South Elkins Was Its Own Town At Turn of Century


At the beginning of the present century what is now the town of Elkins was two separate towns, each complete with a charter, mayor, council and police force.

South Elkins had been incorporated as a separate town in 1899, but its history begins earlier, with the subdivision of the farm on which it was built.

Levi Dyre Ward, son of Jacob Ward, was given a considerable portion of what is now South Elkins by his father in 1849. This tract included everything between Ward Avenue and the river east of Davis Avenue, and everything between Posten Place and the river west of Davis Avenue. Levi D. Ward's farmhouse stood near or at the east end of 16th Street. His father's first home in the area had been near there, and perhaps it was this structure that according to testimony Levi D. Ward bought for 20 bushels of oats and moved onto his property. At any rate the house was a frame and weather boarded structure, and there was a stable of logs on the place.

Yankee forces under Col. Harris made it a routine policy to harass Confederate sympathizers in the area, and in the Summer of 1863 Levi D Ward was captured by the Yankees and taken to Fort Delaware as a prisoner Ward's wife, Rebecca, entered into a contract with Jesse F. Phares under which Phares went to Fort Delaware and bought Ward back alive for $30. Levi D. Ward died on Oct. 5, 1863. One of his children also died and they were buried in coffins of walnut made by Jesse W. Goddin. Rebecca Ward paid $3.50 for her child's coffin, and $9 for Levi's.

The passing of Levi D. Ward left his family destitute, and they began selling off their livestock and renting their farmland. J. D. Hedrick later testified he bought eight head of cattle from Rebecca Ward for $25-$30 per head, and that he paid her in "Eastern Virginia (Confederate) money, not U.S., Wheeling, Greenback' money." Perry Hart Wees rented part of the Ward farm land, that portion on either side of what is now 11th Street at the east end, and paid $35 rent for one crop.

In 1876 the Levi D. Ward farm was subdivided among his heirs and after some squabbling and legal action it was decided that Rebecca Ward would remain in possession of the five acres surrounding the house and orchards. that James A. Ward and Andrew B. Ward would have, everything else south of what is now Tenth Street, and their sister, Mary, wife of Johnson W. Phares would have everything north of present day Tenth Street. May Phares sold her portion to Barbara Shiflett, who in turn sold it to Creed Earle. Andrew and James Ward sold their portions to Perry Hart Wees.

In April of 1890, seeing the prosperity of the new town across the river, Creed Earle entered into a contract with H. F. Dowell to subdivide the Phares tract into lots, and develop it. The sales began with portions of what is now Earle and Dowell streets in South Elkins. Meanwhile, however, H. G. Davis and the Valley Improvement Company had acquired Perry Hart Wees' portion of the Ward farm from him, and they set their sites on the Earle tract. Through several transactions they acquired nearly all of it, and began the development of the "Valley Improvement Company Addition" to the town of Elkins.

Davis' original intention was for the town of Elkins to be a "dry" town, and he forbade the sale of liquor in it. So a cluster of saloons were built across the river at the south end of what is now the Davis Avenue Bridge. Possibly as an effort o prevent Davis from incorporating that area into the dry town of Elkins, or possibly in response to efforts of the temperance interests to forbid the sale of alcoholic beverages outside incorporated towns.

On Feb. 2, 1899 several citizens of the south side of the river petitioned for incorporation as the town of South Elkins. William P. Smith was the first mayor of South Elkins, W. H. Powers the first recorder, and C. H. Scott, John McCue, Creed Wolf, Hiram Calkins and Jacob Poling comprised the first council.

In January of 1900 an election was held for the town of South d Elkins, and Lew S. Keim defeated Cyrus Hall Scott for mayor. In March the town purchased a lot on Davis Avenue between Tenth and Eleventh Streets, near the Harold building which presently houses Snapdragon Photography, from Deborah Miller. this was lot 721 in block 70 of the Valley Improvement Company addition. Here they built their offices and jail, and they held their first c council meeting in the new council chambers in May.

The South Elkins city election for 1901 saw Lew S. Keim as the candidate for mayor on the "Citizen's Ticket" and L. C. Wolf as mayoral candidate on the independent "ticket." The results matter little, however, as the town of South Elkins was incorporated into Elkins proper in February of that year.

The Elkins officials used the jail of South Elkins for several years. It was at that jail that Wilford Davis shot and killed Police Chief Page Marstiller in April of 1902. By 1904 the condition of the building had apparently deteriorated somewhat and council took action toward selling the property. They retained the doors and fixtures of the' South Elkins jail, however, and when it was sold in 1904 the irons were used in the new jail: built adjoining the fire department.

Elkins Brick Company in 1908 The Elkins Brick Company was located in South Elkins near the IOOF Home.

The brick plant began operation in 1902 and by 1906 was producing between 40,000 and 50,000 bricks per day. Thirty full-time employees assisted in the manufacture of this essential building product which was shipped throughout central West Virginia for use in many construction projects. Many of the early Elkins streets were paved with the bricks produced at this plant.

Darius D. Boyles, an employee of the brick plant, married Frankie Lewis in 1908, when this photo was made, and started housekeeping in one of the houses shown in the left of the photo. On a knoll in the upper right of the photo is the old Davis and Elkins College. (Phot courtesy of Mildred Boyles)

Bricks Manufactured in South Elkins Employees of the Elkins Brick Company proudly displayed their product which was manufactured in the south Elkins plant for more than thirty years. These bricks were used as paving bricks in the streets of Elkins and were commonly used in building construction in Elkins and the surrounding counties.

Comments regarding this page to: Deborah Johnson.