The county’s representatives in the Virginia legislature were able to secure the state’s first major investment of money west of the mountains, with the locating at Weston of Virginia’s third asylum for the insane. Construction of Weston Hospital began in 1859, but was halted by the outbreak of the Civil War. In June 1861, federal troops seized the gold deposited by Virginia in a Weston bank for the construction project. The gold was taken to Wheeling for the use of the loyalist Reorganized Government of Virginia.
The partially built Asylum and surrounding grounds became Camp Tyler, establishing Weston as an important military post, vital to the control of the well-traveled roads in the area. The completed southern wing of the asylum provided barracks and the main foundation served as a stable.
Lewis County residents were divided in their loyalties during the Civil War. Thomas J. ‘‘Stonewall’’ Jackson had grown up at Jackson’s Mill. His service to the South gave heart to the small local elite, the doctors, lawyers, and a good number of the merchants, many of whom had roots in Tidewater Virginia. The greater number of people, the less affluent, were loyal to the Union. They had as their hero U.S. Gen. J.A.J. Lightburn, who had grown up near Weston. The war years passed in alternate occupations by loyal and rebel forces; arguments and violent clashes between neighbors and within families; arrests and internments; and a few bushwhackings.
After West Virginia’s creation in 1863, the new state government resumed the asylum project and completed it in 1880. For 50 years, until the beginning of World War I, the mental hospital was the largest single item in the state budget. It made Lewis one of West Virginia’s most prosperous counties.