MONROE COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA – BIOS: CAPERTON, John
Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
September 20, 1999
A History of Monroe County, West Virginia
Oren F. Morton, B. Lit.
The McClure Company, Inc.
The Capertons are derived from a French ancestor who went from the south of
France to the British Isles. The progenitor of the Monroe connection was John
who crossed the Atlantic about 1725 and at length found his way from
Philadelphia to the Valley of Virginia. His wife was Mary Thompson, whom he
met on the ship that conveyed him to America. In 1759 we find mention on
Christian Creek of John Caperton, a yeoman, whose wife was Mary. The
following year John “Capbritton” is spoken of as in the vicinity of Peaked
Mountain. His final location was on the east side of New River, below the
mouth of Rich Creek and very near the line of Summers county. His children
were Hugh, William, Adam, and Elizabeth. Hugh and Adam were in the Dunmore
war and the Revolution. The former, whose wife was Rhoda, lived on the
homestead. His children were Hugh, John, Thompson H., Elizabeth, Polly,
Augustus W. J., Green, Washington and Overton. Some of their descendants are
to be found in Mercer county. William, who married Lucy Woods in 1790, went
to Kentucky. Elizabeth married James Gibson and went with him to Tennessee.
Gibson county of that state is named for John H., one of their sons. Adam
was a deputy sheriff of Greenbrier in 1780. His wife, who was of German
parentage, was Elizabeth, a daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth (Fudge) Miller.
He went to Kentucky, where he was killed in 1782 in the battle with the
Indians known as Estill’s defeaL His widow married a minister named Smith.
The children of Adam were Mary, Elizabeth, John, George, and Hugh. “Mary, who
married George Swope, went to Louisiana. Elizabeth and John went with their
consorts to Tennessee, and George to Alabama. Soon after the death of his
father Hugh returned to his uncle’s home on New River, but after the
organization of this county he established himself at Union. As a merchant,
even in the face of the formidable competition of the Beirnes, he was very
successful, and became wealthy in land, slaves, and other forms of property.
In physique he was large, and he is spoken of by Mrs Royall as handsome. He
built “Elmwood,” near Union, and bequeathed it to his son Allen T. It was
here that he is said to have entertained Henry Clay about 1845. Mr. Caperton
died in 1847 at the age of 66 years. His first wife was Jane Erskine, to whom
he was married in 1806. The second, married in
1834, was Delilah Alexander, widow of George Beirne. His children, and their
consorts in marriage, were as follows: Elizabeth, married (1) William
Steenbergen, (2) Anders R. Rude; Lewis E., married Frances C. Alexander;
Allen T., married Harriette Echols; Margaret M., married Oliver Beirne;
William G., married Harriette B. Alexander in 1843, John A. married Mary E.
Coke Guthrie; Hugh, married Eliza J. Mosher; Mary J., married John Echols;
Sarah A., married James F. Preston; George H., married Mary E. Henderson.
The children of Lewis B. are Hugh, Elizabeth, Bettie, Henry, and Lewis. Hugh
married Catharine A. King, Bettie, Andrew P. Beirne, and Lewis, Mary W Carr.
The children of Allen T. are Eliza J., Mary, wife of Tomlin Braxton,
Harriette E., wife of William A. Gordon, Melinda, wife of James Patton, and
later of B. F. Bingham, Allen, who married Elizabeth V. Rowan, Ella, and
Lelia, wife of Robert Stiles. William G. had John, Alice B., wife of Frank
Hereford, Jaae E., James A., Will-iam G., who married Rosa A. Stiles
Christian, and Isabel, wife of John
B. Hereford, brother to Frank. John A.’s children are John H., Mary E.,
Sarah J., and Hugh S., the first of whom wedded Virginia Standiford. Hugh had
James M., Jane, Hugh, Imogen, and Mary. Of these, James married Emma S.
Ratchife and Hugh married Mattie Booth Kyle. The children of George H. are
Eliza H., Walter, Allen T., George H. (mar-ried Anna P. Chambliss), Jane B.
(wife of William M. Warrick), Sarah P. (wife of Isaac P. Wailes), Florence,
and William G. (married Mary A. Austin).
At an earlier day the Capertons were very wealthy and possessed great social
and political prestige. Among their best known rural seats are Elmwood,
Walnut Grove, and Idlewilde.
Allen Taylor Caperton was born at Elmwood Nov. 21, 1810, and died at
Washington, D. C., July 26, 1877. When a boy of fourteen he rode horseback to
Huntsville, Ala., to attend school. In 1832 he was graduated from Yale
College, standing seventh in a class of fifty-three. He studied law at
Staunton and took up the practice of that profession in his native county. In
1841 and again in 1859-1861 he represented Monroe in the Virginia Assembly.
In 1844-8 he was state senator, and in 1850 he was a member of the
constitutional convention, representing Monroe, Giles, Mercer, and Tazewell.
In the controversy which divided that body he stood with the western counties
in advocating the white basis of represensation. In the secession convention
of 1861 he was present as a delegate. When the crisis came he voted for
secession. At the close of hostilities he counseled his constituents that it
was the part of wisdom and patriotism to accept the logic of events. In 1876
he was elected to the Federal Senate, thus enjoying the unique distinction of
sitting in both the Federal and Confederate senates as the choice of two
different state governments. His term of service at Washington was brief, a
sudden illness cutting short his career. In person Mr. Caperton was of rather
more than medium size and he wore a long beard without a mustache. He was
well groomed and was regarded as handsome. He delighted in horseback riding
and in natural scenery, and was fond of agricultural pursuits. Socially he
was aristocratic and exclusive, yet was courteous and affable. He was a close
student of political science, a good talker, a ready debater, and a
promi-nent lawyer. Like his father before him he was a Whig, adhering to that
creed until political lines were modified by the war. After that event he
adhered to the Democratic party.