WEST COLUMBIA

In 1847 three families lived in Ice Creek Hollow, yet on November 18th of that year, a post office was established there for the convenience of the farmers in the bottom land above and below the narrows. It was named West Columbia and its postmaster was MOSES MICHAELS.

West Columbia was the first of the river towns to produce salt. By 1851, it was the largest town in the county. A report of the West Columbia Mining and Manufacturing Company Agent tells us the town had a church, two school houses, a printing office, a telegraph office, a steam saw mill, a salt furnace, tannery, carding maching, stave machine, six stores and ten steam machines employed in various other mechnical operations and the population was now 800 people. They also had acquired coal lands. This was 1853.

Dr. AQUILLA L. KNIGHT, former teacher, located in the town in 1861 after his graduation from the medical department of Western Reserve College.

West Columbis's first school was conducted in the basement of Rev. MOSES MICHAEL's three story brick building, with Captain ALLEN MASON as teacher.

In addition to the United Brethersn Church, a Welch Presbyterian and a Methodist Episcol church located here. The Bend's first church bell was $350 purchased by the Rev. MOSES MICHAEL. People from a wide area attended church here, coming from as far away as Pomeroy, OH. All of the prominent families came in their carriages, some driven by slaves. The slaves sat in the back of the church on a bench especilly provided for them.

West Columbia in its early years gave promise of becoming the Bend's social center. Bells were given in the Van Matre Hotel, as well as regular dances.

Business fell off during the Civil War and West Columbia never regained its former glory. By 1867 the Beacon Hill Furnace had been purchased by JOHN KING and Son of New York.

The notable King Residence at West Columbia was built on the cliffs back of the King Furnace about 1867. It was only one story high, but very long with many porches and windows from which there were many fine views up and down the river. A grove of trees almost hid the house. Workers by the score were maintained about the premises.

At this hill-top residence King entertained his friends from the East. During the summer months young folks came from New York, Philadelphia, and other places, to spend the season at the King Mansion. The summer evenings were spent in dancing, card playing and music. Negro waiters were on hand to serve the guests.

The King Furnace shut down in 1873 and King returned to New York. By 1870 West Columbia had lost a thousand or more people. The population was now 773.

Several newspapers were started in West Columbia, but none lasted, the West Virginia Monitor was last. The first free school was taught by a Miss DAY in a little frame building oppositre the U. B. Church. Miss MARY MASON taught a term or two in a room on the second floor of a private dwelling, probably in 1865.

 By the fall of 1867 two new school buildings were ready for occupancy; one, a little red school house above the mouth of Thirteen Mile Creek; the other a larger building, on Ice Creek. BILLY GAMBLE was the first teacher at the red school house. Miss NORRIS (later Mrs. W. W. HARPER) was one of the first teachers at the Ice Creek School.

One room in the larger school was set aside for those who wanted to study German. Among those who attended were the Misses LILLY, IDA and EVA KNIGHT, Masters GEORGE KNIGHT, GEORGE, CHARLEY and ADAM ZUSPAN.

When King closed his furnace, there were efforts to open other one, but nit never succeeded. The coal mines kept the town going for awhile, but like other towns that depended on salt, it deteriorated rapidly.

 

Post Offices of Mason County

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Last update: May 26, 2011