John William Hylbert

John William Hylbert was born May 18, 1856 in Wirt County, the son of Henry Barnabas Hylbert and Mary McCutcheon.

The following letter appeared in the Reedy (WV) News on November 11, 1921, written by John William Hylbert. Some of the area and people he writes about were in Wirt County at the time, but became part of Roane County after that county was formed.


My father, H. B. Hylbert married Mary McCutcheon and lived on the headwaters of McCutcheon Run. I was born in 1856, the year that Roane County was organized. My mother died when I was nine years old. My father was married twice. His second wife, who is still living, was Sarah J. McClung. His family consisted of ten children – four boys and one girl by his first wife, and four boys and one girl by his last wife.

The history that I shall try to narrate took place between fifty and sixty years ago (1860-1870). Among the first things that I remember hearing talked of was the breaking out of the Civil War, and the oil excitement at Burning Springs.

At that time there lived on McCutcheon Run my father, Andrew Collison, James McCutcheon, William McCutcheon, my grandfather, and George Seaman, Thomas Lee and Zadoc Thorn near its mouth. At this time there was no road across to Spring Creek – the road ending at my father’s.

I never attended school until after the war, when free schools were established, therefore I was twelve years old before I attended school – our school term being three of four months. Among the first and best teachers that I went to was T. J. Thorn, who is still living at Saxton, Ohio. You would never guess that I had taught nine terms of school from my spelling. Some say moral suasion is the way to govern a school. However, I think the rod a pretty good persuader. If the foregoing suits you I shall in the future tell you something of the Town of Reedy fifty or sixty years ago.

In the November 18, 1921 issue of the Reedy News, the following began to appear as a series:

We will now travel from the mouth of McCutcheon Run (where I first learned to like paw-paws, to swim, and to catch fish) to the Town of Reedy.

After crossing the creek, the road at that time ran with the creek up as far as the John L Boggs residence. Boggs was said to be one of the wealthiest farmers on Reedy and passing the mouth of Stutler’s Run on which lived Criss and Joe Stutler and Thomas Goff. At that time John Smith had a water mill on the opposite side of the creek between J. L. Boggs and Disaway Dye, where Dennis Dye now lives.

Next was Dempsey Flesher’s being the first house we pass in Roane County, also at that time said to be the first house in the neighborhood. It might be proper to state this farm had what was considered a very rich silver mine on it. About this time the mineral excitement broke out and every man thought he had a silver mine on his place. It was no uncommon thing to see four or five men with mattocks and shovels going to open up a silver mine. Boys were allowed to go along and help carry the ore. But alas, like the South Sea bubble, it blew up and as far as I know, it only amounted to wearing out their pockets carrying around the rocks.

But we are not far behind our fathers, as each of us is aware of the fact that oil and gas are plentiful on our places if only opened up. While we do not realize that, we are losing our resources in fertility and timber. It would be better for us as farmers to try to conserve our resources than depend on what is possibly two or three thousand feet beneath the surface.

Next we come to Cain’s Run, near the mouth of which stood the Good Hope Baptist Church, a log house. A log house was nothing unusual then, as nearly all the buildings were built of logs. My father belonged to this church. The first Sunday School I ever attended was there. I remember hearing Pat Murray and George Burdette preach here. At that time Brother Burdette was a mere boy. He married Thomas Lee’s daughter and was pastor of many churches in the then Mt. Pisgah Association.

Nathaniel Ledsome and Uncle Tommy Cain lived on this run. After crossing the run there was a building in which I believe Robert Flesher lived. Across the creek the widow Watts and family lived, her husband being killed in the war.

Then we pass the mouth of Folly Run on which two noted characters lived – M. A. McClung, who was a farmer and lawyer, and William Board, who was a preacher and horse trader.

Next is Flesher’s Chapel, a really fine building for that day, and as there was no church in Reedy, it was counted as a Reedy church, although it sat on the bank of the creek nearly opposite where Clyde McClung now lives. The church was named for Uncle Dempsey Flesher, who did a great deal for it financially and spiritually, he being a class leader. He and Uncle Sandy Board did good work for their churches in the way of leadership. This church was finally moved into the Town of Reedy.

We then pass a turn in the creek where a steam sawmill was blown up. There were five men killed by this explosion – Robert Blosser, father of J. H. Blosser, William Cain, Hawk Boggs, Jacob Hardway and Samuel Wyatt. At this time most lumber was sawed by a water mill or whip sawed, which was by man power.

Next we come to a coal mine. We have the same vein of coal which is about a 20-inch vein, but on account of having a lack of transportation facilities, it is not worked at present.

Next we come to what was known as Three Forks of Reedy, or just Three Forks. I think the post office was named Reedy and the present town takes its name from the post office and the railroad station.

Three Forks, as a village, spread over more Timothy than the Town of Reedy. In fact, to see the Three Forks it is necessary to go three or four hundred yards beyond the Town of Reedy.

The resources of the Town of Reedy are about the same as those of the Three Forks of Reedy – the farming industry. Reedy’s prosperity today is dependent almost entirely on the farming community, there being very little manufacturing in town.

I don’t know of any town the size of Reedy that has half the number of stores. While this is the case, Reedy has the reputation of selling goods cheaper than adjoining towns. Goods can be bought cheaper at Reedy, by retail, than they can in Parkersburg. The merchants in Reedy cemented the street, which in wet weather was a mud hole, thereby making it easier to visit their stores.

The first house in Three Forks is Alfred Cain’s, brother of Uncle Johnny and Thomas Cain. He was a prominent man in the place, being what was called a “one-horse lawyer” – the kind at that day pleaded before a squire. At that time there was a great deal more litigation in the community than today. I don’t know whether it is because the squire or the people, or both, have got more sense or not. On Saturdays a great many of the farmers would go to the Three Forks to hear the trial. Alfred Cain, M. A. McClung and sometimes Joshua Lee from Spring Creek being the Attorney, all homemade lawyers. Well, it was as good as a debating society.

I never sued anyone in my life except once, when I gave one of the above five dollars to see after it. He got judgment for me but no money. So I was the attorney fee short. A. Cain acted as Sheriff a term or two. He also loaned money if one could dig up interest enough. Don’t forget that there was no bank in Roane, Wirt or Jackson County at this time, the Parkersburg bank being the nearest one. The house Cain lived in was a large log house known as a double log house.

At this time I don’t think there were more than half a dozen post offices in Roane County. I can only recall Reedyville, Spencer and Walton. Leroy and Sandyville were offices between Reedy and Ravenswood. Then Reedy did not receive near the mail that Grace does now. A good many letters came, but few papers. There was then no paper in Roane and only one in Jackson County.

I recall the prices of some things that were sold and bought at the store. Coffee, 50 cents; sugar, 15 cents; muslin, 25 cents; eggs, five to ten cents per dozen; butter in winter, 10 to 15 cents; butter in summer, nothing; feathers 50 cents. In this connection I will say there were a great many geese raised – probably twenty five times as many as now. When the women came to the store they often brought a “poke” of feathers, which I, as “jim hand”, generally emptied.

In this store I became acquainted with a great many citizens. Among the elder were Andy, Rause and Calvary Chancey, Uncle Sandy Board, Billy Jeff Board, Lige and George Callow, John Candler, Dempsey, John and Robert Flesher and the Seamans, Stutlers and Conrads, all of whom are dead. While I was well acquainted with them, I am but slightly, if at all, acquainted with their posterity.

After passing Callison’s toward Ravenswood, we came to a building about where Lattimer’s store now stands, in which there had been a store, but was not occupied as such, until Harry (Tup) Flesher moved in. Across the creek, opposite, was a saw and gristmill, run by Zeke Vernon and Daniel Sayre. The latter married the Widow Blosser and lived about where the bridge crosses the creek on the bank of the creek above the mill. Here is where our John Blosser first became a millwright.

Almost directly back of this building lived Charles Cottle, where Harry Cottle now lives. I don’t remember Harry when he was a boy, but I remember Major. He always wore a cap on the back of his head, and was counted a “hard case” when a boy. Well, if he won’t tell anything on me, I won’t on him.

Well, instead of crossing on a board at the sawdust pile, or in Uncle Andy Stewart’s john boat, we will cross the bridge to the other side of the creek. There were no buildings from the bridge along the creek to the Callison property. Almost opposite the bridge across the road stood a building put up by Charles Cottle, in which Allen Cottle lived. Back of this, across the bottom on a knoll lived Uncle Billy Stewart, owning most of the land in Reedy. He was one of the oldest, if not the very oldest, inhabitant of Reedy.

Dr. Carter built on this site. John McClung now lives here. He used to claim relationship to me before he got rich. He belongs to the same religious denomination that President Harding does, but they have no same political affiliations.

Passing up the road, I cannot think of any other building until we come to the schoolhouse, which was a little above Dave Law’s produce store. The building was a little better than most schoolhouses of that day, it being a frame and having a stove. But I don’t suppose there is as poor a schoolhouse in Roane County now. Here I attended school several winters, also summer schools, taught by Nash, Broaddus, and others.

We all have our opinions, and if I have the privilege of expressing mine, now is the time. I believe six months are a plenty for a winter term of school, especially under compulsory attendance. With improved equipment and teachers, if the child wants to learn, it is enough. And if he doesn’t, it is too much. But I don’t want to get into a “ruckus” with the Legislature of West Virginia, as they probably know as much as I do.

Across the road, where the B&O Railroad Station now stands, it being also near the Reedy News office, where the Editor of the News holds forth. The Editor, Fred E Craig, being a great local writer since the days of his boyhood when he published The Pointer, being quite a genius and owning an automobile, conceived the idea that his car would be useful for other purposes than joy riding. He hitched it to a plow in order to give a demonstration of its usefulness, but the demonstrator failed to demonstrate. As this demonstration was not advertised and financed by the West Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, he probably thought it was not worthy of local notice. However, I think it is worthy of the annals of history, and as he has published everything I have written, it would be a shame to leave it out.

Near these points stood Dr. Cooper’s house and office. He finally sold out to Dr. Barr, who remained here several years. The next property below belonged to William P. Stewart, on which there were two residences – one in which he lived, standing about where Tom Dye’s new store building now stands, the other about where Dick Matics lived. There was also a shoe shop on this lot, in which William and Alf Stewart worked.

Directly below this was Andrew Stewart’s. On this lot was a water mill, about where the railroad crosses the creek. He was not only a miller, but also a wagon maker. In fact, he could make almost anything out of wood. His residence stood below, it being one of the oldest buildings in Reedy and most familiar looking until Aunt Barbara Stewart died a few years ago. She was the oldest resident of Reedy at the time of her death. Near, on the same lot, lives her daughter Mattie, who married Sam Roberts, who was depot agent for some time. He died and she then married Fred Amos. She and Peter Blosser are the only ones I can think of who were grown who now live in Reedy.

Mrs. Stewart had another daughter who married Andy Ott, who moved to Elizabeth, Wirt County, and a son David, who is a doctor at Creston. He built a small store building where Henry Straley and Walt and Lee McKinley hold forth, Lee keeping the post office.

They are all from the waters of Spring Creek. They are all right, however. Some Spring Creekers are addicted to the promiscuous fault of talking about people. If I was not writing about Reedy people, I would have to mention some who are thus addicted, among them being Filmore Simmons, John Hickman, George Davis and George Hylbert. Why. They will even talk about John McClung and your humble servant. Ah well, don’t blame me if I happen to talk a little, but consider my environments.

They say when Henry Straley got his first automobile and was joy riding out the ridge that it “went dead” on him and he had to hire a team to haul it in. He remarked that he had heard it said, “No man should or would own an automobile unless he was a fool or a millionaire.” No doubt this was malicious talk, as he still owns an automobile.

Walt McKinley at one time owned a farm. His most prolific crop was sassafras. Lee McKinley can tell as big, if not bigger tales than I. I got a letter from Illinois requesting that I write the current history of Reedy. Lee is the man for that.

At present I am not acquainted with half the people of Reedy. I would like to say something good of everybody, but can only say that Reedy is at least as good as the average town. As to the merchants, they are plenty able to advertise and the columns of the Reedy News are open to them. But I will say, as the cattle buyer used to say when I bragged on my cattle, “They are fair to medium”.

This brings us back to the little bridge. I only think of one other building that stood where the Reedy Mill now stands, but there was no one living in it at that time.

I have covered the grounds to the best of my ability. There is a great deal more that may be said about the stave business, the floods in Reedy, the fires, and the building of the railroad, but I realize that others are better able to say it.

I well remember the first time I visited Ravenswood. I was about sixteen years old (1872), and my uncle, needing goods and having a barrel or two of eggs to send to market, sent a wagon with two yoke of oxen by Lem Board, and I was permitted to go along. It was in March and the roads were very muddy. We were gone three days. I saw many things that attracted my attention, especially the big creek and the steamboats. Since then I have walked through many a time in little over half a day.

In going through we note a few things. After leaving the schoolhouse around the turn in the road at Reedy we come to John Goff’s. He had been a soldier in the Mexican War. About a mile above lived Uncle Sandy Board, and nearly directly across the creek lived John Candler. These two men were great church workers. Their work is still going on no doubt in the churches of Reedy, and while they are dead, their influence still lives.

Uncle Sandy’s children were a choir of singers, of which Reedy was proud. There were Chris, Dock, Lem, Pogue, Marshall and Marietta – all good singers. Dock taught many singing schools.

Next is Silas Seaman, living near Duke Station. Then we come to Jim, his son, who lived at Seaman Station and kept a tannery and shoe shop. Then to Ira Chenoweth’s who was prominent in the affairs of the community.

Here we leave the main stream and cross the ridge dividing the waters of Reedy and Sandy Creeks. Passing several residences on the way, we come to where Liverpool Station now stands, where there was a small store kept by a man named Green. A prominent family lived there by the name of Hartley. If the oil works hold out good this place will probably become quite a town.

After passing a residence or two, we come to Leroy post office kept by a Mr. Baker who had a little store in connection with the same. There were some houses from here on that I did not know who lived in, but we come to the Hutchinson neighborhood, where there were some of the best farms on Sandy, if not the very best. This land looked like it had not been worn out before it had been put in grass. Duncan and Meadowdale were not on the map at that time.

Sandyville next stop – a bridge, mill, one or two stores with post office, kept by James Crum, constituted the main part of the village. They raised more tobacco on Sandy than on Reedy.

I think the origin of Silverton was the building of a flouring mill by a man named Leonard.

We then enter Ravenswood, which at that time did quite a business in produce of all kinds – staves, hoop poles, etc., it being the nearest point to the Ohio River, to a big portion to Jackson, Wirt and Roane Counties.

The teamsters would take a load in and bring back salt and such things as they needed as well as goods for the stores. The RS&G Railroad now takes the place of nearly all of these teams, and though freights are high, we find the railroad a great convenience. The railroad might have been a help to Ravenswood had it stopped there, but as it is, a great portion goes to other markets.

Then they had a wharf-boat instead of a depot, and had steamboats instead of cars, and the way I look at it, the government would have done more for the people if they had built roads instead of dams across the river. If we had no railroads it might have been different. But if I keep up criticism I may get into a confab with Congress or the Legislature of West Virginia, as no doubt they think they know as much about it as I do.

There were in Ravenswood at that time about half a dozen grocery stores, one hardware and furniture store, three drug stores all at which a teamster could get something to keep him from taking a bad cold, a tannery and flouring mill; also a newspaper, The Ravenswood News.

I judge that in Ravenswood at that time the population was about the same as Reedy, but the buildings were not so good. The town site is much better than Reedy. A great many lots have been sold recently and if manufacturing plants are established, no doubt in time it may become quite a little city.

As I realize that there are many who are better able to write about Ravenswood than I am, I will refrain from further comment.

As my uncle, A. Callison, moved from Reedy and bought property and a store, I went to Ravenswood with him and was in the store for a time.

I attended a school there taught by Rev. McMillan who was at that time pastor of the Presbyterian Church and editor of The Ravenswood News. I studied Latin, Algebra and Philosophy, but I can say as the politician who was running for office and was objected to on account of his religion, “That all the religion he had would not hurt anybody”, so all I learned of these branches would not hurt anybody.

After attending school I went into his printing office to learn the printer’s trade, and remained here a year or more. Although Jackson County had at that time but one newspaper, I hardly think it would compare favorably with The Reedy News. Shortly after this the Jackson Herald was started in Ripley. After the death of Rev. McMillan the Ravenswood News was sold to McGlothlin Bros., and considerable improvement was made on it.

Posted By: Betty Renick
Date: February 23 2003