EARLY BROOKE COUNTY SETTLERS
Biographical sketches of early settlers are invaluable in obtaining a picture of the pattern and style of life in an earlier era. Few works have been written that provide any detail of industrial activity or the kinds of social events that were held in an area such as Brooke County in the late 18th and early 19th century. However, from even brief sketches of people living in that day it is possible to obtain a reasonably good picture of life as it was lived.
In the following five biographical sketches it is possible to see from whence these settlers came, how many of them arrived on the western frontier, what activities they engaged in, the kinds of public organizations in existence, and generally how the society was organized.
ALEXANDER WELLS was born in 1727 in Baltimore, Maryland. He came into the Brooke County area probably in 1773-1775 and settled in the Cross Creek are in what is now Washington County, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Wells was an intelligent man who had no formal education to any extent. He could neither read not write, but this was not uncommon with frontier settlers who eventually became quite prosperous and prominent. He was a surveyor and by using his own system of markings and hieroglyphics recorded data in such a form that his wife who was well educated and familiar with his system was then able to convert this information into calculations and plats. Wells was also quite skilled in the building trades.
It is believed that Alexander Wells was the first person to erect a frame building in Cross Creek Township, Pennsylvania.
Wells received a land grant dated January 17, 1775 covering some 2,000 acres of land in the watershed of Cross Creek. Wells and NATHAN CROMWELL shared one tract of 1,500 acres that was subsequently divided with Wells holding 1,000 acres and Cromwell hold the remaining 500. In addition Wells obtained a tract for 500 acres.
In addition to his holdings of about 2,000 acres in the Cross Creek vicinity, Wells also held land at Mingo Bottom, (now Follansbee, West Virginia) on May 20, 1778, and acquired 200 acres of land on Harmons Creek in the Holidays Cove area.
Wells was very shrewd in choosing his land lines by taking maximum advantage of the water rights along the stream on which his land was situated. He also chose to deal with Virginia instead of Pennsylvania, thereby gaining a financial advantage as Virginia offered land at one tenth less then Pennsylvania.
Once the titles were settled, he started to improve his properties. He built a log house in 1781 without a sawed piece of lumber in it. This house stood for over 100 years. He also erected a stockade fort, began the first grist mill in the northern panhandle, established a general store, a sawmill, tannery, blacksmith shop and a distillery.
By the late 1780's and early 1790's when settlers began to come into the area in increasing numbers Wells began to dispose of some of his holdings in the Cross Creek area and invested the money in property in the Charlestown, Virginia (now Wellsburg) vicinity. By that time a main road connected the two sections.
Prior to coming to the western lands Wells had married LEAH OWINGS on July 12, 1753 at St Paul's Episcopal Church in Baltimore. This marriage resulted in six sons and three daughters, ALEXANDER, NATHANIEL, BAZALLEEL, HENRY, JAMES, THOMAS, MICHAL, HELEN, AND ANN.
After leading a very full life, Alexander Wells died in Charlestown, at the ripe age of 86.
(note: for further information on the WELLS family, contact the T.W. Phillips Library at Bethany College, Bethany, WV. att Jeanne Cobb librarian. gh)
Another early settler in the Brooke County area was JACOB WALKER who was born of Protestant parents near Londonderry, Ireland in 1755.
Jacob Walker was the youngest of ten children and as a young man learned the weaver trade. After some trouble with his brothers about the sale of the linen he wove, he ran away from home and sailed as a stowaway for America in 1773.
During the voyage they were overhauled by British vessel. At that time it was a common practice for the British navy to press all single men into the British military service. Walker was aware of a young lady on the ship and he asked her to swear that she was his wife, thereby being saved from being pressed into service.
On their arrival at Baltimore, the Captain would not let him land until his passage was paid since he had shipped as a stowaway. Walker contacted an uncle who lived in Baltimore and the uncle agreed to pay his fare providing he would work for him for six months. By driving a dray for his uncle he paid his passage and saved a small amount of money.
Shortly thereafter he decided to seek a home in the west. He started out on foot with what money he had in his pocket, gun on his shoulder and a few things tied up in a handkerchief. Coming by way of Fort Pitt, he arrived in the Ohio Valley in April of 1774 at Harmon Greathouse's farm. He aided Mr.Greathouse in clearing three acres of land. The clearing of the land and the planting and raising of the crop of corn was accomplished without horse or plow.
By the end of the summer he had saved enough money to purchase 400 acres of land from Mr. Greathouse at 15 cents per acre and proceeded to build a log cabin on the land.
In the fall he returned to Baltimore and married MARGARET GUTHRIE. In the spring of 1775 he bought a horse and with his bride started back to the Ohio Valley. She rode the horse and he walked.
On arriving at the cabin he told Margaret that his was to be her home. It is reported that she sat down and had a good cry and then began to assume the responsibilities of a frontier housewife.
For the next seven years the Walkers spent the summers working their farm and living at FORT DECKER which was located in the middle of what is now the town of Follansbee. During the winter months they stayed on their farm.
Walker was at the battle of Battle Run, near Mingo, when Captain Buskirk was killed and he helped bury Decker who was killed by the Indians.
In 1778 he built a larger log house in which he and his wife raised a family of six children, five daughters and one son. His wife died September 5, 1819 and he died on May 6, 1845, having lived to the ripe age of 90.
From the union of Jacob Walker and Margaret Guthrie came some of the more prominent citizens of the panhandle and eastern Ohio. Their son, JOHN WALKER was born in 1783 and married SARAH ABRAMS in 1808. They went to housekeeping on the home farm and in the spring of 1825 moved to Ohio. They were the parents of 11 children, five sons and six daughters. Sarah died April 2, 1845 and John died September 18, 1871 at the age of 88.
John's son J. J. WALKER married HANNAH R. MC CONNELL on March 5, 1850. They lived for three years with his father in Ohio but in December of 1853 they moved back to what was then Virginia to the farm where he had been born. They were the parents of five children, JOHN W. and WILLIAM P. WALKER, who lived on the home farm, JANE WALKER who married A. B. CARTER, JAMES A. WALKER who lived in Washington County, Pa. and JOSEPH M. WALKER who resided in Wellsburg and operated a hardware store for many years.
The Walker Farm was located in back of Follansbee, part of it now being known as Parkview.
JOSEPH M. WALKER married ALICE BARCLAY and they were the parents of three children, BARCLAY who dies as a young man, EMILY who married CHARLES MC GLUMPHY and MISS HANNAH WALKER who lived in Wellsburg until 1971 when she moved to Louisburg, North Carolina to make her home with a great nephew, the Rev. Joseph Farmer, a Presbyterian minister.
The great grand daughter of Jacob Walker, Louise McGlumphy married PAUL FARMER and resided in Brilliant, Ohio and the Rev. Joseph Farmer is their only child.
A prominent citizen of the early years in Brooke County can be considered a "second generation frontiersman" in the person of RICHARD STARR born in 1794, the son of JOHN AND MARY SHARP STARR. Richard married MARY YOUNG, daughter of JOHN G. YOUNG, who has married MARY GREATHOUSE on June 13, 1816 in Columbiana County, Ohio. They were married by CLEMENT VALLANDINGHAM.
Richard Starr served as Trustee in the Christian Church of Wellsburg and as such was closely associated with ALEXANDER CAMPBELL in the development of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Bethany College.
He was active in the flatboat trading business on the Ohio River and he operated a ferry boat between Virginia and Ohio. He was also associated in a great many real estate transactions in Brooke County.
Richard and Mary Starr had three children, John born 1822 who died before 1867, Oprelia D. born 1830 and died 1901, Campbell born in 1832.
JOHN STARR married MARY MARKS daughter of SAMUEL AND CAROLINE HARTLEY MARKS.
Mary Young Starr, who was born in 1794 the same year as Richard, died October 30, 1856 and was buried in the New Cumberland Cemetery.
After her death, Richard married a widow MARY VANCE, on September 20, 1857.
Richard Starr died January 8, 1860 and was buried in the New Cumberland Cemetery.
One of the more prominent early physicians of Brooke County was JOHN M. COOPER who was born in Belmont County, Ohio in 1831. His early education was received in the public schools of Martins Ferry (Oh) and West Alexander, Pa. He graduated from the Ohio Medical College of Cincinnati in 1858. After his graduation he studied for some time under DOCTOR WEST of Martins Ferry, Ohio after which he practiced in Grandview Ohio, and later going to West Liberty where he resided nine years.
In 1867 he began to practice medicine in Wellsburg and also became active in the drug, book and insurance business.
Dr. Cooper's business activities were carried out largely in a partnership with DARWIN MC CLELLAND under the firm name of J.M. Cooper and Company. This partnership was dissolved in 1885 when McClelland retired.
Dr Cooper was married to MISS SARAH HEDGES of West Liberty and the couple had five children: JOSEPH, ASHLEY, SAMUEL AND JAY AND MRS. HENRY WISE of Charleston.
Dr Cooper served as a member of the Wellsburg City Council for several years, was a member of the Brooke County Medical Association, Secretary for a number of years of the Brooke Cemetery Company, head of the Cooper Insurance Company and was a member of the Masonic Lodge, and an active member of the Presbyterian Church.
Another practicioner of medicine was DR. T.H. WEIRICH. He was a native of Washington County, PA, but located in Wellsburg in 1873. In addition to his medical practice he was a partner in the KIRKER DRUG STORE.
Dr Weirich played a leading role in many community activities and practiced medicine throughout Brooke and adjacent counties.
Within these five brief biographical sketches are found many indications of the life style of the early settlers of Brooke County. Above all is the evidence of the optimism that prevailed and the courage that existed to build a new nation on the foundation of the humblest of beginnings.