Philip F. Pinnell

Philip F. Pinnell was born in present-day West Virginia on November 22, 1833, to David S. Pinnell and Catherine E. Wolfenbarger. His father was a prominent doctor who owned at least one slave and $1500 in real estate. David Pinnell was also an avid Whig partisan who campaigned for presidential candidate Winfield Scott in 1852. That September, Philip received a scholarship to attend the University of Virginia. He spent the next two years studying medicine, chemistry, anatomy, and surgery before withdrawing from UVA in April 1854.

Pinnell married Cecelia Ann Lorentz on June 22, 1854, in Upshur County, Virginia (present-day West Virginia), and they had at least five children over the next twelve years: Marietta, born on May 22, 1855; Ingaber L., born on December 5, 1858; Winfield Scott, born around 1861; Lorena B., born around 1864; and Norville E., born around 1866. The family settled in Buckhannon in Upshur County, and Pinnell established a successful medical practice. He advertised his expertise in “Surgery, Obstetrics and Medicine” and promised to provide “strict attention to business.” His efforts apparently bore fruit: he owned $3250 in property in 1860 and nearly $18,000 a decade later.

Pinnell and his family remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. His father attended the West Virginia Constitutional Convention, won a seat in the new state legislature, and served as an assistant surgeon in the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry. David Pinnell denounced the “unholy rebellion” and helped organize Union meetings in Upshur County. He eloquently defended “his country and constitutional liberty,” and he argued that Confederate guerillas “should perish without law.” Philip attended at least one Unionist meeting, and he named a son after Union General Winfield Scott. Philip also served as a surgeon in the 133rd West Virginia Militia, which was called into service during the summer of 1863.

After the war, his father joined the Republican Party and became speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates. David Pinnell fought fiercely against the state’s “conservatives,” and in 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant rewarded his loyalty by appointing him consul to Melbourne, Australia. Philip, however, apparently played little part in Reconstruction, instead devoting himself to economic and moral improvement. He helped organize the Kanawha and Shenandoah Railroad Company in 1867 and the Buckhannon Mineral Railroad Company in 1871. Two years later, he petitioned the state legislature not to repeal its temperance law.

On July 1, 1885, Pinnell and his family were poisoned by drinking coffee laced with arsenic. As one newspaper reported, “Mrs. Pinnell drank a cup and a half and is in a dying condition,” and several of their children fell “exceedingly ill.” Local officials suspected Martha Carter, the family’s Black servant. Carter, however, denied the charges, and officials had no firm evidence against her. The entire family recovered, and Pinnell died two years later, on August 17, 1887. His funeral took place at the local Methodist Episcopal Church a day later, with a “very large audience present.” He left his property and household possessions to his “dear wife Cecelia A. Pinnell in testimony of my affection for her.” He was buried in Leonard Cemetery in Upshur County.


Philip F. Pinnell Advertises His Medical Practice

Philip F. Pinnell Describes His Mother's Illness

Pinnell Family Poisoned with Arsenic

Name:Pinnell, Philip F.
Alternative names:
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
133rd West Virginia Militia
Branch of service:
Residence at UVA:Upshur County, WV
UVA Begin Year:1852
UVA End Year:1854
Residence at enlistment:Upshur County, WV
Rank In:
Rank Out:
Highest rank achieved:Surgeon
Birth date:1833-11-22
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Upshur County, WV
Death date:1887-08-17
Death place:Upshur County, WV
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Pinnell, Philip F.parent ofPinnell, Marietta
Pinnell, Philip F.parent ofPinnell, Ingaber L.
Pinnell, Philip F.parent ofPinnell, Lorena Bird
Pinnell, Philip F.parent ofPinnell, Norville E.
Pinnell, Cecelia Annwife ofPinnell, Philip F.

1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 United States Censuses; Session 29 of the Faculty Minutes, October 1, 1852 - June 29, 1853, Jefferson's University: The Early Life; Session 30 of the Chairman's Journal, October 7, 1853 - June 26, 1854, Jefferson's University: The Early LifeCatalogue of the University of Virginia, Session of 1852-53 (Richmond, VA: H. K. Ellyson, 1853); Cooper's Clarksburg Register, 5 December 1856; The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 10 September 1861; 2 May 1862, 49 July 1863, 19 November 1864, 17 January 1866, 10 May 1866, 31 July 1866; The Weston Democrat, 26 April 1869; "Union Militia Rosters: Upshur County," West Virginia Adjutant Generals' Papers, West Virginia State Archives, available from; Acts of the Legislature of West Virginia at its Fifth Session, Commencing January 15th, 1867 (Wheeling, WV: John Frew, 1867); Acts of the Legislature of West Virginia at its Ninth Session, Commencing January 17th, 1871 (Charleston, WV: H S Walker, 1871); Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of West Virginia for the Adjourned Session, Commencing October 20, 1873 (Charleston, WV: Henry S. Walker, 1873); Southwest Examiner, 18 July 1885; Martinsburg Independent, 3 September 1887; West Virginia, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1985, available from