Formation of Wyoming County

Time line of Wyoming County, Virginia/West Virginia

In the early 1800's, present day Wyoming County was a part of the newly formed Logan County, which had been formed in 1824 from portions of Giles, Kanawha, and Cabell counties. The population in this area of Logan County was increasing rapidly and, as a result of this increase, there was a need for the creation of new counties.

A petition of the citizens of Logan County wanting a new county formed out of the upper regions of Logan was introduced in the General Assembly of Virginia on February 27, 1849, and was rejected on the grounds that no vote had been taken in the area. A vote was then taken in the region and, on December 17, 1849, Senate Bill No. 86 was introduced and passed into law on January 26, 1850. This provided for the creation of a new county in the upper reaches of the Guyandotte River System to be named Wyoming County.

There is no record of the name's origin, though some say Wyoming County took her name from the Wyoming Indian tribe. Other historians believe that the name was suggested by its use in a poem written by Thomas Campbell entitled "Gertrude of Wyoming." Others suggested that the county's name came from a loose translation of the Delaware Indian work Maughwauwama, meaning "large or extensive plains."

Wyoming County, Virginia flourished in her younger days, but it was becoming increasingly clear that while eastern Virginia shared the social and economic interests of the South, the western part of the state, including Wyoming County, had more in common with the North (especially western Pennsylvania) and the West.

On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter. 5 days later, at a state convention in Richmond, Virginians had to decide whether to join the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy or the Union. A majority voted for an ordinance of secession, but delegates from the northwestern part of the state returned home and set up their own convention at Wheeling on June 11. (Wyoming County was not represented in this body.)

Declaring the government at Richmond void, the Wheeling convention established a "restored" government of Virginia and appointed Francis H. Pierpont governor. In a public referendum on October 24, 1861, voters overwhelmingly supported creation of a new state, Kanawha. The following month a constitutional convention met at Wheeling, changed the name of the state to West Virginia, and began to draft a constitution.

Because of disturbed internal conditions in Wyoming County, no election was held to determine who would be the Wyoming County delegate at the constitutional convention. However, those opposed to secession signed a petition asking that Captain William Walker Jr. be permitted to represent their county. Signing this petition was; Patterson Ballard, Levi D. Clay, Thomas Colton, James Cook, Esq., John L. Cook, James W. Cox, G. W. Hood, Ralph Laverty, Lewis Miller, George W. Stewart, William Toliver, and David Toler.

Captain Walker was seated the first day of the convention, at which time he was assigned to the Committee on Education. Along with Captain Walker two other Wyoming County men, Captain Richard M. Cook and Johanus P. Hoback, were also admitted to the convention on January 21, 1862.

Cook was admitted, perhaps on authority of a petition sent to Wheeling by Colonel Thomas Little's Home Guards unit, as the delegate from Mercer County. Cook never lived in Mercer and was not elected by the citizens of that county. Hoback was admitted as a delegate from McDowell County, in which no election had been held.

Historian G. P. Goode says that Cook, Walker, and Hoback became delegates by grace of "Squire Jim Cook," father of Richard and father-in-law of Hoback, and who was a political power and leader of Unionists in Wyoming County.

Voters approved the new constitution in April 1862 and a year later President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed West Virginia as the 35th state, to be admitted to the Union 60 days later, on June 20, 1863.

On July 31, 1863, the newly organized state government passed a bill entitled "An Act To Provide For The Division Of The Various Counties Of The State Into Townships." A section of the bill provided for the appointment of a committee composed of responsible men in each of the counties. Those named for Wyoming County assembled in the fall of 1863 and performed the work assigned them, dividing the county into seven townships (under the Constitution of 1872 now called Districts) and named them: Baileysville, Barkers Ridge, Center, Clear Fork, Huff Creek, Oceana, and Slab Fork Districts.

  1. Oceana District
  2. Clear Fork District
  3. Huff Creek District
  4. Baileysville District
  5. Center District
  6. Slab Fork District
  7. Barkers Ridge District

{Sources}
Reference Book of Wyoming County; Mary Keller Bowman
Heritage Book of Wyoming County; Wyoming County Genealogy Society
Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia; Lexicon
Various internet web sites