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Pittenger, Elisabeth
Autograph Letter Signed, [New Cumberland], Virginia, February 3, 1848 to William Aton, Fulton County, Illinois

quarto, two pages, plus stamp-less address leaf, some minor wear to paper, else in good, clean and legible condition.

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Pittenger writes:

“… I must confess that we are increasing in wealth slowly. We have succeeded in getting the county devided this winter and expect the Seat of Justice in our town. However, there will be an election held in the Spring between new Manchester and new Cumberland and the one that has the most votes gets the seat of justice. There is a great stir about this subject of County Seat, the sitizens of our town have mad up twenty five hundred dollars for the purpose of the publick Buildings. Our countys name is hancock and if we get the seat of justice in our town in which I think there will be no doubt we may say welcome Hancock County…”

The Virginia Legislature passed a bill on Jan. 10, authorizing the creation of Hancock County out of the northern end of Brooke County. This was linked to ongoing discussion of a division of the state, separating western from eastern Virginia. Within a month of Pittenger’s letter, citizens of New Cumberland petitioned for an election on the issue of locating the new county seat in their town, but the issue was not decided until the following year, and not until the end of 1850 did the Legislature give a grant of land to New Cumberland to build a Court House and Jail.

The creation of Hancock County had far-reaching implications. The County boundary was sometimes considered the dividing line between the Northern and Southern states, but Hancock was decidedly linked to the North. At the start of the Civil War, some 60 Hancock residents, together with men from nearby counties, formed the First Virginia Volunteer Infantry to join the Union Army. The regiment had the distinction of fighting in the Battle of Philippi first military land engagement of the War, which catapulted General George McClellan to the national stage. The battle was fought south of New Cumberland, in an area of western Virginia, which like Hancock wanted to remain in the Union and subsequently became part of the state of West Virginia in May 1861.