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The first of this family name residents of Roane County were the Rev. Neville Craig Beckley, his wife, who before marriage was Miss Elizabeth Lore of Raleigh County, and their three children, Alfred C., Emma J. and Robert H. The family arrived here from Fayette County, in the year 1874, the Rev. Neville C. having been sent here by the Methodist Episcopal Conference to take charge of the work here in Roane.

The Methodist Episcopal's strongest locality at that date was upper Middle Fork of Reedy in Curtis District. Here Reverend Beckley located his family and made their home, from which he went out in the surrounding country and
preached his regilious faith and for years urged on communities the value of Christian religion; during which time he laid the foundation for a strong church in the county, the full fruition of which occurred under his successor, the Rev. C. H. Lakin, who saw an increase in. church buildings from one, that at Reedy, known as "Fleshers Chapel," to a dozen or more scattered about the county, including one in the Town of Spencer. Reverend Neville C. Beckley died at Charleston, where he was taken suddenly ill while on his way to a new appointment in Fayette County.

The history of the Beckley family is an illustrious one; a National history of no small import, and of the State of West Virginia none more important. Lewis' History of West Virginia devotes a little more than four pages to General Alfred Beckley, founder of Raleigh County, the county seat of which is "Beckley," that perpetuates his name. He was the father of Neville Beckley, our citizen preacher above mentioned.

We have room here for only an outline of the history of the Beckley family, and we reduce that outline to the following facts:

The first of the name gaining public notice was a John Beckley, clerk of the national House of Representatives during the presidency of Washington, the elder Adams and Thomas Jefferson; Mayor of the City of Richmond, 1783; member of the Board of Aldermen; Secretary of the Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1788, and the first Librarian of Congress: died April 8, 1807. Of the family John Beckley left, we will write here of one only, General Alfred Beckley. He was born on Capitol Hill, City of Washington, 26th of May, 1802; and, as observed, was a fatherless child at five years of age. He says, "My mother removed to the City of Philadelphia with myself, a boy of five, her only child; she lived in Philadelphia till some time in May, 1814." "While in Philadelphia I was sent to several schools of repute." "We removed to Frankfort, Kentucky, in May, 1814."

"In 1819, Mr. Monroe, then president, and a warm friend of my father, on application of my mother, through Gen. William Henry Harrison, gave me the warrant of cadet of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N. Y." "On General Harrison's invitation I became an inmate in his family at North Bend for six months, availing myself of the instruction of General Harrison's private instructor to his children."

"I graduated on the 1st day of July, 1823, number nine in a class of thirty-five." * * * "I served thirteen years honorably in the United States army; two years of which was in Florida, 1824-1826." This was in the Seminole War; six years arsenal duty near Pittsburgh; two years at Fort Hamilton Narrows, N. Y.

In the year 1836, General Alfred Beckley married Miss Amelia Neville Craig, daughted of Neville Craig, Esq., editor of the Pittsburgh Gazette, and at once resigned his commission as an officer of the army.

After this marriage and resignation he set out with his wife and mother for Fayette County, Western Virginia, for the purpose, as he says, "To improve a body of unsettled stony lands for my widowed mother and myself lying in the southern part of Fayette (now Raleigh) County." (There were several hundred thousand acres of this land, we are told.) In the volume "History of Fayette County," by Peters & Garden, 1926, the value of this Beckley land is mentioned on page 546. "Sold for $3,000; now worth $150,000." "In 1849, the General Assembly of Virginia, elected me as Brigadier General of Militia, creating for me a new district."

When the Civil War broke out General Beckley was ordered out, and had to go, as we must surmise, against his sentiments, for he later re-signed his commission and General Floyd disbanded the Virginia militia. General Beckley became a prisoner with the other citizens of Raleigh Court House when Colonel Hays took the place in 1862. General Beckley was paroled. The son, Neville, subject of this sketch, enlisted and served in the Union army.

To General Alfred Beckley and Amelia Neville (Craig), his wife, were born several children there in Raleigh, the new county formed by his enterprise, in the year 1850; its county seat, "Beckley."

The names of these children were: John Isaac, William, Henry, Alfred, Jr., and Neville Craig, the Reverend Nevil C., who became the citizen preacher of Roane. The old General after the death of Amelia N. C., married a second wife whose name we do not have, and of this marriage were born: Webster, Stewart and Mariah.

Of the children of the Rev. Neville C. Beckley we should here say: Alfred Craig married Leona A. Sleeth, of Middle Reedy, 14th August, 1877, "of age." We do not have the record of the miarriage of Emma J. Robert Henry married Mary Wine, daughter of Richard Wine of Spencer, April 4, 1881, "consent of parents."

Robert H. and Mary, his wife, made their life's home here in Spencer. For many years he plied the trade of house and sign painter; of later years he has kept a store of general supplies for such work, including paintings, pictures, wallpaper, etc. To Robert H. and Mary (Wine), his wife, were born: J. Walter, James, Melissa, Neville, William B. and Howard.

Source: History of Roane County, West Virginia, 1774-1927, William H. Bishop, Esq., p 444-446
Submitter: Sandy Spradling, October 1, 1999

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