Editor’s note: Jack Feller (1922-2013) was a well-known historian who wrote a series of books “Memories and Photos of Mullens, West Virginia,” featuring the years from 1894 through 1946, detailing the history of Mullens. Unfortunately, Feller’s books are out of print. This article is reprinted, with permission, from Volume I.
Mullens, in Wyoming County, W.Va., at the junction of Slab Fork Creek with the Guyandotte River was the hunting grounds of the Indian tribes such as the Shawnee, Mingo, Iroquois and Cherokee before the white men came. Mullens, in the southern part of West Virginia, is located at 37° 30’ N and 81° 30’ W latitude.
One historical source states that the first settler in Mullens, before 1859, was a “Bandy Bill” Mullens. This could have been the son of Rev. John S. Mullens, of New Richmond, as William Mullens was born in 1849; they were no relation to A.J. Mullins. The source said that “Bandy Bill” had a log house located at the gap of what is now between Highland Avenue and Frantz Avenue on the side of Tater Hill. He later sold his property to Ulysses Hinchman.
William H. Lambert, in 1859, acquired 310 acres in the Mullens area. Other early land grants in Mullens showed W.M. Evans, 1835; Joseph Workman, 1846; and Ulysses Hinchman, 1859; before Andrew Jackson Mullins.
From “The Reference Book of Wyoming County History,” by Mary K. Bowman, early settlers in the Mullens area of Slab Fork and Barkers Ridge districts of Wyoming County, when it was formed from Logan County in 1850, were the McKinneys, the Shrewsburys, William Evans, Samuel Bell, John Howerton, Barnabas Evans, Hiram Mullens, Rev. John S. Mullens, Eli Lusk, Robert Mills and John G.W. Rinehart.
William Evans had a farm opposite the mouth of Barkers Creek, now the upper, Itmann.
Bill Roach and sons, John, Charley and Conley Roach, lived on the south side of the river, now Elmore.
Doc Smith lived near the Guyan River, at the mouth of Still Run.
R. Lee Bower had a store and post office at Joe Branch, now Itmann Coal Company, No. 3, mine supply yard.
John Whitt lived on top of the mountain, east of the Slab Fork Creek.
Steve Moran and Hampton Evans lived on top of the opposite mountain, south of the Guyandotte River.
John Cook lived on a farm at Cedar Creek, now Otsego.
The Frank Sizemore family lived up Slab Fork Creek.
Tice Lester and his sons, Bogle, John and Floyd Lester, lived near now Stephenson.
Elisha Lester lived at what is now Corinne.
In 1872, Major Jedediah Hotchkiss, the mapmaker for Confederate General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson, came into the Mullens area with surveyors, prospecting for coal deposits and looking for a railroad route through the mountains.
The Norfolk and Western Railway reached the Pocahontas coalfields of McDowell and Mercer counties of West Virginia in March 1883.
By 1899, the line was extended west to Kenova, W.Va., on the Ohio River. The coalfields were opened along the Tug River, in the Williamson, Mingo County, area by 1896. Mingo County was formed from Logan County in 1895.
From “The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia,” Major W.P. Tams writes, “Shortly after the Civil War, this area had been prospected by Major Jedediah Hotchkiss, who had been a topographical engineer (mapmaker) on Stonewall Jackson’s staff.”
In 1861, General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson appointed Jedediah Hotchkiss his topographical engineer and commissioned him as a captain. At the age of 26, Hotchkiss, who had been a well-known surveyor in the Shenandoah Valley, was directed by Jackson to draw complete maps of the entire valley from Harper’s Ferry to Lexington. Major Hotchkiss was with Stonewall Jackson when he was shot on the night of May 2, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va.
W.P. Tams writes, “Major Jed Hotchkiss published a magazine, ‘The Virginias,’ promoting the possibilities of the West Virginia and Southwest Virginia coalfields. He interested John C. Maben, of Philadelphia, in purchasing the James Welch patent of 90,000 acres on the head waters of the Guyandotte River. Jed Hotchkiss purchased a half interest in the Maben tract.”
Mary K. Bowman wrote, “Major Jed Hotchkiss, of Staunton, Va., a distinguished member of the staff of the renown Confederate leader, General Stonewall Jackson, was the first geologist to publish to the world, in his monthly journal ‘The Virginias,’ and detailed information concerning coal deposits of Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer and Tazewell counties.
“Subsequent to the investigations of Major Hotchkiss and his staff of engineers in McDowell County, his explorations were continued in Wyoming County, where many coal openings were made and connected with elevations above mean tide (sea level).”
From one of the monthly journals, “The Virginias,” Hotchkiss wrote, “Under immediate supervision of Captain M.A. Miller, civil engineer of Richmond, Va., at a location on the Guyandotte River, a deep trench was dug to bedrock, from the top of a steep hill to foot of same at river level, 680 feet lower. All of the coal beds revealed in this extensive stripping were opened and carefully measured by Captain Miller and his report of the results mailed to the writer (Jed Hotchkiss) under date of June 10, 1891.”
According to Mary K. Bowman, on May 8, 1889, John E. Dubois et. al, of Maryland, conveying to John C. Maben of New York City and Jedediah Hotchkiss of Staunton, Va., 64,780 acres on the head water of the Guyandotte River in Raleigh and Wyoming counties for a consideration of $120,000.