Category Archives: Hancock

James Bennett Porter

File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by
Valerie Crook
September 13, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 233
Hancock County

JAMES BENNETT PORTER is vice president of the Globe
Brick Company, representing one of the important industrial
enterprises of Hancock County, and since 1909 he has main-
tained active supervision of a portion of the old Mahan
fruit farm near Arroyo, this county, a property inherited by
his mother. In this latter connection he is one of the exten-
sive apple growers of his native county, and has on the
farm a finely productive orchard that receives scientific
care. Of both the Porter and Mahan families, representing
the paternal and maternal ancestry of Mr. Porter, adequate
record is given in other personal reviews in this volume,
he being a son of John and Carrie (Mahan) Porter and
having been born at New Cumberland, judicial center of
Hancock County, on the 14th of November, 1882.

Mr. Porter was afforded the advantages of the well or-
dered public schools of his native county, and as a youth
he became actively identified with the manufacturing of
brick, with which industry he has continued his association
to the present time, the Globe Brick Company, of which
he is vice president, being one of the largest concerns of the
kind in this section of the state. The family home of Mr.
Porter is maintained in the attractive and modern house
which he erected at Arroyo and which commands a fine
view up and down the Ohio River and also of the Ohio
shore district. Mr. Porter is liberal and progressive as a
citizen but has had no desire for political activity or public
office. He is affiliated with both the York and Scottish Rite
bodies of the time-honored Masonic fraternity.

The year 1912 recorded the marriage of Mr. Porter and
Miss Josephine Lovell, of Boston, Massachusetts, she being
a graduate of Wellesley College and having come to Han-
cock County, West Virginia, to visit a classmate, Mary
Anna Brenneman, daughter of Herman Brenneman. Romance
here became her portion, for here she formed the
acquaintance of Mr. Porter, whose importunities resulted
in her here remaining as his wife. Mrs. Porter was active
in Red Cross and other patriotic service in the World war
period, as was also her husband, and she is an active mem-
ber of the Nessly Chapel of the Methodist Protestant
Church at Arroyo. Mr. and Mrs. Porter have five children,
namely: James B., Jr., John Ethan, Josephine Natalie,
Helen Cross and Leah Lovell.

Robert Morrow Brown

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie Crook
September 19, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 253
Hancock County

HON. ROBERT MORROW BROWN. For several decades Hon.
Robert Morrow Brown has been a progressive, and for
much of that period a prominent, factor in the business,
journalistic, political and public activities of New Cumber-
land. His standing as a citizen is firm and broad and as
a leader of the republican party his reputation has extended
into state-wide influence. Mr. Brown was born at New
Cumberland, Hancock County, West Virginia, November 21,
1877, and is a son of Adrian Wilmer and Mary Virginia
(Morrow) Brown.

Adrian Wilmer Brown was born at Wellsburg, Brooke
County, Ohio. in 1854, his parents being John Danforth and
Lucie (Hewlett) Brown. John D. Brown, who was born
in what is now West Virginia, was a merchant for some
years at Wellsburg, where he died aged thirty-nine years,
while his wife. who survived him to the age of sixty-three
years; was born at Richmond, Virginia. Adrian W. Brown
passed his boyhood at Wellsburg, where he received a pub-
lic school education and as a young man secured a posi-
tion with the Wellsburg Herald. In 1877 he came to New
Cumberland, where he founded the New Cumberland Inde-
pendent, the first issue of which appeared January 10th
of that year, from the same building in which it is now
published. This republican weekly, published on an old-
fashioned Washington hand press, at once gained a good
circulation, due to its general worth and excellence and
to its championing of all worthy movements in the way
of modern progress and advancement. Mr. Brown remained
as editor of this newspaper until 1903, when he retired from
active affairs and turned its management over to his son.
He died three years later, greatly mourned by those who
had come to know his numerous fine qualities of mind and
heart. Mr. Brown was circuit clerk for Hancock County
from 1890 to 1896. He was a member of the Episcopal
Church at Wellsburg, and services were held in his own
home at New Cumberland once a month. At Pughtown Mr.
Brown was united in marriage with Miss Mary Virginia
Morrow, daughter of Alexander and Sarah (Wilson) Mor-
row, of Pughtown, Mr. Morrow having been proprietor of
the old Virginia House at that place when it was the county
seat. He was also a justice of the peace for many years.
Mrs. Brown died in 1890, leaving two children: Robert
Morrow; and Lucie, now the wife of N. W. Ballantyne, a
sketch of whose career appears elsewhere in this work.
Later Mr. Brown married Ola M. Moore, who survives him,
but they had no children.

Bobert Morrow Brown attended the public schools of New
Cumberland, and after hs graduation from the high school
enrolled as a student at the West Virginia University, where
he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1902 and his
Bachelor of Laws degree one year later. Previous to this
he had seen service on a daily paper at East Liverpool, and
had also been on a paper at Morgantown, so that he was
not without experience when he took charge of the Inde-
pendent at the time of his father’s retirement in 1903. The
old hand press of former days has gone with other things
of its kind, and the office is now electrically equipped
throughout, with modern linotype machines and a Babcock
press, which has a capacity of from 1,500 to 2,000 per hour.
The paper circulates freely, not only in the immediate vicin-
ity of New Cumberland, but into sections of Pennsylvania
and Ohio. It is in high favor with its readers because of
its practical, well-written and timely editorials, its authentic
news features and its various interesting departments, and
because it has ever maintained the policy of its founder
in supporting all movements promising for advancement and
progress along all material and moral lines.

In addition to his newspaper activities Mr. Brown has
been engaged in the practice of law, having a large and
lucrative practice in all the courts. In 1905 he was elected
on the republican ticket as prosecuting attorney, an office
in which he served with an excellent record until 1909.
In 1912 President Taft appointed him postmaster of New
Cumberland, and this office he also held for four years.
During the World war period he was exceptionally active,
serving on the county committee in the Liberty Loan drives
and the Red Cross, and it is to be noted as a significant
fact that Hancock always stood high among the counties
when the final returns were in. In November, 1920, Mr.
Brown was elected to the State Legislature for Hancock
County, and during his term was a member of the follow-
ing committees: Judiciary, Rules, Printing, Forestry and
Conservation, Mines and Mining Labor, Medicine and Sani-
tation and Redistricting. His record was a worthy one, of
much value to his constituency and his state. For the past
eight years Mr. Brown has been chairman of the Hancock
County Republican Committee. He was in attendance at
the national convention that nominated Warren G. Harding
for the presidency. As a fraternalist Mr. Brown holds mem-
bership in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks,
the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of
Pythias, and he is also a member of the Kiwanis Club, and
Phi Kappa Psi College fraternity. He and his family are
entitled to membership in the Sons of the American Revolu-
tion and the Daughters of the American Revolution through
the service of one of his direct ancestors, Capt. Oliver
Brown, buried at Wellsburg, who participated in the win-
ning of American independence.

Mr. Brown married Miss Leora Scott, of Somerset, Penn-
sylvania, and to their union there has been born one son,
John Scott.

John Bentley Newell

HANCOCK COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA – BIOS: NEWELL, John Bentley (published 1923)
Submitted by
Valerie Crook
September 12, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 225-226
Hancock County

JOHN BENTLEY NEWELL. The influence exerted by the
deeds of those who never seek publicity, but who are
ever ready to do their part in the world’s work for civili-
zation and progress, is a very potent one. Transitory
success comes to some who disregard the principles of
honor and morality, but once they are removed from
their scene of action the lack of merit in their work
is soon realized, and their names are used but to illus-
trate the uselessness of their manner of living. The man
who is remembered is the one who puts self last; who
endeavors to give to others a little more than the treat-
ment he wants for himself, and who is willing to make
some sacrifice for the good of his fellow-men. Such a
man can be depended upon and his life is a benefit to the
community. Judged by these standards, the late John
Bentley Newell, of Newell, West Virginia, measured up to
the highest ideals of good citizenship, and although a num-
ber of years have passed since he was called to his final
rest, he lives in the memory of his friends as the highest
type of manhood.

John Bentley Newell was born April 12, 1839, at the
old mill on Tomlinson’s Run, in Hancock County, West
Virginia, a son of John and Lydia Ann (Edie) Newell.
John Newell, father of John B. Newell, was born near
Burgettstown, Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1796,
a son of Hugh Newell who with his brother had removed
to Vance’s Fort soon after the close of the Revolutionary
war. Hugh Newell built one of the first brick houses in
Washington County, Pennsylvania, and John Newell built
the first house of brick at Pughtown in Hancock County,
an old residence that is still standing. He also owned
a tannery, which he operated for some years, even after
he had secured what later became known as the Hart-
ford Flour Mill, on Tomlinson’s Run, about four miles
from the Ohio. He built flatboats, which he ran down the
Ohio River to New Orleans, carrying flour and leather,
and would then walk back to his home. About 1850 he sold
the mill to a man named Hartford and located on the
present Newell farm, to which he brought his wife, who had
been Lydia Ann Edie, of Fairview. This farm was a
part of the Greathouse tract or grant, and the old deed
to Greathouse is still held by the Newell family. The
original settler, named Greathouse, whose cabin was on
the left bank of Tub Mill Run; at the entrance to the
Ohio (the cellar being still visible), was killed by an
Indian floating down the river in a canoe. The place is
now included in the village of Newell. W. F. Lloyd, a
steel manufacturer of Pittsburgh, bought parts of four
farms, that of Newell, Wells, McDonald and Moore, but
sold out some twenty years later to the North American
Manufacturing Company, who really started the town,
the first step being to erect a bridge from East Liver-
pool. The farm extended to the Ohio and reached back
as far as the hill, which is some 500 feet above the
river level. The pottery, of course, was down by the flat
on the river. The farm had formerly been occupied and
rented by Alexander Edie, the brother of Lydia Ann
(Edie) Newell, and was purchased by John Newell from
a Mr. Glass and others. It contained 320 acres, on which
Mr. Newell made many improvements, including a brick
residence. He built his pottery on the site of the present
station at Newell, on the right bank of Tub Mill Run,
the first pottery on the West Virginia side of the river,
and in his two-kiln plant, with its thirty or forty em-
ployes, manufactured a creditable article of yellow-ware.
John Newell died in 1884, when eighty-eight years of age.
He married Lydia Ann Edie in 1826, and she died in
1844, the mother of seven children: Hugh, a sketch of
whose career will be found elsewhere in this work, in the
record of John F. Newell; William, of Berthoud, Colo-
rado; Rev. James, of Los Angeles, California; George, of
Delta County, Colorado; John Bentley; Lizzie, who mar-
ried Alfred Marks, owner of the old Marks farm at
Chester; and Rachel, who married George Harker, a pot-
ter at East Liverpool. Mr. and Mrs. Harker had a son,
William Harker, president of the Potters National Bank
of East Liverpool, whose son, Robert, still resides at Newell,
and is one of the owners of the Harker Pottery, founded
by his grandfather.

John Bentley Newell was ten years of age when brought
by his parents to the home farm and his education was
acquired in the public schools. During the Civil war he
served as a lieutenant in the Home Guards, and was twice
called into active service, once during the time of Morgan’s
Raid. With this exception his life was a quiet one, and he
was content to remain on his farm, where his industry and
good management, together with his intelligent application
of modern methods, won him success. His integrity and
probity were universally recognized, while he was also
a strong temperance man, and in this connection it may
be noted that Hancock County had never had a licensed
saloon within its borders. He never cared for public life.
He and his worthy wife were members of the First
Presbyterian Church of Newell, West Virginia, in the
faith of which Mr. Newell died October 21, 1914, and
Mrs. Newell, October 19, 1910. At the age of twenty-
six years Mr. Newell married the twenty-one-year-old
daughter of Dr. Robert A. Johnston, a physician of Wells-
ville, Miss Margaret Jane Johnston, who was born at
Noblestown, Pennsylvania, and to this union there were
born the following children: Carrie, a teacher in the
public schools of East Liverpool, who died unmarried
December 20, 1919; James, residing at home, who has
been active in promoting the Newell bridge and other
enterprises, married Maud Croxall, of East Liverpool; and
Charles B., Ada and Robert C. (Bert), all unmarried and
at home.

Robert C. Newell attended George Washington University
in, 1905, following which he pursued his law course at the
West Virginia University as a student in jurisprudence
and diplomacy. An amusing incident of his college
days, which he vividly recalls, is the following: On the day
succeeding the historic victory of West Virginia Univer-
sity over Washington and Jefferson College the students
desired to celebrate, and President Purington, seeing little
chance of keeping them from their desires, gave his con-
sent. The law students, raising a great yell on the campus,
succeeded in bringing out several classes from recitations
and the crowd became greatly augmented. Finally the
disturbance reached the class taught by Miss Johnson,
whose determined stand and uncompromising demeanor
abashed and bluffed the entire crowd of law students.

Mr. Newell was admitted to the bar in 1908, and
immediately engaged in a general practice of his pro-
fession, to which, however, he does not devote his entire
attention, being also a farmer and fruit grower. The
Newell Fruit Farm now consists of 254 acres, with some
five acres in small fruits and thirty-five acres in apples
and peaches. John Bentley Newell, who conducted this
farm as a sheep breeding property for a number of years,
later in life became interested in fruit and was the
originator of the Red Willow apple, which has become
one of the leading varieties and which is produced on
this farm, as well as Grimes Golden and Elberta peaches.
The old residence stands well up on the bluff, one-half
mile back from the river, but not with a view. It was
the center of the social life of the community for more
than a half a century, and its doors have always been
kept hospitably open. The Newells have ever stood for
high standards of citizenship, their influence always for
progress, advancement and betterment of conditions in
the community which honored John Bentley Newell by
the adoption of his name.

R. Osburn Johnson

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
September 26, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 273-274
Hancock County

R. OSBURN JOHNSON while a young man learned and
worked at the plumbing and heating trade in all branches.
That is a business he knows from every standpoint. Some
years ago he became a traveling representative for one of
the largest and most exclusive houses manufacturing and
distributing plumbing goods and supplies, the Standard
Sanitary Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh, and for
this company he established a branch jobbing house at
Huntington, of which he is the manager.

Mr. Johnson is a native of the famous Blue Grass District
of old Kentucky, born in Woodford County, January 29,
1889. He is of Scotch-Irish ancestry. His grandfather,
Van Johnson, was born in Kentucky in 1838, and spent
nearly all his life in Woodford County. He was a distiller
by trade, and in that capacity he was in the service of the
Old Crow Distillery in Woodford County for a half century,
until finally pensioned by the company. He died in Wood-
ford County in 1912. His wife was a Miss Jennings, who
was born in Kentucky in 1840 and died in Woodford County
in 1910. William P. Johnson, father of the Huntington
business man, was born in Woodford County, was reared
and married there, and was a merchant in the county until
1903, when he removed to Lexington and continued in busi-
ness in that city until his death in 1907. He was a demo-
crat, a member of the Baptist Church and the Independent
Order of Odd Fellows. William P. Johnson married Clara
Williams, who was born in Woodford County in 1863 and is
now living at Lexington. She was the mother of three
children. Ola is the wife of George Compton, a bookkeeper
for the Second National Bank of Lexington. R. Osburn is
the second in age. Sampey is .the youngest, and is asso-
ciated with his brother at Huntington as warehouse superin-
tendent. He enlisted at Lexington as a mechanic in the
navy, was stationed at the Great Lakes Training Station
and then at Hampton Roads, became a second-class seaman
and was in the service two years before his honorable

R. Osburn Johnson attended rural schools in Woodford
County, but left school at the age of sixteen and for three
years was clerk in a dry goods store at Lexington. For
two years he was bookkeeper for Buford A. Graves, cement
contractor at Lexington, and then took up the business in
which he has made his real success. For seven years he was
in the employ of J. J. Fitzgerald, a plumbing and heating
contractor at Lexington, and while with him he acquired
every detail in the practical and technical knowledge of
heating and plumbing as a business.

Mr. Johnson went on the road as a traveling representa-
tive for the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company on
February 15, 1915. His territory was West Virginia and
portions of Virginia and Kentucky, with headquarters at
Huntington. His success in building up business for the
company led to the opening of a branch jobbing house at
Huntington in 1918, with Mr. Johnson in charge as man-
ager. The offices and jobbing house are located at tlie
corner of Second Avenue and Tenth Street. Through this
house an extensive business over the adjacent territory is
transacted in plumbing, heating, mill, mining and factory
goods, supplies and machinery.

Mr. Johnson regards himself as a permanent factor in
Huntington’s business affairs. He has acquired a home
here at 525 Seventh Avenue and the business building at
612 Third Avenue. He is a democrat, a member of the
Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, the Guyan Country Club, the
Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce and the Credit Men’s

In March, 1911, at Georgetown, Kentucky, Mr. Johnson
married Miss Grace Bice, a native of Fleming County,
Kentucky, and a graduate of Hamilton College, Lexington.

John E. Newell

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie Crook
September 19, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 245
Hancock County

JOHN E. NEWELL. It would be impossible to deal prop-
erly with the men of Hancock County whose names stand
out conspicuously in the banking interests of the county,
ami who through inherent characteristics and achievements
have contributed to the upbuilding and development of
the community of Chester without paying special attention
to John E. Newell, president of the First National Bank
of Chester and of the Hancock County Building and Loan
Company, for it is one that compels more than passing
mention. For a number of years he has been prominently
identified with financial, industrial and agricultural mat-
ters, and such has been his force of character and natural
inclinations that he has attained prominence, not only as a
thorough business man, but as manager of large affairs,
in which he has displayed marked executive ability.

Mr. Newell was born in Tomlinson’s Run, near Pugh-
town, Hancock County, where his grandfather, John Newell,
ran a mill, December 22, 1861, and is a son of Hugh
Newell. John Newell, the grandfather, was a son of Hugh
Newell, who built the old fort on his farm, and was him-
self the original settler of this section, from Cross Creek,
Washington County, Pennsylvania. John Newell was a
tanner by trade, and at the age of twenty-one years came
to Pughtown, where he operated a tannery in the village,
his son Hugh being born here in 1827. Hugh as a lad
assisted his father in operating a grist mill, which was
later sold, John Newell then building a mill further down,
known later as the Baxter or Hartford mill. This he also
sold to settle on a farm at Newell, a nice level property
on the “hill,” a part of which is now owned by the Vil-
lage of Newell. There he resided from about 1837 until
his death, at the age of eighty-six years, in 1884, being
laid to rest at Fairview Plats, Pughtown. His first wife
was a Miss Elder, who died without issue. His second wife
was Lydia Edie, of Hancock County, who was the mother
of Hugh Newell. His third wife was a widow, Mrs. Jo-
hanna (Hastings) Frazier, who survived him. They had
no children, but Mrs. Frazier had two sons who served
in the Confederate army during the war between the states,
while Mr. Newell had two sons serving in the Union army
at the same time. The children born to John and Lydia
(Edie) Newell were as follows: Hugh, the father of John
E.; Elizabeth, who married Alfred Marks and died in Han-
cock County; William, who was in the United States army
and later went to California as a freighter on the plains,
and died in the West; Rachael, who married George S.
Harker, a pioneer pottery man, and died at East Liver-
pool, Ohio; George, who went to Colorado after his parents’
death and died there; Benjamin, who lived on the old
home farm and for whom the Village of Newell was named;
and Rev. James, who served as a lieutenant in the Union
army during the Civil war, after which he became a minis-
ter of the Presbyterian Church, preached locally for a
time, then served in California, where he became pastor
emeritus of Bethesda Church at Los Angeles, Washington
and Jefferson College and Allegheny Seminary.

Hugh Newell, the father of John E. Newell, conducted
a mill until coming to Chester with his wife’s brother,
Alfred Marks, with whom he was in partnership for several
years. Later he bought land on Marks’ Run, a property
of about 500 acres, on which he lived from 1871 until his
death in 1903, breeding sheep and clearing up a good deal
of land. This old farm, the present residence of his son
John E., whose home is but a short distance from that of
his brother Samuel, at the old residence, lies about one-
half mile back from the Ohio River, up Marks’ Run.
Hugh’s residence was about one mile from the bank at
Chester. Hugh Newell was active in securing the building
of a bridge across the Ohio River to East Liverpool,
served as school trustee, acted as roadmaster and was one
of the organizers and the first president of the Hancock
County Building and Loan Company. His wife was Alizan
Marks, daughter of Samuel and Mary (Ferree) Marks.
Her maternal grandfather Ferree, of French origin, was a
manufacturer of guns at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and on
moving to Coryopolis, then old Middletown, Allegheny
County, Pennsylvania, was said to have manufactured the
first rifles to be made west of the mountains, these being
tested by his daughter Mary, according to her personal
statement some years ago to her grandson, John E. Newell.
Samuel and Mary (Ferree) Marks came to Hancock County
about 1818, and their old stone house is still standing, it
having been built when their daughter Alizan was about
thirteen years of age. Samuel Marks had a 100-acre tract
of land, patented by President Washington, including what
is now the upper end of Chester. A son, Alfred, suc-
ceeded to the ownership, and his old farm is now covered
by the Potteries Park, etc., including the old stone house.
Alizan Newell, who was born on this farm, in the same
year as her husband, died five years later. Her brothel-
Alfred, who passed almost his entire life in the old stone
house referred to, died as the result of an accident. Mr.
and Mrs. Newell were faithful members of the Presby-
terian Church. He was a Union man, an honorable citizen,
and a man who was greatly respected in his community.
He and his wife had five children: Mary, the widow of
Dr. Hamlin Barnes, of Cleveland, Ohio; John E.; Anna,
the wife of S. W. Root, of Los Angeles, California; Frank,
the owner of a fruit ranch at Bakersfield, California; and
Samuel, residing on the old home place as a partner of his
brother John E.

John E. Newell received a public school education and
as a youth adopted the vocation of farmer, one which he
has never relinquished, although numerous other interests
have also attracted his attention. In partnership with his
brother Samuel he is the owner of 450 acres of land, on
which he is carrying on dairying with a herd of Holstein
cattle, supplying milk by wholesale. He has also met with
success as a fruit grower, raising apples and peaches, with
twenty-five acres in fruit, mostly set on the higher land.
A few miles inside the “horseshoe,” partly surrounded by
the Ohio River, constitutes what is recognized as one of
the best fruit-growing sections in this part of the United
States. The hills are some 500 feet above the river and
are comparatively free from frost injury, and even in 1921,
a notoriously bad year for fruit, a good apple crop was
harvested here.

Mr. Newell is president of the National Bank of Chester,
having succeeded the first president, Judge Campbell. He
is also president of the Hancock County Building and Loan
Company. As a public-spirited citizen he has accepted the
responsibilities of public life, and as the regular party
nominee was sent to the State Legislature for the session
of 1902-1903, during Governor White’s term of office. He
has since served as county commissioner, the county jail
and residence of the sheriff being erected during his term
of office, and during the World war he was chairman of
the Hancock County Draft Board. With his family he
belongs to the Presbyterian Church at Chester, in which
he is president of the board of trustees.

Mr. Newell married Miss Minnie Rose, of Chester, daugh-
ter of Samuel F. and Martha (Pugh) Rose, Mr. Rose hav-
ing been an early merchant of Chester, now deceased. Mrs.
Rose was a daughter of John Pugh, of the family who
settled Pughtown, the old county seat of Hancock County.
The five children of Mr. and Mrs. Newell all reside with
their parents, being: Helen R., a teacher at Chester;
Martha M., a teacher at Newell; Frances E., a teacher in
the high school at Newell; Rachael E., a student in the
West Virginia University, from which she will graduate as
a member of the class of 1924; and John Roscoe, who
is attending the high school at Chester.

John R. Plattenburg

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
September 26, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 274
Hancock County

JOHN R. PLATTENBURG. Three generations of the Platten-
burg family have had as their chief business interest the
editing and publishing of the Hancock County Courier,
now published at New Cumberland by John B. Plattenburg,
the grandson of the original founder. This newspaper has
been in existence for more than a half a century, during
which time it has become a part of the daily lives of the
people of the county, whose opinions it largely moulds and
whose actions it greatly influences.

John E. Plattenburg was born at New Cumberland, Jan-
uary 28, 1888, a son of Jesse T. and Lou (Lockhart) Plat-
tenburg. His grandfather, J. W. Plattenburg, was born in
Illinois, where his parents had been pioneers, and in young
manhood adopted the vocation of teaching. This he fol-
lowed for several years, in the course of which he went
to Wellsburg, West Virginia, and there learned the printer ‘a
trade. Later, as a journeyman, he set the first line of
type on the old Wheeling Intelligencer, His first newspaper,
the Wellsburg News, was founded about 1859, and. was
still being published when Mr. Plattenburg joined the Union
Army during the war between the states as a captain of
West Virginia infantry. He was wounded during his serv-
ice, being shot through the shoulder, but continued in the
army until the close of the war, when he resumed the
printer’s trade. In 1869, at Pughtown, then the county
seat of Hancock County, he established the first newspaper
in the county, known then, as now, as the Hancock County
Courier. It was a four-page, six-column publication, demo-
cratic in its policies, and while its form and style have
changed to some extent during the fifty-three years of its
existence, its politics have remained unswervingly the same.
The paper continued to be published at Pughtown until
1895, with Mr. Plattenburg as editor and publisher, but in
that year the county seat was removed to New Cumberland,
and the paper went with the seat of government. The
founder continued as its active head until his death in 1907,
at the age of seventy-seven years. A good newspaper man
and a capable writer, he made the publication well known
and its articles and editorials were widely quoted by con-
temporaries in the journalistic field. His widow, who was
Sarah Wetheral, of Wellsburg, survives at an advanced age.

At the time of his death J. W. Plattenbnrg was suc-
ceeded in the ownership of the paper by his son Jesse T.
Plattenburg, who died five years later, in 1912, after a
career which had been devoted entirely to the paper. While
attending Bethany College he met Lou Lockhar, also a
student, and they did not wait until their graduation to
be married. They became the parents of four children:
Joseph L., who is identified with the Weirton (West Vir-
ginia) Steel Corporation; John B., of this notice; Julia,
who is the wife of T. T. Bambrick; and Mary, the wife of
A. O. Dorman.

John R. Plattenburg received his education in the public
schools of New Cumberland and practically grew up in the
office of his grandfather’s and father’s newspaper. From
early youth he has been perfectly familiar with its every
detail of preparation, make-up and production, and since
the death of his father has taken over the duties of editor
and publisher. He is now producing an attractive, inter-
esting and thoroughly reliable eight-page, seven-column
paper, which has a wide circulation throughout Hancock
and the surrounding counties in this part of the state, and
which wields a distinct influence in directing public opinion
and action. Mr. Plattenburg is a democrat. He has a
number of business and social connections and has taken an
active part in civic affairs. During the World war he
served for thirteen months in the adjutant general’s depart-
ment at Camp Johnson.

Mr. Plattenburg married Miss Mary McDonald, and they
have two children: John W. and Mary L.

John A. Watson

Submitted by
Valerie Crook
September 12, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 227-228
Hancock County

JOHN A. WATSON, whose fine homestead farm on the
Ohio River in Hancock County, is in close proximity to
Brownsdale, here occupies a house that was erected by his
maternal grandfather, John Arbuckle, he having built the
house in Hancock County in the early ’50s and his death
having occurred at the time when the Civil war was
in progress. His daughter Margaret was the mother of
him whose name introduces this paragraph. As a youth
he learned the machinist’s trade, and since 1878 he has
maintained his permanent home at the ancestral place
in Hancock County.

In the year 1882 Mr. Watson here married a daughter
of the late John Brown, who was a member of one of the
most honored pioneer families of this county. Mrs. Wat-
son passed her entire life in Hancock County, and here
her death occurred in July, 1915. Of the two children
the elder is George, who is a bachelor and who has active
management of the home farm, while Miss Mary, the only
daughter, has had supervision of the domestic economies and
social affairs of the home since the death of the loved
wife and mother.

Joseph Nathan Finley

File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by
Valerie Crook
September 13, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 232
Hancock County

JOSEPH NATHAN FINLEY. The maintenance of a busi-
ness establishment for thirty years is ample proof of its
worth. Commercial ventures of the fly-by-night order may
pay their promoters for the time being, but they bring
their communities nothing: it is the firmly-established,
standardly-existing business that contributes to the lo-
cality’s prestige in commercial circles. The men who
stand behind such helpful enterprises are found to be of
sterling worth and solid integrity, and to be citizens in
whom a realization of the responsibilities of citizenship
is firmly grounded. A merchant of Chester since 1892,
Joseph Nathan Finley, president of the Finley Brothers
Lumber Company, has assisted in building this business
to a point where it is justly accounted a necessary com-
mercial adjunct. He has been a promoter, organizer and
official of movements which have made the city grow and
expand, and to his helpfulness in a civic way Chester
may give gratitude for much of its development.

Mr. Finley was born at the old family residence on the
hill, on the old farm which extended to the Ohio River at
the west end of the City of Chester, January 25, 1865,
a son of John R. and Louisa (Scott) Finley. John R.
Finley was born in 1824, in Washington County, Pennsyl-
vania, and at the age of four years was brought to the
Ohio Valley by his father, Thomas Finley, who passed the
rest of his life here in agricultural operations and died
when John E. was eighteen years of age. Of the four
sons of Thomas, three, Richard, James and William, served
as soldiers of the Union during the Civil war, all probably,
in Ohio infantry regiments. Richard later went to Ash-
land County, Ohio, where he died, while James and Wil-
liam remained in the Ohio Valley, where they passed away.
John R. Finley had charge of the farm with his mother
and maiden sister, Rebecca, who died on the farm. The
mother died at the age of eighty-four years. John R.
Finley after his mother’s death bought out the other heirs
and added to the property until he had 125 acres. In
addition to farming he was engaged in carpentry and made
a success of his affairs. He died in 1898, at the age
of seventy-four years, while Mrs. Finley passed away in
1914, aged eighty-two years, having survived him sixteen

The education of Joseph Nathan Finley was acquired in
the public schools of Hancock County, and, like his broth-
ers, while being reared on the home farm he learned the
trade of carpenter. This he followed somewhat independ-
ently until 1892, when, with his brothers, James William,
Richard Franklin and Robert Andrews Finley, he began
contracting and building, mainly at East Liverpool. In
1902 the brothers, with their brother-in-law, Joseph McCoy,
formed the Finley Brothers Lumber Company, which has
developed into the largest business of its kind in this
section. While ostensibly a lumber company, this enter-
prise also continued contracting and building, including
all manner of structures. Among the work accomplished
by this firm may be mentioned ten residences for the
Government, railroad stations, potteries, factories, schools,
court houses, churches, Y. M. C. A. buildings, garages,
etc. in fact anything in the contracting line. More than
one-half of the buildings at Chester have been erected by
this concern whose patronage has also extended to Newell,
Follansbee, Weirton and other communities. The company
now consists of the four brothers, Mrs. Joseph McCoy, now
a widow, and George Hasson. They own a well-equipped
mill utilized for mill work, stair work, etc., and the entire
plant is modern in every particular. Mr. Finley was one
of the original incorporators of the First National Bank
of Chester and has been its vice president since its incor-

He was a member of the first council of Chester, served
as a justice of the peace for some time, and in 1909 was
sent to the State Legislature as representative, being one
of the few democrats ever elected to that body from Han-
cock County. He formerly served for some time as chair-
man of the County Democratic Committee. He has a
number of civic and fraternal connections.

Mr. Finley married Miss Ella Rose, a sister-in-law of
John E. Newell, a sketch of whom appears in this work,
and to this union there have been born four children:
Claire C. in the engineering department of the Crucible
Steel Company at Midland, Pennsylvania; J. Paul, a stu-
dent at the University of Pittsburgh; and Mary Louise and
Martha Jane, twins, born seventeen years after J. Paul.

Mr. Finley is a charter member of Chester Lodge No.
142, A. F. and A. M., and also belongs to the Scottish
Rite bodies up to and including the thirty-second degree.
He also belows to Osiris Temple A. A. O. N. M. S. of
Wheeling, West Virginia.

————-OH-FOOTSTEPS Mailing List ———————-

J. Nessly Porter

File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by
Valerie Crook
September 13, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 233
Hancock County

HON. J. NESSLY PORTER. In business and public circles
of Hancock County few names are better or more favor-
ably known than that of J. Nessly Porter, secretary-treas-
urer of the Globe Brick Company and the present state
senator of the First District, comprising Hancock, Brooke
and Ohio counties, West Virginia.

Mr. Porter is a son of the late Capt. John Porter, one
of the best known figures in the paving brick industry in
this country, a sketch of whose career will be found on
another page of this work. Since boyhood he has been
identified with the brick business, and at the same time
has found the opportunity to interest himself in public
affairs, in which he has become prominent. Ever a promi-
nent worker in party conventions, in 1915 he was chosen
as the representative in the Lower House of the West
Virginia Legislature of Hancock County, a post to which
he was re-elected and established a splendid record. He
was then sent to the Upper House, where he is an influential
member of the judiciary committee and chairman of the
insurance committee. He is a prominent Mason and has
numerous business and civic connections. Mr. Porter mar-
ried Miss Margaret Rinehart, of East Liverpool, Ohio, and
they are the parents of two sons: James Nessly and Winston

J. S. D. Mercer

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie Crook
September 19, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 250-251
Hancock County

J. S. D. MERCER, sheriff of Hancock County, occupies his
present position because of his fearlessness as an officer,
his executive talents, and his courteous and pleasing per-
sonality. This is his second occupancy of the office, prior
to becoming the incumbent of which he had filled other
posts, and his entire record from the time that he started
out to make his own way in the world has been one of stead-
fast effort, marked industry and conscientious performance
of the duties of public and private life.

Sheriff Mercer was born in Grant District, in the north
end of Hancock County, on Mercer’s Run, where his great-
great-grandfather, William Mercer, had settled about 1800,
upon his arrival from Washington County, Pennsylvania.
One of his ancestors was General Mercer, a noted officer of
the Revolutionary war. The father of J. S. D. Mercer was
Robert Mercer, a school teacher in Hancock County for
some years, and later engaged in the furniture and under-
taking business at Hookstown, Pennsylvania, where he was
taken sick. Then he removed to Hancock County where he
died at the early age of thirty-five years. Robert Mercer
married Sarah Elizabeth Allison, a daughter of Jonathan
Allison, Jr., a descendant of James Allison, one of the ear-
liest settlers of the north end of Hancock County, the old
home being on a fork of Tomlin’s Run. There were two
children who reached maturity: J. S. D.; and J. W. F.,
a blacksmith of Chester, West Virginia.

J. S. D. Mercer was five years of age when his father
died, and he was taken into the home of his maternal grand-
father, Jonathan Allison, a large land owner. He attended
the public schools and was reared on the original Allison
homestead, where he remained until twenty-one years of
age, then learning the carpenter’s trade, at which .he worked
for about fourteen years, mainly at East Liverpool, Ohio.
His first public office was that of town clerk of Chester, in
which he served for one term, being then elected mayor
of Chester, an office in which he acted with excellent execu-
tive ability for two terms. When he left that office he was
chosen county assessor, and served one term, and in 1912
was first elected sheriff of Hancock County, and was the
incumbent of that office for four years. During the four
years that followed the expiration of his term he was
engaged in business successfully as a building contractor,
but again in 1920 re-entered public life when he was elected
sheriff as the nominee of the republican party. He ran
far ahead of his ticket. Sheriff Mercer devotes his entire
time to the duties of his office, and is one of the best offi-
cials the county has known. He requires only one deputy,
this being his son, M. D. Mercer, and the affairs of the
office are taken care of in an efficient and expeditious man-
ner, much to the satisfaction of the people of the county.
Sheriff Mercer is courageous in action, prompt and ener-
getic, and possesses more than the average detective ability,
which has assisted him in making the county a law-abiding
community. He has the support of all good citizens.

Sheriff Mercer married Miss Martha B. Allison, of the
same stock of Allisons from which he descends, her mother
being a Pugh of Pughtown. Five children have been born
to them: James Raymond, D. D. S., who is engaged in the
practice of dentistry at Akron, Ohio; Merwyn D., his
father’s deputy in the sheriff’s office; Thelma Elizabeth, a
teacher in the public schools of New Cumberland; and
Martha E. and Mary L., who graduated from the high school
at New Cumberland as members of the class of 1922. The
family was reared in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, to which Sheriff Mercer belonged until recently,
when he transferred his membership to the Presbyterian
Church at New Cumberland. As a fraternalist he belongs
to the Knights of Pythias; the Independent Order of Odd
Fellows, in which he has passed through the chairs and at
one tune sat in the Grand Lodge; and the Junior Order
United American Mechanics, in which he has also passed
through the chairs.