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West Virginia Archives & History

A Brief History Of Wayne Community

(Wayne County, West Virginia)
By Wesley D. Kirby
(Instructor in History and Civics, Wayne County High School)


This "brief sketch is intended to answer a need, to lay the foundation for an intelligent enthusiasm for the pupil's own community and county. If his education should terminate here it has served a noble purpose. If his work in education continues, however, (as it probably will, if he can comprehend the meaning of it all) this work will then have served two aims: (1) Its needful place in the grades, and (2) as a foundation for high school civics and American history or the social sciences. Though there is a continuous system of free education with broad views for the training of boys and girls, and even though the system has developed beyond the attainments of any other historical period, the pupils have been left without knowledge of their home communities, the true beginning of the study of civics and the foundation for American history and other social sciences.

It is clear, then, that for the average child, the aim to bring local industry, home geography, social and economic life of his immediate ancestry, his parents, the community, his relationship with home, school, and church, his interdependence and his own personal responsibility into the school during his plastic life, will appeal to the intelligence of the pupils and will intellectualize all later contact with practical affairs. There is a very legitimate demand now made, and urged on the schools, that such a work be prepared, to span the plateau from the child's inaptability to master the grade history and civics so that when he shall have reached that stage in his intellectual development when he begins to reach out beyond the pale of his own settlement, county, or state, he shall not put his hands on bare plow handles, without a knowledge of how to plow,

If the schools meet this demand by an attempt at vocational methods, or training in skill that industrial institutions might give, there will be little or no profit to society. However, if the schools will recognize the industry, history, civics, social and economic life of a County as an expression of human genius and cooperation, and if this history can serve to implant into the minds of youth ideas as well as skill to guide them in later practical life in this related work, then the schools will have made a genuine and positive contribution to society - a beginner's text book in the grades - an introduction to the study of civic life and community problems, and American history. It is hoped that this brief history will be only a beginning, that this will stimulate others to contribute new efforts in the direction of the community's needs, and that the immediate purpose which gave rise to this work should be kept in view - the child.

Naming the Community

The first man to settle here was Abraham Trout. His home was situated on the west side of Twelve Pole River, twenty miles from its junction with the Ohio. It was beautifully located on an eminence over-looking the small winding river at an elevation of 150 feet above the stream and 690 feet above tide water level. Because of Trout's residence here, it was called Trout's Hill. This name was in service for some years, then with the arrival of more settlers (Daniel Stephens, David Fry, Samuel Wellman, William Ferguson, Jessie Adkins, Benjamin Davis, Burwell Ferguson, Milton Ferguson, and Jacob Adkins) the name was later changed to Fairview for a brief time, then to Wayne Court House. This later name stuck for a period, and was finally changed to Wayne. It was in honor of and respect for General Anthony Wayne that the county and community \vas so named..

Early Settlers

Abraham Trout was the first. The rest of the early settlers arrived in 1842, the year the county was born. Hugh Bowen was the first merchant (1842). Calvin Cyphers opened the first blacksmith shop (1845), Dr. William Maupin was the first resident physician. Henry Lloyd organized the first Sabbath School, (1845), and in 1844 Benjamin Davis opened the first shoe shop. These first men were muscled for endurance, with shaggy locks, and long beards. They were clad in coon skin caps, and their bodies were covered with coarse cloth or the skins of animals, and shoes of different types, usually the inventions of the owners. Skins of animals were used to wrap the legs as we today use leather leggings. These first men to whom many claim kin, came quietly and on a thoughtful and purposeful mission. They came to build homes. These homes, as were their schools and churches were crude affairs. Those hamlets, however, housed the most liberty loving people of all times. The early arrivals reared large families because the work was hard and many hands were needed. It is because of this fact, with due consideration for the need of social intercourse, that such progress among primitive communities can best be explained.

Industrial Development

Agriculture was predominantly the life blood of the first settlers. They exemplified almost purely an economic unit. Then followed the merchant, the blacksmith, the cobbler, the miller, the stone mason, the carpenter (who at first only cooperated with others), the sawyers, loggers, stable keepers or hostlers, and within recent years the modern industrial plants and modes of transportation. Mr. Ferguson of Elmwood, the father of the present prosecuting attorney, Charles W. Ferguson of Wayne County, had a grist mill on his farm that ground grain for years. Men came here to mill from the entire water shed of Guyan Valley.

A brick yard gave service to many and work for some. It has now ended its usefulness. The coal mines nearby makes fuel cheap. It was with the coming of the Norfolk and Western Railroad and the development of oil and gas interests that this community has touched the pulse of the outside world. The man responsible for this railroad coming up the Twelve Pole Valley more than any other man is probably Belvard Jones Prichard. His influence and effort that contributed to the development of the oil and gas interest of this community is the most outstanding. His work for the community is a monument in itself. Not only has he aided greatly in industrial development but politically he has added much, serving first his county, then the state, in both houses. He was active in law until his personal interests absorbed his entire attention. He is the founder and president of the Wayne County Bank, and is a cousin of Fred C. Prichard who founded the new school at Ona.

The Norfolk and Western Railroad furnishes employment for a number of men of this section. The majority of industry here is still agricultural, especially grain crops. Recently, however, the farmers have profitably turned their attention to truck farming. Following close to truck the farmers have become interested in fruits. This is one of the best fruit belts of the state. The county agent, W. D. Click, has proved conclusively by example that this is a truck growing community. At present practically every farm or tract of land is under lease for oil and gas. Two or three big main lines for gas are definitely located to reach and pass through this section.

The water power has not been tapped. Just below the present town of Wayne is a beautiful power site. It has been estimated by engineers that there is enough water volume here, if properly made use of, to be converted into power sufficient to light the present city of Huntington, as well as the community of Wayne, for homes, garages, and other purposes. Then too, to climax the power project, this site has a natural rock bed, one of the prerequisites necessary for a successful venture in water power. Probably the community's industrial life has been slow in development but it has been a sure and steady growth.

Rev. Burwell Spurlock
Reverend Burwell Spurlock
Religious Development
The economic wants must necessarily come first in the life of a community. Those being satisfied, man turns to his Creator - this has been the repeated past. The outstanding figures in this community's early religious development were Rev. Burl Spurlock and William Jarrell. Both were circuit riders. Spurlock has left his imprint for good more than any other religious leader of early days. His untiring efforts have come down and paved the way for modern development. There are now four different churches in the limits of the town of Wayne: Baptist, Holiness, Christian, and Methodist. Each church is cooperative with the others best interests.
Because of the smallness of membership in each church a movement began in 1925 known as the "Wayne Mens' Christian Association," to which all men could join whether Christians or not. Church membership was not a prerequisite. It was void of church lines and denominational spirit. This organization has done more to unify Wayne Community than any other force. It was a positive and progressive measure for good. The Baptist and Methodist churches have recently completed splendid brick edifices of worship. The community as a whole is distinctly Christian.
Educational Development

With the satisfaction of man's physical and religious needs comes the third requirement, his cultural and intellectual needs. The most influential educator in Southwestern West Virginia was Taylor Bascom McClure. He was born in Lawrence County, Kentucky, January 16, 1847, and received his education in West Virginia University, graduating in 1875. Professor McClure served on the board of examiners for teachers many years. Then too, he founded, and was principal and master of Oakview Academy for years. This academy, although not in use today, still stands as a monument to his labor and achievement. It is the Alma Mater of many prominent men of today. Probably his greatest contribution has been the noted men and women that he has turned out from his school. He is a thorough progressive. With his help the modern Wayne County High School was established against great odds. His achievement, though mostly in education, is not all of his contribution. Politically he has given much and his influence was most keenly felt. Now rounding out his eightieth year, he is still found in active service, alert, agile, active, useful, and in good health. He is a relative of Henry Clay.

The present High School (Wayne County High School) is one of the most influential institutions in this community, young but now with an enrollment of about one hundred and ninety pupils. The increase in the enrollment the past two years has been astounding. The future can only tell its possibilities. The graded school has been in need of new quarters for some time and the new building is now assured, since the contract for a new brick structure was recently let. The progress of rural education because of the new county high school has already been felt and the standard of both will necessarily be raised.

The first newspaper appeared here 1874. It was begun by P. P. Lewis, who for political reasons moved the paper to Cassville. The first paper was named the Wayne County Advocate, later changed to Wayne News. Seven years ago when Herman P. Dean took over the paper he changed its name to Wayne County News. He has developed the present paper to one of first class. His efforts and interest are always for the community.

Social Development

The people are congenial, hospitable, and friendly. The party life has never troubled this section. Probably custom is more rigidly enforced here than in most rural communities. The community has been aroused to its social obligation to the young people. The churches have tried to aid this need. The public schools are no doubt contributing much. It is the development of the social need more than any other factor that is needed to raise the average of the community's score.

Political Development

The political development has been the most marked. Many professions including editors, statesmen, lawyers, and others have been blessed by native sons from this community. Gobel Burgess, W. L. Mansfield, Boyd Jarrell, J. J. Mansfield, John Meeks, and Prosecuting Attorney Charles W. Ferguson are only a few of the prominent men from this community. These men not only hold prominent positions today but have added greatly to the community's prosperity and betterment.

Wayne 's Assets

It has been stated that the community has four churches. It also has one county high school, a first class grade school, and a one hundred fifty thousand dollar court house. There are two progressive banks, the Wayne County Bank and the Peoples State Bank, three garages, a hotel, restaurant and several boarding houses.

A chamber of commerce advertises the town and aids progressive enterprises. There are many mercantile establishments, and a drug store.

The location of the town is its greatest asset. Located on the Lakes to Florida highway and nestled among the foothills, it offers a spectacle of beauty and commands admiration of natives and visitors alike.

Many of the great men and women of the nation got their early learning in such schools as these. Many got their inspiration from the lessons taught in McGuffey's Readers. I have lately been examining these Readers and have one that dates as far back as 1853 and I don't believe they can be surpassed by any other set of Readers for morals.

Literature exerts a powerful influence either for good or evil. Benjamin Franklin said that his reading of Cotton Mather's "Essay to do good" moulded his entire life.

Those who have read the history of the French Revolution know that the revolutionary character and spirit of French literature had much to do with bringing on this war.

Who will doubt that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was a factor in hastening on our own Civil War?

Let me close by applying a quotation made by L. W. Burns, County superintendent of Schools in Greenbrier County in a welcome address to the state Teachers Association, to our immediate vicinity: "The finest constellation in all the clear skies of Liberty is a cluster of some forty odd brilliant stars known as the United States of America, and one of the most splendid stars in that glorious group is the one which represents the state of West Virginia. Mother nature has lavished upon our state with extravagant hand her manifold blessings; our valleys are veritable gardens of flowers and fruits. Truly it is a habitation fit for man."

Let each of us make the best use we can of this habitation. What we are doing now will influence future generations for it is what man was that lives and acts after him. The golden words that we utter and the good examples we set will live through all time; so will the unchaste words and bad examples. Do we appreciate as we should what God has given us?

Permit me to quote from Kipling's Recessional:

"God of our fathers, known of old - Lord of our far-flung battle line. Beneath whose awful hand we hold Dominion over palm and pine - Lord God of hosts be with us yet, Lest we forget - lest we forget."

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