Editor’s note: The following excerpt is reprinted with permission from “From Cabins To Coal Mines, Volume I.” This is part 10 of “The Civil War Era 1861-65.”
There was considerable indication that by 1863-64 the Civil War in Wyoming County had settled, more or less, into a means of resolving personal disputes. The shooting of neighbors, under the guise of war, over small disagreements were shameful, dishonorable episodes, causing great bitterness between families.
On May 7, 1863, while Capt. Andrew Gunnoe and some of his Confederate Home Guard was returning from Logan County, they became involved in a quarrel with Isaac Brown (1824-1863), son of James and Millie Vance Brown, and his brother-in-law, Eli Vance, who lived on Big Huff Creek near the Logan-Wyoming County border, now the Cyclone area.
The reason for the disagreement has been lost to history, but both Brown and Vance were shot and killed in this escapade.
Still another incident occurred at Elk Lick in late 1863, said to have happened shortly after the killing of Lester and Whitt at Elk Lick. Confederate Home Guard Lt. Charles S. Canterbury became involved in a quarrel with Arch P. Mitchell, who lived at Elk Lick where Callie Blankenship later lived. The reason for the quarrel has been lost to history but it may well have had something to do with the recent war activities in the Elk Lick area.
According to (Rev. G. P.) Goode’s narratives, the two men quarreled and made threats. A few days later, Canterbury and fellow Confederate John F. Griffith were passing near the Mitchell home place when the quarrel flared up once again. Both Canterbury and Mitchell drew their guns. Lt. Canterbury, the quicker marksman, killed Mitchell whose body was laid upon a large rock by the road. The blood stains on the stone were still visible in the 1930s, some 75 years later, according to Rev. Goode.
Rev. C. G. Mitchell, who lived at Accoville, Logan County, WV, and a nephew of Arch P. Mitchell, offered the following version of Mitchell’s death, as recorded in Rev. G. P. Goode’s narratives:
“Charles S. Canterbury had a small yoke of oxen which he had traded to Mitchell for a cavalry horse. Canterbury rode the horse for some time and it died. Canterbury came back... and demanded pay for the horse, which Mitchell refused to do. A quarrel resulted and Canterbury offered to fight Mitchell. Mitchell said he would not fight him that day but that he would fight him the next time they met. Mitchell went to the home of Charles Stewart and borrowed an old army pistol...”
No matter the cause of the quarrel between Canterbury and Mitchell, it was not sufficient to prevent the indictment and conviction in 1866 of Charles S. Canterbury for murder. Canterbury, however, managed to escape jail and went to Kentucky. He remained in Kentucky until he was pardoned by Governor W. E. Stevenson some two years later.
Another incident apparently perpetrated in the name of war involved Squire Toler (1813-1863), who lived near the location where the Clear Fork River flows into the Guyandotte River, about seven miles west of Oceana. Squire Toler was a man of Southern sympathies though he had taken no active part in the war.
His Southern sympathies, however, did not appear to be the reason for the desecration of his home and for his death.
According to Rev. G. P. Goode’s Civil War narratives, Squire Toler was involved in a conflict with a Walls family (probably the Joseph Walls family which lived three houses away, according to the 1860 census) over the ownership of some hogs which had been killed in the woods.
Union partisans Alfred C. “Al” Cantrell and “Dock” Perry took up the quarrel on behalf of the Walls family. They broke into Toler’s home one midnight and Toler and Cantrell became engaged in a heated quarrel at which time Cantrell threatened to shoot Toler. As Squire Toler reached for his own gun, Cantrell fired and killed him.
Cantrell and Perry gathered up Toler’s horses and headed out of the county, likely back into Boone County. Alfred Cantrell, a man of French descent, joined up with Company B, of the 7th West Virginia Cavalry, on November 11, 1864.
— Blankenship of Oceana is a retired teacher and college professor, who has written several books about the history of Oceana and surrounding areas.