A September 2005 trip
to Clarksburg by kjlouden
Quote: Courthouse Square, antebellum mansions, old graveyards, and an excellent
genealogy expert all point to the importance of land and family in what was a frontier
county in Virginia. We explore similarities and differences that caused the state’s psychic
split and learn about its greatest Civil War hero.
Near the southern end of north-central West Virginia’s hi-tech corridor, we exit I-79 onto
Route 50, known to locals as the most accident-prone mile of highway in the state:
Bridgeport Hill. We can turn left (east) into Bridgeport, Clarksburg’s wealthy "bedroom
community" suburb and now shopping and chain-dining Mecca, that--thanks to Senator
Robert Byrd’s finesse in relocating the FBI Fingerprint Division here!--continues to grow
beyond reasonable expectation. Meanwhile, the downsized mother city of 17,000
(Clarksburg) rests on its historic laurels that date back to the frontier. We turn right onto
Route 50 West and roll down the other side of Bridgeport Hill to Joyce St. exit and
Clarksburg, birthplace of Stonewall Jackson and Cyrus Vance.
On E. Pike Street, we find Jackson Park between Charleston Ave. and Cherry
Behind the park is Jackson Cemetery. Here, we see relatives of Thomas J. "Stonewall"
Jackson and are surprised by the mother and sister of Dolly Madison. In another
graveyard, Daniel Davisson DAR Cemetery, established 1790 on West Main Street, we
find the earliest settlers on the Ohio frontier. These discoveries pique my curiosity enough
that I consult a genealogy expert at Waldomore in the old Goff family mansion next to the
public library. Family is important here.
At Harrison County Courthouse, we see memorials to those who fought in all the nations’
wars, but the name that figures most prominently in places here and south of here is that
of Stonewall Jackson. Later today, we’ll drive to Jackson’s Mill (the boyhood home),
once a self-sufficient plantation with a dozen slaves, and Stonewall Jackson Dam,
Stonewall Resort, and Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park.
Thanks to a local informant, we also find the tiny plaque that marks Jackson’s precise
birthplace on West Main Street. Godfrey tells us that a hotel once occupied the spot, which we can see from the
courthouse. I’ve seen the statue at the courthouse before, and it isn’t the same. Somebody has
stolen the hat and sword!
Unless you prefer dining at the many upscale chains on Emily Drive, Bridgeport, plan on
delicious Italian food in Clarksburg’s many family-owned restaurants. Here’s one
convenient choice on Pike Street, one block from the Courthouse.
Minard’s Spaghetti Inn, Julio's Cafe, and Philip's are other fine options.
Labor Day weekend, the annual WV Italian Heritage Festival brings 100,000 people to
Main Street. There is traditional Italian entertainment (from headline singers to local
accordion players), but the food is the rave. Find more here.
South of Clarksburg along I-79 and Route 19, West Virginia’s mountain lakes all have
camping, and some offer resort accomodations. At Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park
and Resort, you can be pampered at the spa or join a mushroom walk, cooking class, or
murder mystery. See more here. Colorful boats are on the lake; one offers dinner and sightseeing cruises
We want lunch in one of the restaurants overlooking the water, but discover an admission
gate (/person) and scrap the resort tour, since we are only passing through. Next time,
we’ll pay and stay a while.
The great wilderness of the Mountain State adds a bit of authenticity to any Civil War
jaunt, and we combine the two so that we can see the state as it was then--we imagine.
Oops! There is irony here--it was less forested then, when much land was kept
cut for farming. Many of the nineteenth-century sites we tour were created by the
Army Corps of Engineers when they moved historic structures from farming villages
they flooded to create the Middle Mountain Lakes, which contribute to the "natural" beauty
of the region. These are along Route 19 near Civil War sites. For those driving south,
Clarksburg is the first heritage stop along I-79.
Walkable downtown Clarksburg consists of Main, Pike, and side streets. Enjoy the
business section interspersed with antebellum homes and several buildings on the
Restaurant | "Philip's Restaurant in Glen Elk Village"
Pavement of mixed brick shapes and colors is nice, and street lights resemble old
gaslamps with hanging flower baskets. Philip’s Restaurant didn’t need renovation and
looks much the same as it did the last time I was here. Within the same block are two of
my favorite Clarksburg restaurants. Julio’s is a rather dark cafe across from the old brick
train depot, and I like their food, too. But, Philip’s has something Julio’s doesn’t
have--this wonderful outdoor space.
It’s a perfect September afternoon. I choose a large table in the shady far corner and
watch the gardeners at work while I review my notes from Waldomore.
I remember entertainment here in other summers, but forget to ask if there is any tonight.
The food is Italian, but entertainment is usually acoustic guitars playing old Bob Dylan
tunes and the like. It’s a place where perfect laid-back summer evenings happen.
My waitress is pretty and pleasant, and I recognize her from a previous year. Service and
food are outstanding, but the menu isn’t as varied as I would like it. Pasta selections
range from white sauce dishes with chicken to red-sauce lasagna and stuffed rigatoni.
There are also steaks and a few seafood dishes, but those are limited. I want a hoagie and
can choose from six meats, including Italian sausage and chicken. I order a cheesesteak
and realize that they are served almost everywhere here in this city of Italian restaurateurs. It’s delicious with an abundance of sweet red peppers and
Before I leave, I look inside to see if the diningroom and cafe are still the same. Yep!
Philip’s is a conglomeration of three dining venues grouped around one kitchen. In the
corner cafe, one can dine or order take-out. The family’s sauces and salad dressings are
displayed in jars beside the register for convenient shopping. In the more formal
diningroom, traditional Italian decor isn’t exactly gauche, but pushes the limit without
The block deserves a walk. At the opposite end is the train depot, where one can
sometimes find some ethnic festivity. I look up at the buildings and see that elaborate
cornices are spruced up, in keeping with urban renewal. One little scene presents a bit of
antithesis, and I do a double-take.
Who would imagine a charming laundromat with leaded glass?
This block with wide streets and plenty of parking is all a visitor needs to see of Glen Elk
to be convinced that charm is everywhere.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 16, 2005
Philip’s Restaurant in Glen Elk Village
401 N. 5th Street
Clarksburg, West Virginia
David Houchin, genealogist, explains that most prominent families in Clarksburg today are
descendants of the first settlers, a small number who owned most of the land before 1800. Massive sell-offs and transfers made more work for the county. Family and land
are still important.
The present courthouse (the third) replaced another in 1932 and cost $700,000
during The Great Depression. It strikes me how different its arts moderne styling
is from the usual classical design. The buff limestone building and plaza have polished black granite decoration that seems official.
It’s a pleasant and well-used square and stage for public gatherings, displays, and
entertainment. Last weekend, the Italian Heritage Festival was here.
At the corner of the building, eight figures represent ethnic groups who populated the
city. I know that Irish, Scottish, and Italian images must be among them, but I can’t
identify each one.
At the opposite corner is the flagstaff from U.S.S. West Virginia, sunk at Pearl Harbor.
In front of the building is a war memorial of the Military Order of the Purple Heart,
Chapter 418 for combat wounded veterans, 1941-2000. The inscription demands
reverence: "Some gave all. All gave some." Central West Virginia is an area where
folks are always eager to serve.
Even without his hat and sword, the equestrian Stonewall Jackson dominates the
I am thinking that this may be the farthest point north where one can find the home of a
Confederate General. A local man asks if I know the exact birthplace and points to the
yellow brick building a few doors down on the other side of the street.
It’s where bankruptcy court is now held, but a hotel was there on the same spot in 1824,
when Jackson was born. After I cross the street, I can see the bronze plaque
commemorating the location.
Godfrey talks about the boyhood home. (That’s where we’re headed next.) A former
coal miner, he knows that Jackson’s parents died before he was 6, that he was raised by
an uncle at Jackson’s Mill, attended West Point, acquired his nickname at the
first Battle of Bull Run, and is buried in Lexington, Virginia. I’d say that in the "state born of the Civil War," knowledge of its heroes outstrips the national average!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 15, 2005
Harrison County Courthouse and Birthplace
West Main Street
Clarksburg, West Virginia
We find Daniel Davisson DAR Cemetery on W. Main Street beside Go-Mart. After
circling the block twice, we see the sign.
Several dozen graves are scattered about what used to be the yard of Hopewell Baptist
Church, first church in Clarksburg, now gone. Most markers are natural stone with
names and dates scratched in them, long ago faded and unreadable, but I learn at
Waldomore that the old Baptist church kept and preserved good records! In the book
there, I see that Forbes Britton, first newspaper man in Clarksburg, is buried here. Some
markers have been supplied by the Veterans Administration and are like those we see in
Here is Daniel Davisson, one of the first recorded settlers.
I learn at the genealogy research center at Waldomore that DAR (or Veterans
Administration?) has got details wrong. Davisson was never sheriff or in
the Revolutionary War! He was awarded the title of "Major" in 1799 because he had
lived on a dangerous frontier where homesteaders were attacked by Delaware
Indians--encouraged, of course, by the British (following the lead of the French in the French and Indian War). Nobody here fought Redcoats. As
colonists in the East complained to England about taxation without representation, Harrison County,
Virginia expressed to Richmond their indignation about the meager help they got from any central government to repel Indian raids! With the patronage title of Major, Davisson
was given the paid position of sweeping the courthouse floor. One other interesting tidbit
concerns his being accused of stealing chickens.
David Houchin, Secretary of Harrison County Genealogical Society, regrets that he can’t
prove whether Davisson was a chicken thief: "But he was in the chicken house!" He
confirms that most of Clarksburg’s downtown--Main St. and Pike St.--is on property that
Davisson donated. I am impressed with the knowledge available about early settlers and
with the amount of frustrating work needed to verify details. Even so, Houchin stresses,
you can never be sure. He adds that his head is so full of details that he longs to retire so
that he can empty his brain and "find out if I still have one." Working on Civil War
research, I can empathize, but I must consider myself lucky. When research won’t give
up the missing link, who ya gonna call? Genealogy.
Another marker in the cemetery is almost accurate.
Major Thomas Preston Moore was a legitimate participant in the War of 1812, but
not in the American Revolution. His daughter, Harriet Moore, who married Waldo Potter
Goff, lived in the antebellum mansion of Waldomore, built in 1839.
That’s where Harrison County Genealogical Society is housed on the third floor--where I
am sitting when I discover this link to the markers I have found in the graveyard.
Eighty-five years after its charter as a city in Virginia, Clarksburg was hardly even a town
with only 895 residents in 1860, just before the Civil War’s preliminary skirmishes in
West Virginia. Although this is a Revolutionary-era graveyard, I find clues here about the
appearance of the town as it existed at Stonewall Jackson’s birth. From the tombstones I
can read, I gather that most of the luminaries here now were here before 1824 and
certainly before the Civil War. This Baptist church and graveyard were on Main Street
near the courthouse in the isolated frontier village in Virginia. Bragging rights included
operating more grain mills than any other settlement around, so land was dedicated to
The Army Corps of Engineers and West Virginia University have been dismantling and
moving some of those mills that are still in existence. We’ll see two of them later today
at Jackson’s Mill, Stonewall's boyhood home. An effort is also being made to preserve early
farming, logging and woodworking methods. I see folk heritage sites in the making all along
the Civil War Heritage Trail. Everywhere I go, guides explain what has been saved,
moved, restored and, more interesting to me, what I can expect to see when I
The iron fence around the graveyard finally comes into view. Around the corner, gates
are open. Stonewall is buried in Lexington, Virginia, but this visit provides insight into
the land-owning, Indian-fighting, civic-minded, somewhat wealthy and connected family
he hailed from.
His father Johnathan Jackson is here, and his marker indicates that he was born in 1790
and died (of typhoid fever) in 1826--lived only 36 years and died when Stonewall was
only 2. Stonewall’s sister Elizabeth was an infant and died of typhoid, too, at the same
time, but his mother gave birth to his other sister Laura the next day after the death of her
husband. (Stonewall was particularly fond of his sister Laura and grew up with her at
Jackson’s Mill, near Jane Lew.) After recovering from the death of her husband and baby
daughter, Stonewall’s mother, Julia Beckwith Neale, made a meager living teaching and
sewing for three years and then married a man who made not much of a living and didn’t
like her children.
She died at age 33 during childbirth when Stonewall was 6, and some say that her
malnutrition that she suffered during her second marriage may have caused the lung
ailment that killed her. She had sent all her children to live with relatives before
she died, and one might speculate that her home with her second husband wasn’t safe for
her children or herself. Her emaciated body was buried in Amsted, West Virginia in an
unmarked grave until a sympathetic patron later bought her a marble marker. Her
absence here in the Jackson family cemetery and the tragic details of her life serve to
illustrate the difficulties of the isolated frontier life, especially for women, who were
estranged here from their parent families, who might have intervened. (Julia came from a
Other difficulties, too, become apparent in the graveyard.
Captain John Jackson is labeled as "INDIAN FIGHTER, REVOLUTIONARY
SOLDIER," and I understand that these were one and the same in these parts, where
Delaware Indians were instigated by the British to attack settlements. He must have been
a very successful indian fighter, for he lived to age 85! Born in Ireland, he was
the first of the family to immigrate. (His brother, Dr. Joseph Jackson may have
been the grandfather of President Andrew Jackson, but there are problems with this
genealogy.) John’s wife, Elizabeth Cummins Jackson, has a marker indicating that she
was born in London and lived to be 105! If that is accurate, then a good family could
prosper here. These Jacksons, Stonewall’s great-grandparents, had a better life
than did Stonewall’s parents and provided "good stock" for the Jackson family here in
Another sign tells us that this land was the original Jackson family farm, an "outpost of
pioneer Clarksburg and scene of Indian raids." Another sign near Dolly Madison’s
sister and mother (Mary Payne Jackson and Mary Coles Payne) explains that this particular spot was the orchard and that the land was deeded as a public cemetery by George Jackson--he appears to have been a brother of Stonewall's grandfather Edward, who started the plantation farm at Jackson's Mill, farther south, where Stonewall was raised by Edward's son Cummins.
Most of the Jackson men outlived their wives, so many of them had two wives in their long lifetimes. Some of these grand sires had as many as fifteen children. Looking at the family tree, I see a James Madison Jackson, and I notice that a number of the Jacksons married members of the Brake family. One Brake woman (Elizabeth Weatherholt Brake) was married to Edward, so we'll learn more about her and her relatives at Jackson's Mill.
I rarely dabble in genealogy, but the Jackson family is rich in research. Many books have
been written about the descendants of Captain John Jackson and the Jackson family tree.
This particular branch of history would drive me mad, I’m sure, with a steady diet of it,
but it is friendly enough for mastering just one early local family with a perfectly clear
lineage: Captain John Jackson (original Jackson stock and
Stonewall’s great-grandfather), Col. Edward Jackson (grandfather, who started
the plantation farm at Jackson’s Mill near Jane Lew), Jonathan Jackson
(Stonewall’s father and brother of Cummins, inheritor of their father Edward’s
farm and uncle who raised Stonewall).
This much, we have straight before we head to
Jackson’s Mill, Stonewall’s boyhood home. That’s another journal that includes two Civil War sites
south of here--Jackson's Mill and Bulltown. These figures here in the Jackson family cemetery turn up again at Jackson's Mill in the tourguide's narrative, so we're glad we've stopped here first to get to know them.
West Virginia, United States