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West Virginia Archives & History

History Of Leachtown, West Va.

by Fannie Roush Bibbee

The father of the man for whom Leachtown was named was Captain George Leach; he was born, reared, and married in Eastern Virginia. He came to Wood County, then a part of Harrison, in 1805, by way of Wheeling. His son Willis was then 15 years of age. Willis was in the War of 1812. On July 3, 1814, he married Mary Barnett. Mary's parentage; a certain Count Peybolt and Countess of Prussia started for America with two children. The Count and Countess both died and were buried in the ocean. The Captain of the sailing vessel, on arriving at Baltimore, bound the boy to a General Barnett, a prominent planter in eastern Virginia. The General liked the boy so well that he adopted him as his own son and gave him his name, John Barnett. As the boy grew to manhood, he proved to be unusually worthy and industrious. In the year 1793 he had so won the confidence of his adopted father and the heart of the daughter, Mary, an only child, that they were married. In Mary's mother's veins flowed Indian blood as pure as that of the Princess Pocahontas.

General Barnett's home and estate was near Manassas Gap, Virginia. He gave this loving couple his blessing, an excellent start in life, a group of negro servants, and power to purchase a tract of land in the enticeing West. Late in 1795 or 1796 they came with one small son to Wood County on the Little Kanawha River. Here he cleared 200 acres of land and in progress of time added more until he had an extensive farm. This was on the other side of the river five miles below here. This Captain Leach's farm was near the Barnetts and after Willis Leach and Mary Barnett were married, they came up to the dam and built a grist mill. Here they lived and prospered and the place was named Leachtown.

After some years the mill was sold to a Mr. Weiser. Later some parts of it were taken away by high water. Willis Leach moved across the river from what is now Kanawha Station. He later went to Wellston, Ohio, where he died and is buried. After rearing a large family there resides here now one grand daughter, Nancy Buckner Hickman; one grandson, Captain Clayton Buckner; one niece, Mrs. Josephine Bibbee Bailes; three nephews; Paul H. Bibbee, William Mullens, and Mr. Frank Buckner.

Among the families who have resided here for many years are the Gibbons'. In 1796 John Gibbons purchased a tract of land near the Buckhannon and Monongahela Rivers. He married Catherine Herbert in 1795. She was of German decent and came from Maryland. Their home and all household goods were destroyed by fire. So, coming west as far as Wheeling, they lived a short time, then in 1800 he came down the Ohio and up the Little Kanawha River and settled near the mouth of Stillwell Creek; several years afterward he moved higher up the Kanawha near Lee Creek. Here he tilled the soil, hunted and fished until 1807 when he died leaving a widow, with rare pioneer qualities, and seven small children. Left alone she struggled bravely to support her children. In 1809 she married Anthony Buckner. Soon after their marriage Mr. Buckner purchased a tract of land on the north side of Little Kanawha River, a mile or so from Leachtown. He built a new log house and began clearing the dense forest. This farm ever since has been known as the Buckner Estate or Cool Spring Villa.

John Anthony Buckner was a widower and came from Hardy County and previous to that from Prince William County, Virginia. On July 6th, 1801 he was appointed to survey a road; in relation to which the order of record is "That a levy of four shillings and sixpense be laid on each tithable or one complete day's work. Later he was made overseer of the road. The records say they were well kept. In 1807 he was summoned as one of the twelve jurors from Wood County in the famous Burr-Blennerhassett Treason trial at Richmond, Virginia held before Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Court. Upon being asked in court as to any expression of guilt or innocence in the pending case, he promptly replied that "He had frequently declared the opinion that any man who did as it was said the prisoner had acted, should be hanged." He was further asked, "Did you not say that you would give five pounds for Colonel Burr's head?" Looking keenly at the prisoner he said, "Yes, and I'll do it yet." Of course, he was rejected from the panel of jurors. He was, also, one of the men chosen in 1814 to locate a site for the new Wood County Court house. He held many prominent offices at that time. He died in 1826.

His wife, Grandma Buckner or Aunt Katy, as she was called by many, was a regular pioneer woman. One night as she was riding homeward through a deep woods she heard the cry of a panther. She knew its habits to watch upon a hillside, bluff, or high tree and when its prey came along, pounce upon it; however, having no other way to go she spurred her horse and pressed onward and heard its approach on a hillside ahead. Just as she came in view of the supposed place where she thought it would make its spring, she cast from her shoulders a red woolen wrap as a decoy, and caused her steed to dart forward which he willingly did, and left the panther gazing at the red wrap. She soon was out in the clearing. Another time, late one evening, a fierce, hungry eyed bear approached the cabin. Colonel Buckner was away from home and only Grandma and the small children were home. The family dog ran bruin up a tree standing a short distance from the house. Aunt Katy saw her opportunity, took down the rifle, aimed the gun with caution and brought the bear, with a roar and a thump, to the ground. From danger to joy, the family increased their larder and comforts. Like all Grandmas she always had a cookie, doughnut, or piece of homemade sugar to give her grandchildren or small children when they came to visit her. She died at the age of 93. There are many of this couple's descendants still living here.

The Bibbee Family

John Bibbee Sr., came from Delaware County about 1780, and settled on a farm near Washington Bottom. In a few years he married Elizabeth Spaecht. In 1802 they came up the Little Kanawha River. He bought a farm on the river a half mile above where Leachtown now stands. To this union were born twelve children, three boys and nine girls. The three boys married and bought farms in this neighborhood and lived here all their lives. Three of the oldest girls married and settled across the river from here. The other six lived at the old homestead and wove blankets, coverlids, carpets, and kept cows and sheep on their fifty acres of land until they died of old age. They were members of Vaught Chapel. They are buried on the farm in the Bibbee graveyard, father, mother, and six single girls in a row. John, Jr. then bought the shares of the old homestead from the married brothers and sisters. He married Permelia Ann Barnett in 1850. He built a home near the old one. He and his wife resided there until their death. Their youngest son, Paul Henry, always lived with his mother. He married and they have three sons. This makes four generations that have lived on the farm in 128 years.

The Hannamans

The records show where the Hannamans came to Wood County prior to 1800. In 1799 Peter Hannaman was granted land, 640 acres, near the mouth of Hughes River. He married for his first wife a Miss Lee. To this union were born four children. The second son died at Athens, Ohio, while attending the University. The two younger died of fever and were buried in one grave. To this oldest son, John Sr, was given the home and 640 acres of land. He married Elizabeth daughter of John and Catherine Gibbons. He was born and died on the home farm. He filled numerous positions of trust and responsibility. He was Justice of the Peace for many years. His home and land fell to his son, Albert, Jr., who lived and farmed until a few years ago, when he and family moved to Akron, Ohio. He was an extensive cattle grower. Another son, John R., married a Miss Arnott, purchased the John Cornell farm and farmed it until his death. He had one son, Henry, who now lives at Kanawha Station where he is Postmaster.

Peter Hannaman's second wife was Miss Sarah Robinson. By this marriage was born only one son. He was given a nice laying farm and good farm. The house which Mr. H. McDonald now owns was his home. The farm originally was much larger. There are no Hannamans nor their descendants living on these farms now. Only one grandson of John Sr., lives at Kanawha Station and is Postmaster at that place.

Thompson Byrd

Mr. Byrd owned quite a large farm at the mouth of Walker's Creek. The widow of B. F. Byrd, one of his sons, still owns some of the farm and lives on it. One grandson lives near there, E. Byrd, who is a teacher in our district school.

The Stagg Family

William Stagg, an early pioneer owned quite a large farm near Vaught Chapel. He was killed by the limb of a tree striking him. His farm was heired by his children. E. C. Stagg owned most of the farm. He was one of the men who helped build Vaught Chapel. His sons and daughters married and most of them and their families lived here until death. The younger heirs have all gone to live in cities. I think Mr. Walter Butcher is the only person living here now that is a descendant. They were all good singers and were leaders at the churches and were good citizens.

A. R. Freed

A. R. Freed came here from Philadelphia 66 years ago to work at the carpenter trade. He married a Miss Prince and they reared seven children, all of whom lived here. He was an exceptionally fine workman; there were no better carpenters to be found that used hammer and saw. A number of the fine homes in Ritchie and Wood County were built by him. He had one grandson, Cecil, who graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1914. He chose medicine as his choice in life. After graduation from medical school he practiced in Wood County, later giving up his practice to go to Mayo College in Minnesota where he graduated with high honors. He is now head physician of the hospital at Reading, Pennsylvania. Three of A. R. Freed's sons still live here and three sons are prosperous business men in Parkersburg.

Persons that have lived here in the last 75 years:

Robert Prince married a Miss Stagg and raised a nice family of boys and one daughter. The children, now living, are merchants in Parkersburg.

Jacob Cornell lived and owned some land here 75 or 80 years ago, the farm where Mr. R. T. Rinehart, now lives. He and his wife raised a nice family of children who married and settled mostly near here. Mr. Cornell has one descendant living here, S. L. Anderson, Sunday School Superintendent of Vaught Chapel.

Hickmans came from Harrison County in 1868. Two of this family still live here, J. M. Hickman and Mrs. Emma Buckner.

Educational Advantages at Leachtown

About 1820 to 1825 the settlers began building log meeting houses and school houses. I will speak of four or five which I have heard about. There was one built on the land now owned for nearly a century by the Steed family. It was about two miles across the river from here and lays in the right angle of the Little Kanawha River. This was called Cool Springs Meeting House, named from a fine spring of water near it. At this place in 1827 Richard Trimms taught school and for some years afterward. He was an expert at making quill pens for scholars, an art every teacher was required to know in early times. Many scholars attended from this side of the river and from a distance. Some would come horse back and ford the river at what is now called Big Riffle Landing at Mr. Hastings farm. It was the finest riffles along the river and one of the main fords in crossing the Little Kanawha River. There was another log school and meeting house called Mt. Zion across from Kanawha Station, a little ways back from the river. I heard an old lady say that she and her brother were going home from this school one evening and they heard a noise like this 'chi-chi-chi, etc', the boy said 'Oh! It is wild hogs'; they both took to their heels and ran all the way home. On returning to school next morning they were told that the first steamboat had gone up the Little Kanawha River. I think it was in 1838. Some scholars attended school from here to Mt. Zion.

At Leachtown we had a small log school house near where the present one now stands, only it was across the road. Mr. Thompson Byrd was the teacher for some time and also Miss Eliza Gibbons (daughter of the Grandmother Gibbons Buckner, spoken of before in this history) Mr. McGovy Lowther, and others were teachers about this time.

Then in a few years a frame school house was built on the point of land that comes out to Staunton Pike, between Vaught Chapel and Kanawha Baptist Church. It was named Negro Run from a small stream of water that was close-by. Negro Run Creek received it's name from the following incident:

A family of colored people were traveling through this section many, many years ago when darkness overtook them. They camped for the night at this place. During the night the Stork brought a little colored baby. The stream was named Negro Run.

The third building was a nice frame structure which stood there for many years, but was finally removed to Fairview, a beautiful site for a school house. It was moved when the district bought the four acres where our modern three room school now stands. One room in the basement is used as a community house, and furnished by the Leachtown Womans' Club. Mr. Sam White from Pennsylvania taught the first free school in 1865 and taught for several years. The scholars now living here who went to school to Mr. White are the following:

Chesterfield Bibbee
Clayton Buckner
Nancy Buckner Hickman
William O. Mullen
Josephine Bibbee Bayless
Paul Henry Bibbee
Benjamine Franklin Buckner
Margaret Buckner

Vaught Chapel

Religious services were held in these school houses until 1869 when Vaught Chapel was built. The contractor was A. R. Freed, three of whose sons still live in the community and attend the church. Some of the old people who helped to make up its members were the Buckners, Bibbees, Evans, Staggs, Princes, Hannamans, Butchers, Tuckers, and Howards.

The land on which the chapel stands as well as the cemetery lot was given by J. J. and E. D. Stagg.

The church was named for one of the pioneer preachers, Stephen K. Vaught. Other pastors who have ministered at Vaught Chapel were the Revs., Carroll, Dountain, Shearer, McClung, Burns, Bush, Davis, Bowles, Smith, Stephens, Clark, Johnson, Williams, W. D. Burns, F. E. Lambert, S. H. Auvil, J. D. Conley, J. S. McClung, W. A. Hopson, H. C. Eisenman, L. C. Talbott, N. C. Cochran, and R. S. McClung, who is now finishing his third year.

Rev. J. L. West of Stephenson M. E. Church of Parkersburg entered the ministry from Vaught Church.

Some of the superintendents of the Sunday School have been J. J. Stagg, R. O. D. Prince, who served in that capacity for more than thirty-five years, F. E. Freed, J. P. Buckner, A. C. Enoch, and S. L. Anderson. The Sunday School has been successfully carried on since 1869, a record of which its present membership is justly proud.

At Vaught Chapel, a homecoming was started many years ago and has become an annual affair which is looked forward to from year to year. More recent superintendents of Sunday School have been V. P. Freed, W. A. Butcher, J. C. Dean, present superintendent.

Kanawha Baptist Church

This church was organized April 28th, 1868 with 15 charter members, namely; B. H. Byrd, Lavinia Byrd, James Nicholas, Susan Nichols, Delila Cornell, M. A. Armstrong, Permelia Bibbee, Margaret Buckner, A. V. Byrd, March Leach, J. C. Byrd, Agnes Lowe, Roda Mullen, Eliza Loving, Nancy Buckner.

The church was organized in the Negro Run School House, the organization grew from a meeting held by Rev. W. P. Walker in the Negro Run School House that stood about 200 yards from the present church.

By order of the church, John Hannaman, Sr., John Bibbee, E. D. Stagg, and B. F. Byrd were appointed as a committee to procure a lot on which to build. On August 8th, 1868 the committee reported that they had selected a lot on Jacob Cornell's place. The lot was secured and in 1870 the present church house was built.

September 12, 1868 at a meeting the church elected by ballot five trustees namely, John Bibbee, John Hannaman, Jacob Cornell, Alfred Anderson, and B. F. Byrd.

On October 7, 1871 the records show about 400 people assembled at the dedication. Sermon was preached by Rev. W. P. Walker and the test was Isaiah, second chapter, second and third verses. Seventy-five ($75.00) dollars was asked, to cancel the debt, which was raised. The following pastors have served the church, 18 in all:

W. McGraw
G. A. Berdett
J. F. McCusick
S. L. Weeks
W. W. Jennings
J. W. Mitchell
H. V. Hendricks
Giles Evans
E. O. W. Thorn
Ernis Hall
Charles Moss
Frank Woofter
B. F. Byrd
M. F. Kiger
G. A. Powers
E. A. Merrill
0. F. Rebel
E. J. Roberts

The River

The Little Kanawha River has been a vital part of the early life of Leachtown community, serving as a means of passenger travel to and from Parkersburg and the return shipment of groceries, hardware, and other supplies from the city. Down its course have moved the natural resources from its headwaters, timber and crude oil along with agricultural products from the soil. Rafts of logs and cross ties many almost a mile in length, were familiar sights in the early days of the present century. In addition to moving with the current these were towed by small gasoline propelled boats. They would tie up to the shore above the dam and locks, break the raft into small sections called lockages, move thru one at a time and reassemble below the dam. Since there were five dams and locks in the course of the river, much labor was involved before the logs reached their destination, - the sawmills at Parkersburg.

At the turn of the century, the locks and dams were in bad condition. Their control was taken over by the U. S. Government in 1905 and 1906 and made extensive repairs. The dam at Leachtown, No. 2, was raised 47 inches. The office and Locktenders home were built in 1911.

The highest flood on record at Leachtown was March 28 and 29, 1913 when the river crested at 46.9 feet. Almost as high was the 44.4 foot crest on January 25, 1937.

The exhaustion of natural resources and the coming of good roads and trucks mainly account for the rapid decline in river traffic over a 25 year period, 1912-1937. Eleven boats traveled the river in 1912. The Louise made daily round trips between Parkersburg and Creston. She was steam propelled. Gasoline boats on the river were Harry F, Mollie, Edith H, Ellie, Return, Clarence, Paul's, Latonia, Ora V and Joe S. There were no boats running on the river in 1937.

The following is a monthly comparison of lockages at Leachtown for the years 1912 and 1937.

  1912   1937  
Month Lockages* Passengers Lockages Passengers
Jan. 66 200 2 None
Feb. 50 275 0 None
March 221 474 3 None
April 615 1181 4 None
May 377 1294 11 None
June 139 1659 10 None
July 166 1247 17 None
Aug. 466 1667 35 None
Sept. 255 1583 26 None
Oct. 123 1118 4 None
Nov. 129 1036 9 None
Dec. 84 1119 1 None
Totals 2691 12,853 122 None

(Since 1937 the U. S. Government has abandoned the system of locks and dams, they have gone to ruin and the water has fallen to its natural level) *A lockage might be a section of a raft of logs or cross ties, a steam or gasoline propelled boat, a small power pleasure boat or a row boat.

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