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Huntington from Farms

Farm  Land  Blossomed  Into  City  of  Huntington
   Farms occupied most of the level land along the Ohio River from Guyandotte River to Four Pole Creek until after the Civil War. Though owners sometimes changed, most parcels remained intact or were only divided.
   This area comprised all of original Huntington and the section first organized as Central City and later expanded to West Huntington.  Population increased slowly here before the Civil War.
   The state road built about 1800 from the east to the Kentucky border at Big Sandy River came across the hills past present Spring Hill Cemetery and Marshall University and reached the Ohio River near Fifth Street.  Soon after Cabell County was organized in 1809, a county road was built along the river to connect Guyandotte with the Kentucky pike.
   Great trees grew on either side all the way from Guyandotte to Fur Pole and beyond.  Farmhouses were built along the road, facing the river.  About 1833, the river road was changed to the middle of the farms, leaving some barns in front of the houses.

   THOUGH the earliest settlers built log houses at first, prosperity from traffic and commerce kindled desire for homes such as the people had known east of the mountains.  Soon, substantial two-story homes of milled lumber or brick were erected, often with an ell, which was a testimonial to the owner's financial standing.
   Steamboat landings were located on most farms along the river by 1820.  References can be found to the Buffington Landing below the mouth of the Guyandotte River, Holderby's Landing at 16th Street, Brown's Landing at 5th Street, the Hull Landing at W. 14th Street and the Williams Landing just above the mouth of Four Pole Creek.
From early days, there seem to have been a number of residents in the area who did not own land.  Apparently, these were employes (sic) or tenants of the landowners, living in cabins built by squatters who came before the settlers with titles arrived, in temporary houses first built by owners and some erected with owners' permission.  An example is an early village built near the center of present Huntington.

   SOON AFTER 1830, Dr. Richard Brown, owner of South Landing about 5th Street, planned for a town to be located there.  It was incorporated as Brownsville in the 1831-32 session of the Virginia General Assembly and was laid off in lots by Claudius Crozet, Virginia state engineer.
   For some unknown reason, none of the lots were sold; yet in 1835, it was recorded that five or six dwelling and two merchantile (sic) stores had been established.  No town ever developed and Dr. Brown remained owner of the land.
   One of the most influential landowners was John Laidley, prosecuting attorney for Cabell County from 1817-60, a member of the Virginia Assembly in 1820 and of the Virginia Convention of 1829-30.  He was the outstanding lawyer of his day.
   In 1816, Laidley married Mary Scales Hite.  They were parents of 12 children.  He purchased part of the Mark Russell farm, moved his family there in 1828 and later built a substantial home called Lamartine.
   Persons who knew Mr.. Laidley gave him credit for the establishment of Marshall Academy, now Marshall University, an institution which has greatly influenced the development and intellectual climate of the area from its beginning until today.

   CONCERNED ABOUT providing educational opportunity for his own and other children, Laidley brought together other individuals with the same concern and they undertook to organize a school  Presbyterians in the neighborhood who had to drive in wagons to a point below the mouth of Four Pole and ferry across the Ohio to attend church in Burlington agreed to help if they might hold services in the school building.
    Marshall Academy was organized in 1837 and named for Chief Justice John Marshall, who had been friendly with the lawyer from western Virginia during the Virginia Convention.  The first term was taught in a log church called Mount Hebron, located on an eminence about two miles below the Guyandotte River.
   Under the first teacher, John N. Peck, and an associate who soon had to be hired, the school progressed so well it was seen that a new building was needed.  Again, Laidley took the lead in raising funds, and on March 30, 1838, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act creating "The Trustees of the Marshall Academy."  Members of this board of trustees were Laidley, William Buffington, James Gallaher, Benjamin and Richard Brown and F. G. L. Beuhring, all living in the vicinity; John Samuels of Barboursville and Benjamin H. Smith and George W. Summers of Charleston.
   The Holderby family has a tradition that the site was selected by Henry Clay, who happened to arrive at the home of James Holderby on one of his many trips to the national capital just as the trustees were discussing possible locations for the new building.  At their insistence, he viewed the points under consideration and made the selection.

   THE TRUSTEES purchased a 1 1/4-acre plot from James Holderby for $40.  The deed contained the stipulation that it was to be used for school purposes only and revert to the seller if such use was discontinued.
   A Dutch brick mason named Jacob Stock was employed to erect a substantial two-story brick building, with two rooms on either side of a central hall which ran through the building on either floor.  The two rooms on one side, upstairs and down, at first were the only ones used as classrooms.  The principal sometimes lived in the other two.
   Church services were held in the downstairs classroom.  Soon, Presbyterians and Methodist were using it on alternating Sundays.  Most of the early principals were Presbyterian ministers, highly trained graduates of theological seminaries.
   The school flourished in everything except financial support.  In 1850, the trustees turned it over to the Western Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

   THOUGH METHODIST ministers contributed sacrificially, they were not able to relieve the academy of financial distress.  In 1857, a deed of trust was given on the land and buildings to secure a note for $650 to Robert Holderby, with George W. Mason as trustee.  In 1858, the note came due without being paid and the Virginia General Assembly designated the school Marshall College, naming 11 Methodist clergymen as trustees.
   No action was taken before the Civil War broke out.  The note was still unpaid and a  chancery suit had been brought by a former principal for back salary.  In 1861, the circuit court ordered the land sold at auction.  For some unknown reason, the sale was delayed until 1863, when the college was purchased by J. W. Hite as agent for his daughter, Salina C. Mason, widow of George W. Mason.
   Familiar with the entire situation, Mrs. Mason invested money from her husband's estate in the college, in order that she might preserve it from reverting to the original owner.  She and two of her sisters, all qualified teachers, taught children of the family and the community through the war years.  Thanks to this public-spirited woman, Marshall was preserved.
   War is never light.  There were heated words enmities were aroused and farms frequently were pillaged by foraging bands.  Yet no incidents in the area during the war years were of sufficient violence to have been preserved in histories of that time.  When it was over, a people tired of war were ready to cooperate in new industrial expansion.

DORIS C. MILLER
For  The Herald-Dispatch, 1976

From the collection of Dr. & Mrs. John Maxwell Bobbitt.
Submitted by Mary Bobbitt Richardson, 24 Aug 2007.
Typed for the Cabell County WVGenWeb by Candie Freeman.


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