A Brief History of Jenningston, WV
(A ghost-logging town in Tucker County)
By: Keith Allen
The story of Jenningston begins in a small logging town in Pennsylvania. Bishop Worth and Cortez H. Jennings moved their sawmill to Lopez, Pa in 1887. They expanded the size of the mill, built a large store, and several houses there. The town of Lopez began to boom. In 1897, they purchased a clothes pin factory and sawmill from Trexler and Turrell and operated their businesses till 1905.
Knowing that there were only a few years of life left in their mill, they started expanding their interest to Maryland and West Virginia. On November 29, 1899, William Rosendorf, president of the Middle Mountain Boom and Lumber Company, signed the deed to his property over to C.H. and B.W. Jennings for $11,000. This included a sawmill, dam, machinery, and a railroad running from the Dry Fork Railroad to the mill.
On December 19, 1899, a deed was signed by the Jennings brothers purchasing the timber rights to 2,160 acre on the east side of Laurel Fork. This was followed by 73 acres on the west side. The sell of the Middle Mountain Boom and Lumber and 20,000 acres of
Land was officially report on December 29 also. In 1900, the brothers purchased an additional 30,000 acres.
The brothers also purchased 11,726 acres in Randolph County and 1221 acres in Pocahontas County for $9,772. They sold 620 acres to the Pocahontas Lumber Company for $27,405. They continued to purchase land in 1902, 1903, and 1904. With the closing of their mill in 1905, the Jennings brothers were ready to begin work in West Virginia.
The first step was to charter a railroad. The charter was issued on February 27, 1905 for the Randolph and Pocahontas Railroad. The charter stated the railroad would run from Stover to Seneca road. The shareholders were Cortez H. and B. Worth Jennings, William L. Jennings, Frank G. Rice (would become postmaster of Jenningston) and Nathan A. Steele. By middle of April, work had begun on the new town of Jenningston, at a location west of the Dry Fork below the mouth of the Laurel Fork.
By the end of August, the company store was ready to open. A large house was being built for the company superintendent. B. Worth and his wife Ella would occupy it. On August 25, 35 men and a team of horses arrived from Pennsylvania. In November the post office was moved from Stover to Jenningston. B.W. Jennings was the first postmaster but was succeeded by Frank Rice. In March 1906, Jenningston got phone service.
The mill contained a double band saw and gang saws. It is not known when the first lumber shipped from there but by 1907 it produced a 125,000 feet a day.
John Curry opened a mill up from the mouth of the Laurel Fork in 1906 and named it Currytown. It was a single band mill and produced 50,000 feet a day. On July 1 1907, John Curry sold his business to Allen A. Perley for $225,000. The new company, Perley and Crockett Lumber Company was chartered on August 23. A.P. was president, W.H. Crockett vive president, and Fred Perley ( A.P. Ďs son) secretary and treasurer. They too moved quickly to assure a supply of logs.
On October 20, 1906, B.W. Jennings died of a self-inflicted gunshot. No reason was given for the suicide. Worthís only son W.W. Jennings took over for his father. His brotherís death did affect Cortez and he did try to sell the company at this time. E.V. Babcock visited to look at the mill but decided to buy the Thompson Lumber and Boom Company in Davis instead.
The superintendentís house laid in the main square of town. To the left of the mill were 4 double houses and a single house. Houses between the mill and the square were painted red and used by laborers. Houses beyond the square were painted white and used by skilled help. The superintendentís house was painted a shade of yellow. Jennings gave land to have a 2-story school built, also.
On July 1, 1909, the Jennings sold all their property to the newly formed Laurel River Lumber Company. This included 18 miles of railroad, 400 million feet of uncut timber, the mill, store, all houses, and animals. The selling price was $1,400,000. It also included the sell of a newly built hotel, the Laurel Inn, and had just opened. The new owners of the Laurel River Lumber Company were E.W. Mealy of Hagerstown and J.A.G. and E.M. Allen of Darlington, Maryland.
Competition from the Laurel Inn was too much for J.P. Georgy, proprietor of the Commercial Hotel for he tried to sell it in March 1910. He was still owner a few years later though.
During January of 1911, the Laurel River Lumber Company cut 2,500,000 feet of lumber. This is one of the largest cuts in West Virginia logging history. It cut 158,000 feet in a single ten-hour day in a mill reporting 125,000 feet daily.
Jenningston was a peaceful town compared to a lot of logging communities. It reported one murder in 1907. In 1911, the company, for the building of the Methodist Episcopal Church, gave 3,663 square feet of land. By 1912, along with the church, Jenningston had two restaurants, a barbershop, and a doctor by the name of C.A. Willis. They also had their own bootlegger, Bob Cobberly.
In 1912, severe flooding cause a lot of damage to Perley and Crockett Lumber Company assets. By October of that year they were out of business. On June 11, 1913, the company surrendered its charter, as did the Dry Fork Railroad the same year. J.H. Babb brought the company assets for $4000. On February 13, 1914, he put all the equipment up for sell. The Perleys and Crockett moved to Honaker, VA and opened the Honaker Lumber Company. Fred Perley also got involved in Black Mountain, NC.
With the closing of the Perley and Crockett Lumber Company, the population of Jenningston dropped from 600 to 400. Businesses closed such as the J.W. Ritchie general store and Emma Coberlyís restaurant. Georgy final got rid of the Commercial Hotel and the Hotel Cooper, owned by John Cooper, replaced it.
Riley Cooper is believed to be on the right
Photo of the Commercial Hotel
On May 11, 1916, fire completely destroyed the Laurel River mill and 1,000,000 feet of lumber. It also destroyed the machine shop and a Shay engine in for repairs. The mill did rebuild. Also in 1916, fire did damage to the Cooper Hotel, which was rebuilt. In 1917, fire completely destroyed the Laurel Inn.
In 1919 the mill employed 300 men with a monthly payroll of $25,000 to $30,000. The mill was closed in August 1921 and its equipment sold off. It sold its lands on January 22, 1922 along with the company store. In February it sold its houses, which were torn down for the lumber in neighboring towns. With no work the population slowly drifted away. The post office closed on October 13, 1922 but reopened at the train station and remained open till June 5, 1939. The official end of the Laurel River Lumber Company occurred on January 18, 1923. The last company house was destroyed in the flood of 1985. The only two houses left are the Fred A. Perley house and the Superintendentís house. The Dry Fork and Laurel Fork valleys are now just a peaceful reminder of a once proud community.
I have started research on Jenningston and plan to continue. I would like to thank
Alan Clarke, author of "West Virginia Coal and Coke Railway" and "West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway". Also Iíd like to thank the MSR & LHA (Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association) for their help and contacting Alan Clarke.
Finally, I wish to thank Janet Cooper, historical coordinator for Tucker County. All have pointed me in the right directions. I plan to continue my research and I am locating a wealth of information on Jenningston. If anyone has descendents or information on Jenningston, please contact me at email@example.com. Your help would mean so much.
My interest started when I framed a 3 foot panoramic view of Jenningston, taken in 1914 and hung it on the wall. I got it from my grandmother, Gertrude Bonner, who was born in the area in 1897. She was raised and married in Jennings ton. She worked at the Post Office there. She married Luther Allen, whose parents are buried in the Bonner Cemetery there. Luther briefly taught math there and worked at the company and general stores. After leaving Jenningston, they opened the Franklin Cut-Rite store in Franklin, Pendleton County.
Lenora Bonner, Gertrudeís mother is from Jenningston. These are my grandparents from my Dadís side. He is also named Keith Allen.
My mother Sue Ann, is daughter of Grant and Ressa Alt of Franklin WV. Grant was sheriff of Pendleton County in the 60ís and 70ís.
Other Photos from Jenningston Area
Methodist Episcopal Church