in Grantsville.

Then in November they were back in Arnoldsburg.

Although a group of citizens protested the result of the election, which gave the county seat to Grantsville, the board ordered the removal of the records to the courthouse and Grantsville at last became the permanent home of the migratory offices.

Today the remains of the foundation of Calhoun's courthouse at Arnoldsburg stand as a memorial to its days as the county seat.

The location of the county seat then took a series of ominous twists and turns.

In September, 1856, the justices of the county court started meeting at a house near the residence of Peregrine Hays at Arnoldsburg.

In the meantime, the act creating the county specified that the county's residents were to determine if the permanent county seat was to be located at Pine Bottom, the mouth of Yellow Creek, or at the "neck of the Big Bend."

The voters apparently choose the site at the mouth of Yellow Creek at the first general election held in the county in November 1856.

However, the county justices began to argue among themselves and two county courts emerged, one consisting of the leading citizens from Arnoldsburg and the other from Pine Bottom.

They were able to resolve their differences and a unified county court was established at Yellow Creek, the current site of Brooksville, on September 15, 1857.

The following year, the county seat was, once again, moved back to Arnoldsburg and the county court acquired land from Peregrine Hays as the future site of the courthouse.

In 1862, during the Civil War, Union forces under the command of Thomas M. Harris captured Arnoldsburg and placed Peregrine Hays under arrest as a political prisoner.

The state legislature then moved the county seat to Grantsville. Grantsville was originally settled by Eli Riddle during the 1820s, but it was owned by Simon and Ruth Stump when it was platted in 1866.

They named the town in honor of General Ulysses Simpson Grant, General of the Union Army during the Civil War and later the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877). The town was incorporated in 1896.

Once the Civil War concluded, the citizens of Arnoldsburg demanded that the county seat be returned to them.

A fire of mysterious origin, assumed to be arson, burnt the courthouse under construction in Grantsville to the ground before it was occupied in 1869.

Soon after, the state legislature ordered the Calhoun County court to move the county seat, apparently back to Arnoldsburg.

The court then met at Arnoldsburg on August 26, 1869, but then met at Grantsville in September and then back in Arnoldsburg in November.

An election to settle the matter was held in October 1869, and the county electorate selected Grantsville as the permanent county seat.

The leading citizens of Arnoldsburg then contested the election as irregular and illegal. Their appeal failed.

Then, not refusing to give up, in 1898 the leading citizens of Arnoldsburg charged that the courthouse at Grantsville was unsafe and tried to get the county seat changed one more time. It was put to the vote, but the voters decided to keep the county seat in Grantsville by a vote of 935 to 925.

Two year later, in 1890, the county government tore down the courthouse in Grantsville and replaced it with a two-story brick building at a cost of $8,400.

It was later replaced in 1941.

A DIFFERENT ACCOUNT

After Thirteen Years Of Dispute,
Grantsville Became A County Seat

This History Compiled from History Book Of County,
Old Newspapers and Information from Citizens
of Grantsville and Calhoun County

DISPUTE OVER COUNTY SEAT

The founding of Grantsville as a County Seat was the result of a thirteen year dispute between the residents of the West Fork and the Little Kanawha valley over the location of the county seat. On the fifth day of March, 1856, a petition was formed, signed, and laid before the General Assembly in a session at Richmond, Virginia.

The Assembly favored the petition and the bill provided for the formation of the county. And for the location of the county seat either at Pine Bottom at the mouth of Yellow Creek or at Big Bend on the Little Kanawha River.

A vote of the people was to decide the location for the county seat. The bill also provided that until the vote had been taken the circuit court and county court would be held at the home of Joseph W. Burson at Grantsville.

The following justice of the peace, each holding a commission as such signed by his excellency the governor of the Commonwelth [sic] of Virginia, were present Hiram Ferrell, H. R. Ferrell, Joshua Knight, Absalon Knotts, George Lynch, and William Brannon.

The court was called to order and proceeded to organize the county by electing John N. Norman as sheriff of Calhoun county and George W. Silcott was elected clerk.

After posting their required bonds, and taking oath of office, John Norman the new sheriff, appointed Alpheus Norman and Phillip Norman as his deputies, and the court approved his appointments.

After granting William A. Brannon a license to colevrate [sic - celebrate?] marriage rites and transacting other minor business the court adjourned to meet in September at the home of Perigrene Hays, where Arnoldsburg now stands and not to meet at Pine Bottom or Big Bend.

After the first county court meeting the trouble began between the residents of the West Fork, the residents of Grantsville, and the people farther down the river over the location of the county seat.

County court was held in various homes and places and at one time there were two county courts in session at the same time. This was in 1857 when one court was being held in Arnoldsburg and the other at Collins Betts home three miles below Grantsville.

In no county in the state has there been so much difficulty concerning the permanent location of the county seat as in Calhoun.

For 13 years it was a vexed question and by the time it was settled it had cost the county several thousand dollars.

By an act of the Grand Assembly, enacted February 13, 1862, it was provided that an election be held by the voters of the county on the fourth Thursday in May 1862, to determine whether they should retain the county seat at Arnoldsburg fixed by law or remove the same to Simon P. Stump farm where Grantsville in now located.

After the election in the county, West Virginia became a state and according to the status the election was carried on by law, but there being two different factions the location of the county seat was carried to the supreme courts.

After several discussion, it was finaly [sic] decided that the county seat be at Grantsville. A basement had already been started for a courthouse at Arnoldsburg. It was ordered to see all holdings of the starting of the new courthouse at Arnoldsburg, of which part of the basement is still standing which cost around $1,500.

While the dispute was carried on, a man at the mouth of Yellow creek, now Brooksville, was given a contract to erect a building to be used as a courthouse. He was E. McClaskey, who filled his contract and was paid $675.00. But legal proceedings were instituted, and on the fifteenth day of June 1858, the court again convened at Arnoldsburg, and here it continued to be held until 1869.

The question was once more revived and another move was made, this time in Granstville where a one story frame building was erected in 1869 for a courthouse but was burned before it was occupied; the second, a frame building, was torn down to make room for the third, the third, built of red brick, manufactured nearby was completed in 1880, and was was [sic] supposed to cost $8,400. It was a two story building and stood on a knowl [sic] about 5 feet above the street sourounded [sic] by a stone wall.

It was a very pretty location surrounded by large trees and was a perfect spot for loafing in the summer. At one time it was reported there was a telephone installed on one of the large trees so the office workers could answer the telephone without going in the building.

The first floor of the building was occupied by the sheriff's office[,] the assessor, circuit court[,] county court rooms and the prosecuting attorney office.

The second floor was the court and jurory [sic] rooms, and the county agents office.

An attorney who located in the county soon after its formation but afterwards moved to an adjoining county, once said that he was obliged to remove for he had been broken up trying to keep up with the county seat.

The first Circuit court in Calhoun county was held at the home of Peregrine Hays at Arnoldsburg, on Monday the sixth day of October, 1856, with Mathew Edmiston, judge of the nineteenth circuit in the ninth judicial district of Virginia, presided. At this meeting the first grand jury, a jury of inquest for the body of the county, was empaneled and sworn in. They were Alexander Huffman, (foreman), James Ball, John H. Johnson, James P. Hunt, Daniel Nichols, Francis Robinson, Nicholas Poling, Daniel Stallman, Silas Pettit, Joseph Hayhurst, Lemuel Haverty, Isaac Starcher, Andrew Mace, Arnold Snider, Peter M. McCune and Anthony Conrad. The jury retired and returned to present three true bills of indictment all for misdeanors [sic].

Circuit court adjourned for some time. In the fall of 1860, a new judge was elected William L. Jackson of Weston. Circuit court was again held at Arnoldsburg.

In April 1861 the Civil war broke upon the nation and no future term of Circuit court was held in Calhoun county until September 1865, a term was held at Arnoldsburg, with Judge George Loomis, presiding.

He continued to hold circuit court at Arnoldsburg and including the May term in 1867 and the September term 1867.

The May term in 1868 was held in Grantsville at the home of Joseph W. Burson, this being the first time that the name of Grantsville appeared on the county records.

At the March term 1869 a new Judge Robert S. Brown, of Jackson county presided, again the circuit court was held at Arnoldsburg and also the August term 1869. The November term 1869 and the April term 1870 were held in Grantsville, and the August term 1870 was held in the new Brick Courthouse.

On April 17, 1941, work was started on demolishing the old two story brick courthouse, with W. P. A. labor and under the construction of P. R. Lewis of Huntington, contractor. After the building was torn down, the five foot knoll was removed and the ground was made street level.

The new courthouse is of native stone cut from a quarry about two miles from Grantsville on the Russett road.

The building is a three story structure with basement containing 11 rooms; thirteen rooms on the first floor; the second floor has six rooms with a courtroom and balcony with a seating capacity of around 400 people and the third floor has two rooms.

Photos of Calhoun's early courthouse can be found on 'Photo of the Day'


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