The Casto Hole

The Casto Hole (HM1ECT)

Location: Ripley, WV 25271 Jackson County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 47.671', W 81° 41.221'

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Serving Opposite Sides

Although western Virginia eventually separated from the original state to form West Virginia and join the Union, many residents of the new state supported the Confederacy. Many others served the Union, while still others wished to avoid contact with either side. Sometimes these differences produced a "war within the war" that divided neighbors and split families, often with bloody results. Here in Jackson County, in the nearby community of Staats Mill, an example of the divisions within West Virginia was rendered in poetry.

Two prominent residents, Nicholas Casto and Elihugh Powers, took opposite positions during the war. Casto became a captain in the Home Guard that was formed to protect Unionists from Confederate raiders, while Powers supported the Confederacy. The Guard sometimes gathered in a nearby cavern on Straight Run, a branch of Tug Fork of Mill Creek. The cavern became known as the Casto Hole. It also served local residents who wished to conceal their property from the foraging soldiers of both sides.

According to legend, Casto wrote a poem critical of the Confederacy and Powers, who then retaliated with his own poem. It soon became a ballad: "The Casto Hole." Allegedly, while Powers was shingling a roof, he wrote twenty-seven verses, one on each shingle, nineteen verses survived. Although the lyrics blistered Casto and the Unionists, the song became so popular that even the Casto family was said to enjoy it after the war ended.

From "The Casto Hole":

Far in the woods on Upper Tug
They wrap old Union in a rug
Where Nicolas reads the Union Roll
And rallies ?round the Casto Hole.

The Casto Hole is a cavern deep
Where Union men can quite sleep
Where all their warlike plans unfold
While forted in the Casto Hole.
Poor old Joel, he died of late
And took his flight to the Pearly Gate
Saint Peter knew the poor old soul
And kicked him back to the Casto Hole.

(lower left) Cavern above the Casto Hole - Courtesy Mike McGrew
(upper right) Home Guard meeting Courtesy West Virginia State Archives
Series This marker is part of the West Virginia Civil War Trails series
Placed ByWest Virginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, October 6th, 2014 at 4:56pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 440338 N 4294198
Decimal Degrees38.79451667, -81.68701667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 47.671', W 81° 41.221'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 47' 40.26" N, 81° 41' 13.26" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)304
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 82 Ffa Dr, Ripley WV 25271, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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