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West Virginia Archives & History

A Brief History Of Greenville Community

(Monroe County, West Virginia)

by George W. Vawter

Greenville, Monroe County It appears that about the year 1770, Valentine Cook and his brother Jacob came to the farm now owned by J. R. Johnson, one fourth mile west of Greenville. With the help of other families whose names seem to have included Miller, Hann, Campbell, Ellison, Bradshaw, Henderson, Thompson, and Bland, they constructed a fort known as Cook's Fort.

Among the many skirmishes the settlers had with the Indians, those of Valentine Cook are best known. At one time he was captured by the Indians, taken up on Indian Draft, and there forced to trade his good rifle with the Indians for a very poor one, after which he was permitted to return home unharmed. Jacob Cook, who a few years ago married the widowed mother of Frank and Luther Maddy of Greenville, is a direct descendant of Valentine Cook.

Jacob Mann, the great grandfather of I. N. Ballard and S. M. Mann of Greenville, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, near where the city of Charlottesville now stands. When about thirty years of age he moved to this community, and assisted in the construction of Cook's Fort. He was one of the most outstanding Indian fighters of the community. On one occasion the Indians killed an entire family who lived, in the vicinity. Jacob Mann in command of five others started in pursuit of the Indians. After following them for five days they came upon them at the close of day, camped on the banks of the Ohio River. It was decided, after holding a council of war, to wait until morning before attacking the Indians who were seven in number.

Jacob Mann's instructions to his men were that each one should select his Indian so that no two would shoot at the same one. At the first fire six Indians fell dead. The seventh dropped his gun and jumped into the Ohio River. Jacob Mann, being a great swimmer and possessed of unusual physical strength, leaped in after him. Catching the Indian about midway of the river, he killed him with his hunting knife.

At another time the food supply at the fort became exhausted and Jacob Mann started up Cook's Run across into the Flatwoods on a deer hunt. He succeeded in getting a deer and had begun his return with the carcass on his back, when encountered by Indians. He started on the run for the fort. But when about three-fourths of a mile from the fort, he saw it was either throw away the venison, and let those at the fort suffer, or be captured himself, as the Indians were consistently gaining on him. About that time he saw a depression in the ground, which turned out to be a small cave. Throwing the meat into the hole, he immediately crawled in after it. His dog followed, and hearing the bark of the dog, Jacob Mann held its mouth shut tight, while the Indiana prowled around so close at times that the muzzles of their long rifles brushed the weeds about the mouth of the cave. After a time the Indians departed, and he was successful in reaching the fort with the precious venison before daylight.

John Ellison, grandfather of J. Z. Ellison, who now lives on Hans Creek, was one of the men who lived in Cook's Fort at times for a number of years. While living there he cleared out about two acres of land near where Mr. J. Z. Ellison now lives. This land he planted in corn and would walk from the fort three miles away over Ellison's Ridge to cultivate his crop. At a later date he built a log house just at the forks of the road where it turns to go to Dry Pond.

A family by the name of Meeks lived near the mouth of Indian Creek some ten miles west of this house built by Mr. Ellison. They were attacked by Indians and the entire family with the exception of Mr. Meeks were captured and carried away. The oldest and the youngest in the group Mr. Meek's mother and his baby were killed by the Indians. Mr. Meek's mother, who was a very large woman, had on a homespun dress at the time. This the chief of the Indians appropriated for his own personal costume. We are told that it reached about to his knees.

John EIlison was the nearest neighbor of the family, and a runner was immediately sent to notify him of the capture. Ellison in command of five men, three of them his sons and two others by the name of Paul, set out in pursuit of the Indians, whom they overtook on the Kanawha River. Mrs. Meeks seemed to realize that help was near. She quietly got her children together at a place as far removed from the Indians as possible. The rescuers fired into the six Indians and killed them all. Ellison afterward returned the Meeks family to their home.

Among the early settlers of the Greenville Community was a Mrs. Anne Maddy. Her husband who had been a soldier in the Revolutionary war was accidentally drowned in the Shenandoah River. Mrs. Maddy came with her children to Monroe County, and settled on the land now known as the Chas. Maddy farm, near the Saltpetre Caves. At this place she brought up her family. Being the owner of considerable property in Virginia, she was compelled at one time to go back to the state to dispose of her holdings there. She rode alone all the way on horseback through the mountains and wilderness country.

After transacting her business and receiving the money for her land, she started on her way home. She stopped over night in the Wilderness with a settler. During her stay there, she happened to disclose the fact that she had considerable funds with her. The settler suggested to her that she take a short cut across the mountain on her way home. In addition he offered to pilot her a part of the way. He took her to the top of a very high cliff, and told her that he wanted her money, that he intended to push her over the bluff and kill her. She told him that her money was sewed up in her clothes and that she would have to take off her dress to get it. She asked him to turn his back while she removed her dress. He turned his back facing the cliff, and she immediately pushed him over, killing him and saving her own life. Mrs. William Comer, Frank and Luther Maddy, all of Greenville, are direct descendants of this Mrs. Anne Maddy.

In 1798 Peter Larew, the grandfather of Peter and Lewis Larew who now live on Hans Creek, traded a farm that he owned in Augusta County, Virginia, to Priscilla Gould for the farm that his grandson, Peter Larew, now lives on. This farm has been in the Larew family for one hundred thirty years.

In the year 1808 Robert Shanklin moved to the farm where Newton Ellis now lives about one mile west of Greenville. The field in front of Ellis' home has been in corn for one hundred eighteen years in succession, and still grows a good crop. A little later William Shanklin, his brother, bought the three hundred thirty-three-acre farm on which Vetner Shanklin now lives. The taxes on this farm at that time amounted to only three dollars per year.

Homes and Public Buildings

The first house in Greenville was built for James Vawtor, uncle of the writer, and stood where Frank Maddy now lives. This home was built by John Houchins in 1844. The next house was a store constructed for the use of my father and uncle, James Vawter, and stood just about on the location of the present J. F. Maddy's store. The third house was the Logan-Shanklin home, in which he kept a hotel. There was a store house built about this date on the corner where R. H. Arnott's store now stands, in which Baldwin Ballard and his brother John carried on a general mercantile business.

What is now Greenville was known at that time as Centerville. In the course of a lot sale in the town, John Houchins bought two lots, one opposite the Presbyterian Church, where he constructed a building, in which he ran a carding machine by horse-power.

The Methodist Parsonage was built at a very early date. About the same time a dwelling house was put up by Jim Lawrence, in which Dr. Shannon Butt lived. Dr. Butt was the father of Dr. Henry Butt who had for years the largest country practice that any physician ever had in Monroe County. Not far from this time Anderson McNeer put up a tobacco factory, and his brother John a tannery.


The first school in the vicinity of Greenville was taught by William Shanklin to whom reference was made above. It was located in a house about half way between his own and that of John C. Ballard. The first school house in Greenville stood on the point of the ridge, below the Methodist Church. It had but one window, and that a small one containing eight panes of glass, size 8 by 10 inches. The earliest teacher mentioned was Henderson Ellis who certainly was on the job in 1857.

Early Churches

The first church established in the neighborhood of Greenville was that of the Primitive Baptist Denomination. It bore the name of Indian Creek Church, and was built one hundred thirty-four years ago. The present building is the third on the same site. The earliest Methodist Church was called Mt. Bethel which stood on the point just below the present church. The record shows that on September 10, 1845, the following trustees were elected: Richard Thomas, Richard McNeer, William Arnott, John H. Vawter, Armisted Ross, Henry Taylor, and Sylvester Upton. The Presbyterian Church was organized in June 1854. One year later the Rev. M. H. Bittinger became the pastor of this church to which he gave an active service of fifty years. He was known and loved by all the people of the community regardless of of denominational preference. The first elders were William Hinchman, Robert Young, Richard Thomas, and Richard Shanklin.

Tom Miller, who had been a captain in the war of 1812, came to Greenville in April 1851. He was the father of A. P. Miller, who made a most unusual and distinguished record in the Civil War. He fought in Stonewall Jackson's Brigade and took part in every engagement but one. He missed that battle only because he was severely wounded at the time. He was wounded three times and on one occasion lay on the battle field for three days and nights without food or water. Despite his wounds he lived to the age of 93, and died in Greenville in the year 1924.

No attempt has been made to give a history of the community during the Civil War. Suffice it to say that some of the men who fought through the War never got tired of talking about it. John Maddy had put up just after the Civil War a pair of cattle scales, which are still being used today.

Greenville now has two churches, one bank, doing a good business, three stores, two garages, one blacksmith shop, one large flour mill, one hotel, and an excellent high school.

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