News, Weekly Features

Historically Speaking — Bits of Our History

Bits of Our History

       1987 – New Masonic Hall Built  

          First let me say that I cannot believe it has been 33 years since the new Masonic Hall cornerstone was laid on April 4, 1987.  Congratulations on your anniversary.  The Masonic Organization has been responsible for many great things in the county and beyond.  We salute you and all your organization has done.

MARCH 30, 1950 – Michels Pharmacy 

Damaged in Saturday Fire

   Damage estimated at several thousand dollars resulted in West Union early Saturday afternoon when fire swept through the Michels Pharmacy on Main Street.  Origin of the fire is said to have been spontaneous combustion of materials placed in a barrel in the basement of the store, where a rubber tile floor was being laid.  Smoke and water caused most of the damage to stock and fixtures on the street floor of the establishment.    Smoke also damaged rooms on the floor above, including offices and an apartment occupied by Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Woods.

Fire departments from Salem and Pennsboro were summoned, when it looked as though the fire might sweep an entire block, but the local department had the situation well under control by the time they arrived. 

March 1950 – Bee’s Dressed Poultry

No doubt many people in the towns of West Union, Pennsboro, Greenwood and other sections of Doddridge County have noticed a brand new pick-up truck circulating in the area.  The truck has written on its doors “Bee’s Dressed Poultry, West Union, W.Va.”  This truck incidentally belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Sam Bee and their three children, Richard Earl, Lewis Paul and Ruby Loraine of Route 1, West Union.  The story back of the truck and the people who own it is quite interesting.

     Mr. Bee worked at public works until entering the Navy in World War II.  After getting out he did not feel he was able physically to go back to public works and started operating his two farms with a total of 110 acres.  He soon found that the acres he was operating was not enough or good enough to maintain the number of livestock he would need to make a good living for himself and family, so with the help of the Institution on the Farm Training program he decided to try a more concentrated farm program.

   In 1947 he put out his first strawberries, consisting of 200 plants.  From this he picked 180 quarts.  Then in 1949 he put out 2000 plants and in 1950 5000 plants.  Mr. Bee is following the latest practices in the care of his plants and everything indicates that he is going to have a very successful operation. 

   The Bees found that strawberries alone would not produce the income they desired, so in the spring of 1949 they brooded 200 broilers.  They found such a ready market for these that in the fall they started 400 more.  

Mr. Bee made the statement that “more profit can be made with less space producing broilers than anything else on the farm.” In March of this year he started 800 more broilers and in April and May a like number.  He plans to start 500 a month from now on and this is where the new truck came from.

   The broilers are dressed on the farm and the truck is used to deliver them to regular customers in West Union, Pennsboro, Greenwood and elsewhere.  They always find a ready market for their dressed birds and many people stop at the house to pick up the broilers for Sunday dinner.

   Mr. Bee is finding it not too difficult to make his broilers weigh three pounds per head in eleven weeks.

   The expansion of this program on the Bee farm will depend entirely on the market he is able to build up.

   “Farming for Better Living” congratulates Mr. and Mrs. Bee and their family for the initiative they have shown in establishing for themselves a sound farming operation.

1949-Man Struck & Killed 

Some of our older citizens in the county might remember an accident that occurred in Toll Gate on March 26, 1949.  It was that day that a B & O employee, George Washington Norman was killed when he was struck by a B & O Railroad engine.  The 24-year-old Norman was born June 8, 1924 in Ritchie County, WV.  He was born on a small farm on Spring Run in Clay, Ritchie County, WV to parents, Francis Lee and Bertha Mae Cottrill Norman.  

George Norman registered with the federal draft on June 30, 1942.  According to his WWII Draft Card, young Norman was living on Leeson Run at Greenwood, Doddridge County.  At the time of his death, he was working for Glenn L Martin Company at Middle River, MD.

The 5’8.5” tall, young Norman weighed 136 lbs. with brown hair and a light complexion.  He had a birthmark on his back, but the appearance of that birthmark was not stated.  

Young George was listed as married, but the name of his spouse was not known at this time.  He had two full siblings, Hattie Mae Norman Dotson, Monnie A Norman, Lloyd Francis Norman, and Charles W Norman.  He also had three half-siblings, Anna Phoebe Norman Cannon and Luella Jane Norman Richards Jameson and Franklin Lemine Norman.

George Washington Norman was buried in the Cabin Run Cemetery on March 29, 1949.

The early years of the B & O Railroad, like most railroad companies in America, there were often accidental deaths from a dangerous work environment to train wrecks.  

Doddridge County saw numerous train wrecks during that era.  In the photos included with this article the magnitude of the accidents is expressed more than words could do.  I wish that I had a photo of George, but alas, I do not.  If anyone should have a photo of him and want to share it with the Historical Society, please email it to [email protected].  We are always so appreciative of the many readers who send us photos and stories regarding their families.  Please keep them coming and I’ll do my best to include them in our articles where possible.

West Union Burns – 1858

Also, this week on March 27, 1858 (then a Sunday), many of West Union’s citizens had gone to Clarksburg to attend the U.S. Court by way of the B & O regularly scheduled passenger train.  Train travel was the most practical and most popular way to travel to Clarksburg or Parkersburg at that time.  Upon their return to West Union, all were shocked to find their town engulfed in flames.

According to news articles, the fire started at about 11 o’clock in the upper part of Dr. L.R. Charter’s home.  Some historians dispute the location that the fire started, and I shall leave that for others to debate.  I can only say that it was reported as such.  In a matter of minutes most of the town was in flames.  The hotel and storeroom of Mr. James N. Foley soon caught and afterwards, the residences of Dr. Walker, Joseph Duty, and Calvin Dotson, the saddler shop of Lewis Harness and two other small houses and three stables were consumed by the fire.

The town was devastated.  Some fifteen or sixteen homes and businesses completely burned that night.  Mr. Foley’s loss was estimated at from $5,000 to $6,000.  Dr. Charter’s at about $3,000, C. J. Stuart’s who owned the house occupied by Dr. Walker at $1,800.  Lewis Harness’ loss was estimated at $300.  The other buildings were various sums of damage.  The entire estimated damage caused by the fire was $12,000 to $15,000.  Unfortunately for the owners of these damaged properties, no insurance coverage was available for any of them.  The fire was deemed to have been an accident and was never proven to be otherwise.

This fire should not be confused with the fire that destroyed the first brick structure built for the Doddridge County Courthouse.  It did not burn until November 27, 1898.

With all that our families have been going through in recent weeks, I felt it would be helpful to know where we’ve been and how strong we are together.

 God Bless and Stay Well

Patricia Richards Harris