BENJAMIN HUDSON THACKSTON - EIGHTH PRINCIPAL, 1858-1861
In May 1858, as the result of an advertisement, twenty-three-year-old Benjamin H. Thackston was hired to replace William R. Boyers, becoming the eighth Principal, which was the beginning of his long association with the school. He had been offered a position at Buffalo Academy, but decided instead to work for the newly designated Marshall College at a guaranteed annual salary of $800. He arrived in time for the fall term in November 1858.
Thackston was born on September 25, 1835, at Farmville, Virginia, the son of Benjamin A. Thackston and Mary (Smithson) Thackston. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Randolph-Macon College as valedictorian in June 1858. The principalship of Marshall College was his first job. While field agents sought funds to assist the cash-strapped institution, Thackston "was doing what he could to maintain and extend the usefulness of the school." When the school could not pay the salary agreed upon, he resigned his position in 1861 and briefly opened a private school in Barboursville, tutoring the residents’ children. Among the children he tutored were those of William C. Miller, where he met his benefactor’s twenty-four-year-old daughter, Eugenia Miller; they were married on July 14, 1861.
The couple later took their honeymoon journey, visiting with his parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia. While there, Thackston became an ardent support of the Confederacy and he secured a position in the auditor’s office of the Confederate Treasury Department in 1862. On August 1, 1863, he was drafted into Company D, 3rd Virginia Battalion, Infantry Local Defense Troops, which was known as "Departmental Battalion and Clerk’s Battalion" and saw no action. The following summarizes his subsequent Civil War service "He spent much of 1864 detailed to the Treasury Department processing payments to the families of deceased soldiers or absent due to illness. He was hospitalized for nephritis at Chimborazo [Hospital] in Richmond, VA from November 25, 1864 through January 1865. He was paroled in Richmond, VA on May 5, 1865."
After the war, the couple returned to Barboursville, West Virginia, where Thackston resumed teaching. From the 1872 to 1877 he filled the position of the first assistant instructor at Marshall College, during the presidencies of James E. Morrow and James Beauchamp Clark. He then left the school to become a businessman. Between 1880 and 1881 he again returned to Marshall College and held the position of first assistant. In 1881 he was again offered, and took over the administration of the College, serving as its Principal until 1884. Although Thackston was successful in increasing the enrollment in the school, he was summarily removed because of politics. He wrote of the episode: "In this year  a stormy democratic convention was held in Wheeling, in which…Hon. B. L. Butcher was defeated as state superintendent of free schools, and Hon. B. S. Morgan was nominated. The next day, the Board of Regents held a meeting in Wheeling, at which the principal of Marshall College, was summarily dismissed, and without a premonition, supplanted by the appointment of Prof. W. J. Kenney, of Point Pleasant."
Thackston returned to private life, but he maintained a continued interest in teaching. He died on August 25, 1918, at the age of 83 years. His obituary described him: "There are scores and probably hundreds of people here, who received the more important part of their education under his direction. , and all of these accorded him honor and respect which the student always gives to the master in whom is recognized those qualities of learning, understanding and fairness which contribute so materially to the career of a successful educator." He was buried on August 27, 1918, in a family Mausoleum at Spring Hill Cemetery, Huntington, West Virginia.
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