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Happy Birthday, Buckhannon! Our hometown celebrates its 208th birthday

Note: This story was written as a historical synopsis of a publication authored by the Upshur County Historical Society in Spring 2016. Please contact the Upshur County Historical Society to learn more about the establishment of Buckhannon as a city in West Virginia.

BUCKHANNON — It’s time to pop the confetti cannons and sing your favorite rendition of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. Our home sweet home, Buckhannon, turns 208 years old this month.

In collaboration with the Upshur County Historical Society and the Upshur County Visitors & Convention Bureau, My Buckhannon invites readers to travel back in time to the origin story of our home sweet home, Buckhannon.

According to Volume 29 of the Upshur County Historical Society Newsletter & Journal, what is now known as the City of Buckhannon was sometimes referred to as “Buchanan, Buchannan, Buchannon, Buckhannan, Buckhana, Buck Hannon,” “Buckhannon’s Creek Settlement” or even “Bushes Fort Settlement.”

Buckhannon’s name first referred to the river that ran through the area and the early settlements along it. Then, the post office was named as such in 1804. Finally, the town was dubbed “Buckhannon,” with its modern-day spelling emerging in 1832. However, the original roots of the name itself are yet to be found.

Prior to the 1750s, the Trans-Allegheny region was home to native peoples and was explored by French fur traders. In the coming years, this area was inhabited by Europeans seeking land and new beginnings. Following the French and Indian War (1750s) and the Treaty of Paris (1763), land across western Virginia was open for ownership and occupation.

The story many of us Upshur County residents are familiar with is the tale of the Pringle Brothers. For those who may not be familiar, brothers John and Samuel Pringle, along with William Childers and Joseph Linsey, deserted their military responsibilities at Fort Pitt in 1761. The Pringle Brothers’ companions were soon captured as the brothers sneaked away, avoiding capture. The brothers continued traveling into the deepest parts of the wilderness, soon finding themselves along the Buckhannon River. It is believed that the Pringle Brothers lived in a naturally hollowed-out sycamore tree for several years.

Some years and several disputes with native peoples later, the first mention of the name Buckhannon would be found in treaties dated 1776 and 1777, respectively. The first petition asked for protection from native peoples in “Tiger’s Valley” and “also Buchannan.”

The second petition, dated 1777, was developed to mark the naming of a new county. In 1776, Monongahela County included the Buckhannon settlement, but was then referred to as Randolph County. This petition was not approved until 1787, and then the area was named “Buckhannan’s Creek Settlement” to refer to the river and nearby settlement.

Over time, publications written by historical novelists referenced modern-day Buckhannon in a variety of capacities and spellings. A possible origin could originate from a publication by Thomas Bruce telling that John Simpson (travel companion of the Pringle brothers) named this area Buchanan “in honor of or ‘after’ Colonel John Buchanan, who died in 1769 and was the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and responsible for building a string of the earliest forts up the Allegheny Front”, according to the Historical Society.

Ownership of land became a large dispute between the settlers themselves and the Virginia Assembly to determine county lines. Buckhannon, once part of Randolph County, then wanted to be returned to Harrison County for convenience’s sake. This request was granted by Richmond to be returned to Harrison County until the establishment of what we know today as Lewis County in 1816.

Robert Patton Jr. petitioned to allow the formation of the town of “Buchannon” on much acreage of his land in late 1815. The Virginia Assembly then approved the petition on January 15, 1816. Twenty acres of Patton’s land was “laid out into thirty lots with convenient streets and established as a town by the name of ‘Buchannon.'” This date could be debated as the official creation of our town.

However, it was not until 1821 that the first resident of Buckhannon Main Street moved into the newly surveyed land parcels. The Farnsworth family derived from Staten Island, New York before they found Buckhannon charming enough to call home sweet home.

Our home was officially named with the spelling “Buckhannon” — that we all know and love today — in 1832. Buckhannon remained in Lewis County until Upshur County was formed on March 26, 1851.

Interested in reading more in-depth local history? Contact the Upshur County Historical Society by email at uchswv@gmail.com to read Volume 29 of the Upshur County Historical Society Newsletter & Journal, where much of this article’s information was referenced.

Visitors to our home are encouraged to visit the Upshur County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 14 East Main Street in Buckhannon to learn more about our history, people, places, and businesses.

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