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West Virginia Archives & History

History Of New Milton Community

By Roy F. Randolph

New Milton community includes all of Meathouse Fork of Middle Island Creek, in Doddridge County, beginning with and including Blandville and extending to the mouth of Brushy Fork with all its tributaries except Tom's Fork above where Annie Maxwell now lives.

That the Indians once inhabited this community, or at least roamed over it, is shown by many indisputable evidences. The old stone fort on the farm of Gus Gabbert at Blandville is witness to the fact that that was once the scene of savage warfare. Many stones such as mortar and pestles and arrow heads were picked up on that farm by its former owner, Mr. S. T. Sherwood. In fact there is scarcely a farm in this community but that has yielded its share of Indian relics. The fact also that game was very abundant here makes it all the more certain that the Indian was a dweller here.

One of the first breaks in the virgin forest in all the surrounding country was at the mouth of Wolf Pen Run almost on the spot where Trainer and Travis now have their warehouse and water pump, and where some years ago the South Penn Oil Company drilled the first well in this community in search of oil and gas. On this spot of ground hunters from other sections who came to this community to hunt deer and bear built a log cabin in which to store their meat until they could move it to their homes in other and, sometimes, remote sections. From this meat house, the branch of Middle Island Creek which extends from near Smithburg to Big Isaac took the name of Meat House Fork.

In the early days game was very plentiful in this community, the common black bear and deer being the most plentiful. Wolves too were so numerous as to be a menace to live stock, if not to human beings, as is evidenced by the name Wolf Pen Run, derived from the fact that on that stream some one built a strong pen to be used as a trap to catch wolves.

Bears found this a suitable place for them because of the plentiful supply of mast, including acorns, beech-nuts, and chestnuts, and by the further fact that laurel thickets were plentiful and dense providing suitable hiding places for them.

Deer also were plentiful. Many licks in this immediate community provided effectual lures where the hunter might lie in wait at the dusk of the evening until the deer came for a taste of salt, when they were shot from ambush. One, two, or even three falling as rapidly as the hunter could fire, load, and prime his muzzle loading flint-lock rifle.

The onward march of so-called civilization has driven from our midst the remnant of the original denizens of the forest. Today we have left only a few timid squirrels, raccoon, quail, and pheasants. These too are rapidly disappearing before the greedy, lawless, and inhuman attack of so-called sportsmen armed with automatic high-power guns and will soon, like the deer, live only in the memory of the older generation and become a tradition for future generations, unless there shall be awakened in the hearts of the people either a sense of pride in our friends of feather and fur, or a just and healthy respect for the law of the land which seeks to protect and preserve to future generations the kindly help of the Bob White, with his pretty feathers and jaunty air, and the joy of companionship of the squirrel with his well taught lessons of frugality and a vegetarian life.

During the time when deer were so plentiful, one day as some men, among them Franklin F. Randolph, were at work on the hill between where M. 0. Polan and S. A. Hurst now live some dogs chased a deer down the hill between where the Seventh Day Baptist Church now is and the cemetery and into the creek. Mr. Randolph seeing them and seeing that the deer was crossing the creek, ran to the creek and as the deer attempted to spring from the water, up the bank, he caught the deer by the hind legs and threw it on its side and cut its throat with his pocket knife.

Among the early white settlers were the Bees. Asa above or near the mouth of Red Lick, Josiah where Mr. Frank Abels now lives and later where Mr. Franklin F. Randolph now lives, John D. where the brick house now is, Amaziah at the mouth of Sugar Camp, Ezekiel a mile further down stream, Ephreim at the mouth of Eib's Camp, and Jonathan where Mr. John Brannon now lives. Of these Amaziah may have been the first, at least he was married and moved to this community in 1821. ,.

George J. Davis who lived at the mouth of Red Lick where George Ahouse now lives, owned a large tract of land which included all of what is now New Milton with a part of Red Lick and Wolf Pen. He had quite a large family, as was customary in those days, and as his sons and daughters married and established homes of their own, he gave each of them a farm. Perhaps the most direct descendants of this man, now living in this community are the Suttons of Lick Run and Blandville.

Above New Milton a family of Childers lived near where Henry Frey now lives. They had a mill, run by water power, where much of the corn of the neighborhood was ground. A little further up the stream Joseph Childers founded his home and reared a large family of children among whom the farm was divided and has since been occupied by his descendants.

On Red Lick early settlers were George Polan, William Jeffrey, Charles Meservey, Peter W.Davis, and Edgar Douglass.

On Wolf Pen were the Sheets, LaFevers, William Trainer, George Fox, Rev. James B. Davis, George Sutton, and Abel B. Parks.

On Sugar Camp above the farm owned by Amaziah Bee, Asa Kelley lived and that section has been largely held by that family ever since.

At Blandville, other than the two Bee families already mentioned, there were William and Richard Bland, the Sherwoods, the Holts, the Holidays, Stephen T. Davis,and others.

On Lick Run two of the earliest settlers were William Maxwell and Nathan Kelley neither of whom were married when they settled there but later married and reared large families. Nathan Kelley's wife being Elenor (Davis) Sutton, daughter of George J. Davis of New Milton, and the widow of George Sutton. Another of the earliest settlers on Lick Run was Alexander Orrahood, who lived near the head of the stream. The Husks, Davissons, Hecks, and Vannerts came a little later.

On Tom's Fork the Howards lived where Varnum Lowther now lives, and the Polans on the farm now owned by Mr. Hurst. In 1847 Jephtha F. Randolph bought the farms of John D. Bee and his brother Josiah and moved to the mouth of Tom's Fork. John D. Bee at that time moved to Hughes River and Josiah moved to the farm near New Milton where Franklin F. Randolph now lives.

The first post office in this community was established at the home of Amaziah Bee and was known as Meat House Fork. This however did not continue long. After this office was discontinued the persons living here got their mail either at West Union or Salem, both of which were supplied by mail on the stage route of the North Western Turnpike. Some time after the coming of Mr. Randolph to the mouth of Tom's Fork he made application to the post office department at Washington for an office to be established here. This was done and Mr. Randolph was named as the first post master. The new office was named "New Milton" in honor of Milton, Wisconsin, a place to which Mr. Randolph had moved over-land with his wife, his four children, and all his worldly possessions in a wagon drawn by two horses and from which place he had returned the same year, 1845, well cured of the "Western Fever". Since that time New Milton has been on the map and in the postal guide as a desirable and lovely place for habitation. The following persons have served in turn as post masters at this place: Jephtha F. Randolph, Elhanan W. Davis, Wm. H. H. Davis, Luther F. Randolph, Perry Shock, Granvil H. Davis, Rev. J. S. Ribblett, Ida J. Warner, Ida M. White, and the present incumbent, O. A. Fisher.

The office has been located at the mouth of Tom's Fork, at the mouth of Wolf Pen Run, and at least six different places in the village of New Milton.

Some time in the eighties, probably in 1884 or 1885, Charles L.Polan started a store where Blandville now is and soon afterward he secured the establishing of a post office at that place naming it Blandville from the Bland family who resided there. This office has continued to the present time and seems to be as well established as any rural office.

Marion Sutton became a partner with Mr. Polan in the store here and a little later when Mr. Polan left to move to Jackson Center, Ohio, "Jud" Bland became a partner with Mr. Sutton in the store. This partnership continued for a little time when William Trainer bought the store and became post master. He continued in business, for some years and was succeeded by A. C. Bland, the present owner and incumbent. In the mean time however another store was started and was run by S. L. McClain, Robert McGowan, and T. W. Noble, each in turn.

About 1910 a rural mail route was established from Blandville by way of Lick Run Porto Rico oil field, the head waters of Cove Creek, and Grove, and returning to Blandville by way of Tom's Fork.

In later years, probably about 1895, a post office was established at the mouth of Sugar Camp and named for that stream, with T. W. Noble as post master. This office was continued for eight or ten years when it.was discontinued for want of some one to serve as post master.

New Milton has been supplied with mail from West Union ever since the office was established, at first once a week, then twice aweek and then three times and finally now we have mail every day. We have lived from the time when the recipient paid the postage, whether letter or newspaper, and a rate ranging from two or three cents to twenty-five cents according to the distance it had come, to when we now send a letter to any corner of the United States, its territorial and insular possessions and certain foreign countries, including Canada and Great Britain, and have it delivered for the meager sum of two cents, so there is no excuse for the wanderer from home to fail to write to mother or sister or near-sister regularly and frequently.

In those days it was a frequent occurrence for the mail carrier to ride up to the post office and inquire whether there was any mail to go into the mail sack, if there was none he would say that there was none to leave and ride on without getting off his horse.

It is a safe venture as an assertion that there are single days now, when our mail carrier leavers West Union with more mail — more letters and more weight of mail - than was carried in a whole year soon after the establishing of New Milton post office.

There was also at one time a mail route from Oxford to West Milford by way of New Milton, Greenbrier, and Big Buffalo, but this route was not continued for a very long time.

About twenty years ago a rural route was established from New Milton which serves a large part of Tom's Fork, a part of Cove District and returns to New Milton by way of Brushy Fork.

For an inland, rural, and agricultural community New Milton community has had some very good industrial propositions, one of the most prominent of which was a mill which was located many years ago on the lot where G. B. Travis now has his garage and barn. This consisted of a flouring mill, saw mill, and carding machine. The carding machine was for the manufacture of rolls of wool from which our mothers spun the yarn to make the wearing apparel of the whole family. This mill did not continue long, as it was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1869-70.

The tan yard at the mouth of Wolf Pen Run which was owned by Jephtha F. Randolph and operated by Asa F. Randolph, brother of the present pastor of this church, was later owned by Elhanan W. Davis and finally by Wm. H. H. Davis, supplied not only the leather for the foot-wear and harness for the neighborhood, but afforded a market for surplus hides of the community and sent the finished products to other sections and city markets. Practically all the foot wear for the entire family was made either by some one in the home or by a shoemaker in the neighborhood. Perry Shock, Frank Noble, J. E. Towles, L. B. Stuttler, and others have served as shoemakers for the community. The shoes were made of cow hide or calf skin. Rubber over shoes were unknown for either men or women.

Various saw-mills, flour mills, and corn mills have sprung up, served their purpose, and have been abandoned. There is now in the possession of the author of this history one of the oldest mills in the county, or probably in the state. It is an old hand mill such as was used many years ago before even the mill operated by horse power came into use.

This mill consists of two stones, as usual, the upper one being the runner. In the top of the top stone is a hole to place the staff by which the mill is operated. The stones are about 18 inches in diameter. The first history of this mill that can be definitely recorded goes back only about twenty-five years, when Mr. Franklin F. Randolph found the stones at the home of Ezekiel Kelley on Lick Run, the farm now owned by Sherman Hess. The mill had been the property of Nathan Kelley, whose early settlement on Lick Run has been previously noted.

In more recent years has come the operation for oil and gas. These operations have met with varying degrees of success, have furnished employment for some of our citizens, and a market for some of our farm products.

More than forty years ago R. T. Lowndes of Clarksburg owned a large amount of timber between Avon and Big Isaac on the head waters of Middle Island Creek. He brought in saw mills to cut this timber, and for the purpose of getting it to market. He, together with Ira Hart also of Clarksburg, built a rail-road, known as the Middle Island Railroad from Smithton, now Smithburg, to Big Isaac by way of New Milton and Avon, approximately twenty miles. The rails for this road were of wood and on top of the rails were nailed wooden strips one inch thick. When the strips were worn out they were replaced by other strips.

Upon this railroad ran two locomotives, "Nick of the Woods" and "Limber Jim". Nick of the Woods, commonly called "Old Nick" ran off the track into the mill pond at the mill of N. B. Cox near Avon and was never put back into commission. Limber Jim, who like some people, was trying to set too fast a pace, blew up near Smithburg, killing the engineer and crippling the fireman. For some years more the road was used for the operation of trucks drawn by horses. Upon these trucks lumber and freight were drawn.

Among other public utilities that have served the needs of this community is the telephone. In 1896 the Beeghley system was built through the community, a line being constructed from Big Isaac to West Union by way of New Milton and Blandville. This line was in use for several years and finally got in bad condition and was absorbed by the Bell system.

About the same time that the Beeghly line was built there was a line built from Market to Smithburg and known as the Market line, this also fell into decay and was abandoned after a few years. In the spring of 1904 the Peoples United Telephone System built their line through the community, this system met with many experiences and reversals because of Improper supervision until about three years ago when it was sold and became a part of the Doddridge and Harrison Telephone Company. The service rendered by these lines may not have been of the best and in many instances far from satisfactory, yet they have served a purpose and have added very materially to the comfort and happiness of the community.

The first threshing machine that came into this community and to be used here was one that was being taken into the Oxford or White Oak country by some men named Flannigan. These men had been either to Fetterman or Fairmont and bought a new machine and were bringing it home. They stopped at Mr. Jephtha F. Randolph's to stay over night. He got them to stay the next day and do his threshing for him. This machine was of the kind known as a "Chaff Piler" as were all the other machines for many years after. A "Chaff Piler" machine did not separate the chaff from the wheat, that being done later by the use of a wind mill or fanning mill, if one could be had, or otherwise by any method by which the chaff could be blown from the wheat. Before threshing machines came into use the grain was beaten out of the straw with "flails" or by tramping the wheat straw on a floor with horses, driven round and round on the straw when it was dry.

The first mowing machine in New Milton community was owned by Stephen T. Davis, who is said to have remarked when he got it, "Now I can make hay whenever I please".

The first buggy was owned by George J. Davis and was what would be considered at this time a very crude affair. The next and first that would be considered any ways near modern was owned by L. F. Randolph.

The first cook stove in the community was in the home of Jephtha F. Randolph. Prior to this all cooking and baking was done by the open fire. The boiling being done in pots of various sizes hung on "Trammel" hooks, and in rare cases on hooks hung on a "Crane". Bread was baked in a skillet or an oven both of which were made of heavy iron with heavy lids, these were set in the hot ashes and covered with hot ashes and coals of fire. The "dodgers" and "pones" coming from these skillets and ovens were of a particularly appetizing flavor.

The first sewing machine was owned by Mrs. Franklin F. Randolph, and was of the kind known as a hand machine, being operated by a crank on the fly wheel on the machine. It sewed with a chain stitch.

It was no uncommon thing for some of the house-wives to make their own sewing thread from flax, spinning it on a "little" wheel. This of course required skill to make a smooth even thread. The more common thread however was "Boss", and was bought at the store.

The pioneer in the purebred live stock in this community was W. H. H. Douglass. In 1872 he bought and brought into the community three purebred Lincolnshire sheep, a ram and two ewes. Later on he also brought purebred cattle, Aberdeen Angus, which were probably the first in the community.

In education and religion Mew Milton community has always stood well in the foreground. The early settlers here were of the hardy and devout class whose respect for the Bible and its teachings were of the most sincere nature. They knew no such words as "Evolution", "Modernism", and "Fundamentalism". To these early settlers the Bible was the word of the living God, clear and authentic, whose precepts were to be obeyed absolutely and literally. They not only believed this but they taught it to their children and to their children's children so that there was grounded into the lives of these people these principles and habits so thoroughly that to this day whatever may be the attitude of outsiders who have come into this community, the descendants of the original settlers are "God-fearing" people whether they are directly "God-serving" people or not.

The Middle Island Seventh Day Baptist church was organized in 1832. The first few years of its existence was in the village of Lewisport, now the Clock House addition to the town of West Union, where the church still retains title to the lot where the house of worship stood, and which is now known as the "Old Cemetery".

A few years later the organization was moved to this present location where services were held for some time in the old school house which stood in the out-yard of this church and whose corner stones are still visible. In later years the old log house was sold to Jephtha F. Randolph and may still be seen on the farm of Mrs. Lucy Randolph near the mouth of Tom's Fork.

In 1867 or 1868 the present house was built. The organization has been continuous and regular weekly services are held during the entire year.

In 1870 the Methodist Episcopal Church erected in the village of New Milton the house which now stands there and which has been used ever since as a house of worship. Previous to the erection of that house the Methodist people had held meetings about the community in the homes of the people and in the township hall, which stood on Red Lick where T. J. Boyce has a garden.

Besides the two denominations above mentioned, other denominations have adherents here and have held services at various times but have never had an organization nor erected houses of worship. At all times there has existed among the various denominations in the community a spirit of cooperation and good will, each in turn assisting the others in any undertaking put forth for the betterment of the community.

The early settlers of this community were as firm believers in education as they were in the principles of religion. In fact, believing that in order to understand the teachings of the Bible to the best and fullest that it is necessary to develop the mind under proper conditions and influences, they early saw to it that their children should have as good opportunities for an education as was in their power to give them.

Previous to the establishing of the free school system of the state so called subscription schools were conducted by various persons for from eight to twelve weeks during the winter, when not only boys and girls went to school but also young men and women, many of them past twenty-one years of age, and in some instances married men and women.

Tuition to these subscription schools was, what would seem at this day, very cheap, only twenty-five to fifty cents per month, and was frequently paid in farm products, a bushel of buckwheat or so much flax or so many yards of lindsy-woolsey.

But even with the cheap tuition of the subscription schools there were some parents who could not afford to send their children to school until the establishing of the free school system, then every one who could be spared from the home duties for two or three months, and who could be clothed and provided with a book of any sort was sent to school.

In those days, as I have indicated, it was considered quite the proper thing for not only little boys and girls, but also for older and larger young men and women to attend school. To be out of school was a calamity or a disgrace or both. I may observe that in this present day it seems to be thought by some boys and girls to be a disgrace to be seen in school after they are twelve or fourteen years of age, and are able to scrawl a pencil written missive to one of the opposite sex and whose spelling or English no one but themselves or some one equally ignorant, could guess the meaning of.

Out from this community has gone an unusual number of young people to schools of higher learning. Formerly of necessity these young people had to go far from home but today the opportunity for a higher education is to be found near at hand.

Out from this community, out from these homes, out from these schools and from these churches have gone young men and women who have made for themselves places in the world, agreeable to themselves and useful to their fellow men. Among those who have gone out from this community and out of the state may be mentioned the following:

Creed H. Davis, of Kansas, County Judge and Stockman.
Alva L. Davis, of Rhode Island, Minister.
Esle F. Randolph, New York, Teacher.
Corliss F. Randolph, New Jersey, Teacher.
Nathan Kelley, Wisconsin, Farmer and Business Man.
Cicero Jeffrey, Kansas, Merchant and Banker.
C. L. Polan, Ohio, Farmer and Business Man.
Nehemiah Bee, Nebraska, Farmer and Business Man (Deceased).
Henry L. Douglass, Washington, Business Man.
L. P. Willis, Phillipine Islands, Teacher.

Others of none the less ability but who have remained in our own state and have served well include the following:

George W. Bland, Clarksburg, State Senator and Lawyer.
G. H. Trainer, Salem, Oil Operator and Member House of Delegates.
J. E. Trainer, Salem, Oil Operator.
William Maxwell, Surveyor and Member State Legislature (Deceased).
Jephtha F. Randolph, New Milton, Member Second Constitutional Convention (Deceased).
L. D. Lowther, Salem, Business Man and Mayor of Salem.
Luther F. Sutton, Agriculturist, Reymond Memorial Farms, Wardensville, W. Va.
V. B. Lowther, New Milton, Contracting Carpenter and Stockman.
Isaiah Bee, Princeton, Physician (Deceased).

Many others might well be noted here but the ones mentioned are representative of the ability of the community.

This community has always been considered a healthful place in which to live, in spite of the fact that we have usually supported a physician in comfortable circumstances. Dr. Ainaziah Bee, Dr. Zahn, Dr. Sterling, Dr. R. H. Dow, Dr. A. A. James, Dr. Edgel, Dr. H. E. Hutson, Dr. R. J. Nutter, and Dr. C. L. Pearcy have ministered to the aches and pains of the sick and afflicted here within the past seventy-five years. We have gone from the days of "Godfrey's Cordial" and "Bateman's Drops" to the trained and skilled physician with scientifically prepared medicines and the service of good and well equipped hospitals within easy reach.

Whether it falls within the province of an historian to do so or not, permit me to offer three suggestions for thought for the betterment of our community:

First - Better and more hearty support to the churches of all denominations; because the church and its teaching is the basis of all progress.

Second - Better and more loyal support for and cooperation with our schools. Vast sums of public money are spent every year to provide the opportunity for the education of our youth, and yet both parents and children are so indifferent to these opportunities that fully fifty per cent of the boys and girls of free school age are growing up in ignorance to become, if not real menaces to society, most surely to become in a measure a care on the public, and not fully equipped to exercise the highest degree of citizenship.

Third - Better and more hearty support for all efforts to provide better public roads. No nation, state or community can reach the highest and best in any sense unless there is provided and used a safe, comfortable and continuous means of intercourse with those about them.

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