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Wetzel County WV

Early Settlers


Harman Blennerhassett, whose connection with the ill-fated project of Aaron Burr, has given his name a wide notoriety, passed down the Ohio river, in Wetzel county, on his way to Marietta, in 1796. About the year of 1798 he commenced his improvements on the beautiful island since known by his name, embosomed on the Ohio near the end of Washington county, Ohio, and resided upon it for a number of years, surrounded with all that made life dear, when the tempter entered this Eden and forever blighted his earthly prospects. After years of wandering he finally died in 1822, on the island of Guernsey. His beautiful and accomplished wife subsequently returned to this country and preferred charges against the United States and asked for claims, but without success. She died in New York in 1842. She was possessed of a rare ingenuity in the literary line and wrote that beautiful poem, "The Deserted Isle." The island will ever remain a memento of the fate of this unfortunate family, around whose melancholy fortunes the genius of Wirt his weaved a tribute of eloquence alike imperishable.


George Bartrug, from whom Burton should have been named, was born in what was then known as Croach Back, Pennsylvania, in the year of 1790. He came with his parents to what is now known as Cottontown in the year of 1806. After living with them but a short time he married and erected a cabin near the present site of the B. & O. E. R. station at Burton, and lived there until the year of 1850, when the railroad company purchased the land. He erected another house on the land now owned by his son, Moses Bartrug, and the house stood until lately, when it burned down.


Pressley Martin was born in Martin's Fort, in Monongalia county, in which his father at that time was commander. He came to what is now New Martinsville in the year of 1808, and boarded at the house on the south of the forks of the creek and the Ohio river, which was then owned by Abraham Hanes. In 1810 he purchased the land on which is now situated the town of New Martinsville from Mrs. Dulin, the widow of Edward Dulin, and erected a house on the north forks of Big Fishing creek and the Ohio river, which was commonly known as the Point House, on which is now situated the Grand Opera House, and the place of business of Handron & Dulin. He carried the nails that he put in the house from Morgantown to New Martinsville in pack saddles, they having been made at that place by a blacksmith. A short time after purchasing the land, he married Miss Margaret Clinton. While living at that place he farmed the land on which is now situated the prosperous town of New Martinsville, and often made trips to the Kanawha river for salt. In 183G he laid out the town of New Martinsville and named it Martinsville, and in the incorporating of the town the Assembly of Virginia prefixed the word New before the Martinsville, making it New Martinsville, from the fact that there was a town in Henry county, Va., by that name. He died in the year of His name will always be remembered as the originator of the town of New Martinsville.


Henry Church, better known as "Old Hundred," was born in Suffix county, England, in 1750. He came to this country a British soldier of the 63rd Light Infantry, and served under Lord Cornwallis in the memorable campaign of 1791. He was captured by the troops under Lafayette and sent a prisoner to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He remained there until peace was declared at that place. He fell in love with a Quaker maiden, Miss Hannah Keene. She was born in the year of 1755. Henry Church lived to be one hundred and nine, and his wife one hundred and seven. When the first excursion train ran over the B. & O. R. R. in 1852, it made a stop at the home of "Old Hundred," and among the passengers was an attaché to the British legation at Washington City, who was introduced to the old man as one of his countrymen, who sounded one of the martial airs of England. "Old Hundred" stood up as though his blood had been warmed with wine, and said: "I know it, I know it!" He was loyal to his king for more than a hundred years, about which time he took allegiance to the United States. The home of "Old Hundred" stood near Main street, at Hundred, and was constructed from logs. They had eight children, the youngest dying at sixty-eight, on which "Old Hundred" made the remark that they never did expect to raise her; that she never was a healthy child. It seemed that every family of the Churches honored one by naming it Henry, until there was Henry Church, Henry Church, Sr., who was not "Old Hundred," Henry, Jr., who was not the youngest, Henry of Henry, Henry of Sam, Long Henry and Short Henry. They both are buried at Hundred.


Abraham Hanes was born in Loudon county, Virginia, in the year of 1784. He came from that place to Middle Island creek, Tyler county, in the year of 1804, where he married Susana Martin, a native of New Jersey. In 1807 they came to what was then the mouth of Big Fishing creek, and erected a house on the South Side, and kept hotel during the war of 1812 in the same house that was known to the citizens of the county as the Robert Cox homestead. The ground is now owned by Dr. Underwood. In 1814 he moved with his family one mile below Proctor, and built a house on a run which now bears his name.


Sampson Thistle was born in Allegheny county, Maryland, in the year of 1781, June 27th. He came to Tyler county, Virginia, now Wetzel county, West Virginia, in the year of 1805. In the year of 1806 he was married to Susana Tomlinson, at the home of the bride in Cumberland, Maryland, in a brick house, which is still standing, and in excellent condition. After the close of the usual festivities incident to such occasions in those days, they started on horseback to their future home near New Martinsville, where they maintained a comfortable and hospitable home the remainder of their days. He was a prominent and prosperous citizen, being deferred to by his neighbors and becoming the owner of much land. This worthy couple raised a family of eleven children, six sons and five daughters, all of whom attained maturity, were married and left the parental roof before their parents died. Sampson Thistle lived to the age of seventy-five years, and was buried in the family burying-ground on his farm, whither the body of his faithful wife was borne a few years later at nearly the same age. Of their large family only one is now living. He was a "Whig" in politics, in religion a Methodist. The land upon which he lived is situated ten miles north of the town of New Martinsville, comprising nearly 900 acres, and is now owned by his grandchildren.

R. W. COX.

Robert Woods Cox was born in the year of 1820 at the Old Robert Woods homestead six miles above Wheeling. He was six years old when his mother died, and shortly afterward the family removed to New Martinsville, Tyler county, now Wetzel county. He attended law college at Meadville, Pennsylvania, but never was admitted to the bar, for the reason that he had to assume the care of his real estate. He assisted his father in the mercantile business. He was interested in the welfare and development of Wetzel county and was a great factor in politics. He was married in 1845 to Miss Jane Cresap, who was from one of the oldest settlers in the Ohio Valley, her father settling in Tyler county in the year of 1805. He sold his interest in Wetzel county in 1860, and went to Marshall county, where he died ten years later. His widow still survives him, at the age of seventy-nine. He had three children who are all dead with the exception of Friend Cox, who is still living.


John Moore was born August 24, 1818, at Clarington, Monroe county then known as Sunfish, in the year of 1818. In the year of 1834 he came with his father, Jacob Moore, to Proctor, where he settled at the mouth of Proctor creek. At that time Proctor was a vast wilderness. He was justice in His district for twenty-five years and was also president of the county court for two terms. He is still living and is good for a number of years, and is recognized as one of the oldest living settlers in Wetzel county.


John F. Lacey, representative in Congress from the Sixth Iowa district, was born May 30, 1841, on the Williams farm, just above New Martinsville, Va. (now West Virginia). In 1855 he moved to Iowa, and has made his home in Mahaska county ever since. At the beginning of the Civil War, in May, 1861, he enlisted as a private in Company "H," Third Iowa Infantry; afterward made a corporal. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Blue Mills, Mo., in September, 1861, and was paroled with General Mulligan's command at Lexington, Mo., soon after. The President issued an order for the discharge of all paroled prisoners, not then deeming it proper to recognize the Confederates by exchange. Mr. Lacey was discharged under this order. In 1862 an exchange of prisoners was agreed on, which released all discharged men from their parole, and Mr. Lacey at once re-enlisted as a private in Company "D," Thirty-third Iowa Infantry. He was soon promoted to the rank of sergeant-major of the regiment, and in May, 1863, was appointed first lieutenant of Company "C." Colonel Samuel A. Rice, of the Thirty third Iowa, was made a brigadier-general, and Mr. Lacey was* appointed by President Lincoln as assistant adjutant-general of volunteers on his staff. General Rice was killed at the battle of Jenkins Ferry, Ark., and Mr. Lacey was then assigned to the same position on the staff of Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele, in which capacity he served until his muster-out in September, 1865. He participated in the following battles: Blue Mills, Helena, Little Rock, Terre Noir, Elkin's Ford, Prairie d'Anne, Poison Springs, Jenkins Ferry, Siege of Mobile and storming of Blakeley. He was struck with a minie ball in the battle of Jenkins Ferry, but his ponche turned the ball aside and prevented any injury. His horse was killed under him by a shell in the battle of Prairie d'Anne.

Major Lacey's advancement was continuous, and although he was only twenty-four years of age at his discharge, he had in nearly four years' service done duty as a private, corporal, sergeant-major, first lieutenant, adjutant-general of a brigade, adjutant general of a division, adjutant general of a corps, adjutant general of General Steele's command (15,000 strong) in the Mobile campaign, and finally as adjutant general of Steele's Army of Observation (of 42,000 men) on the Rio Grande.

Mr. Lacey's education was obtained in the public schools and private academies. He was admitted to the bar in 18G5, and has continually practiced law ever since, having enjoyed a very extensive practice in the State and Federal courts. He is the author of "Lacey's Railway Digest," which includes all the rail way cases in the English language up to 1885; also author of "Lacey's Iowa Digest." He served in the Iowa Legislature in 1870, and afterward as alderman and city solicitor of Oskaloosa for a term each.

Notwithstanding his long service in Congress, he has retained his love for his profession, and kept up his connection with his law practice. He represented the sixth Iowa district in the Fifty-first, Fifty-third, Fifty-fourth, Fifty-fifth and Fifty-sixth Congresses. He is now a member of the Fifty-ninth Congress. This district has long been a political battle ground, and Mr. Lacey has had a hard contest in each of the campaigns in which he has been engaged. His opponents were General Weaver, Mr. White, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Steck, in these various campaigns. Though active in political affairs, Mr. Lacey has always preferred to be known through his chosen profession, rather than as a politician.

An old and eminent member of the State bar and one of Mr. Lacey's most intimate professional associates, submits this estimate of his character: "As a lawyer, Mr. Lacey easily ranks among the leading lawyers of the State. His greatest success in life has been at the bar, and he still holds a good practice, although for ten years a member of Congress. His success has been attained largely by his indomitable energy and industry. He is particularly strong as a trial lawyer, being full of resources. When driven from one position he will seize another so quickly and support it by such ready reference to authorities, that he frequently bewilders his opponents and wins out on a new line, which seems to come to him by intuition as the trial progresses. As an advocate to the jury, he is not severely logical, not confining himself strictly to a mere reference to the evidence, but takes a wider range, and by illustrations drawn from literature or history, he retains the interest of the jury, while at the same time emphasizing some feature of the case."

Major Lacey is one of the Wetzel county boys who went west to grow up with the country. His father, John M. Lacey, was one of the first settlers of New Martinsville. He came to the town when it became the county seat and built the house now owned by Mr. McCaskey, immediately east of the court house. Major Lacey and Philip G. Bier both filled positions as assistant adjutant generals of volunteers. They were in the same class at school at New Martinsville when little boys.. Dr. John Thomas Booth, now of Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of this same class. Dr. Booth was a surgeon in the Spanish war, and a Union soldier in the Civil War.

Mr. Lacey's mother was Eleanor Patten, daughter of Isaac Patten, of Captine creek, Belmont county, Ohio. She is held in pleasant memory by the old settlers. Major Lacey's parents both died in Iowa.

Robert W. Lacey, an uncle of John P., formerly lived in New Martinsville. He died in Pasadena, California, a few years ago. His widow is the sister of Mrs. Dr. Young, of New Martinsville.

Rev. J. J. Dolliver, father of Senator J. P. Dolliver, of Iowa, used to spend much of his time when a bachelor, at the home of John M. Lacey, who was an active leader in the Methodist church.

Williams R, Lacey, the youngest son of John M. Lacey, was born in New Martinsville, and was named after the Williams family, who lived north of the town, and who were ardent friends of the Laceys. Williams R. is now the law partner of his brother, and is one of the most prosperous and successful business men in Iowa.

Mr. Lacey, in 1865, married Miss Martha Newell, of Oskaloosa. They have two daughters living, Eleanor, who is the wife of James B. Brewster, of San Francisco, and Bernice, who is now a young lady. Raymond, their only son, and Kate, another daughter, died in childhood.


J. P. Dolliver was born near Kingwood, Preston county, Va., now West Virginia, February 6, 1858. In 1875 he graduated from the West Virginia University at Morgantown. In 1854 he came to New Martinsville, Wetzel county, West Virginia, with his father, who was the first preacher that ever preached in a church at New Martinsville, and to his work and energy the building of the old M. E. church is due. His name will ever live to the members of that church. Mr. Dolliver was admitted to the bar in 1878, but never held any political office until elected as a Republican to the Fifty-first Congress as a representative from the Tenth Congressional district, and was elected again to the Fifty-second, Fifty-third, Fifty-fourth, Fifty-fifth and Fifty-sixth Congress. On July 22, 1900, he was appointed Senator to fill the unexpired term of Hon. J. H. Gear, deceased, and took his seat in the United States Senate December 3, 1900, which office he still holds. He is living in Iowa near the same locality as Hon. J. F. Lacey, another Wetzel county boy.


Ebenezer Clark was born on Wheeling Creek, in Washington county, Pennsylvania, May 4th, 1802, and died at his home in the county of Wetzel, August 30th, 1878.

Perhaps no man was so long and so prominently identified with the history of the county with which we deal in this volume as the subject of the present sketch. When but an infant his father removed to the Scioto Valley, Ohio, afterwards going further West; but the boy, Ebenezer, then thirteen years of age, came to West Virginia, living with his mother's people in Marshall county. In early manhood he married and settled near Fanlight, in Wetzel (then Tyler) county, on what is now known as Clark's Ridge. Here the remainder of his life was passed.

Mr. Clark was one of the largest land owners in the county, and managed extensive business affairs with rare good judgment; but he was a public spirited man who was never so busy that he could not find time to devote to public affairs. For a generation, perhaps, he officiated as Justice of the Peace, under the old regime, when men served faithfully for honor and not for profit. Nature had given him a legal mind, and he easily grasped complicated cases, going unerringly to the heart of the controversy. In addition to this, few men in similar positions have attained as honorable distinction as a peacemaker. Countless controversies were brought to an end without litigation through his discreet advice and counsel, the universal confidence of the community in his integrity and sound judgment enabling him to make this most enviable record.

Before Wetzel county had come into being, Mr. Clark served as a member of the County Court of Tyler county; and for four years he was Sheriff of Wetzel, also serving his constituency faithfully at Richmond as a member of the Legislature of Virginia. Through his influence in that body a bill was passed providing for a turnpike road from New Martinsville to Burton. If carried through, this would have largely influenced the development of the county; but the project was defeated, through the jealousy of local politicians.

Mr. Clark's first wife was Harriet Anderson, and among their children are Josephus Clark, C. E. Clark, and Friend E. Clark, prominent citizens of Wetzel at the present time. His second wife was Mary Richmond, who, with their children, now resides in the State of Missouri.

The following was written of Mr. Clark at the time of his death by Robert McEldowney: "For almost fifty years he has been a prominent and influential citizen, and has left during all this period of public life not a blot on his fair name. In politics Mr. Clark was a Democrat of the old school, and in religion an old fashioned Methodist, who believed in experimental religion and was not afraid to say so. He was a prominent member of the Church for a half century and was for a generation a local preacher. He was a man hospitable and generous, fond of the truth and fearless in its defense and in the support of what he believed to be right. He was such a man as, take him all in all, we may not look upon his like again."

He was a strong man and a sincere Christian, whose memory is a benediction. His life brings to mind the lesson enforced by the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century: "Value the ends of life more than its means; watch ever for the soul of good in things evil, and the soul of truth in things false, and beside the richer influence that will flow out from your life on all to whom you minister, you will do something to help the solution of that unsolved problem of the human mind and heart, the reconciliation of hearty tolerance with strong positive belief." ,


One of the most remarkable men in the history of West Virginia is Isaac Smith. At his death he was the oldest man in West Virginia, and probably the Southern States. He was born at Williamsport, Washington county, Pennsylvania, in the year of 1789, and lived to be 109 years old, which was but a few years back. He was a man of simple nature, kind, strong and always industrious. He lived until his death in Proctor Hollow, a ravine of five miles in length, running east and west through Wetzel county, in a small log cabin, about two miles from Proctor Station, on the Ohio River R. R. He erected the building with his own hands when he came to West Virginia with his family, sixty-nine years before his death. Then the country was a wide forest, with only a few families scattered here and there over the country. His nearest neighbor was a man by the name of Hogan, who resided with his family five miles further up the run.

Some of the older residents who remember him when he was forty to fifty years of age, say he could lift a barrel of whisky and drink out of the bunghole, and that he has often picked up two barrels of salt set one upon the other at a single lift. But of these things Mr. Smith never boasted. He had a smile for everyone and enjoyed a good joke as well as any person. He followed the occupation of keel boating on the Monongahela river until he was forty years of age, when he sold out his property and moved to West Virginia. When he settled at Proctor there were few if any Indians remaining, and the only thing to be feared was from wild animals, catamounts, wild cats and a few wolves. There was also plenty of wild game. Mr. Smith's father settled at Elizabeth, Pa., in the latter part of the last century. His name was Samuel Smith, and he married Sallie Watt, the result of which union was several sons, among them being the subject of this sketch. Isaac Smith received very little education, but learned the trade of keel boating at an early age, which he followed many years. He married Sarah Huston, and to them were born five sons, Robert, Charles, Thomas, Samuel and John. Mr. Smith made his home with his grandson, Albert Anderson, who lives on the old homestead, where his mother was born and raised.


William Little settled-where Littleton now stands, on Fish creek, in the year of 1838, when it was a vast wilderness without a solitary being for miles around except that of his wife. He was born in Fayette county, this State, and for some time lived in Green county, Pennsylvania. He was justice of the Peace when this county was Tyler county, for sixteen years. There are only three of the family now living, H. H. Little, who has been in the ministry for the past thirty-five years; Ruth Lancaster and James K. Little. William Little's brother, Josiah, was captain of artillery in the Mexican war.


Jeremiah Williams was one of earliest settlers in this county. He came to New Martinsville about the year of 1800, and settled on the land now owned by his heirs and situated about two miles above the town of New Martinsville. He was born in the year of 1766 and for a while was a Fort Henry soldier. He obtained the title for the land from a man in Monongalia county (for boot) on a horse trade, he having obtained it from a man who was driven out by the Indians. Mr. Williams witnessed the signing of the Declaration of Independence.


Robert McEldowney was born in Ireland and emigrated with his brother (John) to this country about the year of 1782, and settled on the land about one and a half miles north of the town of New Martinsville, and now owned by Mr. B. F. Bridgeman, in the year of 1804, having lived for a while at Buckhill Bottom, Ohio. His brother settled in Maryland, where his descendants still live. Mr. McEldowney died in a carriage. He was very feeble at the presidential election of 1844, and desiring to vote for James K. Polk, a carriage was sent after him, and after getting in the carriage he suddenly died and was buried in Williams' Cemetery, where his wife, Hannah Vandaver McEldowney was buried.



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