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Profiles of Selected Individuals Buried in the West Liberty Cemetery

The West Liberty Cemetery derives its significance from the contributions of the individuals who are buried there. The cemetery includes many of the early leaders in the community as well as a number of individuals who were important military leaders during the American Revolution and the Civil War. Therefore, this document consists of mini-biographies of selected individuals who are interred at the West Liberty Cemetery.

General Benjamin Biggs 1754 -1823
Benjamin Biggs was one of the first settlers in the West Liberty, WV area. He moved to West Liberty (Then known as Black’s Cabin) in 1774. Biggs served in Dunmore’s War in 1774. He was given a Lieutenant’s Commission in the 13th Virginia Regiment in 1777. Biggs participated in the Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Germantown, and the Battle of Monmouth. The 13th Virginia spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. On 24 May 1778, the 13th Virginia was assigned to the Western Department at Fort Laurens, and on 12 May 1779 it was reorganized as the 9th Virginia Regiment. It was again reorganized as the 7th Virginia Regiment in 1781. From 1779 to 1781 Captain Biggs commanded fort Henry in Wheeling. Biggs also briefly served in Brady’s Rangers. Biggs, participated with Samuel Brady and Thomas Bavington in rescuing the family of Albert Gray which had been taken captive by an Indian raiding party..  After the war, Biggs remained in the militia. On April 10, 1812, Congress issued a call for troops. The Virginia Militia quota was 12,000 men divided into twenty Brigades. The men from Ohio County were part of the Tenth Brigade which was commanded by Benjamin Biggs who had been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. The service record of the Tenth Brigade is unknown.

In addition to his military service. Benjamin Biggs was an early community leader in the West Liberty area. He opened an ordinary in the West Liberty area which was one of the first businesses in Ohio County. Information about the Biggs ordinary is a little sketchy, but Regier put it at or near the location of the current West Liberty Town Hall . Biggs's son Washington (Known as "Wash") ran the  ordinary. Biggs owned over 500 acres including the tract of land on the hill south of the WLU campus above the WLU tennis Courts. That tract of land reached all the way to what is now Harvey Road.  Not far from the creek that crosses Harvey Road on the outskirts of town, Biggs built a log structure in which he operated a distillery. Ohio County Court records indicate that several people were licensed to operate an ordinary in West Liberty. An Ordinary was a combination general store, tavern, livery stable, restaurant, and motel, so at least three taverns were operating in town. Therefore, the demand for booze was good and Biggs had a thriving business!

Biggs served in the Virginia Legislature in 1790, 1791, 1793, 1794, and 1795. He was also one of the organizers of Ohio County which reached from Cross Creek in the north to Middle Island Creek in the south (St. Mary's).

When the court moved to Wheeling in 1797, the courthouse and the two acres that went with it were put up for sale. Benjamin Biggs bought the land and donated one of the two acres to the Presbyterian Church for use as a cemetery. His son, Zaccheus, converted the old courthouse building to a horse powered grist mill around 1799 or 1800.

James T. Bradbury 1785-1863

James T. Bradbury was the third president of West Liberty Academy (Now West Liberty University). West Liberty University is located in the town of West Liberty!

Captain Samuel Brady 1756 – 1795
This grave alone should qualify the West Liberty Cemetery for inclusion on the National Register. There are places in at least four states named after Captain Samuel Brady and several books have been written about him.

When Washington’s call for troops went out, Samuel Brady went east with his father and younger brother and joined the Continental Army under the command of General (Mad) Anthony Wayne. Brady served in the battles of Boston, New York, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine Creek, and Germantown. During part of this time, Brady and his father and brother served as spies and scouts for General (Mad) Anthony Wayne. When Brady’s father was wounded in the mouth, Samuel’s father and brother were sent home to Pennsylvania where they were killed by the Indians. Samuel spent the winter at Valley Forge. He is listed on the Valley Forge roster as a Captain in the 8th Pennsylvania. In the late spring of 1778, Brady was ordered to return to Pennsylvania and report to General Broadhead at Fort Pitt. When he and two companions arrived in central Pennsylvania, they learned of an Indian raid on the home of the Henry family. Brady and his two companions tracked the raiding party for two weeks. They caught up with the Indians at the Allegheny River in a location northwest of Pittsburgh now known as Brady’s Bend. The three men killed six of the seven Indians, including Chief Bald Eagle, and rescued the two Henry children. When they arrived at Fort Pitt, Broadhead promoted Brady to Captain and charged him with raising a detachment of rangers, to be headquartered at Fort McIntosh, to pursue and eliminate the Indian raiding parties that were supporting the British by attacking the unprotected homes of the men who were away serving in the Continental Army. Brady’s Rangers were very effective and almost completely eliminated the Indian raiding parties from western Pennsylvania and northern Virginia. After the War ended, the Indian wars continued in Ohio. Around 1791, Washington asked General Anthony Wayne to come out of retirement to lead an army into the Ohio territory to deal with the Indian problem there. The previous military expeditions into Ohio had failed. General Wayne put Captain Brady in command of all of his spies with orders to scout the Indians in the Ohio Territory. The work of Brady’s spies was so thorough that Wayne knew the exact distribution of the Indian forces in Ohio. That information was crucial to Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794

Sargent John Curtis 1750-1843
Sgt. John Curtis served in the 1st Maryland Regiment under Capt. Nathaniel Smith and Colonel Matross, from the spring of 1776 until the fall of 1779. He was wounded in action, for which he received a pension later in life.

Colonel George Washington Curtis, CSA   1827-1862

Col. George Washington Curtis was Sgt. John Curtis’s grandson and General William Baker Curtis’s brother. In 1861, G.W. Curtis joined the confederate army where he was quickly promoted to Colonel because of his previous military experience. He served in the 23rd Virginia in General Stonewall Jackson’s army as one of Col. Taliaferro’s staff officers. On August 9, 1862, he was wounded in action at the battle of Cedar Mountain near Culpepper, VA. (Also known as the Battle of Slaughter Mountain.) Curtis died from his wounds on Aug 10, 1862.

General William Baker Curtis
William Baker Curtis was the grandson of John and the brother of G.W. Curtis. At the beginning of the Civil War, W. B. Curtis began doing close order drill with the students from West Liberty Academy. In 1862 the group joined the Union Army as Company D of the 12th WV Infantry. The loss of the students nearly bankrupted the Academy and caused it to go into debt. W.B. Curtis was commissioned as the Captain of the 12th WV. The 12th WV infantry saw a lot of action during the Civil War culminating at the battle of Fort Gregg outside Petersburg. After three unsuccessful assaults, the 12th WV led the final charge. By then, Curtis was in command of a brigade. After the battle, he was promoted to Brigadier General. After the war ended, General Curtis was elected to the West Virginia Legislature where he was instrumental in having the state purchase West Liberty Academy for its debt thereby making it the first public institution of higher education in West Virginia. The home of General Curtis and his wife in West Liberty became known as “Liberty House.” It was a social gathering place and the General and Mrs. Curtis hosted the annual graduation party for the Academy students until his death. Curtis Hall on the West Liberty University campus is named after General William Baker Curtis. W.B. Curtis was one of the Ohio County Delegates to the First Wheeling Convention which led to the formation of the new state of West Virginia.

Lieutenant Josiah Montgomery Curtis  (Also known as Dr. Josiah Montgomery Curtis)
Lieut. J.M. Curtis was General W.B. Curtis’s son. During the battle of Fort Gregg, Lieutenant Curtis picked up the colors after two other color bearers had been killed. In spite of the furious fire directed at him, he carried the colors over the wall as the fort fell. For this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. After the war, he attended medical school at Miami University in Ohio where he graduated first in his class. He then returned to the upper Ohio Valley where he practiced medicine until his death. His original marker reads, “A soldier of the war and was presented with the Medal of Honor by the Congress of the United Startes.

Here is his Medal of Honor Citation from the US Army Site:


Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company I, 12th West Virginia Infantry. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 2 April 1865. Entered service at: Ohio County, W. Va. Birth: Ohio County, W. Va. Date of issue: 12 May 1865. Citation: Seized the colors of his regiment after 2 color bearers had fallen, bore them gallantly, and was among the first to gain a foothold, with his flag, inside the enemy's works.
Reverend James (Smiley) Hughes
Reverend Hughes was one of the first ministers of the Gospel to preach in the West Liberty and Short Creek areas. He was appointed by the Presbyterian Church. Indications are that he was the first minister located in West Liberty, but the documentation does not rule out the possibility that another minister could have also been in the town.

Colonel David McClure
David McClure was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Virginia Militia during the Revolutionary War. He served as the recording secretary at the Council of War held at "Catfish Camp" (now Washington, Pa.)

Private James A. Kelley Company I, 32nd USCI (United States Colored Infantry)

Private Kelly is one of two black Civil War veterans buried in the West Liberty Cemetery.
The 32nd USCI Regiment was formed in Philadelphia, PA. Kelly enlisted in 1864 and was mustered out in 1865. The unit saw action along the east coast.

George N. Shorts  1847-1918
George Shorts was the only undertaker in West Liberty during the late 1800s and early 1900s. There is no undertaker in West Liberty today!

Private Joseph Verse Co. B, 57th USCI   (United States Colored Infantry)

Private Verse is one of two black Civil War veterans buried in the West Liberty Cemetery. The 57th USCI Regiment was formed in Arkansas in 1863. Private Verse joined the regiment in 1863 and was discharged for medical reasons in 1865. (Unsure if the medical issue was a result of being wounded)

Otto (Otho) Hedges
Early settler about a mile west of the town of West Liberty after whom Boone and Hedges Road was named.