This article was submitted to "Mineral County
WV Family Traits Tracks and Trails" by W Lee Shepp.
Our Special thanks to the family of Mr. Shepp for allowing The Mineral County USGenWeb to share his information with you.
Daniel Waxler lived in the Civil War days. There is evidence on both sides of the Potomac. On the Maryland side, near Dawson, there is a cemetery named for him. On the West Virginia side, three miles east of Keyser there is a small upland community that we wish to tell you about.
Mr. Waxler, in 1866, gave the land for the first school, along the old road which meandered thru the woods and mountains from the smelter, at the railroad to the "oar banks" where iron ore was dug from the mountain sill and hauled by wagon to the smelter, where the pure metal was extracted from the ore, then shipped by rail to Pittsburgh or some other terminal to be made into bullets, minnow balls, scrapnell, or whatever the army needed to continue the Civil War.
The Community of Waxler was well guarded. Traveling east, by car or by train thru MD, on your right near Dawson MD you look up at a high peak or cliff. If that doesn't keep you away at its foot is the North Branch of the Potomac River that is apt to stop you. The only alternative is to cross the river on the Western MD Railway bridge, then turn right and walk up the mountain about a mile through the fields and woods to the top of the mountain, and there in front of you is Fairview Chapel.
From here, you can see most of the community of Waxler. If you turn and look east, you can look down over Black Oak bottom, see the B&O and the Western MD Railways and the Potomac River winding their way eastward through the valley. Approaching form Keyser on the WV side, after the urn of the century you would cross the B&O tracks at Lover's Leap or Bull Neck, it was sometimes called, travel between the river and the railroad to the foot of the mountain, where the highway recrossed the railroad tracks, took up around a small cliff, east and north past the old "Bond Place" graveyard. Here we go back for a moment. When you came to Bull Neck and crossed the railroad you noticed a small office on your right. The Standard & Lime Stone Company had a stone crusher there, crushing rock for ballast for the tracking of the railway system. They blasted down stone twice a day, once at noon and once in the evening. Each time a flagman was sent out each way to warn travelers to stop until after the danger was past. The company had imported a colony of workers from Italy, who lived between the railroad and the river, in shacks which would seem untenable today. They had their own store. Many were fine people, caused little trouble and when the stone got too soft for the railroad, and the plant closed down many years later, many of the workers elected to stay in this community. Hence the Italian names in the vicinity.
The Road continued east and north through the land that later became the Alkire Orchard land, where the road branched, one branch going up to what is now Fairview Chapel, then down to Gerstell where it branched again. One branch passing the Western Maryland Railway station and going about t ¼ mile further ending at the Mineral County poor farm, which is not used as such any more but is lease dot Potomac State College. /the other branch of the road at Gerstell takes to the right at the bottom of the mountain, passes several homes, and ending up a t a shallow ford in the Potomac River - which is not used anymore.
In the early days of the 20th century, there was not nor never had been a church in the community. The building of a church here is related elsewhere. Sunday school and worship were held here in the schoolhouse for many years. Sam Urice and Dave Dawson preached, and occasionally brought in a minister form another locality for a revival.
The old country road went in a semicircle past the schoolhouse and on toward the "oar banks", and the spring form which the school got its drinking water. Along the road on the lower side was a rail fence. We had deep snows in those days, and the wind caused drifts of two or three feet over the road sometimes and closed it for indefinite periods. Everyone walked to school. Only a few times did my stepfather take us to school, two miles, on a bobsled covered with straw, with two mules, Nip and Tuck.
Waxler School never had more that 25 or 30 pupils. Madge Wright was my first teacher in 1903-4. Id don't remember all my teachers, but Goldie Brown, Midas Brown, Bertie Lark, Nina Lark, William Wolford, Lacy Wolford and Edna Brock were teachers of mine at Gerstell and Waxler until I received my common school diploma in 1913. It was the only one to be awarded from the old school building, erected in 1866. The building caught on fire and burned. In 1913 and a new one built on the same foundation the same year.. My sister, Olive, was the first to receive her common school diploma from the new building in 1913.
The following have taught at Waxler after 1913: Sadie Frye, Jessie Beckner, Martha Thomas, Grace Steiding, Nellie Cather, Winona Tyler, Ellen Burgess, Luke McDowell, Edward Taylor, Rosalie Blair, Evelyn Rohe, Bennetta Sutton, Bertha Urice, Ross Leonard, Bernice Brown, Pearl Oster, Earl Martin, Madalyn Bazzle, Katherine Masteller and Virginia Bolen Bloom&ldots;Eugene Wilkes Shepp taught the school 1895 - 96. Nannie Folk went to school to him and later became his wife - and the writer's mother.
The new building was used until 1924 when it was discontinued as a school building and a new modern two-room school building erected directly across the road form the Keyser Orchard Co. And thus began the age of the modern school bus, when all rural children were transported into Keyser, or some other school center and the "little red schoolhouse" became history.
Eugene Wilkes Shepp had planted a peach orchard on High Rock mountain in 1901, which was probably the first commercial peach orchard in Mineral County. Though he died in Jan 1903, and his widow, Nannie had married again, it had proved a good investment or the family. Next Valentine Park founded the Park Orchard Company and in a single year declared a 67% dividend. This set the community on fire to invest in orchards. In 1910, a group of Keyser Businessmen purchased the Shepp orchard, organized the Ritchie Orchard Co., and by 1912 and 1913 the Alkire Orchard, the Mt Zion Orchard, the Miller Brothers Orchard and a number of smaller ones, including John Triplett, Taylor- Moran and Dr. Sam Umstot - all were clearing off new ground and planting fruit trees, either apple or peach.
Dr. Sam Umstot, Oh Yes! Let's not forget him. He delivered our babies and treated our colds. He traveled on horseback until the Model T Ford made its appearance. He was the first in the community to have one. How nice it was to have him overtake you walking on the highway, and give you a life. There was plenty of dirt and mud on the highway in those days, and no macadam. It didn't get on the Waxler Rd until much later.
For a while, the orchards made a big splurge in the community. John Triplett was hired to superintend the clearing of the woodland of the Keyser Orchard. The Alkire Orchard management was so exact and so professional in their work that they hired he county surveyor, Warren Harr, to survey the apple rows, which were half a mile long, to get them straight. It probably would have been better to have contoured them around the three small hills in the orchard - and saved some money. The companies soon ran out of money and the cultivation, trimming and spraying came to a halt, and the neighboring forests began to take over. The first exception to this was John Kennedy. He planted tomatoes between his trees, sold his tomatoes to the Keyser Canning Company for 25 cents a bushel and cleared $100 per acre, cultivating his trees at the same time. The other exception was the Miler Brother's Orchard. This orchard has been well cared for during the years and has unquestionably paid for its kept. It's a pleasure to take a trip through his orchard just to observe it.
During the early years of the 20th century there were very few homes along the Waxler Rd from Keyser. The old road crosses the railway at Lover's Leap is now closed, and the Faulk Brothers have their junkyard business at the site of the old stone quarry, out of sight of the public, yet convenient. The new highway gong to Waxler is #8, taking off from #46, traveling through the Industrial Park. The factories keep the highway busy. There are about 20 -25 families living along the highway now.
The graveyard, "Old Bondy" has been in business over 200 years, the earliest graves were put there in the 1700's. Some of the stones have been mutilated; others carried away or destroyed. The graveyard was formerly on the land of George W Staggs. After his death, when the property was sold the graveyard was not reserved and the purchaser, Zimri Bailey, would not allow others to be buried there, nor to repair the fences around their graves. A Civil War Veteran, Thomas J Folk and his three daughters are buried there and his wife is buried at Queens Point. E W Shepp and daughter Bessie are there, side by side, and John Triplett's daughter Elsie, but the mother of both children, Mrs. Nannie Triplett, is buried at Queens Point Cemetery.
And that brings us to the people. Who has lived at Waxler?
My father E W Shepp, built a house on the east side of the road, three miles from Keyser, and dug a well there 108 feet deep, in 1901, and planted the orchard the same year. There has been born four children by this time, Lee, Olive, Bryan and Bessie, but Bessie died within a few months. On the mountain to our north, my grandparents lived&ldots;Thomas Jefferson Folk, with his wife, Nancy, and the following three children: John, George, Scott, Olen and Tom. The daughters, Kate and Nanie had already flown the coop. Across the valley, in another log cabin lived John Kemphfer and his wife, with Icy and Jim. Alice and Gus had left home to make their way in life. Gus was a plumber for the late W A Welch. Only Icy was still in school. They also raised a boy, Clarence Stewart, who went to school also. The next family was past the schoolhouse, and over the field, J Robert Baker and his wife Annie and their children: Roy, Violet, Edgar, Essie, Robert, Maxine, Howard and Ruth. Another, Ruby, died many years ago. In 1904, John J Triplett and Mrs. Nannie E Shepp, whose husband had died the previous year, were married and the following children made their appearance: Goldie, Elsie, Nellie, Tina, Clara, Bertie, John Jr., George and Herbert. Goldie's twin sister died as an infant. Olen Faulk married Bessie Miller. They had the following offspring: Vivian, Edd, Olen Jr, Evelyn, Sally and Connie. And then, we start up the mountain: Ralph Markle married Blanche Miller, and Oral, Thelma, Arnold, Kenneth, Lloyd, Vera, Frances, Louie, Ruth and Donald. George T Miller and Allie Staggs were married, and Harness, Bessie, Blanche, Guy, Roy, Helen and Lillian succeeded one another and a nephew, Mack Dye was raised by them as was as a brother. George Dawson was wed to Rosa Martin and Myrtle, Dave, Charles, Suzie and John appeared. Valentine Park and his wife Virgie produced Mary and Charles. His brother, Sam, and Minnie had three children: Emory, and two twins, Leola and Leota, Silas Park, a cousin, and his wife Jennie, had four children: Velma, Opal, Johnnie and Herman.
Jessie Wilkins, a manager for the Keyser Orchard, was a bachelor and never married. Along the highway to Keyser and toward 21st Bridge, are Donald and Anne Myers, with their children Edward and Bonnie.
Across the highway lives Jim and Carol Faris, and their son Jim.
On Forge Hill: Russell and Clara Beatty - two daughters Cherrill and Karen.
Harold and Joyce Williamson with five children - Edward, Dale, Kara, Lisa and Tommy.
Bud and Wanda Martin, with two children - Barbara and Jean.
Robert and Eloise Dawson and Lecinda.
Mrs. Pearl Martin, Mrs. Arbutus Self, Walter and Tina Bowman.
Paul and Virginia Smith with four children - Katherine, David, Edward and Ronald
Luther and Helen Smith
Robert and Karen Naylor and children - Chris, Steve and Jana
Harold and Ruth Snyder; Anna May Iser
William and Donna Iser and two children, Stephanie and Robert
William and Karen Iser and Jeremie
Joe and Angie Smith and Scott (Woodrow, James and LaDonna)
Luther (deceased) and Pauline Mongold and Jim, Madonna and Woodrow
Mrs. Allen Dolly and daughter, Lisa and niece
Marchie and Sandra Dolly and three children, Marchie Jr, Bryan and Sandy
Eugene and Virginia Newhouse and two children, Dolly and Eugene Jr.
Esten and Elizabeth Myers and offspring, Kathy, Karen and Chris.
Mr & Mrs William Bruce and seven children: Michael, Julie, Mark, Matthew, Jill, Maurice and Mitchell. Mr & Mrs Bruce have established a small church in their home with an attendance of 19 or 20 in Sunday School and worship service.
The first telephone probably came to the community early in the 20th century. It was a cooperative affair. Each member who wanted a phone put a sum of money (I think $80) in the kitty and helped plant the poles. We had a wall phone in our home in 1905, at Gerstell. In 1919 or 1920, the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co took over. Later when the company wanted a modern line in the community of Waxler, but I gave them permission to build their line across the farm I had purchased, in 1919, ½ of the lower Alkire Orchard from my stepfather, John J Triplett, upon coming home from the Army.
The electric line was built through the community about 1935 or 1936, under the government's Rural Electrification Program. And the first road was covered with macadam about 1957 or 1958.
As a small boy, I listened to the stories told by my grandmother, Nancy Folk, about the community in her youth; the old sugar camp, just across the line fence of the Alkire land on what is now the Suter land; and how on top of the mountain (Knobley) on the George Stagg's farm, the dam broke loose one night, there was a whirlpool in the middle, and all the water went in the ground, and came out way down the mountain scattering the rails of the rail fence in all directions. It got clogged again during the same night, filled up and didn't happen again until a few years ago when there was a large explosion at the Hercules Plant 15 or 20 miles away. It has never filled up since. Roy Miller informs me.
Many other stories, most interesting stories, she related to me about the early settlers in the community. I meant to write down, as a boy, but let her pass away and didn't get it done. One about my grandfather starting to work on the railroad one morning through the woods, with his warm lunch packed, when he encountered a black bear, which must have been hungry and chased him around a large tree, but he got away and it gave up the chase. The other: She knew a man who hunted Rock Hill a good deal. One day he saw where a groundhog had dug a lot of gold out which lay at the entrance of its hole. On another occasion, he saw another man standing over the spot looking for game. He intended to shoot the man if he stopped over to pick up anything, but he didn't, and the incident ended. I won't tell you about the man I went "coon" hunting with Mick Walker, when a boy, and he told me two ghost stories which made me afraid to go out of the house at night, - or of being quarantined for small pox with my brother Bryan, in the old farm house, before we could open our first grocery store in the early spring of 1920.
Memory is a wonderful thing. One can reach in the file of memory and pull out an article on any subject or incident that has happened in his life and live it all over again. For brevity, I've withheld many things I'd like to have related, but lack of space forbids.
Suffice to say that if the reader enjoys reading this half as much as the writer did reliving it and recording it, his time shall
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