Look Back: Aaron Burr rides to Wood County

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Image provided by Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park The sketch above by artist Lizzie Forbes, circa the 1850s, depicts her image of how Blennerhassett Island may have appeared, as seen from Belpre. Since Aaron Burr’s trial for treason supposedly occurred on the island, Deputy United States Marshal of Virginia, Thomas Drew was sent to Wood County to summon a jury for the trial.

Recollections of Western Virginia, sixty-four years ago — 1807

Published in the Parkersburg State Journal, July 6, 1871

The Richmond Inquirer of last Monday contains an interesting sketch of early times never before published, from which we will condense the following:

Saturday, Thomas Harrison Drew, of this city, was 86 years of age. He came from Richmond to reside November 1st, 1800, from Cumberland and his native county, and is the only survivor of those who took part in the memorable trial of Aaron Burr in this city [Richmond], in the summer of 1807, for treason against the United States. He was the father-in-law of the late Dr. Deane, and is connected to various prominent citizens of Richmond. Though thus advanced in years, Mr. Drew’s memory in regard to the events of by-gone times is remarkable. He came to our office Saturday by invitation, and gave us a lengthy account of his recollections of the Burr trial, from which we condense the following:

A trip through the wilderness in search of adventure

On the 1st of July, 1807, he qualified as Deputy United States Marshal for Virginia, and at once started for Wood County, to summon a venire [jury] for the trial of Aaron Burr, who had been previously indicted for treason by a grand jury of which John Randolph of Roanoke was foreman. Wood County was the nearest point to Blennerhassett’s Island, where the overt act of treason was charged to have been committed. From a point twenty-two miles west of Staunton, he proceeded all the way to the Ohio through a continued forest, riding whole days without seeing a human being except those at the places where he stopped for food and lodging.

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An oasis in the desert

In striking contrast with the wild and dreary scene here described, was the residence of Mr. Smith on a high point on the Alleghenies. He had a fine house, and his daughters, who had been educated in Georgetown, had a piano. Not far from this mountain wonder he found, in what is known as “the Glades,” a strawberry patch of fifty acres, growing with the luscious fruit.

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The Ohio reached

He struck the Ohio about the 12th of July, at what was known as “Cow Creek,” and met a Mr. Wells, a watch-maker, who went originally to that wild region from Winchester. Mr. Wells also acted as doctor, and was generally referred to in matters of moment by the ignorant inhabitants of that wild region. To him he presented a letter from Geo. Hay, United States District Attorney for Virginia, and in company with him proceeded to Wood County Court House, now Parkersburg, where for a few hundred dollars he could have purchased land which now would be worth millions.

To be continued…

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Bob Enoch is the president of the Wood County Historical Society. The group meets at 7p.m. on the last Monday of each month in the Summers Auditorium at the Wood County Public Library on Emerson Avenue. They do not meet in December. For more information, contact P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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