Editor’s Note: Paul Ray Blankenship (1940-2010) was a retired teacher and college professor, who wrote several books on the history of Oceana and the surrounding areas. The following excerpt is reproduced, with his permission, from “From Cabins To Coal Mines, 1799-1999, Volume I.”
When John Cooke and his family settled in Oceana in 1799, they were citizens of Montgomery County, Virginia; by division of territory in 1806, they became citizens of the county of Giles; and again by further division in 1824 they became citizens of Logan County.
By act of the Virginia General Assembly, Logan County was created on January 12, 1824. The law creating the county contained ten articles, one of which stated how the “seat of justice”, i.e. say the county seat, had to be selected. . The law appointed William Buffington of Cabell County, William Thompson Jr. of Tazewell County, Charles Hail (Hale) of Giles County, Conrad Peters of Monroe County and John Taylor of Montgomery County to serve of Corps of Commissioners, with a salary of $4 a day, to select a permanent site for the Logan County “seat of justice”. Their decision would be final.
While four of the commissioners were originally split between the ‘Isles of Guyandotte’, now Logan, and ‘the home of John Cook’, now Oceana, as the site of the county seat, they eventually decided the best location would be the “mouth of Huff’s Creek”, now Man. From details offered in a petition signed by John Cooke and held in the Virginia State Archives, there were strong indications that the commissioners’ decision was not well received and was unpopular in western sections. of Logan County.
“John Cook’s House”, now Oceana, was clearly one of two choices offered when the commissioners first met to decide the permanent location of the Logan County government.
“The decision to have the seat of justice located at Huff Junction (Man), apparently unanimous, appears to have been a compromise between the two main contenders for the county seat, which according to the petition filed was acceptable to the people of “John Cook’s place” but not those of the “Islands of Guyandotte”.
The petition filed by John Cooke, although slightly modified here, reads as follows:
Petition for the County Seat, December 9, 1824, Logan County
November 12, 1824
The memorial of a portion of the people of Logan County to the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Virginia respectfully shows: That our honorable bodies in their last session, after forming said Logan County, have appointed certain commissioners to locate the site for the Public Buildings of the said new County. Four of them met at William Hinchman’s house in March but could not agree on the most eligible situation for this purpose. The commissioners met again, five of them, in June, and again separated without being able to reach any conclusion: two of them being for the islands of Guyandotte only 26 miles from the western limit of the county. and two of them for in favor of John Cook’s place, lying about 49 miles west and 54 miles from the east county line. The other commissioner spoke in favor of the mouth of Huffs Creek: which is located about halfway between the places mentioned above.
The commissioners again, meeting in August…and unanimously…decided that a place therein mentioned near the mouth of said Huffs creek was in the opinion most eligible for the purposes of what foregoing, Your Abamorialists, have now accepted the question of locating our seat of justice, as entirely laid to rest, as they had reason to believe that this decision met with the approval of at least five of the commissioners, and although your petitioners were entirely of opinion that the site should be at Cooks yet as the Commissioners had decided otherwise, they dispersed, peacefully to acquiesce in their decision…. They found, however, with great surprise that the court county had refused to receive the report of the commissioners… Your memorialists… flattered themselves that the report of the commissioners would finally be received because they considered that the court was bound to comply with the acts s of your honorable house and because the report was in all respects favorable to the west in d of the county, and in full obedience to the law passed by your honorable house … They regret their disappointment and are bound to defend their rights , therefore address your honorable corps, they find their neighbors in the western extremity of the county diligently and anxious to do all possible to obtain signatures as a petition requesting your honorable Chamber to locate the seat at the Guyandotte Islands, only 26 miles from the west end of the county and at least 80 or 90 miles from the eastern line.
They are also more driven to this measure because they find that several of their neighbors to the east, seduced by the promise of a new county, have signed the petition in favor of the islands… Your memorialists respectfully pray that your houses be graciously pleased to confirm the act of your commissioners… Nevertheless, your honorable chambers must be of the opinion that no doubt remains as to the priority of the decisions of your committees: we kindly ask you in this case to appoint new commissioners to examine the territory of our new county, a measure in our opinion absolutely necessary, to enable them to do full justice to the inhabitants of it and your petitioners as in duty will always pray.
The other petitioners were not listed on the document.
John Cooke was one of the judges appointed to help organize the new Logan County government. Joseph McDonald (1790-1866), son of Captain Edward and Kesiah Stephens McDonald, was chosen as the first Logan County Clerk.
Based on the petition’s length, structure, and semantics, it seems certain that John Cooke himself did not compose the document.
In fact, we don’t know if John Cooke could read and write, but he probably couldn’t. More than likely, he hired someone who had the ability to compose a document of this structure, perhaps a former teacher or a lawyer.
If a central site had been the convincing argument in choosing the county seat, then “the house of John Cook” would certainly have been the most central, as shown in the petition and shown on the map.
Although the commissioners unanimously decided to fix “the mouth of Huff’s Creek” (Man) as the county seat, apparently no real attempt was ever made to enforce this decision and the “islands of Guyandotte” (Logan) became and remained the county seat. of Logan County.
It is certainly possible that the entire geography of southern West Virginia would look quite different today had the commissioners chosen “John Cook’s Place” as the site of the Logan County seat in 1824.
Twenty-five years later, on January 26, 1850, a county seat would be established at “the house of John Cook” where “Madison Cook now lives”, as stated in the law creating the county of Wyoming. This county seat city would be called first Cassville, then Sumpterville, and finally Oceana, and the city would be the county seat of Wyoming for 56 years.