The French were the first white people to see the Ohio River. About the year 1669 La Salle discovered the river and descended it to the site of Louisville. By this discovery, France claimed "the said River Ohio and all those which empty themselves into it and all lands on both sides even to the source of said rivers."
On the "Beautiful Ohio" and its tributaries are twelve thousand miles of waterways on which passed the canoes of the Indians, the white trader, the hunter, and the settler. The only large river flowing from East to West, it was a great highway to Western settlement, and for the early settlers the only means of transportation to the markets of the South and West.
This great river basin, one of the richest regions in the world, was in possession of the French for ninety years. England claimed it and in 1754 these rival claims brought on the French and Indian war which lasted for nine years. The English won the war and at the treaty of Paris in 1763 France ceded to England all of "New France" east of the Mississippi River.
When this was begun men were slow to volunteer, and to encourage enlistment Governor Dinwiddee of Virginia set aside two hundred thousand acres of land on the Ohio to be given to the soldiers who enrolled for the war, one hundred thousand acres to be between the Little Kanawha and the Big Kanawha. A private soldier was to have four hundred acres, a captain nine thousand, and a field officer fifteen thousand acres.
It was fifty years after Governor Dinwiddee's proclamation before there was a permanent settlement on Washington Bottom. Within that half century the Ohio Valley was taken from France by England.
The American Revolution ended British rule in the Colonies and this republic was formed. Washington, a successful leader of the American people through all these troublesome years, will be known forever as "The Father of his Country." The backwoodsmen of Virginia and Pennsylvania drove the Indians from the Ohio Valley. One hundred and thirty years after the first settlement at Jamestown, the Virginia settlements extended from the Atlantic coast up the rivers to the foot of the Allegheny Mountains. From the mountains to the Ohio River was a great unbroken forest, and so far as was known, no white man had passed through it.
At this time, 1738, the colonial legislature of Virginia formed the county of Augusta. Its Western part included all of Virginia west of the mountains. No one knew its bounds. It was said to extend to the Western ocean or to the farthest bounds of the Dominion. In fact, it did extend from the Great Lakes on the north, to Tennessee on the south, and west to the Mississippi River.
In 1769, Botetourt county was formed from part of Augusta. Along the river it was from the Little Kanawha to the Great Kanawha. Lord Dunmore's grant to Washington for this bottom, dated December 15, 1772, is for 2,314 acres in Botetourt county.
The first county formed after the Declaration of Independence in 1776, was Monongalia. It extended to the Mississippi River. After the Revolutionary War in 1784, Harrison county was formed from the western part of Monongalia. Washington Bottom was in Harrison county.
In 1 798, Wood county was formed from the western part of Harrison county, and was then four times it's present size.
When white people first came into this part of the Valley, no Indian tribe lived here. The tribal home of the Delaware nation was on the upper Muskingum. The Shawnees lived on the Scioto and the Great Hocking, and Miamis on the two rivers of that name. The Wyandottes occupied the country near the lakes. These were the tribes that for more than forty years made war on the frontier and resisted settlement to the bitter end.
These tribes had traditions that at one time they had lived on the Ohio, but war parties of the Iroquois Confederacy, or the Six Nations, came down the river in fleets of canoes and drove them out.
Though lockouts signaled their corning from one high point of the hills to another along the river, using smoke clouds by day and fires by night, these warning signals were flashed for great distances in a very short time, but these forays from the North -were so frequent and destructive that the tribes were compelled to leave the country bordering on this great "War-way" and seek a country not so accessible to the foe.
They still used this section of the valley, however, as a hunting and fishing ground, and in 1770 Washington found their hunting camps and cabins along the river. On Washington Bottom their village sites can still be seen in the fields along the river.
From the lower side of the B. D. Stout farm to the upper end of the Bottom, across the farms of Stout, O. M. Kyle, and the old Edelen farm, the high second bottom comes near the river and overlooks it. For the whole distance, about one and a half miles, there is much evidence of Indian occupation. Below Lock No. 19, on the farms of Edna Lewis, S, B. Tallman, and Francis Keene—the latter owned by the heirs of Mrs. Jennie Keene McDougle—there is every indication of long continued settlement.
On the slopes of the cultivated land the farmer's plow turns out a human skeleton, or an eroding gulley exposes another to view; gruesome reminders of the time when these vanishing tribes occupied this land.
There are found many of the flint and stone weapons and implements of the warrior and the hunter, fragments of pottery, beads of cannel coal, and ornaments of stone. There are also stones supposed to have been used by medicine men for sorcery, or on ceremonial occasions and other unknown uses.
From the time when the Ohio River was first known to white men until Washington came to the valley a hundred years later, the country between the Little Kanawha and the Great Kanawha was an unknown region. It was Washington who gave us the first written description of the Bottom and the first mention of Blennerhassett Island.
It is pleasing to know that this Bottom was known to Washington by its first name. In a letter written to Thomas Freeman in 1785, he referred to it as the tract "commonly called and distinguished by the name of Washington Bottom."
After the Treaty of Paris there was a lull in the Indian Wars for several years. Washington and his fellow soldiers now prepared to locate their lands, but the King of England, George III, issued a proclamation on October 7, 1763, forbidding settlement. This proclamation said in part: "We do hereby forbid on pain of our displeasure, all our loving subjects from making any purchases or settlement whatever, or taking possession of any of the lands so reserved without our special leave or license."
In 1 768 Washington presented a petition to the Executive Council of Virginia setting forth the injustice in depriving the soldiers of these lands and praying that two hundred thousand acres on the Ohio be allotted for the division. The Council granted the petition and authorized the claimants to take the land in one tract or more, but not to exceed twenty surveys.
Captain William Crawford made the surveys and acted as Washington's agent for his Ohio lands until his tragic death in 1782. In that year he led an ill-prepared expedition against the Indians which ended in a disastrous retreat. He was captured by a party of Delawares and burned at the stake, where the village of Crawford is now located in Wyandotte county, Ohio.
In 1770 Washington came to the Ohio to look at the lands here. Accompanied by Dr. Craik, his friend and family physician, he came horseback to Fort Pitt. He described Pittsburgh as a collection of about twenty log cabins inhabited by Indian traders. He was joined here by Captain Crawford and a boy of Crawford's. At Fort Pitt, George Croghan, deputy Indian agent, found for him an interpreter, John Nicholson, and two Indians to act as guides.
On the 17th of October they started down the river and on the 27th came to Washington Bottom. Passing the Little Kanawha, they came to a creek on the west side and a cluster of islands afterwards. The creek is Davis' Creek, or Putnam's run, which puts into the Ohio nearly opposite the middle of Blennerhassett Island.
The cluster of Islands was the four which compose the Blennerhassett Island. Washington could not see this cluster until he reached the foot of the large island. Six or seven miles below the Kanawha he came to a creek putting in on the west side, which his Indian guides told him was the Little Hockhocking, which may be distinguished by having a large rock just at its mouth, on the north side. That rock is still there and for a long time was a support or abutment for the bridge over the Little Hocking.
Opposite to this creek he saw a bottom of "exceeding good land" and thought there might be two or three thousand acres of bottom and flat land together also that the lower end of the bottom is opposite to a small island of which little could be seen when the river was high.
This island is Newbury. Since Washington first saw it the floods in the Ohio have surged over Newbury for more than one hundred and fifty years and it is still a small uncultivated island.
He returned up the river from the Great Kanawha on November 8, left the canoe, and went afoot for the most of the day, and was making a close examination of the land both below and above the mouth of the Little Kanawha. He thought Washington Bottom was about seven miles long and very valuable if not liable to overflow, as some parts of it seemed to be low. He saw that the upper end of this bottom began at just such another place as the lower side. Up to date, 1932, no flood has reached any of the houses on Washington Bottom.
Probably but few residents of Washington Bottom have observed that the natural features at the upper end of this bottom are much the same as the lower part. At each place the high hills come abruptly to the river, each end is opposite an island, and at both a little run comes out of the hills.
After Washington returned to Mount Vernon he prepared to have the land surveyed the next summer. Crawford was instructed to select the best land and get as much tillable land as possible.
In June, 1 771, Crawford made the survey of Washington Bottom. The beginning was on the Ohio, three or four miles below the Little Kanawha, opposite a small island by the side of a large one. Following his instructions, Crawford changed the course of his lines three or four times to get as much tillable land as possible.
Today his lines are easily traced, except those up the river, five miles and one hundred and twenty poles, as the floods in the Ohio during one hundred and fifty years have greatly changed the shore line.
Lord Dunmore's grant to Washington for 2,314 acres in Botetourt county is dated December 15, 1772. In that year Crawford wrote to Washington that he was having to work hard to keep squatters from building their cabins on his land, and the only way to prevent it was to hire men to live on it.
In March, 1774, Valentine Crawford entered into an agreement with Washington to make improvements on the bottom, and Novem- ber 14, a little more than a month after the great battle at Point Pleasant, Colonel Crawford wrote to Washington: "We have built you a house on your land opposite the mouth of the Hocking and cleared about eight acres, cutting off all the small timber. My brother Valentine Crawford says if you go on improving your lands next sum- mer, he would do it for you as usual." Later Crawford wrote that the Indians had burned the house.
When the next summer came the Revolutionary War had begun. The British encouraged their Indian allies to lay in wait for boats on the Ohio and to raid the frontier settlements. As one war party came in with American scalps, prisoners and war plunder, another was sent out; thus keeping the border settlements in a continual state of alarm.
At this time the few settlers about the mouth of the Little Kanawha were compelled to leave their cabins and seek places of safety. The mouth of the Little Kanawha was a meeting place for Indian trails. Warriors' roads from the Scioto and Muskingum came to the site of Belpre. The Shawnee Trail went up the Kanawha from its mouth and clear across the state. The Inland Trail passed through the counties of Wood and Jackson, and on to the salt licks of the Great Kanawha. The River Trail was down the Ohio, passing through Washington Bottom and on to the mouth of the Scioto. Settlement near these "war paths" was extremely hazardous.
There were tomahawk claims here as early as 1 770 but no permanent settlement in Wood county until 1785.
This was a rich hunting ground. Bear, deer, and turkeys were found in great numbers and buffaloes were so plentiful that Colonel Brodhead, in command at Fort Pitt, in the fall of 1780 sent hunters to the Little Kanawha to kill buffaloes. The meat was boated up the river for use of his soldiers.
The first men to come into this forest land were hunters. They roamed the woods far beyond the cabins of the boldest settlers and often raced to the settlements and gave timely warning of the approach of war parties of Indians. They opened the way for settlement of the country.
Behind the hunter came the man with rifle and axe, who built a cabin and made a clearing. He lived mainly by hunting and when others settled near him, he felt crowded and abandoned his claim or sold it for whatever he could get and moved on into the wilderness. Of these men Lord Dunmore wrote to the Colonial Secretary in London: "They acquire no attachment to a place, but wandering about seems engrafted in their nature and it is a weakness incident to it, that they should imagine the lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled." These forest rovers were continually bringing stories to the settlements of better lands farther west and the more adventurous kept up a constant westward movement.
After the hunter and this restless settler, there came a very industrious class of men to take up settlement claims, clear the land and build permanent homes. These men were without means but preferred to face the dangers and hardships of life on the frontier, rather than become tenants on the eastern plantations which were worked mostly by slave labor.
The years from 1790 to 1795 were trying times for the few settlers here. The Indians would come down the Great Hocking river and in the rocky narrows below Washington Bottom, would fill their canoes with stones, sink them to the bottom of the river and leaving them there concealed, follow these trails to raid the settlements; returning with scalps, prisoners and perhaps plunder from the cabin homes, they would raise the sunken canoes and return to their towns the same way they came.
To have places of refuge and defense a number of forts and blockhouses were built on the Ohio along the border of Wood county. In 1785, Neal's Station was built near the south end of east street bridge at Parkersburg, and in 1792 Captain John James built a large blockhouse on Blennerhassett Island where about twenty families lived during the war. In 1785, Flinn's Station was built in an old Indian field of twenty acres, just above the mouth of Lee creek, and the same year a strong fort was built at Belleville.
On the North side, were Marietta's fort, "Campus Martius," and the Federal Fort Harmar. Belpre's fort, "Farmer's Castle," was about opposite the middle of Blennerhassett Island. There was a blockhouse above this fort and another a mile below. In 1792, two large blockhouses were built on the Newbury Bottom, opposite the lower end of Washington Bottom.
After a number of expeditions against the Indians had failed in spite of Washington's repeated caution to beware of ambuscade, he at last selected General Mad Anthony Wayne to lead a force against them. Wayne said: "I am the man you are looking for."
In 1793, Wayne began drilling his men at Mingo Bottom below Pittsburgh, and the next spring training them below Fort Washington (Cincinnati), avoiding the towns, he said, to keep his men away from whiskey. In the summer of 1 794, he marched into the Indian country, passed the scene of St. Clair's defeat and buried the remains of the soldiers massacred there two years before. When the Indians prepared to meet him, he suddenly changed his course and began cutting a road another way; at last Chief Little Turtle called a council and told his warriors that the "Long Knives" were led by a chief who never slept and advised them to make peace. But they demanded to be led into battle.
On August 20, Wayne found them ambushed in fallen timber, blown down by a great tornado. At the first Indian fire, Wayne ordered his regulars to charge with bayonets into the tree tops. They routed out the savages before the latter had a chance to reload their guns and fired into their backs as they fled. The horsemen, galloping to the right and left, met the savages as they came out of the fallen timber. They were whipped in forty minutes, and before half of Wayne's men could get into the fight. Then came the crashing blow which ended the Indian War forever in this part of the Ohio Valley- the burning of their houses and the destruction of their stores of grain and growing crops.
General Wayne, writing from the battlefield, said: "The very extensive and highly cultivated fields and gardens show the work of many hands. The margins of these beautiful rivers, the Miami of the lakes and the Auglaize, appear like one continuous village for a number of miles, both above and below this place, nor have I ever before beheld such immense fields of corn in any part of America from Canada to Florida."
Major Haskell, who was with the army, wrote to his friend at Belpre: "We have marched about sixty miles through the Indian villages and settlements and have destroyed several thousand acres of corn and all kinds of vegetables, burned their houses, tools, furniture, etc."
A hard winter came on. The Indians were without food or shelter and they suffered severely. Their few cattle died and even their dogs starved. They repeatedly sent emissaries to Wayne's camp, asking for peace. In the autumn of 1795, a treaty was made with the warring tribes. They agreed to bury the hatchet forever and to give up all prisoners held by them.
As the time for the treaty drew near, from all along the frontier, men tramped hundreds of miles through the forest to Wayne's camp to find relatives and friends who had been taken captive and to bring them home. There were joyful meetings and many sad disappointments for many of those carried away by the Indians were never heard from again.
In April, 1794, occurred the last raid in Wood county. Opposite the upper end of Blennerhassett Island, Mrs. Armstrong and two of her children were killed and scalped and three children were taken captive. These children were returned here after the treaty at Greeneville.
For forty-one long years there had been almost continuous warfare on the Virginia border, and in a sparsely settled country five thousand white people had been killed or carried into captivity.
In 1792, or possibly a year later, a family of "squatters" had built a cabin on the upper end of Washington Bottom. A settler on the Belpre side, while on the river bank one evening, heard the dreaded war-whoop and looking across saw the Indians murder the family and burn their cabin. This family perished here, victims of savage cruelty, and their names are lost to history,
In 1792, Moses Hewitt left Fort Neal to look for his horse which had strayed away. According to Mr. Hewitt, he was following the River Trail and at about the lower end of Washington Bottom, he met three Indians. He turned and ran for the fort but they laid down their guns, overtook him, and made him captive.
On the way to their tribe, they one day tied his hands together and bound them to a bush about three feet from the ground, then, lashing his feet together, bound them to another sapling about the same distance from the ground, the two saplings being about five or six feet apart. Leaving Hewitt bound in this way, they left camp to hunt. By great effort he released himself, escaped, and got back to the settlement at Wolf Creek Mills on the Muskingum, nearly starved and almost exhausted, having crawled on his hands and knees the last half mile to the settlement.
He said that for eleven days he had lived on a bird, that he had caught, and roots dug from the ground. These Indians met another party and from their talk, a few words of which Hewitt understood, and their gestures, he said that they had intended to burn him at the stake when they reached their villages.
In 1 791, Joshua Fleehart, a famous backwoods hunter and scout, and Benoni Huriburt left the fort at Belpre to hunt at the mouth of Little Hocking. While passing the narrow's above the creek, they heard turkeys gobbling on the hillside a short distance from the river. Huriburt wanted to land and shoot the game, but Fleehart, detecting something wrong with the sound, said it was made by Indians and persuaded Huriburt to stay in the canoe.
When they reached the mouth of the creek, and seeing no signs of Indians, Huriburt left the canoe and went up the bank into the woods. In a short time Fleehart heard the crack of a rifle which he knew was not Huriburt's gun. Pushing the canoe to the other shore of the creek, he ran up the bank and hid himself where he could see if anyone came to the place where he had landed. He heard Huriburt's little dog trying to defend the body of his master, but he was killed with a tomahawk,
After watching for nearly an hour, so close that he could hear the Indians talk, Fleehart ran to the canoe, paddled across to near the Virginia shore and hurried back to the fort.
A party of men went down the next morning and found Huriburt dead and scalped and the body of the little dog beside him.
The land on Washington Bottom owned by General George Washington was divided into two sections. The upper section being purchased from the ^Vashington heirs by George Lewis. This property was finally divided into a number of lovely farms. The first farm at the upper end was bought by Robert Edelen, who lived there for many years.
The early settlers built their homes on the rise back of the first or lower bottom, and as there were no springs on this land the river was the only water supply for household use and farm animals for some time. In the early days there was a road along the Bottom which followed the river bank. Later this road was discontinued and another was kept open from the upper end of the Bottom at Edeicn's to the Francis Lewis home near Lock nineteen. This road passed by the dwellings and is still open through the George Neal and Jonas Lewis farms.
The original Robert Edelen house, about 123 years old, still stands, although in a dilapidated condition. Many descendants of Robert Edelen are still living in Wood county. This property is now owned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. The Edelen Cemetery, located near the old home, is the oldest one on Washington Bottom.
The second farm was owned by Mr. and Mrs. John H. Harwood, who with their family lived there for many years. The old home, which is about 123 years old, is located close to the bank where they have a wonderful view of the beautiful Ohio River.
It is still of interest to many of the relatives who like to come back and look over the old place. The house is now occupied by Milton Kyle, who owns this property.
In 1811, Col. Francis Keene bought two hundred acres of land and sold it to Lewis Neale, son of George and Sarah Lewis Neale. He built a brick residence, a mansion in its day, with brick burned on the farm.
In 1865 this farm was bought by D. B. McMechen and occupied by his son, J. T. McMechen (member of the State Legislature), who, with his family, meant much to this community. Mrs. Ruby McMechen Munchmeyer, the last member of this family, resides on Washington Bottom at present.
In 1921 this beautiful old home, situated on the Ohio River where one has a wonderful view of Blennerhassett Island, became the property of B. D. and 0. J. Stout. In remodeling the old house, the beautiful woodwork, which stands out as such a wonderful piece of workmanship, was preserved. The stone doorstep, moved from the Blennerhassett Mansion by Lewis Neale when he built the house and placed at the front, has been changed to the east side to preserve it. The old stone-walled well, used so much in those days, is still in use and has an endless supply of water.
The George Neale house was located just in front of what is known as the Captain E. B. Cooper place, now owned by C. R. Rector. In June, 1932, Mr. Rector found a well preserved door latch from the old Neale home. He also has a quaint old candle-stick from this home.
On the Rector farm stands the last slave cabin on Washington Bottom. It was the home of Ab Wilson, a slave owned by George Neale. Ab said that he grubbed out the first bush in the primeval forest on this farm to clear a space for the George Neale house. The first field cleared was between the house and river. This was set in fruit trees. The last apple tree was removed about forty years ago. 1892.
The old barn standing on the place has the original double threshing floor, and is fastened together with wooden pins.
The well-known home of Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Rector, located just below the Cooper-Rector place was bought by Mrs. Rector's father, Hon. John Stout (State Senator). Mrs. Rector and her brother. Captain B. D. Stout, are the last members of the family living on Washington Bottom.
Mr. Rector has in his possession the minutes of the first Quarterly Conference of the Washington Church, which held its one-hundredth anniversary in 1931. He expects to present this paper to the church after he has had it framed in the wood from the "old black walnut fence rails" which have weathered the storms on his farm for more than a hundred years.
The land owned by Jonas, William, and Frances Lewis has been cut up into a number of farms which are now owned by: Mrs. W. E. Tracewell, Mrs. H. H. Knight, Olvin McDougle, Mrs. Bernice Moss, and Will, Fred, and Philip Moellendick.
William Lewis was the first of the settlers to arrive at Washington Bottom. He moved into an old log cabin in the clearing made by the Crawfords, more than thirty years before. The cabin was probably built by a squatter, as Colonel Crawford wrote to Washington that the Indians had burned the first one built there.
Later we find the home of William Lewis, the house is now gone but the old chimney still stands. Oliver Perry Lewis was born in this house, August 29, 1850. His father, Francis Keene Lewis, born January 23, 1807, the grandfather of Miss Edna Lewis, was the first white child born on Washington Bottom. He died May 12, 1862, and is buried in the well-kept Lewis Cemetery near the old home which is now owned by Philip Moellendick. Miss Edna Lewis is the last one of the name owning a farm in this locality.
In the old barn which stands on the Oliver McDougle farm, on a big timber over the wide door, are the letters "F. K. L." (Francis Keene Lewis), deep and neatly cut with a carpenter's chisel. In possession of Olvin McDougle are two old reap hooks; carved on the handle of one are the letters "F. K. L.," and on the other is "O. P. L." (Oliver Perry Lewis), no doubt the favorite reaping hooks of the owners.
Standing on the Philip Moellendick farm and in use at this time as a corn crib, is one of the first school houses built on Washington Bottom; the old door casing showing it had been cut or hewn out. This building was never used as a free school.
The Mound Builders once occupied this section of the Ohio Valley. A mound, on the Philip Moellendick place near the middle of Washington Bottom, which had a number of oak trees growling on it, was destroyed to make a fill at Lock 19, on the Ohio River. Several human skeletons and some copper and stone ornaments were found in it. C. R. Rector, has, among his many Indian relics found on Washington Bottom, an amulet, or neck ornament, found in this mound. One can hardly imagine Indians roaming over this territory.
Lock 19 is located on the old Francis Lewis place. It was completed October 16, 1916. It is just below Blennerhassett Island, in one of the most beautiful spots on the Ohio River, It has an average of one thousand, four hundred and sixty (1460) lockages a year and gives employment to twelve men. D. M. Lawson, the present Lock Master, has filled this position for more than fourteen years.
Francis Keene Lewis inherited from the K.eene estate the lands that are the farms of Mrs. James Watson, George Watson, Miss Edna Lewis, and S. B. Tallman. Mr. Lewis was the largest land owner on Washington Bottom.
George Stout built the house where Mrs. James Watson now lives. It was on this farm, near the George Watson home, that the old grist mill stood, owned and run by Mr. Stout.
On the Oliver Perry Lewis farm, his wife, Mrs. Mary Lewis, aged eighty-six, and daughter, Edna Lewis, now reside. Much valuable land from this farm has caved into the river in recent years.
A very large and successful dairy is operated on the farm formerly owned by A. A. McDougle, now owned and operated by S. B. Tallman.
Another place of antiquity is the home now owned and occupied by Frank McDougle and family, Mrs. Alice Rector, and Mrs. Margaret Keever, heirs of Francis Marshall Keene. The home, one part of which is logs, with its quaint six-pane narrow doors, and unusual weather-boarding, stands as one among the oldest homes in Washington Community. It was on this farm that "Uncle Tom" and "Aunt Caroline" Beaver (colored) lived, Mr. Keene having given them three acres of land on the hill, on which they built their log cabin home.
Just below the McDougle farm, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Walker built a very nice brick home. They lived in this home for many years and were well-known for their hospitality. The house was destroyed by fire, thirty-eight years ago. Mrs. Rose Hickle's home now stands on the same site. The W. A. Boso home was also owned and occupied by Mr. Walker. Walker's Landing on the Ohio River was a noted shipping place for all the surrounding country and a receiving point as well. The Walker relatives like to come back and go over the old home place. The old barn was destroyed by fire in 1932.
The William Munchmeyer property, where he and his family now reside, was once a part of the A. A. McDougle tract. The large mound on this farm is believed to have been built by the Mound Builders.
The original William Coffer estate now embraces thirteen farms, owned and occupied by the present owners: Mrs, Mary McKibben, Charles Burd, James Butcher, Mrs. R. C. Massey, Alex Boso, J. M. Boso, Benjamin Sams, Edward Dugan, C. W. Butcher, Nickolas Morey, Pearl Miracle, Mrs. George Butcher, and James McKibben.
The old Coffer residence, known far and wide for the hospitality of its owners, Mr. and Mrs. George Coffer, familiarly called, "Aunt Jane" and "Uncle George," located on the Mrs. Mary McKibben farm, is in good repair and is now occupied by the present owner and her daughter, Mrs. Ben Butcher, and her family. Farther toward the river on the same farm are two Indian Mounds that are keeping their secrets for future generations to explore.
On the farm now owned by C. W. Butcher and on the site of the present residence, there used to be an old log cabin where old "Aunt Laster" (colored), held sway. She was a relic of pre-war days and famous for her cooking and hospitality, especially the former. Near this place, under a gigantic elm tree, a famous spring has quenched the thirst of man and beast with an inexhaustible supply of clear, cold water since time began.
In 1850, two brothers, Henry and Louis Munchmeyer, and a cousin, William Munchmeyer, bought 685 acres of land from Lewis Nea.le and Elizabeth Neale, a descendant of George Lewis. These farms are situated on the lower end of Washington Bottom, on the opposite side of the Ohio River from Newbury Bottom.
From the Munchmeyer, Bigelow, and Meldahl homes there is a very beautiful view of the Ohio River and Newbury Island.
This tract of 685 acres now has ten owners and that many dwelling houses. The present owners are: Misses Margaret and Lily Meldahl, Mrs. Eleanor Munchmeyer Bigelow, Powell Kruger, S. E. Spencer, B. Smith, Mrs. Clara Burd Smith, John Moore, Jeremiah Spencer, and Isaac Staats.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which runs through Washington Bottom from north to south, built in 1883, enhances the value of these farms, for a railroad station was located on a farm of this tract. The station was named "Meldahl" for the family by that name.
Two houses on this land are owned and occupied by descendants of the original owners, one having the same name, Walter Louis Munchmeyer.
The Meldahl farm was the home of Captain Tony Meldahl, a popular Ohio River pilot.
Among the other nice farms on Washington Bottom, and that had deep wells, walled with rocks, using a windlass with the "Old Oaken Bucket," were the farms made from the Munchmeyer purchase.
About the year 1800, when the settlers felt secure from Indian raids and for several years after, great numbers of people from east of the mountains came seeking homes in Wood county.
At this time one of the greatest revivals in the history of the Methodist Church swept over the country, reaching the most remote settlements.
"The Groves were God's first Temples," and now again meetings were in the groves, the emigrants camped in their wagons, travelers halted there and thus camp meetings were inaugurated. The people in Wood county grouped themselves for religious worship, and as soon as the first settlers at Washington Bottom were well established in their new homes, they took an active part in this church work. The circuit organized covered a large territory, extending down the Ohio to Ravenswood, up the river to Pleasants county, and up the Little Kanawha River to Burning Springs.
The first meetings were held in the log cabins of the members or, a little later, in the widely separated log school houses. In time, the congregations grew in number and there was great need for church houses. The minutes of the fourth Quarterly Conference meeting in 1830, also for the meeting in 1831, are preserved.
In 1 830, the meeting was at Richard Lee's. Leroy Swomstadt was presiding elder and David Creel of Washington Bottom was secretary. "On motion of Bro. Powder, a committee of three (to-wit) Frederic Armine, John Low, and Abel Syoc, were appointed to form an estimate of the amount necessary to build a good meeting house in Muses Bottom," also "On motion of Bro. J. H. Powder, a committee of three (to-wit) Lewis Neale, William Neale, and George Neale, Jr., were appointed to ascertain the amount necessary to build a good and sufficient meeting house on Washington Bottom, and that they report to the next Quarterly Conference whether three-fourths of the amount necessary be raised and secured before commencing the work as required by the discipline."
The fourth Quarterly Conference was held at Washington Bottom, July 11, 1831, with Robert O. Spencer as presiding elder. A report in regard to building a church at Washington Bottom was made and accepted, two-thirds of the money being subscribed, they were authorized to commence the building.
Lewis Neale gave the church lot, the bricks were burned on his farm, and the house built. Daniel Bartlett (great-grandfather of Mrs. Gladys Bartlett Moellendick), a pioneer settler below the Little Kanawha, built the wood part of the church, and the old pews still staunch and solid after a hundred years are a fitting monument to his thorough workmanship.
Reece Wolfe was the first preacher in the new house. The following list of thirty-one preachers who followed after Rev. Wolfe may not be complete and their initials or first names are not remembered. Rev. Briscoe was on the circuit just before and during the War between the states. He lived in the parsonage, a log building, at Mineral Wells. After Briscoe came Fox, Williamson, Downtain, Hays Williams, Crooks, Cook, Burns, Shear, Lambert, Simpson, Bud Smith, Bush, Bowles, Tyree, Surgeon, Moss, Dowell, Slaughter, Johnson, Atkinson, Lambert, Roush, Coberly, King, Tolbert, Withrow, Harrison, McClung, Goff, and at this time the church is in a flourishing condition with Rev. J. D. Franklin, preacher.
All down through the years the church has been the home of the Sunday school, with many sincere superintendents: Benjamin Edelen, Reezin Barnes, J. W. Stout, W. P. Maddox, William Farrar, B. Amiss, Milton Kyle, A. T. McMurray, John Bartlett, George Ashby, George Coffer, E-lzie Colvin, Mrs, C. R. Rector, Mrs. D. M. Lawson, and Mrs. J. M. Boso.
The Sunday school is now the heart of the community and is far- reaching in its influence.
On February 25, 1854, Lewis Neale and Elizabeth, his wife, deeded the church lot, in size 60 by 80 feet, to George Neale, Jr., Thomas Maddox, and John Kincheloe, trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The consideration was their love and attachment and membership in said church and further consideration of one dollar, cash in hand paid.
On July 20, 1855, Lewis Neale sold his two-hundred-acre farm on Washington Bottom for ten thousand dollars to Alexander Hadden of Wheeling, Virginia, and early in April 1856, moved by steamboat to the Missouri River Valley in the state of Missouri.
In the years between 1840 and 1850, Enoch Rector, an early Baptist preacher, had frequent appointments to preach at Washington Bottom at the home of "Esq. Edelen" (Robert Edelen), and at the residence of John H. Harwood.
The church was used for summer school in 1866 and 1867 and many of our people still have happy memories of it.
The first "Select" school was located on the Meldahl Farm, near the southern boundary of Washington Bottom, in an old frame building which was bought of the Neale family.
The first teacher was Miss Nellie Lathrop who "boarded 'round," receiving a salary of $25 per month. She was succeeded by Miss Vesta Guthrie, from Newbury Bottom, who taught a number of years and who in turn, was followed by Mr. Williams; all capable teachers.
Another "pay school" was located on what is now the George Burd property, and still another on the P. G. Moellendick farm.
There were two free schools existing as far back as 1867, one on the lower end of the bottom and one on the upper end. The first school house built on the upper end of Washington Bottom still stands on the Cooper-Rector place but is not in use as a school building. A larger one was built in 1 888. It is in good repair and a school is taught in it every year.
On the lower part of the Bottom there stands the third school house, a short distance from the location of the second which replaced the first one at the foot of the hill where there was an Indian Trail.
A number of students go to Parkersburg High School each year from the two schools on Washington Bottom, twenty having gone in 1931.
Four teachers who previously taught in the houses before mentioned make their homes on Washington Bottom now.
Among the students who have continued their education farther than high school are: Dr. B. Stout, Cincinnati Medical School, Cincinnati, Ohio; Capt. B. D. Stout, Duff's College, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Ada Cooper, Morris-Harvey College, Barboursville, W. Va.; Clarence Boso and John Rector, Marshall College, Huntington, W. Va.; Ben Rector, Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio; Ruby McMechen, Richmond Female Seminary, Richmond, Va.; Judge Walter McDougle, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va.; Dr. Oscar Johnson, Louisville Medical School, Louisville, Ky.; William H. Munchmeyer, Tri-State Normal College, Angola, Ind.; Otto Munchmeyer, Cincinnati College of Chemistry, Cincinnati, Ohio; Edelen Dye, Ralph Godwin, Elmer Harless, David Munchmeyer, Louise Moellendick, Carl Moellendick, and Helen Tallman all attended Parkersburg Business College, Parkersburg, W. Va.; Adele Bigelow, Eleanor Bigelow, William Bigelow, Earl Cooper, Carroll McMechen, Louis Munchmeyer, and Robert Munchmeyer, West Virgina University, Morgantown, W. Va.
The first regular mail service for this territory was started on the Ohio River. Mail was carried overland every two weeks, from Pittsburgh to Wheeling and from there carried by mail boat to Cincinnati. Running about sixty miles a day, it took six days to make the trip to Cincinnati and twelve days to return.
These boats were built twenty-four feet long, with bulletproof cabins as a protection from the rifles of the Indians. They were manned by a steersman and four oarsmen.
General Rufus Putnam, of Marietta, arranged with Postmaster General Pickering for the first regular service, and service was started on the Ohio River. Stops were made at Marietta, Gallipolis, and Limestone (Marysville, Ky.).
It was ninety years after this beginning before there was a postoffice on Washington Bottom.
The first postoffice was known as Scott, West Virginia. Mr. Emil Meldahl was the first postmaster at this place. Two years later, Washington Postoffice was established with Miss Florence Cooper as the first postmistress.
The Washington Postoffice, cha.nged by the Government from Washington Bottom, is now located on a part of the George Neale section that is now owned by D. H. Harless, who is postmaster at this time, 1932.
There are seven family cemeteries on Washington Bottom, namely: The Edelen, The Neale, Jonas Lewis, Francis Lewis, Walker, Munchmeyer, and Mendahl.
Washington Women's Club was organized at the home of Mrs. W. J. Moellendick on December 2, 1914, the first rural club in Wood county. The following officers were elected: Mrs. C. R. Rector, President; Mrs. W, L. Munchmeyer, Vice-President; Miss Florence Chen- oweth. Secretary; Mrs. Alice Rector, Treasurer. Other members were: Mrs. W. J. Moellendick, Mrs. P. G. Moellendick, Mrs. J. 0. Chenoweth, Mrs. H. C. Vaughn, Mrs. A. C. Cook, Mrs. W. E. Tracewell, Mrs. G. R. Bigelow, Mrs. W. P. Woofter, Mrs. J. W. Bartlett, and Mrs. Gladys (Bartlett) Moellendick.
Mrs. C. R. Rector served as president for eleven successive years. Since then there have been four presidents, Mrs. W. L. Munchmeyer, Mrs. Rosa Hickle, Mrs. W. A. Boso, and Mrs. Teresa Harless.
The club has cooperated with the church, the school, and the 4-H club, having been active from its organization until the present time. During the World War much sewing was done and at many times this club has contributed money that it made in different ways, contributing at one time a thousand dollars for improvement of Washington Bottom roads. A play, "Clubbing the Husbands," was successfully staged May 14, 1920, being the first one given by a West Virginia Farm Women's Club.
By meeting regularly once a month, the ladies of the community keep in touch with one another socially.
Only two members are deceased, one being a charter member.
County agent, Robert Buckhannon, organized the Washington Workers' 4-H Club, July 1, 1915. There were only a few members at first but the number gradually increased. The older members naturally have more leadership, so they always help the newer members to get started right.
This little group planted itself firmly on the foundation af all 4-H work, Luke 2:52, and it grew and prospered, developing character, ambition, the desire for knowledge, and especially leadership. These qualities, in conjunction with their 4-H development, resulted in placing the Washington Workers first in the state in 1918, which championship they held for three successive years.
This seventeen-year-old club has had many members charted who have earned 4-H pins, a number chosen as "All Stars," and has won a great many club prizes and individual prizes. One member won a three-hundred-dollar scholarship to West Virginia University and several members won one-hundred-dollar scholarships. Later, several won trips to Springfield, Massachusetts.
From "The Washington Workers' Club" several outstanding members of the state have come. Good club members make good citizens. The influence of this little group is already seen, and will continue to be seen in the future.
Many pieces of old Colonial furniture and household articles, that have served and beautified the homes of other generations, are still to be seen in a number of homes on Washington Bottom. Such pieces are clocks, desks, chairs, sofas, tables, stands, bedsteads, corner cup boards, and dishes. These have a family history which endears them to their owners.
Some homes display both braided and hooked rugs, fabricated in soft tones that "grow lovely growing old." Old counter-panes, dresses, shawls, laces, and samplers have been preserved. Many families have in their possession interesting collections of Indian relics.
A knowledge and appreciation of rare things exists among the progressive inhabitants of Washington Bottom community.
In writing this history the committee was permitted to use C. R. Rector's notes of Washington Bottom history.
The aerial mosaic, reproduced in the center of this book, was furnished by the courtesy of the Aerial Surveys, Inc.
Community Histories Index