KANAWHA COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA – BIOS: BRADFORD, Maj. William A.
Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
September 25, 1999
History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia and Representative
Richmond Arnold Publishing Co., Chicago, ILL.
MAJOR WILLIAM A. BRADFORD, deceased, for many years after the close of his
honorable service as a soldier in the Confederate Army, was a foremost
business man of Charleston and led in many of the enterprises which
contributed to the advancement of this city. He bore an ancestral name that
was distinguished even in colonial days but needed no luster from by-gone
forefathers to establish his place in the world. Major Bradford was born May
‘3, 1830, at Earlysville, Albemarle county, Va. His father was William
Ashton Bradford (2) and his mother was Eliza Mildred Lewis (Clarkson)
It is well established in the Bradford family that the immigrant settler,
John Bradford, who reached the shores of America as early as i60o, coming
from Scotland, was the uncle of William Bradford, who, twenty years later
became governor of the Pilgrim colony in Massachusetts. John Bradford left
descendants in Albemarle county, Va. One son, Alexander Bradford, was born
there July 22, 1729. He married Jemima, a daughter of John and Elizabeth
Jones, and they passed their lives in Virginia, his death being recorded in
1828 and hers in 1802. Fourteen children were born to them, seven sons and
William Ashton Bradford was the sixth son and the thirteenth child of
Alexander and Jemima Bradford. He was born in Albemarle county, March 13,
1774. He served with the rank of Major in the War of 1812 and dis-tinguished
himself as a soldier. Like other members of his family he lived in lavish
style, maintained great plantations and owned hun-dreds of slaves and he was
also influential in public affairs in Albemarle county. His death took place
in 1859. He married Mrs. Ann
Coleman (Slaughter) Fry, a sister of Rev. Philip Slaughter, who was rector of
St. Mark’s Parish, Richmond, Va., and a niece of Capt. Philip Slaughter, of
Revolutionary War fame. She was the widow of Capt. Reuben Fry. who was
captain of a company in the Revolutionary War, a man of such military ability
and so highly considered by the army, that at one time it seemed possible
that he would be selected as commander-in-chief in place of George
Wash-ington. To Major William Ashton Bradford and wife four children were
William Ashton Bradford (2), son of Ma-jor William Ashton Bradford and father
of the late Major William Ashton Bradford, the third inheritor of the name,
was the only son of his parents and was born in Albemarle county, Va., and
died there June 25, 1830, when only twenty-two years of age. He was a man of
culture and education and had made something of a name for himself in letters
although his life was so early ended. He married Miss Eliza Mildred
Clarkson, who was born in Marlborough county, Va., in i8ii, and died in 1842.
They had but one child, William Ashton (3).
William Ashton Bradford (3) was educated in private schools and by tutors. In
1861, when the Civil War became a fact, he was much interested and not only
raised but also equipped a company made up of elderly men for temporary
service and after it was disbanded rejoined a regiment of cavalry that was
raised at Richmond. Shortly afterward he was assigned to the staff of Gen.
Humphrey Marshall, with the rank of major, and when General Marshall was sent
to Congress, he transferred to Gen. Preston’s staff, and when the latter was
sent on an important mission to Spain, Major Bradford, who it might appear,
carried good luck with him, was placed on the staff of General Breckenridge
and remained until the latter was appointed secretary of war. Major Bradford
participated in the battles of Wyandot, Jones-ville, Chickamauga, Cold
Harbor, Lynchburg, Fredericksburg and Winchester. Subsequently he was taken
ill with fever and was sent to a hospital at Wythesville, Va., and was still
confined there when Generals Lee, Kirby Smith and Johnson surrendered. After
sufficiently recovering he secured his parole and then returned to Charleston.
Major Bradford’s subsequent life was, as be-fore indicated, one of usefulness
and activity. He was interested in many lines and for years was one of the
city’s leading bankers. He was also the patentee of a valuable steam gauge.
Major Bradford was married to Miss Elizabeth Johnston McChesney, who was born
in Bath county, Va., and accompanied her parents to Charleston in 187 I,
where she was reared and liberally educated and fitted for the social circles
in which she has always been a figure. Her parents were Dr. Alexander
Gallatin McChesney and Sallie Gatewood (Moffett) McChesney, the former of
whom died in 1877 while on a visit to his daughter in Virginia and was buried
in Virginia; the mother died in 1881. Dr. McChesney was a graduate of
Jefferson Med-ical College, Philadelphia and became a prominent physician.
His father was James McChesney and his grandfather was Robert McChesney, who
was born in Scotland. James McChesney married Frances McNutt, a sister of
Governor McNutt, of Mississippi, a niece of General McNutt of Nova Scotia.
She was a woman of noted beauty and of great force of character. After her
husband had been killed by a maniac, she reared the children and provided
them with collegiate advantages and also managed a large plantation with its
To Major and Mrs. Bradford five children were born: Elizabeth Ashton, Mildred
Lewis, Mary Walker, Sallie Moffett, and Robert War-wick. Elizabeth Ashton
was graduated with honors from the National Park Seminary at Forest Park,
Md., and afterward became the wife of J. Edmund Price, a well known attorney
of Charleston. Mildred Lewis, who is a graduate of Hollins Institute, Va.,
is the wife of Daniel Kingston Flynn, a well known lumberman of Charleston.
Mary Walker is a stu-dent of Sweetbrier College, Va. Sallie Moffett died at
the age of six years. Robert Warwick, the youngest of the family, is making
excellent progress in the Charleston schools. Mrs. Bradford takes a great
deal of interest in the society of the Daughters of the Confederacy and holds
an official position in this organization.
Major Bradford passed away at his home in Charleston, on February 13, 1907.
He had been reared in the Episcopal church. To its various objects of
benevolent care he was continuously generous, while his broad mind and kind
heart responded to calls for charity whenever made. His ancestry, rearing,
surroundings and convictions made him a Democrat but the mere holding of
office offered little attraction to a man of his habit of thought and busy
m9de of life. For many’ years he had been identified with the Masonic
fraternity. His personal character was without reproach and his memory is
held in reverent regard.
State Contact for WV GenExchange