December 29, 1861: Sutton Burns
The Braxton County seat of Sutton was nearly burned to the ground on December 29, 1861. During the first year of the Civil War, western Virginia was besieged by Union and Confederate troops vying for control of the region. Most fighting centered on important transportation routes.
Suttonville, as it was known then, was strategically located on the Elk River, which ran south all the way to Charleston. It was also located on the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike, which connected the town with other key roads.
Realizing the strategic importance of Sutton, the Union army built a small fort to guard the town. Around 10 a.m. on December 29, some 80 Confederate soldiers attacked the fort, which was being garrisoned by about 100 Union cavalry forces. The Union soldiers fought back for six hours before retreating in defeat.
Soon after the battle, the entire town was ablaze. Nobody is certain who lit the first spark, but the inferno destroyed the courthouse and left only six buildings standing.
Sutton began rebuilding, but it would not fully recover until the timber industry arrived in the late 1800s.