Editor’s note: Paul Ray Blankenship (1940-2010) was a retired teacher and college professor, who wrote several books about the history of Oceana and surrounding areas. The following excerpt is reprinted, with his permission, from “From Cabins To Coal Mines, Volume II.”
It’s always interesting – and sometimes amazing – to discover what the government, the elected representatives of the people, can find to tax!
For the first few years after the creation of Logan County in 1824, of which present Wyoming County was a part, the tax collectors only wanted to know the following: Males over 16 years of age, slaves over 12 years of age, slaves over 16 years of age, and, number of “horses, mares and colts.”
Prior to 1843, it was decided that the tax collectors must go forth and determine which of the citizenry: Owned wooden clocks, owned silver watches, had earned interest, had professional income, and/or held deeds of conveyance.
Alas! Alas! Do not all of these 1843 properties for taxation appear to be remarkedly similar to some of the kinds of taxes which today’s legislative bodies are very adept at re-naming, or re-inventing, and/or re-defining?
No doubt about 1842, it was discovered throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia that the citizenry had gone out and purchased a large number of fine “wooden clocks.” Presumably these clocks were the kind which we have traditionally come to know as “mantel clocks,” those large, upright, ornate clocks just like the one which was owned by James Pine Christian, of Logan County, whose grandson Charles Russell Christian immortalized in his lyrical poem, “Grandfather’s Clock.”
So valued was his grandfather’s clock that C.R. Christian opined in part:
“Let others share thy master’s gold
“When he shall sleep in Death’s eternal fold.
“If I survive I’ll only ask for thee!
“Thy ticks and tocks –
“O King of Clocks! –
“Were legacy and wealth for me!”
The 1843 tax records of Logan County reveal that there were 95 “wooden clocks” in Logan County, at least 25 percent of which were owned by persons who lived in the area that became Wyoming County.
Owning such a “wooden clock” may well have been some sort of measurement for affluence in 1843!
Future Wyoming Countians who owned a wooden clock in 1843 included the following: John Allen, James Bailey, James Bailey Jr., John Canterbury, Leroy B. Chambers, David Cooke, Jacob Cooke, James Cooke, James Cooke Esq., John Cooke Esq., John Cooke Jr., Thomas Cooke, Thomas Cooke Jr., William Cooke, Joshua Harvey, Francis Hendrix, Joseph McDonald, Stephen McDonald, William McDonald, Thomas Morgan, James H. Shannon, Laine Shannon, Charles Stewart, and George P. Stewart.
Not a single citizen, however, owned a “silver watch” – or admitted to owning one!
Note: Only a few copies of “From Cabins To Coal Mines, 1799-1999, Volume I” remain available. Cost is $35, which includes tax, at the Wyoming County Historical Museum in Oceana, open Monday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Additionally, a few copies of Volume II are available for $40.