36th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, C.R. Williams, civil war, crime, Frank Buskirk, Fred B. Lambert, genealogy, Guy Lawson, history, Holland, Logan, Logan Wildcats, Peter Morgan, Thomas Buchanan, Thomas Buskirk, Urias Buskirk, Urias Guy Buskirk, West Virginia, writing
In the early decades of the twentieth century, Fred B. Lambert, local historian and educator, interviewed Urias Beckley Buskirk, a former resident of Logan, West Virginia, who had amassed a great deal of wealth in coal and timber. Buskirk spoke primarily of his family history and the timber industry as it existed around the turn of the century.
“I was born November 22, 1862 in the City of Logan,” Buskirk began. “My father was Urias Buskirk, a Pennsylvania Dutchman of Erie Co., Pa. My grandfather was Joseph Van Buskirk who lived in Erie Co., Pa., with one or two older children. My mother was Louisa Goings, of Lawrence Co., Kentucky, a daughter of William Goings.”
In early Logan County records, Urias “Guy” Buskirk, father to U.B., was listed as a shoemaker (1856), bootmaker (1859), and merchant (1860).
“We are a family of shoemakers,” the younger Buskirk told Lambert. “My father’s grandfather and all of his boys were shoemakers, even in Holland. All had a big demand. My father did that here — probably made 10 cents an hour clear.”
Urias Buskirk married Louisa (Goings) West on October 6, 1856 in Logan County. Louisa was a daughter of Alex and Mary (Skidmore) Goings. She was first married to James West. The Buskirks had six children: James Bilton, born about 1853, Ann Brooke, born about 1857, John L., born about 1859, Urias Beckley (the subject of this sketch), George, born about 1866, and Robert W. “Bob”, born about 1869.
“I am a brother of James Bilton Buskirk, a hotel man of Logan, postmaster and storekeeper,” Buskirk told Lambert. “My sister was Ann Buskirk who married James A. Sidebottom of Boone County. One of my brothers was John Buskirk who, at the time of his death, lived at Apple Grove in Mason County but was buried at Logan.”
Buskirk gave more detailed genealogy for his younger brothers, George and Bob.
“My brother George married Mollie Henderson, a daughter of the late James R. Henderson of Montgomery Co., Va., a sheriff,” he said. “Their daughter Mattie died single while Tina married John Maynard and had two children. My brother Bob married Moldah Hamilton. They had no children. Then he married a widow with two children from Arkansas. They had one son, Robert, Jr., who was born the day after his father’s death.
In recounting events of his early life to Lambert, Buskirk could have drawn on the two sensational events of his childhood: the Civil War, which ended in 1865, and his father’s murder of Peter Morgan in 1870. More than likely, he was too young to have had any personal memories of the war, but his father, a private in Company E of the 45th Battalion Virginia Infantry, surely told him stories, as did his relatives Thomas V., a private in Company G of the 16th Virginia Cavalry, and Francis S., a private in Company D of the 36th Virginia Infantry (Logan Wildcats).
Or maybe not.
For whatever reason, Buskirk limited his childhood memories to a single but interesting line: “When I was a small boy, a bear was chased through the streets of Logan.”
In the spring of 1870, Urias Buskirk, the father of U.B. and a merchant in Logan, shot and killed Peter D. Morgan, a former Logan County constable and sergeant in the Logan Wildcats. Morgan was reportedly engaged in an affair with Buskirk’s wife and had threatened to kill him. In an 1874 trial, Buskirk pled self-defense for the murder in front of a hung jury at Wayne. A Cabell County jury finally acquitted him of the crime in 1879.
A newspaper story from the period offers some insight into the murder.
“In May, 1870, the community here was startled by the intelligence that a murder had been committed — a cold-blooded, deliberate murder,” the Democratic Banner of Guyandotte, West Virginia, reported on Thursday, August 27, 1874. “The murdered man was Peter D. Morgan; the murderer supposed to be Urias Buskirk. Buskirk had a bad reputation, and on account of his troubles had been compelled to leave; he had a pretty little wife, and Morgan had been in a liaison with her during his absence as well as after his return. Buskirk had threatened to kill Morgan, and on the evening he was killed said that he should not be surprised at any time to hear of Morgan’s brains being blow out. One night Buskirk was at Morgan’s store with a rifle, Morgan was at the counter waiting on some customers, and while standing there some one standing outside the window, with deadly aim, sent a bullet crashing through his brain. The blood gushed over the lady’s face he was waiting on and over the goods, and he fell to the floor a corpse. Buskirk, a few minutes afterward, went to a doctor who lived near and told him ‘he heard a gun go off, and should not wonder if some one was killed.’ He was arrested on suspicion, but escaped from jail and remained for two years returning in 1872. He was then re-arrested, and had a trial but the jury disagreed.”
“His counsel moved for a change of venue and his trial moved to Wayne Court-house, where it took place, after several postponements, last March, and resulted in another disagreement,” the story continued. “He is now out on bail, Morgan, who was killed left a very pretty widow, and since his death she has been living a rather fast life, having had an amour with one C.R. Williams, prosecuting attorney of the county, who was also one of the principal witnesses against Buskirk. On Tuesday morning, Guy Lawson, brother of Mrs. Morgan, met Williams and accused him of debauching his sisters; from words they rapidly came to blows; then pistols were drawn, and an indiscriminate firing begun. The friends of the parties rush in; C.R. Williams shot Lawson, and Frank Buskirk, brother of the one who is accused of murder, took up for him, and shot both of the Williamses. It was at first reported that C.R. Williams and Lawson were both killed, but that was a mistake.”
“Lawson was shot in the left breast near the heart, and is not likely to recover; C.R. Williams was shot under the left eye, the ball passing down into his mouth, knocking out several of his teeth; R.B. Williams shot in the left leg, and a man named Dingess behind the left ear, but the ball did not enter the skull,” the story concluded. “The doctors think all will recover except Lawson. In the height of the affray Thomas Buskirk appeared on the ground with his wife, and stopped the fight by jumping right in between the combatants and swearing he would kill the next man who fired a shot. He was greatly commended for his action, as the combatants had friends who had rushed to the scene — many of them armed — and it seemed likely there would be a bloody affray. Several parties have been arrested. Most of the original combatants were under the influence of whisky. It is a mixed up affair, and we should not be surprised to hear of a renewal of the combat.”