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The covered bridge over McElroy Creek and the Dyeson Gang

Bob'n'Along by Bob Stealey

EDITOR

Anne Mish of Center Point, Doddridge County assembled an interesting collector's edition of a booklet, "A Pictorial View of Center Point and Doddridge County ... Now and Then." For information purposes, she lent me her master copy.

She stated that she compiled the booklet "in the hopes of helping to keep our community and families' history alive for future generations."

One of the features of the booklet was an account of "the only covered bridge standing in Doddridge County," along with a photo of the wooden span.

"Located in Center Point," she wrote, "the bridge was built in 1888 by John Ash and S.H. Smith. It is 42 feet and one inch long. The bridge was in use until 1940. Jean and Roy Lackey donated the bridge in October 1981 to the Doddridge County Historical Society for restoration. The society has since turned the bridge over to the state for further upkeep."

The account stated that on July 13, 1888, the Doddridge County Court ordered that G.W. Ice be appointed a commissioner to supply specifications for a bridge that would span the Middle Fork of McElroy Creek in McClellan District.

"The records," Mrs. Mish wrote, "indicate that T.W. Ancell and E. Underwood built abutments and John Ash and S.H. Smith built superstructures for at least two bridges in the McClellan District."

Further on in the article, she stated: "George Washington suggested building the Old Northwestern Turnpike Road in 1784, but construction was not completed until 1838. The eight districts of Doddridge County maintained and built county roads. One man from each road was chosen to oversee and insure payment of the work done. The county found out that the groups from each road were using this opportunity to visit at the expense of the road condition.

"During the Great Depression, secondary roads over most of the county were paved strip by strip. Old Route 50 was paved in 1917, and in 1936, was paved throughout Doddridge County. The road through Doddridge County was finished in 1964 to 1972, at a cost of a million dollars a mile, by the federal government. The constant use of teams hauling dry goods to larger cities and bringing salt, groceries, cattle and hogs being driven to and from the markets, kept the roads in much-needed repair."

Mrs. Mish mentioned that the Granville Davisson Hall book, "The Daughter of the Elm," tells of a lawless gang of robbers who roamed the area. They were known as the Walt Dyeson Gang.

"For some years," she said, "the most profitable adventures of this gang were the running of horses to Pennsylvania. They had a chain of Confederates who received the horses, put them in concealment, passing them from one to another at night, until they reached a safe market place. Horses from 15 miles away would disappear as mysteriously as if swallowed up by the earth. The trips were planned so that the robbers would reach their hiding place before daylight.

"One of their exploits that made a good deal of local excitement was the stealing of some fine horses from the farm of Robert Mason, a pioneer on Upper Bingamon. Another was the robbery of 'Old Josie' Boyer, on Tenmile. Tenmile is an extension of Pike Fork into Harrison County. The gang would ride by way of Frank's Run, Talkington Fork, as well as Sycamore Fork. Situated on Frank's Run is a very large cavern, believed to be the one that the Dyeson Gang hid themselves and their horses in."

The author indicated that many stories have been told of encounters with that band of robbers. "It has been said that looking into Walt Dyeson's eyes was like looking into the devil's. Not all of this gang was cold-hearted. One man would always have candy in his pocket for the children.

"Many a farm wife has had to prepare 'supper' for the band. Believed real names of the Dyeson Gang, given by William Hutson of Sycamore, were: Walt Dye, Lot Dyeson; John Linsy, Limn Johnson; Eli Harbert, Eli Tarbert; Harris Nay, Ray Harris, (and) Blue Bore, Harry Blue."

My appreciation is extended to Mrs. Mish for having made the draft of her booklet available to me some time ago.

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