SYCAMORE CREEK

Sycamore Creek enters Big Mill Creek at the town of Ripley.

It rises in the divide between Mill Creek and Sandy and flows in a southwesterly direction, and is about five miles long.

It was named from the number of gigantic sycamore trees that grew along its banks near the mouth, their white limbs clothed with a wealth of dancing buttonwood balls, and their massive trunks mirrored in the crystal flow of the stream, like the water birth, annually shedding bark as well as leaves.

As these trees grew of immense girth and were frequently hollow, in the backwoods economy, they were often used as shelter, or for camping purposes, sometimes serving the settler as a house for years.

The first settlers on the Greenbrier River, Marlin and Sewell, dwelt in the cavity of one of those trees, which stood on the site of the present town of Marlinton in Pocahontas County, for two or three years, and the Pringle brothers, John and Samuel, on the Buckhannon River, had long a similar home.

As previously related, Captain Billy Parsons utilized a large sycamore as a part of his dwelling house, when he first came to the mouth of Mill Creek, and at an earlier date, while yet the Indians were struggling to hold their homes and hunting grounds against the steadily encroaching civilization of the white man, Andrew Anderson established himself, solitary and alone, in the hollow of a. huge sycamore tree, which grew somewhere in the Great Bend, across the Ohio River from Warth's Bottom, where he continued hunting and trapping for several years.

Another useful purpose to which the hollow Sycamore was put was the making of grain bins, boxes, barrels and even chests and trunks, into which they were converted by simply cutting the thin shells, which in a large tree would sometimes be no more than two of three inches thick, into sections two to four feet long, nailing clapboard across one end, and after the inside was smoothed out if necessary, there resulted the useful bins to hold their grain.

It is related that when John Bord on Frozen Camp was elected a justice of the Peace, he got in a gum. and had his wife "call court", so he could practice answering to his name.

She "lowed " "There ain't any Squire but jist you and me, pap".

Sycamore chips were sometimes used as a substitute for tea, and was said when properly prepared and sweetened with maple sugar, the staple article of the backwoods, to be a fragrant and pleasant drink.

Sassafras, sweet birth, ground ivy, wintergreen, dittany and various other barks and herbs were used instead of tea and coffee, both of which were scarce on the frontiers, and the latter was usually disliked until the taste for it had been acquired. Milk, however, was the drink most commonly used at the table.

Mrs. Price told me she had seen "lots of bears and deers thicker than squirrels are now" (1906). One could stand in the cabin door and shoot turkeys flying over, and her brother, Ben Rollins, "had killed mor'n a hundred bears on the head of Tug."

Mrs. Price said also that Captain Billy Parsons shot an elk (possibly a buffalo) at Lick Spring, at the mouth of Sycamore, near where it enters Mill Creek. The last bear killed near Ripley was on Sycamore.

It is almost certain that the first white settler on Sycamore was Charles Parsons, and he probably came at the same time his son settled at the mouth of the creek. or very soon after, that is to say, about 1804 or 1805.

It is also probable that he reared his first lowly cabin about the forks of the creek , between a quarter and half mile from its mouth.

By water, the distance to the entrance of the left branch is much greater, as the stream flows to within a few rods of mill Creek, and turning, flows back along itself, perhaps thirty six poles, to the mouth of Green Run, where it turns again and flows past Ripley, to its confluence with Mill Creek, a few rods farther up that stream than it would but for the double loop.

After Captain Parsons returned from the War of 1812, he also lived up on Sycamore.

Luke Parsons told me in a conversation on October 1st, 1906, that his grandfather, Charles Parsons, Sr., lived, when his father (Charles Parsons, Jr.) was a. boy of fourteen, in a cabin that stood on a raised piece of ground where the creek makes a turn, just below the lower Straley house, and above the forks of Sycamore. He had but little cleared ground, and and was probably only a squatter on the land. When they left there, Charles Jr. wanted to move back to the river, but his father and captain Billy decided to move back into the hills where hunting would be better. They moved to the mouth of Frozen Camp, on what was then known as the Trace Fork of Mill Creek.

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ABLES FAMILY

From the forks of Sycamore, the Parsonses at one time or another, owned the valley of the right branch up for over two and a half miles, or as far as the site of the Centennial Church and school house.

They were probably the first permanent settlers of the lower Sycamore valley.

About 18–, Martin Ables came from Greene County, Pennsylvania, and located about a mile and a half up on Sycamore, at what is now known as the Straley farm, where he made the first improvement, though it is probable Parsons had lived for a time at the wide bottoms above at an earlier date. Two sons came with him and lived somewhere near Sandy.

He is said to have had a horse mill, which was patronized by the pioneers of Sandy.

Some of his descendants are still living about Ravenswood.

Alexander (commonly known as Alec) Ables, married Hannah Staats, daughter of Old Abram Staats, of near Evans.

He got a piece of land at the farm now owned by William Carney, building his house across on a knoll near the mouth of two runs which here flow into Sycamore.

Here was born on January 5th, 1831, his daughter, Anna, who is now residing at Reedy, in Roane County (Mrs. William Stewart).

He lived a while at the mouth of Sycamore.

Margaret Ables, a sister of Alec, married William Staats, a son of Abraham, and brother of Alec's wife. He lived on Sycamore for a time, and then emigrated to Indiana.

Late in the thirties, a man named Hamilton bought the farm now known as the Connolly farm, about a mile above town, there was a camp ground laid out by the Methodist people in the woods in the Connolly bottoms. Here they continued to hold camp meetings annually until the ground was cleared, when the camp ground, with its paraphernalia of sheds, cook rooms, seats, etc., were removed to the flat at the head of the run where the road crosses from Sycamore to Station Camp.

Here the meetings were kept up until the division of the church, in 1844.

This was locally known as the "Seedtick" camp ground, from the immense quantities of a small white insect, known as seedtick, by which the leaves and brush of the thickets were inhabited.

These, with the still well known "Chiggers" and woodticks, were a pest to the backwoodsman.

Where the run just mentioned enters the creek, another large run enters from the right, which heads a the Short Bend schoolhouse.

At a spot near the mouth of this run was the site of the Ables cabin. Mr. William Staats, of near Reedy, informs me that he remembers when small, perhaps about 1846, going with his father when he took his wool to the carding machine.

They stopped with his aunt, Hannah Ables, and she sent a son, Alfred, to a neighbor, on the adjoining farm, the house was by the creek on the Carney farm– possibly the same one torn down about 1903 – for a cabbage head, on which errand he went also. The people, he remembers, were German, the old lady talking volubly in that tongue.

There is on record in the Clerk's office at Ripley, a deed made January 30th, 1834, wherein Martin Ables, in consideration of the sum of $200.00 and the maintenance of himself and wife, Margaret Ables, conveyed to Alexander Ables, three hundred acres on Sycamore, being the upper part of the tract of four hundred acres bought by him of John Leonard, and by Leonard of John Swan.

As a means of easy reference, the following condensed information is given:

Martin Ables (wife's name was not learned) came from Greene County, Pennsylvania. His children were

Alexander, married Hannah Staats. He died in Illinois.

Jacob.

Margaret married William Staats.

There was a family named Ables who moved from Greene County, Pennsylvania, to Guernsey County, Ohio, about 1805, or earlier.

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STRALEY FAMILY

There lived in the first and second decades of the century, on the site of the old fort on Hacker's Creek, in Lewis County, a man by the name of Christian Straley, a native of Germany.

His wife's name was Elizabeth Bonnett. There were three sons, all of whom married and settled on Hacker's Creek.

Their names were George, Stephen and Jacob.

George Straley lived on the farm where West Fort stood on Hacker's Creek, traces of the fort were yet visible in the 1800's. He married a Chapman.

Stephen was born in Lewis County in 1801, and died in 1885.

About 1857, or 1858, they came to Mill Creek, Stephen locating on the farm where Martin Ables lived, and George bought the house by the creek where the German lived, now owned by William Carney.

Jacob returned to Lewis County without purchasing.

Stephen married Mary Alkire.

His son, Christian Straley, born in 1828, marred Anna, daughter of Alex Ables, New Year's Day, in 1852. On the following October 7th, he died, and on December 10th, was born his twin children, Margaret E. and Hannah E.

Stephen Straley and wife and two grown sons are buried in the northeast quarter of the old cemetery at Ripley.

About one fourth mile above the Sycamore bridge and the two runs previously mentioned, a considerable branch comes in from the left. There stands in the little bottom where this run flows from the hills, an old vacant, tumble down, hewed log house. Just in front of this stood the dwelling of John F. Parsons, the son of Captain Billy, who was born in the tree.

A more detailed genealogy of the Straley family, an outline of which has been given before, is as follows:

Christian Straley, a native of Germany, came to America, lived at the fort on Hacker's Creek. He married Elizabeth Bonnett. They had three sons, two of whom lived in Jackson County.

George Straley married a Chapman.

Elizabeth married Jim Wolfe and lived on Station Camp.

Abe.

Angeline married first a Rollins, and later she married Chris Rhodes, a cousin of "Uncle" Johnny Rhodes.

Hannah married Sandusky Harpold.

Cinderella married William Staats.

Martha married Dan Bartlett.

Liza married Brooks Kessel.

Amelia died unmarried.

Jacob married Hannah Staats.

Stephen Straley was born February 4th, 1806, married Mary Alkire in Lewis County. He died July 8th, 1885. His wife was born in 1815, and died in 1879. Of their children:

Elizabeth married John Ferguson, and lived on Sycamore. He died in 1906.

Christian Straley, born in 1828, died in 1852, married Anna Ables. They had twin daughters, Margaret E. and Hannah E.

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LANDFRIED FAMILY

Another quarter mile above this a large run comes in from the left.

The bottoms hereabout are rather wide. Opposite the mouth of this run are built the Centennial Church and school house.

About half way between these two branches and well across to the southern side of the valley is an old well and a part of the wreckage of an old orchard. Here was the homestead of Travis Parsons, another son of Captain Billy.

He lived at this farm on Sycamore, as above mentioned, until 1848, when he sold his farm to Philip Landfried.

He bought on the right fork of Reedy, building at the foot of the hill below the Pleasant Grove Church.

After the war, he sold his farm to an oil company and return to Sycamore, locating at the John Jewell farm on the left fork.

There were three Landfried brothers, by the names of George, Henry and Philip Landfried, who came to Jackson County about 1848.

They were born at Leitweller "six miles from the River Rhine", in Germany.

They came to New York in 1835, with their father's family.

George, the eldest, was married about 1837. He lived in Ripley some fifty years, dying there.

Henry.

Philip Landfried was born in 1829, and was nineteen when they moved to Sycamore in 1848.

He married Sarah Ann, daughter of Jacob Ables.

He died in 1904, and was buried at the Ripley graveyard.

Their children were:

Charles Landfried.

Jacob L Landfried

James M Landfried

Adam Landfried.

A daughter married J. P. Carney

A daughter married A. W. Boid.

In the cemetery at Ripley are also the graves of Adam Landfried, born December 15th, 1785, died December 10th, 1871, aged almost eighty seven years, and Charlotte Landfried, who was born January 18th, 1791 and died February 6th, 1867. These are in all probability the parents of the Landfried brothers.

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LUDWIG FAMILY

On the upper waters of Sycamore live the children of Daniel Ludwig, who came to Sycamore from the "Dark Hills of Monroe" since the war.

He was killed in a runaway accident at the hollow, by the old plank house on the hill beyond the Sycamore bridge.

The accident occurred on Saturday, December 28th, 1899, he dying the next morning, interment at the new graveyard on his own farm.

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RICHARDSON FAMILY

ohn C. Richardson was a Baptist minister. He lived in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, during the war between the states. He came to Ripley about 1873, was instrumental in building up the Baptist Church at that place. Before his death in 1889, he moved to a house in the cove, near where Isaac Spears now lives. His wife, Lois Wright Richardson, was born in England, in 1812, and died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Spears, in October, 1903. Their children were:

John Richardson. A daughter married D. D. Rhodes.

A daughter married Isaac Spears.

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KING FAMILY

One evening in September, 1904, while returning from Ripley, I stopped for a chat with Mrs. "Lizzie" Wolfe, at her home on Station Camp.

Among other reminiscences of the past, she spoke of Leonard King, who had long lived on the top of the hill I had just passed over on the flats lying off to the right of the road, but now for many years sleeping under a giant oak tree in the Mount Olive Cemetery.

She said the Kings lived on Sycamore when she first came to the country when a girl. King, she said, was a son of Francis King, who came from Hacker's Creek with her husband's father, in 1821.

She remembered being at the King's house when young, they being already residents when her father, George Straley, settled at the mouth of the run which heads up in the King farm.

Though she did not say whether or not they lived on the hill.

The Kings kept sheep, which, like all stock in that day, ran at large in the forest, but they kept them trained to come up at nightfall, when they confined them in a pen near the house, to protect them from the wolves.

Mrs. King would blow the long tin dinner horn, making the wolves howl in the neighboring woods, which would bring the sheep home.

Mrs. King, whose name was, according to the recollection of my informant, Elizabeth Hughes, before her marriage, was a first cousin to her husband. Her father was "Bill" Hughes, and he is supposed to be a relative of Jesse Hughes, the famous Indian fighter.

They had three grown children who were not strong, and died young. One was a dwarf. She is the only of the family with a marker to her grave.

In the Mount Olive graveyard, by the side of the Spencer pike, is a grave, the head and footstones of which are not more than four and one half feet apart, the inscription on the headstone reads-

Catherine, daughter of L. and R. King
died June 15, 1871
aged 35 yr.     5 mo   and 3 d

There is a row of graves near the outside of the cemetery, under the oak trees, which is said to contain the ashes of the rest of the family.

Leonard King was a member of the second grand jury in Jackson County, in 1831.

Samuel R. King married Mary C. Riley, lived near Ripley, in 1836.

George S. Matson King was born near Ripley, in 1836, was sheriff of Jackson County in 1866. His wife was Caroline O., daughter of Elijah Staats. They had seven children.

A Mrs. Nancy King, widow of Samuel King, died in 1896, at the age of nearly seventy nine.

M. V. King and John I. King were her sons. She was either a second wife of Samuel R. King, or there was also another Samuel King.

Rufina King died at Buckhannon, in April, 1904. She was wife of Reverend F. B. J. King, sister of Mrs. Koontz and Mrs. S. D. King. Reverend W. W. King, Dr. J. M. King, E. M. King, and Mrs. Heaton were her children.

Reverend D. E. W. King, of Jackson County, was probably a brother of F. H. J. King, perhaps a son of G. S. Matson King.

There were Kings on Cow Run and Little Mill Creek. One married a Carter.

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