Beverly Historic District
The Beverly Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The Beverly Historic District consists of about two-thirds of the town of Beverly. It includes a cluster of commercial buildings on Main Street between Court and Bridge Streets and residences spread broadly throughout all streets. There are three small wood forming and finishing industries located near to and west of Railroad Street. A small wood finishing mill has occupied a lot on Main Street between Bridge and Collett Streets for many years. Building sites in Beverly are large enough to allow the buildings a spacious setting. There is open space along the streets and along the county road which leads toward the east from Main Street.
The great majority of structures are in good to excellent condition and date from that period when economic development mirrored a general boom in construction. Riverstone, log and brick were the common building materials until the lumber industry began. After that time frame dwellings predominated with many units of various types, colors and textures.
There are approximately one hundred buildings in the Beverly Historic District of which some 25% are non-conforming intrusions. These intrusions consist of mobile homes (trailers) and small accessory buildings.
The first settlers in the area of Randolph County, which became the town of Beverly, were the File and the Tygart families. Robert File (or Foyle) chose a place on what is now known as Files Creek near its confluence with the Tygart River at Beverly. David Tygart (or Taggart) found a place to his liking up river some distance at the site of the present Valley Bend. This was in 1752-53. By late December 1753, these people had decided to return to the lower Shenandoah Valley because of a poor harvest and Indian activity. Before they could leave, all the members of the File family, except the elder son, were slain by Indians. The son ran to the Tygart's place to warn them to flee with him.
The second settlement of the Beverly area, which was then a part of Augusta County, Virginia, took place in 1772. Nine families took up land along the Valley River. This group consisted of the Westfalls, Stalnakers, Butlers, Whitmans, Connelys, Nelsons, Riggles, Haddens and Morgans. Of the houses these families built, some were forts spaced throughout the valley.
Randolph County was formed in 1787 by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly. Its land was taken from Harrison County. The land is made up of several parallel ranges of mountains with their intervening valleys. This combination of mountain valleys makes for some of the finest streams of water in the state. The soil of this area is very rich and early, was a great attraction to people seeking homes. In the year 1833, 1500 head of horned cattle, 300 sheep, and 100 horses were sent from the county to markets. The county population in 1830 was listed at 5,000. The first County Court met May 28, 1787 at the dwelling of Colonel Benjamin Wilson who lived three miles south of the site of Beverly. They established a county seat and provided land and timber for building a courthouse.
The settlement built by the early families in this area was called Edmunton in honor of Governor Edmund Randolph after whom the county was named. Later, in 1790, by the Act of the Virginia Legislature, it was designated the county seat and was named Beverly, presumably in honor of Governor Randolph's mother. Near the center of Tygart's Valley and along the river on a handsome plain between Files Creek and Dotson's Run, a twenty-acre plot of land, owned by James Westfall, was laid off into lots. These lots were to be sold by the Trustees who had been appointed by the Assembly. As the seat of government of the county and as the trading center of the Valley Beverly's early growth was assured. "By 1835, Beverly contained public buildings, 3 mercantile stores, 2 taverns, 1 common school, 1 tanyard, 2 saddlers, 2 boot and shoe factories, 3 blacksmith shops, 1 hatter, 1 wagon maker, 1 house carpenter, 2 tailors, etc. The land on the borders of the Valley River possesses a consideral (sic) degree of fertility; and the eye in traversing it beholds some fine mountain scenery (being completely environed with spurs of the Allegheny Mountain) as well as some handsome farms in a high state of cultivation." There were three churches of three faiths: Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian. In this year, 1835, the town contained a population of 184 that included 16 slaves and 2 free colored. This would indicate that the town in the 1830s had grown very little after its first growth in the 1790s. The County Courts were held every month and the Circuit Court of the Law and Chancery were held twice each year.
The years between 1840 and 1860 were good ones for all the counties west of the Allegheny Front. The population of Randolph County had grown to about 5,000 and it is felt that Beverly, the county seat, had at least 400 people. The town contained three hotels, two taverns, several stores, furniture and toy factories, and shops for blacksmiths, gunsmiths, shoemakers, and harness makers. Most of the residents of the county were farmers but Beverly had, at long last, become an important trade center in the Tygart Valley. In this period, many good houses were built and furnished which is an indication of the prosperity of Beverly in the twenty years leading up to the Civil War. Eight of the town's most historic buildings were built in the 1840-1860 period.
A major factor in the prosperity of Beverly in this period stems from construction of the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike, a major East-West corridor, that reached Beverly in September 1841. The man whom the Commonwealth of Virginia charged with its design and completion was C. Crozet, the famed engineer of Napoleon, who visited Beverly on many occasions. It was, however, the determination of the Beverly populace that raised $3,200, that brought the highway into their community, then regarded a promising and fertile section and a center of the country west of the mountains.
The advent of war in 1860 was to have a great affect upon Randolph County and its county seat, Beverly. Though untroubled by the slavery controversy — there were few slaves in the county — the people were divided on the question of secession. A considerable part of the population was in sympathy with the Southern cause; however, many people in the county took exception to the presumptive manner in which the Convention, hastily assembled in Richmond, endorsed the Virginia Act of Secession.
Numerous battles and guerrilla actions were fought around Beverly for control of the well-known Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and a little known country road from Millboro, through Huntersville, in Pocahontas County, to Beverly, whose main street carries both roads. The troops who had use of these roads would do much to control the Baltimore and Ohio and the Virginia Central railroads. The engagements at Laurel Mountain, on Rich and Cheat Mountains, and at Beverly were small but fierce encounters which were often indecisive and therefore were often repeated.
Premeditated destruction did not generally occur at Beverly but many homes and commercial buildings received much rough usages by reason of the alternating occupation by units of the two forces. In and around this historic town are many reminders of that conflict. Three outstanding ones are the Rich Mountain Battlefield, the Mt. Iser Confederate Cemetery, and many soldier's graves in the Beverly Cemetery.
The Beverly Jail is a capsule reference to many locally significant events in the history of the town. During the Civil War it was used as a military prison by both the Union and Confederate forces. When General George B. McClellan made his way up the Tygart Valley during the first campaign of the war, he used the Beverly jail for the incarceration of both soldiers and citizens held for military reasons. In a letter from McClellan to his wife, the general wrote: "I had an affecting interview today with a poor woman whom we liberated from prison, where she had been confined for three weeks by these scoundrels because she was a Union woman. I enclose a flower from a bouquet the poor thing gave to me."
Following the influx of workers into Beverly during the early days of timbering in this region, the jail was more often than not overflowing with roughnecks whose marks were left on the two-feet thick walls of this building.
Recovery from the economic ruin was slow to come to the Tygart Valley. The lumber industry grew, the farms began to produce, and the Western Maryland Railroad was built; these assured the future of Beverly for the period of 1875-1899. During this period many of the good frame buildings of today's Beverly were built and those with war damage were repaired and refurbished.
Among the most significant residents of Beverly was Lemuel Chenoweth (1811-1884), a noted carpenter, cabinetmaker and builder. Though Chenoweth erected his own home at Beverly and built other residences and churches in the region, he is best remembered as the master designer and builder of covered bridges in West Virginia. In 1850, the Board of Public Works of Virginia awarded Chenoweth the contract for the construction of bridges over the center section of the Parkersburg and Staunton Turnpike. This triumph was the result of an ingenious demonstration in which Chenoweth, having assembled a small wooden model of his bridge between two chairs, amazed the gathered officials in the capital at Richmond by standing on it to demonstrate its strength.
Chenoweth's famous covered bridge at Beverly was burned in 1865 by soldiers during the war although "Lem'' rebuilt it in 1873; it was to last until 1953. The Barrackville, West Virginia and Philippi, West Virginia covered bridges, both listed in the National Register of Historic Places, survive, attesting to the genius of Lemuel Chenoweth.
In 1890, a petition was presented to the County Court to make Elkins the county seat. Through the 1890s a fight, which almost led to a battle, was carried on to gain or retain the site of the county government. At last, in 1899, by Supreme Court decree, the county seat was moved to Elkins. At this blow the town reeled but did not fall and she has been able to stand through the many difficult periods of the 1900s.
Despite loss of its position as county seat of Randolph at the turn-of-the-century, Beverly's small population remained constant throughout succeeding years and, significantly, its historic townscape survived attesting to historical and developmental patterns of this rural trans-Allegheny community that has flourished for two centuries. As a mid and late-eighteenth century Allegheny frontier settlement, Beverly became an important trading, agricultural, and milling center that, aside from influencing its selection as county seat, made it a logical entrepot after several early roads, the most important of which, the Parkersburg and Staunton Turnpike carrying personalities, fashions, and manufactures from the East, passed through the community. Beverly hosted the Turnpike builder and planner, Claudius Crozet, on several occasions, and braced itself during the Civil War when General George McClellan occupied the village as forces of both the North and South contested for its strategic geography. The seesaw occupations of Beverly during the war did not destroy the town, for several late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century buildings survived. The past-war timber boom contributed material for Victorian style residences while turn-of-the-century "boomtown fronts" and pressed metal cornices and parapets from factories of the period produced small-town storefronts replete with gingerbread, shingle imbrication, and turned-work. The survival of buildings from all periods of the history of Beverly represent nationally popular architectural styles ranging from the Federal and Greek Revival, to the Gothic Revival and Queen Anne. These buildings, with varied vernacular style interpretations, exemplify a significant continuity of events and fashions significant in the history of Randolph County and West Virginia.
Because of the efforts of many people who have given much for love of town and county, Beverly and all of Randolph County are doing well for today and doing much toward the preservation of their past. They give attention to the buildings, structures and objects which have historical significance and encourage all their people to practice restoration and preservation. In the Beverly area, this effort has been productive and is plainly to be seen on all sides. The town's Community Week, held each year in July, is a celebration of the history of the more than two hundred years that make Beverly and its Beverly Historic District a special place. The people of this trans-Allegheny community look forward to the future.
Historic Beverly — Official Guidebook. Randolph County Historical Society and Randolph County Creative Arts Council, 1975.
Interviews with home owners in Beverly: Randolph Allan, Sophronia Brownfield and Mrs. Woodrow Yokum.
Ambler, Charles H. and Festus P. Summers. West Virginia: The Mountain State. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1958, pp.214-15; p.220.
Stutler, Boyd B. West Virginia in the Civil War. Charleston, West Virginia: Education Foundation, Inc., 1966, pp.31-32; 286-90.
West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State. American Guide Series,. New York: Oxford University Press, 1941, p.375.
† Colonel C. E. Turley, West Virginia Department of Culture and History, Beverly Historic District, Randolph County, WV, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.