Source: West Virginia And Its People By Thomas Condit Miller and Hu Maxwell Vol. II New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co. 1913. Pp. 362-366 (included in the book is a picture of W.G. Bennett
“With the settlement and development of every new country there are always men of superior intellect and business training, who take a deserved place as leaders, some in one role, some in another, but as a rule the ancestry of such men has had a large part in shaping the destinies of such characters and leaders. The Bennett family is no exception to such a rule. Its early ancestors were from England and were possessed of the sterling traits of character found in many of the English who first settled the United States, before, during and after the formation of the federation of states.
(III) Jonathan McCally, youngest child of William and Rebecca (McCally) Bennett, was born in Lewis county, West Virginia, October 4, 1816, died October 28, 1887. After obtaining such schooling as the locality and times afforded, he was appointed deputy to the county clerk, and was afterwards a deputy sheriff of his county. He finished his education by a wide range of reading. He studied law and in 1843, was admitted to the bar. He became the first prosecuting attorney of Gilmer county. He formed partnership with Gideon D. Camden, who later was a member of the legislature, judge, and candidate for the United States senate, but was defeated. This partnership continued until 1852, when Mr. Camden was elevated to the bench. In 1846, Mr. Bennett was elected first mayor of Weston. In 1852 he was elected to the legislature, taking the seat vacated by his partner, Mr. Camden. When his term expired he was appointed auditor of public accounts for the state by Governor Wise, which responsible position he held until 1865, making an enviable record as an official. To M. Bennett is largely due the fact that Weston is the site of the Hospital for the Insane. In 1853 he was defeated for nomination for congress on the Democratic ticket by only a small margin. At the outbreak of the civil war he was in Richmond, being then auditor of the state of Virginia, and continued as such until the close of the war. It had been his distinction to be instrumental in securing the appointment of `Stonewall’ Jackson to cadetship at West Point, and also to the position of brigadier-general in the Confederate States army, and General Jackson tendered him a position on his staff.
Returning to Weston he resumed his law practice, was elected a member of the state senate, and was one of the commissioners appointed to negotiate with Virginia relative to the division of the state debt, preparing the most comprehensive review of the subject which has ever been made. He was president of the Weston and Buckhannon railroad, and held with credit many prominent positions of trust and honor in the old and new state. He was an Odd Fellow of high rank.
Mr. Bennett married Margaret Elizabeth, daughter of Captain George W. Jackson, who was born February 9, 1791, died in Lewis county in 1876, a soldier of the war of 1812, who was appointed first lieutenant of the Nineteenth Regiment of Infantry, United States army, by President James Madison, on July 6, 1812, and later attained the rank of captain. His father, George Jackson, was a member of the Virginia convention which adopted the federal constitution. He was also for years a member of congress from Virginia, and a member at the time of the Burr and Jefferson contest for the presidency. Captain George W. Jackson was a brother of John G. Jackson, first United States district judge for the western district of Virginia, whose first wife was a sister of Dolly Madison, and his marriage was the first ever celebrated in the White House. His second wife was a daughter of Postmaster-General Meigs of Ohio, and also governor of that state. Two sons and two daughters were born to Jonathan McCally and Margaret E. Bennett: 1. Gertrude, wife of Dr. Fleming Howell, of Clarksburg, noted physician and author, a graduate in 1879 from Long Island College, Brooklyn, New York; has serves as an officer in the county, state and national medical associations and societies. 2. Mary Lee, wife of Hon. William D. Bowe, of Baltimore, Maryland, a son of the late Governor Bowe, and an ex-member of the state senate. 3-4 William George and Lois, of whom further mention is made.
(IV) Hon. William George Bennett, ex-judge and a large land owner in this section of West Virginia, son of Jonathan McCally and Margaret Elizabeth (Jackson) Bennett, was born January 5, 1847, at Weston, West Virginia. Judge Bennett obtained his early education under private tutorship and at private schools in Richmond, Virginia. In 1866 he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. During his sojourn there he saw something of the civil war. He participated in the battle of New Market, witnessed the engagements about Lynchburg, and was on the firing line when Brigadier-General Hunter destroyed the Institute buildings.
He graduated from the law department of the University of Virginia in 1869 with the degree of LL.B. He was the first member and first presiding officer of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, president of the first congress of the same, and assisted in organizing the University of Virginia Chapter, which still flourishes. He later organized a chapter in Weston. After graduating in law Judge Bennett came to Weston and established a very extensive legal practice in both criminal and civil branches. In his numerous criminal cases he has never had but one criminal convicted of felony whom he defended. He was elected circuit judge as a Democrat in a strong Republican district in 1889 for the term of eight years, and re-elected in 1898, retiring from the bench in January, 1905. As an evidence of its appreciation of a just judge, the bar presented him with a magnificent gold watch. He was defeated only by a small margin in 1892, when a candidate for governor of West Virginia. He was nominated by the Democratic party for justice of the state supreme court of appeal in 1900, and at the general election received a thousand more votes than any man on his ticket. In 1912, he was the nominee of his party for the same position. He was a delegate to the first Democratic state convention, and has attended every convention since then, and has been chairman of the Democratic state executive committee.
Judge Bennett has been a successful business man as well as a successful lawyer. He was one of the promoters and organizers of the Clarksburg 7 Weston narrow gauge railroad, and one of its directors and its attorney for many years. He was also connected in like manner with the Weston & Buckhannon railroad. While yet a young lawyer he was on the State Board of Hospitals for the Insane, and was appointed commissioner to assess railroads for taxation.
Judge Bennett is probably the largest owner of farm lands in Lewis county. He owns six farms comprising over two thousand acres, and his `Riverside Farm’ is known throughout the entire country. He is an extensive breeder of fine blooded cattle and standard bred horses. He is a director of the American Association of Trotting Horse Breeders, and director of American Trotting Register Association. He enters his horses in the meets in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and other states and at district races. While he still follows law practice, his special delight is in horses. He owns a fine breeding and training farm at Beltsville, Maryland. He joined the Free and Accepted Masons at Weston in 1872, being a member of Weston Lodge, No. 10, and has held most of the offices in that body. He has been grand master of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia, grand high priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter, and grand commander of the Grand Commandery of West Virginia. William G. Bennett Lodge, No. 46, of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Walkersville, West Virginia, was named after him. He is also a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Judge Bennett married, in 1872, Alice, daughter of the late Judge John Brannon, of Weston, by whom six children were born: 1. John Brannon, born April 13, 1873; educated at Episcopal high school, Alexandria, Virginia; attended Washington and Lee University and University of West Virginia; graduated in the law department of the last named University with the degree of LL.B., 1896, being admitted to the West Virginia bar the same year; is now in individual practice at Weston. 2. William George Jr., died when less than two years of age. 3. Hunter M., born November 30, 1876; graduated B.L. from university of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, 1897, and after regaining his health graduated with the degree of LL.B. from the University of West Virginia, 1903, and was admitted to the state bar; is now practicing for himself at Weston. 4. William Bland, born September 10, 1883; educated at Fishburn Military Academy and at the Virginia Military Institute; now the active farmer of the Bennett family. 5. Margaret, educated at Female Seminary, Winchester, Virginia, and at Mrs. Reed’s School, New York; is now the wife of Robert Crain, a Baltimore lawyer and prominent Democratic politician. 6. Bertha, educated at Forest Glenn Seminary, Washington, D.C.; now the wife of T.T. Vandegrift, a large independent oil operator of Carlyle, Illinois.
Concerning the Brannon family of which Mrs. Bennett is a member, it may be stated: Alice (Brannon) Bennett is the daughter of Judge John Brannon, of Weston, by his wife, Amanda (Bland) Brannon. Mrs. Bennett’s great-grandfather was a native of Ireland, and a soldier in the revolutionary war. Her grandfather, Robert Brannon, born in Berkeley county, Virginia, was a soldier in the war of 1812, and married Catherine Copenhover, of Frederick county, Virginia, both dying at Winchester, Virginia, in 1851. Judge John Brannon was educated at Winchester (Virginia) Academy, studied law there, and was admitted to the Winchester bar in 1846; a year later he located in Weston, West Virginia; he was a member of the legislature in 1852-56; member of state senate, 1856-61; initiated legislation creating Insane hospital at Weston; elected circuit judge in 1872, serving until 1881. He was a brother of Judge Henry Brannon, who was a judge of the supreme court of appeals of West Virginia for twenty-four years.
Amanda (Bland) Brannon, wife of Judge Brannon, was born in Harrison county, daughter of Thomas and Mary (Newlon) Bland. Thomas Bland removed in 1817 to Lewis county, where he died in 1868. He was a member of the constitutional convention of Virginia; served under General Harrison in the war of 1812; was deputy sheriff and sheriff of Lewis county, West Virginia. His son, Dr. William J. Bland was his deputy sheriff at the age of seventeen years, and two years later entered the Medical College of Louisville, Kentucky, graduating in 1842; in 1843 began the practice of his profession at Weston, continuing until 1861, when he went to Richmond as member of the house of delegates. He resumed practice in Weston, continuing until 1892 when he removed to Clarksburg. From 1881 to 1889 he was superintendent of the Insane Hospital at Weston, and is an ex-president of the West Virginia State Medical Society.
(V) Hon. Louis Bennett, youngest son of Jonathan McCally and Margaret Elizabeth (Jackson) Bennett was born at Weston, West Virginia, November 27, 1849. He attended the private and public schools of Weston and Richmond, Virginia, and was appointed a midshipman in the Confederate States navy in 1865. After the war he attended the Collegiate Preparatory School of Judge Richard Coleman at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Later he entered the University of Virginia, graduating in law in 1871. He then accepted the private secretarship of Professor Charles S. Lewis, state superintendent of West Virginia free schools. He was committee clerk in the state senate and while there was appointed principal of the State Normal School at Glenville, West Virginia, which position he retained three years, resigning to take up the legal practice at Weston. But he abandoned this idea for a year to become principal of Weston high school, having been appointed such without his solicitation or knowledge. He then took up law in earnest and soon acquired a large and successful practice, from which his other large and increasing business interests have in late years practically caused him to retire.
He was elected prosecuting attorney for Lewis county in 1880 and re-elected in 1884. In 1890 he was elected member of the West Virginia house of delegates as a Democrat, and was made its speaker in 1891. He has held many offices of trust and honor with signal credit, and has come to be looked upon as one of the leaders in the party of his choice in West Virginia. He has more than once been spoken of as the proper man for United States senator. In 1904 he was a Parker and Davis elector-at-large, and in 1908 the Democratic nominee for governor, but was defeated, though he led his ticket by a large vote. He is among the largest landowners in the state and partly through his realty has derived a large fortune. He is also extensively interested in coal and in oil and gas wells, from which he realizes a handsome income. Always loyal to his home city and county he has ever taken a leading place in all that tends to add to their progress and welfare, and he is ever ready to aid and co-operate with those of less affluent circumstances. He has several large well improved farms in the state, and delights in fine stock of all kind. His is truly a busy life, and he gives personal attention, wherever possible, to each of his many business interests. He is president of the Lewis County Bank; president of the Weston Electric Light, Power & Water Company, and president and director of many other banks and corporations. He ranks high in Masonry, and is a member of the Protestant Episcopal church. Despite his business activities he nevertheless finds time to enjoy the lighter side of life, his principal pleasure being found in travel with his family.
In 1889 Mr. Bennett married Sallie, daughter of the late James and Ruth Maxwell. James Maxwell was a prominent merchant and banker at Wheeling, West Virginia. They have had three children: James Maxwell, decreased; Agra, who after graduating at St. Mary’s Hall, Burlington, New Jersey, completed her education in Paris and was presented at the first court of King George V.; Louis Jr., a student at St. Luke’s school preparatory to college.”
Note: West Virginia was formed from Virginia in 1863
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