Our Workman Kinsmen


This photo depicts the life of a pioneer farmer in the early 1800s, who originally settled in what is now West Virginia. It is an actual working farm today, making use of the methods and machinery of the times, located at Twin Falls State Park, in Wyoming County. Roger Spencer was gracious enough to give me permission to use this great photograph. http://www.ovis.net/~rspencer

Appearing in our local county newspaper, The Cecil Whig, Cecil County, Maryland, several years ago, was an article concerning my maternal grandmother’s family, the Workmans of West Virginia. It stated that in the history of Logan County, West Virginia, G.T. Swain said that in 1794 James Workman, with brothers, Joseph and Nimrod, built a cabin and planted corn on the island. In the fall of 1796 James brought his family from Wythe County (now Tazwell County) and the three brothers continued to live there until 1800. According to Josiah Hughes, in his Pioneer West Virginia, said, about the year 1800, James, Joseph and Thomas left where Logan now stands and went to Boone County and became settlers there. Thelma C. Anderson, in her Workman Family History printed the following records of Mary C. Workman. “Joseph Workman and his two sons, Joseph and James Hewett were the first white settlers of Boone County, WV.” They farmed land up and down and around the Big Coal River until they covered the entire country from what is now Van, WV to the headwaters at Bald Knob. On either side of the river, the land was owned and farmed by the Workmans and their descendants. Later generations that didn’t know the true value of their land, sold it off for very small considerations to companies that finally made their part of the country one of the richest coal mining districts in the United States. One must also be able to understand the vast amount of territory this settlement covered during the time between 1790 and 1830, when the Workmans were living in Tazwell and Wythe counties. During this time the men would take hunting and trapping expeditions each fall into what is now McDowell, Logan and Wyoming Counties. When they came into Logan it was within the bounds of Giles County. When they moved on and around the Big Cole River and it’s tributaries, it was Kanawha County. You can see how the family would be hard to track down.

West Virginia Map of 1780

According to Tazwell County death records, Abraham Workman died in 1858. He was the son of Joseph and Phoebe Workman. His application for pension states that he enlisted in Monongalia County at the age of 16 in 1777 under Colonel Morgan. He also stated that he was born January 25,1761 in Washington County, Pennsylvania. With Abraham, my quest began to trace my roots in the Workman Family. I will find I have a long way to go, and much information to pursue. This particular newspaper article estimates that soon after the war, Abraham, being one of the youngest, along with his siblings and parents, Joseph and Phoebe,traveled down through Monongalia County and east to Agusta County, where some Workmans had already settled. Monogalia County at that time, consisted of the counties that now makes up the northern half of West Virginia.

As you scroll down, you will get a jist of the family, in relation to the changes in the geography. It was also an exciting time in our country's history. Maps may not always correspond to the nearby text, but a general idea of the changes can be noted.

See "Some Branches of the Workman Tree" by Ralph Sayre, for some more interesting recordings of James., as well as, many other members of the Workman families. Joseph Workman born about 1780 in Pennsylvania, possibly son of James, appears in Monroe County records in1807 where he married Hanna Reed, daughter of Benjamin and Suzanna Reed. Issue of this marriage was three sons, Benjamin, John and Robert. Benjamin and Robert later became residents of Boone County. Joseph entered War of 1812 from Cabell County under Captain Spurlock. Cabell at this time included part of what is now Logan, Wyoming and Boone Counties. Workman cousins were now already thickly settled along the Cole River and some in the Sandy and Tug River areas of what is now Wayne County. Hanna must have died sometime soon after 1815. Again in Monroe County in 1817 Joseph married Elizabeth Reed, daughter of John and Mary. Children of Joseph and Elizabeth were Shanton, Charles, Charles, Mary, Malinda, Jane, Wash and Floyd. As gleaned from a Cecil County, Maryland local newspaper, the following was said about James Workman: Around 1788, James was employed by John Breckenridge to survey a huge amount of land in Wyth County. They moved into this territory and settled at or near a place called Burkes-Garden. Workman names that appeared on petitions for the formation of Tazwell County, from Wyth and Russell, were James, Joseph, Abraham, Jacob, Thomas, Moses and Daniel.

West Virginia Map 1800


Moses married Elizabeth Muncy and Thomas married Sarah Dickerson, of Dickerson, in Tazwell County. His name is listed in Cecil Whig article this way: Shelton Raymond "Shanton" Workman, born about 1818 in Monroe County and grew up in Logan County. His first marriage,1840, probably while visiting an uncle in Tazwell County, to Surilda (Razilda) Webb. They were living in Wyoming County during the 1850 census. They had about 12 children, but were divorced in1869. While still in Wyoming County, Shelton married Lucinda Roberts and brought their family to Cordova, Greenbrier County. Their children were Delilah, Peggy, Rebecca, Henry, Rinda, Ollie and James. Razilda Workman with most of her children, came by covered wagon and oxen to Lewis County. They arrived in Confluence (now Orlando) about 1871. Of the older children, Wash (*not to be confused with Wash, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Reed.) settled in Clay County.* the paper article did not make this differentiation. It has been made by the writer of this article. Benjamin settled in Nicholas County. Fielden, Shelton R, WilliamH., Zack and Joseph L. remained in Lewis county to raise their families. Descendants are still living in Lewis, Upshur and Barbour counties. Charles was born in 1819 in Monroe County, WV, and came to Logan County with his family about 1840, he married Phoebe Margaret Bailey in Fayette County. Raleigh County was formed out of Fayette County and of Phoebe's and Charles' children, John, George. W., Alfred and Stephan were born in that county. The others, Rachel, Will, Pat and Tom were born in Slab ford District, Wyoming County. Phoebe and Charles spent their last days in Cordova, Greenbrier County, where several of their children settled. Some of their children went to Oklahoma and Washington State. Charles and Phoebe are buried in front of the McMillion Church on Friers Hill. Mary Workman married Franklin Sizemore and they had children, Louisa, Miles, Wiley, Jane, Cathany, Elizabeth and Harriett. They lived in Wyoming County near the Workmans and some probably married cousins. It has been told that some of the family died of tuberculosis. James Madison married Nancy Elizabeth Webb and were known in the neighborhood as “Mat and Elizabeth”. They had eleven children: Manerva, Mariah, Reese, Andy, Mary, Ribern, (Elder in the Old Regular Baptist church), Angeline, Oliver, Seward and Zack. Zack was born in 1870 in Wayne County. In 1868, Reese married Rebecca Fannin, daughter of Silas M. Polly. It is believed that they had a daughter, Heather. The following story has been passed down. When Heather was old enough to walk, Rebecca slapped her and caused her to fall into a pot of scalding water and was scalded to death. Reese, angered by this, took his infant son, Benjamin Freeland Workman and left. This incident caused a Workman-Fannin Feud and shortly after1870, the Mat Workman Family returned to Wyoming County. From there they split up and migrated to other counties and states. Malinda Jane Workman married Edward Sizemore in Wyoming County. They had children, Senie, Luvenia, Calvin, Lydia, (third wife of Reese), Oma and Cosbi. William Washington Workman, my great grandfather, born about 1830, lived with Mat and helped him farm, from the time he was fifteen years old, till he was married. Wash married Nevera “Eve” Stanley, daughter of Joseph and Ollie Stanley. Their children were Peggy,(second wife of Reese Workman), Nancy, Joseph, Miles, Lobelia, Louritha, Cosbi, Netti, Judy and John A. They lived on a mountain in the Barkers Ridge section of Wyoming County. Eve died and is buried on the mountain above Mullens, now known as Rinehart’s Mountain. Wash remarried and spent his last days at Cordova in Greenbrier County.

West Virginia Map of 1840.

1846- Wezel County was formed from part of Tyler County. 1847- Boone was part of Kanawha, Cabell and Logan Counties.1848- Hancock was formed from northern Boone, and Wirt became Wood and Jackson. Putnam was formed from parts of Kanawha, Cabell and Mason.1850- Raleigh was formed from part of Fayette, Wyoming was formed from part of Logan. Upsur in 1851 taken from parts of Randolph, Barbour and Lewis. Pleasants from Woods, Tyler and Richie. 1856- Calhoun was formed from Gilmer; Roane from Kanawha, Jackson and Gilmer. Tucker was raken from parts of Randolph. In 1858, McDowell was formed from part of Tazwell cpinty and formed a southern border for present day West Virginia. Clay was formed from from part of Braxton and Nicholas. 1860 brought Webster county taken from Nicholas, Baxter and Randolph. In 1861 Virginia seceded from the Union. The Western part of Virginia refused to secede, and West Virginia became the 35th state in 1863. From 1866 to 1895, Mineral, Lincoln, Summers and Mingo Counties were formed. Charleston was named state capitol in 1885.

George Floyd Workman, born 1856, was the youngest of Joseph and Elizabeth’s children. In 1859, he married Sarah Belcher, daughter of John and Elizabeth Belcher. Floyd had a son, Allen, in 1860 and Sarah must have died shortly after, because in 1870 census, it shows Allen was adopted by his grandparents, John and Elizabeth Belcher. Floyd went to Pond Fork in Boone County and married Nancy Gunnoe. They had children, Sarah, Gordon, Mary, Rosey, Joseph, Floyd, Martha, Cosby, James and Frank. As the Cecil County Whig also stated, the Workman Pioneers were a rugged people with an unquenchable thirst for exploration. Today one would think of them as “squatters”, because they did not see the need to obtain land titles. Much of the land at that time was wilderness and owned by the government. There were several marriages between cousins and they always stuck together as related families. Their settlements were usually made well away from others, and when people moved in too close, they looked for new territory. Education was scarce to these people who were moving around in the wilderness through several generations. This made records of the families almost extinct. Many Family Bibles have been lost and graves have been marked with little or no information. From the pioneers, to the present, we find in the Workman Families, to be craftsmanship, independent and religious. With any family tree so big, one is sure to find some “bad apples”. Such is true of the Workman Tree, but for the most part, the name commands a high respect for the individual to whom it belongs! So much, for the Cecil Whig of Cecil County, Md. I have not found anything here to be untrue, but I have not documented any of this yet, nor even have I checked it against other records,which have been given to me. I want to credit Ralph Sayres, author of The Many Branches of the Workman Tree. Much of my information has come from this book. I also, am administrator of a website “my family.com”. Here I have gotten to know several of my relatives, whom I would not have met, if it had not been for this great website. I want to add a few words about my Wonderful Workman Family from Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. The most outstanding trait that I have found is “They are not afraid of WORK. They were certainly named correctly. They are also loyal, love their families and live good decent lives. I am proud to have met a few, and look forward to meeting many more of them.

As we go through the records of the family, we will learn more of what the newspaper had to say about the family genealogy, but not as it was presented in the paper. I have used my Family Tree Maker Program to make charts, maps, etc. to show specific relationships. It is easier to interpret, and I will add data of the individual persons as I chart their families. I will however, add more of the generalization from the paper, such as:

"The Workman pioneers were a rugged people with unquenchable thirst for exploration. Today one would think of them as "squatters" , because they did not see the need to obtain land titles. Much of the land at that time was wilderness and owned by the government. There were several marriages between cousins and they always stuck together as related families. There settlements were usually made well away from others, and when people moved in too close, they would look for new territory. Education was scarce among these people who were moving around in the wilderness through several generations, therefore records are almost non-exsitant. Many family Bibles have been lost and graves have been marked with little or no information. From the pioneers to the present, we find in the Workman families, craftsmanship, hard workers and independence.


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