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West Virginia Archives & History

History Of East Lynn Community

Prepared By Lucian W. Osborn

Most biographers in writing the life of a great man commence at a period before their hero was born. I shall imitate their example and begin at a period before East Lynn came into existence.

First, I want to give the original name of this community or section as I received it several years ago from Hon. Chas. W. Ferguson who was once a resident of Camp Creek. He said that owing to the fact that Camp Creek and Little Lynn empty their placid waters into Twelve-pole only a few yards apart the place was called Twin Creek, which seems to be a very appropriate name.

It seems that nature has generously favored this place from a commercial point of view. The coming together of these two creeks and with Big Lynn and Laurel only a short distance above and Newcomb and Peter Cave only a short distance below makes this a very central point.

Who the first settler here was I do not know but it was not long after the first settlement was made till the pioneers saw that this would be a business point, so a store was placed here, the first one I learn by Eldridge Smith. Soon after Burwell Spurlock was selling goods here.

Other early merchants were Wade Ferguson, Noah and Jarrett Peters, Hawk Cole, Harvey Adkins, Harrison Watts, Nat Turner, and Chapman Fry.

Of the merchants now living who have been in the business for a long time I shall speak briefly.

C. W. Tabor has served the longest period of any in selling goods. He began away back in 1876 and informs me that he has only missed about three years in that time. Who can beat this record of 47 years? Mr. Tabor still occasionally assists some in a store and takes an active hand in the affairs of the community. During the cold weather last winter he made a trip alone, a distance of about 200 miles to Tazewell County, Virginia, to visit relatives.

The next in length of service in the store business here is C. W. Osborn who has sold goods with but very little interruption for 34 years. At present he is located just above the mouth of Camp Creek on the east side of Twolve-pole. In this shady nook he has a general store and hotel, and a dug well 50 ft. deep that never goes dry. The water in this well is so cold that on hot days it seems to have come from somewhere near the North Pole. During the dry season about thirty families use water from this well.

W. H. Newhouse has been selling goods here for about 24 years. He is located on the corner of Mulberry and Front streets in the same building that W. R. Osburn and Chas W. Ferguson sold goods in 36 years ago.

One of the first saw mills in this section was operated by attaching the horse-power of a threshing machine to it and then running it with horses. Noah and Jarrett Peters owned this mill.

The early grist mills were run by horses and each person that patronized the mill furnished a horse to grind his grist. Among the first blacksmith shops were those of John Irby which stood on the bank at tho west end of Twelve-pole bridge, Jesse Fry's near the Post Office, and Alfred Luther's on the site of where William Porter's residence now stands.

The first church house was a log structure and stood just below where the Little Lynn bridge now is. This house burned during the Civil War.

There was no post office in this section until after the Civil War and the people here and for many miles above here had to go to Wayne Court House for their mail. But in 1868 Adkins Mill postoffice was established at the water mill then owned by Attison Adkins, one and one-half miles from our present community center.

Chapman Adkins was the first postmaster. I am told that the amount of mail then received was so small that no mail bags were required to carry it in, and the mail only went once a week

After a few years the office was moved to the community center, and after going through various hands W. D. Vaughan was appointed postmaster in 1876. He moved the office down to where "Uncle Robert" Napier lived, a short distance from where the railroad depot now stands. Later Mr. Vaughan moved the office to where he now resides and kept it till about 1888 when C. W. Tabor was appointed postmaster. The office was then moved back to the community center and placed in H. Watts' store.

Soon after this the name was changed from Adkins Mill to East Lynn. Mr. Vaughn informs me that when he took charge of the office the pay for one month was only about five dollars and that not as much mail was received at the office in two months as is now received in one day.

For several years what is now known as Stonewall district was a part of Grant district and there was only one voting precinct in this whole territory, first at the mouth of Cove creek and later at the mouth of Brush creek.

The first school house built here after the free schools came into existence was erected in 1879 on the present site of the East Lynn Coal Company tipple. It was a small log house and in it M. F. Walker taught the first school. A frame house was erected about 1885-86 and W. P. Mankin taught the first school in it. This house which stood on the present site of our school building, burned some years later. Another house about the same size was erected which was replaced some years later by the present four-room building.

Just about the time the first frame school house was being erected there appeared in our midst an unique figure in educational circles. He was a writing master and his name was Jonas Whitt. He came from Kentucky in the fall of 1885 and began to teach writing schools and he was certainly skilled in the art of penmanship. He had formerly been a teacher in a Commercial College and had taught special schools in grammar and arithmetic and is the author of a book on arithmetic, a copy of which I have in my possession. He spent the winter and until May in this section teaching the old as well as the young how to write.

Though his manner of dress and appearance would be scoffed at today he did a great service to the people here and such is the reverence in which he is held by the people that his automatic pen work is still found in the homes and in one home his name written by himself on a blackboard, in ornamental style, is still preserved after a lapse of forty years.

He wore a suit of blue overall goods, fur cap, and gum boots. He manufactured the ink his pupils used and carried it about in a tin kerosene oil can. In his pockets he carried a number of small bottles of automatic pen ink. Mr. Whitt went back to Kentucky from here and finally became a preacher of the gospel.

I feel that a community history would be incomplete without some notice of the spring just above the school house. It is commonly called a sulphur spring but is more of a chalybeate water than sulphur. This everlasting fountain gushes forth from a solid rock and has perhaps supplied more people with water than any other spring in the county. In addition to supplying the schools for 46 years it supplied the church going people for many years while preaching was done in the school house. It also supplied the miners who worked near it for a number of years.

This spring has furnished water for all kinds of gatherings including elections, barbecues, and associations, besides several families living near use water from it. Here the weary traveler pauses to slake his thirst as no doubt did the red hunter before the coming of the white man. No one knows how old this spring is but we have every reason to believe it will last till the Saturday evening of time.

Among the many improvements that have been made here since the days of Twin Creek I shall make special mention of that which Dr. O. T. Hines now of Huntington made on the stony point a few yards above the Osburn House. This place was a veritable ivy thicket when he purchased the lot. He went to work with a will and after many months of labor erected one of the largest and most handsome residences in the town. He then improved the grounds by grading, and setting flowers until the place fairly blossomed as the rose. Being situated on the heights a good view of the town is obtained from this point. This property is now owned by Noah Wellman Jr., and is occupied by Squire Fry.

When the World War was in progress a number of young men from this section enlisted but as I do not have a complete list at hand I will only mention the five who gave their lives that you and I might live on. They are: Wayne Sellards, W. S. Napier, Allen Tabor, Andrew Wellman and Linza Adkins.

This place has sometimes been called the timber metropolis of the county. It would be impossible to give anything like an accurate estimate of the value of the timber that has been shipped from this place. Vast quantities of ties, staves, tan bark, and handle timber have gone out, besides the saw logs. Many of us can remember when during a freshet the waters of Twelve-pole were black with saw logs.

Coal mining has been one of the chief industries here for more than twenty years. Some forty years ago the only coal that went out from here was mined by Wayne Neal, near the present entrance to the Katona mine. He loaded the coal on a push boat and took it down to Wayne Court House. At present the Katona Coal company is shipping from 500 to 800 tons per day from this place. It is pulled by an electric motor, across Twelve-pole on a trestle sixty feet high that cost about $20,000. Thence it goes through a short tunnel and is placed on a large belt which carries it across Twelve-pole again where it is loaded on the railroad cars.

In recent years some attention has been given to the development of gas found in our hills and it seems that there is an inexhaustible supply.

We have a vast coal field near by that has not yet responded to the caresses of capital and labor. There is also a legend that there is a lead mine within one mile of East Lynn. "Uncle Alderson" Watts says that many years ago when he lived here he one day visited a neighbor and found him melting lead ore which he had obtained from a nearby hill.

Our progress in material things has been truly great. Our fine graded road, rail road, school building, bridges, and telephones have all come in the last few years. Our venerable neighbor and ex-Confederate soldier, J. W. Lloyd, to whom I am indebted for part of this history remembers when there was only one log cabin at this place. Just before that time this was a howling wilderness infested with the beasts of the forest, and Indians still lurked around seeking whom they might devour.

There are numerous mounds in this section built by a prehistoric race that lived at a time we know not when, perhaps before the Christian era. On the farm of the late Wash Clark just across from the head of Camp Creek on the Lick creek side of the hill is a mound which was excavated a few years ago and found to contain a man's thigh bone and knee-pan. The thigh bone was taken charge of by a local physician and after measurement and comparison with others it was found to belong to a man about 9 feet in height. This man may have lived about the time Herculaneum and Pompeii were destroyed by an earthquake or he may have belonged to the period spoken of in Genesis 6:4, "there were giants in those days".

An excavation was made in the mound on the farm of the late John Doss, on the right fork of Beech Fork and it was found to contain fire coals and ashes.

On the farm of Charles R. Morrison, on the head of Beech Fork is a small mound covered with stones. Mr. Morrison informs me that an excavation was once made in this and in it was found an Indian tomahawk and near the mound has been found at least a hundred arrows made of flint. This mound is in Mr. Morrison's apple orchard, that produced this year 1500 bushels of apples. In times past these apples have won prizes not only at our district and county fairs but also at the state fair.

A few rods up the hill from this mound is a spring the basin of which is cut in a solid rock and is about the shape and size of a small wash kettle and will hold several gallons of water. The basin is smooth and judging by the mound and arrows nearby, this place must have been the habitation of Indians at some period. Could the rocks and hills but speak no doubt they would tell some wonderful stories of the early settlers and the Indians in this section.

Daniel Boone, the noted hunter, Indian fighter and public servant, represented this section in the Virginia Assembly in 1791, this being a part of Kanawha County at that time. He resided near Point Pleasant for some years and it is likely that he did part of his hunting right here on Camp Creek and Beech Fork.

Lord Byron wrote of Daniel Boone: Of all men, saving Sylla, The General Boone, backwoodsman of Kentucky, was happiest among mortals anywhere, and that he enjoyed the lonely, vigorous, harmless days, of his old age in wilds of deepest maze.

The story of the captivity of Mrs. Jenny Wiley is connected with the history of this community from the fact that she has a number of relatives living in this section. Her maiden name was Sellards. Cornelius Sellards who died a few years since, within one and one half miles of East Lynn at the age of 95 was a nephew of Mrs. Wiley. Mrs. Wiley was also related to the Fry family. She was taken captive by the Indians in Tazewell County, Virginia, in 1790. Three of her children and one brother were slain at the time of her capture and later the Indians killed two more of her children by dashing their brains out against trees. The account in Hardesty's Encyclopedia, of this capture says that the Indians proceeded down the Tug and Big Sandy rivers to the Ohio with their captive. Whether they followed the rivers all the time I know not, but there is a legend that they came down Camp Creek and encamped one night at the natural bridge on the right fork of Camp.

The Indians proceeded with their captive to the wilds of Kentucky where she remained about eleven months and then resolved to make her escape. While the Indians were absent from camp she started on her perilous journey through the forest during a rain storm and at length came to Big Sandy river. She called to some men who were at work on the opposite side of the river and told them of her escape from the Indians. Having no boat these men rolled some logs into the river and tying them together with grapevines, pushed across the river and brought Mrs. Wiley back with them. As they were ascending the bank the old Indian chief appeared on the opposite bank. He recognized Mrs. Wiley and seeing that she had made good her escape disappeared in the forest. Mrs. Wiley rested here a few days and then returned home and rejoined her husband who had long supposed her dead.

Let us now notice a few of the natural curiosities of this neighborhood. We have a number of caves scattered about, stone caverns that seemingly have been produced by some eruption of the earth.

The natural stone bridge on the right fork of Camp Creek is wide enough for wagons and automobiles to pass over it.

The "turkey tracks", on the head of Beech Fork near Mills Chapel are impressions made in stone, resembling tracks made by turkeys.

Many overflowing springs are found here. Perhaps the ones that were first known to the early settlers are those at the "springs" place on the right fork of Camp Creek. This was a resort for invalids many years ago. The log building that was then used for a hotel is still standing and I am told it is more than one hundred years old. There are two springs here, the one below the house being a chalybeate and the one above, genuine sulphur. The water in this spring has a taste similar to White Sulphur and Pence Springs.

The highest point in this section is Scaggs Knob on Beech Fork which is more than eleven hundred feet above sea level. The largest knob is what is known as Buck Knob, between Laurel and Camp Creek. This knob is about one-half mile in length and has become a rendezvous for fox hunters. This sport is enjoyed by a number of our neighbor boys. They assemble here at night and have their camp fires.

Many years ago I heard it suggested that our court house be placed on Buck Knob. This was before Kenova came into existence, so this place has a superior claim to Kenova.

The products of the soil and earth are many and varied. "Slumbering in our hills are princely fortunes". "Fires are kindled with our coal on the hearth-stones of every people". The gas wells from this section furnish heat and light for people in many states. More than fifty years ago, in 1876 a block of coal was taken from the present natural opening of the Katona mine and placed on exhibition at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. This place has a supply of coal that will last for many years to come.

As stated before some prize apples are raised here. Some years we have a plentiful supply of peaches. Of the small fruits, gooseberries, currants, raspberries, etc., grow in abundance, with proper cultivation. This soil is well adapted to strawberries. Considerable wheat and oats used to be produced here. Flax and cotton have been grown here. Irish potatoes and beans are grown in abundance. Sweet potatoes weighing five pounds each have been produced in this soil.

But the most useful and largely cultivated product of the soil is maize or Indian corn, large quantities of which are raised here, especially in the Beech Fork section. Wayne County has long been a corn producing section and I believe at one time was the banner county in the state in the production of this grain.

An amusing incident in regard to this is related by "Uncle" Albert Smith, an ex-Confederate soldier and one of Wayne County's most esteemed citizens. He relates that during the Civil War he and a fellow soldier from Wayne County were traveling in one of the counties of Eastern Virginia and stopped with an old farmer one day for dinner. No sooner did this farmer learn they were from Wayne County than he began to inquire about it and said he had often heard that Wayne was famous for corn. "Uncle" Albert's companion told him a story about the raising of corn here and wound up by saying that it was not an uncommon thing in this county to see a single stalk of corn with two good ears on it and a nubbin a foot long. The old farmer seemed to believe the story and exclaimed: "Well, now, don't that beat anything you ever heard of".

I shall now mention the names of those who have filled important offices so far as I can gather them. Most of the following were born and reared within the territory described in the beginning of this article. The others who were not reared here but spent a good portion of their early life here.

Among those who took an active hand in the affairs of the county and state I will first mention Captain Joseph M. Ferguson who was a member of the Confederate congress, captain of a company in the Civil War and later in 1873 while a member of the West Virginia Legislature helped to frame our Free School Law.

Mr. Ferguson's brother Jameson was colonel of a regiment during the Civil War and after the war became a Circuit Judge in Kentucky. Chas. W. Ferguson, Sr., another brother was a member of the West Virginia Legislature. Others who were members of the legislature are Robert Napier, M. M. Morrison, B. L. Osburn, and Oscar Watts.

Those who served as prosecuting attorney are P. H. Napier, William Fry,and Chas. W. Ferguson, Jr. Those who held the office of clerk of the circuit court were J. W. Lloyd, M. J. Mills, W. S. Copley, and C. E. Walker. The office of clerk of county court was filled by P. H. Napier and Hezekiah Adkins. Those who were members of the county court include H. A. Jackson, Jno. S. Osburn, W. R.Osburn, Spencer McComas, C. M. Fraley and J. W. Crabtree.

Among the professional men I shall first mention the lawyers: J. H. Meek, F. F. Scaggs, C. W. Ferguson, Chapman Adkins, L. W. Blankenship, Chapman Fry, William Fry, Cumberland Fry, C. G. Fry, J. M. Clay, and J. W. Warf. The doctors were A. J. Watts, O. T. Hines, A. J. Morrison, J. H. Thornbury, J. R. Keesee, Glenn Johnson, G. W. Fooley, L. W. Gilkerson, and Walter Thornbury.

The preachers and school teachers are too numerous to mention.

Rev. S. A. Donahoo who was born on Camp Creek has distinguished himself as a public lecturer.

Of our inventors I will mention two. L. F. Ross has lately patented a cane mill which has not yet been put upon the market. Many years ago he secured a patent on a device for coupling rail road cars.

F. C. Lloyd secured a patent on an ironing board.

We have one writer of sacred music. Harkins Fry published a number of hymns, words and music written by himself in a volume called "Celestial Joy".

So we have lawyers, doctors, statesmen, preachers, teachers, lecturers, inventors, and poets.

It seems that the primitive mode of living had much to do with the physical development of our pioneers. The outdoor life, the plain manner of dressing, the simple mode of cooking by the open fireplace, and plenty of hard work developed a hardy host of men and women.

Two men prominent in clearing the forests of this section and making it fit for the habitation of civilized people were Jesse Francis and Hansford Watts. They were giants in the way of physical endurance. One of them could do the work of two ordinary men of today.

The modern schools possess many advantages of those of 50 and 75 years ago, but I doubt if many of the text books are equal to some used in that period. Let us visit in imagination a school of three quarters of a century ago. We find a log school house with an open fireplace and wood fire, split logs for seats, no glass windows, pupils clad in jeans and linsey. Neither teacher nor pupils have ever seen a railroad train. They never even heard of an automobile, a phonograph, telephone, moving picture show, or radio.

What text books do we find in these schools. The usual ones were McGuffey's Readers, Webster's Elementary Spelling Book, Ray's Arithmetics and in some schools the New Testament was used for a reader and lessons taught therefrom. There was no opposition then to teaching the Bible in school and the teachers were unacquainted with evolution.

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