Alexander Scott Withers
Alexander Scott Withers (12 October 1792, near Warrenton, Virginia – 23 January 1865, near Parkersburg, West Virginia) was the author of Chronicles of Border Warfare (1831), a history of (and important primary source on) the early white settlement of western Virginia and consequent conflicts with American Indians.
Withers was a son of Enoch K. Withers and Jennet Chinn Withers and was born at the family home, an estate known as "Green Meadows" near Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia. His mother was a second cousin of Sir Walter Scott. He was educated at home and in private schools, later attending Washington College and finally learning law at William and Mary. He married Melinda Fisher in 1815 in the Northern Neck of Virginia, and about 1827 moved his family to western Virginia, settling near Clarksburg. Subsequently he moved to Lewis County and resided on a farm on the West Fork River between Weston and Jane Lew.
Withers devoted much time to researching and writing his Chronicles of Border Warfare, or, A History of the Settlement by the Whites, of north-western Virginia: and of the Indian wars and massacres, in that section of the state; with reflections, anecdotes, &c. This 1831 account of “border wars” and local tradition in “the western country”, i.e., the northwestern portion of colonial Virginia (an area which today encompasses parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), described events from the French and Indian War (1754) to the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794). The book is full of graphic accounts of massacres and reprisals. Later genealogists have appreciated the numerous references to intrepid scouts and early settlers along the frontier. Withers was somewhat dissatisfied with the final form of the published book. According to Lyman Draper, “He used to say that had he published the volume himself he would have made it much more complete, and better in many ways; for he was hampered, limited and hurried -- often correcting proof of the early, while writing the later chapters.")
Withers was teacher to the future General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in 1839 in a school in Lewis County's first court house building. He served several years (from 1840) as a magistrate near Weston. After the death of his wife in 1853 he made his home with his eldest daughter in Parkersburg. He was a member of the First Wheeling Convention of May 1861. He lived a retired, studious life until his death in 1865 at the age of 73 and was buried in a graveyard along U.S. Route 19 in Weston.
Editions of Chronicles
- Withers, Alexander Scott, Chronicles of Border Warfare, or, A History of the Settlement by the Whites, of north-western Virginia: and of the Indian wars and massacres, in that section of the state; with reflections, anecdotes, &c. Clarksburg, Va.: J. Israel, 1831. (A volume of the original edition is now very rare.)
- Withers, Alexander Scott, Chronicles of Border Warfare, or a History of the Settlement by the Whites, of North-Western Virginia, and of the Indian Wars and Massacres in that section of the State; with Reflections, Anecdotes, &c., Edited and annotated by Reuben Gold Thwaites, with several notes by Lyman Copeland Draper. (Cincinnati: The Robert Clarke Company, or Steward and Kidd Publishers, 1895). Reprinted in 1961 by McClain Printing Company, Parsons, W.Va., ISBN 0-8063-4509-8.
- A historical marker on USR 19 at the bottom of the hill near the graveyard commemorates Withers. Several related Withers family members are also buried there.
- There is (was?) an Alexander Scott Withers Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
- Review of the 1895 Chronicles reprint edition by Theodore Roosevelt, American Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Oct., 1895), pp. 170-171.
- Bland, Robert L., “Alexander Scott Withers”, Weston Democrat of Friday, June 11, 1920.
- McWhorter, Lucullus Virgil, The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia, from 1768 to 1795: Embracing the Life of Jesse Hughes and Other Noted Scouts of the Great Woods of the Trans-Allegheny, With notes and illustrative anecdotes. Republic Publishing Company, Hamilton, Ohio, 1915. (Many reprints)
- Cook, Roy Bird, "Alexander Scott Withers - Author of Chronicles of Border Warfare - A Sketch" (n.p., 1921), unnumbered.