A History of Tucker District

by Harry L. James

After Wirt County was formed in 1848 from parts of Wood and Jackson Counties, it was divided into seven Magisterial districts, one of which was named Tucker District, after the stream of water by that name. Why and when this stream was called Tucker Creek we do not know. We do know, however, that this stream had been named nearly fifty years before Wirt County was formed and before Tucker District was settled. This we learn from the records of the original land grants or patents issued by the Governor of Virginia to the first land owners in what is now Tucker District, Wirt County, West Virginia. These land grants always stated that the grant was for a specified number of acres of land situated on the waters of Tucker Creek in Wood County, Virginia. The first of these grants was made to a William McCleery in 1802, for 1700 acres on the waters of Tucker Creek. It is probable that Tucker Creek was given its name by the surveyors who were employed by the state of Virginia to survey and make maps of her western lands.

Among those who received land grants in Tucker District were: William McCleery who obtained a grant for 1700 acres in 1802. George C. James received two grants, one for 161 acres and the other for 738 acres, George C. James and John A. McGee jointly obtained a grant for 750 acres. These grants were made in 1848-49. 120 acres of the James Grants remained in the James family until 1954 when it was sold by Harry L. James to Mr. & Mrs. Melvin Amos.

Arnold W. Bennett obtained two grants in 1850. One for 148 acres, the other for 115 acres. This farm now owned by Miss Lella Ingram is a part of these grants. Lella’s mother died in 1954.

Thompson Gates obtained a grant for 250 acres and another for 100 acres in 1842, and a grant for 350 acres and one for 178 acres in 1850. Charles W. Davis who came to Tucker District with his family in 1859 purchased 200 acres of the 250 acre tract. Robert Davis of Elizabeth, S. W. Davis, Carl E. Davis, Mrs. Ruth Sheets and Mrs. Ruby Burdette of Elizabeth, Route 1 are descendants of Charles W. Davis.

William D. Richards and James W. Morehead jointly obtained a grant for 431 acres in 1850. In 1855 this land was divided, Mr. Morehead receiving 231 acres. This James W. Morehead is the father of our present County Commissioner, James W. Morehead, who lives where his father formerly lived.

George L. Daggett who came with his family from Ireland, obtained a grant for 126 acres in 1851. Attorney Lewis D. Archer now owns the land on which Mr. Daggett settled. Mrs. Albert Vaught is a grand-daughter of George L. Daggett and Mrs. Eula Coe and Mrs. Ruth Stanley are great grand-daughters. Mr. Daggett sold 60 acres of this farm on January 25, 1865 to John C. Jacobs and Rebecca J. Jacobs. Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs sold this land to W. E. and Rebecca Carpenter on March 2, 1871. On the same date John and Rebecca Jacobs bought 25 acres near Elizabeth from J. E. Kimball. This is now the Ross Mellinger farm. Miss Beulah Woodyard and Mrs. Etta Cline are grand-daughters of John C. and Rebecca Jacobs.

Abraham Vaught and John Walters obtained a grant for 200 acres on the watershed of Slate and Tucker Creeks on October 13, 1849. On April 10, 1850 Mr. Vaught purchased Mr. Walter's interest in this grant and came from Virginia with his brothers, Stephen and George W. Vaught to Tucker District where they remained the rest of their lives.

William D. Richards obtained a grant for 484 acres in 1854. Other grants had been received by him in 1850 and 1851. The Sherman Fisher farm, the John Carothers farm and the Charlie Powell farm are parts of the original William D. Richards grants.

James D. Gates received a grant of 200 acres near Morristown in 1852. John and Jane Ballard bought 50 acres of this land on September 5, 1860. The Ballards were popular people in their community. Sherman Conley now owns the old Ballard place.

Other land grants in Tucker District, some of which were on the Lynn Camp side were: Alfred Woodyard, 700 acres, Lewis Woodyard, 918 acres, James Woodyard, 150 acres, Israel Barnes, 560 acres, Gilead Lockhart, 150 acres, John Boice and Samuel C. Boice also received extensive land grants in Tucker District and other parts of Wirt County. Samuel C. Boice is the grand-father of Howard C., Roy L., Elmer Boice and Mrs. Iva Bridges.

Our history, so far had told of the early land grants and first settlers of Tucker District. It includes those who were living there prior to the Civil War.

The following residents became soldiers of this sad and terrible struggle:

George C. JamesJoseph A. DavisLorenzo Bennett
Henry C. JamesRobert H. DavisStephen Vaught
John T. JamesErastus P. DaggettGeorge W. Vaught
George James, Jr.John D. BallardJohn Bryson
Samuel C. BoiceWesley W. Lyons

The James's were all from one family, a father and three sons. The Davises were brothers and sons-in-law of George C. James. The Vaughts were also brothers.

There have been others living in Tucker District before 1861 who became soldiers of the Civil War. The writer may not have a complete list.

Other soldiers who came with their families to make their homes in Tucker District after the close of the war were:

John CaplingerJack Dunham
M. A. GilmoreZachary T. Woodyard
Fred T. AmosGideon Mason
Peter DeemWilliam Stephens
Francis TuellWellington Gillespie
William P. KigerJoshua Williams
Matthias FoxJack Miller
Hugh WilliamsAlbert Phillips
William CourtneyJohn Randall
John LightnerDaniel Pyle
Robert WineJohn Wilson
Henry SheetsJohn Brown
John GatesRobinson M. Wilson
Henry BlairJesse Cumberledge
Daniel SniderIthamar Brown

During the period between 1865 and 1885, the population of Tucker District increased rapidly and probably reached its peak by the end of that period. Others who came during this period besides the soldiers and their families were the Showalters, Gaults and Grables from Pennsylvania, the Clines, Lockharts and Foxed from Monroe County, Ohio, the Kings, Bowersocks and Yohos from Noble County, Ohio. Many others, including the Courtneys, the Fulls, the Daughertys, the Sniders, the McLains, the Allmans, the Powells, the Martins, the Gants and the Archers came from other counties of West Virginia as well as from other states.

The first people to make homes in Tucker District were true pioneers, as much so as were those who settled Jamestown or Plymouth, or those who followed the Wilderness Road into Kentucky and Tennessee, or those who drove the covered wagons along the Oregon and Santa Fe trails to the Pacific Coasts.

They came before there were any roads, churches or schools. They brought a number of iron cooking utensils, a few dishes, some bedding, a rifle, a supply of salt, soda, gun powder and bars of lead for the making of bullets for the Rifle. They had some tools such as axes, hoes, a hammer, a mattock, a froe and some knives of various sizes and uses.

When they arrived at the place of settlement they found themselves in a virgin forest of giant trees. They looked for a flowing spring of water, when one was found, they built a crude log cabin near it. Later a larger house was built of larger logs which were hewn flat on two sides. When the writer of this history was a teen age boy, he had frequent talks with one of these pioneers who had come from the Potomac River Valley in 1846, bringing his wife, his widowed mother and a number of small children. This trip was made by way of the Staunton Pike to Parkersburg, then on to Tucker Creek and his land grant. His method of transportation was a wagon drawn by two horses. Soon after his arrival, he built a log cabin, later a hewed log house which was much larger than the cabin. Soon after the close of the Civil War, he built a large and attractive frame house. By this time he had a family of seven sons and five daughters.

By the end of this period (1865-1885) the majority of the people of Tucker District were still living in the log houses that were built, either by themselves or the former owner of the land on which they were living. A number, at least a dozen of them, are still used as dwellings. However, they have been weather-boarded and painted so that the casual observer does not recognize them as log houses.

Morristown

Morristown is situated in the center of Tucker District, and for the most part, was built on the lower end of the original land grant made to William D. Richards. John Fisher, in, 1874, purchased 240 acres of land from William D. Richards which included the location of Morristown. By 1885, lots had been marked off and numbered. Many of these lots had been sold and homes had been built on them. Morristown had become quite a thriving village by this time.

Eli Morris came to this small town in 1882. He purchased 2.25 acres of land in the center of town and built a flour and feed mill. This mill was a great blessing to the people of Tucker District as well as to the people of a much greater area. Farmers came from far and near with wheat to be made into flour and corn to be made into meal. Others who did not produce these essential foods could always buy them at the mill.

A blacksmith shop had been set up by this time. At this shop, farmers could have their horses shod, wagons repaired, plows made and repaired. Peter Lytle and T. S. Davis were among the first blacksmiths of Morristown.

Stores had been opened with a line of merchandise consisting of practically everything that the people of that time needed. Some of the merchants of that time were: Oliver C. Morris, Ulysses H. Talkington, George Veach and Samuel C. Gant.

A post office was established at Morristown, probably in 1883. Up until this time, the nearest post office was at Elizabeth, seven miles away. This new post office was named Morris and Oliver C. Morris became the first post master. Both the town and post office were named for Eli C. Morris, the Miller and Oliver C. Morris, the merchant.

By 1865 a tobacco warehouse had been built as a place where farmers could market the tobacco which grew so successfully on the newly cleared land.

Now that the town had a mill, a blacksmith shop, a number of stores, a post office and a tobacco market, it had become an attractive and busy place. Farmers had their grain ground at the mill, horses shod and repair work done at the shop, produce sold and exchanged for merchandise at the stores, letters posted and mail received at the post office and tobacco delivered and sold at the warehouse.

One of the good features of all this activity, was the social contacts made by the people who came to town. While their grain was being ground and their smithing done, they discussed religion, politics, schools, health, crops, roads and other topics of common interest.

Eli C. Morris sold the mill he had built in 1882 to Oliver C. Morris. This transaction took place in 1887. Oliver C. Morris sold the mill to S. T. Hill and Orville West on April 23, 1889. Mr. West sold his interest in the mill to Mr. Hill on April 1, 1895. This mill was destroyed by fire in 1896. Mr. Hill then sold the mill lot to Burley H. Rawson who built a new mill the following year. Mr. Rawson sold the new mill to S. T. Hill in 1905. Soon after this date, the local production of wheat had declined to the extent that the operation of the Morristown Mill was no longer profitable so the mill was torn down and the lumber and machinery was sold.

S. T. Hill, the miller, who had operated the mill for so many years died May 6, 1930. His heirs sold the mill lot and the Miller's residence to Mrs. Martha Tanner, on Jan. 8, 1948. Mrs. Tanner is living there at the present time.

Today there is no mill, stores, post office, shop nor warehouse at Morristown. It is just a place where the road and creek forks.

The Flood

During the night of July 18, 1889, a calamity befell the thriving village of Morristown, from the effects of which it never fully recovered. This calamity was the Tucker Creek flood. A number of homes and the Tobacco warehouse were washed away and destroyed. Among the homes destroyed was the home of Mr. & Mrs. Orville West. Mrs. West was drowned and Mr. West was rescued from a tree at the lower end of the Ball Farm. He had floated with the wreckage of his home all these miles. Mrs. West, however, had fallen into the water and perished.

The flood was the cause of much loss and damage of property along the main branches of Tucker Creek, particularly in Tucker District. Happening in mid-summer, it destroyed the hay and cultivated crops in the low lands. Fences and buildings were damaged and destroyed.

The saddest and most tragic event of all was the drowning of the Austin Kiger family. On September 14, 1885, Austin Kiger, then 24 years old had married Sybil Cline who was 20 years old. They had been married only four years when the flood came. They had three children by this time, all girls. They had Sarah, age 3 years, Harriet, age 2 years and Bertha, a baby three months old. This family lived about two miles above Morristown on a branch of the right fork of Tucker Creek. Mr. & Mrs. Harry Caplinger now live only a few rods from where the Kiger House stood. This flood is the one great catastrophe that befell the people of Morristown and Tucker District.

Churches

As I have already stated, the population of Tucker District after 1865 was rapidly increasing. West Virginia had become the State of West Virginia. The Constitution of this new state provided for a system of tax supported Free Schools, so the people of Tucker District became interested in establishing churches and schools.

The first church in Tucker District that we have a record of is the Bethel United Brethren Church which is located one mile above Morristown. The records show that on February 29, 1872, George E. Hubbard and his wife, Sarah J. Hubbard, deeded a lot to John T. James, Robert H. Davis and John W. Plum, Trustees. A hewed log church was built on this lot the same year. This building is still standing and is being used as a stable by Charles Murray who owns the property on which it stands. A new church was built near by in 1901-1902 to take the place of this old one.

On June 6, 1873, Samuel C. Boice made a deed to F. M. Boice, Thomas Showalter and Jacob Gault, Trustees, for a lot on which to build the Prosperity Church of the Brethren, commonly called the Dunkard Church.

Erastus P. Daggett, on January 24, 1877, made a deed for a lot on which to build a Methodist Episcopal Church, the first of this denomination in Tucker District. This deed was made to John A. Wine, Peter Deem, C. P. Richardson, 0. P. Coe, E. P. Daggett, J. S. Ryan, Asbury Fetty and Jehu McVey. A new church was erected at Morristown in 1914 to take the place of the old one. Neither of these churches is still standing.

On March 8, 1877, John D. Ballard and Levi S. Price deeded land to William P. Kiger, George A. Vaught and Cornelius Woodyard, Trustees, on which to build the First Mount Moriah Baptist Church. This church was situated on the left fork of Tucker Creek about one mile above Morristown. It was washed away and destroyed by the flood of July 18, 1889. On December 26, 1890, James D. Kiger and Anna Kiger, his wife deeded a lot on the hill near Windy to George A. Vaught, Hugh Williams and John Gualt, Trustees, on which to build a new church. A large church was erected on this lot in 1891. This church being weakened by time and the elements, was taken down in 1950. A new church was built on the same location and dedicated in 1952.

Other churches in Tucker District are the Antioch Baptist Church on Lynn Camp. This church was built in 1882. The Central Hill Baptist Church, built in 1884. The Fairview Methodist, built in 1890. The Rose Hill Methodist, built in 1898. The Mount Hope United Brethern Church, built in 1906. The Grandview Church of Christ, built in 1916.

Schools

After the close of the Civil War and the return of the soldiers, the citizens of Tucker District gave their attention to local problems such as establishing schools and churches and the making and maintaining of roads.A session of the West Virginia Legislature had convened in 1865 and pursuant to the new state's constitution, it passed a law which provided for the election of a Board of Education in each Township or Magisterial District. The duty and responsibility of establishing schools and levying taxes upon the property of the citizens of the district to maintain them was vested in these Boards of Education.

The first Board of Education for Tucker District was composed of George C. James, Peter L. Martin, James 0. Province and E. P. Lyons.

The first board, during its tenure in office, established four schools. The first was the Glendale School, situated on the right fork of Tucker Creek one mile above Morristown. William D. Richards deeded the lot on which the school house was built to the Board of Education on August 15, 1866. This first school house was of logs and was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1875. John Fisher, who had bought the William D. Richards farm in 1874, made a second deed for the school lot on March 27, 1875, and a second school house was built. This one was also made of logs. The writer of this history attended school in this second school house for two terns, 1895-96 and 1896-97. The teacher for the term of 1895-96 was William T. Gant and for the term of 1896-97 was John A. Davis.

In 1897 a frame school house was built across the road from the old hewed log one. The first teacher who taught in the new house was Frank Gilmore. The enrollment was fifty-two and the teacher's salary was $25.00 per month.

The school term at that time was five months.

Two schools were established in Tucker District in 1867. One was the Lonesome Gap School. This school was located near where Charles Gilbert now lives. The lot on which this school house was built was deeded to the Board of Education by James W. Morehead on August 5, 1867.

The other school established in Tucker District in 1867 was the Savage Point School. Henry Pool made the deed for this school lot on the same date that James W. Morehead made the one for Lonesome Gap, August 5, 1867.

The last school to be established by the first Board of Education for Tucker District was the Morristown School. On March 25, 1869, Jane Ballard deeded a lot to the Board of Education for that school. This was the first Morristown house. Later, a new school house was built at a location farther down the creek.

Boards of Education that followed successively this first board, continued to develop the school system of Tucker District to the extent that a school had been established in every community in the district. This had all been accomplished in a period of thirty years. By 1896 there were twelve schools operating in Tucker District.

These schools, other than those already mentioned, were Hickory Grove, established in 1878. Sugar Grove, also established in 1878. The second Sugar Grove School house was built in 1890. The Center Valley School was established in 1885. The Pleasant Hill School in 1888. The Valley Bell School was established in 1892. The Science Hill School, the Windy Gap School and the Shelving Rock School were all established in 1894. The McKinley School on Road Run, was established in 1896.

These schools contributed much to the mental, moral and spiritual development of three generations of children. The schools I have written about are now only a memory, soon to be a tradition, then to be forgotten.

Ministers, Teachers and Lawyers

Tucker District has furnished West Virginia and other states a number of preachers of the Gospel. Among these were Joseph A. Davis, Frank M. Kiger, Sanford D. Archer, a Methodist minister, who did most of his work in Illinois. Others are John D. Cumberledge, Everette Ruble, Ernest Keesor and Floyd Caplinger.

Among the early teachers who taught in Tucker District are Frank Copen, Bird Montgomery, George Stephens, Asby Somerville, Edward Bowersock, John Lockhart, Sarah Cline, Samuel Daugherty, J. E. Gant, S. C. Gant and John A. Davis.

John A. Davis was also Superintendent of Schools of Wirt County and a delegate to, the West Virginia Legislature.

Lawyers from Tucker District were Vachel B. Archer, who was one of the most capable and brilliant lawyers of his time, John W. Martin who became Circuit Judge of Wood and Wirt Counties, Lewis D. Archer who served Wirt County as Prosecuting Attorney for several years and Duncan W. Daugherty who is now United States District Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.


This page last modified 14 January 2002.