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Historic Glenwood Foundation

P.O. Box 6010

Charleston, WV 25362

James Madison Laidley

James Madison Laidley found enjoyment in many things, and as a result, had many career interests, often simultaneously: he was a lawyer, was involved in the manufacture of salt, ran a newspaper, was a banker. But to his family, he was known as "Madison," and besides being a beloved cousin, father or uncle, he was the man who built Glenwood.

Madison was born in Parkersburg, Virginia, in 1809. His father, who was a lawyer, died when Madison and his brother Alexander were in their early teens; the boys went to Cabell County to live with their Uncle John and his family. Uncle John was a lawyer; he saw to his nephews' education and made sure of the start of their careers, Madison in law and Alexander as a municipal clerk.

Madison was born in Parkersburg, Virginia, in 1809. His father, who was a lawyer, died when Madison and his brother Alexander were in their early teens; the boys went to Cabell County to live with their Uncle John and his family. Uncle John was a lawyer; he saw to his nephews' education and made sure of the start of their careers, Madison in law and Alexander as a municipal clerk.

James Madison Laidley (1809-1896), engraving

Madison started and edited a newspaper, the Western Register. Its editorial stance was morality, citing profane swearing as “the most inexcusable vice of the present day.” It folded a year later.

Madison started and edited a newspaper, the Western Register. Its editorial stance was morality, citing profane swearing as “the most inexcusable vice of the present day.” It folded a year later.

In 1840, Madison married Anna Beuhring. They made their home in Charleston, where they and most of their ten children stayed for the rest of their lives.

The late 1840′s saw Madison beginning a career in politics: he served in the Legislature in the 1848-9 session, where he participated in the establishment of commercial concerns such as mining companies and hotels, and helped decide how various governmental functions should be paid for. He even helped facilitate a few divorces (which were granted by legislation back in those days). Some years later, he ran for Congress as the Whig candidate, but was defeated.

 

In the early part of the nineteenth century, the manufacture of salt was a very prominent industry near Charleston; Madison made a great deal of money from the work at the Kanawha Salines.

 

In 1850, he purchased 366 acres of land from President Washington’s sister’s granddaughter. He named the property Glenwood. The smaller house was built right away, and the Madison Laidleys lived in it until the main house was finished. Three of their ten children, James John, Emma and George, were born in the Glenwood homestead. The family lived at Glenwood for only five years after the main house was built. Madison’s fortunes had reversed a bit; there was no longer so much money in salt, and he was not as strict with his debtors as he ought to have been. He found himself having to borrow to meet his expenses. In 1857, he sold Glenwood to the little cousin he’d grown up with, Amacetta, and her husband, Judge George Summers. Madison and his family must have sorely missed their Glenwood; soon after they left, he built a smaller edition of the main house at Glenwood on Laidley Street.

 

One day, Madison found himself on a boat which was stopped to take on cargo. He saw a crowd, and thought to himself, “I may as well make a speech!” The crowd enjoyed his speech, telling him that he was on the right side of the question, but the wrong side of the river.
 

James Madison Laidley died in 1896 at the replica of his beloved Glenwood.

 

Sources

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Eskew, Roderick Koenig. A History of the Quarrier, Laidley, Bickers, Eskew and Allied Families. Clark Printing House, Inc. Philadelphia. circa 1972.

 

Laidley, William S. History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia, and Representative Citizens. Richmond-Arnold Publishing Company. Chicago. 1911.