Burning of Sutton

Charleston Daily Mail
March 27, 1938

Razing of Building Recalls Burning Of Sutton During 1861

Special to the Daily Mail

SUTTON, March 26. - Since workmen have started to tear away the rear walls of the Braxton county courthouse, preparatory to building an addition and remodeling the old structure, many questions have been asked about the building of the old courthouse.

Older citizens recall many interesting incidents in connection with its construction.

The first courthouse to serve the county, a small frame building that stood in the same public square, was burned when the town of Sutton was destroyed by fire during the Civil war. The fire was started on an evening between Christmas and New Year in the year 1861 when the town was attacked by three companies of Confederate soldiers.

Girl Blamed for Capture

In his history of Braxton county, John D. Sutton tells an interesting story about the burning of Sutton. Phoebe Hefner, a daughter of James Hefner, who lived about 40 miles from town, came to get a doctor for her sister, Elizabeth, who was very ill with typhoid fever. Dr. A. C. Humphreys consented to go but the post commander in charge of Sutton, refused to allow the girl to return to her home.

She was detained in Sutton over night and when she reached home the next day her sister was dead. She was so incensed that she planned revenge and without waiting for her sister's funeral, she went to Jackson's camp and asked that a force of soldiers be sent to capture Sutton. During the night that she was held in Sutton she had heard the roll call of soldiers, observed their strength and position and this information made the capture easy.

Only 4 Houses Left

Another version is that the town was burned at the request of the property owners, who were then with the Confederate army. They learned that during their absence the Federal troops were using their homes for the storage of commissary supplies and for stabling their horses. Whatever the cause the destruction was almost complete as only four houses were left standing.

For several years the courthouse was not replaced. Court was held in a room at the jail and later at the Duffy house which was prepared for the purpose. In March, 1881, the court appointed F. J. Baxter, W. L. J. Corley, E. S. Bland, Abel M. Lough and John C. Humphreys to prepare a contract with Woods and Atchison, building contractors of Weston, to construct a courthouse for $12,464, according to plans and specifications furnished by C. C. Kemble.

Built With Local Materials

The county court at that time was composed of W. R. Pierson, president, William Stout and J. Y. Gillespie. W. L. J. Corley was the clerk, A. C. Dyer the sheriff. These are all names well known in Braxton county history.

The building was completed in August, 1882. In tearing down the walls, it has been found that a fine grade of poplar lumber was used in the construction. Bricks for the building were made from local clay found near Sutton at what is now the junction of state routes 19 and 13. The lime for the plaster was also a local product, found in limestone on the south side of Elk river and burned in a lime kiln there.

Civil War

West Virginia Archives and History