Alexander Scott Withers

HISTORICAL SKETCHES
By Robert L. Bland
 
 
 
In the old cemetery on the hill, conveyed to the trustees of Weston in 1820, 
repose the remains of Alexander Scott Withers, a one time distinguished citizen of 
Lewis County and author of Chronicles of Border Warfare, the well-known authority 
on border wars and history of local tradition in the western country.  He was the son 
of Enoch K. Withers and Jennet Chinn Withers, his wife, whose home was near 
Warrenton, in Fauquier County.  He was born on the 12th of October 1792, and 
died near Parkersburg, on the 23rd of January, 1865.  His mother was a first cousin 
of Sir Walter Scott.  In a memoir written by Dr. Lyman Copeland Draper, it is said: 
“Passing his early years in home and private schools, he became from childhood a 
lover of books and knowledge.  He read Virgil at the early age of ten; and, in due 
time, entered Washington College, and thence entered the law department of the 
venerable institution of William and Mary, where Jefferson, Monroe, Wythe, and 
other Virginia notables received their education.”  
 
Mr. Withers was married to Miss Melinda Fisher in 1815, whilst they still 
resided in the Northern Neck of Virginia.  About 1827 he removed with his family to 
Harrison County, remaining for a period at Bridgeport.  Later he removed to 
Clarksburg where, as his biographer says, “he devoted much time in collecting 
materials for and writing his Chronicles of Border Warfare.”  Subsequently he 
removed to Lewis County and resided on a farm on the West Fork River between 
Weston and Jane Lew.  On the 9th of September, 1840, Governor Thomas W. Gilmer 
appointed Mr. Withers a Justice of the Peace for Lewis County, and he served for a 
period as a member of the old county court.  After his appointment and 
qualification as a Justice, William McKinley objected to his acting in that capacity for 
alleged reason that he had vacated his commission by accepting the office of 
Commissioner in Bankruptcy under the government of the United States.  This 
objection was interposed by Mr. McKinley on the 9th of June, 1845, but the court 
did not seem to think that the ground assigned amounted to disqualification.  With 
the exception of the two positions mentions and that of being a member of the First 
Wheeling Convention May 1, 1861, Mr. Withers held no other office during his long 
and useful career.
 
Dr. Draper further speaks of him as follows:  “Mr. Withers had no talent for 
the acquisition of wealth; but he met with marked success in acquiring knowledge.  
He was an admirer of ancient literature, and to his last days read the Greek 
Classics in the original.  A rare scholar, a lover of books, his tastes were eminently 
domestic; he was from his nature, much secluded from the busy world around him.  
Nearly six feet high, rather portly and dignified, as shown by his portrait taken 
when he was about sixty years of age -- he was kind and obliging to all, and 
emphatically a true Virginia Gentleman of the old school.”
 
It is hardly necessary to refer to Chronicles of Border Warfare.  As an 
historical publication it has always been highly regarded.  It was published in 
Clarksburg by Joseph Israel and is said that it did not prove in any respect 
remunerative to Mr. Withers.  “ He used to say.” states Dr. Draper, “ that had he 
published the volume himself he would have made it much more complete, and 
better in many ways; for he was hampered, limited and hurried --often correcting 
proof of the early, while writing the later chapters.”  A volume of the original 
edition is rare and highly treasured by everyone who may be so fortunate as to 
possess it.  This splendid publication has much to say about the early history of the 
county.  Much of the work of Mr. Withers in its preparation was done in the county.   
It has been said that a great deal of the original data was furnished by William 
Powers and William Hacker both pioneer citizens, and former justices of the peace.  
 
In “ Border Settlers”, by L. V. McWhorter, the author publishes a letter addressed 
to him under date of January 23rd, 1898, by Levi Bond, then eighty-two years of 
age, in which the writer says: “ Your letter received, and in reply will say, I am a 
grandson of William Powers, one of the men who got up Border Warfare; William 
Hacker was the other.  This work lay dormant in their hands for many years.  
Hacker passed away first.  Powers purchased Hacker’s interest in the work, and it 
lay in his hands until 1831, when Joseph Israel editor in Clarksburg bought the 
manuscripts and arranged for its publication by employing Alexander Scott 
Withers to prepare it for the press.  Accordingly Mr. Withers took up the work, 
and after he had it about half completed some friend told him that he was likely 
to get nothing for his labor, and that Israel was poor and could not raise the 
amount of money agreed upon.  Mr. Withers did not want to leave the worked in 
that condition and said,  ‘ I will dispose of it in some shape.’ So he ran through the 
most notable and prominent features, leaving the balance entirely out..
 
* * *  This is the history that my grandfather gave me of the work from his own lips.  My 
grandfather lived on a farm adjoining Jane Lew, about three miles from Withers’ 
office and was there several times while Withers was preparing the work, and he 
told me these things himself.”   It is said that Mr. Withers only received two or 
three copies of the book for all of his labor in its preparation.  Mr. McWhorter in 
referring to the matter says: “ It is little wonder that Mr. Withers became 
discouraged and lost interest in his noble but arduous task.  A less energetic and 
patriotic man would have dropped the work entirely when it became apparent 
that there would be no compensation for his labor.  All honor to Mr. Withers.”
By reason of his scholarly attainments and authorship of Border Warfare, 
Alexander Scott Withers occupied a position of distinction and was one of the most 
prominent of the many prominent personages who have made Lewis County their 
home.  It was very appropriate that his mortal remains should be laid to rest in the 
old cemetery on the hill with friends of former days.  When the local Chapter of the 
Daughters of the American Revolution was organized it was given the name of 
Alexander Scott Withers, and thereafter made marked improvements in the above 
mentioned historical burying ground.
 
On the 8th of July, 1913, the following order was entered by the Circuit 
Court of Lewis County in relation to Weston’s first cemetery:
 
Whereas, Lewis Maxwell and Daniel Stringer, by deed appearing of record 
in the office of the Clerk of the County Court of Lewis County, in Deed Book B, at 
page 85, dated 14th day of August 1820, conveyed to Henry McWhorter, Palzer 
Butcher, William Peterson, James M. Camp and Albert Collins, a parcel of land 
adjoining or near to the town of Weston, on the side of the hill, opposite the South 
end of the said town, containing about one acre, to be held by them as trustees 
for the use of the town and its vicinity, for a public burying yard for those who 
might die in said town, and vicinity, and as a site for a church; and whereas said 
trustees have died, leaving their places vacant; and whereas the said cemetery has 
grown up in briers and rubbish, and has been open to pasturing stock, owing to 
want of fencing, and has long been neglected; and, whereas, the Daughters of the 
American Revolution have by their representatives on this occasion expressed a 
desire to take charge of said burial ground and keep it in a condition fitting it as 
a place for the repose of the dead, it is now ordered that Verona Maple Brannon, 
Emma Harrison Ralston, Amanda Bland Heath and Prudence Arnold McClellan, 
be and they are hereby appointed trustees in place of those above named 
deceased ones, with like powers under said deed as those deceased had, and such 
powers as the law may give, to have charge of said burial place, and hold it as 
trustees as a place for the repose of those dead now interred in it, and for the 
burial of those who may hereafter die in said Weston and its vicinity, those above 
named so appointed trustees being members of and representing the Alexander 
Scott Withers Chapter of  the Daughters of the American Revolution.
We have relatives buried in the burial ground referred to in above 
proposed order, and request its entry July 8, 1913.
Lillie D. Brannon Carper
Ida J. Warder
Ida Warder
Gertrude Brannon Edwards
Alice B. Bennett
"Weston Democrat" Friday, June 11, 1920