By DAVID ARMSTRONG
Henry Gassaway Davis' total investment in the land upon which he laid out the town of Elkins was just over $6,960. Purchasing of the land by Davis would become the town of Elkins began on Sept. 6, 1888, when he acquired 163 acres from Bernard Hinkle for $3,462.50.
This tract included what would become the northwest 3/4 of the railroad yard, the overhead bridge, Halliehurst and Graceland, Gateway, Kerens Hill, Harrison Avenue to the DM Hospital, the north side of Main from Reed to Porter and from Porter Avenue to the River. It was on this tract that Davis would put the core of his Randolph County holdings. On the same day he also purchased another small tract at Leadsville, near present day Maplewood Cemetery, for $75. It was a 2 1/2 acre tract he bought from Dr. D.S. Haymond.
Eleven days later, on Sept. 17, 1888, Davis purchased from the Hyre family nine tracts of land at present day Harpertown, totaling 427 acres for $3,500. On the 26th, he traded this tract for the 99-acre home farm of Amanda Hinkle Harper's heirs. She died, and her husband, Archibald had to get permission from the court to make the trade, stating that the 99-acre tract had little timber, while the larger tract was covered with timber and he believed it in his children's best interests to make the exchange. The Harper tract included the river front from Kerens Avenue foot bridge down to Porter Avenue, most of the downtown, all of the city park, and the south end of the college campus at Sycamore street.
On Sept. 28, 1888, Davis purchased a 71-acre tract of land on Craven's Run northeast of Gateway from the Lough family from $1,500. He bought the Adam Mouse farm nearby on Nov. 18, 1888 in two transactions totaling $3,346.60 and about 150 acres. The Mouse lands extended from the Parson road between Phillips' Store and Cravens Run east to the Harpertown-Gilman Road. The Nov. 18 purchase contained part of a farm willed to Adam Mouse by his stepfather, Christian Simon, and on it was the little Simon-Mouse family cemetery, around which Davis continued burying Elkins' dead, including his own family, and the little burial ground became Maplewood Cemetery
On May 28, 1889; Perry Hart Wees sold Stephen B. Elkins a 23-acre tract immediately northwest of the intersection of Sycamore Street with Harpertown Road. At this time Elkins made an agreement with the city of Elkins to build the street that is now called Sycamore Street from Randolph Avenue to Buffalo Street, but was then called Park Street. Elkins paid $782 for the 23 acres.
On June 18, 1889 Elkins purchased a 29 3/4 acre tract near present day Highland Park from Levi W. Rosencrance. This is the property west of the Harpertown-Gilman Road at its intersection with the road into Highland Park. On July 9, H.G. Davis purchased 10G acres including the land where Harper-McNeeley Auditorium of D&E College now stands from
William H. Coberly. Elkins paid $600 for the Rosencrance tract and Davis paid $3,650 for the Coberly tract.
The July 18 issue of the Philippi Plaindealer newspaper reported that Henry Sidwell was in charge of hands grading the top of the hill to build the Elkins residence at a cost of $40,000. The same news item stated that Davis contemplated building also. The following April, 1890, the Piedmont Herald newspaper reported that the Elkins residence would be completed soon.
The June 7, 1890 issue of the Piedmont Herald reported that construction had begun on the Kerens mansion, now Kerens Hill. However, Davis did not deed that 37 acre piece of property to Kerens until Oct. 14, 1891. On July 28, 1890, for $1,000 Davis purchased a 50 acre tract from the Jenkins family. This tract was east of Boundry Street in Highland Park and included present day North School.
In January of 1891, Davis and Elkins executed a deed of division of the tracts at Elkins they had purchased so as to give the western half to Davis and the eastern half to Elkins. These tracts became their respective home tracts and extended north and south from Highland Park to Sycamore St. and east and west from Harpertown road to route 219 north.
The 1893 Randolph Count Land Books list Halliehurst with a value of $35,000 with no listing for Graceland. The first listing for Graceland is in 1894.
Over the next several years Davis and Elkins added several little tracts to their home holdings. Elkins purchased a four acre tract that currently is the location of the Forestry building on Sycamore Street from Perry Hart Wees in 1895. This tract included the site of the old "burnt cabin," a well known pre-1850 reference point. In the same deed Elkins purchased a narrow one acre strip of land near the D&E Gym on the old Leading Creek and Buffalo Turnpike, which road included present day Buffalo Street and ran north straight into the present day campus, through the present day auditorium. Elkins closed the portion of the road in his farm and replaced it with the present day Harpertown Road.
In March of 1897, Davis purchased a portion of the present day north end of Maplewood Cemetery from Mrs. William M. Phares. In April of that year, he purchased 27 acres of the Solomon Hinkle farm from his heirs, which tract included the hilltop east of north Randolph Avenue opposite Heavener Acres. These lands were incorporated into Elkins and Davis' respective home holdings and remained in their families until sold off by their heirs.
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