Sight of a bunch of English sparrows hanging on the feed bag with other birds and our pea fowls the other day served to recall that it was Dr. John P. Hale, mayor of Charleston in 1870, who introduced English sparrows into the United States about 100 years ago.
Many people in America wish that the noted Charlestonian had left those sparrows where he found them, too. Since Dr. Hale was so prominently connected with much early West Virginia history, his story will be related today.
Dr. Hale appears to have been busy every moment of his life from the time he was born May 1, 1824, to the day he breathed his last in July, 1902. In his life of more than 78 years the accomplishments of this indefatigable hustler were legion. He was born near Ingles Ferry on New River in present day Montgomery County, Va.
There are more "firsts" in connection with the family of Dr. Hale than almost any other person who ever trod the Great Kanawha Valley.
His maternal ancestors were the Ingles and Draper families who founded Draper's Meadows-now Blacksburg, Va.-in 1748. These were Scotch-Irish people-Scotch folk who had settled in Ireland and later migrated to America. This was the first white settlement west of the Alleghanies.
William Ingles and Mary Draper, grandparents of Dr. Hale, were the first white couple to be wed west of the Alleghany chain. This couple established the first ferry crossing of New River in the Virginias.
At Ingles Ferry are buried five generations of these people.
On July 8, 1755-the day before Braddock's defeat-Indians raided Draper's Meadows. They took captive Mrs. Mary Ingles, the great-grandmother of Dr. Hale, and others.
At present Maiden, Mrs. Ingles made salt for the Indians. This was the first salt ever made by a white person west of the Alleghany Mountains. She was the first white person to traverse the Kanawha Valley and the first white woman ever in the areas of what are now the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.
In 1840 Hale came to the Kanawha Valley. He attended Mercer Academy at Charleston where Dr. Stewart Robinson was principal. In 1843 he took up the study of medicine under the direction of Dr. Spicer Patrick, for whom Patrick Street in Charleston is named. In 1845 he graduated as a doctor of medicine from the University of Pennsylvania and opened an office at Charleston.
In 1847 Dr. Hale gave up the practice of medicine and went into the salt manufacturing business upstream from Charleston. While practicing medicine he had an office with Dr. Patrick.
When the Civil War broke out, Dr. Hale organized an artillery battery for service with the Confederacy. He commanded the battery before going to Richmond where he was a Confederate surgeon in the Seven Days Battles around Richmond.
In 1851 Dr. Hale, who never married, attended the World's Fair in London and traveled in the British Isles and on the continent. In 1858 he organized a company to manufacture cannel coal oil in Kanawha Valley and Ohio.
In 1863 Hale owned and operated the first steam packet on the upper Kanawha River. Name of it was "Here's Your Mule"! That year he helped organize the "Bank of the West" at Charleston. He had the first steam yacht on the Kanawha in 1868 and its name was "The Pet."
In 1870 Hale led in organizing the first gas company at Charleston. In 1870 be owned all the ferries across the rivers there.
In 1871-1872 Hale was Mayor of Charleston. In 1869 he introduced the first brick-making machinery in Kanawha valley. In 1870, at his own expense he paved the first brick street in America-in Charleston.
In 1871 he was president of the first daily newspaper in our capital city. That year he built the first theatre there and also started the first public delivery of ice. That same year be established Charleston's first steam laundry. He opened a barrel manufacturing factory in 1872 and made a thousand barrels a day, barrels for packing salt. His two steamboats in 1878 were named "Lame Duck" and "Wild Goose."
Hale and John Ruby started the first wholesale grocery business in the valley in 1872. He started the first steam ferries at Charleston. In 1871, Dr. Hale put up the money to build the Capitol at Charleston and built the Hale House (hotel) to accommodate the legislators.
When the salt business was at its height, Dr. Hale was the premier producer, turning out 420,000 bushels in 1850, the year the valley made 3,000,000 bushels of salt. Hale led in forming the salt trust, the first trust in America.
A prolific writer of books of history, a free thinker in religion, and never a church member, Hale died in 1902 and was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery at the city he helped develop.
Sources on John Hale