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Burton

 

Communities of Wetzel County

 

Burton, a small unincorporated town, is located in the northeastern section of Wetzel County on U. S. 250. Burton is thought to have been settled in the early 1800's by a Revolutionary War soldier of French descent, Peter Bartrug, his wife of German descent and their six children, John, George, Daniel Elizabeth, Mary and Catherine. Peter, who died in 1839, and his wife, who died in 1834 are buried in the Old Harmony Cemetery. Other early settlers were the following families: Dawson, McDonald, Homer, Black, Hoge, Hunter, Gibbans, Robinson, Cunningham and Mapel. Burton remained sparsely settled until the building of the B & O Railroad, which was completed in 1852. Some of the men who labored on the railroad (many of Irish background) stayed to settle in the area. Others came into the area to settle near the railroad right-of-way, having purchased small tracts of forest land. A major portion of the land at this time was still owned by wealthy non-residents who had purchased acreage or been given land grants by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Until the Civil War the principle source of income in the area had been the sale of cross-ties to the railroad company. Staves for barrels, tan bark and agricultural products also found a ready market. The influx of people into the area after the Civil War, and the remoteness of Burton from the county seat, New Martinsville, played major roles in a period of lawlessness that lasted well into the 1870's. Bands of petty thieves, gamblers, hold-up men and speak-easies flourished. Concerned citizens of the area formed a group of vigilantes known as the Redmen.

As the railroad continued to develop as a major commercial transportation artery, Burton became an important freight and passenger stop. During the 1890's and early 1900's the extensive railroad yards began to be used for equipment for the oil and gas fields that were opening up in the Burton area. An important oil field of about 1,000 acres was discovered in 1902 and by 1955, 110 wells had been drilled and 1,700,000 barrels of oil produced.

Burton had two hotels. The Black Hotel and Tavern was erected about 1870 near the center of the town. The Homer Hotel was built later and located along the railroad tracks, near the train station. A livery barn was owned and operated by Vanevery Liming and later by A.A. Cunningham. John A. Hoge, J. S. White, Edward Cunningham, Charles Hennen, James Smith and W. J. Troy owned and operated general stores during this era. The Burton Mill Company, owned and operated by a group of men from Burton and Monongalia County, was a very large concern and employed several persons. There were also a blacksmith's shop, a barber shop, a drug store, a millinery and a restaurant in Burton.

The Burton Post Office, which was first established in 1854 is now located near the Burton Park and Clinic. The postmasters before 1900 were: Daniel S. Remley, Levi Hoge, George Kenney, John Clark, Patrick McDonnell, James Bradshaw, David Percy, Mary Leadley, John A. Hoge, Bessel McDonnell and Ed Cunningham.

Burton was the site of the first telephone switchboard in the eastern section of Wetzel County. It was located in the home of D. A. J. Lemley.

Singing schools were held during the 1890's and early 1900's in Burton. The Burton Literary Society held meetings in the Burton Elementary Schools every Friday evening during the school term. The evenings consisted of singing, dancing, recitations, plays, and debated. The event was heavily attended, with every seat being taken and others standing.

One of the more historic areas in Burton is located at the mouth of Bee Hollow. This piece of land was sold to the B & O Railroad Company by George Bartrug in 1852. The railroad company constructed an earthen dam, from which water was piped into a stone water tower alongside of a Y where the steam engines could be turned. After the railroad company abandoned the use of the Y, the land was sold back to the Bartrug family. It fell into disuse. A story told by Mrs. O.J. Bartrug to Dare Oates recounts that the dam burst one night and how the next morning residents lined up with wagons, washtubs and other large containers to gather the fish left in the bottom of the now emptied dam. Some of the earthworks of the dam can still be seen behind the Burton Clinic.

Over the years, Burton has become smaller and today is a quiet residential town.

Source: History of Wetzel County, West Virginia 1983