Betty Shoals, Cincinnati, Cole and Crane Company, Dave Straton, Dr. Bedford Moss, Fred B. Lambert, genealogy, Henry Clay Ragland, Hinchman House, history, John Thomas Moore, Kentucky, Logan, Louisville, Pecks Mill, rafting, Roughs of Guyan, Standard Mercantile Store, timbering, Urias Beckley Buskirk, West Virginia, writing
The Peter Morgan affair, as well as subsequent related events, had a profound impact on young U.B. Buskirk, who would become Logan’s wealthiest citizen in future years, but he chose not to divulge any information about it to Fred B. Lambert, regional historian. Instead, he discussed another murder involving Dave Straton, the son of Maj. William Straton of Logan.
“Once in 1870 or 1871, 200 or 300 rafters came to Barboursville. All got drunk. There was no room in the hotels. There were many fights and a wild time generally. Scott Lusher and Dave Straton were fighting in the street. Then John Thomas Moore was killed by Dave Straton. John Thomas Moore owned the Burnet House, a two-story building, and kept a hotel and bar room. It was near the Flour Mill at the corner of Water Street and Main Street (exactly where the First Methodist Church now stands). He had rented the upstairs for a dance.”
After 1870, Urias and Louisa Buskirk divorced and young U.B. went to stay with Dr. Bedford Moss in Barboursville.
“My parents fell out and Dr. Moss of Barboursville wanted a boy so I went to live with him,” Buskirk said. “This was about 1874 (September). I remember Henry Poteet, the Thornburgs, Baileys. John Wigal was my teacher. I went there April 1874.”
Throughout the 1870s, then, Buskirk lived in Dr. Moss’ home and received a Cabell County education. His father spent the decade in and out of court over the Morgan murder, while his mother married twice: first to Thomas Buchanan, a Civil War veteran, in 1874 and then to Henry Clay Ragland, future editor of the Logan County Banner, in 1878.
In 1880, young U.B. Buskirk left Dr. Moss and returned to Logan County.
“I left there on July 2, 1880 and came back to Logan,” he said.
After his return to Logan, Buskirk took a teaching position at Pigeon Creek for one year, then used the money he saved to pursue a life in business. His father, a local businessman, may have encouraged this venture.
“In 1881 I was a merchant at Logan,” he said. “I worked at this for 25 years. I bought deer skins, even bear skins, ginseng, etc.”
By the early 1890s, Buskirk was Logan’s wealthiest citizen, with business interests in timber, coal, and real estate. In 1892, he opened the Standard Mercantile Store (later the Guyan Mercantile Company). He served on the town council and built a livery on Hudgins Street. In 1896, he began construction of a mansion at 404 Cole Street.
“I first engaged in timbering, pushing timber into the river, for C. Crane and Co., about 1897,” he told Lambert. “They bought only portable timber. They had three double band mills in Cincinnati. They were in business 25 or 30 years before that.”
In his interview with Lambert, Buskirk showed a real familiarity with the timber industry — particularly its rafting era — as it existed in the Guyandotte Valley in the late 1800s. He sprinkled his stories with memories of people and geography.
“Rafting was rarely done beyond the mouth of Little Huff, just up above Ep Justice’s,” he said. “Most of the Justice family came to Logan. Ben lived on Main Island Creek. He moved to Huntington and died there.”
The upper Guyan Valley was difficult to navigate on rafts because of two geographical features, namely the “Roughs” and the “Betty Shoals.”
“The ‘Roughs of Guyan’ extended 14 miles from the mouth of Gilbert Creek to the forks of the river as the junction of the Clear Fork and the Guyan,” Buskirk said. “The Betty Shoals were just below the mouth of Gilbert Creek. A preacher Fontaine drowned there. His body was recovered.”
Peck’s Mill was a familiar site to raftsmen as they plied their way downriver toward the timber market in Guyandotte and Huntington.
“Peck’s Mill was built by Mr. White in the late ’60s and sold to J.E. Peck Sr. and Ed Peck,” Buskirk said. “R.W. Peck Sr. was sheriff in 1880.”
Logan County rafstmen heading toward the Ohio River usually made it to the Harts area of southern Lincoln County on their first day of travel.
“At the end of the first day’s run, raftsmen put up at Big Ugly, seven miles below Harts Creek — on the right going down,” Buskirk said. “Rafts ran 8-9 miles per hour coming down and reached Logan in 2-3 hours.”
A little further downriver, near West Hamlin, was the “Falls of Guyan,” an actual waterfall and hindrance to river traffic.
“The Falls were dangerous but were removed, as was Dusenberry Dam,” Buskirk said. “The Jordan Sands shifted. Men sometimes had to cut through the sands here and elsewhere to get pushboats through them.”
Upon reaching the town of Guyandotte, loggers sold their rafts and took their money to local saloons and hotels.
“Mrs. Carroll at Guyandotte kept 3-4 businessmen but not raftsmen,” Buskirk said.
Unfortunately, Fred Lambert’s interview ends on that note, leaving no personal record of his later life. Actually, his interview stops at the very moment when Buskirk was at a high point in his personal, economic, and political life. This makes sense considering that Lambert was probably most interested in his genealogy and connections to the timber industry, not his biography.
As a result, we must rely on local historians to briefly conclude the man’s life story.
At the end of 1897, Buskirk completed construction of a mansion at 404 Cole Street in Logan — known in later years as the Hinchman House — then promptly went to Cincinnati and married Frances “Fantine” Humphrey.
Mr. and Mrs. Buskirk settled in their Logan mansion, where they had three children: Voorheis (Buskirk) McNab, born January 2, 1899, Dr. Joseph Randolph Buskirk, born July 30, 1900, and Dr. James Humphrey Buskirk.
On May 15, 1909, Buskirk sold his home in Logan to Ettie Robinson (the wife of former sheriff and councilman, S.B. Robinson) and moved to Cincinnati. He kept in touch with his friends in Logan and died a wealthy man on March 14, 1956 at the age of 94 in Louisville, Kentucky.