THE COMING OF THE RAILROAD
With the coming of the railroad in 1852, the
village began to develop rapidly on the western bank of New Creek.
James MOSLEY had died in 1849 and his farm was divided into three parts-
Part 1- was given to his widow, Mary MOSLEY and her son William MOSLEY. It comprised the "homestead" on Welch St. & the fields north of the railroad tracks as far as the present Allegheny St. Part 2 - Elizabeth MOSELY, daughter, m. to Cornelius LONG, received Hominy Island & the western part of the farm from the present A St. to E. St. run. Part 3- Sarah MOSELY, daughter, m. to her first cousin James MCCARTY, received the land from the present Center St. south to Lincoln & west to Mineral St. In addition each of these plots of land was allotted a "wood lot" on what is now Fort Hill, site of Potomac State College.
A central section adj. to the railroad was laid off into a "Station Lot". It contained several acres: its bounds were - beginning at the present N. Water St., w. to Main St., n. to Mineral St. crossing of the railroad, then along the railroad right of way to Water St. This was the real nucleus of present-day Keyser.
The Moseleys had a number of Negro slaves. Near the "homestead" were two trees about 6' apart, each having iron rings bolted into its trunk. This was where they flogged their slaves, tying the victim's arms to the iron rings.
George Washington MOSLEY took a cash settlement as his portion of the estate and engaged in many businesses here until his death in 1896. In 1852 he built the New Creek Hotel by railroad station at the eastern end of Mozelle St., facing the railroad. Part of the hotel is still extant at 208 Mozelle St. It was built to accommodate the passengers on the railroad & furnish an eating shop for the trains as there were no dining cars on the B&O at that time. Susan (MYERS) MOSELY (Washington's wife)
supervised the cooking.
For the first 2 years of the hotel's existence, it was rented to John W. C. MIERS. The following item is of interest: "An election was held on 5-25-1854 in District No. 1, Hampshire Co, VA, at the home of John W. C. MIERS at Paddy Town. "
"Samuel ARNOLD, Robert K. SHEETZ, James PARIS, John WINEOW & Nimrod ALKIRE, Commissioners" "Cornelius R. LONG Conductor"
John GRIMES bought a large lot on the western side of Main St. from Armstrong St. corner where Jay's Shoe Store stood throught to Davis St., on which he built several small dwellings and a livery stable, all the 1850's.
Col. James H. DAYTON built a home at the juncture of Main & E. Piedmont Sts., which was demolished & the Blundon home stands. James I BARRICK had a two story home in the 1850's where Clem Montgomery's home is. N. Creed TAYLOR'S home was on Halde Street.
Soon after Col. Angus W. MCDONALD moved away from Keyser, the name of the Post Office was changed on 8-8-1857 to New Creek Station, VA. Norman C. SMOOT was the post master.
In 1852, Col. William McCarty ARMSTRONG purchased much of the Mosley land at New Creek Station. He built a large brick mansion house where Keyser High School is.
He also had a general store in a one story building facing the railroad at the rear of the present day Army & Navy Store (Stray Cat Building). Armstrong St. was named for him.
During this decade there was a water powered shoe factory at the southern end of Willow Ave. on New Creek. Several stores were built on Patrick St and a livery stable on Water at Armstrong St. Keyser was beginning to grow.
THE CIVIL WAR PERIOD
Col. Edward McCarty ARMSTRONG was the largest land
owner & most prominent businessman at New Creek Station in 1858.
He was elected delegate from Hampshire Co to the VA convention held
at Richmond 2-12-1861, which was to consider Va's secession from the
Union. Mr. Armstrong voted against the Ordinance of Secession;
however, his first loyalty was to his state, he therefore
wholeheartedly supported the Confederacy. He joined the Confederate
army & went into eastern VA. His store was taken over by Col.
James H. DAYTON, who became postmaster here on 4-28-1862. Soon after
this Col. Dayton joined the Union army.
New Creek was an important military base during the War. Its fort was built and occupied in 1861. It was important because it commanded roads leading to the South Branch & Shenandoah Valleys - to Romney, Moorefield, Franklin & Winchester.
During the war it was a training camp for the Union soldiers from PA, Ohio, Indiana & Ill., thousands who trained here, but only 500-1,000 at any given time. A permanent garrison with cavalry was maintained to protect the railroad.
The principal fort was Fort Fuller, also called Fort Kelly, which occupied the site of the Administration building of Potomac State College. Hoover Hollow Road was guarded by a swivel gun position, called Fort William, at the juncture of B Street and Fort Ave.
Fort Piano was on top of the steep mountains just east of New Creek, back of Willow Ave. There were cannons on Queen's Point.
In the Mount Hope Presbyterian churchyard, above Cliff St., on Overton Place, there were 9 lb. cannon to protect the New Creek road (now S. Water St.).
During the War, Keyser's two churches - The Methodist & Presbyterian were burned accidentally by careless soldiers.
The first shooting engagement here was in June 1861, when a company of Confederate Infantry marching all night from Romney came to Bull Neck Mt. at Lover's Leap here and burned the Twenty-first railroad bridge. Later Gen. Averell's great raid on Salem, VA was launched from New Creek and after the raid returned here.
On 11-28-1864, a Confederate force under Gen Rosser managed by wearing some stolen blue Union uniforms, to penetrate Fort Fuller about 10 AM. They withdrew about 4:00PM. While there, they captured @ 400 Union soldiers and also private citizens, all who were taken to Libby Prison in Richmond. Among the citizens captured were - Andrew SHILLINGBURG of Elk Garden, I. D. CALDWELL, and Marshall M. SAYRE.
The only fatality was a Confederate soldier, who was killed at the corner of Main and Center Streets, where Minnich's Flower Shop is now. His body lay there for 3 days in the open field until burial in the Armstrong Street Mansion yard, now the Keyser High School yard.
One of the commanders at Fort Fuller was Gen. Lew Wallace.
The Ringgold Cavalry from southwestern PA were stationed here most of the War. Col. MULLIGAN'S Chicago Irish Volunteer Regiment from Illinois camped here on St. Cloud Street from Orchard to Gilmore Streets for quite some time.
Some residents went into the Confederate Army. One of whom, Capt. Robert SHEETZ, C.S.A. was killed in battle.
During the war, 2 residents were delegates to the Wheeling Conventions, which began the processes which resulted in the formation of the State of WV. They were James I. BARRICK and James TROUT.
POST WAR PERIOD
At the close of the Civil War, New Creek Station,
being on the main line of the B&O RR, became the
"railhead" for the commercial interests of a large
territory - the rail supply & shipping point for Grant, Hardy,
Pendleton and most of Hampshire County."
This part of Hampshire County was predominantly Union in sentiment. The first session of the WV legislature moved the county seat from Romney to Piedmont for the duration of the war. In 1865 there was a much agititation for separating this part of the county from Hampshire & the formation of a new county, which was done in Feb. of 1866. The new county was named Mineral, from its wealth of mineral deposits. There was much dissention as to whether Piedmont or Keyser was to be the county seat.
In 1865, Col. Edward McCarty ARMSTRONG returned here, & sold his land & home to the Davis brothers of Piedmont. These were: Henry Gassaway DAVIS, William DAVIS & Col. Thomas B. DAVIS. This land extended from Main to A Street, taking in much of Ft. Hill.
They were interested in developing their real estate here & used their considerable influence in New Creek being made the county seat. As an inducement to have the courthouse here, they donated to the county court, one acre of ground "just west of the old Union Army Blacksmith Shop," Armstrong St. (where Harmon's store stood) as a site for the same. The county court met in an abandoned Union Army Hospital building on the river bank of Argyle St, and gladly accepted.
The first grand jury met in the same abandoned building. the record reads: "At a court held at New Creek in the most easterly Army Hosp. Building at said place, 4-16-1866, present - Judge E. C. BUNKER, The Grand Jury Present:
James CARSKADON, foreman
John ARNOLD , Lambert ELLIFRITZ, Sanford THRUSH, George W. LEATHERMAN, Henry HEAD, John BAILY, Carlton JONES, John BLACKSTON, John BLUE, William FERREBEE, Abraham STICKLEY, Joseph WORKMAN, Frederick NETHKIN Fielding A. BARNHOUSE, John J. ROTRUCK, Henry PAXTON, Edmunt DULING, Josup BAKER, with Thomas P. ADAMS, Deputy Clerk."
New Creek was surveyed by Thomas P. ADAMS & later by Saint Cloud AMBROSE, for whom St. Cloud St. is named.
Col. Thomas B. DAVIS lived in the Armstrong Mansion until his death in 1911. At this death his estate was appraised at over 4 million dollars.
As for Edward MCCARTY, he went from New Creek to Salem VA. He expected the Norfolk & Western RR to install yards, shops and a roundhouse there. Relying on this, he bought much land there in Salem. The RR did not build at Salem. The colonel spent the rest of his life in "genteel poverty" in Salem.
New Creek was still unincorporated. to induce the railroad to move its facilities here, the town was incorporated on 11-16-1874, under the name Keyser, in honor of William Keyser, first vice-president of the B&O RR.