July 18, 1863
The First West Va. Legislature.
HOUSE OF DELEGATES.
Sketches Personal, Political and Biographical.
EPHRAIM BEE, from Doddridge.
Ephraim Bee, the member from Doddridge, was born December 26, 1802, and is therefore in his sixty-first year. He is a native of what is now Marion county; and was born in a house no longer standing, on what is now known as the “Reynear Hall farm” immediately opposite Benton’s Ferry, on the Tygart’s Valley river. His father built the first boat ever used at that ferry. His parents were from Salem county, New Jersey, and returned thither when Ephaim was about two years old and remained for about thirteen years. They then returned to Virginia and located in Preston county, and his father died there, leaving a widow and twelve children. Ephraim was bound out to a blacksmith to learn the trade, and got along so fast that in three years he left his boss to get along the best he could, and went to Elk creek in Harrison county and worked a while at “Jackson’s Forge,” belonging to Judge Jackson of Clarksburg. – From there he shortly after went to Pruntytown, in Taylor County, and there bought a set of blacksmith’s tools on credit and removed to Doddridge county to a place called Middle Island, situated on the creek of that name. Soon afterward he married, still before the age of twenty.
For thirty years (from the time of going to the trade) Mr. Bee worked at the forge, and as there can be no higher praise than to say that a man excels in his calling, it is proper to say that Mr. Bee was an excellent blacksmith, the best in all his region of country, and was patronized from far and near. During twenty years of this time, he kept a house of public entertainment or “tavern,” and for several years was engaged in merchandizing – was blacksmith, tavern keeper, and merchant, at the same time. He was besides mail contractor for many years, and a magistrate. In 1852 he abandoned blacksmithing and moved upon the farm where he now lives. Latterly has been jobbing in lands and owns many thousand of acres of wild lands in that region.
Mr. Bee opposed the secesson [sic] of Virginia from the time it was first talked of; and was the first man on the waters of Hughes’ river, in the spring of ’61, before the passage of the ordinance, to raise the stars and stripes over his house. He also began the organization of the first home guard company raised in his county, and has been a member of it ever since. He of course voted against the ordinance of secession, and exerted his influence in the same direction. He also voted for a division of the State in October, ’61 – for the constitution when first adopted, and for the amended constitution. Politically, he was always a democrat, up to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise by the Kansas-Nebraska bill. The first, second, and third votes he ever gave for Gen. Jackson. The Kansas-Nebraska business put him out with the democratic party, and he voted in ’56 for Fillmore, and in ’60 for Bell and Everett. Has always until recently been a strongly pro-slavery man, but never owned but one slave. When the rebellion broke out he deprecated the agitation of that question but as soon as he discovered that slavery was at the bottom of the rebellion and was forcing a bloody war on the country, his convictions underwent a complete change. He voted for the constitution with the emancipation amendment in it, favored the President’s proclamation last September; and wants every Southern State in rebellion to be brought back as free States, and to let slavery alone in the border States to be managed as they see fit. He would be glad if to-day Virginia were free soil from the Allegheny to the tide-water, and if West Virginia had not a negro in it. He is even in favor of arming the negroes, and making them help whip the rebels into subjection. Wouldn’t give twenty-five cents for a hundred of the best negroes he ever saw, and taken altogether may be set down as a pretty strong anti-slavery man at this time. He is so strong a Union man that he told the people when electioneering last spring that he was for sustaining the government if it took every man in the country to do it, and the government had to be carried on by the women and children.
Mr. Bee is not connected with any Christian denomination, though he was at an early age a member of the Seventh-day Baptist Church. He has been married twice and has fourteen children living.
His claim to a seat in the House is contested by Mr. J. H. Diss Debar. The matter is undergoing examination by the committee on elections, &c. The probabilities are that Mr. Bee will be allowed to retain his seat.
In person Mr. Bee is about five feet ten or eleven inches in stature, and of large muscular frame. Shaves smooth and wears his hair, which is light colored, and slightly tinged with grey, cut very short; eyes light blue, and face rather striking but not handsome. In conversation talks incessantly and with a peculiar tone of voice which runs up an octave about the middle of each sentence leaving upon the hearer an impression of grief. Has an inexhaustible fund of humor and anecdote for all places and occasions, and is therefore the centre of every circle he happens to get into. Is quite widely known in Western Virginia as many men who have spent their lives in public station. Is the founder, and was for a number of years the “Grand Lama” of the celebrated order of the “E Champus Vitus,” which at one time prevailed very extensively near this region of country. Spent the winter of ’57-8 at Richmond, and while there initiated the greater part of the Legislature, a number of the state officials, and many gentlemen of distinction from various Southern States into the “Celestial order.” Had Henry A. Wise set down for initiation, but he was prevented from joining by William L. Jackson (at present threatening our frontier with a force of guerrillas) who spoke disparagingly to Wise concerning the character of the order and the ceremonies of initiation. Since coming to Wheeling Mr. Bee has been repeatedly requested to revive the order of the “mystic scroll” and open a lodge here for the benefit of the Legislature and favored outsiders, and he has about consented to do so.
In the House Mr. Bee is attentive to businesses, always in his seat, is frequently upon the floor, but does not speak long at a time. In Committee he is a working member, but somewhat of a drawback on account of his fund of anecdote upon which members are prone to draw, when more serious business is in order.
Biographies of the First West Virginia Legislature