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Communities of Wetzel County

 

Reader is located about fourteen miles from the Ohio River on State Route 20. The first settlement was made in 1788 by James Troy who erected a cabin on what is now known as the "Moore" farm, but was then known as the "Negro Quarters." Troy later sold his title of 600 acres to Benjamin Reader for a ten-gallon copper kettle and a bay mare. He later sold his title to Morgan Morgan (Spy Mod) for a flint lock gun. He also erected a cabin in 1804 and it stood until 1896.

The land next passed to Jeremiah Williams, who was the surveyor at that time. He sold it to Alexander Lantz who transferred it to John Lantz.

Several other men besides Morgan came to this settlement; among them were Jasper Straight, William Snodgrass, Benjamin Hays, Thomas Bowl, James Booth and Jacob Swisher. The pioneer school teacher of the neighborhood was Caleb Headlee.

In 1800 John Milburn patented 200 acres which lay on the waters of Brush Run. Among the prosperous farmers were: Joseph Fair, George Sturge, Z. J. Morgan, John Springer, William Burgess, Benjamin Fox, C. Kidder, James Harris, Samuel Harrison, Foster Clark, Presley Q. Martin and Harvey King.

David Prunty was the first man to construct a public road in Wetzel County. He opened one from Middlebourne, Tyler County, to Reader in 1815. The road is now known as Eight Mile Ridge Road.

The first public school was built in 1904. The school year was three months long. The high school was built in 1917 and graduating class (1917) had five members. The high school consolidated with Pine Grove in 1961 and is known as Valley High School. The present school at Reader is known as the Short Line Primary Middle School.

There were several stores, a hotel, a Post Office and a B & O Depot. Ben Headlee was a storekeeper, farmer and justice of the peace. Russell Miller and Clarence Myers operated a small store. Mike Datwyler had a blacksmith shop. He also dressed lumber, made flooring and did auto repair. Mart Bucher had a blacksmith shop and grist mill on his farm just outside Reader. George Goudy also had a blacksmith shop.

The oil and gas fields were serviced by horses and wagons instead of trucks. The heavy loads and mud roads sometimes required more than one pair of horses to each wagon. The Hope Natural Gas Company had a barn in Reader to keep their horses in.

In 1900 the Reader Post Office was located in Ben Headlee's store, and he was Postmaster. The population of Reader at that time was about 100. Other Postmasters were Myer Ankrom, Jake Metz, Will Burgess, J.D. Wayne, James Haught, Mrs. Ruth V. Rogers and Harley F. Wright. Donald L. Westfall is now Postmaster.

Farming was the main occupation in Reader. Some people did work for the gas and oil industry. The horse shoeing and iron repair work was taken to the blacksmith shop. Harness repair had to be done in New Martinsville or Littleton.

The Reader Volunteer Fire Department organized in 1971, with James Spraggs as president and fire chief. The fire department has has fifteen members.

Most of the people in the community of Reader are related in some way to the early settlers. The first settlers came from Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York.

Source: Wetzel County West Virginia History 1983