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County History

Jackson County History

 

Over 340 inhabitants of Mason, Kanawha and Wood Counties petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to create a new county from parts of those counties. The petition was presented December 8, 1830, but the request was not granted until March 1, 1831. The new county was named Jackson in honor of Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. It was contained within the following boundaries, to-wit: "Beginning at the mouth of Pond creek on the Ohio river; thence, a direct line to the west corner of Lewis county, where the lines of Lewis, Wood and Kanawha counties meet; thence, with the line dividing Lewis and Kanawha counties, to a point where the West Fork of the Little Kanawha river crosses said line; thence a direct line to the mouth of the first branch emptying into the Ohio river above Letart falls; thence, up the Ohio
river, following its meanders to the place of beginning." The new county was home to 3,500 residents.




Andrew Jackson

"Old Hickory"
Andrew Jackson
Born 1767 - Died 1845
7th President of the United States
Serving 1828 to 1836


 


President Andrew Jackson (known as "Old Hickory"), had a distinguished military and political career. He practiced law, represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1796 and in the U.S. Senate (1797-1798, 1823-1825). He gained fame in the War of 1812 for his
successful campaign against the Creek Indians (known to the Indians as the Trail of Tears) and for his defense of New Orleans. He served as Governor of the Florida Territory in 1821, ran unsuccessfully for President in 1824, losing to John Quincy Adams (he received a majority
of the popular vote, but did not get a majority of the electoral college). He then won the Presidency in 1828 and was re-elected in 1832, becoming the 7th President of the United States.

Robert Cavelier de La Salle is generally regarded as the first European to set foot in present Jackson County. He sailed down the Ohio River in 1669. James Le Tort, a French fur trader, was probably the first European to settle here. He established a trading post near the current border of Jackson and Mason Counties in the 1730s'. In 1749, Louis Bienville de Celeron explored the Ohio River and claimed all of the lands drained by the Ohio River for King Louis XV of France. He encountered numerous British fur traders on his journey and ordered them to leave French territory and issued stern letters of reprimand to the colonial governors protesting the British presence on French soil.

Christopher Gist led a survey expedition into the county in February of 1752. Gist's expedition was sponsored by the Ohio Land Company and his party took four bison during their stay. Gist could not recommend permanent settlements in the county because of the extreme living conditions and the hostility from local Indians, who claimed the area hunting grounds. George Washington explored what is now Jackson County in 1770 and laid claim to two tracts of land (2,448 acres near Ravenswood and 4,395 acres in the Millwood and Cottageville area). Washington was given the right to claim this land due to his military service during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

William Hannamon, Benjamin Cox, and James McDade were the first known English settlers in Jackson County, moving into the Mill Creek area in May 1796. McDade served as an Indian scout, traveling the banks of the Ohio River, with his faithful dog at his side. Some history books describe McDade as a frontier regulator who was employed by the Virginia General Assembly to protect settlers. Jackson County's first school wasbuilt in 1806.

The land upon which Ripley, the county seat, sits was originally owned and settled by William John and Lewis Rodgers who received a grant of 400 acres in 1768 where "Sycamore Creek joins Big Mill Creek." (the present site of downtown Ripley). The land was later sold to Jacob (and Ann)Starcher in 1803. Captain William Parsons arrived in the area shortly before 1800, and resided near the current site of Ripley. Jacob Starcher laid out the town in 1830 and named it in honor of HarryRipley, a young minister who was about to be married, but drowned in Bill Mill Creek shortly before the ceremony was to take place. The Starchers donated eight acres for the site of a county courthouse, a jail, a public school, and a cemetery. The land was to be laid out to form three sides of the Public Square. The County Court accepted this donation on October 24, 1831. Two acres were given for a Public Square on which were to be erected the courthouse and jail, and the six remaining acres on the front and sides of the Square were to be laid off in lots and sold to benefit the new County government. The deed from Jacob and Ann Starcher was made to the Court through Ephraim S. Evans, Justice of the Court, on March 28, 1832. On December 14, 1832, the Virginia General Assembly granted a charter of the Town of Ripley.

On January 23, 1832, a contract was let to James Smith for the construction of the public buildings. The buildings were constructed of brick. The jail was to be 34 feet by 17 feet, and the courthouse to be 36 feet square. On October 28, 1833, the commissioners reported to the Court that the building was completed. The Court accepted the work of the commissioners, and held its first term in the new building that same day.

On March 10, 1852, Virginia General Assembly passed an act chartering a town on the banks of the Ohio River with the name Ravenswood, which was selected by town builder Henry Fitzhugh for "Lord Ravenswood," a character in Sir Walter Scott's novel, The Bride of Lammermoore.

After 25 years, the County Court outgrew its simple one story structure. On November 15, 1854, the five member Jackson County Commission entered into a contract with Nicholas H. Bonnett to build a new court house. This new building was completed in 1856 and payments were made in four installments, with final payment made in 1858. The walls of the first floor were made of heavy cut stone and were two and one-half feet thick. The brickwork for the outside walls of the second story was composed the best hard common brick. The jail was located on the ground floor and the court room above.

Some sixty years later, the need a new court house was apparent and construction for the present courthouse began in 1917 with the working being performed by the Prescott Construction Company. Although the date of 1918 appears on the front of the court house, the new building was not completed until 1920. The courthouse annex, which now houses the offices of the Assessor, County Clerk, Sheriff, and Circuit Clerk, was added in 1961.

To view a listing of Jackson County Assessors
click here.