Grape Hill, Woodlawn, Maplewood, Longmeadow, Red Brick, Elm Grove, Mount Vernon on the Kanawha, Smithland, Fairview… These surviving plantations and estates are all familiar sights for travelers on the old Route 35, now WV Route 817. They are all clearly historic, and for the most part, feel and look exactly as they did 150 years ago. Sit on the front porch at Longmeadow, and you’re pretty much looking at the same view as Samuel Henry Couch on the eve of the Civil War.
Moving north into Point Pleasant, or farther up into the Bend Area, most of the surviving river valley farms and plantations don’t really feel like farms or plantations anymore and can be easy to overlook. They’ve been absorbed into town limits, subdivided into neighborhoods, and hidden away on side streets as main roads were rerouted.
One such home is Ingleside, the former country estate of the Capehart family.
The Capehart family traces its roots to Philip Kiphart (or possibly Gebhardt), the first to anglicize his name to “Capehart.” Between 1802 and 1810, he purchased a sizeable plantation from the Lewis family and moved his family to Mason County. With him came sons James Capehart, Sr. and Henry Capehart. Henry was later one of the largest landowners in the Bend Area and is considered the founder of New Haven, first known as Capehart’s Mill.
After Philip’s early death in 1832, James inherited the plantation near Point Pleasant, and by 1860, was the owner of roughly 500 acres and eight slaves. He was also the founding partner of Capehart, Smith, & Co., one of the earliest dry goods stores in Point Pleasant. During the Civil War, like most slave owners north of the Kanawha River, the Capehart family were staunchly Unionist, enabling them to keep their slaves and businesses throughout the war. (The Capehart slaves were freed between West Virginia’s formation in 1863 and the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865.)
Capehart’s success during the war (his only competitor, Robert Mitchell, was put out of business due to his Confederate sympathies) gave him the capital necessary to expand his business interests throughout the county. In 1866, he purchased Roseberry plantation from the Lewis estate, and he was also a founding investor in the Clifton Coal Company. All the while, he continued his farming operations and involvement in the dry goods store.
Upon his death in 1869, James Capehart II inherited the family farm and business. Born in 1847, he was educated at the local public school, Marietta College, and Duff’s Commercial College in Pittsburgh. He started his career as a clerk and bookkeeper for his father, and in 1871, entered politics. From 1871-72 and again from 1880-85, he served as president of the county court, and in 1888, he first entered the national arena as a Grover Cleveland delegate at the 1888 Democratic National Convention.
In 1890, his hat was thrown into the ring for West Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, made up at the time of parts of Cabell, Calhoun, Jackson, Lincoln, Mason, Pleasants, Putnam, Ritchie, Roane, Wayne, Wirt, and Wood Counties. Thanks to strong supporters and friends such as P.C. Eastham, S.B. Somerville, former Congressman Charles Hogg, and General McCausland, he carried the nomination on the fourth ballot and won the election in November with 51% of the vote.
James Capehart II served our district in Congress from 1891 to 1895, and in that time, was involved in such notable legislation as the national eight-hour work day, mandated safety requirements for railway companies, the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, the first tariff reduction since the Civil War, and the first national income tax.
After his retirement from Congress in 1895, Capehart returned to the farm and his business interests in Point Pleasant. He served as president of the Point Pleasant National Bank, sold off 120 acres of his 150-acre estate to the development company that laid out Heights (Capehart’s portion stretched from Camden Avenue to 24th Street), and in 1900, was one of the first three homes north of downtown to have telephone service installed (the other two being The Maples/Bartow Jones home and Beechwood/Old Town).
Shortly after his death in 1921, Ingleside was sold to Walter Augustus Windsor, the owner and president of the Marietta Manufacturing Company. I could write an entire article on the Windsor family, but we’re about out of room, so suffice it to say that Ingleside stayed in the Windsor family until 1977. Today, the home still stands proudly overlooking Windsor Court in the center of Point Pleasant’s Capehart Addition.
Information from the Weekly Article, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, and the 1987 “History of Mason County.”
Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical & Preservation Society and director of Main Street Point Pleasant, reach him at [email protected]