Calhoun County West Virginia
BY WELLINGTON LESTER, SUPERINTENDENT.
In this sketch, it is
proposed to give only a brief outline narrative of the course of
educational affairs of the territory now embraced in Calhoun county
from its earliest settlement down to the present time; and in order
that the reader may have the best position from which to view the
subject, it is deemed expedient to speak first briefly of the territory
Beginning on the West
Fork of the Little Kanawha river, at a point about one mile above the
mouth of this branch, and proceeding up the same, this stream marks the
southwestern limits of Calhoun county, until we reach the point where
the waters of Henry's Fork flow into the West Fork, when the boundary
line leaves the West Fork, proper, and deflects to the south and
follows the course of Henry's Fork to the mouth of Beech Fork, and
thence winding among the hills, with a small bend to the south, it
reaches the Clay county line and from this point eastward the county is
bounded on the south by Clay and Braxton. The entire eastern boundary
is fixed by the Gilmer county line, which is irregular throughout its
extent and makes one long bend to the west, thus carrying the eastern
limits of Calhoun county at that point far inward. The northern limits
are fixed by the boundary lines of Wirt and Ritchie counties.
the boundary above set out is contained the territory, which was
stricken from Gilmer county and in the year 1856, took upon itself
corporate existence under the name of the county of Calhoun.
In the northern part,
the Little Kanawha river, in its devious course from east to west for
more than thirty miles, its waters receiving many tributaries, winds it
way among the hills. More than one-half of the territory and by far the
best and most populous portion of the county lies between the Little
Kanawha river and the West Fork.
The first settlers
for the most part took up their abode along the valleys of the Little
Kanawha and the West Fork, and were descendants of the pioneers of
Virginia. Like their progenitors, they were daring and enterprising.
THE VALLEY OF THE WEST FORK.
In the fertile
regions of the Valley of the West Fork, the settlers were so few and
far removed from each other that for a while schools were impracticable
and the education of the children was such as they received at their
homes under the instruction of their parents, and such persons as
occasionally sojourned among them. It was not until about the year 1840
that an attempt was made to teach a school in that section. Charles
Arnold, John Shed, Charles Preston and Amie Silcott were among the
early teachers of this part of the county.
THE VALLEY OF THE LITTLE KANAWHA.
What has been said of
the early settlers of the West Fork valley is also applicable to the
early settlers along the Little Kanawha, a neighborhood consisting of
only a few families. The first assembly of pupils within the territory
of Calhoun county that could be called a school was taught near the
neck of the Big Bend in the winter of 1828 in a small log cabin seated
with rude benches and lighted by means of greased paper windows.
Ephriam Siers was the teacher.
THE EARLY SCHOOLS AND TEACHERS.
The early schools
were taught as follows: In the Hardman Bend in 1838 by Daniel Hill; in
1840 on Pine Creek, by Fielden A. Knight; and in the same year on the
south bank of the river. Just above Grantsville, by Harrison
Cunningham; in 1841 on Pine Creek, near Stevens schoolhouse, by Wm.
Bennett; and at the same place in 1842 by Augusta C. Modesit; and in
1843 by Rev. John Bennett. From 1843 to 1850 several terms were taught
on the right bank of the river, about three miles above Grantsville, by
Rev. Jonathan Smith. In 1847 a school was conducted on Big Root by
Elizabeth Betts; and one on Yellow Creek in 1853, by Harrison R.
Ferrell. Cal Kessinger, Anne Betts, John Woodford, Joab Wolverton and
Anna Campbell may also be mentioned as early teachers in this section.
All of the pioneers of education, whom I have mentioned, have long
since gone to their final account.
About the year 1860,
the public mind became centered upon the great struggle, then imminent
betwen the North and the South. This was the all absorbing question of
the day and the thought that otherwise might have been given to the
cause of education was now diverted to internal strife; what little
order had developed was suspended. During the entire period of the war
and for more than a year after its close, there was only a fitful
bestowal of the distracted public mind upon the cause of education.
Free School System did not go into operation in this county until the
estrangements engendered by civil strife had in a measure passed away.
Until this time, all schools had been taught under the private
subscription plan, and of course the pay of the teacher was limited.
The teacher would often board and lodge among the patrons of the school
and was not expected to pay for his "keep."
COURSE AND EXTENT OF INSTRUCTION.
The subjects, usually
taught in those early schools were spelling, reading, writing and
arithmetic, and in some of the later ones, geography and grammar. Much
of the time and energy of the pupils was devoted to th« subject of
spelling. Reading was taught with a special effort to secure a loud and
distinct utterance. Writing was required to be done by the use of pens,
made from the-large feathers of birds, and ink was often made from
walnut bark, maple bark and indigo; arithmetic was the only mathematics
taught and one who could instruct the pupils therein, as far as the
double rule of three, compound proportion, was regarded as well
equipped for teaching that subject. Geography and grammar were probably
the least understood and most poorly taught subjects in the schools of
A NEW ERA.
A new era in the
educational affairs of the county began with the coming of the Free
School System. After the close of the Civil War, the old order of
things completely gave way to the new. The Constitution of 1872, placed
the schools under the general supervision of a State Superintendent and
the Legislature was given power to provide for County Superintendents,
who should have a limited control of the school affairs of the county,
and whose term of office was at first two years; but was later
lengthened to four years.
Calhoun county has
had the following County Superintendents of Free Schools:
Bennett 1866—1868 L. H. Trippett 1882—1884
Rice 1868—1870 William Metz 1884—1886
Knight 1870—1872: James E. Ferrell 1886—1888
Bruffy 1872—1874. E. Chenoweth 1888—1890
P. Knight 1874—1876 Bruce Ferrell 1890—1892
W. Hall 1876—1878 Bee Hopkins 1892—1894
M. Ferrell 1878—1880 John H. Roberts 1894—1898
Sturm 1880—1882 Wellington Lester 1898—1907
History of Education In West Virginia by West Virginia State Department
of Education, 1907 – Transcribed by AFOFG]
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