David E. Thoenen

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
July 4, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 418-419

DAVID E. THOENEN. While its history as a village runs
back into pioneer times, Sistersville came into prominence
as a commercial center following the opening of the oil
field in that district about thirty years ago. The oil boom
was at its height when David E. Thoenen added his pres-
ence to this community. He has been prominently inter-
ested in oil operations in this and other fields, but for
twenty years has given chiefly of his time and effort to

Mr. Thoenen was born at Hannibal, Ohio, August 2,
1870. He is of Swiss ancestry, and the record of the
Thoenens in that little republic runs back, according to a
family Bible, printed in 1727 and in the possession of a
relative, to the year 1599. The great-grandfather of David
Thoenen was a Swiss physician, Jacob Thoenen, by name,
who served as a surgeon in the Swiss army, and was one
of the contingents gathered together in the great army of
Napoleon I. He participated in the ill-fated Russian cam-
paign, and while on the retreat from Moscow he lost his
life. The grandfather of David E. Thoenen was David
Thoenen, who was born in Switzerland in 1799, and mar-
ried in that country Mary Boren, who was born in 1805.
They came to the United States in 1828, settling at Hanni-
bal, Ohio, where David was a shoemaker and farmer. He
died at Hannibal in 1887 and his wife in 1894.

John F. Thoenen, father of the Sisterville banker, spent
all his life at Hannibal, where he was born in 1835 and
died in 1916. He owned and operated a large farm there,
and was a citizen of most substantial character, implicitly
trusted in business and civic affairs. For thirty-three years
he was treasurer of the German Farmers Mutual Fire In-
surance Company, held a number of local political offices
and was a leader in the democratic party. He was a vet-
eran Union soldier, serving four years in the Twenty-
fifth Ohio Infantry. He was a sergeant, and all through
the war he kept a diary of his experiences, a book now
carefully preserved by his son David E. Among the more
important battles in which he was engaged were those of
McDowell, second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Antietam,
Gettysburg and Winchester. He was a member of the Ger-
man Evangelical Church. John F. Thoenen married Cath-
erine Luikart, who was born in Wuertemberg, Germany,
in 1841, and the following year was brought by her par-
ents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Luikart, to America. Jacob
Luikart was born in 1804, and on coming to the United
States in 1842 settled on a farm near Hannibal, Ohio,
where he died in 1874. Catherine Thoenen spent all her
life from infancy at Hannibal, where she died in 1918.
She was the mother of five children: Adaline, wife of
Julius Fraley, a farmer at Hannibal; David E.; Anna,
who died at Columbus, Ohio, aged thirty-seven, where her
husband, Henry Isaly, is a merchant; Rosa, at Hannibal,
widow of A. H. Walter, a school teacher; and Ida, wife of
Robert Yausey, a merchant at Akron, Ohio.

David E. Thoenen spent his early life at Hannibal, at-
tended the public schools there, and then taught rural
schools. He completed his education in Delaware, Ohio,
in 1894, and in 1895 removed to Sistersville. Here for
three years he had charge of a lumber yard, and then be-
came personally interested in the oil field and is still an
active oil operator, under the firm name of Tuel &

Mr. Thoenen in 1902 helped organize the People’s Na-
tional Bank of Sistersville, which was opened for business
in January, 1903, and in which Mr. Thoenen has been a
director from the beginning. In 1909 he was made assist-
ant cashier and later promoted to cashier, and is now the
acting head of the institution. Mr. Thoenen served as
mayor of Sistersville one term. He is a democrat, is
junior warden of the Episcopal Church and is a past master
of Phoenix Lodge No. 73, A. F. and A. M., a past high
priest of Sistersville Chapter No. 27, R. A. M., past com-
mander of Mountain State Commandery No. 14, K. T., a
thirty-second degree Mason and a member of West Virginia
Consistory No. 1 at Wheeling, and is a past potentate of
Nemesis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Parkersburg. He
belongs to the Kiwanis Club and Country Club at Sisters-

In 1901, at Sistersville, Mr. Thoenen married Miss Mar-
guerite Russell, daughter of Joshua and Sarah (Sweeney)
Russell, now deceased. It should be recalled when speak-
ing of her father, Joshua Russell, that it was on his farm
that Polecat No. 1 oil well was drilled in 1890, that being
the opener of the Sistersville oil field. Mr. Russell besides
farming owned and operated a lumber and planing mill at
Sistersville. Mr. and Mrs. Thoenen have three children:
Earl Russell, born June 22, 1902, now a student in Swarth-
more College in Pennsylvania; Grace Virginia, born April
7, 1904, attending Martha Washington Seminary in Wash-
ington, D. C., and Eugene David, born March 23, 1910.