A Brief History of the Schools of Marshall County

Submitted by Eric Anderson.

Moundsville Daily Echo, Saturday, April 26, 1924

By J. S. Welch, County Superintendent of Schools

     Marshall county is most southern of the four counties forming what is known as the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. This strip of territory resulted from the cession of the Northwest Territory to the national government in 1784, and the running of the western boundary of Pennsylvania due north upon the western terminus of Mason and Dixon line.

     On March 12, 1836, the General Assembly of West Virginia passed an act cutting of that part of Ohio county lying south of the line drawn from a point to be fixed on the bank of the Ohio river one half mile above the mouth of Boggs Run and running eastwardly to the northern boundary of the village of West Union, to the Pennsylvania line. The new county was called Marshall county in honor of Chief Justice Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Early Settlers Build Schools

     The first settlement made in what is now Marshall county was established on Big Wheeling creek in what is now Sand Hill district of West Augusta, Virginia. The first school house erected was built at Elizabethtown, now Moundsville, in the year 1798, and in the next year the first school opened in the county was taught in this building by William Ransom.

     The early settlers were not partial to ignorance and illiteracy. School houses were erected in the several settlements, and schools were conducted in these when teachers could be obtained. The houses were log cabins with immense fire places in one end. The lenght of term was usually three months, and the schools were supported by private subscription. The children often traveled as far as three and four miles in order to get school accommodations.

     Hewed log school houses replaced the log cabin type in due time. They were floored with plank. Seats were made of plank with backs like many benches found on porches today.

First Brick School Erected

     The log school house at Moundsville went the way of all such structures in the county, and a brick school house was erected on the north side of the town of Moundsville near where the office of the First street coal mine now stands. It was in this building that the justices of the peace of the new county of Marshall met on June 18, 1835, in the capacity of a county court, to organize work in that building. The first session of county court ever held in the county was held in that school house.

     These educational facilities continued long after the admission of West Virginia into that union as one of the Sovereign states. The constitution of the new state provided for public free schools. Legislation followed, making a plan for establishing schools in every community in the state where it was possible to do so.

School Districts Established

     The county was divided into townships and the townships constituted school districts and were so called. The school districts were divided into communities known and called sub districts and numbered. Each district was in a manner independent from other districts in certain matters. The preliminary work of dividing the townships or districts into sub districts and providing proper houses in which to hold schools was quite a task, but was well performed by the following officials: William J. Alexander, county superintendent of free schools, and the following boards of education:

Cameron district, J .M. Pipes, J. M. Phillips and George Hubbs; Clay district, William Riggs, Jesse Bonar and William Varley; Franklin district, John Hornbrook, George McKimmie and Thomas Ruckman; Liberty district, J. W. Higgins, John S. McDonald and Richter; Meade district, M. Shepherd, J. W. Richmond and Jackson Travis; Sand Hill district, John Richie, A. R. Kimmins and Samuel Dague; Washington district, Reuben Zink, William White and George Edwards; Webster district, William Keyser, William McCleary and Eli Salter; Union district, Joseph Pedley, Dr. McCoy and Thomas Morgan.

School Growth Shown

     During the year 1873, ninety-two teachers were employed in the county. All were one room schools with these exceptions; Moundsville had a building employing six teachers; and Cameron, one employing two teachers. The county at the present time employs (265) two hundred sixty five teachers, has four first class high schools, ten graded schools, six semi consolidated schools, and eighty seven one room schools. There are one consolidated, two semi consolidated, and one, one room school buildings in the couse of construction. The county enrolls 686 students in high school this year and has a total enrollment of 7,316 pupils in all schools of the county.

     Among pioneers in school work in this county who are still actively engaged in the work are Professor J. T. King, principal of the McMechen school, J. M. Rine, principal at Rosbys Rock, and M. B. Strawn who this year is teaching a one room first class standard school in Franklin district. W. S. Dowell of Moundsville a pioneer school teacher, has actively engaged in research work for a number of years. The writer of this article in indebted to him for some of the information contained herein.

Changes in Systems

     The county system of examining teachers was first introduced in the county in September 1873, with S. R. Hanan in charge assisted by B. B. Newman and W. M. Wirt. In the year 1903 the system of certificating teachers was adopted in the state doing away the former county system of issuing certificates.

     In 1874, a four weeks’ term of normal school was conducted in Moundsville by S. R. Hanen and F. H. Crago, on the site where the Central School of Moundsville now stands. For many years such a school was a feature of education and was conducted in connection with the public school of Moundsville. It ceased at the close of the summer normal taught by Prof. D. T. Williams in the old school house in 1895 but was revived in a more complete way in the summer of 1922.

     Graduation form the public school was introduced into the county in 1876 by Prof. A. L. Wade of Monongalia county while conducting a county institute in the county.

     The teachers of this county prepared and adopted a plan to grade the county and village schools in 1888 at a regular session of the teachers institute. It was similar to the one prepared by the Department of Education of the state a few years later.

Marshall County One of Best

     Marshall county may be well termed as one of the very best counties in the state. It not only has the natural resources that put it on the map as an industrial section but it also has good soil, good farms, good markets and a good resident citizenship. The federal census for 1920 shows a total of 1712 farms with a total of 198,000 acres in farm area. The outstanding feature in this report is the fact that a larger majority of the farms are operated by the owners in this county than in other sections of the state. The Rural Life conferences give this county some of the best scoring in rural communities of any in the state. Sherrard in Union district is a model rural community. It is in close proximity to a good market, has well improved farms and buildings, good churches and may well boast of having one of the first and best consolidated and high schools in the state. Other communities following closely to Sherrard but handicapped to some extent at the present time for the lack of good roads are Pleasant Valley, Dallas, St. Joseph, Sand Hill and others. Cameron, Moundsville, McMechen and Benwood are industrial centers and have up to date schools conducted under good supervision.

Great Development Expected

     The schools of Marshall county have always compared favorably with the best schools of the state. The taxpayers give freely of their money to support education and only demand that it be spent in an economical way, consistent with good service. New school buildings are being erected each year and strong sentiments is developed in favor of better roads throughout the county. The people are awake to their responsibilities and opportunities and a great development is bound to come in Marshall county within the next ten years.

Teachers in 1873

     Following is a list of teachers of Marshall county for the years 1873: F. V. Yoho, Belle M. Steele, Mollie Carman, F. H. Crago, Prin., C. W. Wallace, David Bonar, Mary L. Biggs, B. B. Newman, W. S. Powell, Malcolm Lowery, Samuel Resseger, George Rine, Lizzie Riggs, J. M. Higgins, Mary E. Hedges, Henrietta M. McKee, J. M. Admir, Emma Davis, Ella Davis, W. W. Farrar, J. W. Elmsley, J. W. Wayman, Maria Hoffman, W. P. Weekly, D. T. Williams, Ed T. Riggs, Patrick Lavalle, George Parkinson, P. R. Danley, O. W. Crawford, J. A. Blackford, Isaac Lutes, J. W. Sherick, Micajah Rine, Mary E. Ruth, Belle Gates, Sidney Hedge, George Byrnes, Rachael Groves, W. J. Doman, J. W. Kelley, A. B. Barnett, R. A. Fisher, Ella Harris, E. M. C. McTracy, Philip Riley, Thomas Riley, William McGinty, Ezekial Bonar, Phebe Sinclair, John Booth, Erastus Hammond, D. S. Hammond, W. F. Cox, N. W. Yeater, Phebe J. Gorby, R. H. Holliday, Ruth Whitney, Ida Wallace, Clara Parkinson, Lyda C. Murdy, Mattie Patterson, W. F. Mason, Jacob Wichterson, W. D. Irwin, J. F. Quick, William McGary, Jacob Perkins, Cora Myers, Lelia Alexander, W. L. Luke, Luther Rice, L. H. Taylor, F. S. Carroll, William Founer, A. H. McGlen, A. E. Massey, Emma Best, A. J. Duff, Maggie McCaw, Mary Peck, R. W. Simpson, B. H. Clark, J. F. Parsons, J. W. Yeater, F. J. Keller, John Robinson, Thomas Pedley, F. M. Fisher, W. M. Wirt.

County Superintendents to Date

Wm. J. Alexander, elected in 1864; served one term of two years.
John Lorain, elected in 1866; served two terms of two years each.
John W. P. Reid, elected in 1869; served two terms of two years each.
Samuel R. Hanan, elected in 1871; served two terms of two years each.
W. M. Wirt, elected in 1875; served two terms of two years each.
David Bonar, elected in 1879; served one term of two years.
John W. P. Reid, elected in 1881; served one term of two years.
W. M. Wirt, elected in 1885; served three terms of two years each.
J. M. Rine, elected in 1891; served one term of two years.
J. E. Sivert, elected in 1893; served one term of two years.
W. M. Wirt, elected in 1894; served one term of four years.
W. E. Mason, elected in 1898; served one term of four years.
James D. Parriott, elected in 1902; served one term of four years.