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West Virginia Archives & History

A Brief History Of Pisgah Community

Mercer County was formerly a part of Virginia, and was known as Augusta Virginia, but when it became a county of West Virginia, it was called Mercer, in honor of General Hugh Mercer, of Revolutionary fame. The first settlement, in this section of the country, was made by the Clays, in 1779, on Bluestone River, about ten miles from this community.

There is no doubt but that the Indians roamed over these lands, for often the Indian flint is found and once an Indian tomahawk was found in this community.

This community was once well timbered with a primeval forest, with the virgin oak, pine, and poplar, but they are now practically all gone, being cleared away for building and agricultural purposes.

Pisgah Community is situated between Princeton and Athens, and just off the state macadam highway, which connects the Red Sulphur road that runs through this community.

The Virginian railway is just four miles from Pisgah church, the center of this community. Princeton, where the Virginian shops are located is a busy town of 7,000 inhabitants.

In Princeton we have a fine high school, and four miles north on the macadam highway we have the Concord College State Normal, Athens high school, and training school.

Physical Features

In the greater part of this community the land is rolling, and most of it produces well, and all of it could be brought up to a high state of cultivation if properly managed, as nearly 200 bushels of corn has been grown on two acres of land, and 100 bushels of cucumbers were grown on one-half acre this year, 1925, not withstanding there has been one of the worst droughts that was ever known in southern West Virginia.

The scenery of this community is grand, and from some points can be seen views that are unsurpassed by any in the state, and been declared by travelers, to excel that of France.

As to nature, we find God's handiwork where all kind of flowers, plants and trees, furnish food and shelter for the beautiful birds that build their nests and flit among their branches.

Early Settlers

The old pioneer settlers were principally Southern soldiers. Some of them were slave holders. They showed the same grit and determination that they had shown in everything that they had undertaken.

This history would be incomplete not to mention the women who did the work while the men were away in the army. They raised flax and made flax and tow linen; they made yarn and cloth out of wool; made all clothing and knit stockings. Some of this work is a great wonder to the people of this day and time. They even stood out all night with sheets around them to scare away horse-thieves, which were very numerous in those days.

After the Civil War, the people found their homes in ruin, themselves penniless, but they were not discouraged. They went bravely to work, and showed they could stand against any hardship that might come their way.

I am reminded of one instance where the family had only just enough flour to make bread for breakfast. You can imagine their disappointment one Sunday morning when the shining white dough was ready to bake, and a "pet hog" walked in and grabbed the dough and made his escape with their breakfast. Of course that was in the days when fences were few and screen doors were unheard of.

The oldest house in this community stands in the yard of Mrs. Andy Hearn, about two miles from here, and is about one hundred years old and is built of logs hewn from the virgin forest. The next oldest house is on the farm of J. M. Bailey, and was erected by Colonel French and was then considered a mansion.

This community is noted for long lived citizens, with the following examples who lived nearly one hundred years: Calvin Fletcher, James Brine, and Arminta Johnston. The oldest person now living in the community is Mrs. Julia Barberis, born in England, who is now 87 years old. She is mother of fourteen children, has fifty-eight grand children and eight great-grandchildren. People of Pisgah have always been quick to respond to modern conveniences when they thought best to do so. The first cook stove that was owned by anyone in Mercer county was in this community; the first sewing machine was in this community; one among the first reapers, binders, and tractors was also used here.

The first man to settle in this community was named Rowland Fletcher. This was early in the nineteenth century. The next man was Bruce. From 1850 to 1860 there were twelve families living in this community making their living altogether on their farms. The largest farm contained about 2200 acres and the smallest 125 acres.

We now have on those farms about sixty-five families, or about 300 men, women, and children. Of these, nineteen families farm, and the remainder principally work in the Virginian shops in Princeton.

The following are the names of old settlers: Lutlan Grigsby, Alonzo Gooch, Thomas Gooch, Calvin Fletcher, WilliamBruce, Nimrod Whittaker, Henderson French, William Stafford, Alexander Johnston, Jacob Larman,

The following are the names of present settlers: C. S. Bargerie, H. H. Barber, H. A. Gooch, Frank Anderson, William Phipps, J. H. Fletcher, A. V. Fletcher, N. T. Turner, R. L. Brown, M. V. Shumate, J. R. Bailey, S. A. Ferguson, W. B. Crockett, Phillip Lambert, AIIen Brown, A. W. Martin, Gilbert Hearn, R. L. Johnston, G. W. Bailey, and Wade Bailey.

We also have one woman farmer, Mrs. Andy Hearn.


Pisgah church was erected about the year 1850, of hewn logs. It was built principally by the citizens meeting together, hewing the logs and making the shingles, that covered it, and having a house-raising by the people. One of the first conferences ever gathered in Mercer County was held here.

The old preachers in these days were Robert Sheffy, George Green, George Stewart, J. W. Bennett, Daniel Carr, Phillip Sutton and others of the state's best preachers.

In the eighties the people became dissatisfied with the old log church and decided to erect a new one. It was begun in 1866, but was not completed until the following year. This church was built by the Southern Methodist people, and is still in good condition. It has had as high as one hundred members, but now has only a membership of forty-five.

There has been a great many revivals that would last for weeks, the people coming for miles in covered wagons to attend. We have had consecrated men that have done so much for this church. Space and time will not allow us to mention but one, that was John W. Johnston, who served as steward for thirty-five years. Pisgah seldom fails to pay its share of church support in full.

Sunday school has for a long time been held summer and winter, regardless of the weather, which is unusual for a rural community. Joseph Stafford was superintendent of the Sunday school for thirty years, and always filled his post faithfully. We now have a membership in our Sunday School of sixty-five pupils, and our present superintendent is N. L. Turner, who has served us seven years.

In this community the women take an active part in church work, doing what they can to make church interests better, and to train the young people of the community for better citizenship, and it is to be hoped that everybody will stand by the church, for it is the assurance of a better life beyond this vale of tears.


The first school to be held in this community, was at Pisgah Church, taught by William M. Reynolds, of Athens, about the year 1850. The first school building was erected in what is known as the Johnston neighborhood, and was called the Johnston School. The building was made of logs, with the cracks daubed with mud, with a big fire place in the center of one end. Seats were made out of split logs with poles for legs, and without back rests. On cold days these seats, or benches, were drawn around the fire place in a circle, so all could get warm, but on warmer days, the log walls would serve for backrests.

We now have three modern school buildings in our community; one made of brick, the other two are nice wooden structures, all of which are well equipped with modern seats and up-to-date apparatus. The enrollment of these three schools is about one hundred pupils. Each of these schools is standardized under the regulations of the state board of education.

Besides our church and schools, we have for pleasure and recreation, a fair ground, known as the Mercer County Fair, on the Athens-Princeton road. We held our first fair on these grounds in 1924. The grounds contain ten acres of land, on which we have erected seven buildings, all erected by farm bureaus, farm women's clubs and fair associations. We have two buildings 40 x 80 feet, a Four-H club house, a stock shed and an office room; also a tennis court.

We hope for better things in the near future in the way of harmless recreations as an aid to amusements for this community as well as other things at this place.

We can boast of some things, I think, that no other community can in Mercer County. We have eight members of the farm bureau living within the radius of one-half mile. The Pisgah Farm Women's Club, yet in its infancy, was organized in 1924, has a membership of seventeen and has done some good work along the line of its duty, as well as farm bureau work.

Of course we know no such word as fail, under such counsel and advice left us by Miss Gertrude Humphreys, under such leadership as Mr. Roberts and Mrs. Brock, and Miss Grace McCue, who is our present home demonstration agent.

As official men who have gone out from our community, we refer to Calvin Fletchcr, who was the first president of the Board of Education of Mercer County. Mr. H. M. Shumate, who held the presidency of the Board for several years, and now his son-in-law, John M. Bailey, is a member of the board of education, Plymouth district. We have had one lawyer in our community, also one of our boys to make a lawyer. We have had six medical doctors, one dentist, and two ministers of the gospel from our community.

We have sent two men to represent the county in the State legislature, have had four members of the county court, one of which is still a member of said court. We have had twenty or more teachers v/ho have gone out from our community, and we have at pre- sent three stenographers and one trained nurse.

We have had, and still have, some of the best cooks in Mercer County, and we defy competition. We have also given to other communities some of their best cooks, farmers, and house-helpers. So you see by this little report that we have done great things in the past, and who dare say that we will not do greater things in the future?

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