Pocahontas County Bicentennial ~ 1821-2021

Historical Sketches of Pocahontas County – 1901
By William T. Price

Averill’s Retreat

In December 1863, General Averill’s army suddenly appeared on the crest of the river ridge opposite Hillsboro, and covered the face of the country by straggling along routes parallel with the county roads. It was the army that a few weeks before had been victorious at Droop Mountain. Now cold, wet and starving the men were in headlong, disorganized retreat. They appeared so suddenly that the men who were at home had no opportunity to escape and were taken prisoners, and the women had no time to conceal their scanty household stores. At one place the house was ransacked, but a large quantity of maple sugar was not found. It was under a lounge, and the lady of the house had three girls calling. They sat on the lounge and spreading their skirts concealed effectively the treasured sugar.

The soldiers were practically starving. At one place they eagerly consumed all the scraps of rancid fat that had been set aside for soap grease. At another place, some Dutch soldiers drank and ate from the swill tub. A woman whose husband was in the Confederate army, saw her slender supply of bacon carried away by a private soldier. An officer riding up, she appealed to him for protection. He ordered the man to leave the bacon. The soldier replied, “You be _____!” The officer immediately fired upon the soldier, who dropped the stolen meat and ran.

The men who were at home were nearly all taken. A large number of these prisoners were kept in the old Academy in Hillsboro, and the guards who were placed over them slept the sleep of utter exhaustion. A bold movement on the part of the pursuing Confederates would have captured the whole force. Not until the town of Edray was reached and news of immediate reinforcements from Beverly, did the men of Averill’s command see any peace or comfort. The retreat was made from Salem to Beverly, four hundred miles, in sixteen days and in the worst weather…


So far as we have authentic information, the Beard relationship trace their ancestry to John Beard, the pioneer of Renicks Valley, Greenbrier county. He was of Scotch-Irish antecedents, his parents having migrated from the north of Ireland. While a young man, he had his parental home in Augusta County, in the bounds of John Craig’s congregation, and no doubt helped to build the old Stone Church and the forts spoken of elsewhere, and may have heard the very sermons Craig preached, opposing the people who were thinking of going back to Pennsylvania or over the Blue Ridge towards Williamsburg.

His valley home was in the vicinity of New Hope, and after attaining his majority he came to Greenbrier County, and commenced keeping bachelor’s hall at the head of Renicks Valley, on lands now occupied by Abram Beard, a grandson. This was bout 1770, and though unmarried, John Beard secured land, built a cabin and cleared ground for cropping.

While living in this isolated manner, some Indians came along and liberally helped themselves to whatever they could find in the way of something to eat; and when they went on their way, took the pioneer’s gun, dog and only horse.

It so occurred that Mr. Beard was absent that day. It is thought he had gone over to Sinking Creek on a social visit to the Wallace family, old neighbors in Augusta, and whose coming to Greenbrier possibly had its influence with the young bachelor…

About this time, or soon after, Mr. Beard seemed to realize there was nothing in single blessedness for him, and he and Miss Janet Wallace were married by taking a trip to Staunton and making their wishes known to the rector of the imperial parish that extended from the Blue Ridge to the Pacific ocean. In their pioneer home in Renicks Valley they reared  a numerous family of sons and daughters, one of the sons being Josiah Beard, late of Locust Creek…

Mr. [Josiah] Beard was the first Clerk of the County after its organization and served in that capacity during the formative period of the county’s history…

He was a staunch friend of education, and was one of the first trustees of the Pocahontas Academy at Hillsboro, and one of its most faithful patrons and wise counselors. In business affairs he was successful, and in a quiet, judicious, industrious manner acquired a very extensive landed estate; the larger proportion of which is yet in the possession of his descendants…

In his life was exemplified the highest type of citizen – a pious, intelligent cultivator of the soil – the occupation from which the Creator saw fit in his wisdom to create the first man. It is the occupation now that feeds the world, and whatever hinders, depresses or retards the farmer’s prosperity, threatens the worst evils that can befall our humanity.

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