Negotiations are in progress with the heirs of the beloved late matriarch of Traveller’s Repose, Jessie Beard Powell, to preserve the historic Bartow property as an historic landmark. The Repose was the first stage coach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains, sitting next to a Greenbrier River bridge on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. The original house was caught in the middle of the Battle of Greenbrier River in October 1861 and was seriously damaged by artillery fire. In addition to the historic building, the property contains well-preserved Confederate fortifications and an unmarked Confederate cemetery.
Phyllis Baxter and Terry Hackney, with the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance, updated the Pocahontas County Historic Landmarks Commission on the preservation project last Thursday evening in Marlinton. The upshot of the meeting was that money is available to initiate preservation, but that appraisals and an historic battlefield assessment need to be completed before negotiations with the heirs can continue.
Baxter said the heirs, Jessie Powell’s three daughters, support preservation of the property – as did Jessie Powell – but want to retain ownership.
Baxter said $350,000, from a Federal Highway Administration Transportation Enhancement Grant, is available for the purchase of easements to preserve the property in its historic state. Hackney said another $46,000 was available from a National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Grant for planning purposes, such as the hiring of experts to conduct a battlefield assessment.
Hackney is seeking contractors to perform an historic battlefield assessment and prepare a preservation plan. The assessment will cover all areas involved in the battle, not just Traveller’s Repose.
“There’s not an archaeology component to this grant, but there is what’s called a battlefield assessment,” said Hackney. “That’s basically a cataloguing of all earthworks, anything that is part of the battlefield or is considered part of the battlefield, using GIS information.”
The representatives said the next step in the preservation project is to locate qualified contractors to perform an appraisal of Traveller’s Repose and the proposed easements and to conduct a battlefield assessment and preservation plan.
“We’re a long way from any decisions,” said Baxter. “This is just a start.”
Early in the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces struggled for control of the strategic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. On the night of October 2, 1861, Brigadier General Joseph Reynolds led 5,000 Union soldiers from Cheat Mountain in an attack on a Confederate defensive position astride the turnpike at Bartow. The Union troops made multiple assaults but failed to dislodge the rebel force. After more than four hours of fighting, Reynolds withdrew his force to their camp on Cheat Mountain.