The Captain David Pugh House:Historical Context and Significance

This house was built for Captain David Pugh in 1835. Capt. Pugh was a distinguished citizen and statesman, serving as county Justice for many years, delegate to the Virginia Convention of 1861 (The Secession Convention), and elected to the West Virginia Senate in 1876. He and his family lived here until his death in 1899, and soon thereafter teacher Smith R. Brill bought the house and farm. The Brill family lived here through the late 1980’s. This house is a preeminent example of a style common in the Capon Valley.

Captain David Pugh, great-grandson of Joseph Edwards — builder of Fort Edwards — had this house built for himself and his family. The Pughs were a very prominent family in Hampshire County, originally immigrating to America from Wales in the early 1700’s.

Pugh House Front ViewPugh House is a two-and-one-half story, Federal-style dwelling constructed circa 1835. The Pugh House is an excellent example of local domestic architecture exhibiting elements of the Federal style that is found throughout the Capon Valley area. Several similar houses dot the landscape. They are two-story, rectangular I-houses, so-called because this style of house was built predominantly in the states beginning with the letter “I” — Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa — during the explosive westward expansion in the 1800’s. Each has a chimney at either end — exterior or interior — and a two-tiered, full-width porch along one side. Some of the houses have the main entrance on the porch side and some on the opposite side such as the Pugh House. The porches almost always overlook the nearest pasture.

Pugh checkerboardThe Pughs were a very prominent family in Hampshire County, originally immigrating from Wales to become some of the early founders of Pennsylvania in the late 1680s. Captain David Pugh was born in what is now Capon Bridge, West Virginia, on February 8th, 1806, the son of Mary and Mishall Pugh. He had this house built around 1835, when he was 29 years old, and lived in it until his death in 1899 at age 93. He had been widowed once before moving here, but had married Jane Creswell in 1835, having 6 children with her. The current owners of the house found a small book of poetry in the house that has one of the children’s — Almira — name inscribed in it. His second wife died in 1851, and he was married a third time, to Elizabeth Garvin, in 1852. They had three children, and the current owners also found a homemade checkerboard labeled “D. Pugh” in the house, presumably “D” stands for the son David C. Pugh.

We located a copy of the 1860 census for this area and on page 22 it lists the residents of the Pugh household. The page is shown and transcribed below.

1860 Census

1860 Census, Page 22

SCHEDULE 1 — Free Inhabitants in Eastern District in the County of Hampshire State

of Virginia enumerated by me on the 8th day of June 1860. Charles Blue, Ass’t Marshal

Post Office Hooks Mills

Name Age Sex Race Occupation Real Val. Pers. Val. Birthplace
David Pugh 53 M W Farmer 10,000 2,255 Virginia
Elizabeth A Pugh 39 F W Virginia
John W Pugh 23 M W Tanner Virginia
Maria E Pugh 20 F W Virginia
Almyra V Pugh 14 F W Virginia
Martha J Pugh 11 F W Virginia
Florence M Pugh 5 F W Virginia
David C Pugh 4 M W Virginia
Lila J Seibert 2 F W Virginia
George M Garvin 23 M W Virginia
James N Craswell 17 M W Virginia
George Hood 15 M B Farmer Virginia
Charles Hood 11 M B Virginia
Georgina Washington 10 F M Virginia

David Pugh earned the title “Captain” not from any military service but rather by his commanding presence. He was a member of the Virginia legislature in the early 1840’s, and was later a Justice (Judge) in the county for many years and after that there was a county court to which he was elected. He knew Henry Clay and President Andrew Jackson personally, and was a guest at the White House during Jackson’s term.

Captain Pugh was one of two elected delegates from Hampshire County sent to the Convention in Richmond, Virginia, which voted to secede from the Union in 1861. This was not an easy time for the United States or the citizens of Virginia. For years, greater representation and funding had gone to the eastern part of the State, where there were many lucrative plantations and large population centers. The western mountaineers had fewer slaves than their eastern brethren, and many did not support seceding from the Union. The convention lasted over a month, while impassioned speeches were made by west Virginians loyal to the Union. However secessionists had infused Richmond, threatening those against the Confederacy with assassination. Finally the vote was cast for the secession, and those still loyal to the Union departed for home to urge their constituents to vote against it. Captain Pugh voted against secession on the first vote, but succumbed like many others and voted for it on the second vote. Back home he spoke fervently against secession.

Captain Pugh was later elected to the West Virginia Senate in 1876. He also allowed one of the first schools in the valley, one of the few in existence before the war, called Mount Pleasant, to be built on his property. This was later rebuilt and called Riverdale School. Unfortunately there is nothing left of this school today.

Pugh grave markerPugh grave markerCaptain Pugh passed away in 1899. He and many members of his family are interred in on the other side of the Cacapon River, a little over 2 miles as the crow flies, in the Capon Chapel Cemetery.

Several years after Captain Pugh’s death, in 1906, Smith R. Brill purchased the house and farm from Pugh’s widow. Through most of the 1900’s the Brill family ran a typical diversified family farm, raising cows, horses, pigs, and chickens. Mr. Brill was a teacher and taught successfully in the schools of the district. He was married to Bessie O. Creswell and they had three children, the oldest of which was Walton. This place passed down from Smith to Walton in 1945, and then from Walton upon his death in 1973 to his wife Letha Maria. Marie lived here until 1988, and the place was sold at auction in 1992.

Capt. David Pugh House Next: Setting and Exterior »