A visitor at the Wayne County Court House would perchance notice an aged silver-haired woman going to and from a grocery store, or in summer she might be seen sitting through the hot afternoon in her willow rocker.
There is something about her that causes one to look the second time. One would naturally suppose that she is a woman with an interesting history, one who has seen much of the growth and history of our county at first hand. She has lived almost a century--ninety-three years, to be exact.
Mrs. Amanda Osburn is her name. Throughout her home and neighboring counties she is known as "Aunt Mandy." Her first husband was Col. Joseph Mansfield, whose death came about in a way similar to that of Stonewall Jackson.
"Aunt Mandy" has seen her county, Wayne, form from Cabell county, and later her state was formed from the western part of Virginia. She has seen the United States in the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the World War. She has lived in old Virginia in that aristocratic period before the Civil War. Later she, with her family, became an immigrant and came to the "west" where she lived in the wilderness which covered this part of the state. In short, she has seen life from many angles and her keen observation and strong memory make her an authority on the history of the tri-state section.
She is something of a philosopher too--but enough of her introduction to you. Hear her story of the tragic death of Col. Mansfield.
"In the spring of '61, Col. Mansfield and I were living in this place then called Trout's Hill, prosperous and happy.
"The war clouds gathered and burst. All was astir in the old town and county. Neighbors suddenly found themselves at war with each other. Finally, ties were broken.
"My husband received orders to gather troops in Wayne and Cabell counties and to march them to Barboursville, where they were to join other companies being formed in the southern part of the state to support the "Stars and Bars."
"Mansfield soon had a company raised and moved on towards Barboursville. They met some Union men at Skurry's Creek, and after a skirmish, the Union soldiers fell back.
"Col. Mansfield had to wait for a company of men being raised in Ohio. After waiting several days my husband decided he would leave his men in camp and ride home one night and see his family--we had four children--before moving on into the south. It was a distance of about twenty-five miles over the hills and he began his ride just about dark.
"He passed several sentries and a mile or two from camp settled down for the long ride, thinking he was through the lines.
"When eight or ten miles from camp, he was much surprised to see a soldier step out in the road and order him to halt. He thought he was surely out of the southern lines by the time and that this must be a Union man. He spurred up his horse and dashed past the sentry.
"The soldier fired his musket and yelled to his comrade who also shot at him.
"Bending low, Mansfield galloped on. The soldiers mounted and gave chase. About a mile farther they came to a riderless horse standing in the road. My husband was lying there on the ground, shot through the chest and bleeding to death. The men, one of them from the old home town here, saw at once that they had killed their commander. In the darkness neither had recognized the other.
"They carried him back to camp. Mansfield told them to turn the horse loose and let him come home. Mansfield died in a short while."
"Aunt Mandy" knows what it means to feed an invading army. Shortly after Col. Mansfield's death, a small body of troops from Indiana came to Wayne, she said.
"These men came trooping in and ordered me to cook for them. I had no choice but to obey. I didn't mind feeding them for never in my life have I sent anyone away hungry.
"Twice each year my husband always went to Cincinnati and bought a load of supplies and clothes which could not be had closer. I knew when this store ran out there would be no other, so I hid the whole lot. These soldiers found them, but to this day I have never been able to figure out how they did it. They took everything.
"A friend sent me a dressed hog a few days before the troops came. I hid that also, but they found it and ate it. I got one mess of the ribs from the hog. I tell you this to show how hard it was to keep anything to eat during the war.
"When the soldiers left Wayne, they drove a big wagon up to my front door and took everything of value they could lay their hands on. They took my husband's law library which was worth about a thousand dollars. They piled the books in the wagon like bricks. There was just enough room for the drive to sit on."
Eighty years ago when Aunt Mandy was a little girl her father left Chesterfield County, Virginia, to travel overland by wagon to Missouri. After traveling for six weeks, they rearched a point on the Ohio River near the mouth of Big Sandy. Here they were told that rich farming lands could be bought cheaply on Lick Creek (now Wayne County). The journey to Missouri was abandoned. Her father, John Smith, took the family to Lick Creek where he bought a farm for fifty cents an acre.
She has lived in Logan, Cabell, Boone, and Wayne counties. She moved twenty-four times before she was twenty-one years old.
Her father's home used to be the headquarters of the old time trappers, who were more than welcome for the yarns they always told around the fire side. They always brought news of the other settlements with them. And they always left the carcass of a bear or deer, taking the skin with them. The family's meat supply was kept up in this way during the hunting season.
"Aunt Mandy" recalls that panthers and wolves could be heard howling around her pioneer home at nights. Wild turkeys filled the woods and could be heard almost every day gobbling and calling to each other.
Back in the forties the closest store to those living on Lick Creek was at Barboursville. The trip was made on horseback over narrow paths through the woods.
Mrs. Osburn remarks that the rough pioneer days produced strong and sturdy men and women.
"Hot house posies of the human kind were unknown then," she says. "Our forefathers saw to it that we children were not idle too much and we all grew up with stong bodies and a lot of discipline."
Mrs. Osburn takes an active interest in all public affairs. In the campaign of 1920, the first in which women enjoyed the privilege of voting, she opened the fight with a speech in the court house in support of the Democratic party. She is heartily opposed to the removal of the court house to Kenova.
She is a remarkable woman, and her wife has been spiced with plenty of variety Huntington Advertiser
Transcription by June White
Wayne County News