Oliver Bierne, Christopher Bierne, John Echols, and Allen T. Caperton became Owners of The Old Sweet

The Sweet Springs Resort land remained in Lewis hands until John Lewis became involved in a large debt which led to several deeds of trust for the property. When the debts were not paid on time, various tracts were sold and Oliver Beirne became owner of the Sweet Springs tract on August 18, 1852. The land changed hands several times with transactions between Oliver, Christopher Bierne, John Echols, and Allen T. Caperton.

Oliver Bierne

Oliver Bierne

Oliver Beirne 

BIRTH: 26 Mar 1811Monroe County, West Virginia,

Death: 26 Apr 1888 (aged 77) New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana,

Burial: Green Hill Cemetery, Union WV in Monroe County, West Virginia,

Oliver Beirne was a landowner from West Virginia, one of the owners of the Old Sweet Springs resort, and sole heir to plantation millionaire John Burnside, of whom he was a longtime friend.

Beirne partnered with John Burnside in a mercantile business established in New Orleans in 1837. Beirne retired from the mercantile business in 1847 and Burnside became a wealthy merchant, later owner of The HAUNTED Houmas plantation and another dozen plantationS in Louisiana.

Back in West Virginia, Oliver Beirne became a landowner and postmaster of Sweet Springs, West Virginia, where he owned the Old Sweet Springs resort. Aside for the resort at Sweet Springs, all other properties still belong to his heirs.

Oliver Beirne married Margaret Melinda Caperton (1812–1844) on August 2, 1831.

His children were:

John, Jane E., Elizabeth “Bettie” Miles (1835–1874) (who married William Porcher Miles), Andrew, Susan Robinson (1840–1871) (married Major Henry Robinson), Nancy (married first Samuel B. Parkman, killed at Antietam, second Emil von Ahlefeldt) and Alice.

John Burnside, his longtime friend from the time when they worked together in New Orleans, was a lifelong bachelor, and when he died on June 29, 1881, he left his entire estate, estimated 5 or 6 million dollars, to Oliver Beirne. When Beirne died, Houmas House and the other plantations went to William Porcher Miles, Beirne’s son-in-law.

Allen Taylor Caperton

Senator Allen Taylor Caperton (November 21, 1810-July 26, 1876) was born at Elmwood, the family estate in Monroe County. He was the son of Hugh and Jane (Erskine) Caperton.

After attending a school in Huntsville, Alabama, and the University of Virginia, he graduated from Yale College. For a time he studied law in a Staunton, Virginia law office and engaged in a brief practice in that town.

In 1832, he married Harriet Echols, whose brother, John Echols, later became a noted Confederate general. John Echols married Caperton’s sister.

A Whig prior to the Civil War, he represented Monroe County in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1841–42 and 1857–58 and served in the state Senate in 1844–48 and 1859–60. As a member of the Virginia constitutional convention of 1850,

Caperton supported the western position in arguing for legislative representation on the basis of white population with no allowance for the number of slaves. Although he opposed secession, Caperton voted for it in the Virginia convention of 1861 in the belief that it might preserve peace. After Virginia entered the Confederacy, its state Senate elected him to the Confederate Senate, a position he held throughout the Civil War.

After the war, Caperton, by then a Democrat, returned to Monroe County. When Democrats gained control of West Virginia’s government in 1871, Caperton resumed an active political life. The state Senate elected him to the U.S. Senate, where he served in 1875–76. Caperton died in Washington, and was buried at Union, Monroe County.

Caperton belonged to a well-established family. His father was an early congressman, and later generations produced business leaders and a governor. Governor Gaston Caperton served from 1989 to 1997.

John Echols

Confederate John Echols

Confederate General John Echols (March 20, 1823-May 24, 1896) was born at Lynchburg, Virginia.

The General Echols House located in Union, Monroe County, West Virginia, is significant for its association with John Echols, A Brigadier General in the army of the Confederate States of America. The house possesses additional distinction as one of Monroe County’s oldest and best preserved examples of Greek Revival

A graduate of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) and Harvard, he became a lawyer in 1843 and was later commonwealth’s attorney and a Virginia state legislator.

He moved to Union, Monroe County, in 1843 to practice law and remained there until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Echols represented Monroe County at the Virginia Secession Convention and voted for secession. He organized a military company of which he was captain and was commissioned lieutenant-colonel in the Confederate Army in 1861.

Later, he became Brigadier General. John Echols participated in the battles of First Manassas and Kernstown, where he was wounded. He served in the Kanawha Valley in 1862 and commanded Confederate forces at their defeat at the Battle of Droop Mountain in November 1863.

In May 1864, he commanded the Confederate right wing at the battle of New Market, and he was with Lee at Cold Harbor. He was assigned to command of the District of Southwest Virginia in August 1864 and later replaced Jubal Early as commander of the Department of Western Virginia. Reluctant to surrender after Appomattox, Echols decided to join with the forces of General Johnston in North Carolina. He accompanied Confederate President Jefferson Davis in his flight to Georgia and was briefly in command there.

After the war, Echols became a founding director of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. He was vice president and general manager of the railroad when the line was completed through the New River Gorge and on to Huntington.

He left West Virginia and moved to Staunton to practice law following the war. He was twice married, first to the sister of Sen. Allen T. Caperton, of West Virginia.

He died at Oakden, the residence of his son, Edward Echols, (later lieutenant governor of Virginia), at Staunton, where he is buried in Thornrose Cemetery.


John Lewis, Sweet Springs Resort in West Virginia

William Lewis turned the Sweet Springs property over to his son, John by 1805. He divided 438 acres of the farm between the Sweet and Red Springs between his sons John and Charles on October 25, 1804

The land remained in Lewis hands until John became involved in a large debt which led to several deeds of trust for the property. When the debts were not paid on time, various tracts were sold and Oliver Beirne became owner of the Sweet Springs tract on August 18, 1852. The land changed hands several times with transactions between Oliver, Christopher Bierne, John Echols, and Allen T. Caperton.

At any rate, Oliver Beirne became a purchaser of the Sweet Springs tract when it was put on sale by Commissioners John Echols and Samuel Price on August 18, 1852. He executed his four bonds with Allen T. Caperton as his security. Each bond was for $13,367.50 payable in one, two, three, and four years. On October 14, 1852, at circuit court a decree was entered; The commissioners Price and Echols made their report of the sale of the lands aforesaid to which there was no exception, the same was confirmed, and it appearing that Oliver Beirne became the purchaser of the Sweet Springs and adjoining lands, and has executed bonds with security for the purchase money which are filed with said report.

The court ordered that George W. Hutchinson make a deed of conveyance for Oliver Beirne “for said lands at his cost.” A few weeks later Beirne sold half of the property to Allen T. Caperton and Christopher J. Heinle, giving them each one fourth of it. These three men constituted the Sweet Springs Company. 

Then on October 12, 1858, Allen T. Caperton sold to Oliver Beirne the land at the headwaters of Dunlap’s Creek known as the Sweet Springs tract and containing several tracts, one of them 184 acres on which the hotel buildings stood and another 219 acres and also 245 acres, both of which joined the first. Oliver Beirne, Allen T. Caperton, and Christopher J. Beirne bought this in 1857.

Caperton also sold his interest in a sawmill, apparently on one of the previously mentioned tracts of land. A few days earlier Christopher Beirne sold to Oliver Beirne his interest in the same lands for $45,000. 

Christopher Beirne also sold his rights and interest in 480 acres on Dunlap’s Creek very near the Sweet Springs tract which had been purchased that same month by the partners from A. A. Chapman, commissioner. And thus the Sweep Springs property remained until after the Civil War.

Colonel William Lewis: The Original Founder of Sweet Springs Resort aka Sweet Springs Sanitarium

Col. William Lewis of the Sweet Springs was called the “Civilizer of the Border”. He was married to Ann Montgomery in 1754. Ann’s father was the brother of General Montgomery, Ann, wife of Col. William Lewis, died at the “Brick House” near the Sweet Springs in 1808. Col. Lewis died there in 1811.

Augusta County settlement by the Lewis family,

“The elder sons of William Lewis, who then resided at the old fort, were absent with the Northern army. Three sons were at home. 

William Lewis was confined to his bed by sickness. His wife called her sons to her to and bade them fly to the defense of their native land.’Go, my children,’ said she, ‘I spare not my youngest, my fair-haired boy-the comfort of my declining years. I devote you all to my country! Keep back the feet of the invader from the soil of Augusta, or see my face no more.’ 

When this incident was related to General Washington, shortly after its occurrence, he enthusiastically exclaimed, ‘Leave me but a banner to plant upon the mountains of Augusta, and I will rally around me the men who will lift our bleeding country from the dust and set her free.’”


i. MARGARET LEWIS, b. 1756.

ii. JOHN LEWIS, b. 1758.

iii. THOMAS LEWIS, b. 1761; d. 1804. “Thomas Lewis, Major U.S.A. (appointed by Washington) was greatly distinguished for gallantry, and was called the modern Chevalier Bayard, ‘sans peur et snas reproche.’ He killed Dr. Bell, of S.C., in a duel, and never enjoyed peace of mind afterwards. He died, s p, in 1804.

iv. ALEXANDER LEWIS, b. 1763; d. 1797.

v. WILLIAM I. LEWIS, b. 1766; d. 1828, Mount Athos, near Lynchburg; m. ELIZABETH CABELL. “Col. Wm Lewis m Elizabeth Cabell, of Nelson co., Va. He died at his home, Mount Athos, near Lynchburg, in 1828. He was remarkable for his talents and acquirements, and his friends several time sought to make him Governor of Virginia.”

vi. AGATHA LEWIS, b. 1774; d. 1831.

vii. ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY LEWIS, b. 1777; d. 1837.

viii. CHARLES W. LEWIS, b. 1780.


This information was taken from “Virginia/West Virginia Genealogical Data from Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Records” by Patrick G. Wardell, Lt., Col., Ret.

Major William Lewis in Virginia Continental Line; Bounty Land Warrant #1300 issued 8/10/1789; records lost in Washington, D.C., fire; query letter in file states soldier was born 1724 in Ireland, 3rd son of John Lewis & Margaret Lynn, emigrated to America, got medical degree in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, volunteered 1753 in Virginia, wounded at Braddock’s Defeat, was physician in Augusta County, Virginia, commissioned 1776 as Colonel in Virginia Continental Line, moved in 1790 to Sweet Springs, Virginia, where he died in 1812, was one of the 4 brothers in Revolutionary War, including Gen. Andrew Lewis of Virginia, & their parents were early settlers in Augusta County, Virginia. F-BLW1300, R1559.

Sweet Springs Resort was first developed in the 1790’s by William Lewis with several log cabins, a courthouse and jail. The jail still stands today!

The Old Jail at Sweet Springs Sanitarium taken by Cindie Harper

All were used to house those who came to enjoy the benefits of the springs. William’s son, John, took over the property in 1805 and built the large brick building in 1839.

Sweet Springs Resort, Sweet Springs Sanitarium aka Andrew S Rowan Memorial Home taken by Cindie Harper


Taken from “History of Augusta County, Virginia” by J. Lewis Peyton (1882)]

“Col. Wm. Lewis, the Founder’s third son, was born in Ireland about 1724. He was remarkably handsome in the face, perfectly well formed in person, tall, robust and vigorous. Fond of books, his great delight from boyhood was the study of literature and philosophy. He thus shunned public employments, and never would have left his retirement but for the stirring times in which he lived.

“On reaching a proper age, he was entered at a school in Eastern Virginia, the school of Rev. James Waddell, D. D. and after acquiring a liberal education, proceeded to Philadelphia, where he graduated as a doctor of medicine. It was during his sojourn in that city that he formed the acquaintance and won the heart of Ann Montgomery, of Delaware, who afterwards became his wife.

“Returning to Virginia, he would gladly have spent his days in the quiet pursuits of his profession, but the war of 1753-54 coming on, he volunteered for service, and was severely wounded at the battle of Braddock’s defeat. Returning to Augusta, he resumed the practice, and soon became conspicuous for his large intelligence, his professional skill and his influence in the community. In this field he sought to promote good fellowship, to inspire a feeling of compassion among the whites for the aborigines, and to protect the Indians from the injustice of unscrupulous and greedy traders. He urged the erection of schools and churches, and was remarkable for his high regard for all things relating to education and religion.

“Here his life would have been spent but for the Revolution. Imbued with a sense of our wrongs, and a determination to resist the tyranny of Great Britain, he abandoned a second time his peaceful employments in 1776, and accepted a commission as colonel in the old continental line. He was an elder in the Presbyterian church, and his compassionate kindness and many acts of charity drew the eyes of the people upon him, so that he was commonly spoken of as the “Civilizer of the Border.”

“He served in the army until 1781, when he returned to his family in Augusta. Gov. Gilmer, in his ketches, thus speaks of him on page 58: ‘William Lewis, though as powerful in person and brave in spirit as either of his brothers, was less imposed to seek fame by the sacrifice of human life. He was an elder in be Presbyterian church of the old Covenanter sort his son Thomas was an officer in Wayne’s army of high reputation for soldierly conduct.

“Soon after Tom’s return home from the service, he saw some wild ducks on a Monday morning on the Sweet Spring creek. Taking a fowling piece in is hand, he crept along a zig-zag fence until within shooting distance, and was about firing when he felt the sharp pang of a birch applied to his back. Turning suddenly, he saw the uplifted hand of his father, who exclaimed, ‘I’ll teach you not to profane the Sabbath here.’ It is not surprising that the old man was styled the Civilizer of the Border.

William Lewis removed from Augusta to the Sweet Spring, circa 1790, where he died in 1812, revered as a patriarch and honored and beloved as a man and citizen.

“His son, Hon. William I. Lewis, represented Campbell County District a the United States Congress from 1815 to 1817, and his son, Major John Lewis, a distinguished officer of the Revolution, spent the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge with Washington, between whom and Lewis a warm personal friendship existed, and was in many of the battles of the Revolution, Major Lewis died in 1823. He was a man of lofty character and indomitable spirit.”

A few sources:

Sweet Springs Resort opens its door to paranormal activity hunters

Shayne Dwyer, WSLS Reporter interviewed Cindie Harper on October 24, 2020

Here is the link to the interview:


Cindie Harper invited her friends and guest investigators WVPI to search for paranormal activity at Sweet Springs Sanitarium.

Cindie Harper, JJ Johnson, Vanessa Kelley and Scott McCoy also held a public ghost hunt to raise funds for the restoration of this beautiful property.

Cindie Harper is the Historical & Research Director at Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation and the Manager and Founder of Sweet Springs Sanitarium. Links to her social media can be found here:

Sweet Springs Sanitarium website:

like us on Facebook:

instagram: @sweetspringssanitarium

Links to Cindie’s book about the pauper cemetery Andrew S. Rowan Memorial Cemetery located on the property:



Links to Cindie’s other adventures:


Instagram: @cindieharperofficial

YouTube: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsm-wI5Nb9XvIOXAQMWXvB8f1LIU-2Q2A