May 26, 1888: City Founder Alfred Beckley Dies at 86
City founder Alfred Beckley died on May 26, 1888. It was his 86th birthday. He was the son of John James Beckley, the first Librarian of Congress and a political ally of Thomas Jefferson. With help from President James Monroe, Alfred Beckley received an appointment to West Point.
In 1836, he resigned from the army and moved with his wife and daughter to a 56,000-acre tract of family land in present Raleigh County. The town of Raleigh Courthouse grew up around his home. It was later renamed Beckley in honor of Alfred Beckley’s father.
From 1849 to 1861, Alfred Beckley served as a brigadier general in the Virginia militia. During the Civil War, he saw limited service in the Confederate Army and was imprisoned for a brief time at Camp Chase in Ohio. After the war, he served as a state delegate to the national Democratic Convention and became a leader in the temperance movement. His death occurred shortly before the coal boom turned Beckley into the largest town in southern West Virginia.
Wildwood, his Beckley home, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.