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Winfield is the county seat of Putnam County. When the county was founded on March 11, 1848, the town site was chosen as the seat of government because it was centrally located. The town was laid out on the banks of the Kanawha River in 1849 and named for Gen. Winfield Scott. Charles Brown, who ran the ferry, gave land, and in 1849 a two-story brick courthouse was completed. Winfield soon became a thriving village, but until the 1920s it was still the smallest county seat in the state and the only one without a paved road or a railroad leading to it. The town depended on river travel.

The Red House Shoal was located in the river at Winfield. The steamboat channel through these rapids ran along the riverbank of the town. During the Civil War, the army that controlled that section of the riverfront controlled boat traffic on the upper Kanawha. This led to a skirmish that took place in the streets of Winfield on the night of October 26, 1864. Capt. Philip Thurmond, a noted Confederate partisan ranger, was mortally wounded. Before they returned, the Confederates buried their leader in an unmarked grave near the courthouse. Thurmond’s remains were reburied near the historic Hoge House in Winfield in 2010.

Winfield was incorporated in 1868. The population at that time was about 350. In 1898, the courthouse was destroyed in a terrible windstorm. Another courthouse was built in 1900, which served until it became the annex for the modern courthouse completed in 1998. In 1928, a disastrous fire destroyed an entire city block. The post office, bank, and newspaper office were all lost. A new bank was built, but it failed in 1931 during the Great Depression.

The paving of the road through town in 1926, the building of the Winfield locks and dam in 1936, and the completion of the Winfield bridge in 1957 contributed to long-term development. Finally, after Interstate 64 was completed, U.S. Route 35 was upgraded, and a number of housing developments were annexed, the future growth of Winfield was assured. In 1980, Winfield’s population was just 309. In 2020, it had grown to 2,397.

Written by Bill Wintz