WV History: John McCausland and Grape Hill

As a boy, John McCausland came to live with his relatives in Henderson (West) Virginia, just outside of Point Pleasant. That happened in 1843 when he was 13. While living with his uncle, McCausland would attend the Buffalo Academy. I recently walked the grounds of the school and adjoining structures and hope to have a blog on the history of that area as well. He would go on to attend Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and graduate first of his class 1857. VMI brought him on a year later in the role of assistant professor of mathematics, serving alongside Thomas J (Stonewall) Jackson. While serving in the capacity of teacher and officer at VMI, he was one of three officers (including the aforementioned Stonewall Jackson) who was present at the execution of John Brown in 1859.

When Virginia seceded in 1861, McCausland organized and took command of the 36th Virginia Infantry. After the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain in May 1864, he assumed command of a cavalry brigade and was soon commissioned as a brigadier. During his time in the Confederate ranks, he burned a business district to the ground in Chambersburg. His troops were defeated but he was able to escape.

A portrait of Brigadier General John McCausland taken at Lynchburg, Va in 1864

McCausland fled the country after the sound defeat of the Confederacy. He believed he would be held accountable for his actions at Chambersburg. He ended up returning in 1867 and lived out the rest of his life on his large farm in Mason County, WV. He was an unrepentant member of the “Lost Cause”. He was also the next-to-last Confederate general to die. His remains were buried at Henderson.

McCausland’s house, Grape Hill, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Husband and I went on a nice Sunday drive along Rt 35, outside of Point Pleasant. I am not one for passing up historical markers so I found myself standing in front of McCausland’s home, which is being restored, and reading his historical marker.

I always find it an interesting read when the National Register of Historic Places is involved. Below is the application for the farm. Notably, this house has an elevator. Also notable, the ash from all fireplaces in the house fell to a centralized ash pit for easier removal. These additions to the house were made by McCausland who was an engineer.

The man was a technical genius in how he constructed his home, created sustainable farmland out of areas known to flood and even by spearheading the installation of telephone lines to the area surrounding his farm. He is an interesting read, even if he held onto a lost cause that ran counter to the country I now love.

Additional reading from WV Archives: http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh4-1.html

Further Reading on John McCausland by historian Shirley Donnelly:

Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
27 Apr 1956, Fri  •  Page 4
Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
10 Jul 1963, Wed  •  Page 4
CLIPPED FROM: The Western Sentinel / Winston-Salem, North Carolina
27 Aug 1861, Tue  •  Page 4

CLIPPED FROM: Richmond Enquirer / Richmond, Virginia
20 Sep 1861, Fri  •  Page 2
CLIPPED FROM: Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
10 Sep 1969, Wed  •  Page 4

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