Abandoned Randolph Family Cemetery
Doddridge County had no great Civil War battles like those in Antietam or Gettysburg, but we certainly experienced the same social and economic devastation that the rest of the country faced. Straddling the northern free states and the southern Confederate states, West Virginia faced not only the tension of divided loyalties, but also the looming question of secession. This is the tragic story of one Doddridge County man who suffered the consequences of living in an area where neighbors, and even families, supported conflicting sides of the rebellion.
Samuel Preston Fitz Randolph was born on June 25, 1807 in Salem, West Virginia, then still a part of Virginia. He married Hannah Davis in 1827 and they had one daughter named Virginia. The Davises and Fitz Randolphs were among the many Seventh Day Baptist families that migrated to Salem in the 1790s. Their descendents eventually spread to the communities of West Union, Greenbrier, South Fork and New Milton. After Samuel and Hannah married, they purchased several hundred acres at the mouth of Bluestone Creek, near West Union. Samuel would eventually become one of the wealthiest farmers in Doddridge County.
As a pioneer of our county, Samuel saw the tiny village of Middle Island become the populated town of West Union. He saw the construction of the covered bridge, the Northwestern Turnpike, the West Union-Weston Turnpike and the Northwestern Virginia Railroad. The West Union-Weston Turnpike, which later became Route 18 South, ran through the middle of his property. He was a well-respected County Clerk and State Delegate for Doddridge and Tyler counties. But even his wealth and social stature could not protect him from the turmoil of the Civil War.
At the outset of the Civil War, Samuel was the owner of two slaves and the employer of a free black man. Last week I wrote about Peter Stout, a slave who was freed in Doddridge County in 1854. In the 1860 Census Peter was a farm laborer living in the household of Samuel and Hannah Fitz Randolph. Samuel also owned two female slaves at that time, ages 39 and 8. The 1860 Federal Slave Schedule does not list the names of these slaves, only their gender, race and age. However we were eventually able to learn their names, because Samuel stated in his will that he wanted Caroline to be freed at the age of 40 and given $100.00, and Rosa to be freed at the age of 30 and given $50.00. Ironically, Caroline and Rosa were freed only a few years later by the very war that proved to be their owner’s demise due to his pro-confederacy political views.
The following is a first-hand account of Samuel Preston Fitz Randolph written by Ned Jones (1834-1913) in The History of Smithburg:
“Preston acquired a large body of land at the mouth of Bluestone about a mile from the present town of West Union, built on it and made it one of the best stock farms of the day. He was not a man to be respected as was John [his father], but had many good qualities among a multitude of bad ones. He was good and helpful to the poor and would not let anyone suffer that he could relieve, and he generally found a way. It was not wishes but acts with him and it was not his friends alone that he helped but his enemies as well--and he had a good many of both. He became rich as riches went in those days. He was of the same faith as his brothers, but it was faith without works as to church. Preston F. Randolph was a man of violent temper and he often gave way to it, to the hurt of himself and neighbors. In politics he was a radical democrat and was once or twice elected to the House of Delegates, as representative of the people of Doddridge and Tyler counties, in that body, and although it is not on record that he accomplished any great good for the people he represented, he probably accomplished as much as any of his predecessors. For in that day it was hard to get a bill through the legislature favorable to the western part of the state. ….At the time of the breaking out of the civil war Preston F. Randolph was a strong southern sympathizer and favored secession. This led to great loss of property and to his being arrested and imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio”....
Samuel was not a leader or soldier for the Confederacy, but apparently he did not hide his aversion to the Union or to the newly reformed government of western Virginia. His unpopular political views soon led to his downfall when he was publicly accused of treason against the United States for supporting the southern cause. This accusation was made by a Doddridge County soldier, James M. R. Hovey, of Company A, 14th W.Va. Infantry. Consequently, in early 1862 Samuel was imprisoned at Camp Chase in Ohio. In the course of an inquiry into the validity or necessity of Samuel’s continued imprisonment, the following statement was given by another local Union soldier, David W. Hansford:
(NOTE: This article, written by Heritage Guild member Jennifer Wilt, originally appeared in The Doddridge Independent as part of her weekly column “Our Heritage: The REAL History of Doddridge County.”)
“I am a soldier in Company M, 6th Regiment of Virginia Volunteer Infantry in the United States Service. I enlisted last June. Shortly after I had enlisted I met with Samuel P. F. Randolph of this County, who remarked to me, “I understand that you have volunteered.” I told him I had. He asked me, “What for?” I told him to do what my officers commanded. He then said to me, “By God, you ought to be taken right out in the street and shot down.”.....
James W. Gray, a Private in the 6th W.Va. Infantry, also gave a statement against Samuel:
.…..”I live in the County of Doddridge and am now in the United States Service guarding the B&O Railroad. On an election day in last October I met Samuel P. F. Randolph of this county and asked him if he was going up to vote. He said, “No, I am not going to have anything to do with the damned Wheeling Convention. You think you are doing what is right, but before six months you will see this railroad stained with blood from one end to the other.”.....
Jacob Ash, a Private in the 6th W.Va. Infantry, gave the following statement:
…..”About three weeks ago I was working for S.P.F. Randolph and heard him say the Convention at Wheeling was a damn sight blacker than hell.”....
Even though Samuel probably did say the things he was accused of, most people in Doddridge County felt that he was not a threat to the safety of his neighbors and would not give aid to an invading enemy. In August 1862, Legislator Chapman J. Stuart started a petition requesting the release of Samuel from prison. Many prominent citizens in Doddridge County signed this petition, including Lewis Maxwell and Joseph H. Diss Debar. The petition was eventually approved, but unfortunately Samuel contracted typhoid fever before his release from prison. Samuel died July 28, 1863 while on his way home from Camp Chase.
Ned Jones said in his book:
“His imprisonment was undeserved, as his hostile acts against the government consisted of words only.”
Samuel Preston Fitz Randolph is buried on his farm on Bluestone Creek. You can see his monument from Route 18, just south of Route 50, if you look in the valley directly behind Ann-N-Dale Greenhouse. His is the monument that you see sticking up above many years of untrimmed vegetation. The featured photo was taken at his family plot this past summer. Although the portion of the Randolph Cemetery on the hill is beautifully maintained, the gated area that Samuel and his family are buried in is virtually unaccessible.