Ephraim Bee Historical Marker
"Blacksmith, innkeeper, an operator of the "Underground Railroad". A Captain of the Doddridge County Militia, a member of the first West Virginia State Legislature in 1863, serving 3 terms. The Founder and Grand Royal Gyascutis of the Most Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampsus Vitus, Ephraim was known throughout the country as a garrulous story-teller and practical joker. Legend has it that around 1845, 1st U.S. Ambassador Caleb Cushing returned from negotiating a treaty with China & entrusted Ephraim Bee with the Sacred Mantel of Grand Llama and Mutuals from either the Mysterious Emperor of the Celestial Kingdom of China or by the Remnant of the "Sons Of Liberty", notably agents of the late great Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Bee then brought forth and promoted the rapid growth of E Clampsus Vitus. In the years to follow, ECV spread like "wildfire" and became prominent during the California Gold Rush. In 1931, ECV was reorganized in San Francisco with the motto "Credo Quia Absurdum" and became the thriving historical society it is today." Inscription: On the historical marker.
Backstory and Context
Ephraim Bee was born on December 26, 1802. He only had 4 months of schooling his whole life. He moved to western Virginia when he was 19. He was married twice. After his first wife died he married less than a year later. His second wife was 20 years younger than his previous wife. Between his two wives he had 17 children. There was 42 years in between the oldest and the youngest. He had many occupations over the years. He was a blacksmith, postmaster, member of legislature, an inn owner, captain, started the E. Clampus Vitus, and owned around 40,000 acres in different locations.
Bee was a member of the first West Virginia Legislature. Joseph Diss Debar who drew the seal of West Virginia was a political opponent. Diss Debar thought that he should be the first member to represent Doddridge county. He showed up at the capital of West Virginia to take his seat. The capital at that time was in Wheeling. It was on June 20, 1863. Bee was also there. They both gave a speech and the representatives from the other counties let Bee stay. He served a second and third term as well.
Many years later Diss Debar visit the Inn that Bee owned. He did not know who owned the inn at first. When he found out he called it the “Beehive” since there was so many Bee children. Since Bee had so many living children, many families in Doddridge county are his relatives. This monument stands where the house once stood. It was washed away in a flood in the late 1800’s.
Middle Island Creek had its first bridge that was washed away in 1835. A new bridge had to be built. The town turned to the local blacksmith for help. Bee was proud to be asked to help rebuild the bridge. “He made all the bolts and bands for the bridge, which was completed in 1843 and stood for the next 107 years as one of the town's most prominent features, until destroyed in the Great Flood of 1950. Even now, its memory remains a source of pride to the local citizens.”
Bee was always playing practical jokes and loved being the middle of attention. Later in life Bee would throw big parties. He would invite the whole town. It is thought that he would do this so no one was out and about to see the slaves move from the nearby Jaco Cave to up north. This helped him do two of his favorite things at once: being the center of the towns attention while playing a joke on everyone in town.
He was also a Captain of the Doddridge County Militia. Their main objective was to keep the Confederate away from the area. He was 60 years old when he was in the militia. Above you can see a copy of a letter Bee wrote in 1861 talking about capturing traders and taking slaves to the railroad.
Bee started E Clampsus Vitus. This is an organization that was started in one of Bee taverns during the gold rush. They were to preserve historical areas and events with markers. They did nonconventional events or places. They would mark pubs or where the first tobacco spitting contest took place. Current day markers and the fraternity brothers are mostly out west. They march in parades and drink and talk about history.