Today, Beverly, West Virginia hardly seems as if it’s a blip on a map. But I can assure you, it is well worth the history buff’s time to visit.
Beverly has been around since the late 1700’s, though it began to flourish with the completion of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike in 1847, a route that connected the Shenandoah Valley to the Ohio River. This turnpike was the focus of some of the early fighting in western Virginia in 1861. Following the Battle of Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861, Union forces under George B. McClellan occupied the town. In a letter to his wife, McClellan described the place as “a quiet, old fashioned town in a lovely valley” with “a beautiful stream running by it. A perfectly pastoral scene such as the old painters dreamed of, but never realized.”
McClellan established his headquarters in the home of local secessionist, Bushrod Crawford (Crawford has previously fled his home). It was from this home that McClellan became one of the first hero’s in the United States. He received the surrender of the opposing Confederates at the Rich Mountain fight here, received news of the death of the first general in the Civil War (Robert Garnett), and subsequently telegraphed his successes to Washington.
Laura Jackson Arnold, the sister of another Civil War hero, Stonewall Jackson, called Beverly home. She, however, was a Unionist, and, it was said, could “nurse Federal soldiers as fast as her brother could wound them.”
John Imboden’s command also visited the Randolph County seat during its raid into western Virginia in 1863 and shot the sheriff of the town, though he would survive.
Incredibly, for almost all of these stories, there is a building to attach the story to. Walking through the streets of Beverly is like walking through a 19th century town. Just check out the Historic Beverly Preservation, Inc.’s virtual walking tour of the town here and see for yourself.
Also, when you go, one cannot miss the Beverly Heritage Center, a unique museum that incorporates two 19th century buildings and two from the 20th century into a great museum.
In it, you will not only find information, maps, and artifacts relevant to the 1861 campaigns along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, but exhibits on the turnpike itself, the town, and the dispute in the 1890s over Randolph County’s seat (Beverly eventually lost its status to Elkins, but it was not pretty). This is a historical diamond in the rough.
And when in Beverly, make time to visit the Rich Mountain battlefield perched high atop the mountain itself. The two are not far apart, and when coupled together, will make a great trip for anyone looking for some “off the beaten path” history.