| 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
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
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
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
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
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.