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Z. D. Ramsdell


Soldier, postal official, manufacturer, and merchant Zophar D. Ramsdell (November 21, 1816-December 9, 1886) learned the shoe trade in Massachusetts. He relocated to Ceredo in 1858 at the invitation of town founder Eli Thayer, who brought in about 500 settlers, as part of an experiment to build an anti-slavery community in the slave state of Virginia. Ramsdell was a manufacturer and seller of boots and shoes, and he continued the business until the outbreak of the Civil War.

In 1861, he became a captain in the 5th Virginia Regiment, renamed the 5th West Virginia when the western counties gained statehood. After the war, President U. S. Grant appointed Ramsdell a postal inspector. He served in the West Virginia Senate in 1868 and 1869 and is said to have written the state’s first school law. After his legislative stint, he again served the postal service for several years. He was a state-appointed trustee for the Virginia Central Railroad during its transformation into the Chesapeake & Ohio. Ramsdell was a delegate to the Republican national conventions that nominated Grant, Hayes, and Garfield for president.

Ramsdell built a two-story Greek Revival brick house in Ceredo in 1858. Tradition has it that he aided runaways, and his property was said to have contained a tunnel that could have accommodated escaping slaves. The restored house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a museum.

Read the National Register nomination.

Written by Glade Little


  1. Napier, Mose A. Ceredo: Its Founders and Families. Ceredo: Phoenix Systems, 1989.

  2. McClintic, Elizabeth K. "Ceredo: An Experiment in Colonization." M.A. thesis, Harvard-Radcliffe, 1937.