A Dynasty
Bumgardner (Baumgardner)

      Heinrich (Henry) Baumgardner born in Zurich, Switzerland migrated to America on the ship Francis and Elizabeth on August 30, 1743 and settled in Lancaster County, PA Henry met and married Mary Balzer of Lancaster County, PA and after the marriage he built a house near the home of in laws,

      Henry and Mary had a son by the name of Balzer who served as a private in "A" Company under Captain Thomas Koppenheffer's Company of Militia of Colonel Timothy Green's Battalion of Lancanster County during the War of Independence. In 1797 Balzer Baumgardner received a land grant on Naked Creek, Augusta County, VA Balzer passed away in 1819 leaving a widow Mary Magdalene and eleven children. One of these eleven children was Adam Bumgardner (name change) One of these eleven children was John Bumgarder. John married Susan Woods and to this marriage were born nine children of which John G Bumgardner was the youngest. John G. Bumgardner m. Caroline M. Childers on Jul 20, 1865. To this marriage was born six children of which, one was Walter Bumgardner born August 4, 1872 and died October 30, 1929. Walter married Minnie Boyles on February 16, 1893.. Walter and his family were listed in the 1900 Harrison County, WV census living with his father and mother in law, Daniel and Cinde Boyles who maintained a boarding house in Clarksburg where the Boyles, Bumgardner and Withers family resided.

      The oldest child of this marriage was Keith Oral Bumgardner, the subject of this story. Keith married Bonilie Kerr a Pennsylvania girl and moved her to Harrison County and lived on Boyles Court with two children, Phyllis and Rex Keith. Sometime before 1940 Keith became Chief of Police of Clarksburg. He is listed on 1940 census as being the Chief of Police.

      He held this job until the early 1950s when he decided to run for Sheriff of Harrison. The following story appears in the Charleston Daily Mail after his death very shortly after he had become Harrison County. (I was working in the Bluebird Store directly across from the Sheriff residence on 3rd street and remember Mrs. Bumgardner during the time when she became Sheriff after her husband's death)

Charleston Daily Mail
February 28, 1954
The Star, The Sheriff and the Law
by Bob Mellace
Daily Mail Political Editor

      The news story said the opinion was sought by the prosecuting attorney of Harrison County. Presumably it was asked to keep someone who might not be eligible from spending his money in a campaign if he couldn't get on the ballot. This is the story behind it.

      In 1952 Keith Bumgardner of Clarksburg waged a hard battle to win the office of sheriff of Harrison County. A Republican Bumgardner used most of his resources in the race and then had to deeply in debt to buy the equipment a sheriff needs.

      Under the system in West Virginia, a sheriff buys his own prowl cars and is personally responsible for them. He is reimbursed in mileage which the county pays for the patrolling the sheriff and his deputies must perform

      After the had struggle for election and just when he was ready to come out of the financial woods, Keith Bumgardner died. He had not been in office a year. the estate he left included some interest in the patrol cars, but they were still encumbered. Under the law =, the county court is empowered to name a successor to a sheriff's term, to serve until the next general election. In this case the next general election would be the 1954 off-year contest.

      All of the Harrison county court and most of the county officers are Democrats, and under the rules of the game this county court could have named a Democrat to succeed the late Republican sheriff, but the Harrison county Democrats very decently named Bumgardner's widow to serve until the unexpired term could be filled at the 1954 elections.

      That accounts for Mrs. Bonalie Kerr Bumgardner's listing as sheriff of Harrison county. Sadly enough, Keith Bumgardner did not serve long enough to be listed in the Blue Book as holder of the job which he won the hard way.

      Women sheriffs are not rare in West Virginia and most have been appointed to succeed their husbands, just as Mrs. Bumgardner was. but the job is hardly one for a woman. Therefore, Mrs. Bumgardner appointed her son Rex, as her deputy to handle the field work.

      Rex Bumgardner had been a star football player at West Virginia University and later with the Cleveland Browns. He finished his career as the property of the Baltimore Colts. As a university graduate and an athlete he was qualified mentally and physically to perform the duties of sheriff.

      He has been performing those duties for months and world like to succeed his mother for the last two years of the term won by his late father. But the constitution says he cannot do that. by an old quirk of the law, however, there is nothing to prevent his mother's running for the last two years of her husband's term.

      Rex Keith Bumgardner was born in 1923 and was a teenager when his father was Chief of Police. After his mother has filed the remainder of his father's office he served as a deputy sheriff and then ran and gained the office of Sheriff in 1957 through 1960 and again from 1968 through 1968. This followed an great career in high school, college, and professional football

Following is the obituary of Rex Keith Bumgardner:

      Rex Keith Bumgardner moved back to West Virginia after his football career and started a job as the deputy sheriff to his mother, who was the sheriff in the Clarksburg area. He later was hired as the treasurer and sheriff of Marion County, West Virginia before becoming a U.S. marshal overseeing 32 counties in the northern part of the state in 1965. He served as a marshal until resigning in 1976 to run for Harrison County sheriff.

      Rex Keith Bumgardner, 74, of 1559 Hoffman Ave., Clarksburg, died at 12:35 p.m. Monday, June 1, 1998, in United Hospital Center.

      He was born Sept. 6, 1923 in Clarksburg, a son of the late Keith O. Bumgardner and Bonalee Kerr Bumgardner.

      Married: Mary Alice Smith father: Fred Albert Smith mother: Harriett Grant Surviving are four sons, Frederick Rex and daughter-in-law, Prisilla Benincosa Bumgardner, Bridgeport, Rex Douglas Bumgardner, Laurel, Md., Rex Keith and Christopher Bumgardner, both of Clarksburg; two grandchildren, Frederick Adrian "Sonny" Bumgardner, Bridgeport, and Jaqualynn Renee Bumgardner, Clarksburg, and extended family, James Franklin Kuffner, Anmoore, and Lisa Ann Feeney, Bridgeport, and two former wives, Mary Alice Smith Johnson and Judy Kuffner Bumgardner.

He was also preceded in death by one sister, Phyllis Tomash.

      Mr. Bumgardner was a 1941 graduate of the former Victory High School and graduated from West Virginia University. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1942-1946.

      He played professional football for five years with the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns, during which time he played in five championship games.

      Mr. Bumgardner served two terms as Sheriff of Harrison County, first from 1957 to 1960 and second from 1965-1968. He was a U.S. Marshal from 1969 to 1975. He had also operated the Sport Shop in Clarksburg from 1961-1964. He was twice a delegate to Republican National Conventions.

      Previously a member of several civic and fraternal organizations, he currently was a member of Bel Meadows Country Club, West Virginia University Alumni Association and was an alumnus of the Cleveland Browns Football Organization. He was a co-founder of the Bridgeport Country Club.

US Census 1810 through 1940
West Virginia Vital Archives
Clarksburg Expont/Telegram
Charleston Daily Mail

Return to Main Page
Return to Archives