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Sweet Repose in Bartow

Text and photographs by Carl E. Feather


Jessie Beard Powell on the porch of the historic Travelersí Repose in Pocahontas County. Photograph by Carl E. Feather.

Jessie Beard Powell says many famous people have spent a night or more at her Travelers’ Repose, a historic inn located in Pocahontas County. Unfortunately, she misplaced the guest register some time ago. If we accept tradition, however, Abraham Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, and Ambrose Bierce were among the notables who took sweet repose within these walls.

Given its strategic location, age, and charm, there is no reason to doubt that these and many other famous people did indeed catch 40 winks here.

The two-story, frame building stands at the foot of Cheat Mountain, on the intersection of Route 28 and the historic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, Route 250.  The Repose exists because of this turnpike, construction of which began in 1838. By 1845, the turnpike extended from Staunton to Weston, and Andrew Yeager, son of Bartow pioneer John Yeager, was doing a good business at his “Traveller’s Repose,” (the family’s preferred spelling) the first stagecoach stop west of Allegheny Mountain.

The mail route came through this way in 1847, and when it did, Travelers’ Repose became the post office, as well.

On October 3, 1861, Travelers’ Repose was caught in Civil War crossfire during the Battle of Greenbrier River. The prior month, the Confederate army encamped on Allegheny Mountain, which rises to the east. Named Camp Bartow, the Confederate fortifications can still be viewed on the hill above Jessie’s home.

On October 3, 1861, Travelers’ Repose was caught in Civil War crossfire during the Battle of Greenbrier River. The prior month, the Confederate army encamped on Allegheny Mountain, which rises to the east. Named Camp Bartow, the Confederate fortifications can still be viewed on the hill above Jessie’s home.

Bushwhackers later that year burned the Repose and thereby deprived either side of its use. The Confederates, uncertain that they could hold Camp Bartow in the event of another Union challenge, moved east about five miles and established the highly fortified Camp Allegheny to retain Confederate control of the turnpike.

The land they occupied was owned by the Yeager family, Jessie’s ancestors. She says the intrusion of 1,200 rebel soldiers onto her family’s farm cost the family dearly: 500 of their sugar maples were cut down for military use.

On December 13, 1861, the rebels repulsed a Union advance on their new position, thus ensuring continued Confederate control of the turnpike. That advantage came at significant human cost. An unmarked grave on the property contains the remains of more than 80 Confederate soldiers who died of their wounds and disease that winter.

In 1869, Peter Dilly Yeager, who spent a portion of the war in a Union prison, rebuilt Travelers’ Repose on the foundation of the former establishment. The reincarnation had 22 rooms, plus space for 28 horses in the barn. It also was known as the Yeager Hotel and Greenbrier Hotel, but its enduring name has been Travelers’ Repose.

Jessie’s paternal grandmother was Eveline “Evie” Yeager Beard, daughter of John Yeager and sister of Peter Dilly Yeager. Evie married Josiah Osborne Beard; the couple had 13 children, including two sets of twins. One of their sons was Jessie’s father, Brown Buren Beard (1883-1969), who purchased the Repose in 1912.

At 96, Jessie carries on the Repose’s tradition of hospitality, graciously accepting the passerby who makes inquiry about the charming structure’s history or lodging.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.