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Poet Thomas Dunn English (June 29, 1819-April 1, 1902) was born in Pennsylvania. English, also a physician and lawyer, lived in Logan County from 1852-1856. He is best known for his 1843 ballad ‘‘Ben Bolt.’’ His West Virginia poems include ‘‘The Logan Grazier,’’ ‘‘Guyandotte Musings,’’ ‘‘The Boone Wagoner,’’ ‘‘Gauley River,’’ and ‘‘Rafting on the Guyandotte.’’ Before moving to Lawnsville, now named Logan, the Philadelphia native worked in New York, where he edited a political newspaper, a comic journal, and a magazine of reviews, politics, and literature. Known for his temper, English quarreled with Edgar Allan Poe and faced libel suits from others.

News of the region’s large coal reserves and virgin timber may have prompted English and his wife to move to Western Virginia. By 1853, English had bought 27 coal leases and incorporated two coal companies with holdings in Logan and Wayne counties. While he was buying coal leases, English also got involved in local governance. Lawnsville, where English lived, had never been legally incorporated. He and others petitioned the General Assembly of Virginia to incorporate the town as Aracoma, the name of Shawnee Chief Cornstalk’s legendary daughter. English served as the town’s postmaster, and was elected mayor. He practiced medicine infrequently.

In 1856, when English’s coal schemes didn’t succeed, he moved from Logan County to Tazewell, Virginia, to pursue a livelihood in journalism. He later settled in Bergen County, New Jersey. In 1862, he was elected to one term in the New Jersey legislature, and later served two terms in Congress. English died in New Jersey.

Last Revised on October 18, 2012


Ambler, Charles H. & Festus P. Summers. West Virginia: The Mountain State. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958.

Spence, Bob. The Poet of Lawnsville. Goldenseal, (July-Sept. 1979).

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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Thomas Dunn English." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 18 October 2012. Web. 13 June 2024.


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