By Dwight Williamson
Although during the Civil War Logan Countians were predominantly southern sympathizers, there were those persons of the area who actually believed in the northern cause and enlisted with the northern forces. The names of people like James A. Nighbert, John William Stratton, Henry Clay Ragland, and certainly, Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, are familiar as participants in the War Between the States, and for fighting for the old Confederacy. James Hinchman, whose grandfather (William Hinchman) settled the area of Rich Creek in Logan County when the entire area was wilderness in about 1808, fought for the Union and was a Captain for the Northern forces.
During the Civil War, neither Northern nor Southern armies occupied the county regularly, but several visits were made by different commands, and guerilla raids were not infrequent by either side. Of course, the Logan Courthouse was burned by Northern forces in 1862 after they were fired upon from across the Guyandotte River as they moved from Chapmanville to Logan. While some of these encounters have been handed down by word of mouth over the many years, others have been recorded militarily; yet, even more have been lost in time. One story, which thankfully has not been lost, was told by George R. Hinchman in The Logan Banner back in 1933. The incident took place at what is now the community of Taplin; a place which was called Henry’s Branch at the time of the Civil War.
A band of Southern guerilla forces stopped at a home occupied by the McCasson family at Henry’s Branch. The leader of the band of guerilla forces was Dave Walker, who announced his intentions of taking the McCasson family’s finest horse as the group prepared to leave. When the owner protested, according to The Banner account, “he was beaten with a gun butt and killed.” The wife and a daughter also were dreadfully beaten causing the daughter to become insane. The news soon spread and a posse of neighbors, consisting of both Northern and Southern sympathizers, set out in pursuit of the murdering band. They overtook them on Huff Creek and brought them back to the scene of the crimes.
After his guilt was established beyond reasonable question, and it was determined that the other men had at least mildly protested Dave Walker’s actions, it was decided—without lawyers, a judge or jury—that Walker was to be hanged. He was forced to mount the horse he had stolen, which was then led beneath a sycamore tree. Tobias Riddle climbed the sycamore with a rope which he tied around a limb. The other end of the rope was fastened around the murder’s neck, and the horse was led from under him. The Banner reported that, “Nobody was masked and no participant denied his acts, but everybody was convinced that only simple justice had been done, and no one was ever arrested.” Walker was buried near the river on property at Rich Creek owned by Oliver Perry.
The remaining men that came with Walker were allowed to leave unharmed. It is interesting to note that the name of Rich Creek came about because of the millions of passenger pigeons that had for many years roosted at the mouth of the hollow. The birds’ droppings contributed to the rich, dark soil that proved valuable in farming the area. It was said that the birds darkened the air as they flew, and were so much in each other’s way in flying that many collisions caused them to fall to the ground, while thousands of others “were knocked down with sticks.” The largest roosting area for passenger pigeons, however, was said to be at Copperas Fork of Island Creek at what later became the community of Holden.
Although America once was filled with multi-millions of passenger pigeons, it has long been a mystery as to their sudden disappearance. Some scientists theorized that a great storm may have overtaken them in their migration to South America, while others hazard to guess that they all died of some contagious disease. Either way, the birds, like the story behind the hanging of Dave Walker, are now just a part of our local history.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.
*Published with permission.