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Michael Ayers--
A Calhoun Native
In the Civil War

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We begin a new series dedicated to those who continue to preserve our past.

The State of West Virginia is known for its rugged terrain, untouched wilderness, and mountain pride. These elements create the perfect backdrop for living history.

Within these great ravines and atop these high hills, our ancestors have left their prints. It will be a great adventure to track them.

Every county in West Virginia has its own story of the Civil War. We are no different. Our county was deeply and uniquely affected. Our story is one of conflicting loyalties, ruthless events, and the horrors of guerrilla and border warfare.

It has been said that Calhoun was a place where terror reigned. The area reverted to a primitive state; each man was on his own. Stores were looted, mail routes and post offices discontinued, business suspended, and county officers took to the woods as rangers and guerillas.

The Amy Silcott letters series has come to an end. Many have been deeply connected to our past through her correspondence.

We sadly bid her farewell as we open our hearts and minds to another: Major Michael A. Ayers, one of the original Co. C recruits in the 11th Volunteers of the U.S. Army.

 Michael A. Ayers

Ayers was the son of Moses and Vashti Potter Ayers who settled on a farm near White Pine in Gilmer, now Calhoun County.

 Rangers stripped the farm and left the Ayers family with nothing. After the raid, Ayers, along with at least one brother, Salem Ayers, and their father, went to Smithville and joined the Virginia Militia. In Smithville, he met and fell in love with Mary (Molly) Smith.

This is where our new series, “Letters to Mary and Other Communications,” begins.

Michael and Mary Ayers.

Between 1861 and 1865, Ayers wrote to his beloved Mary with a passion and eloquence that is quite extinct in our day of email and text messaging.

We have a rare opportunity for an inside look at a story of love and war through the writing of Major Ayers.

The series is made possible through the efforts of Ayers’ descendants. The letters were preserved by Ayers’ grandson Ashford Ayers and compiled into booklet form by Alice Ann Ayers Brown, great-grand-daughter of Michael and Mary Ayers.

Alice Brown holds a canteen that belonged to her great-grandfather, Michael A. Ayers.

Alice Ann Ayers Brown was born in Smithville, the granddaughter of Allan and Eva Jane Howard Ayers and daughter of Ashford (Michael) and Ruby Elizabeth Risher Ayers.

She was raised in Harrisville and graduated from Harrisville High School in 1949. She is a retired teacher with 25 years of service in Wood County schools.

She and her husband Don Brown have been married for 56 years. They have three children: David Lee Brown, Daniel Robert Brown and wife Leanne, and Kathryn Ann Moore and husband John; and four grand-children: Nicole Brown and Megan, Heather and John Lee Moore.

Alice Ann Ayers Brown, who transcribed the Michael A. Ayers letters, and her husband, Don, reside in Parkersburg.

Brown transcribed her great-grandfather’s letters, journals, documents, lists, and maps over a period of eight to 12 months.

It is her passion and dedication to preserve the history of her family that gives us the unique chance to learn some of our own history.

We deeply appreciate the Ayers family’s efforts and generosity, and we anticipate the story of our past through the pen of Major Michael A. Ayers.

The letters begin in 1861 in Elizabeth. Ayers is a 21-year- old private in the 11th W.Va. Vols. Infantry. His love letters to his intended bride continued throughout the Civil War.

Ayers’ first two letters are written while he is in Elizabeth. Subsequent letters originate from Camp McDonald, Arnoldsburg, and numerous other Civil War sites.


One of the original letters (with envelope above) transcribed by Alice Ann Ayers Brown.

His devotion and affection are sure to win the hearts of all readers.

History comes alive when the characters in the stories become flesh and blood. The heartbeat of these letters still rings loud and clear almost 150 years later.

“Letters to Mary and Other Communications” begins next week in the print version of the Chronicle.

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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