By Lily Smith Corathers
Nutter's Fork Community lies north of West Union, and principally north-northeast of Middle Island Creek, in Doddridge County, it is nearly all within the bounds of Precinct No. 2, West Union Magisterial District, with Pine Run school house as its voting place. It is sometimes spoken of as the "Solid North", owing to its predominant political sentiment.
This rough, hilly section is well watered. Middle Island, the River of Many Windings, flows near the southwestern border for four of five miles before entering Tyler County. Its main tributaries in in the community are Piggin Run, cedar Run, Nutter's Fork, and Slaughter Run. Of these Nutter's Fork is much the largest. It is some six miles or more in length and has several branches, Chipps Run being the most important. Others are Gorby Run, Pine Run, Tom's Run, and Bulltown Run.Camp Misery, the headwaters of Knight's Fork, Little Flint, and Camp Mistake are also within the borders of the community. It is interesting to learn how these streams were named.
Nutter's Fork, Chipps Run, Gorby Run, and Knight's Fork were so called from their early settlers; Cedar Run and Pine Run for their trees; and Tom's Run, prpbably for the reason that it once belonged to Thomas Smith, Sr., who owned more than fifteen hundred acres of land in this locality. Camp Mistake got its name from some hunters who made a mistake in choosing their camp site. Camp Misery, a small branch of Knight's Fork, was a real camp misery to the many deer hunters there who were tormented by vast swarms of flies and mosquitoes. (A "deer lick" at that place attracted great numbers of deer which fell prey to the hunter's rifle.
The earliest name of Chipps Run was Wolf Pen, a pen to trap wolves being located near its mouth. Gorby run was first called Broth Run. The story is that some men in trying to boil a wild turkey overturned the pot and spilled the broth into the stream. Bulltown Run takes its name from the local oil field known as the Bulltown field.
Another body of water that has attracted much attention is "The Bog" in the southwestern side of the community. It is the bed of an ancient curve in Middle lsland Creek where a narrow ridge forced the waters to traverse a distance of about two miles i order to make a progress of only a few feet. Finally the creek cut through the ridge leaving the loop to become the marshy depression known since pioneer days as "The Bog." ("The Jug" in Tyler County is another noted bend in the same stream.)
A few years ago a development company bought part of the Bog and adjacent territory from the Coleman family. A dam was built across the outlet and a large lake was formed, which is called Crystal Lake. Several cottages and a commodious club house have been built on its shores. Far and near it is noted as the beauty spot of the vicinity. The County Four-H Camp was first held at Crystal lake during the summer of 1927.
The tracks of the savage Indian were barely cold on the hills and along the streams when the bold pioneer made his way into the region described. There abundant evidence as to the presence of the Red Man here prior to the coming of the White Man. Many arrow heads and other relics have been found. On of the most interesting "finds" of late years is an Indian war club picked up by Charles E. Maxwell on the William Freeman farm.
Likely the same thing called the Indian to this region that later lured the white man-the abundance of game. No doubt the bison once roamed over these hills. Bear were plentiful, feeding upon acorns and other nuts of the forest, together with berries and an occasional store of wild honey . An old "bear willow" in the community shows where Bruin had his bath when so inclined.
Deer were here in large numbers for many years after the whites came. It was no uncommon thing to see the carcass of a deer swung from each of the four corners of a settler's cabin. A fawn was sometimes caught and tamed, becoming the pet of the family. What sorrow when a strange hunter mistook this pet for a wild deer!
Wolves must have been troublesome to the early dweller in these hills. Wolf Pen Run and, not far away, Wolf Run are reminiscent of their existence.
The older residents of this community now tell the story of Rock Run Billy Davis and Snowden Kinney who killed an enormous wolf with an axe. There was some kind of neighborhood gathering, alo-rolling perhaps, at what is now known as the Ford farm. (Snowden Kinney, Sr., lived there at the time.) The wolf came along and was at once set upon by all the dogs that were present. They soon brought it to bay in a corner of a worm fence. In spite of all they could do the dogs failed to dislodge the wolf, but were severely slashed every time they got within reach of its murderous fangs. At last Davis noticed the animal's tail protruding from a crack in the fence, whereupon he proceeded to get a firm handhold on that member, while Kinney got an axe and started to help the dogs. After having one leg badly lacerated, Kinney dealt the blow which brought Sir Wolf to his untimely end.
Another wolf story told by the writer's great-aunt, Mrs. Hiram Smith, Sr., runs as follows: Many years ago when her mother was a tiny baby, so her parents said, the father had to be away until late at night. The young mother was left alone with her infant daughter in the unfinished cabin home. There was no floor of ceiling. Loose timbers lay upon the joists in a few places. A blanket hung over the entrance to shut out the cold night air.
Presently in the distance, the howling of a wolf pack was heard. A moment's listening convinced the mother that there was possible danger. Getting upon the bed, she managed to climb to the joists, dragging the baby with her. Nearer and nearer came the noisy pack, until they reached the cabin and came snarling through the blanket-covered doorway. When they discovered their prey far above them, they jumped upon the bed and leaped for the young woman. Time and time the great jaws snapped as a big fellow missed her only by inches. But she was safe. When the husband came home he found his wife and baby girl roosting high and unharmed overhead. The hungry pack had passed on to more promising hunting ground.
An extreme case, perhaps, but it illustrates the hardships and dangers that attended pioneer life.
The panther was also a menace to the early farmer. ("Painter, he called it".) It was Uncle Moses Weekley, who killed the largest panther living in the folk tales of the community. Wildcats, catamounts, foxes, and the smaller woodfolk made this country a "Hunters Paradise".
Wild turkey, pheasant, quail, woodcock, and, it may be, wild duck (on the Bog) were the principal game birds.
There were fishing to satisfy the most devoted follower of Izaak Walton. The larger streams were teeming with fish. Catfish, pike, bass, perch, and many others were found in plenty. It has been told that as late as seventy-five years ago large fish could be picked up by hand in the "holes" of Nutter's Fork, after having been tired by the fisherman wading after them.
Now all the wild animals are gone except a few of the smaller ones; some of the smaller birds are left; and an occasional fish is taken in Middle Island. Fear of the game warden seems to be a hopeful sign in this community today, insofar as preservation of game is concerned.
It is not known exactly who first settled in this part of the country. Over one hundred years ago, the three Sears brothers had built their cabins on what is now the Joseph Freeman and Coleman lands. One of the three was named Hiram, who lived on the present James Coleman place with his wife and two sons, Squire and Holdredge.
A man named Haymond bought the present Coleman farm and established his wife and daughter there with a Negro servant, Jim, who was a slave. Haymond seems to have been an extensive cattle raiser and shipper, and was quite well-to-do. He did not make his home here, but cane occasionally with cattle. It is probable that he had the brick residence built which later became the home of Otho Coleman and is now occupied by Coleman's son, William. The Colemans came from Maryland.
Thomas Smith, Sr. , of German descent, moved from Greene County, Pennsylvania, to Barnesville, Ohio, thence to Tyler County, Western Virginia, and finally to the Sears lands near the Bog. Here he had a brick house erected which he later sold to his son-in-law, Eleazer Sr., it passed into the hands of his son, the late Joseph Freeman, whose widow now owns property.
It is said that when Mr.Freeman came to pay for the Smith farm, he carried his saddle Bags full of silver coin to make the payment. He was one of the most prominent farmers and stockmen in the community. Many of his descendants still are living in this country.
After Thomas Smith sold this farm he built another home nearer the creek, where he lived for many years. He was the largest land holder in the region, having taken a "Patent" on a large scope of wilderness land. His children, twelve in number, built their homes upon this land, much of which remains in the hands of his descendants today.
So far as is known, the oldest member of this Smith family of pioneers was "Grandmother Lettie," the widowed mother of Thomas Smith , Sr. She lived in his home for a time, and delighted the numerous youngsters with her stories of Indian times, life in a fort, and the final conquest of the Red Men by the Palefaces. "Lettie" was a remarkably active old lady, being able to walk for miles on visits after she had passed the century mark. She lived to be one hundred six years old.
About a mile below the Thomas Smith , Sr. home on Middle Island, Jacob Ripley had established his home. Mrs. Elizabeth Drane, of West Union, Mrs, Emma Strickling and Miss Maggie Ripley, of Memphis, Tennessee, are surviving granddaughters, being the children of William Ripley, Jacob's son. The Ripley farm is now the home of H. Walter Smith, farmer, and a great grandson of Thomas, Sr.
John Smith, Sr., a brother of Thomas, had built his home about a mile farther down the creek, by a small brook lying between lower Nutter's Fork and Slaughter Run. This place is now known as the Jacob C. Smith farm. Charles D. Cottrill, a son-in-law of Jacob C. Smith and also a farmer, resides there.
Just across the creek opposite the mount of Slaughter was the prosperous home of Tom Bond, Sr. He was a slave-holder. It is said that slaves set fire to his barn, burning it and two of his children. There are none of his descendants in the community. Later this farm belonged to J. N. Wolverton, a prominent teacher, surveyor, and farmer; and it is now in the hands of W.F. Smith, of West Union.
A little farther down stream and on the same side was the early home of Amos and Elizabeth Collins Keys, also large slave owners. Here was the mill where the grain of the community was ground. The mill was run by water power except when the creek was low, when a "thread wheel" supplied the power.
A carding machine also belonged to the Keys family. This machine prepared the wool for the spinning wheel by making long rolls of it. After the wool was spun, the wives and daughters wove it into cloth and blankets, or knit warm stockings and mittens for the entire household.
The kindness of Aunt Betty Keys is remembered by the old folks. The small boys of the pioneer family usually "went to mill" where they had to wait many weary hours before their grinding was done. It was Aunt Betty's custom to spread large slices of "wheat bread" with honey or other delectable spreads and hand them out to the hungry urchins. This was some compensation for the disagreeable task of going to mill.
There were seven children in the Keys home, only two of whom married, so far as can be learned E.M.B., and Cynthia Keys Joseph. A few of their descendants are found in adjoining counties. Creed Keys lives near Camp. But the old home is no more a home.
Nearly a mile up Nutter's Fork from its junction with Middle Island was the home of Leonard Kelch, who lived but a few years. It later became the homestead of William, son of Thomas Smith Sr., and Margaret Doak Smith, who moved there soon after their marriage in 1 1844. Here they reared a family of eleven children who became successful men and women in their respective vocations. William was a farmer, stock raiser, and buyer and shipper of livestock. Some of his sons followed the same lines of work. One son., S.P. Smith who now resides in West Union with his wife, Edith Martin Smith, and their three sons, is well known as a farmer, teacher, business man, writer, and editor of ability. The old home became the property of another son, David M. Smith whose family still owns it, though it is occupied by a tenant at the present time.
Discussion of the William Smith family must not end without a few remarks concerning the old mother, Margaret. She was a remarkable woman of great resolution and strength of character. Hers was the local home of the preacher of the Christian Church when he made his regular visits to the neighborhood. A splendid cook, her biscuit making became famous. She was a rapid worker. Once a friend times her in preparing a young chicken for dinner. She is said to have completed the job and had the "fryer" on the table in fifteen minutes.
At the time Leonard Kelch lived here, there was another cabin home near the mouth of Chipps Run on Nutter's Fork that was occupied by William Tucker. He and his family lived here for some time, after which Isaac, oldest son of Thomas Smith Sr., with his wife, Sarah Ann Corathers, moved in to establish their home. Eleven children were born, all of whom grew up, married, and reared families.
The best known of the Isaac Smith family is the Rev. Thomas J. Smith, who, on July 24, 1927 reached his eighty-first birthday. For more than fifty years he has been a preacher in the Christian Church and its strong financial supporter. He has been a successful farmer, too. Though now retired, he still does a large amount of farm work "just to help the boys out and to keep in fit physical condition." The State Legislature claimed his services for one term. He has traveled east to Boston, Washington, and other points of interest. In a recent tour he covered the most interesting parts of central and western United States and visited his son, E.Erwin, who has a good position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Seattle, Washington. (Irwin received the degree of B.S. Agr. from West Virginia University shortly after his return from France, where he served with the A.E.F. in the "Buckeye" Division.)
Rev. Thomas Smith has two younger brothers surviving, Joseph and Isaac M. Their father passed away nearly fifty years ago leaving a record of a clean, honorable, industrious life. The mother lived a few years longer, spending most of her time in caring for the sick and needy. No one was ever turned away from her door, and she was always ready to divide her last mouthful of food. The Christian Church stands just across the road from the site of the old Isaac Smith home, which was destroyed by fire more than thirty years ago.
Zuleka Davis, the first wife of the Rev. Mr. Smith, deserves mention in these pages. Without her help and sacrifices in the early years his success could not have been so great. She was a noble , helpful Christian woman, often inconveniencing herself to let her daughters assist a sick neighbor. Many preachers, travelers, and other visitors were entertained in her hospitable home. In later life, the Rev. Mr. Smith married Susan Owens, who likewise was a splendid woman.
Coming back to pioneer days, tradition tells that the very earliest settler on Nutter's Fork was a man by the name of Nutter, for whom the stream was named. He and his family lived on what is now the Gordon W. Kinney farm. His cabin stood near the present site of the "old house" below Mr. Kinney's residence. Little is known of Mr. Nutter, except that he died there at the time of the "great storm" which literally swept the country about one hundred years ago. (The Thomas Smith , Sr. brick house was partly blown down, and much timber was destroyed.) Mr. Nutter's remains were carried by hand-partly on a hand-sled-to the Smith farm, where they rest today near a few other graves on the hillside near Crystal Lake. (The Coleman Cemetery had not yet been established .) The Nutters came from Barbour County.
At about the time the Nutter family settled here, Benjamin Knight built his log cabin on what was later called the William Freeman farm, now owned by the William Freeman heirs. This cabin stood about a mile below the Nutter home. After the Rev. Mr. Knight, who was a local Methodist Episcopal preacher, had lived here for some years, his easier circumstances permitted him to build a larger home of hewed logs for his growing family. The ruin of this old home still stands as a mute witness to the industry and frugality which made life in the wilderness possible.
At this time there is no record of the later life of Benjamin Knight. He had one son whose name was Henry. This son married Jennie Sandy who lived on Sandy's Run in Tyler County. Henry and his wife made their home on Little Flint above the present Canton post office. Their lives were filled with toil and sacrifice, as were the lives of all early settlers in those hills. They succeeded in acquiring considerable property, at the same time reared a family of none children.
Of these children one should be especially mentioned-Malinda Ellen Knight, who became the wife of R. Breckinridge White, of Lewis County, and who was the mother of two of the well known educators in West Virginia-H.S. White, President of Shepherd College State Normal School, President of the West Virginia State Educational Association, lecturer and author of note; and his equally distinguished brother, H. Laban White, Extension Director of Glenville Normal School, and also an author and public speaker of note. These young men, products of West Virginia University, rose to their present positions through their own efforts, the proverbial silver spoon being providentially omitted.
W.H.S. White chose as his life companion Grace Eliza Yoke, a graduate of West Virgjnia University and woman of poetical ability. Nan Leigh Cox, a young lady of culture and refinement, became the bride of Laban White.
The father of these young men (and their two sisters, Mrs. Forrest Kinney and Ada, the later deceased,) R.B. White, and his two brothers, Letcher and O. Griffin, came here from Lewis County in the early eighties. They were engaged in saw-milling; and Griffin ran a store and a blacksmith shop at the Ora D. Underwood place, as the location is now called. Griffin moved away, but Letcher married Dorcas Doak and still lives on Knight's Fork where he is farming and preaching occasionally for the local churches. The Whites came of Revolutionary stock. The great -grandfather of R.B. was Alexander White of New Jersey, a Captain in the Army of the Revolution.
Returning to local pioneers, the writer finds that Sammy Knight, a brother of Benjamin Knight, was the first to found a home on Knight's Fork. From him the little stream takes its name. Little is known of him and his family. One daughter married Ben Jeffrey, and they made their early home where Letcher White now resides.
A little later Richard Spencer came from the Indian Creek country and built his cabin where his grandson, Gordon Spencer now lives. There were five children in this home. The three sons, all Union soldiers, married and reared families, the present Spencer families being their descendants.
Another home built on the headwaters of a prong of Knight's Fork some years previous to the Civil War was that of Thomas H. and Rebecca Robinson McKinney, who came from Barbour County. They were hard-working folk who with difficultly wrested a living from the little hill farm. Nine children grew up in this little cabin. Many of their progeny are now found in the community.
Luther McKinney, a brother of Thomas H., lived for several years on Knight's Fork. While living here he and Ben Davis, of Camp Mistake, were one unfortunate day, companions on a hunting trip. They were trying to get a squirrel for Luther's sick brother, when Luther felled a tree which struck and killed Davis. Luther almost lost his mind, and, though he lived to be an old man, he never recovered entirely from the shock.
Charley Doak, another Union solider, acquired the Ben Jeffrey farm and reared a large family, many of whose members still reside in this country.
Probably the first settler on Camp Mistake was Benjamin Davis (not the Davis of the fatal squirrel hunt), who lived near the present William ("Ib") Pratt home. Here he reared a family. One of his sons, Felix, was a merchant.
John Knight, ancestry unknown, lived at the head of Camp Mistake, Smith Freeman, son of Eleazer, Sr., purchased this land after he had sold his farm on Nutter's Fork to his brother-in- law, Hamilton Doak. Here the Freeman family grew up, three sons and five daughters, to go out and found homes of their own. The ancestral home is still in the hands of the family, Charles Freeman residing at the original house site.
Robert and Josey Scott were early residents of Camp Mistake. Their brother James made his home on a branch of Knight's Fork nearby. They came from Monongalia County, as did David Chipps, the first settler on Chipps Run. Some of the Scott family are yet here. Rebecca Scott married Robert Noon whose home was on Camp Mistake for some years. A son, Bob, was a member of the Clarksburg police force a few years ago, the family having moved to Harrison County.
John R. Kemper, father of P.G. Kemper of Shirley, lived at Camp and kept a general store. He was United Brethren preacher. Later he moved to Smithburg or to Morgansville, where he spent several years. He served as a member of the House of Delegates from this county.
Thomas and William ("Ib") Pratt were among the later arrivals to found homes on Camp Mistake. They came from Pratt's Run some forty-five or fifty years ago. Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth Dawson Pratt, were prosperous farm folk, who built a pleasant home and brought up a large family of boys. These sons have gone out into the world as business men, teachers, and industrial managers of various enterprises. Only one son, E.M. Pratt, with his wife , Una Smith Pratt, and their daughters, Wanda and Gertrude, and his invalid mother, remain on the farm. Mr. Pratt is a up-to-date farmer, the head of the Livestock Shipper's Association in this county, and president of the community organization. Both daughters are teachers and expect to get their degrees with the class of '29 at West Virginia University.
William ("Ib") Pratt also lived on a farm. He engaged in the mercantile business for many years. Later his sons took charge of the business, which they still handle in connection with the Camp post office.
Ben Smith lives at Camp, where he owned and operated a grist mill more than forty years ago.
Rev. Moses Weekley, pioneer settler of Slaughter Run, lived in Camp during his declining years.
David Chipps and his wife, Katy Russell Chipps, made their home on the head of Chipps Run, where their son, the aged S.C. Chipps, now resides. S.C. has three brothers and a sister, none of whom live here.
Just after the earliest settlements on Nutter's Fork, Hiram Smith, a son of Thomas Sr., established his home on Chipps Run where his grandson Hiram Underwood now lives. He and his wife Sarah Ann Doak Smith, were among the well-to-do farm people of that time. They had a large family, some of the sons still residing here.
Hiram Smith was a prisoner of war at Andersonville. He and a companion, Dave Kinney, made their way home after having escaped enemy's country, they hid by day and traveled by night, living on raw corn or whatever food they could pick up. Later they rejoined their regiment and served till the end of the war.
John Smith, a brother of Hiram, and his wife, Lydia Jarvis Smith, also made their early home on Nutter's Fork. Their cabin stood by the "old well" near the present Nutter's Fork bridge opposite Rolandus McKinney's residence. After a few years they moved to his father's, Thomas Smith, Sr's home on Middle Island. Here John built a mill and a milldam to supply the needed water power. Some time after, he sold the mill to Morgan Gorby who made a home nearby. Then John and Lydia Smith reared nine children. Frank and William (Billy) of West Union are their sons, Through business reverses the aged John Smith seems to have lost most of his property. He spent his last years with his widowed sister, Eliza Smith, at the J.C. Smith farm. She was the wife of Captain Jacob Smith. Their two children were James and Lenora.
"James Smith and Sons" is a well known firm of lumber dealers in West Union. They handle building supplies and operate a planing mill. James' sister, Lenora, became the wife of Jacob C. Smith of Tyler County, who later a prominent farmer and business man in this community. They lived for many years on the John Smith, Sr., farm described above, which is now known as the J.C. Smith farm and is occupied by their daughter and son-in-law, C.D. Cottrill. J.C. Smith still lives at McKim, Tyler County, where his wife died but a few years ago. Mrs. Joseph Freeman, of West Union, is his sister.
Among the descendants of John Smith, the Second, the millwright previously mentioned, was a grandson, Ira E. Smith, son of Frank and Martha Allen Smith, who now live in West Union. Ira E. is a prominent banker and politician in this district. He served his district in the State Senate during a recent term. His only son, Claud, has just received an appointment as Assistant Bank Examiner for this district, he having had several years banking experience under his father.
Another of the old time residents of Nutter's Fork was John Kinney, Sr., who, we believe came here from Greene County, Pennsylvania and lived for a time in the house near the present Nutter's Fork bridge where John Smith had once made his home. (It may be that Kinney lived there before Smith.) There were three sons in this Kinney family, George, a carpenter; Israel, who probably made his home on the land once occupied by Mr. Nutter, now the farm of his grandson, G.W. Kinney; and Snowden, whose residence was across the creek from the mouth of Cedar Run-the present Ford farm (where the large wolf was killed). Snowden was the father of John Kinney who married Deborah Bond and lived many years near the old home, rearing a large family of children. Mrs. Ernest Ford is one of the daughters.
Barney Bond married Polly Smith, daughter of Thomas, Sr. They founded a home near the outlet of the Bog. A large pine tree still stands where their dooryard was-a silent sentinel. Just across the road is a deep bend in Middle Island known to every schoolboy as the "Barney Hole". Deborah Bond, previously mentioned, was a daughter of Barney and Polly Bond. Another daughter, Elizabeth-"Pop"-was the wife of Squire Sears. Their home for a time was at the John Kinney place which is now owned by Jacob C. Smith.
Morgan Gorby also married one of the Bond girls, Lettie, by name. He had bought the mill above Bond's , and they lived near it for a good while. Afterwards they moved to the head of Gorby Run where a large family grew up, but few of their descendants remain here. At present no one lives on Gorby Run. The old home is in ruins, and the fields (in part) are thickets of wild blackberry vines yielding a luscious harvest to all who will gather the fruit.
James (Jimmy) Magill resided at one time in the old house near the bridge opposite the site of the present Rolandus McKinney home. He also lived on the Jacob Ripley farm where his son, T. Wayman, was born. This son married Mahala, daughter of Isaac Smith. They made a home on Chipps Run, then went to Ritchie County and thence to Ross County, Ohio. Their oldest son, William, is a retired teacher, prominent in business and farming enterprises of his Ohio home section. The parents lie buried in Ohio.
At some rather early period of our history, J.B. Markey acquired a part of the old Snowden Kinney farm on Middle Island, where he and his wife resided for some time. They sold out to James Ford and moved to West Union where he became a merchant. The Markey name has been known in the business world ever since.
The Fords are an old family. They came here from Virginia and have been a valued addition to the community. Several sons and daughters grew to maturity in the home of James Ford and his wife, Talitha. Sam L. Ford, one of the sons, became a leader in the raising of purebred livestock. He was a prominent farmer, served a term as sheriff of Doddridge County, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Salem College-an honor which has devolved upon his son, Glenn L.
Glenn L. Ford has been identified with the farmers organizations of the county, has been a livestock raiser and a progressive fruit grower, and has served as president of the community organization. He was appointed county agent in Upshur County early in the spring of 1928.
Another son of James Ford is Ernest, who resides on the old home place. He too is a farmer and upbuilder of the community.
Miss Eva Ford, a sister of Glenn L., is an instructor of French in Alfred University.
On Piggin Run, of which we have not yet written, William Ashburn, Sr., was the first settler, his home being located where Dave Underwood now resides. He came from Greene County. Pennsylvania, at about the time of the early settlement on Nutter's Fork, and obtained a large tract of land which in time became the homesteads of his children as they married and left the parental roof. In this family were two boys, Josephus and Amaziah, both of whom were prominent in their day. There were two daughters, one of whom died in her youth. The other Alcinda, married Jerry Knight and became the mother of Flave J. Knight whose home is a part of the original William Ashburn, Sr., lands. There was, too, a step-daughter, Abbie, who never married.
William Ashburn, Sr., was a well educated man. He was the first school teacher in this part of the country, teaching in his own home prior to the erection of school buildings. His own children received their instruction from him. Josephus became a teacher, preacher, and philosopher. Following in the steps of his father, he also taught school in his early home; then at the Haymond, and later at the Rock Run Hill School. These were called subscription schools, each pupil paying a specified tuition, most likely in some kind of farm produce.
An old citizen tells this story illustrative of the character of the Rev. Josephus Ashburn. He had been chosen as a delegate to a convention, probably at Wheeling. The Rev. Ashburn was on hand early, wearing his derby hat and best suit of clothes. A stylish wag, thinking to have some entertainment for himself and friends, addressed the old gentleman from the "back country"as follows:
"How do you do, my good man? And where might you hail from?" "From London, England, Sir"came the amazing reply. "And how did you leave everybody over there?' "Fine, Sir. Just fine." "And what, may I ask, is everybody doing over there?' "Attending to his own business, Sir, Attending to his own business," Rev. Ashburn replied, as he turned from his tormentor to the consideration of more serious matters. His home was where Oriles (Jack) Hoalcraft now lives near the head of Piggin Run. One of his sons, Falvius J. Ashburn, was a popular educator, who died in a far-western state a few years ago.
Amaziah, the other son of William Ashburn, Sr., was a talented man who studied and practiced medicin. He became a well-known and successful doctor of the courageous old country type. His home at the present F.J. Knight location. Here he and his wife, Margaret, lived for many years and brought up their family of five boys, some of whom still live in this county.
Dr. Ashburn was a Union soldier, serving as a physician with the 14th Virginia (W.Va.) Infantry, if we are correctly informed. He was a prisoner at Andersonville, where he ministered as best he could to the needs of his suffering comrades. He seemed never to forget those dark days of misery.
He did a great deal for the health of the people in his home community. Though he was kept busy most of the time, he never amassed a great deal of property. The reason is obvious. He worked for the patient's sake and not for his own. It is said that Dr. Asburn would go anywhere he was called, even though he knew he would never receive a cent for his services. And he furnished the medicine besides! His books showed hundreds of dollars in uncollectible accounts.
Of his sons, the best known (though all are well known) perhaps, is O. A., who has been a successful teacher, County Superintendent of Schools, State Senator, and business man. Another son, Francis, was a teacher, and later a preacher. Mrs. Oley Williams, a valued community member, is a direct descendant of Dr. Ashburn.
Again going back to earlier days, William Bland built the first cabin on the head waters of Nutter's Fork about 1840. Soon after, a man named Hitchcock also lived in a cabin on the site of Roy Griffin's present home. This land became the Ephraim Bee farm and was later sold to Robert McClain (father of P.B. McClain) who erected the house which is still standing. Later it was owned by Edgar Davission from whom it passed into the hands of his daughter, Mrs. Griffin.
Jacob Swentzel was another old settler on upper Nutter's Fork. The Swentzels of this part of the state are his descendants.
Another family which contributed to the early life of the same section was that of Spencer Pernell, whose home was on the head of Little Flint Run. He had two sons, James who founded his home where Emerson Knight now lives; and Joseph, the first settler on Bulltown at the Hamilton Doak place. It is said that the latter was a whale-hunter with marvelous stories of adventure to tell. Among the descendants of the Pernells are Mrs. Roxalina Kinney (mother of G.W. Kinney) and Israel Pernell. Later the Whites, Vincents, Williams's, Bakers and Smiths lived in this Upper Nutter's Fork neighborhood. There have been many others of whom there is no historic trace.
Another family which not previously mentioned is the Strickling family, one of the most influential in the early history of the community. Dr. William and Matilda Strickling came here from Ohio, via Shirley where they lived a short while about the time of the Civil War. They founded their home at what is known as the Strickling Farm, now owned by John and Eleazer Freeman. Here they raised a family of nine children-eight boys and one girl. Dr. Strickling was a a teacher and one of the first County Superintendent, he was also a successful doctor, doing a great deal for the health of the community. But perhaps he was best known as a preacher. He spent many years preaching and practicing medicine. The last years of his life were given entirely to the ministry.
All the Strickling family became successful teachers. F.E. served as County Superintendent of Schools in this county and is now Postmaster at West Union. James, after teaching for a time, graduated from Bethany College. He studied law and became a well known lawyer, and a member of the State Legislature, serving as Speaker of the House during a late session. His home is in Huntington.
At first the roads in Nutter Fork Community were mere paths or trails. As necessity demanded, they were widened so as to permit the use of vehicles, the earliest of which was the ox-sled. Gradually the network of roads extended over the entire section as settlers filled up the country.
But the community cannot even today, boast of good roads. There is no hard-surfaced road at this time. The old "Pike" which follows the course of Middle Island (generally) has been graded, and will be paved as a State road in the near future. Also the Rock Run-Poverty road is graded and may be paved later. Except, these two roads are still narrow, crooked, ill-graded affairs. Automobiles use them for a few months in summer. In winter they are mostly mud holes, well nigh impassable for man or beast. Chances for road improvement seem quite remote.
In justice to those in charge of the roads, it should be added that there is an oil field in this community which necessitates hard usage of roads. Dirt roads, and wet weather in an oil field mean mud. Nevertheless, mail is delivered every week day over these roads.
During the earliest pioneer times there seems to have been no churches here. Religious services were held from house to house among the Christian settlers. (Some of course were not church members.) A few years later a log church was built by the Methodist Episcopal people at the mouth of Slaughter Run. This served the residents of Middle Island and lower Nutter's Fork country for a long time. The building has now completely disappeared.
Rev. Bolton was one of the early preachers. Rev. King and Rev. Wiley were also Methodist Episcopal preachers in this community. Benjamin Knight, one of the first two settlers on Nutter's Fork, was a local preacher of this faith, as well as a successful farmer. The ruin of his second residence, a substantial story-and-a-half hewed log house, which later became the first home of William Freeman and wife, still stands, a mute witness of his industry and early life in the wilderness. Probably there may have been another early Methodist Episcopal church on upper Little Flint, though no definite knowledge of its existence is known to the writer.
In more recent times (1879) the Red Oak Methodist Episcopal Church was built on Upper Nutter's Fork where it still serves the people over a large area. It was founded by a band of earnest Christian people whose influence for good still flows from its modest portals.
"Uncle" William Vincent, father of Rev. Joseph I. Vincent, (well known Methodist Protestant preacher) worshiped here for many years. Who in the community does not remember Uncle Billy's shouting, as, steadying himself with his faithful cane, he stood up and told of his hope of heaven and the love of his blessed Master! He was more than ninety years of age when he passed on, at his daughter's home in West Union, a few years ago.
B.P. McClain, who now resides in Parkersburg, was an influential member and class leader in this church for years.
Rev. Arnett of the Smithburg charge, has been the pastor during the past two or three years. He goes elsewhere next year (1928.)
Among the charter members of Red Oak church are the following: Edgar Davisson and family, Jacob Swentzel and family, George Chapman and family, Wm. Ashburn and wife and P.B. McClain and wife. Chapman was the first leader.
The first United Brethen church of which there is any account was a log structure erected near the present site of the Camp Post Office on Camp Mistake.
Among its early preachers, was noted Rev. Zebedee Warner. Rev. Moses Weekley, the first settler on Slaughter Run, was a local United Brethren preacher. He was an uncle of Bishop William Weekley who grew up just across the line in Tyler County and became one of the greatest United Brethren churchmen in America. No doubt, this old log church was the church home of the young Wm. Weekley in his Boyhood. It's ruins were removed only recently.
The United Brethren church at Fairview, Tyler County, now fills the place of this historic structure.
It is not known that the Baptist people built any church in this community. They held meetings at the old Rock Run Hill school house and also at the Haymond School near the recently constructed Crystal Lake. This is said to have been the earliest school in the community.
Rev. Woods and Rev. Drummonds were two early Baptist preachers in this part of the country. Rev. Josephus Ashburn was a local preacher of much influence, as well as a prominent teacher of the early days. Keeping a diary was one of his hobbies. If this old book can be located, it will give a detailed history of the early Piggin Run settlement.
The Baptists have no church here. Some of that faith here, are connected with the West Union church.
In the Cedar Run neighborhood there are a number of Seventh-Day Baptist folk who are among the best citizens. They have no local church, but are affiliated with the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Salem. James Ford and his wife, Talitha, were among the early bearers of this faith in this section.
Many years ago-the teachings, of the great preacher, Alexander Campbell, were brought to this community where they spread rapidly among the people. Rev. Dunn was the first, perhaps, to sow the seeds of the Christian (Disciples') faith among the residents of Arnolds Creek in Tyler County whence it came to this community. No church was built here by these people until 1907, when the present building was erected near the mount of Chipps Run. In the early days religious gatherings and church services were held in the homes of some of the devout people. The home of Eleazer Freeman, Sr., father of the late Wm. and Joseph Freeman, was used as a place of public worship. Later, after the building of the old log school house at the mouth of Pine Run, it became the center of religious activity among these Christians. This was prior to the Civil War.
When the old log school was abandoned for a frame building, the latter served as a church.
Later the present school house was so used. Among the early preachers here were the Rev. Daniel Sweeney, Dr. William Strickling, Rev. Streeter and Rev. Mitchell.
Rev. John Waters, another old-time preacher, used to come from the Deep Valley section to preach in these later school buildings, many years ago. For the past half century Rev. Thomas J. Smith has preached both here and elsewhere.
Not many of the names of the pioneer Christians are known. Eleazer and Betty Smith Freeman, William and Margaret Doak Smith, Hiram and Sarah Ann Doak Smith, Isaac and Sarah Ann Corathers Smith, Rev. William and Matilda Lowe Strickling, Thomas H. and Rebecca Robinson McKinney, were a few of the early Disciples. Today their descendants are scattered to many parts of the country.
Such is the brief outline of the community church history. From the "little grains of mustard seed", as it were, have grown the great trees of religion and morality to shelter the community from the evil of the world.
Perhaps the churches have not done as well as they should always; perhaps they are not doing so now. Lack of efficient leadership has been a hindrance sometimes. Petty prejudices, neighborhood feuds, and factional fights have been great drawbacks. (What community does not have them at times?) Yet, what would our community be without church influence? Who can picture the benighted condition of a country without the ennobling and uplifting influence of religion?
A little more than twenty years ago a Rural Free Delivery Route was established from West Union. (The writer took the first step toward establishing this Rural Route, having ordered the petition forms later circulated by her brother Walter Smith and her husband, J.L. Corathers.) It serves a large part of the community. Some are served by the Middle Island Star Route, and a few by Camp Post Office.
Many years ago there was a post office at Knight, how Ora Underwoods place, but it was discontinued after the rural mail route became operative. O.G. White, Geo. L. Swentzel, and Jack Williams were postmasters there. Some found it more convenient to use the West Union office. When a neighbor went to town he took the outgoing mail to the post office and brought back what was there for these folks. Many times some of it was misplaced for several days or lost entirely. Rural delivery has proved more satisfactory.
The first telephone line was a part of the old Beeghley System built in the early nineties. After it had fallen into disuse the Peoples' Union Telephone Company built lines here. It later became the D. and H. System. Though its service has been very irregular, it has been a great help to the people. A part of the community is now served by the Bell Telephone System.
Since radios have come into common use, several have found their way into our section of the country. Through their use the community has been brought into direct contact with the outside world. The daily weather report is a popular feature with the farmer, as well as with the motorist.
Speaking of motorists a large percentage of local people own their automobiles, but because of dirt roads most of these machines must remain in the garages during the winter months.
One of the very first to drive a motor vehicle over local roads was Wesley Owens, who carried mail on the Rural Route some fifteen years ago. About that time two farmers , Marion O. Davis and W. Frank Smith purchased Ford cars-the first owned in this community. These cars were objects of curiosity to several, just as were the first wagon and buggy of pioneer times. Tom Bond, Sr., who lived across the creek from Slaughter Run, was the first here to own a buggy, while Israel Kinney was probably the owner of the first wagon in this part of the country. Hiram Smith bought the second.
Although most of the local homes today are supplied with modern gas or coal ranges for cooking, it is only a few decades back through the days of the little "Indianola" and step-stove, to the time when a "Dutch oven" (skillet and lid) and a few iron pots were the housewife's "modern" conveniences for cooking. These she used at the open fireplace.
The first cookstoves of which there is any record were owned by Thomas Smith, Sr., and his son, William. Aunt Margaret's pancakes, baked on the new stove, were a source o fwonder and delight to the youngsters of seventy to seventy-five years ago.
The homes of the well-to-do people in those days were lighted by tallow candles made in the home. The poorer folks depended upon the tallow dip (a piece of cloth in a saucer of grease) or upon the firelight tin, for their illumination. There was no kerosene.
The first /lantern in this section was owned by Eleazer Freeman, Sr., whose young son, Joseph, proudly carried it from church, while the other young men carried pine torches to light the pathway of themselves and their sweethearts.
Lettie Bond Gorby had one of the first (likely the first) sewing machines in this section.
The first parlor organ here was in the home of Dr. William Strickling, while the first piano graced the home of James Ford.
No modern "sweeper" cleaned the bare floors of the pioneer home. Not even a broom of straw, but one of "splits," pushed the dirt into the fireplace or out the doorway. (This broom was made from a small sapling).
The one-post bed gave way to the old "cord" bedstead, which in turn was supplanted by the bed of wooden slats. The cord bed had a "basket-woven cord support for the straw tick. This was topped by a feather tick. The trundle beds for the children were pushed beneath the "big beds" during the day while a wooden cradle held baby's day bed.
Home made "split bottomed" chairs were the rule.
The schools in many ways resembled the early homes. They were of the pioneer type with crude home-made furniture and widefire-places. The benches consisted of split logs with wooden pins for legs. There were no desks. A shelf along one side served as a writing desk. Blackboards were unknown. The rod, symbol of the Master's authority, occupied a conspicuous place within easy reach. Textbooks were few, while a school library was undreamed of.
The first school in this community was the old Haymond school near "The Bog". Rev. Josephus Ashburn was one of the teachers here.
A little later about 1855 a log cabin school was created at the mouth of Pine Run near the present Isaac M. Smith homestead. It served the needs of the neighborhood until the establishment of the free school some time after the close of the Civil War.
Among the early teachers of this school were Wm. Greene, James Hovey, Dr. Wm. Strickling, and Jennie Miller. The latter taught the first free school here. Soon after, a frame building was put up on the site of the present Pine Run School. In 1892 or 1893 the old frame structure gave place to the present one which has been somewhat improved this year by the addition of a cloakroom.
More than thirty teachers have gone out from Pine Run to do their part of the world's educational work. Among the best known of these are the Stricklings.
The old Good Hope School which stood on the top of Rock Run hill was constructed in 1868. Here also, some excellent teachers received their first schooling. Among them were the Ashburn boys. Some early instructors in this old school were Josephus Ashburn, James Strickling, Richard Noble, and P.B. McClain. When this old school was discarded there was one built on Piggin Run, and also one at the foot of Rock Run hill on Nutter's Fork. These are still used.
Among the educators turned out of these schools were O,A, Ashburn, ex-State Senator, and Prof. Clarence Asburn, of the Huntington schools, from Piggin School, and Professors W.H.S. and H. Laban White, from Nutter's Fork.
A school was built on Camp Mistake soon after the close of the Civil War. Little of its early history is known. The present Camp School took its place many years ago. The Pratts, Freemans, Scotts, and Brittons were among the successful teachers from this school.
The Cedar Run, Knights Fork, and Slaughter Run Schools, all of which are products of Cedar Run, the Spencers of Knights Fork, and the Wolvertons of Slaughter Run School. (Among the latter are Professor Howard M. Wolverton, of Adamston High School. Wayne R., a railway mail clerk, Dr. Wolverton, dentist, and Mrs. Ada McIntire, teacher.)
Although the schools are far from modern now, they compare favorably with other rural schools of Doddridge County. Better furniture, libraries, equipment, and decorations have been added from time to time as conditions permitted. One thing sadly lacking is the sanitary toilet.
The foundation of the educational system here, is base upon the pioneer work of the Ashburns, the Stricklings, and Professor John Wilson who taught in this section many years ago.
Nutter's Fork Community is known as precinct no. 2, of West Union magisterial district; familiarly called the "Solid North". The "North" is not quite so "solid" now as it was a few decades ago.
The wise voter now splits the ticket as he thinks best regardless of party. An interesting story is told of how one Republican changed politically. Some years ago this voter declared he would vote Republican ticket no more because he had unknownly cast his ballot for a colored man for State Committeeman. He couldn't knowingly support a Black Republican.
Another old gentleman, whose political strength was stronger, "scratched" the name of a candidate on his ticket because he could not bring himself to vote for that particular man. Did he vote for the opponent? Not he. "I don't want the sin of voting for a Democrat on my conscience", he remarked in all sincerity.
More and more the people here are coming to see that it is the "man" and not the party label, that counts in local politics.
The political prejudice of some of the older people against the Democratic party seems to have been founded in Civil War times. In this particular community at that time Democrat and Rebel sympathizer were nearly synonymous terms with many people. And no where were people more loyal to the Union than in this community, as a list of local Union soldiers will show. So far as can be learned not a single man here became a Confederate soldier.
A conservation between a loyal Democrat and a good old doctor who had served his comrades during the dark days at Andersonville prison well illustrates the current viewpoint. "Doctor, all Democrats are not Rebels. There is a great difference." "Well." exclaimed the irate doctor, "maybe they're not". But the rebels laid the eggs that hatched the d_____things." And he believed it!
Another hopeful sign locally is less ballot corruption than there were 30 or 35 years ago.
The time was when the smooth-tongued politician could flatter the women, kiss the babies, milk the cows, and with the aid of a dollar or two, gain the vote of an entire family.
In pre-Volstead days the unscrupulous vote getter provided a keg of whiskey (and sometimes beer or cider) which was placed in some secluded spot near the voting place. Here his equally unscrupulous henchman saw to it that "doubtful" voters were thoroughly "soaked" (if they could be induced to drink) and then voted according to his wishes. When it was considered necessary to pay cash for certain votes on election day, a bribed poll clerk chosen by the aforesaid office seeker, signalled to a confederate outside that So-and-so had voted properly and was to receive the specified sum. This does not refer to the majority, but to the floating vote, which often decided the contest.
It is not likely that this community had any more illegal voting than others, yet, there is a marked improvement in this respect, due largely, no doubt, to Woman Suffrage and Prohibition.
But all of woman's political influence is not in the ballot, as
the following incident shows:
Several years age a popular factional leader sent a roll of currency to an honest old farmer friend in this community with instructions to use it "to the best advantage". Now, as it happened, the package fell into the hands of the farmer's wife who was shocked beyond measure. Without waiting for he better-half to assure her that he had no intention of using the money to buy votes, she opened fire. "If you buy votes with that, I hope they put you in jail and feed you on cornbread and water! I don't care if it is my own man, or my boy, the person who buys votes or sells them either, deserves to go to jail. And I'll report you, if you do!"
Still another hopeful sign for the future of Nutter's Fork community is the organization of a "Community Council," the object of which is the all-round betterment of conditions. About one year ago in the fall of 1926, this community work was started here by County Agent, E.D. Curry and the Home Demonstration Agent, Miss Adele Bigelow. A Country Life Conference was held recently, the community being scored at that time. The score was 560 points out of a possible 1000.
The boys and girls have a Four-H Club, too which is doing good work. It's members have won several prizes.
As the writer see it, the future of this community depends largely upon the work of the organizations previously mentioned. Then let everybody get to work, individually, and in cooperation with his neighbors, to lift the Nutter Fork Community to a higher place.
Community Histories Index