Culture Center to host talk on slavery in Wayne County

By Staff reports

Robert Thompson, a Wayne County social science teacher, will present “Wayne County: Slavery and the Civil War” on Tuesday in the library at the Culture Center on the Capitol grounds in Charleston. The lecture, which will begin at 6:00 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Slavery in western Virginia was not nearly as widespread as it was in the Tidewater and Piedmont regions of Virginia.

But it was an economic and political factor in the state’s most western county, Wayne County, which had 143 slaves, according to the 1860 United States Census.

Thompson will tell the story of the Pauley family, whose children were returned to slavery in 1850, after they were kidnapped from Ohio and sold to William Ratcliff, of Wayne County.

Ratcliff later played an important role in the statehood movement that formed West Virginia.

Thompson will also discuss the life and career of Milton Jameson Ferguson, a local attorney who became a colonel for the Confederate Army’s 16th Virginia Cavalry when the Civil War began.

That cavalry unit consisted primarily of men from Wayne County and the surrounding area.

Slavery became a very volatile and complex issue as Virginia became engulfed in the Civil War and West Virginia became a separate state in 1863.

Thompson has researched Wayne County for many years. A graduate of Marshall University, he has written 10 books about Wayne County history, including: “Few Among the Mountains: Slavery in Wayne County,” “Fear No Man: The Life of Colonel Milton Jameson Ferguson,” and “Badges and Bullets,” a history of Wayne County sheriffs from 1842 to 1942.

On June 3, the Culture Center library will close at 5:00 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m. for Thompson’s talk. For additional information, call 304-558-0230.

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