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Jackson County History

West Virginia

George Washington's Land

Ravenswood is located along the Ohio River on land that was once owned by George Washington. George Washington acquired the land in 1770, a total of  2448 acres.

The first settlement was established in 1810. The town streets and lots were laid out by Washington's descendants in 1835 and chartered in 1852.  Two differing stories tell of the naming of Ravenswood. One story tells that the town was originally named Ravensworth, after the English relatives of a founding family. But somewhere between the Ohio River wilderness and the mapmaker in Richmond, the name was changed to Ravenswood. The second story says that Henrietta Fitzhugh, wife of one of the town founders, Henry Fitzhugh, named the town after the hero Allan Lord Ravenswood, a character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel “The Bride of Lammermoor.” Read more about "The Bride of Lammermoor" HERE. 


The Ohio River Festival


Battle Of Buffington Island

Hoping to divert the attention of the Union Army from the Confederate forces in Tennessee, Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and 2,460 Confederate cavalrymen rode west on June 11, 1863. Twelve days later, when a second Union army began its Tullahoma Campaign, Morgan decided it was time to move northward. His army marched into Kentucky, fighting a series of minor battles, before commandeering two steamships to ferry them across the Ohio River into Indiana, where, at the Battle Of Corydon, Morgan routed the local militia. With his path now relatively clear, Morgan headed eastward on July 13 past Cincinnati and rode across southern Ohio, stealing horses and supplies along the way.

The Union response was not long in coming, as Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, commanding the Department Of Ohio, ordered out all available troops, as well as sending several Union Navy gunboats steaming up the Ohio River to contest any Confederate attempt to reach Kentucky or West Virginia safety. Brig. Gen. Edward H. Hodson led several columns of Union cavalry in pursuit of Morgan's raiders, which by now had been reduced to some 1,700 men. Ohio Governor David Tod called out the local militia, and volunteers formed companies to protect towns and river crossings throughout the region.

On July 18, Morgan, having split his column earlier, led his reunited force towards Pomeroy, Ohio, a river town near the Eight Mile Island Ford, where Morgan intended to cross into West Virginia. Running a gauntlet of small arms fire, Morgan's men were denied access to the river and to Pomeroy itself, and he headed towards the next ford upstream at Buffington Island, some 20 miles to the southeast.

Arriving near Buffington Island and the nearby tiny village of Portland, Ohio. Towards evening on July 18, Morgan found that the ford was blocked by several hundred local militias. As a dense fog and darkness settled in, Morgan decided to camp for the night to allow his tired men and horses to rest. He was concerned that even if he pushed aside the enemy troops, he might lose additional men in the darkness as they tried to navigate the narrow ford. The delay proved to be a fatal mistake.

Albert G. Jenkins

 Albert G. Jenkins (November 10, 1830 – May 21, 1864) was an attorney, planter, representative to the United States Congress and the first Confederate Congress, and a Confederate brigadier general during the Civil War.The commander of a brigade of cavalry from what would become West Virginia, he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain, Dublin VA.

 

With the outbreak of the Civil War and Virginia's subsequent secession, Jenkins declined running for a third term and resigned from Congress in early 1861. He returned home and raised a company of mounted partisan rangers. By June, his company had enrolled in the Confederate Army as a part of the 8th Virginia Cavalry, with Jenkins as its colonel. By the year's end, his men had become such a nuisance to the Federals in western Virginia that military governor Francis H. Pierpont appealed to President Abraham Lincoln to send in a strong leader to stamp out the rebellion in the area. Early in 1862, Jenkins left the army to become a delegate to the First Confederate Congress. He was appointed brigadier general August 1, 1862, and returned to active duty. Throughout the fall, his men performed well, continuing to harass Union troops and supply lines, including the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

In September, Jenkins's cavalry raided northern Kentucky and now West Virginia. They briefly entered extreme southern Ohio near Buffington Island, becoming one of the first organized Confederate units to enter a Northern state. In December, Robert E. Lee requested that Jenkins and his men transfer to the Shenandoah Valley.

After spending the winter foraging for supplies, he led his men on a raid in March 1863 through western Virginia. During the Gettysburg Campain, Jenkins' brigade formed the cavalry screen for Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps. Jenkins led his men through the Cumberland Valley into Pennsylvania and seized Chambersburg, burning down nearby railroad structures and bridges. He accompanied Ewell's column to Carlisle, briefly skirmishing with Union militia at the Battle of Sporting Hill near Harrisburg. During the subsequent Battle of Gettysburg, Jenkins was wounded on July 2 and missed the rest of the fighting. He did not recover sufficiently to rejoin his command until fall.

He spent the early part of 1864 raising and organizing a large cavalry force for service in western Virginia. By May, Jenkins had been appointed Commander of the Department of Western Virginia with his headquarters at Dublin. Hearing that Union Brig. Gen. George Crook had been dispatched from the Kanawha Valley with a large force, Jenkins took the field to contest the Federal arrival. On May 9, 1864, he was severely wounded and captured during the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain. A Union surgeon amputated Jenkins' arm, but he never recovered, dying twelve days later. He was initially buried in New Dublin Presbyterian Cemetery. After the war, his remains were reinterred at his home in Greenbottom, near Huntington, West Virginia. He was later reinterred in the Confederate plot in Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington.


The Ravenswood House


RS&G--B&O Ravenswood to Spencer Branch

Click here to visit RS&G - B&O Railroad. Ravenswood to Spencer Branch


Jessie and Frank James “Victorian Inn”

by Ted Derek Cochran

Being raised in Ravenswood, West Virginia I never really knew the history of the town. An old Inn sits just north of the railroad tracks along the great Ohio River. A friend of the family purchased the Inn sometime during the late 1970's and I can remember being given a tour of the old place. The strange smell of the past that continued to linger within the felt papered walls.

I remember being told a story about a ghost that was still wandering the halls and staying in a room on the east side of the Inn. The story and the room I wish I could remember. I do, remember standing in that room looking at the felt wallpaper and hardwood floor that cracked under my feet with each step I took.

I also remember being told a story about the famous outlaws, Jessie and Frank James. It was said that Jessie and Frank rented a room at the Inn. Now, for exactly how long and the dates they were residing at the Inn, are unknown.

The Victorian Inn was built in 1865 and it is one of the oldest commercial buildings within “old town Ravenswood” located on Broadway Street.

So back to the story about Jessie and Frank James. Why would they stay at the Victorian Inn and when did they stay? Well, it seems that the Ohio River plays a key factor in the story. For the Ohio River was the major transportation in those days with the riverboats transporting people and goods up and down Ohio from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois.

Frank James once said “I have been in Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states we learned to hate because they gave birth to the federal troops we hated so well, and their people treated me like a man.” he also stated “But here in Missouri, among my own people, I am unhonored and unsung, then why should I not turn to the belief of the people who have, in my declining years, proved my friends?” It is also said that Jessie and Frank liked to visit Clay County, West Virginia, the namesake county of their birthplace in Missouri.

Let's go back to the year 1875, Jessie and Frank James are traveling south on the Ohio River and stop off for the night on Friday, September 3rd, 1875. They check into the Victorian Inn, Ravenswood West Virginia. They walk the streets and had dinner maybe some drinks then turn in for the night. They again board the riverboat heading south. They have plans to stop in Huntington WV to meet with two other gang members.

On Monday, September 6th, 1875 Jessie and Frank James along with two other men rob the Bank of Huntington. The four men rode south with 20,000 dollars. A posse chased the men into Kentucky and wounded one of the robbers who later died of his wounds. They tracked another robber and captured him in Tennessee. He was convicted and sentenced to the West Virginia Penitentiary.

It is also said that during their escape from Huntington, they stopped in the town of Wayne and ate dinner with Aunt Lizzie Christian in a house that once stood at the northwest corner of “Freizzells Square.”

The man who was captured in Tennessee was identified as Jack Keene, also known as Tom Webb. He had $4500 dollars on him and was unable to explain his situation. He was returned to West Virginia where he stood trial for the Huntington bank robbery. He was sentenced to 12 years in the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville WV.

There are lots of stories that claim Jessie and Frank James lived in West Virginia at some point in time. The fact is they did travel to Pennsylvania and my guess would be along the Ohio River either by horseback or riverboat. So stopping for the night along the way in some small river town seems very logical.

So the story told about Jessie and Frank James spending the night at the Victorian Inn is a possibility. The ghost that still walks the halls and lives in one of the rooms at the Victorian Inn today? Maybe, maybe it is Jessie or Frank James. Maybe just some unknown sole who so much loved Ravenswood and the Victorian Inn so much, that he wanted to stay.

Cheers!

The Devil Baby

Ravenswood, a city located in Jackson County West Virginia along the Ohio River has always been a place of dark history. The town was built on a tract of land once owned by George Washington. Riverboats used to travel the Ohio River and Ravenswood was a major stop along their way. During the civil war, a battle was fought about a mile north of Buffington Island.

Many famous and non-famous visitors have come and went over the years at Ravenswood and naturally, some ghost stayed behind to roam the area. The cemetery is filled with some very interesting people. Even a Napoleon bodyguard is buried in the cemetery.

Growing up in Ravenswood West Virginia, I had never paid much mind to any ghost stories, I guess you say I was just interested in the girls. A friend of mine told me a story that the devils baby was buried in the local cemetery. He claimed a tombstone which bore a photo of a baby with fangs glowed in the dark. He also claimed that at midnight you hear a baby cry.

Being the unbeliever that I was, I took him up on the offer to visit this grave for myself, of course, at night. Well, there we were, walking around a graveyard at night, no flashlight, just the light of the moon when all of a sudden I saw a glow. A gravestone was glowing! When I saw it I was amazed, not scared. The photo on the gravestone did indeed glow in the dark. And the photo of the baby did look as though it had fangs. But we never heard a baby cry, must have been sleeping well.

Years went by and I told my wife about this experience the other day. You see I had forgotten about it till now. We decided to visit the cemetery, this time we were going to visit it in the daylight.

I had problems trying to locate the exact location of the gravestone. I asked an employee that worked there if he knows of such a story, he laughed and said, “You mean the devil’s baby?” He then led us to the grave site. The photo on the stone marker did resemble a baby with evil eyes and maybe some teeth that did resemble fangs. I guess the weather had taken the toll on the photo over the years. It did, indeed, glow in the dark. Maybe the ink used in the photo was exposed to the sunlight had something to do with that or maybe, just maybe it is the devils baby. George the devil baby.