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Democrats who lived in Logan County, West Virginia, prior to 1896 may best be thought of as Democrats of the Jeffersonian and particularly the Jacksonian variety. The earliest settlers and their immediate progeny likely carried popular political viewpoints across the mountains from Virginia. Logan County Democrats appear to have believed in states’ rights, although few residents owned slaves. The old Democrats of the Civil War generation guided Logan County’s political scene until the 1890s, when the national political climate shifted toward issues relating to gold/silver, imperialism, etc. Still, the Confederate veterans of the county continued activity until the 1910s, even raising the Confederate flag over the courthouse as late as 1911. The Logan County Banner (later the Logan Banner), a Democratic organ since its inception in 1889, remained silent about issues that divided the Democratic Party in the 1890s. Based on its editorials, the Banner—operated by men of the Civil War era—was more concerned about industrial progress, particularly the development of a railroad in the Guyandotte Valley, than the national political issues that emerged in the 1890s. Examination of the active participants in the railroad effort include both Democrats and Republicans, locals and outsiders…
Logan County was organized in 1824. Voting trends from 1824 until 1856 reveal a strong preference for Democratic candidates:
1824: William H. Crawford (Democratic-Republican)
1828: Andrew Jackson (Democrat, 90+ percent)
1832: Andrew Jackson (Democrat, 90+ percent)
1836: Martin Van Buren (Democrat)
1840: Martin Van Buren (Democrat)
1844: James K. Polk (Democrat)
1848: Lewis Cass (Democrat)
1852: Franklin Pierce (Democrat)
1856: James Buchanan (Democrat, 80-90 percent)
We know, based on the above presidential tallies, the county was heavily Democratic. Because the Democratic Party was closely linked to slavery during this era, it is useful to consider local slave statistics.
1850 Logan County Slave Census: 26 slave owners in Logan County; 84 slaves (largest slave owner had 10)
1860 Logan County Slave Census: 27 slave owners in Logan County; 80 slaves (largest slave owner had 7)
We know the county voted heavily for John Breckenridge in the 1860 presidential election. What is remarkable to modern residents is this: Logan Countians gave no votes to Abraham Lincoln (see below):
Logan County Presidential Election Results (1860):
John Breckenridge (Southern Democratic), 271
John Bell (Constitutional Union), 100
Stephen Douglas (Democratic), 6
Abraham Lincoln (Republican), 0
We know Logan County’s delegate to the Virginia Secession Convention favored secession. James Lawson, the delegate to the Secession Convention for Logan, Boone, and Wyoming counties, voted in favor of the Ordinance of Secession on 17 April 1861.
We know the county did not favor anti-secession political developments in Wheeling. Logan declined to send delegates to the First Wheeling Convention (May 13-15, 1861).
We know the voters of Logan County favored secession. Here are results for Logan County regarding the Secession Ordinance in Virginia (23 May 1861):
We know Logan County did not support the political gatherings in Wheeling. Logan County sent no delegates to the Second Wheeling Convention, First Session (June 11-25, 1861). Likewise, it sent no delegates to the General Assembly of the Reorganized Government of Virginia (July 1-26, 1861) or to the Second Wheeling Convention, Second Session (August 6-21, 1861).
In the mind of local people, Logan County was invaded in 1861. On 25 September 1861, Union soldiers attacked Confederates at the Battle of Kanawha Gap (Chapmanville). The battle was a Confederate loss.
Due to the absence of its men and election irregularities, Logan County did not vote heavily on the question of “West Virginia.” This was true for many counties in western Virginia: West Virginia Statehood Referendum (24 October 1861): 34 percent turnout statewide; 18,408 for statehood and only 781 opposed! We can be sure that Logan did not favor “West Virginia.” Logan County sent no delegate to the West Virginia Constitutional Convention (26 November 1861).
Logan Countians overwhelmingly enlisted to fight for the Confederacy (60-90%). According to one estimate, Logan County contributed over 780 soldiers to the Confederacy. Contributions to the Union Army were less than 60. Based on the 1890 census, the following number of Union veterans lived in Logan County:
Chapmansville District: 7
Hardee District (later Mingo County): 16
Logan District: 13
Magnolia District (later Mingo County): 9
Triadelphia District: 11
During the war, Logan sent delegates to participate in the Confederate government in Richmond. Isaac E. McDonald represented Logan, Boone, and Wyoming counties at the Confederate General Assembly from 1861 to 1863. James A. Nighbert represented Logan, Boone, and Wyoming counties at the Confederate General Assembly from 1863 to 1865.
Because Logan was known as a Confederate stronghold and recruiting station, the town was invaded in 1862. Union troops burned the Logan Courthouse (15 January 1862).
Logan County was one of 15 counties in WV that did NOT vote in the 1864 U.S. presidential election (most were south of the Kanawha River).
After the war, Logan Countians refused to recognize West Virginia as a legitimate state and refused to pay taxes to the new state. Guerillas and gangs were active in the county. Governor Arthur I. Boreman sent troops into the county in order to collect taxes and maintain order.
Ex-Confederate disenfranchisement was common after the war. In 1868, of 888 voters in Logan County, only 125 voted for president. In 1870, 220 voted for the Democratic candidate for governor while 70 voted for the Republican (total 290). In Logan County, it was difficult to find any men who had NOT served in the Confederacy who could hold political office (or practice law, or teach).
Maj. William Straton (namesake of Stratton Street) typified Logan County political leadership during this time.
After the war, Democrats and Republicans largely chose/maintained party identification based on their views of the war. Logan had been heavily Democratic before the war; Logan was pro-Confederate during the war; Logan was strongly Democratic after the war
Logan County in Presidential Elections After the War:
1868: Horatio Seymour (Democrat)
1872: Horace Greeley (Democrat)
1876: Samuel J. Tilden (Democrat, by 90+ percent)
1880: Winfield Scott Hancock (Democrat, by 90+ percent)
1884: Grover Cleveland (Democrat, by 90+ percent)
Winfield Scott Hancock’s victory in Logan County is somewhat noteworthy considering that he was a former Union general.
On 30 October 1886, the Parkersburg Sentinel reported: “Logan county is so intensely democratic that there are thirteen democratic candidates running for the legislature and only one republican. Nevertheless one of the thirteen democrats will be elected.”
In 1888, Logan Countians voted for Grover Cleveland (Democrat).
The Logan County Banner was established on 7 March 1889 by Henry Clay Ragland (editor) and J.A. Nighbert (business manager). On 28 March 1889, it stated:
The paper will be devoted to the best interests of the people of Logan county. To the improvement of the education and morals of its people, and to the development of its great material resources. Politically, the Banner will be Democratic. Every one connected with it is a Democrat, but at the same time it will be fair to the opposition, and will heartily accord to the Republican party due credit for any good work which it may do. In addressing the questions which may arise in the Democratic party, as to its management and its leaders, the Banner will be Independent and will acknowledge no faction or factions, but will labor earnestly and zealously for the success of the party, and not for any individual.
In 1892, it reported: “Three years ago in order to furnish the people of Logan county with a home paper, we unfurled the Banner. We expected neither money nor glory, and our expectations have been fully realized.” On 3 January 1895, Ragland stated: “When I first went into the newspaper business I had no idea of continuing on for any length of time. My only desire was to see a newspaper in Logan county which would truly reflect the character of its people and be able to defend them from the many slanders which have been heaped upon them by the outside world…”
The Banner‘s reputation as a Democratic organ was well-known. In April 1889, the Parkersburg State Journal referred to it as “Democratic to the core.” On 11 July 1889, the Charleston Daily Star said: “The Logan County Banner is being made one of the best country weeklies in the State. As long as it continues as it has begun Logan may be depended upon for her customary Democratic majority.” On 13 January 1898, the Boone Democrat said of the Banner: “We cheerfully hail it, and hope that it may long continue to wave in the vanguard of Logan Democracy.”
The Banner never failed to applaud Democratic gains. On 6 November 1890, it stated: “Glorious old Chapmansville always does her fully duty. The Democratic vote increased from 205 in 1888 to 210, and the Republican vote decreased from 28 in 1888 to 14.”
This editorial, from 15 September 1892, is one example of Banner political commentary:
We have heard that there are several so-called Democrats born and reared in the mountain fastnesses of old Logan who have avowed their intention of ‘scratching’ one or another of the nominees of our party when they ides of November shall roll around, but we hope for the credit of Logan’s ‘rock-ribbed, copper-bottomed’ democracy that such reports are false. It is but natural that bitter feelings should be engendered by the clashing of the claims of rival candidates before our conventions but the conventions have done their work now, well and conscientiously, and every true Democrat in hearty and earnest response to the bugle call of freedom must face about with his brethren and forgetting all private feuds and grievances join in the charge upon our friends the enemy. That Democrat who falters in his duty in this the crisis of our party’s need betrays the trust reposed in him by the party of the people, forfeits his claim upon the confidence and good will of his compeers and deserves to be incarcerated in the bottom-most pit of damnation. You cannot afford to let a petty desire for revenge prevent you from casting a straight Democratic ticket on the 8th day of November. If you have ever harbored such a thought, exorcise the evil spirit that has taken possession of you and come back to the fold on bended knee and ask forgiveness for the wicked thoughts of your heart. The people have spoken and ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God.’ We feel sorry for that Democrat who, when the glorious news flashes over the wires next November that Cleveland, MacCorkle, Alderson and Mahood are elected can’t forget one or more of them was scratched on his ticket. Verily, like the Judas of old, he will feel like sneaking off with down cast eyes and hanging himself to the nearest tree. Logan expects every Democrat to do his whole duty during this campaign. The eyes of friend and foe alike are turned towards the mountains of old Logan whence cometh our help. Every Republican in the county is alert, active and zealous in the support of his whole ticket, and it behooves every Democrat to see to it that he does not prove a traitor in the camp of his friends. Stop a minute, friend, and think of the issues involved in the fight that is now upon us. Do you want the robber tariff barons to keep on heaping up their multiplied millions from your hard-earned dollars? Do you want your polls to be manned by Federal soldiers or maybe negroes from Virginia or North Carolina?
In 1892, Logan Countians voted for Grover Cleveland (Democrat).
During the mid-1890s, the Banner offered more brief political commentary. Here are some examples. On 21 June 1894, it stated: “The Logan Republican club was organized last Saturday night, with 20 members.” On 9 September 1896: “There is a meeting of the W.J. Bryan club at Chapmansville next Saturday evening. Everybody is invited to attend.”
Logan Countians voted for William Jennings Bryan (Democrat) in 1896 and 1900.