Perhaps one of the most unusual places in Randolph County, West Virginia is the Sinks of Gandy. Located on private property, this partially underwater cave is a favorite spot for hikers and cavers. The Sinks are named for Uriah Gandy or Gandee, an early settler of the Dry Fork region whose origins are a bit muddied by the passage of time and the decay of memory. So, who was Uriah Gandy? Read on…
Historians Remember Gandy
Gandy is listed in Hu Maxwell’s “History of Randolph County” (1898) as a former Sherriff of Randolph County who served from 1793-1796. Another source, Don Teter’s “Goin’ Up Gandy” (1977) says, “One of the early leaders of the Tory bands may have been Uriah Gandy, who settled in about 1781 near the junction of the Dry Fork with the creek which now bears his name. Apparently he abandoned his loyalty to royalty; when Randolph County was organized in 1787 he was appointed a justice of the peace, and in 1793 he became sheriff.” Working in Harman, West Virginia, there are historic signs posted that say this region was originally settled by Tories, those who supported England during the Revolutionary War. So, who was Uriah Gandy and was he a Tory?
According to an article in Wonderful West Virginia Magazine in December 1992, written by Lee R. Gandee, “Samuel Gandy and Uriah Gandy, Sr. were brothers, sons of George Gaither, Gendee, or Gandy, who came to Philadelphia in 1732 with his father, Hans Jacob, from Germany. He settled near Philadelphia. Samuel and Uriah joined the Patriot Army, but Samuel deserted at Valley Forge and returned home to his widowed mother and his family. He was arrested and about to be hanged as a deserter.” Allegedly, a pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787) wrote to General George Washington asking for clemency for Samuel Gandy, and indeed there is such a person who worked as an esteemed Lutheran minister outside Philadelphia in Trappe, Pennsylvania.
Revolutionary War Soldier?
Also according to Lee R. Gandee, “Uriah did serve in the Revolutionary War from May 1, 1776 until January 20, 1777, and again enlisted around April 12, 1777 and served until December 1777. I have found no records to indicate where he was living after December 1777 until 1784, when he was living in Rockingham County, Virginia. By then, he had probably married Susanna ___, and Uriah Jr. must have been born there September 2, 1782.”
Incomplete Revolutionary War Records
I can find no record of Samuel nor Uriah Gandy in the United States Revolutionary War Rolls (1775-1783). That does not mean that Uriah Gandy was not indeed an enlisted man in the Revolutionary War. In a book written by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg Richards entitled “The Pennsylvania-German in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783)”, v. 17, he writes, “…we are confronted with very incomplete and exceedingly meager company and regimental records as regards most of the Pennsylvania Continentals. The writer, after no little research, no slight advantages, and no ignorance, at least, of the subject, has been unable to find anywhere such data as would enable him to furnish the full account of the Pennsylvania-Germans, who formed the component parts of the several Pennsylvania Continental regiments, which he would like to give here.” My translation: Even for intelligent researchers, the records of the Revolutionary War are woefully incomplete. It seems unusual and highly unlikely that Uriah Gandy’s enlistment dates would be so specific if they were not real, and sadly I cannot find a source for Lee Gandee’s article.
Revolutionary War Pension
In digging further into the life and military service of Uriah Gandy I found his Revolutionary War pension application that was filed on November 18, 1833 in Jackson County, Virginia. So, at the alleged age of 80 and six months, Gandy applied for a pension for his service in the Revolutionary War. Gandy names the Generals under whom he served (Washington, Greene, Weedon, LaFayette, Wayne, Proctor, and Marshall) and says that his war service took him to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. He also claims, “I fought at Princeton & Trenton & Brandywine & Germantown. I do not recollect the No. of any Regt. Whatever & these are the General Circumstances of my Service.” Apparently, Uriah Gandee is unable to read or write and he makes a ‘G’ mark to swear his statement. There are others who vouch for the statement made by Uriah including John M. Kown and Phillips Hall, both of Jackson County, Virginia. Then, the local Justice of the Peace, George Stone, vouches for Kown, Hall, and Gandy. Then, the county clerk of Jackson County, Benjamin Wright, signs to vouch for the signature of Stone on March 17, 1834. [Side note: John M. Kown as also known as John McKown.]
After all this signing and swearing, a man named Elias Parsons, also of Jackson County, adds to the pension application, “…on the night of 25th Dec. Gandy staid at his home on his way to Ohio. That Gandy was talking about his Application for a Pension and in answer to an enquiry made by Parsons as to how long he had served as a soldier in the War of Revolution Gandy replied, “Something like Six months.” Parsons further stated that not one man who knew Gandy believed he ever served one hour as a soldier in the war of the Revolution. He is too young.”
Pension or no Pension? Reports of Uriah Gandy
Another statement reads, “Danl. G. Monell [Morrell?], Clerk of Jackson Supreme Court states on same day that Gandy applied to him to write to the Secretary of War about his pending claim for a Pension and that he did in compliance with Gandy’s request write- at the time questioning Gandy detail his services to him. From that statement he did not think him entitled. He claimed to have been engaged against the Indians for some Seven or eight months. On reference to Gandy declaration it will be seen that he locates his service in Pennsylvania & New Jersey…this declaration was made in the county before a magistrate. He is a harty man. Can walk 40 miles a day, as I am told. There can be no doubt of this claim being fraudulent. Gandy has made a new declaration from Ohio. So I am informed.” This statement is signed by a W. G. Singleton on Jany 2, 1834. [Please note that all misspellings reflect those on the document.]
There is also a statement from J. J. Arnold who says, “He is very old and lives with his son since his application for a pension.” However, any and all supporting statements regarding Uriah Gandy are ultimately rejected by the US government who believes Gandy to be too young to have served. But with so many people vouching for Gandy, why was his Revolutionary War pension request denied? There was an interesting note at the bottom of the transcription added by Will Graves that says that Uriah Gandy’s “claim fits in with the meticulous research of C. Leon Harris as noted on the Revolutionary War pension application of David W. Sleeth” who was similarly rejected by attorney W. G. Singleton. In examining the lengthy claim document made by David W. Sleeth there are some unsavory details that come to light about attorney W. G. Singleton and an entity known as the “Lewis Speculating Gentry.” There were unscrupulous people and lawyers who traveled the country and enlisted older citizens to apply for and receive Revolutionary War pensions in exchange for a percentage. W. G. Singleton dubbed them the Lewis Speculating Gentry as they were headquartered in Lewis County, and they were also known as “Jonathan Wamsley’s Boys”. Think about it. In a world where there were no Social Security numbers, no electronic databases, not even photo ID, it might be easy (or difficult) to prove or disprove a pensioner applicant’s service. Enterprising lawyers need only gather a few people, fill out some paperwork and receive a percentage of a “war veteran’s” pension until their death.
So, in Singleton’s favor, he did a great job of researching and finding fraud but he may have become a little too zealous with his initial success. Quoting from the research of C. Leon Harris, “Several of the pensioners’ attorneys alleged that Singleton acted “from corrupt motives” and “from no consideration but the fees the Govt. paid him” - $20 per rejected pension according to Congressman Zedekiah Kidwell.” In short, many complained about Singleton, but few had the money or resources to challenge his decision. Uriah Gandy may have had his pension rejected due to his proximity to the Lewis County Speculating Gentry. My conclusion in examining the life of Uriah Gandy is that he was not a Tory. I believe Gandy to be an honest many who was denied his Revolutionary War pension on unfounded reasons. So, when Don Teter mentions that Gandy went from “royal to loyal”, I believe Gandy was a loyal patriot and American who was left short-shrift in his golden years by an overzealous United States lawyer.
Do you love West Virginia history too? Stop by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia, and we would be happy to help you research history and genealogy.
Note: A special thank you to West Virginia historian David Armstrong for showing me where to find Uriah Gandy's Revolutionary War pension application online. This article is lovingly dedicated to all those denied justice at the hands of those who are supposed to mete it out.