The following is taken from the book "History of Ritchie
County" written by Minnie Kendall Lowther, and published in 1910.
The famous Ritchie coal mine, which is located two miles from the mouth of Macfarlan creek, was discovered during the autumn of 1852, by the late Frederick Lemon.
The county had been visited by one of the greatest floods in its history, during April of that year, and the general wash-out revealed this noted mine.
Mr. Lemon, being impressed by its every apperance (the coal standing on edge instead of laying down, etc.) that he had made a valuable discovery, covered it up, hoping to make a deal for the land, but, before his plans were carried into effect, another flood came, in 1858, which again revealed the hidden treasure, and the coal was then put to the test for black-smithing purposes. Thus it was found to be different from other coal and of far greater value, and it has since proved to be asphalt--the only asphalt mine in the United States.
This same year, Mr. Lemon purchased the tract of land covering two hundred sixteen acres, of John Webb and Robert Marshall; and the following year, he sold to Nelson Beall, of Frostburg, Maryland, who soon after began to operate the mine; but the Civil war came on, and operations ceased until its close in 1865, when Mr. Beall sold to a syndicate from New York and Baltimore, who constructed a narrow-guage railroad, from Cairo to the mine, which was known as the "Calico railroad." This launched a boom for business, and marked an important epoch in the history of this part of the county. The Population rapidly increased. Many good families having found permanent homes here near that time. Among them were a large number of Irish people, who are still prominently identified with the citizenship of this community:
The Dolans, the Goldens, the Burkes, the Coyles, the Overtons, etc.
But in 1874, the coal vein was lost, and work suddenly ceased; and everything sank into a state of apathy--into dilapidation and ruin, and thus continued until 1885, when the land, mine, and railroad, were purchased by H. S. Wilson, of Parkersburg, who (in 1890) sub-railed the road and extended it as far as Mellin (in 1892), and, on to the river at Macfarlan (in 1894), under the changed name of the "Cairo and Kanawha Valley railroad." In 1906, Mr. Wilson and his sons sold this railroad to a syndicate, which has since that time been talking of transforming it into a broad-guage road and extending it to the coal-fields in some of the south-eastern counties of the state.
The Hon. Charles F. Teter, and S. A. Moore, of Philippi; T. R. Cowell and C. B. Kefauver, of Parkersburg, are the trustees, and several other strong financial interests of Parkersburg, and elsewhere, are members.
The mine, too, passed from the hands of Mr. Wilson several years ago, and has since that time been operated by a Michigan syndicate; but it is now taking on new life with a Mining Company at the helm, which is composed of local people, and New York and Wheeling men of means. Machinery is now on the ground and a shaft is being sunk as rapidly as possible, and important developments are looked forward to with interest.
The opening of the C. & K. V. railroad gave rise to the towns of Mellin and Macfarlan. Thomas L. Lemon, son of John B. Lemon, erected the first store it Mellin, in 1891; and H. S. Wilson and John S. Warnick opened the first store at Macfarlan, in 1894. The post-office was established a little later with Mr. Warnick, post-master.
The "Beechwood" hotel was built near the same time by H. S. Wilson. This large, commodious building, which is surrounded by an ideal forest, was for a time quite a retreat for the lovers of quietude and sylvan beauty. After Mr. Wilson had rented and leased this hotel property for several years, he sold to James D. Hill and Burleigh Fowler, and not long after this transaction (in 1904), it was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt by Hill and Fowler, who sold to J. E. Snyder. William H. McCray is now the owner and proprieter. The village, which numbers near a dozen scattered dwellings, has another hotel, known as the "Dogwood," with B. P. Goff proprietor.
It has two stores, with W. R. Hayes Trading Company at the Warnick stand, and F. J. Lemon in charge of the other, a good school-house, a blacksmith shop, a pump-station, a depot-building, and a physician in the person of Dr. Lester Miller.
Fredrick Lemon, the discoveror of this famous mine, claims a place in this chapter:
Mr. Lemon was born in Botetourt county, Virginia, in 1812, and came to this county in 1835, with his father, George S. Lemon, who settled at the forks of Hughes river. On January 15, 1838, he was married to Miss Roena Deem, daughter of Phillip Deem, and shortly after his marriage took up his residence at Macfarlan, on the old estate, where
his life came to a close in 1902. Nine children were the fruits of this union: Phillip J., C. N., F. J., John B., A. W., Z. T., and L. L., Mrs. Roena Prible, and the late Mrs. Cinderilla (John K.) Bradley, all of Macfarlan, except Z. T., and L. L., who are numbered with the dead. The first three mentioned were Confederate soldiers during the Civil war.
The Lemons are of German extraction, their ancestors having come from Prussia during the last quarter of the seventeenth century, and settled in the fertile valley of the James river, in Virginia. Here Fredrick Lemon, senior, was born in 1739, and at the breaking out of the Revolution, he took up arms in defence of the colonies, and was in the engagement at Yorktown. His son, George S. Lemon, who came to Ritchie county in 1835 and settled at the forks of Hughes river, was also a native of the "Old Dominion."
George S. Lemon was married to Miss Nancy Tilden, of Virginia, and was the father of twelve children, all of whom reached the years of maturity. He was a soldier of the war of 1812, and enjoys the distinction of having been the first man to bore an oil well in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In 1844, while putting down a well for salt water, near the mouth of Flint run, in Wirt county, he struck oil at a depth of one hundred twenty-five feet. His object in sinking the well to engage in the manufacture of salt, which prupose was defeated by the in-flowing of oil. But his labor, however, was not lost, for he pumped the well and introduced the oil into the Marietta market, where it sold for medicinal purposes. But scarcely had he begun to reap the benifits of his labor, when one Bushrod W. Creel appeared upon the scene, and laid claim to the land and took this enterprise out of Mr. Lemon's hands. This distinguished pioneer died at Hockingport, Wood county, in December, 1865, and sleeps at Cisko, this county. His venerable companion was laid by his side in 1872.
Their children were as follows: James sleeps at St. Joseph, Missouri; Fredrick, at Macfarlan; John, in Illinois; George, Jacob, and E. T., who lost his life in the Confederate cause, in the family burying-grounds at Cisko; and Albert, the only survivor of the family, lives in Wirt county. Charlotte,
the eldest daughter, married Henry Valentine; Harriet, Adam Valentine; Nancy, Alex. Mackey, and spent all their lives in this county; Sallie became Mrs. Nelson Hickle and went to Kentucky; and Almi married Abe Maloney and spent her last hours at Hockingport, in Wood county.
The Irish families who have largely made up the citizenship of his part of the county for the past half-century or longer, merit a corner in this chapter, but as our appeals have gone by unheeded, we are unable to do them justice. However, the facts concerning the family of Michael Goldin are at hand:
Michael Goldin was born in Ireland in 1819, and came to New York in 1848, where he met and married Miss Margaret Mullin, and from that commonwealth, they came to this county, in 1858, and settled at Oxbow, where he followed farming and teaching school, in winter, for several years; and where he served as post-master for twenty-three years. He passed from earth on April 11, 1898, and in the Catholic cemetery, at Oxbow, he rests.
His family consisted of four sons and one daughter; James A. Goldin, of Minnesota; Thomas, Patrick, and Michael, of Oxbow; and Mrs. Mary Dolan, Parkersburg.
H. S. Wilson.--No other one individual is more entitled to recognigion in the history of his part of the county than H. S. Wilson, of Parkersburg, who was the chief factor in the opening up of much of the wilderness in the Southern section of the county.
Mr. Wilson comes of Irish stock. His father, Robert Wilson, was born in County Downs, Ireland, on May 1, 1792, and crossed the water to Philadelphia in 1816, and spent the remaining years of his life in the "Keystone" state--(at Coxetown, Highspire, and Paxtong). He died in 1878, at the age of eighty-six years, and lies buried in the Paxtong churchyard.
Robert Wilson was married in the year 1825 to Miss Mary Stewart, daughter of Henry Stewart (born 1768-1864), who embarked to America from County Downs, Ireland, in 1811, and settled at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and H. S. Wilson,
the subject of this sketch, was the second child of this union.
Henry Stewart Wilson stepped upon the battle-field of life at Highspire, on July 5, 1829, and there spent his youth and the early days of his manhood. From 1856 until 1871, he was engaged in the lumber business in his native town, and from there during the latter year, he came to West Virginia and started a saw-mill, on Lick run in Doddridge county, which he continued to operate until 1874 when he removed it to Grafton.
In February, 1877, he first made the acquaintence of the forests of this county when he moved his saw-mill to Buzzard's run, and shipped his lumber from Tollgate. He also shipped lumber from Beeson, and Pennsboro a little later, (1878-9); and removed his mill to Devil Hole where he exported his products from Cairo over the "Calico railroad."
In 1890, he and his son, Robert, organized the Cairo and Kanawha Valley Railroad Company, and built the narrow-guage road from Cairo to Macfarlan, a distance of sixteen miles, and thus opened up the forest and founded the towns along this road as stations.
In addition to his labors in this county, he and his son, Robert managed a saw-mill at Davisville from 1885-87, and during the latter year established one at Parkersburg, which has been in operation ever since that time.
In accord with the faith of his fore-fathers, Mr. Wilson is a Presbyterian in religin. He was baptized at the Paxtong church two one-half miles from Harrisburg, in 1831, and has been a deacon in the church at Parkersburg for a number of years. He was Mayor of Parkersburg from 1891-93, and has had official connection with the Second National Bank, and various other business concerns of that city; was a delegate to the National Democratic convention in 1896 and in 1904; was a member of the Board of Directors for the Insane Hospital at Spencer from 1888-90, and served as a director for the Girl's Industrial School at Salem, from the time of its institution until this board was abolished by the Legislature of 1909. Though so closely allied with the affairs of this county
he has never claimed his residence here, as his home was at Grafton from 1874 until 1887, when he removed to Parkersburg, where he is spending the evening hours of his long and usefull life, surrounded by the comforts that his industry has so well merited.
On July 7, 1856, Mr. Wilson claimed Miss Anna M. Ennis, of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, as his bride, and sevn children were the result of this union; viz., Sophia and Wallace died in child- hood, and the rest are as follows: Robert married Miss Lilian McGregor, and lives at Parkersburg, where he is prominently identified in business. Carrie Porter is the wife of the Rev. R. C. Huges of the Presbyterian church of Madison, Wisconsin. Ellen Blair married the Rev. E. W. Work, of Logan, Ohio, who is now pastor of the West End Avenue
Presbyterian church in New Youk city. H. S. Junior, married Miss Maude Jarrett, daughter of Dr. A. M. Jarrett, of Grafton, and resides at Parkersburg. And Edwin Ennis and his wife (Miss Mae Lyle) are also of Parkersburg.
Read more about Ritchie Mines in article of "Ritchie Gazette" 1992.
Pioneer Life and Character
What sought they thus afar?
Ay, call it holy ground,
These early pioneers resided upon the outer-borders of three counties--Wood, Lewis, and Harrison, and near forty or fifty miles from their respective county-seats.
The "State road," was the only thoroughfare, the settlements being accessible to this road and to one another by bridle-paths.
Their cabins were built of logs cut from small trees and were covered with clap-boards, made with a tool called a "frow." The boards, which were laid upon rib-poles, were held in-tact by weight-poles, and the floor was made of puncheons, which were split and partly smoothed by an adz. The open spaces between the logs were filled by chunks and by morter made of clay. A large fire-place with a "cat and clay" chimney (of clay and sticks) occupied one end of the house, which was usually one story in height.
Their furniture, which was home made, consisted of tables, chairs, bedsteads, etc., just such things as necessity demanded, and the fire-place was their cook-stove. A wooden paddle called a "battler," was their washing-machine; tallow candles, their lights; their lanterns were made of tin punched full of holes, in which a candle burned; and a wooden-clock ticked off the hours. Their plows were made of wood (ironed by a blacksmith), and a paddle was pressed into service while
plowing in order to keep the mold-board free from dirt. Their wool, which was shorn from the backs of the sheep within their fold, was carded on hand-cards; and their corn was ground by hand, and on horse-mills, which were constructed with very large tread-wheels, the main shaft of which occupied an inclined position, so as to elevate one side of the wheel, which turned under the horses' feet. Their clothing was made of dressed deer-skins, linen and linsey. And the "good house-wife" toiled early and late at her loom and spinning-wheel. Their sugar and syrup were principally manufactured at home from the sap of the sugar-tree.
The forests abounded in deer, bears, wolves, panthers, wild turkeys, and many other varieties of game, and hunting was a regular pursuit during the autumn and the winter seasons, and thus their meat was obtained. And corn-bread, milk, and butter with a few other procucts of the soil, made up their bill of fare.
The nearest store (for a number of years) was at Marietta, and there they went once a year for salt and iron, which were procured in exchange for the skins of wild animals, venison, ham, and occasionally, snake-root and ginseng were added to the exchange procucts.
They would assmble from a radius of fifteen or twenty miles in order to assist one another in log-rollings, house-raisings, corn-huskings, etc. Quilting bees usually accompanied these gatherings, and the night was turned into one of social merriment.
And though their mode of living was rude and simple, it was characterized by a generosity of spirit, and a hospitality of manner that belonged only to their day. No stranger was turned from their gates until his wants had been supplied. No cot was too humble, no meal to frugal, to be shared with the weary, way-worn traveler, and many a blessing did their kindnesses call down upon their heads.
No bells called them to the house of God, for there were no churches, but some suitable home in the settlement was the shrine for their devotion.
They placed little stress upon education, for they were prone to believe that it made men dis-honest, vain, effeminate,
and unfitted them for the sterner duties of life. But they loved to excel in feats of physical strength, and this was looked upon as an evniable distinction.
As a rule they were honest, industrious, courageous, and strong. With great fortitude, they braved the dangers, endured the toils and privations of this forrest-life, and thus paved the way for the many privilages and blessings that we to-day so much enjoy. And yet how very few of us realize what we owe to them! How our smiling valleys and vine-clad hills, our fruitful fields and gardens, our comfortable homes, school-houses, churches, our convenient post-offices and telephone lines, and a thousand other comforts and advantages, whisper of the benediction of their lives, and of the gratitude that we owe to the memory of these grand and noble sires!
"Who shook the depth of the desert's gloom,
In Grateful Remembrance of John Agers The First School Teacher and James Woods.
The First County Superintendant "Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army".
Schools and Teachers
John Ayres.--The first school in the county was taught by John Ayres, in 1810, in an old log cabin, a vacated dwelling, that stood near the mouth of Cedar run, in the Webb's mill vicinity.
Mr. Ayres, as before stated, came from Rockbridge county, Virginia, and settled on the S. C. Phillips' farm. He was then thirty years of age, having been born near Lexington, in 1780. he belonged to the Ayres family whose history appears with the South fork settlers, being the son of Daniel and Ellen McGee Ayres; and the brother of Daniel, who settled on the McNeill homestead.
He married Miss Elizabeth Watkins of Virginia, and they were the parents of: Daniel, Barcas, Thomas, Jeremiah, Eli, Mrs. Ellen (John) Stanley, Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, Mrs. Mary (George) Stebbs, and Nancy, who perhaps, died in youth.
Mr.Ayres, having spent fifty years of his life in teaching, died in 1873 at the advanced age of ninety-three years; and in the Haught graveyard, on Indian creek, but a short distance from the scene of his settlement, he lies in his last sleep.
His children have all passed on, but quite a number of his grand-children yet remain. Among them are "Dick" Ayres, of Island run; and Mrs. Mary Rinehart Wiant, Kennedy, of Smithville. John and Flavius Stanley are his great-grand sons, and Misses June and Cocoa Stanley, who are identified among the young pedagogues of the county, are his great-great-granddaughters, they having perhaps, inherited their love for the profession from their distinguished grand-sire.
Samuel Rittenhouse, who came from Harrison county in 1821, was the second teacher in this section. He married Miss Grissey Murphy, daughter of Samuel Murphy, and went from here to Illinois.
Barcas Ayres.--in the meantime, John Ayres had sent his son, Barcas, to his old home in Virginia to be educated, and he returned in 1826, and became the third teacher in what is now Murphy district. He married Miss Anne Riprogal, sister of Mrs. Daniel Ayres, of the McNeill homestead, and of Mrs. John Hostetter. She sleeps beneath a myrtle mound, only a few paces from the Philipps' school-house, and he, in Indiana, where he spent his last hours with his daughters, Mrs. Ophelia (Wm.) Drake, and Mrs. Elizabeth A. (Wm.) Stuart.
The First School House was erected in 1814, near the mouth of Cedar run, on land owned by William Murphy, now the property of Sheridan Hardman. The date of the erection of this pioneer building is marked by the closing of our second war with Great Britain.
John McCauley was the first teacher within the present bounds of Clay district, he having given his instructions in an old log cabin on Lynn Camp. He was the son of D. James McCauley of Clarksburg, and was the uncle of the late Mrs. John S. Peirpoint, of Harrisville. he afterwards became a physician, and practiced his profession at Glenville, Weston, (etc.) and in Wood county where he died.
Mrs Hermione Helmick, and Mrs. Helen Saterfield, of Fairmont; and Earle Peirpoint, of Harrisville, are his grand-nieces and grand-nephew, he being a brother of Dr. William McCauley, their grand-father.
The first school in what is now Union district is said to have been taught by one P. F. Randolph in a cabin on the Lawrence Maley farm near Harrisville, during the winter of 1818; but all our efforts to learn something farther concerning the history of this pedagogue have been fruitless.
John Piatt was the first to "wield the scepter" over the youth within the present boundary of Grant district.
The scene of this school was on Rush run, near one mile from Cairo, on the Marshall farm.
What a curiosity this "pioneer temple of learning" with its massive stone chimney and huge fireplace; its window made by chopping out a log, and pasting greased paper over the opening'; its seats of split logs, with wooden pins for legs; and its roof held in-tact by weight poles, would be to the boys and girls of to-day, who enjoy the many comforts and conveniences of modern school life!
Mr. Piatt was a native of Pennsylvania, a cousin of Mrs. William McKinney, senior, and during the winter of 1826, while on a visit with the McKinneys, he taught this school.
He went from here to Kentucky, and later to Indiana. He was the father of the distinguished John James Piatt, the poet and journalist, who was born at Milton, Indiana, on March 1, 1835(eleven years after this school was taught), and who entered the journalistic field early in life, and later served as clerk of the House of Representatives, and of the United States Treasury Department, and who, also, filled the position of consul at Cork, Ireland from 1882 to 1894.
John James Piatt's best known poems are "Poems by Two Friends" with W. D. Howells; "Poems in Sunshine and Firelight," and "Idylls and Lyrics of the Ohio Valley," etc.
He (John James Piatt) married Miss Sarah Morgan Bryan, who was born at Lexington, Kentucky, on August 11, 1836, and who was, also a poet of note. "A Woman's Poems," "A Voyage to the Unfortunate Isles," "Dramatic Persons and Moods," and "An Enchanted castle," being among her best known works. She was, also, the author of the beautiful little poems, "The Gift of Empty Hands," which will be found in, "Famous Poems Explained" by Waitman T. Barbe, in the "Teachers' Reading Circle Library" of this county.
That the son inherited poetic talent from his father, can hardly be doubted, when we here reproduce a little poem that the elder Piatt wrote during his term of school at Cairo (in 1826) in the form of an acrostic on the name of Mary Skelton, who afterwards became Mrs. Jacob McKinney:
"May health and peace, inestimable gifts, adorn--And aye, attend you through life's fickle dream; Religion, likewise, though too oft held in scorn, Your path direct across the sluggish stream."
"say, dost thou wish true happiness to fine? Know happiness is rare in human kind, Envy or pride, if either find a place, Leaves little room for virtue to embrace; "Tis virtue, then, which happiness bestows, Oh! claim the prize, and safe you are from foes; Nor pride nor envy, shall ever dare oppose."
The Piatts have a most distinguished and interesting ancestral history--one that dates back to the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France (in 1685).
Among the Huguenot fugitives of the Province of Danplume that sought refuge in Holland from the religious persecution, that immediately followed the Revocation, was a family by the name of Piatt.
John Piatt, the first of whom we have any definite account, was doubtless, a very young child at the time of the flight from France. His parents, however, established their home at Amsterdam, and there John grew to manhood's estate, and married Mrs. Frances Van Flirt Wycoff, a widow of English-Dutch ancestry. And soon after his marriage, with his bride, and his brother, he set sail for the Danish West Indies, where he engaged in business on the Island of S. Thomas, and where he continued to sojourn until after the birth of his eldere children, when he migrated to North America, and settled in the New Jersey colony, at Six Mill run, near the town of New Brunswick, in Middlesex county.
Some years after his settlement in New Jersey, he decided to return to France, for the purpose of making an effort to recover his inheritance which had been confiscated by the Crown, but he was deterred from carrying his plans into effect by the seven years war (1756-'63), and went to St. Thomas, instead, with his son Abraham, to take charge of the sugar plantation of his brother, and there his life ebbed away in 1760; and there the Southern breezes play about his ancient tomb. His wife died at her home in New Jersey on December 26, 1776, and not far from New Brunswick, she rests.
Their sons were, John, Abraham, William, Daniel, and Jacob Piatt.
These sons were all officers and soldiers of the Continental army during the American Revolution, and William, Daniel, and Jacob were among the original members of the "Society of the Cincinnati"--an organization which was founded by the officers of the Revolution for the purpose of perpetuating friendships, and for the raising of a fund for the benefit of the widows and the orphans of the soldiers of this war.
John Piatt, the eldest son, whom we shall designate as John the II, was evidently born on the Island of St. Thomas, the date of his birth being 1739. In 1763, three years after the death of his father, he was married to Miss Jane Williamson, daughter of William and Jane Van Nest Williamson, who was born in 1745; and at Trenton, New Jersey he founded his home. He served as High Sheriff of Middlesex county, which, in 1838, was sub-divided into four counties; and at the close of the Revolution, in which he played his part as "minute man" in the New Jersey militia, he removed with his family to Milton, on the Susquehanna river, in Northumberland county, Pennsylvania; and later, to White Deer Valley, where he died in 1820, at the age of eighty-one years.
He fell heir to the old Dutch Bible which the family brought from Holland to America, and which bears the date 1710; and when his daughter, Frances, the wife of William McKinney, senior, was leaving Pennsylvania for her new home in Ritchie county, he came out with this old Bible, and said, "Here, Frances, take this with you, as you are the only one that can read it." Mrs. McKinney accepted the proffered treasure, and it is now in the possession of the family of her late grand-daughter, Mrs. Drusilla Wanless.
Besides Frances McKinney, the other children of Jahn Piatt, the II, were, Mrs. Jane Allen, Mrs. Cathrine Fenbrook, William and Johhn Piatt.
Abraham Piatt, the second son of John Piatt, of France, was a Colonel in the Revolution. He was born in 1741, and married Annabella Andrew and settled in Penn's Valley where he died in 1791.
His children were, Jacob, John, Cathrine, Eleanor, Anna, Abraham, James, Frances, Jane and Margaret.
William Piatt, the third son of John of France, was a Lieutenant at the beginning of the Revolution, but rose to the rank of Captain, and in this capacity served throughout the war. he was born in 1743, and died in 1791, perhaps, in Pennsylvania. He was first married to Miss Quick, and one her death, he married Miss Sarah Smith, and they were the parents of James, Frances, who died in youth, Jemima G., who was adopted by a family by the name of Cummings, and Dr. William F., of New York city.
James Piatt, the eldest son of William and Sarah Smith Piatt, married Miss Rachel Bear, and they were the parents of John Piatt,* the pioneer school-teacher of Grant district.
Daniel Piatt, the fourth son of John of France, was Captain of the first Regiment of the New Jersey Brigade, and rose to the rank of Major. He was born in 1745, and married Cathrine Herrad; and their children were, John, Mary, Robert, Frances, William, Daniel, and Margaret.
Jacob Piatt, the fifth and last son of John of France, was born in 1747, and died in 1834. He was, also, a captain in th Continental army, and served in many of of the more important engagements during the Revolution. He married Miss Hannah McCullough, and was the father of Benjamin, John H., Frances, Hannah C., William, and Abram S. Piatt.
NOTE: To Miss Fannie McKinney of Williamstown, we owe our gratitude for this invaluable little poem and the other information concerning the identity of this pioneer educator, with the exception of the career of his son and his (the son's) wife which we gleaned from the pages of an encyclopedia
And to Mrs. Lulu Hallam Parker of Kansas City, Missouri, we owe our thanks for the Piatt ancestral history.--Author
*Some of the Piatt descendants seems to think that John Piatt, the Ritchie county pedagogue, was the son of William, but dates and other circumstances point to the fact that he must have belonged to a younger generation. However, he was descended from William, and was the father of John James Piatt, the poet-consul.
The School System at this early day was in a crude state. As a rule, the teacher possessed but little education. Sometimes the one person in the community having the most knowledge was employed as instructor. He was regarded fully competent if he had reached the Rule of Three (Proportion) in Arithmetic, and could read and write, little stress being placed upon the necessity of farther education.
These schools were made up by subscription, and the teacher "boarded round the district" if he were not established in the community. Provisions were made by the over-seer of the poor for the children whose parents were unable to pay tuition, and the term only covered a period of three months.
The schools were very few in number down to the year 1830. It will be remembered that our state was still a part of the "Old Dominion," at this time, and that some of her Governors had strongly opposed the advancement of education.
Sir William Berkeley, in one of his Colonial reports to the King, while he occupied the Gubernatorial chair (in 1671) had said: "Thank God! there are no free schools or printing presses, and I hope there will be none for a hundred years to come, for learning has brought disobedience and heresy into the world, and printing has divulged these and other libels."
The wish herein expressed was fully realized; for one hundred twenty-five years had passed, after this utterance before Virginia enacted a law "having the semblance of a public school system;" and then its provisions rendered it inoperative for half a century longer. "It was not until 1846, that another statute was enacted, which with the amendment of 1848, was practically a free school law for the counties that chose to adopt it."
Jefferson, Ohio, Kanawha, and Brooke were the only counties in (West) Virginia that established schools under the law of 1846. Jefferson county being the first to inaugurate the Free School System in West Virginia.
When the Constitution of our State was formulated, it contained provisions for free schools, and Arthur I. Boreman, the first governor, in delivering his message to the Legislature, which convened on June 20, 1863, called special attention to this (educational) provision, and said, "I trust that you will take such action as will result in the organization of a thorough and efficient system."
At this session committees on education were appointed, and from their reports, this Legislature formulated "the first Free School Law of the State." Under the provision of the Constitution, the educational work of the State was placed in the hands of a General Superintendent, who was chosen by the Legislature; and in 1864, the Reverend Ryland White was named as the first Superintendent, and entered upon his official duties at once.
This was the beginning of our school system, and in 1873, under the new Constitution of our State, the present system was inaugurated. The grading system came in 1891.
Since the birth of the Free School System in our State, the following named gentlemen have served this county in the capacity of County Superintendent:
James Woods, J. M. McKinney, F. H. Martin, T. W. Ireland, P. W. Morris, J. N. Kendall, George W. Lowther, H. C. Showalter, M. K. Duty, C. E. Haddox, J. H. Nichol, H. B. Woods, D. B. Strickling, S. M. Hoff, and L. H. Hayhurst, (and Ross L. Cokeley will soon claim the place of Mr. Hayhurst, he having been chosen at the November election, 1910.)
James Woods (who was the grand-father of H. B. Woods) filled this office by appointment for a short time, but J. M. McKinney was the first to be elected by the popular vote; and during his (McKinney's) administration the first school-houses under the Free School System, were erected.
With two exception, these gentlemen are all living, and it will, doubtless, add interest here to notice what their different stations in life are to-day:
James Woods, who was one of the early ministers of the Baptist church, sleeps in Missouri. J. M. McKinney, who has been prominent in political circles, and who has several times represented this county in the House of Delegates, resides near Hebron. R. H. Martin is a citizen of Pennsboro, and is in the employ of the South Penn Oil Company. T. W. Ireland is a well-known minister of the Methodist Protestant church, and his home is at Morgantown. P.W. Morris, so long identified with the "Ritchie Gazette" is now editor of the>P>Page 402 "State Journal," at Parkersburg. J. N. Kendall is a member of the Methodist Episcopal conference of Idaho, and is a resident of Boise city. George W. Lowther, for years in the employ of the B. & O. Railroad Company, recently completed a term as Mayor of Grafton, where he now resides. H. C. Showalter, until quite recently a Harrisville lawyer, is a resident of Kansas City. M. K. Duty is adding new laurels to his fame by extending the Lorama railroad to Pullman. C. E. Haddox, late Warden of the State Prison, has laid down the cross. H. H NIchol is in business at Grafton. H. B. Woods stepped from this office into that of Prosecuting Attorney, and from that into the Judgeship. D. B. Strickling is engaged in business in Pennsylvania.
S. M Hoff, also, stepped from this office into the Prosecutor's chair, a position that he is now filling for the second term.
Last, but not least, comes L. H. Hayhurst, the present incumbent, who is serving his second term, and who recently completed a course in a medical college at Louisville, Kentucky.
The schools of this county now number one hundred fifty-three, forty-three of which are in Grant, thirty-three in Clay, thirty-seven in Union, excluding the Harrisville Independent district, and thirty-nine in Murphy.
There are fifty-four sub-district libraries, which include three thousand eight hundred forty-five volumes.
Five of the towns have two-roomed buildings and three, Harrisville, Pennsboro, and Cairo have more.
Harrisville now has a spacious brick building of six rooms and an auditorium..
The school property is valued at one hundred four thousand sixty-eight dollars. The number of pupils enrolled is four thousand eight hundred ninety-four, with an enumeration of six thousand one hundred nine, and an average daily attendance of three thousand six hundred seventy-two. Eleven and one-half years is the average age of attendance.
The teachers number one hundred seventy-three, fifty of which hold first grade certificates, one hundred six, second grade and seventeen, third grade.
The total amount paid for teachers' services in nineteen hundred nine, was forty-four thousand three hundred thirteen dollars and the entire cost of the schools during this year was sixty-five thousand seven hundred twenty dollars.
Total amount of Teachers' fund (1909) is forty-seven thousand one hundred seventy-five dollars, forty-eight cents, and the amount of building fund is eighteen thousand five hundred forty-five dollars thirty-six cents.
The present valuation of the taxable property is sixteen million five hundred seventy thousand thirty-seven dollars; four million three hundred fifty -nine thousand eight hundred twenty-four dollars of which belongs to Clay; six million
sixteen thousand one hundred, to Grant; two million five hundred eighty-four thousand six hundred sixty-seven, to Murphy; two million two hundred twenty-eight thousand three hundred ninety-one, to Union district; and the remaining one million three hundred eighty-six thousand fifty-five dollars, to Harrisville.