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West Virginia Archives & History

The History Of Halleck Community

(This history of Halleck community, Clinton District, Monongalia County West Virginia was compiled and written by Elijah McRae, one of the early pupils of the school, a teacher for many years, and secretary of the board of education of the District for thirty-three years.) By Elijah McRae


The village of Halleck, in which the school building stands, is located on two public thoroughfares, the Fairmont and Kingwood, and the Morgantown and Grafton roads. It is about the same distance from four county seats: Morgantown on the North, Kingwood on the East, Grafton on the South, and Fairmont on the West. A great deal of the trade and traffic between these county seats passes through Halleck. It is entirely surrounded by railroads, the nearest points being Little Falls, on the F. M. R. R., and Independence on the main line of the B. & O. R. R., the distance being about eight miles to either place.

Halleck is on the anti-clinal separating the waters of Booths Creek, Laurel Run, and White Day Creek. It is about 1850 feet above sea level. The summit is reached at the U. S. signal station, on the lands of Mrs. Malinda Nelson where the height is 2100 feet, the highest point in Clinton District. The residence of Henry I. King, located near the school house, is on the ridge and the water drained from the south side of the roof is carried off into Laurel Run Creek and makes a circuit of more than sixty miles, running by Grafton and Fairmont, before it mingles with the water drained from the north side of the same residence by Booths Creek which reaches the Monongahela River at Uffington, ten miles away. The surface slopes from this anti-clinal to the north-west and south-east.


The land is well adapted to agriculture, which is the leading industry of the people. Corn, oats, and buckwheat are the principal grain crops. Potatoes, fruits, berries, and vegetables are grown. The land is nearly all well adapted for grazing purposes. Timothy, blue-grass, red-top, orchard grass, and all the clovers do well and the general tendency among the farmers is to improve their st.ock.


But few foreign born people have ever lived in this community. Nearly all the citizens are descendants of the original settlers who were from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the New England States. Some of the land titles can be traced back for a hundred years, and very few titles have been changed "in front of the Court House". From 1830 to about 1844 we find the following were permanent settlers: Joseph Smith, Samuel B. Brown, James Watson, Jacob Cartright, Asa Fletcher, Hugh Austin, Oliver P. McRae, A. C. Reppert, George T. Loar, George N. King, William Galliher, Jacob Kerns, Joseph Trickett, and others.


The community, church, and school for many years was known as the "Smiths" in honor of Joseph Smith one of the first settlers. For many years the community was served by the post offices at Clinton Furnace four miles to the north and Independence a little farther to the south. In 1880 the Hon. J. S. Watson, after many discouragements, secured the U. S. postoffice that has since served the community. When the office was established, the Government gave the name Halleck to the office in honor of General Halleck, of Civil War fame. In 1908 there were established two rural free delivery routes to the community: one from Uffington, known, as Route No. I, and the other from Independence known as Route No. II. There are also two telephone lines reaching our people, the Bell and the "Peoples" Line.


A hewed log church was built here in 1854. A deed was made by Joseph Smith and wife for the church lot to The Methodist Episcopal Church, and the following citizens constituted the first Board of Trustees, the property being deeded to them and their successors forever: Oliver P. McRae, Hugh Austin, Joseph Smith, John Stevens, Thomas Miller, Samuel Stevens, and Jacob Cartright. This deed was dated June 9, 1856, and a religious society was organized about this time with Rev. Phillip Greene, pastor, and Oliver P. McRae, class leader.

The present frame building was erected in 1873, Rev. J. W. Webb, D. D. presiding elder, Rev. J. W. Hess, pastor, and Harvey Zinn of Gladesville Preston County was the contractor. The building was dedicated on a beautiful October Sabbath of the same year, 1873. Great crowds of people attended and an all-day service was held with a picnic dinner in the grove nearby. Dr. Alexander Martin, D. D. who was president of the State University at the time, preached in the morning and Dr. J. Wesley Webb, in the afternoon.

There are two other churches represented in the community: the Baptist and the Christian, but their membership is at Gladesville, Preston County, where each has a church building. A delightful fraternal spirit has always existed in the community and all join in religious services regardless of denominational choice. No secret or fraternal society has even been organized here, but there are many who belong to such orders located in other places.


A log school house was built here in 1848, preceding the church by six years. The school lot adjoined the church lot and the building was twenty by twenty-four feet. A door was in the end fronting to the public road, while at the other end there was a chimney made of stone to the mantle, the top being of mud and sticks. The fireplace was large enough to receive a billet of wood four feet in length. The crevices were filled with moss, mud, and stone. The roof was made of clapboards held in place by weight poles, the floor was puncheons, hard wood split about three inches thick. The seats were made of chestnut wood, from trees about ten inches in diameter split so each stick made two seats. Two large auger holes were bored in each end and legs were inserted elevating the seat about eighteen inches from the floor. The writer of this sketch attended this school held in the log house and sat on the old benches described which were without either foot or back rest. When one wanted to get down from the perch he turned his stomach against the seat and slid to the floor.

The entire building was wood, stone, and mortar, not a nail being used, but it served its purpose quite well in that early day. The following named teachers taught in this log building: Oliver P. McRae, Edgar B. Watson, Louvenia Harrison, James Watson, Eli Moorlage, John Kizer, and Samuel Woods after which the breaking out of the Civil War brought educational matters in the community to an abrupt close.

In 1865, the late Hon. John W. Mason (who at the time of his death a few years ago was a member of the State Supreme Court of Appeals) opened a school in the Halleck log church, which was the first free school in the district and believed by Mr. Mason to be the first free school taught in the State. Many of the young men who had recently returned from the war attended this school. Hon. John W. Mason was succeeded by the following who taught in the old log church: Miss Mary Samon, who was the daughter of a Baptist minister in Pennsylvania and who afterwards married Dr. Parry. L. G. Reppert taught three terms.

In 1843 a log school house was built on the lands of Hugh Austin, three-fourths of a mile south of the residence of the late Isaac N. Austin. There is now a tree about twenty inches in diameter growing where the chimney of this house stood. Charles Johnson, James Johnson, and the late Captain O. P. Jolliff, taught in this place. Captain Jolliff taught a number of schools before going into the service of the Civil War. Mrs. Mary Galliher Brown, and Mrs. Elizabeth Watson Brown, who attended this school, are still living.


In 1869 a contract was let by the board of education of Clinton District to James Watson and Charles H. Duncan for a new school building which was erected on the same spot where the old log building had stood. It was a frame building twenty-eight by thirty-two fee. It was painted white and a blackboard extended the full length of the north end, with an elevated rostrum where the classes recited. A No. I. Burnside stove stood in the middle of the room.

On the north side of the building the forest extended up to the school house lot, while just to the west was a large chestnut tree beneath which the girls of the school usually played. The boys usually appropriated one of the near by fields of the farmers for playing "bull-pen", "town-ball", and later base-ball.

Morgan B. Hale taught the first school in the new frame building and was followed by Waitman McRae, Charles Cox, Miss Alcinda Bayles, Elijah McRae (three terms), Columbia Simpson (one term), Thomas I. McRae (two terms), H. I. King, J. M. Jolliff, W. J. King, U. G. Hays, Duncan McRae, Louisa Stewart, Madie Vandervort (one term each), A. L. DeMoss (two terms, Harter Nelson (one term), M. L. Brown (three terms), then Maude Wilson (one term), and R. H. Brown taught two terms. In 1896, the board of education bought a lot of one acre of ground of C. H. Duncan and the present house was built. Samuel Rogers was the contractor. The following teachers have taught in this building: Claud McBee (three terms), Minnie Bayles, Hugh Austin (one term each), C. A. Snider (three terms) Ora Griffin, Lenora McBee, E. E. Hale, Earl O'Neal, Roy Nelson, John G. Nelson, Virginia Reppert, E. C. Brown, Dorothy Reppert, M. E. Nelson, and Lenora M. Brown have each taught one term. A. L. Wade, who was for many years county superintendent of schools of Monongalia County, was the author of a "Graduating System for Country Schools" held his first district examination at the Goshen Baptist Church in 1876, and the following persons received certificates of graduation from the Halleck school: J. W. King, H. I. King, and Samuel Brown.

The second examination was held at the Halleck church in the spring of 1877. Prof. A. L. Wade, county superintendent, Rev. John Rhey Thompson, D. D., president of the State University, and Nelson N. Hoffman, editor of the Morgantown Post, were present. In this class in 1877 were the following Halleck pupils: James W. McGown, Rebecca J. King, Virginia A. McRae, and Duncan McRae. In presenting the diplomas to this class Prof. A. L. Wade said that Duncan McRae who was then thirteen years of age was the youngest pupil who had received a diploma, in the county. The school now has a library of more than two hundred volumes.

The first enumeration of Clinton district of children of school age was made in 1864, and showed the following: 207 white males and 311 white females; 11 colored males, and 12 colored females, a total of 631. The enumeration of 1922 showed 370 white males and 345 females, a total of 715 white children of school age and no colored children.


J. M. Gemas is our merchant; George H. Brown is the community undertaker; James Elery Smith is "the village blacksmith". The Smith brothers have a feed mill, a garage, a general repair and supply shop. They are also breeders of Shorthorn cattle.

In about 1858 Joseph Smith built a foundry for casting metals such as pots, and kettles, and farm implements. This building stood on the spot where George H. Brown's feed store now stands. The Civil War brought this foundry business to a close.

About 1874 or 1875, James Miller operated a pottery on his farm just east of Halleck, where all kinds of earthen vessels were made, but it did not prove a great success and was abandoned. The parsonage of the Halleck circuit of the Methodist Episcopal church is located at the village. Precinct No. II of Clinton district voting place has been at the Halleck school house since 1883.


In the Halleck cemetery there sleep 23 Civil War veterans, two World war veterans, Clarence Trickett and John Barber, and in a private cemetery near by is the grave of Samuel B. Brown, a veteran of the War of 1812. There are three of the veterans of the Civil War still living: Granville Brown, B. F. Kerns, and William H. Phillips.


James S. Watson was elected to the House of Representatives in 1880 and served two years. M. L. Brown served one year by appointment and two years by election as county superintendent of schools. Mr. Brown was appointed by Gov. W. E. Glasscock as warden of the State Penitentiary in 1911 and held the position for nearly four years with great credit to himself and in the best interests of the State. He left the institution on a self-supporting basis, for the first time in its history. Duncan McRae was the chief clerk in the office of the Secretary of State during the term of office of Hon. W. M. O. Dawson from 1901 to 1905. Oliver P. McRae, James S. Watson, and Charles H. Duncan served as president of the board of education of Clinton district for thirty-six years of the fifty-eight years of history of the free schools in the State. Charles H. Duncan served eight years as commissioner. Granville Brown, Morgan B. Hale, and H. I. King served also as commissioners.


The first pupil of Halleck school to graduate from the State University was Samuel Boardman Brown, A. D. class of 1883. Prof. Brown is now the oldest member of the University faculty in point of service, having filled the chair of geology and mineralogy for thirty-three consecutive years. Other graduates are James E. Brown, B. S., class of 1887, who has been a leading attorney in Chicago for many years; Perry C. McBee, B. S., class of 1896; Martin E. Nelson, B. S. C. E., class of 1903; Carl R. Duncan, B. S. C. E., class of 1917; and Roy E. Nelson, B. S. C. E., class of 1921.

The following from this school are undergraduates of the University: Waitman McRae, who died in 1873, a senior; W. J. King, H. I. King, Thomas I. McRae, Elijah McRae, Duncan McRae, Milton H. Brown, Martin L. Brown, Elery C. Brown, Thomas G. Brown, James McGown (deceased), George H. Smith, Fred G. Reppert, Mary L. Brown (deceased), and Thomas Judson McBee. It was largely through the state-wide influence of Prof. Samuel B. Brown in 1888 that the University was induced to open her doors to lady students, thus making it a co-educational institution.

Miss Mary L. Brown, oldest sister of Prof. S. B. Brown married the Rev. George W. Bent. She graduated from the Glenville State Normal School in 1889, and the following fall she with two lady friends from Gilmer County matriculated at the University, they being the first lady students out of Morgantown to claim the benefits of the institution. Miss Brown died in 1907.


Mary L. Brown graduated from the Glenville State Normal School in 1889, Roy E. Nelson, John G. Nelson, Ebert E. Hale, and Virginia Hale are graduates from the Fairmont State Normal School. The following attended the Fairmont State Normal but did not graduate: W. J. King, Elijah McRae, Thomas I. McRae, R. H. Brown, Ward Hale, J. C. Price, Clarence A. Reppert, Virginia Reppert, Dorothy Reppert, and Ora Griffin.


Milton R. Brown, M. D., graduated from medical college of Baltimore, Md.; Thomas J. McBee, M. D. from medical college of Richmond, Va.; I. Max Austin, M. D. from medical college of Kirksville, Mo. Claud McBee and Melvine Fletcher are graduates of the commercial college of Delaware, Ohio. Miss Nora B. Phillips is a graduate nurse of Bellevue Hospital of New York City. Miss Adaline Brown is a graduate nurse of the Reynolds Memorial Hospital of Glendale, W. Va. Miss Nellie B. Brown is a graduate of the Conservatory of Music, Washington, D. C. Frank Reppert is a graduate of the commercial college of Washington, D. C. Ed. E. Nelson is a graduate of the Pharmaceutical Department of the Pittsburgh University, and John G. Nelson is a graduate of the Department of Dentistry of the same institution.

The community has always been noted for the thrift and intelligence of its citizens. The educational standards of the community have been higher than the average by far, and a larger percent of her young men and young women have taken special training for their life's work than that of any other like community in the regions round about.

With profound thankfulness for the past, with all its privileges and blessings, we face the future with faith, courage, and determination.

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