Clarksburg duel, rare in West Virginia, fought April 24, 1810

Clarksburg duel, rare in West Virginia, fought April 24, 1810
Dueling was not popular in West Virginia, though the Moore-Burnham Duel was notably undertaken at Clarksburg.

Possibly because of a resurgence of ideas about chivalry and codes of conduct, dueling surged in popularity in the U.S. in the late 1700s, especially in the South. Alexander Hamilton was infamously killed in a duel with sitting vice-president Aaron Burr in New Jersey in 1804.


But dueling never caught on in West Virginia, possibly because of the influence of hardened Scots Irish settlers, who might have been less apt than the English to concern themselves with chivalry.

The news that dueling was perhaps not quite acceptable might not have reached there ears of Thomas P. Moore and Charles K. Burnham, who fought one of the best known duels in West Virginia near present-day Clarksburg on April 24, 1810.

The following  of the tale has been recounted many a time, though the following un-sourced version may be among one of the most accurate.


The Moore-Burnham Duel

Mountain courts took such a dim view of dueling that there was little of it in West Virginia when that way of solving problems was in vogue. One account has come down to us, it taking place in Harrison County—the Moore-Burnham duel.

On the 24th day of April, 1810, two young men stood facing each other on the banks of Elk Creek, back of the Randolph Academy, where the central high school now stands, with pistols in their hands, and, at the word, fired directly at each other. Their names were Thomas P. Moore and Charles K. Burnham.

The result of the firing was that Burnham was severely wounded in the hip, and Moore was unharmed. The records of the county court show that on the 28th, of April, 1810, Thomas P. Moore and Charles K. Burnham were arraigned before the court, charged with fighting a duel on April 24th with weapons that might have caused death. The order of the court states that Burnham was not present, owing to "indisposition."

Both parties entered into bond to keep the peace for 12 months. And no futher action seems to have taken of the affair.


On the same day, Archibald B. Wilson was charged with conveying a challenge from Burnham to Moore and acting as second in the duel and, also, Lemuel E. Davisson, for acting as second for Moore. They were bound over to keep the peace.

The records also show that Alexander H. Creel (the founder of Saint Marys) and Hugh M. Tate were brought before the court for assisting, aiding, and abetting Burnham and Moore in fighting a duel.

The records also show that Archibald B. Wilson, who had acted as second for Burnham in the duel with Moore, was charged with sending a challenge to fight a duel with John Phelps and that Davisson, who acted as a second to Moore, was charged with conveying the challenge. They were also made to give bond to keep the peace. What caused the outbreak between Wilson and Phelps is unknown.

The innocent cause of this disturbance can be traced to Miss Rachel Pindall, who recently came to Clarksburg from Monongalia County and who was a sister to the celebrated lawyer, James P. Pindall. The two principals in the duel had both been paying court to this fair daughter of Eve.


After the shooting, Burnham gave up and moved to the West, and Moore and Miss Pindall were married, and many of their descendants live in Clarksburg to this day. Thomas P. Moore enlisted in the war with England of 1812, and was promoted to rank of major, serving with distinction in the invasion of Canada and along the Atlantic Coast.

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