Editor’s note: Paul Ray Blankenship passed away Sept. 30, 2010 after a long illness. He was a retired teacher and college professor, who wrote several books about the history of Oceana and surrounding areas. As a tribute to his achievements, his columns will continue in this newspaper. The following excerpt is reprinted, with his permission, from “From Cabins To Coal Mines, 1799-1999, Volume I.” This is part one of the history of Matheny-Jesse Community.

Matheny, West Virginia, located about four miles south of Oceana, is a residential community built along Laurel Fork River and one of its tributaries, Coon Branch.

It derives its name from Matheny’s Chapel, a Methodist church which was founded in the community in 1891 by Rev. Allen H. Matheny (1850-19--). The area was called “Matheny’s Chapel.” Later, as the community became more settled, the word “chapel” as a geographic description was dropped and it became simply Matheny. Today, in local circles, the Matheny community is known as “the home of the Stewarts.”

The Matheny family, originally from Kanawha County, came to Wyoming County about 1890 and settled at Oceana, where they were living in 1900. A.H. Matheny, a salesman and a Methodist minister, was a son of Rev. Michael Matheny (1819-1907). He married twice and his children included M.F. “Mike” Matheny (1873-1937), Katie Matheny (1878-1896), Lizza Matheny (1881), Minnie G. Matheny (1899).

A son of A.H. Matheny, M. F. “Mike” Matheny became a prominent political figure in Wyoming and Raleigh counties, becoming prosecuting attorney of Wyoming County from 1896-1900 and State Senator from Raleigh County in 1903.

Jesse, also basically a residential community, is located along Route 10, just beyond the southern limits of Matheny. Tradition relates that it was named for Jesse Shumate, though another story, probably less well known, was that it derived its name from the outlaw Jesse James.

The first settler of the Jesse area was James Cooke (1786-1864), son of John Cooke, who settled on the lands of a Cooke family land grant, which was located at present Jesse, after he married Docia Meadows (1792-1864), daughter of Rev. Josiah and Juda Lilly Meadows, in 1809. The original log home of James and Docia Cooke, though it has been expanded and remodeled, still stands at Jesse, being the oldest house in Wyoming County. It stands near the Guyandotte Baptist Church which located from Oceana to Jesse in 1895.

James and Docia M. Cooke were buried in the Cook Cemetery, Route 10, at Jesse.

Another early settler at Jesse was Britton Allen (1826-1911), son of John and Nancy Daniel Allen. Britton Allen married Frances Roach (1826-1888), daughter of Reuben and Sally Ball Roach, and they were the parents of the following children: Sarah Ann Allen (1845); Nancy Jane Allen (1847); William Riley Allen (1850); LeVera Allen (1851-1914); Emily Allen (1854); Chapman Price Allen (1858-1895); Almeda Allen (1860); Frances Allen (1861); Virginia Allen (1862-1887); Louisa Allen (1865); Andrew Rice Allen (1867-1927).

The farm of Britton Allen at Jesse, which was located along the road leading to Glen Fork/Glen Rogers, was a large, prosperous one.

Both Britton and Francis R. Allen were buried in the Cook Cemetery, Route 10, at Jesse.

Note:  Only a few copies of “From Cabins To Coal Mines, 1799-1999, Volume I”  remain available. Cost is $45, which includes tax, at the Wyoming County Historical Museum in Oceana, open Saturday from 12 until 4 p.m. The book has been reprinted by the Wyoming County Historical Museum Board of Directors.

Additionally, a few copies of Volume II are now available for $55.

Add $5 for postage costs to have either book mailed.

To order, contact Betsy Ross, board treasurer, at 304-732-6995; or write her at P.O. Box 411, Pineville, WV 24874; or by e-mail at brross311@yahoo.com.


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