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West Union was one of the most progressive town in state

by Bob Stealey

EDITOR

Thanks to the generosity of Bill Calhoun, chairman of the Doddridge County Historical Society, I was able to borrow from him an attractive hard-bound book, "The History of Doddridge County, West Virginia," that had been donated to the society by Billy Kiger.

The book is a vast collection of historical sketches, as well as church and family histories that had been submitted by current and former residents of Doddridge County. Tucked inside the book were six pages stapled together that were copied from the Tyler Gazette Industrial -- Doddridge County," circa 1898.

I will be referring to various items of historical significance from the book in some future columns, but today, I'd like to quote some excerpts from an article headed, "COUNTY SEAT OF DODDRIDGE" with a subheading of "West Union One of the Most Progressive Towns in the State."

The article stated that the land upon which the town of West Union stands was patented about the year 1787 by James Caldwell. "The survey contains 20,000 acres, the whole of which he sold to Nathan Davis and his brothers, William and Joseph, in the year 1807 for the sum of 23 cents per acre."

The article continued, "They removed to the lands in 1808, and soon after sold the greater portion of the land to Lewis Maxwell at the same price. Soon after them came other settlers, among whom John Smith, Jacob Ripley, Thomas Smith, Joseph Jeffrey, Snowden S. Kinney, Hiram Sayre, John Webster, Thomas S. Neely and Matthew Neely, came in 1832.

"John Chaney was the first merchant. He began business in 1820. Soon after a post office was established, and the next map of Virginia showed, away out among the western hills of the 'Old Dominion,' the little village of Lewisport named in honor of Lewis Maxwell. Arthur Ingram was the second merchant. Ephraim Bee Sr. was the first blacksmith. This was in 1828. The first hotel was opened in the summer of 1839 by Lawson B. Maulsby, who, together with Silas J. Ogden, the same year, established a tannery on the banks of Middle Island Creek.

"In 1845 when the county was formed and the county seat located at this place, the town was regularly laid out by Ethelbert Bond and the name changed to West Union. The addition thus made was from the lands of Nathan Davis, which lay on the south side of Middle Island Creek. Here Mr. Davis resided in a brick house which stood on the spot where the courthouse now stands. Arthur Ingram crossed over, purchased a lot and erected the second building on the south side, and together with Jacob J. Ingle, became the first merchant.

"Dr. James A. Newton erected the second dwelling in 1845, and died just as it was completed. The second merchants were Floyd Neely and F.M.F. Smith, doing business under the firm name of Neely & Smith.

"The latter built the first hotel in the new town, but Jacob J. Ingle became the first proprietor. The post office was moved to the south side in 1845, and Taliaferro K. Knight, afterwards circuit clerk, became the first postmaster. The first school was taught in 1846 by Henry Miller, from Clarksburg.

"West Union is the first town, in size, in Doddridge County, having a population of 800. It is located on the south bank of Middle Island Creek, being 328 1/2 miles from Baltimore, Md., 150 miles from Pittsburgh, Pa., and 250 miles from Cincinnati, Ohio. The main line of the B&O railroad passes through the town, giving it an outlet to the markets of the world. It is in the center of a rich gas territory, and has natural gas in abundance at a reasonable price. West Union is a supply point for a vast oil territory. It is only a few miles from productive oil fields, both to the north and south."

I'll continue with this brief history of West Union in the next Bob'n'Along.

Editor Bob Stealey can be reached by phone at (304) 626-1438 or by e-mail at rstealey@exponent-telegram.com.

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