Mason County Memories… How the districts got their names

By Chris Rizer - Mason County Memories

Sorry for missing a week or two folks! We were at the National Main Street Conference in Richmond, and most of my time since has been spent catching up on several major projects. We did bring home plenty of fresh ideas from Richmond, but that’s for another article. This week, I thought I’d focus on the Revolutionary War veterans whose names live on as Mason County’s 10 magisterial districts.

I’ll run through them alphabetically, so that starts us off with Arbuckle District. Arbuckle is one of our three big southern districts, along with Clendenin and Hannan, and covers most of our Kanawha Valley bottomlands stretching from just outside of Henderson to Pliny and several miles out into the hills. This district is named for William Arbuckle, brother of Captain Matthew Arbuckle, who served at Fort Randolph as the fort’s armorer from 1776-1778. He came back to Mason County around 1800 and settled on Thirteenmile Creek “out back” of Leon and is buried in the Craig-Douglas Cemetery on Rt. 62.

Clendenin District is the second of our big three south of the Kanawha River, stretching from Henderson to Apple Grove along the Ohio River and through the hills between Crab Creek and Jerry’s Run. Clendenin District is named for William Clendenin, one of the most notable figures in our county’s early history. He was a veteran of the Battle of Point Pleasant in John Stuart’s Botetourt Militia, captain of a militia company at Charleston’s Fort Lee during the Revolution, a commissioned major during the War of 1812, the first sheriff of Kanawha County after it formed in 1789, one of the first permanent settlers of Clendenin District in 1795, a state delegate for Kanawha County from 1796-1803, carrier of the petition to Richmond that split Mason County from Kanawha in 1804, and subsequently our first state delegate in Richmond. His grave lies in the Clendenin-Steenbergen Cemetery in Gallipolis Ferry.

Next up is Cologne, formerly known as Lemaster District. Cologne includes the town of Leon, the hills along Leon Baden Rd, and much of the area along Rt. 87 to Mount Alto. It was renamed Cologne early in its history, at least as early as 1864, but was originally named for frontier scout Thomas Lemaster. His service included service at Point Pleasant in 1774 as a scout, at Fort Lee under Fleming Cobb during the Revolution, and in Greenbrier County under Hugh Caperton’s Rangers during the Northwest Indian War. His final resting place is unknown, but is thought to be an unmarked grave in the Lemaster (Steele-Rice-Gill) Cemetery.

Cooper, another of the largest districts in the county, covers the entire width of the northern half of the county from Brighton on the Kanawha River to Letart on the Ohio, including Flat Rock, Greer, and Board in between. Cooper served as a Lieutenant in the 4th Virginia Infantry, a regiment of the Virginia Line that saw service at Trenton, Princeton, Monmouth, and the Siege of Charleston. After the Revolution, around 1790, Cooper moved to Mason County and built Fort Cooper, a blockhouse near the mouth of Eight Mile Creek that was the only safe sanctuary between Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant and Fort Tackett on the Coal River near St.

Albans. Cooper’s grave remains on the same property today, in a small family cemetery within sight of where the fort once stood.

Now, because I’m running out of room, our last district for this week is Graham District in the northern reaches of the county. This district is named for an oft-forgotten early settler, the Reverend William Graham, who tried to found a Presbyterian utopia on the frontier. His service in the Revolutionary War was brief, but passionate, believing that the war was as much for the sake of political freedom as it was for religious freedom. Early in the war, in 1776 or 1777, he raised a militia company from among his students and colleagues at Liberty Hall Academy (now Washington & Lee University) and was chosen as its captain. Later, when the British Army threatened the Virginia Legislature and forced their flight from Richmond, he again volunteered and rode to their defense in Charlottesville. Graham came to Mason County in 1796 to establish his settlement, though it only lasted until his death in 1799 while on a business trip to Richmond. His grave is on the grounds of the school he helped found, Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

That’s all I can fit in for this week! Next week, we’ll cover the origins of the other five districts.

By Chris Rizer

Mason County Memories

Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical & Preservation Society and director of Main Street Point Pleasant, reach him at [email protected]

Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical & Preservation Society and director of Main Street Point Pleasant, reach him at [email protected]