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West Virginia Archives & History

History Of Walkersville Community

Covered bridge at Walkersville
Covered bridge at Walkersville
Walkersville is situated in the central part of the Collins Settlement district in Lewis county, and was founded in 1840 by Wm. Bennett, Jr. It has a population of about two hundred at the present time. In the village there are two general stores, one hardware and furniture store, two feed stores (one of which is a co-operative store incorporated at $10,000), one blacksmith and machine shop, two garages, one harness and saddle shop, two barber shops, one grist and planing mill, one high school building costing $60,000, one two-room public school building, and about fifty dwellings.

The village of Walkersville is on the Weston and Webster Springs road and is a central point for the whole upper end of Collins Settlement district.

The first permanent settlement made in what is now within this district was made by John Collins from whom the

district gets its name. This settlement was made about 1787 on a tract of land granted to Mr. Collins by Col. George Jackson, which was located near and includes the present site of the village of Jacksonville. Collins was followed three years later by Wm. Shoulders who settled near by Collins on what is now known as the Big Bend Bottom, one-half mile south of Jacksonville. Mr. Shoulders died in 1808 and was the first person to be buried at the Long Point Cemetery, near Walkersville. Little, if anything is known of any of the descendants of either Collins or Shoulders.

The next settler was Wm. Bennett, who came from Pendleton County, Virginia, now West Virginia, in the year 1800, and settled near the mouth of the run which now bears his name. This run is just a half mile north of Walkersville. Mr. Bennett secured a patent for 2,800 acres of land adjacent to and including the present site of the village of Walkersville. The original patent for this grant of land is still kept. It is written on parchment and is in a fair state of preservation. It is in the possession of the family of the late Wm. Sprigg.

Mr. Bennett reared a large family of children, twelve in number, all of whom married and reared families. Rachel, the eldest, was born in 1796. She married David Alkire. They settled on what is now known as the Bodkin Place on Little Kanawha River. Their descendants in West Virginia, among whom are many of the Berrys of Braxton County. David, the second child, was born in 1798. He married Jane Stuart. They settled near the present site of Frenchton. Their descendants are chiefly residents of West Virginia, among whom are the Carters and Crickards of Randolph county. The third child, Phoebe, was born in 1800. Phoebe married James Keith and they settled near Jacksonville. Their descendants are chiefly in Illinois and Iowa. James, the fourth child, was born in 1802. He married Matilda Clark whose grandfather, Abram Clark, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Their descendants are in Iowa, California, and West Virginia; the late Edward Bennett of Weston was one of the children. Margaret, born in 1804, married Robert McCray. They settled en the present site of Cleveland, West Virginia. Their descendants are principally in Missouri and West Virginia. Joseph who was born in 1805 married Mary Coleman and settled on the waters of Glady Fork, a branch of the Little Kanawha River, where his youngest son of a later marriage, Robert A. Bennett, now lives. David, a son of the first wife lives adjoining Robert. Joseph's twin sister, Hannah, married John Anderson. They settled near the present site of Hedding Chapel, two miles above Walkersville. Their only living child, Mrs. Margaret Feltner, now lives in Walkersville. Elizabeth was born in 1807. She married James D. Sprigg. They also settled on Bennett's Run near the site of the original settlement made by Elizabeth's father, Wm. Bennett. Their descendants are mostly in Lewis county, West Virginia and Page county, Iowa. William, Jr., born in 1808, married Jane Pricketts. They built and lived in the first house on the present site of Walkersville. J. Lorentz Bennett is the only living descendant of their family. In 1810 Rebecca was born. She married Fletcher Holt and they settled in Gilmer County. West Virginia. Very little is known of their descendants. Abigail was born in 1812, and married Matthew Holt. Their children are still living in West Virginia. Dr. M. S. Holt of Weston, Margaret Holt, Laura A. Doyle, and Mrs. Whiting of Glenville, and Mrs. J. S. Withers of Buckhannon are children of this union. Jonathan, the youngest, was born in 1814. He married Margaret Jackson and settled in Weston. Their descendants are well known in Lewis county, among whom were the late W. G. and Louis Bennett of Weston. Still living in Weston are Hunter M. Bennett and Mrs. George I. Keener, grandchildren of Jonathan and Margaret Bennett. Mrs. Fleming Howell and Mrs. Mary Bowie were also children of this union that were well known in the community. Other grandchildren of note are Mrs. Johnson McKinley of Wheeling, Mrs. Robert Crane [should be Crain] of Baltimore, Maryland, and Miss Margaret Howell of Oakland, Maryland, and Brannon Bennett of Walkersville who lives in the house built by Wm. Bennett, Sr. in 1810.

Mrs. Howell will be gratefully remembered by the people of the district as the donor of the site and the piano for the district high school.

Since Walkersville has always been considered the geographical center of the district a short sketch of its origin, name, former inhabitants, and growth seems appropriate. As we have seen earlier in this sketch, Wm. Bennett, Jr., was the first settler on the present site of Walkersville. He erected his house near the site of the present Southern Methodist Church in 1840. A few years prior to this, probably about 1835, Wm. Bennett, Sr., erected a grist mill at a point now known as the Red Bridge, one mile south of Walkersville. Soon after this a post office was established and called Bennett's Mills. William Bennett, Jr. was appointed Post Master. This office supplied a section of country with in a radius of 15 miles. Each neighborhood on mail days which were every other Saturday delegated someone to go in and bring out the mail for that section. The one selected usually made the trip on foot. Living in the vicinity of Walkersville was a very unique character named Joe Barnett, who was of a lazy shiftless ne'er-do-well disposition and whose chief vocation was hunting, fishing, and drinking whiskey. Often at the office he would take a parcel of mail in a buckskin knapsack and delivered it in spite of his shiftlessness. He was perfectly honest and trust worthy. One morning Joe was met near the head of Bennett's run with a parcel of mall. Joe was walking fast and someone in the party made the remark, "Joe you are some walker" Joe answered, "Yes, By The Eternal I'm a Walker. From Walkersville". The name stuck and in the course of a few months the name of the Post Office was changed to Walkersville. From this incident and nothing else did Walkersville take its name.

One anecdote concerning "Shiftless" Joe Barnett, as he was called, may not be out of place. Aunt Betsy, his wife, who was an industrious, thrifty old soul, had by dint of much "Senging" (Ginseng) and other work saved enough money to buy "Mep", a son of some ten years of age, a pair of shoes. She was very busy one Saturday and against her better judgment placed her small sum of money in Joe's hands and started him to Jack Mills store for the long coveted pair of shoes. Now Jack sold whiskey as well as shoes and as the whiskey was more to Joe's taste he proceeded to get "gloriously" drunk in which condition he arrived home some time that night without money or shoes either. Aunt Betsy immediately proceeded to vigorously "haul him over the coals". When suddenly jerking off his buckskin hunting shirt he threw it on the floor and shouting "By the eternal, Betsy will this stop you?" grabbed his moccasin pattern off the wall and cut "Mep" a pair of moccasins from the back of the hunting shirt, taking practically all the back of the shirt. Aunt Betsy soon afterward patched the holes in Joe's shirt with red Linsey and as the shirt was of buckskin color (light yellow) the red patches were a glaring contrast. My father has told me many times that Joe with that patched hunting shirt on was the darndest looking thing he ever saw.

Radiating from the central point to the east we find that Richard Johnson and John Bennett were among the earliest settlers on Sand Fork a branch of West Fork, possibly about the year 1800 many of their descendants live in that section at the present time, to the west we find Abram Bennett settling on what is now known as Abram's Run and from whom the run was named. Abram was a native of Pendleton county, Virginia, now West Virginia, and a brother to Wm. Bennett, Sr. of Walkersville and John Bennett of Sand Fork. Abram was soon followed by the Hefners from Pocahontas County who settled on what is now called the Sapp farm. The Meek's were also early settlers on the same run. To the north of Walkersville. John and Robert Crawford were early settlers, John settled on the river at what is now known as the McGee farm about 1840. Robert Crawford settled a short distance below John near the mouth of Cap Run. The correct name of which is Indian Cap Run from the fact of an Indian Cap or war bonnet was found at or near the mouth of the run. Nothing is known of the descendants of John Crawford. Among Robert's descendants are his son, R. W. Crawford who resided for years at the old home but now lives on Abram's run, and Mrs. H. B. McDowell, and the late C. C. Reger, both of Cap run, and Dr. C. N. Roger of Baltimore all of whom are grandchildren. Other early settlers in that section were the Keiths, Camdens, Duvals, and Arnolds. Of the Keiths I have already spoken. The Camdens and Arnolds, are too well known to need any special mention. The Duvals while no less worthy did not stand out so prominently in public affairs. Joe G. Sims of Roanoke, West Virginia, and W. A. Sims and family of Walkersville are descendants of the Duvals. While south of Walkersville we find the Carpenters, Clothiers, Grimms, and Wilsons on Big run, Aaron Bennett and Bright Watson on Middle run, John Anderson at the mouth of Leather Bark run, his brother James farther up the run, and still farther up the creek Hesekiah Bennett, but little is known of the descendants of the Carpenters and Clothiers. Henry G. Harold of Pickens, West Virginia is a great grandson of the Carpenters. Samuel Wilson has many descendants in Collins Settlement District and throughout Lewis and Upshur counties, among whom are A. K., W. T., H. O., and J. A. Wilson. Gordon Talbott, the late Charles W. Talbott and their families an many others prominently Identified with the affairs of their communities. Of Bright Watson descendants we will mention Loudin Watson and family of Crawford, West Virginia, the family of the late Wid Watson, Aaron Bennett's descendants, Jeff and William Bennett and their families, the family of the late Thad Pritt of Knawl, West Virginia, and the Sponaugle family on Fall run in Braxton county. John Andersen's descendants include Mrs. Margaret Feltner of Walkersville, who is the sole surviving member of the immediate family of John and Hannah Bennett Anderson. There are numerous grand and great grandchildren among whom are Mrs. A. Bruce Smith and family; Mrs. Ote Wilson and family; Mrs. Clark Sprigg and family; all of Walkersville. J. E. Anderson and family of Delaware, Ohio, and numerous others including the Ricketts family of Ohio and Illinois, New York and Wyoming. L. D. Anderson of Walkersville and Mrs. Jimima Ward are the only living members of the family of James and Sarah Siron Anderson, but as in the case of John Anderson many grand and great grandchildren survive him. Many of whom have attained prominence in the affairs of the church and state. Deserving special mention are Rev. C. Fred Anderson, superintendent of the Wheeling District, West Virginia, M. E. Conference, the late L. C. Anderson, prominent lawyer and legislator, Rev. Howard Anderson of Oswego, N. Y., Rev. W. E. Anderson of Fitchburg, Mass., and many others including the Wards, Wingraves, Galfords, and Straders, Hezekiah Bennett. Levi Bennett is the only living member of the immediate family of Hezekiah. Among the grand children may be mentioned John L. of Ireland, West Virginia, Chas. L. of Huntington, West Virginia, Geo.H. of Walkersville, and Prof. L. E. Bennett of Fort Pierce, Florida. L. E. Bennett is a graduate of West Virginia University and a noted educator.

Going on south we next come to the Chidesters, Bouses and Kileys. Phineas Chidester descendants reside principally in Lewis and Upshur counties, one son Preston lives in Quincy, Illinois. The Chidester family includes the Harpers, Crawfords, and others. The family of Jessie Bouse is extinct. Micheal Kiley had a daughter Mary who married Enoch J. Cunningham and his descendants are principally living in Collins Settlement District. They include Wm. J., Edward M., and C. F. Cunningham and Mrs. Etta Halbert and their families. Ireland is next in order and we find that Andrew Wilson was the first settler there, and because he was of Irish lineage the community was called Ireland in his honor. Andrew Wilson had one daughter Matilda, who married Michael Kiley, whose daughter Mary married Enoch Cunningham, previously noted. Andrew Wilson sold his farm to some of the Clarks who in turn sold to Wm. K. Wilson son of Samuel Wilson whom with his descendants has already been mentioned. Next comes Nathan Reger, two sons of whom N. D. and N. F. Reger are residents of the District. This brings us over the divide onto the waters of Little Kanawha where we find James McCray a pioneer resident of that section. Many of his descendants still live thereabouts one of whom is Minor H. McCray of Ireland. Next we find James Pickens a pioneer settler in what is now known as the Duffy neighborhood and his numerous descendants are scattered all through that section. A few of the pioneer residents of Walkersville were Mack Mills, Wm. Madison, James Vicany, Murray Bruffy, Cain Roby, Ailso Byrd, Wm. Brown, Christopher Simons, Phil A. Lorentz, Samuel Sprigg, A. D. Law, Wm. Pierson, Nathan Bennett, John Calrider, and John S. Anderson all whom with the exception of Wm. Brown and Christopher Simons have passed into the great beyond. Christopher Simons lives at Crawford, West Virginia and Wm. Brown at Whiting, Kansas.

George L. Post, L. D. Anderson, Wm. D. and James Anderson, Thos. Dennison, Anderson Dennison, Captain Geo. Davisson, S. E. Sprigg, Samuel Hogsett, Selby Sapp, John S. Hall, H. H. Rittenhouse, Wm. Craig, Sr., Wm. Craig, Jr., Wm. Sprigg, Jas. J. Anderson, and Jas. H. Galford were all generally speaking, pioneers of Collins Settlement District.

John S. Hall was one of our leading educators of his day and Captain Davisson was a Captain in the Confederate Army and pioneer merchant in Collins Settlement District. All the rest mentioned were farmers and stockmen and with the exception of G. L. Post and L. D. Anderson have passed to their reward.

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