LAUREL DALE, WEST VIRGINIA
hamlet with a post office on New Creek at Pokejoy Run, New Creek District,
Mineral County WV.
The post office was established in 1878, with two prospective names (Big Springs and Laurel Dale) being submitted. Laurel Dale was selected because there was already a post office named Big Springs.
The origin of the name is from the first free school that was named Laurel Dale, because it was built on a knoll covered and surrounded by three different growths of laurel.
Originally unmolested wilderness of grandeur where Indian Trail crossed New Creek Valley, Appalachian Highland, Va Territory. Named when organizing Sunday School in the Burgess Schoolhouse (so called because Edwin Burgess Sr Construction manager) in or near 1880’s – inspired by rhodoendrons, other laurels and hemlock in picturesque profusion near about. Suggested by “Jimmy” Nihiser, song-master, brother of J W Nihiser, UB minister. Motion passed unanimous, less one vote.
The “Little Red Schoolhouse” replaced “r-r-r” board benches, no desk type, across road from Carvel Church, served as Meetinghouse for three denominations (Dunkard Brethren, United Brethren, Methodist) union Sun School. Voting Booth, social and civic events.
Among Laurel Dale School Teachers: Albert Frantz, Harvey Rexroad, Annie Marvel, Blanche Babb, Bruce Bosley, Susie Vanmeter, Annie Shell, Loretta Miltenberger, Woodrow Baker, Blanche Burgess, Nellie Likins, Rose Osborne, Bertha Whipp and others.
Central points of interest, perhaps Hilkey’s Mill – water races from New Creek slopes to empower giant wooden waterwheel in process of converting saddle bags of homegrown grain into pioneer household uses, wagon loads from larger farms. Owned and operated by William (Billy) Hilkey – oft quoted “When Mag. Fout can’t make good bread I’ll think its my flour!”
In connection, a General Store mercantile business – “eggs” ‘n butter traded for yard goods, “Plus – supplied humble, modest needs of widely scattered homes. Operated by Charles McNeill, son in law, Also Post office.
Earlier convenience for funeral arrangements, coffin making, also an added service for this and surrounding communities. Seldom, if any, financial obligations. Material, seasons hardwood – John L Kuh Blacksmith Shop, conveniently located between ford crossing New Creek Road and Warner Thomas garden at junction of Dolls Gap (Saddle) and Burgess Hollow Road. Work reputable, largely patronized, wagon and buggy repair work, horse shoeing, etc. Lived in early type log house “Billy” Thomas pioneer home. Little farm well tilled. Warner Thomas home across road opposite more spacious. Farming and cattle raising. Youthful social activities, sleighing parties a highlight.
The Saddle: Name change inspired because view of gap from Northwestern Turnpike at height, seven mountain ranges envisioned, this part of pass resembles a saddle. Only horse path through woodland. Stone barricade near west opening – Civil War activities, perhaps earlier, Indian Trail, “Buzzard Boulder” nesting home.
Wright Burgess pioneer home, north New Creek slope at Saddle – little two room plastered house, upright rough board crack strip siding with lean to slab kitchen, purchased from “Tommy”Carskadon, large landowner at this period. Site of early Indian Massacre: Coleshine family, graves under walnut grove, two Indian graves against hill slope above, rock foundation of house beside two stately black hart cherry trees. Only knowledgeable, “Billy” Thomas quite elderly…Woodland wilderness grew in grace. Josiah Hiley property adjoining welcomed the Amtowers and had perhaps earliest home apple orchard in community – first grad fruit minus spraying.
Milton Baker home (north) evidences a mill race of pioneer generations (in quest) – perhaps of Hilkey Mill ancestry – Three Baker daughters and Albert Frantz, much favored “song Specials” = Sacred music only.
The Frantz farm, John and son Albert, Dunkard Brethren Ministers, Lelia daughter, a teacher, Martha, a long time Sun School Bible Class teacher. Prosperous, up to date property extending into foothills of Allegheny with Kolb Schoolhouse. Elijah Streets, Bosleys and others enclosing John and Ada Torkington land grant (800 acres all tillable land sight unseen) in exchange for their property in England. Finding it rugged mountain terrain timberland, soon returned to England selling to Edwin Burgess Sr, nephew (who was to have half this acreage for service as business manager) their half. Thus, Burgess Hollow and site of pioneer home…Little log houses, relatives along trail..Small farms were sold from this as the community progressed. The Jesse Davis plantation, southern type home, along Grant Co line and new Creek (south) – little salve houses in row at rear – auction block in Romney. Historical Cold Spring Milk house and along creek lent inmates some tense moments during Civil War activities: - from windows watching soldiers eagerly emptying milk crocks, jars, pie plates, etc in hilarious haste – More greatly displease if the enemy.
Lauren thickets near this location afforded one marching prisoner of war a daring but joyous escape from Andersonville prison as the leaped through fucillage of bullets into thicket.
The Stone Milk house was native stone masonry under all trees along creek enclosing spring of clear ice-cold water over white sand. Another such, short distance north along roadside merging from below steep slope at Howard Harris home – natural, no masonry at this one.
New Creek Mountain afforded summer grazing for sheep – owners making their flocks individually. In autumn brought in, culled, and marketed, driving in large collection.
Varieties of huckleberries attracted home interests and meager profits, ten cents a gallon – and rugged adventure..Market, mining towns atop Allegheny. Delightful, delicious and “Oh those pies” rattlesnakes, racers, coppers..and chiggers!
The larger number in this thinly populated area were well educated in the “School of hard knocks’ early version,..but a few “strolling learning’s hill”. Albert Frantz, graduate of Bridgewater College, Va, minister and educator. Pearce Bosley, self educated and well read, fondly dubbed “historian” One young man went away to college, returned and “hard knocks” brothers criticized. “He sot ‘round in white shirt ‘n necktie with his home in a book while we’uns sweat a gittin’ in th’ hay!” George Burgess, minister, “Circuit Rider” many years but drove buggy. Henry Ely Burgess, brother – merchant (Hartmansville, Ridgeville, Claysville).
Students a W VP and Potomac State: B Blanche Burgess – completed 2 year course Shorthand and Typewriting in 1 year (1912-13), next year, Librarian and student – later graduated Short Normal Course, ’17, Hershel and Margaret Burgess, also Rose Osborne were students – perhaps others.
Among families who contributed worthily not herein mentioned: Lillers, Michaels, Heatons, Wallbotts, Shears, Shreaves, Dodds, Lemons, Eberts, Stonestreets and others.
In springtime from Allegheny slopes chestnut oak trees were felled, peeled for bark and marketed for curing hides at New Creek Tannery – deliveries made over dirt road, high bark lader wagons, four horse teams – later steam engines replaced horses.
Submitted by Blanch Barb
MINERAL COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA, FAMILY TRAITS, TRACKS AND TRAILS