Newspaper Archive of
Mountain Messenger
Lewisburg, West Virginia
January 16, 1990     Mountain Messenger
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January 16, 1990

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,! Intercepted Letter Civil War Times ii~~, i ,i b ' k, i , By Chas. A. Goddard Among the earliest Northern set- tiers in near-by Fayette County were ebout a dozen families from New York who were members of a spiritualist colony established at Mountain Cove (on Route 60 about 10 miles from An- sted) in 1850-1852. The instigator of ~e movement was Thomas Lake Har- ris who was just entering upon his in- ternational career as Utopian seer, Colonizer and expositor of "secrets of the interior". When the Civil War broke out, most of the Mountain Cove colony moved back north. Among them were the families of Hopping, Dwight, Nichols, Norton, Sheridan, Cottrell and Piggot. One family, the George W. Hunts, stayed on in the wilderness of what is now Fayette Cour=ty, West Vir- ginia. Descendents of the Hunt Family still live on the property which was once the site of an experiment in com- munal living. Nancy P. Hunt was born in 1820, she died at Mountain Cove in 1891. She was 43 years old when she wrote the following transcribed letter to her friends -- Mr and Mrs Joseph H. Hop- ping in their New York refuge -- Sep- tember 28, 1863. During the Civil War, Mrs Hunt and her husband were left in charge of the general store which was owned by Jo- seph H, Hopping. Goods for the store were almost impossible to obtain due to guerilla activities throughout the area. Four of the Hunt's sons dodged Confederate conscription and es- caped to Ohio to enlist early in the Federal Army. Information reaching Mrs Hunt was not always trustworthy, but she showed rare reportorial skill in giving the news. Her record makes an inter- esting chapter in the annals of south- eastern West Virginia during the Civil War. Mrs Hunt's letter is reproduced here just as she wrote it 126 years ago. Only minor spelling changes, to conform with modern usage, have been added. A few explanatory words were interpolated by the transcriber. My Dear Friends, We received your letter last Thursday with one from Edwin and Henry. I must tell you what a time we had getting them. We heard Sam Gill had brought up some letters for us from Camp. We immedi- ately sent Seth down to Hamiltons (Gill has been working there all summer) he had gone up to Frank Tyree to get back his horse the rebels had stolen from him. We waited a few days, then Mr Hunt went down to Hamiltons [at Hawks Nest], but Gill was not there Next day he went over to Gill's, found him, and got the let- ters. He had had them about two weeks. We were very happy to get they as we always are to get letters from our North- ern friends, particularly [in] these dark and troublous times. Them and newspa- pers are "Beacons of light" to us. You have no idea the happiness they afford US, Mrs Smith found her lord in Elizabe- thrown, Ky. taking Ambrotypes. She said he had gained a wide spread reputation in Cincinnati and vicinity as an eminent Physician but his health was too poor to practice: You know he had a reputation here. I wish I could tell you all they are doing, but it would take more than one sheet. Mrs S[mith] returned about two months ago escorted by fifteen Federal soldiers (Cavalry) with a flag of truce. No lady with her. One horse was packed with provision for her. She saw Gen Cox in Cin[cinnati]. He gave her a recommen- dation. I suppose with that she can go where she pleases and get what she wants. She says the Dr would not come back to Va gain. She told down the river he was obliged to leave as there had been a reward of two thousand dollars offered for his head. Very late news. She left her horses and Precocious son in Ohio. The latter to attend a Medical Col- lege. He will probably graduate in course of the year with a double M. D. They intend leaving here just as soon as the Blockade is removed, and it won't cost them a cent to go. Uncle Sam loots the bills She makes them believe she has lost thousands of dollars by the armies. She has lost nothing since you left here. You know about how much they lost be- fore. They are trying to sell some of their things, but rather dull sale at the prices !hey ask. One dollar for an old smoothing iron, $1 each for their second hand chairs Smith Bought in Cin[cinnati] $1 for one gallon jug, and everything else ac- cordingly, "and they are better than new ones because she has tried them." Old Mrs Sheridan took the rounds last week. Went over to Neal's, Mores, down to Mr Ellis, up to Mrs Vaughan's. I walked up with her from there yesterday. She had not been away from home in long time. Mary [Sheridan] goes around about like she used to, all are grunting. I have received no letters from Cot- terels in a long time. I had heard of Dan and Charlie's enlisting by the way of Val- entine. Strange they should enlist. We received a long interesting letter from Valentine about a week ago dated Sept 5. He was then advancing on to Chat- tanooga. He is in Palmer's Division. I see by the Cin[cinnati] Gazettp Sept 21st that they were badly beaten in Ala[bama] though the fight was not over. I am all anxiety, have many fears, but hope for the best. You need not place any dependance upon what Valentine said about coming back to do business in this store. He merely expressed a wish to do so. If he should live to come back it is very uncertain whether he would want to live here or have the means to carry on business of that kind. Our present wishes and feelings in regard toyour coming here are the same as we have expressed heretofore. These are changing times. All is dark and uncertain before us. I see no pros- pect of doing any business here before the war ends and when that will be God only knows. I suppose to those outside of invaded territory it looks like a piece of folly for Southerners to think of gaining their Independence or establish a sepa- rate confederacy. To me it looks like they must give up. But they seem to be delu- ded. Many of them still have strong hopes. You probably know the Baptist Preacher C. Cavendish of Horse Shoe He attended lately a Baptist association in Greenbrier. He says the Secesh there are in good spirits, "never was a greater prospect of their gaining their Independ- ence". They had just heard of the repulse of Rosecrans and say they took 30,000 prisoners from him. I suppose that en- courages them, and perhaps they take courage from visions that have been seen m Greenbrier in different places and by different individuals. I will relate it in Fannie's words taken from a letter she sent me. "Four or five as reliable men as there are in the county saw while sitting in a porch, something moving in the air that looked like a house door followed by hundreds of boxes about two feet wide four or five feet long, these followed by millions of men marching (on the ground) four deep in double quick time. They were four hours passing." I have since learned the same has been seen by oth- ers in Lewisburg. They were unarmed and going toward the north. Some Se- cesh think it means Foreign aid. Some Union people think it is the spirits of the slain in Battle come to haunt the rebels -- trying to bring them back to the union. About a month ago there was a fight near Lewisburg. The Federals came down from Beverly. I have never yet learned the result, at least reliable. The Secesh say they whipped the Yankees all to pieces. Three from this county got killed and several wounded. Bill McGraw killed, old Mr Halsted mortally wounded was dying the last I heard, one of his sons wounded. _-__ Hendrick wounded, other I do not know. Old Crow has not been heard from since the Gettysburg fight. Mr Westlake lying very low in Greenbrier, not expected to live. Old Floyd and Yancy have passed from mor- tal sight. Now and then the rascals drop off. Nothwithstanding, we are living out of 10B The Mountain Messenger, Tuesday, January 16,]I the world in the wilderness and are this happened, a company of soldiers paper. The boys have not been ul~ blockaded in from all the rest of the from the Bridge went up to Nichols' Mill in the spring and Ed I have not~ world. Yet we are in the midst of almost and were fired on by these bushwhack- over a year. I still stay picket at continual excitement. Not so much from ers, killing one and taking one prisoner place. My family are all well. Cell} what we see, but what we hear transpir- who managed to escape He went past Charlie are fat and hardy, j ing around us here with nothing on but his shirt and We have commenced making~ The Rel:)s have organized a new drawers. He said they stripped him and ses to-day, or Mrs Eagan is for~ company in this Co[unty]. Young Same left one man to guard him. He knew his planted about half an acre, IooksJ~ Tyree is Capt[ain] John Halsted gun was not loaded, so he broke and erable. We have had no rain to sp= Leut[Lieutenant]. I believe they call ran. Since then the Yankees have been for two months which has in themselves independent. They are in here almost constantly and have done us much damage. The cannot conscript be- cause they do not hold the county, but they get all they can to join by persuad- ing and scaring. They take young boys 14 &15 years old, but a heap here de- serted them. Ten went down to Gauley [Union Headquarters] at one time. This Company took Sam Koontz, Jim Hamil- ton, Lanta Harrow prisoners, sent them to Richmond where I suppose they now are. In return, the Federals have taken Frank Tyree, his son William, and Bob McCutcheon to hold as hostages. They came after my husband twice to take prisoner for Bob McCutcheon. Once he [Mr Hunt] was not at home. The other time the majority of the squad were not in favor of taking him so they let him go after that. Abe Forsythe went to see the Gen[eral} in Greenbrier and had a stop put to such proceeding. Great many got scarf [scared] and run off, some one way and some the other way. Then they went to stealing horses -- have taken a great many out of here. Some people here got theirs back. But this is not the worst of it. They have done some bushwhacking. Riley Ramsey is Capt[ain] of a com- pany (I do not know what they call them- selves). He has a commission from the Governor of this state, perhaps Militia or homeguards. They scout around in this and Nicholas County. One day a part of his company were hauling rations from the Bridge {Gauley Bridge] when near Mr Crist's they were fired into from the bush. Sam Tyree himself killed Austin Edes. Riley's son was slightly wounded, then, both parties run. The day before Riley killed one of Tyree's men and wounded two or three. I never heard of Riley bush- whacking. He gives them a chance for their lives. Tyree's co[mpany] have been down to Tomkins' place [present site of the Hawks Nest Country Club] and fired on the pickets twice. The last time they went up by Gills, stole his horse, then on up to Tyree's. Just beyond Tyree's the two that took Gills' horse encountered Riley and company. They would not surrender but ran and they both were shot dead. One of them was Andy Cavendish, son to Wil- liam Cavendish. Last summer he was running over to Fayetteville carrying pro- duce and whiskey to the Yankees, mak- ing all he could out of them, took the strongest kind of oath. This summer took up arms against them [and] made him- self very busy searching his neighbors' homes, stealing horses, etc, but his swift race was soon run. A day or two after up and burned Nichols' and Haynes' Mills with a good deal of wool and grain in. We had five dollars worth of wool in, and two bushels of wheat. The Capt[ain] told them if these Rebels did not quit their deprecations in here he would fire every house between Camp Lookout and Sewei. Some of the Secesh citizens have been in to Greenbrier to see the Gen[eral] about these things. Unless it is stopped, I awfully fear another Lawrence Massacre. O dear! I am tired of writing. Are you not tired of reading? I have not written all the havoc that has been made here but enough to give you an idea of the time here. It is awful to live the way we do. You ought to be thankful you are not liv- ing here. I sometimes feet good deal encour- aged, think the war will soon be over and we can feel safe and secure again. When I cannot hear from down the river or from the North, I feel gloomy and sad. The Southern Confederacy looks like a dark Pit to me. I cannot express my feel- ings about it. "May God Speed the right." I understand about 18 deserters from Jenkins army who were under General Lee came into camp at Fayetteville a while ago. One of them was Henson -- Hannah Remley's second husband, he said five hundred of Jenkins' men had deserted. He said the soldiers were kept in the dark. He did not know until the day before he left that Vicksburg was taken. He supposed they were gaining ground all the time. I saw a man from Malden a short time ago. He says business never was more flourishing there than now. Plenty money. Plenty work -- pay every Satur- day night -- many buildings going up -- plenty of everything -- People moving over from Ohio -- think there will be one city from Charleston to Point Pteasant. 1 expect this will be one of the greatest states in the union. May I have patience to endure to the end. For a few weeks the way was open for all Loyal citizens to go down to the Bridge and get necessaries, that is, what they could bring up on horseback. The roads are blockaded so a waggon can- not get along and very difficult for a horse to pass. Husband went clown twice and staid all night the first time he went. He saw Henry & Alonzo. He came home in good spirits. Seems to do him so much good. Edwin has been down there, but is now in Ohio in State business of some ~,ind, I don't know what. Henry is still Wagg0n Master. I hear from him ev- ery week. He occasionally sends me a crops Last week were several which has injured the corn some. i not plant much but have a -- People say the best in this Our wheat was very good. poor crop. I think we have raisede for ourselves to live on if we keep it. But the worst of it now grinding done. The creeks are they cannot grind. We have flour for four weeks and have to for meal. I suppose there is this county this year than ever l Men are so scarce and teams too. We have never heard from William but once The letter was the 10th of May. He says in unless a person has a vost Marshall of the county o where hey come from, be conscripted into the army. Hei know that and did not have a got conscripted. After many ments and delays, Col[onel] succeeded in getting him out of and he went to work for him 17 miles from Richmond. He never passed through such Since this letter was written, a been made in that canal and I T[omkins] is in Baltimore. I have where William is. His wife and well, but she has to work mighty support her family. Her folk are towa and they are very anxious and Margaret to move out there. she can get to Ohio, they will from there, but she cannot go at I saw Mrs Terry and last Sunday week. All were them. I have not seen your bors for some time. I saw Mrs Black woman to-day, all well More has called on me several ti~ summer. You wished for all the news. you will get a surplus this time. to do as I wish to be done respect, and will ask you for a text. Do you know an, kinfolks the Chappetls who used~ the vicinity of Auburn? Where Preist family? And your Do you know anything of ris' whereabouts? t believe I have said my will close. Much love to you both. Write soon and give me all Perhaps Husband will have say I will ask him when he Husband thinks I have him to say, but sends much love. Yours sil t! 4 PIECE BEDROOM SUITE January Clearance Sale still in Progress Exactly As Pictured. Dresser trot, Headboard, Chest Night Stan( ... All Freezers on Sale mea.s peace of mi.d 5,3 CU. Ft CHEST FREEZER WITH FHOSM4DT OLD FASHIONED AM/FM RADIO V/S4"