By F. L. Burdette
To the careful observer the location of the Ona and Blue Sulphur section in Mud River Valley is of striking interest.
Extending from Scary in Kanawha County to Barboursville in Cabell County is a stretch of country considered in pioneer days especially inviting for farm settlements. This section, commonly called Teays Valley, is a region composed of gently rolling lands, has an abundance of constantly flowing springs, and once had a heavy growth of fine timber. At the time of settlement the forests were full of all kinds of native game, and the valley was always considered comparatively free from Indian attacks. Judged from the lay of the country, the formation of the soil and other surface indications, the whole region seems to have once been the bed of an ancient lake, or else the course of some large river like the Kanawha. Mud River enters this old valley at Mud Bridge about one mile above Milton and follows its sluggish course through the lowest part of the old valley till it plunges over the Great Falls less than a mile above Blue Sulphur. In an inviting part of this river stretch, in the largest bend of the river's course, the Ona and Howell's Mill neighborhood is located.
All the main thoroughfares for travel built in this section of Virginia and West Virginia have left the Kanawha River near Scary and followed the shorter route through Teays Valley and the lower Mud River country to the Ohio at the mouth of the Guyandotte River, or of the Big Sandy at Catlettsburg. The Old Virginia State Road, sometimes called the Greenbrier Road, the James River and Kanawha turnpike, the contemplated Covington and Ohio Railroad, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and the present Midland Trail have all followed this route. In this way the lower Mud River country has long been on one of the main routes of travel between the east and the western country. The eastern section of the Old Virginia State Road was begun in the year 1785, and extended from the upper waters of James River to Lewisburg (then Fort Union) in Greenbrier County. In 1786 the road was extended to the mouth of Gauley River on the Kanawha, and sometime during the summer of 1787 it seems that some kind of a road was opened as far as the Big Sandy.
Under date of December 31, 1787, Arthur Campbell, Andrew Cowan, and Daniel Boone, county lieutenants of western Virginia counties, wrote an interesting letter to Governor Edmund Randolph, which reads as follows:
"If it is found next spring that war with the Indians is unavoidable, all are of the opinion that two companies of rangers of fifty men each will be necessary to protect the borders of Washington, Montgomery, and Russell counties. Those allotted to range so as to be a safeguard to the inhabitants of Montgomery, be stationed on the west side of the Great Kanawha where the Greenbrier road crosses to Kentucky, and on Sandy River where the said road crosses that river."
At that time Kentucky was only a state in contemplation, and it was supposed it would have the Kanawha for its eastern boundary. What is now Cabell County was a part of Montgomery, and the old state road had just been opened to the Big Sandy.
Along the route of this old state road, the first to be built in southwest Virginia, settlements were made about the time the road was open for travel. Doubtless the first settlement in the lower Mud River country was made about that time, but who the party, or parties, making it were is not a matter of record available to the writer of this sketch.
Late in the eighteenth century Thomas Teays secured a patent for a large tract, which he located in the eastern end of the valley, now mainly in Putnam County. Beginning in 1785 and extending through a number of years later, John P. Duvall of Harrison County secured several land patents that in their combined area included all the land from the Great Falls of Mud River to Indian Fork of Killgore's Creek beyond Milton. About the same time William Hepburn and his son-in-law John Dundas, of Alexandria, Virginia, secured title to the land extending from the falls of Mud River nearly to Barboursville. From these senior patents land owners in Teays Valley and in the lower Mud River Valley trace the title of their present ownership.
In 1803 James Cox of Buckingham county, Virginia, bought land and settled on the west side of Mud River a few hundred yards above the Great Falls. The house in which he lived still stands just across Mud River from the present Ona railway station. In 1804 John Everett of Albemarle County, Virginia, settled on the Everett farm near the mouth of Fudges Creek.
The same year, John Morris, formerly of Culpeper County, with his large family of sons and daughters, built his home and moved to the present Ward Dairy farm near Bethesda Church. The house stood on the old State Road about two hundred yards north of the Ward dairy barn. It is said that part of the old Morris house was removed years ago and rebuilt into the present residence occupied by William Yates at Yate's Crossing.
John Morris was said to have been the owner of twenty-two thousand acres of land, extending from the Great Falls of Mud River to Teays Valley beyond Milton. He was the owner of more land than any other person who has ever lived in Cabell County. His son Edmund was a representative in the Virginia State Legislature before Cabell County was cut off from Kanawha, and he became the first clerk of Cabell County.
About the same time the Morris and other families settled in the neighborhood. Allen Rece, formerly of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, purchased and settled on the old James Dundas farm about two miles north of Blue Sulphur. In 1814 Charles Love and his sons William and Daniel, formerly of Prince William County, Virginia, settled on Mud River about one mile from HoweIl's Mill on what is now the Pritchard farm, the proposed site for a boy's school.
In 1807, Esom Hannon, said to have been "born in Old Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant during the Indian wars, married Miriam Morris, daughter of John Morris, and built his home and lived for a time on the site of the Burdette home in the Big Bend of Mud River.
In 1819 Valentine Herndon, son-in-law of James Cox, formerly Fluvana County, purchased a part of the John Hilliard farm at Howell's Mill and built the first mill at that place.
In 1826 John Bryan of Culpeper County, grandfather of William Jennings Bryan, moved to the neighborhood and lived one year in the James Cox house opposite Ona railway station, and then moved to the present Elmer Price farm, where he lived two years. After living for three years on Mud River he purchased a farm opposite Gallipolis in Mason County, where he died in 1836.
In 1826 William P. Yates, of Culpeper County, settled on Mud River, and the next year purchased the Esom Hannon farm near Ona Station. Two years earlier, John Chapman of Culpeper County settled on Mud River just below the mouth of Little Cabell Creek.
Among others to settle in the neighborhood at an early date were Thomas Maupin, Adam Black, Russell Leroy, and James Newman, Sampson and John Handley, Landon Carter, Asher Crockett, Larose Merritt, William Miller, John Holroyd, Sr., Benjamin Davis, John Thomas, and Henry Dundas, Andrew Sheff, James Turley, William Greenwood, James Carroll, Robert Poar, James Cyrus, William Blackwood, Jacob Baumgardner, and Jacob Harshbarger, Sr.
Of the early settlers, John Morris, James Turley, John Everett, Charles Love, Asher Crockett, Allen Rece, Joseph Hilliard, and Larose Merritt were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Among the war records, and especially in the Pension Department at Washington, there is much of interest to the older residents of this section. Copying from these records a few sketches are herein given.
"John Everett, born February 28, l753, died February 17,1845; enlisted September 28, 1775 to September 28, 1776 as private under Captain Wm. Campbell, Colonel Patrick Henry, first Virginia regiment; enlisted May 15, 1779 for two years service; guarded prisoners at Albemarle Barracks and was discharged at Winchester under Captain John Allen, Colonel Francis Taylor; first enlisted from Bedford County, Virginia."
"James Turley, born in Pennsylvania, 1754; enlisted from Bedford County, Virginia, length of service two years, rank private, Captain John Chapman, Colonel Joseph Crockett, Virginia State Line".
" Allen Rece, born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, October 7, 1759; enlisted early in the war for three months service as a wagoner under Captain Groves, Colonel Proctor, State of Pennsylvania; enlisted in 1777 for one month service as private under Captain Singer, Colonel lrwin, State of Pennsylvania; enlisted in 1779 for seven months as a wagoner under Captain Ferguson, Colonel Hooper, State of Pennsylvania; enlisted in 1780 for three weeks as private under Captain Thomas, Colonel Robinson, State of Pennsylvania; enlisted in 1781 or 1782 for one month as private under Captain Thomas, Colonel Robinson, State of Pennsylvania". He died November 29, 1837.
"Larose Merritt, born October 19, 1749; died July 30, 1831; enlisted at Winchester, Virginia, in 1777, served till 1780 under Captains John McGuire and Thomas Bell, Colonel William Grayson; served at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth; received a wound in the foot during service, which rendered him a permanent cripple".
"John Morris's name appears on the muster rolls in the expedition of Colonel George Rogers Clark against Kaskaskia and Vincennes in 1778 and 1779".
John Lillard, a soldier in the Revolutionary War, was not a resident of Cabell County, but three of his daughters lived on Mud River near Ona and Howell's Mill. They were Nancy, wife of John Bryan, Elizabeth wife of William P. Yates, and Mary (Polly), wife of Landon Carter. John Lillard was born in Culpeper County, Virginia in 1765; enlisted as private for three months in the fall of 1780, being less than sixteen years old, under Captain Kirtley of the Virginia militia; enlisted for three months in the winter of l780-81 under Captain James Browning, Colonel James Slaughter; enlisted for three months in the summer of 1781 under Captain Armstead, Colonel Drake, Virginia State troops; was engaged in the siege of Yorktown, was in several skirmishes on James River and at Petersburg".
The first settlers on Mud River, like those of today, were farmers almost without exception. ln addition to farming after the style in vogue at that time, many farmers were handy at turning a hand in other lines. One early settler was primarily a farmer, while on occasion he was a local church leader, a stone mason, cooper, carpenter, and ran a custom threshing machine. A few other more gainful enterprises were entered into for profit.
As stated before, in 1819 Valentine Herndon purchased one hundred and fifteen acres of what is now the westerly portion of the Rimmer farm at Howell's Mill, and two acres in addition on the south side of Mud River which included the present mill site, and built the first grist and saw mill at the so called Upper Falls of Mud River. In 1829 he sold all his land and mill property to Ambrose Doolittle, who had recently come to this section from eastern Virginia. Ambrose Doolittle was an enterprising and successful business man. He enlarged the milling venture at Howell's Mill, rebuilt the saw mill and equipped it with the then modern vertical saw run by water power, overhauled the grist and flouring mill, built and operated a woolen carding machine, and added a furniture factory where much of the better type of walnut and cherry and other furniture in the neighborhood at that day was made. He also made the first and only venture at silk culture in this section. The effort to raise silk worms and produce silk was not a success, but to this day a few Russian or white mulberry trees, originally planted to feed the silk worms from the leaves, remain about Howell's Mill. The rebuilding and raising the dam in Mud River by Mr. Doolittle so backed the water up the river as to drown a mill early established near Yates's Crossing by Adam Black. It is a matter of tradition that the damage to the Black mill was amicably adjusted between the parties directly interested. In 1857 Armstead B. Howell purchased an interest in the Ambrose Doolittle estate, and later became sole owner of the mill property. After that time the place was called Howell's mill.
Another flour and grist mill was built at an early date over the Great Falls of Mud River. John Dundas was the builder and first owner, but the property later passed into the hands of David Harshbarger by purchase. This mill was burned sometime near the Civil War, and was later rebuilt. The location did not prove to be an advantageous one, owing to the fact that the main roads did not converge at that point, and for the further reason that the rapids in the river above the falls did not permit the storage of an ample water supply to last through the dry seasons of the year. So this mill was allowed to fall to decay.
About 1855 Dr. Alexander McCorkle, a native of Rockbridge County, Virginia, but for some years previous a resident of Guyandotte, married in the neighborhood and located on the old Thomas A. Morris farm near Howell's Mill, then the property of the heirs of John Handley, decreased. Under the direction of Dr. McCorkle a tannery of considerable proportions was built and put into operation on that farm. For a number of years the tannery proved a profitable investment with practical tanners employed to run the plant. After the death of Dr. McCorkle in 1867 the venture ceased to be profitable, and the plant lapsed into neglect. Today no sign of the tannery can be seen on its former site.
Most of the early settlers on Mud River, and especially between Milton and Barboursville, came from eastern Virginia, or from other sections of the South. Like other settlers in a new country nearly all of them, together with their families, engaged in farm labor and other neighborhood enterprise. Most of them belonged to the class of comfortable livers, when they worked to that end. Not a few of them, in addition to their own families, brought a number of slaves from the older settled sections. Slavery existed in its mildest form here, and while by no means universal, it was quite general. Most of the slave groups consisted of only a few negroes, but a few farms assumed the proportions of plantations and the number of slaves exceeded a half-hundred. The following heads of families were listed among the slave holders in the neighborhood:
John Morris, John and Nathan Everett; Charles, William, and Daniel Love; John, Henry, and Thomas Dundas and their sisters, Miss Eliza Dundas and Mrs. Sophia Peyton; Sampson Handley; William P. Yates; Jonathan Switzer; Dr. Alexander McCorkle; David Harshbarger; Thomas, Chapman and Beverly Maupin; Adam and William Black; James Newman; Andrew Guinn; John Miller; William Simmons; Thomas, George and Jeremiah Killgore; and Mrs. Martha Saunders and son Sampson Saunders.
Sampson Saunders was the largest slave owner in the history of the county. Besides he owned a vast landed estate and other personal property, and he was reckoned the wealthiest citizen up to the days of the Civil War. His wife and only child died some years before his own death, and after setting free his numerous slaves in accord with the provisions of his will, his large landed and other personal estate was heired by his only sister, Mrs. Thomas Killgore. Thomas Killgore himself owned a plantation of more than one thousand acres beyond Milton and he owned many slaves. Prior to the Civil War the number of slaves was decreasing in this section, and with the close of the Civil War that chapter in the neighborhood's history closed. A few devoted servants remained with their masters as long as they lived. With few exceptions the masters were faithful and kindly protectors of their wards; and for the most part the slaves looked upon their ovmers as their truest friends and only refuge both during and after slavery days.
To our parents and grandparents the period from 1840 to 1860 seemed the golden era in the social life of the valley. Social comforts were few, but the evidence of neighborly friendship was always present. This made life out toward the frontier altogether agreeable. It was during this period that the first private carriage was brought to the neighborhood by Thomas Dundas, and the first cooking stove by Ambrose Doolittle.
In the early day the only professional men in the community were the physicians. They located in places of easiest access to the surrounding country. In this immediate neighborhood Doctors John Seashole, Allen Love, Strother J. Yates, Alexander M. McCorkle, Charles and Randolph Moss, Frank L. Murphy, Bennett C. Vinson, and Calvary A. Morrison were the physicians covering the period from 1820 to 1880. These men were devoted to their profession and more devoted to the needs of their fellow citizens. They rode many miles on horseback over the worst of roads in all kinds of weather, and relieved as far as was in their power, the physical suffering of a scattered population. Many stories were told by the physicians of their race with death, often through fierce storms of sleet and snow. Sometimes they were followed by a pack of wolves, and sometimes startled by the scream of the panther or wildcat. Such experiences were common at the time of the first settlement on Mud River, and the section between this valley and the Ohio was infested by wolves and panthers up till about the year 1830.
The first church in this section, as well as the first in Cabell County, was the Mud River Baptist Church at Blue Sulphur which was organized in 1807. Rev. John Alderson from the Greenbrier Baptist Church at Alderson, and Rev. John Lee from southwest Virginia, were the ministers actively engaged in the organization. Rev. John Lee became the first pastor and he served the church with great devotion for many years. Twenty members composed the membership at first, and they included mainly the heads of the families of the earliest settlers. Their names are recorded in the roll of members in the church records. Twenty-one other Baptist churches, not including any of those in the City of Huntington, have been organized within the territory originally allotted to this church, and twelve ministers of the gospel have gone out from its membership. The church was first organized on its present site and a church house built there, but the deed to the property was not secured till the year 1821, when Henry and Thomas Dundas made a deed for one acre to the Mud River Baptist Society.
The first recorded effort toward establishing a church of the Methodist faith in the neighborhood was in the year 1811, when a revival was held at some home in the neighborhood. This revival was under the leadership of Rev. Samuel West, a minister of the faith on the Guyandotte circuit, Ohio Conference. In 1813 a camp meeting was held in the neighborhood under the leadership of Rev. David Young, presiding elder in the district. The next Methodist minister who held services at different homes in the community, was Rev. Samuel Brown. Among the class leaders at that time was Robert Caseboult, who moved out of the neighborhood late in the year 1813. In 1814 Rev. John Cord became the minister on the circuit, and he appointed Thomas A. Morris class leader. Later Thomas A. Morris became a minister in the Methodist church, held many responsible stations in the church, and was made a Bishop at the Quadrennial Conference of the denomination held at Cincinnati in 1856. He was the most distinguished citizen who has ever lived in the neighborhood, if not in the county. After his marriage in 1814 he built his home on a farm near Howell's Mill which had been given him by his father. This home he called Spice Flat Cottage, for which he held a fond attachment as long as he lived. It was built on a swell of ground on the McCorkle farm about two hundred yards south of the house now owned and occupied by Mrs. Lawrence Adkins.
In the year 1814 Rev. Henry B. Bascom was the minister on the circuit, and he frequently held services and classes of instruction at Spice Flat Cottage. During that year the first Methodist society, or church, was organized in the neighborhood, presumably at the home of Thomas A. Morris. The next minister on the circuit after the organization of the church was the able and eloquent Rev. John Dew, who appointed Thomas A. Morris as an assistant circuit rider. For many years after this local Methodist society was established, the Methodists continued to hold revival services at the homes of its members, where it was convenient for neighborhood gatherings. One of the places where such revivals were held was at the home of Robert Poar, on Poar's Hill where the Bradley family now live. For many years afterward one of the revivals held at this place was the subject of favorable comment among the older citizens of the community. The house in which it was held is one of the oldest in the valley, a stone from the chimney that formerly stood at the end of the house bears the date of October 7, 1829. The first Methodist church in the neighborhood was organized before the denomination was divided into the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, The site of the Bethesda Methodist Church was deeded to trustees for the Southern Church by the heirs of Thomas Maupin under date of May 6, 1839.
This valley had its share in the great Civil War, 1861 to 1865, and it did its part so fully that there was no appearance of cowards or slackers. Most of the young men of military age were enlisted in the Union or Confederate service. A number of them paid the extreme sacrifice on field of battle and never returned to recount their deeds of daring. Most of those who did return at the close of the war have since passed to the great beyond, and only a few remain like sentinels of a vanished army.
Soldiers from the neighborhood were engaged in battle from Gettysburg to Georgia and were enlisted under various commands. But little of the actual fighting was done in this section, but one interesting skirmish took place early in the war at Poar's Hill near Ona. In that fight many shots were fired, one soldier was wounded and afterward died from his wounds, and the neighborhood was thrown into such an excitement as had never been known within its limits. One excited citizen said that the bullets flew so thick that he could have swung a basket around his head and caught it full. Another interesting occurrence of the struggle was the capture for a few minutes of Captain John Harshbarger of the Union army by John W. Yates who was in the Confederate service. In the road just below the present gasoline plant, the latter came upon the former a few hundred yards in advance of his command, which greatly surprised him as he was unaware of the presence of a Confederate soldier in the neighborhood, and demanded and secured his horse and saber and escaped to his own company back in Dixie. The two had been neighbors and the best of friends, and after the war so remained through life. Some years ago the saber was returned to the son of Captain Harshbarger, who lives at Milton, a gift doubtless the more highly prized because of its varied associations and history.
One phase of that unfortunate struggle that divided this and other communities is worthy of mention as an example to this and future generations. Early in the war this section of Virginia passed into the control of the Union army. The fathers and grandfathers and their families of both the Union and Confederate sympathizers were of necessity left at home in the neighborhood, while the younger generation of military age fought in the ranks. Those of the older group who supported the Union, almost without exception, were steadfast in their friendships and always ready to protect their neighbors who sympathized with the Confederate cause. It is told of one elderly mother who refused to speak to her own son for a time, because he had taken a horse from a Confederate sympathizer with whom she had long held a feeling of cordial friendship.
A complete list of the Union and Confederate soldiers from this immediate section would be of interest, as would also an account of some of their more thrilling experiences. But such a narrative is impossible in a brief account like this, and its writing will need be referred to another writer and at another time.
No interest in the neighborhood, either past or present, has had so much of value as has that of the schools. From the days of the earliest settlements to the present the community has maintained some kind of a school, though not always its chief point of interest. There is no earlier record of the pioneer schools in the neighborhood than that furnished from the personal notes of Bishop Thomas A.Morris, who lived in the neighborhood from 1804 to 1816 and received his first schooling here in the days of the real pioneer school. Copying from his notes, his biographer says:
"The means of education were very limited at that early days throughout the western states and territories, and especially in the northwestern part of Virginia, where the Morris family resided. Teachers were few in number, and for the most part ill-qualified for their work; nor were the most competent, of them in very much demand, for many of the early settlers of that wild region cared little for books, so they could but obtain plenty of fresh land, good range for their stock, and an abundance of game. Still there were schools, not continuing, however, longer than one-quarter of the year, and that always in the winter, when boys could best be spared from the farm. By such limited means, the children of that day on the frontier, obtained what little knowledge of books they possessed; nor was it generally deemed important that the course of study be very extensive or thorough. To master Dilworth's Speller, learn to read the New Testament, cypher to the "rule of three", and write a fair round hand, was regarded as quite an accomplished education and ample for all the practical purposes of life. This curriculum Thomas had passed through creditably by the time he reached his eighteenth year. About that time (1812) he became a member of the first grammar class ever organized in Cabell County. It was taught by William Paine, a native of England, a thoroughly competent teacher, and an earnest Methodist. This worthy old gentleman, besides performing his professional duties, gave his pupils many sound moral lessons, and though gathered to his fathers long years ago, his memory is cherished fondly by all his surviving students".
Thus it is observed that there were schools in the neighborhood some time prior to the year 1812. This mention of William Paine, the grandfather of our former county superintendent of schools, Charles Paine, is of interest to many Cabell County residents.
The first schools taught in this section held forth in some vacant house, often one no longer deemed fit for a dwelling. Later a community school house was built by private donation, or by the men of the neighborhood joining in a working frolic and building it themselves. The first community school building in the Ona neighborhood stood on the south side of the paved road, on the farm now owned by Harry Chapman. Some of the best schools of the earlier day were taught in that building. The second community school building was built at Howell's Mill on the site now occupied by James R. Sanders's barn. The village around the mill was then becoming quite a business center for this section, and besides being a school house, it answered for a gathering place for all kinds community interests. The first public schools in the neighborhood were taught in that building, and the locality became rather widely noted as a school and social center. That house was removed some years ago and rebuilt as a residence at the Milo Jackson place near Big Cabell Creek. At Ona two public school houses have been built since, the first of one room on the roadside in front of J. A. Everett's home, the other the present school building of three rooms on the top of Poar's Hill in front of the Bradley home.
At Malcolm Spring two school buildings have stood on the present site, the first a log building which was used for a community school before the public school system want into effect and later for public schools, and the second the building now used for the public schools.
The Turner school in Union District has occupied three buildings, the first a log building located on the ridge between Sheff's Branch and Lower Creek, the other two both located in the low gap at the northern line of the Price farm. All these buildings were for public school use.
The Fairview, or Wilson school, has occupied two buildings, the first a log building located on the old road about a half-mile north of the present school building, and the other the house now in use. Both were for public school use.
The Watson school has occupied three houses, the first two being built on the lot now owned by Albert Swan, and the third the house now in use, which was built a few years ago on the Cyrus Creek road. The first of the three buildings was in use before the Civil War as a community school.
Following the early school taught by William Paine, the next of which there is any record was taught by Thomas A. Morris somewhere near Spice Flat Cottage, perhaps in the winter of 1814-15. The contract called for a term of six months, but after the school was taught for three months, the building in which it was being taught burned down and the term was not completed.
From the year 1800 up to the time the public school system went into effect near the close of the Civil War, it seems that some kind of pay or subscription school was conducted in the neighborhood every year. The lengths of the terms varied according to conditions that prevailed in the public mind or the ability to pay the cost. The names of the teachers and the places where they taught are fairly well preserved in the neighborhood tradition, but the exact order in which they were taught is uncertain. No record of those schools taught under private neighborhood contracts has been preserved.
At an early date John McGinnis taught several terms at different places in the neighborhood. In 1858 he was teaching in Spice Flat Cottage, which had then been abandoned as a residence.
Not many years later, perhaps in the early forties, Robert Stewart, formerly of Bath County, moved to the neighborhood and taught several terms in the community school building on the south side of the present paved road near Ona.
Following Mr. Stewart, Porter Wallace of Botetourte County taught for several years in the same building. He was an excellent teacher, a refined gentleman after the type of that day, and was highly esteemed by all classes of society. He was living in the neighborhood and teaching in 1852. Not a few of the boys of that day were named Porter W. in honor of the esteemed teacher.
During that period of education in this section, and especially during Mr. Wallace's years of service as teacher, so many pupils attended school and so many branches of study were taught that it became necessary to have some kind of an assistant in order to get through with the daily program of recitations. To take care of that situation, as well as to reduce the costs of conducting the school and afford some pupil free tuition, a sort of monitorial system was adopted, not unlike the Lancaster-Bell system so widely heralded at an early date in New England schools. The monitor system and the modern social center idea were then in vogue in this section, without getting the broad advertisement given to the same practices farther north. Mr. C. A, Rece, now in his eighty-fourth year, a resident of Huntington, says he was taught to read by Elizabeth Yates, daughter of William P. Yates, who was the monitor assistant in Porter Wallace's school near Ona.
Mr. Cook, a Welchman of scholarly ability, taught at an early day in a house that stood on the present Strengk farm near Blue Sulphur.
Miss Ann Howard, who frequently contributed original productions written in verse for local social center gatherings, taught one or more private schools in a house that stood on the McCorkle farm near Howell's Mill.
Miss Lou Moore taught for a time in the community school building at Howell's Mill.
Edward. Vertigan taught two terms in the neighborhood, the first near Blue Sulphur and the second in a building that stood on the Maupin farm near Bethesda church.
James Nouning, a near relative of Mrs. Chapman W. Maupin, taught one term on Poar's Hill in a building that stood at the forks of the road in the present Bradley orchard. That building was used as a school building for a time after the first community building south of the paved road was destroyed by fire.
John Simpson, a just but stern disciplinarian, as interpreted in his day, taught for a time on Poar's Hill and later in the community building at Howell's Mill.
Just prior to the Civil War, and again after that war when he returned from serving in the Confederate army, Joseph A. Buckner taught several terms in the community. His first school was taught near Bethesda church, and the others in the community building at Howell's Mill. At the latter place he married Olga Handley, followed the vocation of farming as well as teaching, and took an active part in social affairs in the neighborhood for a number of years till he moved to Carroll County, Missouri.
During the Civil War, Jonathan Switzer, formerly of Botetourte County, taught in the community building at Howell's Mill. He was a well educated man, a splendid leader in the community, and had the power of making friends of all in his large circle of acquaintances. Among the older citizens in the neighborhood he is still spoken of in terms of highest commendation.
In naming these early teachers of the days before the Civil War, all of whom represented the best in social and moral ideals of the day, we should name also the leaders in the community who largely controlled the selection of their teachers. It would be impossible to give a complete list of those who controlled the educational destinies of the youth at that time, but we would beg the privilege of presenting the names of a few who were recognized as leaders among their fellow citizens. Among them were James Poteet and James O. Cox, early general merchants at Howell's Mill; Asa L. Wilson, a capable and active church and social leader in all the affairs of the neighborhood at an early date and down to a few years ago; Charles W. Handley, a successful farmer and early magistrate in the district court; James T. Herndon, a man of quiet bearing, but one of the safest counsels among his neighbors; and William and Daniel Love, both of the best type of citizenship ever represented in the county. Others fully as worthy could be named, but the list cannot be extended further in this sketch.
When West Virginia was severed from the Mother State in 1865, one of the wisest provisions of her constitution was that providing for a general system of free education. During the remaining years of the Civil War, and for some time after its close, the establishment of the new educational system was of necessity slow. Schools both public and private were conducted in the neighborhood for a time with a varied success. But from the start the public generally received the new public school idea with favor, and within a few years the whole community centered its school interest around the public schools.
The first public school teacher in this immediate neighborhood was George Bryant, a former Confederate soldier who taught at several different places during his years of service as a teacher. His first school was taught at Howell's Mill. It is related of him that, while his teaching was generally of a high order, he was decidedly at variance with the accounts then given in the chapters of history on the recent Civil War. His terms of disapproval are said to have been as forceful as they were original.
At Blue Sulphur, Miss Agnes Dundas, now Mrs. J. D. Sedinger of Huntington, was among the first public school teachers. She is remembered by her pupils for her efficiency, gentleness, and hopefulness displayed in that time of new adjustments in the old neighborhood.
Other teachers in the public schools in the community of the earlier period were Joseph A. Buckner, Calvary A. Morrison, Daniel L. Duncan, Chester Cheesman, Edward S. Doolittle, J. F. Herndon, Henry Childers, Thomas Lackland, Thomas B. Summers, Edward Summers, T. West Peyton, Sr., Edward Gardner, John Black, Henry Lambert, William Bramlett, and the Misses Sallie and Fanny Morris.
The list of public school teachers who have taught in the neighborhood in the more recent period is not available to the writer, and memory does not have the assistance of close association with that period.
Other events connected with the neighborhood's successes, tragedies, and misfortunes might be recorded and prove of interest to the local reader. It is to be hoped that some day a full and complete history of this old neighborhood will be written and published. The suggestion of it is all that can be undertaken in this account, already grown too long for the allotted time for its reading on this occasion.
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