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, Volume II.” This is part two of the chapter concerning the prehistoric stone dams in the Clear Fork River Valley.
It is not known with certainty which newspaper originally printed Christian’s article, but more than likely it was one of the newspapers which existed at Oceana in the late 1890s or early 1900s. Best estimates seem to place the date of the article’s printing circa 1900; certainly it was before 1904, as that was the year in which Isaac E. Christian was mortally wounded on the street in front of the courthouse at Oceana.
In 1889, C. D. Wells, working as editor of The Wyoming News at Oceana, published a booklet titled “Something About Wyoming County, 1849-1889” and provided the following contemporary biographic sketch of Mr. Christian:
“I. E. Christian was born in Logan County on the 5th day of September, 1855, and was chiefly engaged in timbering and farming while at his home. Coming to Oceana in 1883, he engaged as clerk in the store of L. B. Cook & Co. for a few months, and finally opened a small grocery store of his own. From that date, his trade has steadily increased, and following the timber business extensively at the same time, he had become one of our most prominent and prosperous businessmen. Mr. Christian now carries a large and complete stock of general merchandise and is a liberal and accommodating merchant as well as a genial and public-spirited citizen who has done much to promote the interests of the town and county.”
With the archaeological studies now being conducted on the petroglyphs around Oceana, perhaps some credible evidence about these dam-like structures will come to surface. Even if the theory and conclusions drawn by Mr. Christian might be questioned, some credibility for his report can be drawn perhaps from his citation of persons and from the indication of places where these stone structures were supposed to exist.
Of Mr. Irwin, mentioned in Mr. Christian’s report, C. D. Wells’ 1889 booklet stated that: “Col. Jesse Ramsey Irwin was born in Mecklenburg County, N.C., March 13, 1828, and was educated at the University of North Carolina. In 1849, he went to West Tennessee and engaged in mercantile business. Five years later, taking up resident in New Orleans, Col. Irwin established a large retail clothing house and continued in trade until 1874, when he removed to New York City and engaged in the real estate business. While thus engaged, in the 1880, he purchased the large estate of 480,000 acres — Robert Morris grant — and from that time dates his prominent connection with the industrial interests of Wyoming County. Soon after effecting the purchase, Colonel Irwin came here and took possession of the estate. Returning to New York, he sailed soon after to Europe, remaining abroad four years for business and pleasure. In 1885 returned to this country and has since made his home in Wyoming County...”
George Wade Cook (17 April 1845-13 October 1928), the son of John “Jackie” and Mary Jarrell Cooke, established his large farm west of Oceana in the 1870s. Many Indian artifacts have been uncovered in the fields of this farm and were collected and saved by his daughter-in-law, Letah Chambers Cook.
Mention of J. E. Toler appears to have been a reference to a long-time resident of Sun Hill, Jacob Ellis Toler (1848-19??), son of John (1818-1901) and Elizabeth Cline Toler.
Capt. Charles S. Canterbury, an ex-Confederate soldier-officer born in 1840, was the son of John and Amy Stewart Canterbury. He lived most of his life at Crany and was a farmer, teacher, and postmaster there for many years. C. S. Canterbury was living in Logan County in 1910.
Dr. Ulysses G. Cook (14 March 1863-1932), a son of Rev. W. H. H. and Mary Jane Cooper Cook, came to Oceana circa 1896, serving as a doctor and a religious leader and charter member of the Oceana First Baptist Church, founded in 1897. Dr. Cook later went to Beckley where he was a prominent citizen of that community.
— 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.