Ivydale, West Virginia is a small town located in a remote part of Clay County about 50 miles northeast of Charleston, the state capitol. It is a sleepy, rural town separated into two parts by the Elk River. State Route 16/4 runs through one part of Ivydale and the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks run through the other.
When I grew up in the 1930's and 1940's, Ivydale had a population of about 250. It had no paved streets - only dirt roads. It was not incorporated and about the only distinguishing features of the town were the post office, the elementary school, and the Methodist and Baptist Churches. It obviously was a far cry from its more flourishing days of the past.
About 1835, Andrew S. Friend floated down the Elk River in either a dugout canoe or on a raft from Cedar Creek, Braxton County, Virginia (now W.Va.). He came down the river in search of a spot upon which to build a log cabin for his family. Andrew sighted what appeared to him to be a suitable spot on a level plot of land where in more modern times Dr. and Mrs. T. D. Nutter built a home. Andrew beached his boat on a sandbar, climbed the steep river bank and placed a stake in the ground near where the Nutters built, and claimed this as the site where he would set to work on the construction of a log cabin - the first house ever erected in what is now Ivydale. His house was built on the part of Ivydale that now contains the old Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks. Andrew married Malinda Williams of Botetourt County, Va., and this became their home.
After the cabin was completed, Andrew set to work clearing out a small patch of land in the virgin forest which completely covered this section at that time. This was the beginning of Ivydale. He acquired several hundred acres of land in this area by deed in 1847 from his father Andrew Pendleton Friend of Braxton County. Andrew S. soon began to clear out timber and develop the area.
Ivydale was named after a woman, the daughter of Jack Ice who surveyed out the town. Upon completion of the survey, Mr. Ice decided that the new town should have a name and he immediately conceived an idea. He would use the daughter's first name which was "Ivy" add "Dale," and the new town had a name.
Shortly after the survey, residents of this community decided that Ivydale was an up and coming community and should be incorporated, which they proceeded to do. A mayor was selected, town police appointed and a jail (often referred to as a doghouse) was built to hold violators of the law.
Among Ivydale's first mayors were Dr. Ed Hamrick and L. P. Hickman. Some of the early policemen in this community were "Devil" Bill King and Newberry Truman, who never saw the man that they wouldn't attempt to arrest.
Some of the early settlers in Ivydale were the Friends, Hamricks, Chapmans, Morrisons, Beasleys, Dulaneys, Chanceys, Laughlins, Walkers, Ramseys, Boggses, Millers, Butlers, Bledsoes, Douglases, Hissams, and Coulters.
For many years Ivydale flourished , in particular because of the abundance of virgin timber surrounding the area. About the year 1902 Judge Lewis, a stave manufacturer, moved his equipment in on the waters of Big Otter Creek and began an operation that continued for about five years. This industry furnished employment for many of the local men, as well as others who came to Ivydale with the stave mill. In the same year Milton Dorsey was granted a permit to operate a ferry across the Elk River at Ivydale and M. W. Venable, a consulting engineer, was engaged to submit plans for a bridge.
With the demise of the stave industry, Ivydale started into a long period of decline that has continued until this day. The town is no longer incorporated and today probably has a population of less than 150 people.
Much of the information in this brief history was taken from articles that my uncle Ellis Friend wrote from time to time. Many of them were printed in the Clay County Free Press of Clay. And to paraphrase my uncle from one of his articles, he makes the statement that:
"As far back as I can remember, Ivydale has been referred to as a "tough" community. Perhaps at times our town was a bit rugged; however, many of the wild tales told about Ivydale were fiction.
In the pioneer days, during the construction of what is now the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and when the stave industry, lumber works and other industries flourished in this section, we did have an occasional killing, which were not unusual happenings in other communities along the Elk at that time. Imported laborers followed the public works to Ivydale and immediate vicinity, some of whom were "tough" characters. Ivydale has outlived its bad name and is now a peace-loving community with some of the best citizens in the country living here". Art Friend
This article was submitted by Arthur R. Friend in May of 1997. Some of the authorship is mine but as stated above, much of the information in this short history is drawn from various articles written by my uncle Ellis Friend before his death in 1967.