Picture if you will a quiet dirt road, winding through the country, up and down hills, past farmhouses, through groves of trees, across small streams. The time is 1888. The picturesque little country road is what would later become the Parsons Road north of Elkins, W.Va.
A pair of well kept, sturdy, horse drawn buckboards are seen proceeding south toward the little community of Leadsville. Aboard are members of two prominent families and two coachmen, on a scouting trip, looking over an area where they soon would build one of West Virignia's foremost industrial empires. The leader of the party is Henry Gassaway Davis.
What do the members of the little party see as they drive through the area that would later become Elkins? They beheld a bustling, viable little agricultural community. A community which would soon vanish from the face of the earth forever, disappear in the wake of the industrial boom.
Contrary to much of what has been written over the past century, the actual site of the town of Elkins was never Leadsville. While the pre-Davis residents of the site of Elkins used a Leadsville post office address the actual village of Leadsville was, and still is, situated north of the present corporate limits of Elkins, at the crossing of Leading Creek by Route 219. At the coming of the Davis and Elkins party the bridge across the creek on that spot was a wooden covered bridge. Just upstream from it, in the picturesque old house which was recently converted into a church, was the store, blacksmith shop and farm of William M. Phares. This structure also held the Leadsville Post Office. It was part of the old John Phares farm, and across the road, downstream from the bridge, lived Johnson W. Phares.
Continuing south toward the present city of Elkins, beside the present day location of Philips' Store, stood a one room schoolhouse. Land for this little school had been donated by Adam Mouse in 1870. There formerly had been an older schoolhouse further south, near present day Heavener Acres.
Near the entrance of Maplewood Cemetery stood the office and home Of Dr. Daniel S. Haymond. Behind it, closer to the actual cemetery, stood a well known structure, the "calico house," it being the home of the Adam Mouse family. The Mouse family also had a sawmill in the area, and a road connected their farm with the bottom land to the east at present day Harpertown.
At the present day site of the West Virginia Children's Home was the home and farm of Solomon Hinkle, and to the east of it near the present intersection of Heavener Avenue at North Randolph, stood a little church, the Hinkle Methodist Church, the land for it having been donated by Solomon Hinkle's father in 1859. This little church building was torn down to build the railroad through "the cut."
Such was the little village of Leadsville. As was stated earlier, Leadsville was not actually situated on the site of Elkins proper, and it is still shown on the geological survey maps of the area. From the Hinkle Church the road continued over the hill approximately on the location of the present road through the cut, but on the ground above it. On the other side the site of Elkins was also well developed as farmland at the coming of Davis and Elkins.
Across Harrison Avenue from the present day Third Ward apartments, on the site of the mansion that now houses the Youth Health Service, stood the home and farm of Bernard Hinkle. He had obtained his farm, like his brother Solomon, from his father Ananias Hinkle. The road continued south through present day Elkins along the same course as present Randolph Avenue. What is currently the intersection of Randolph Avenue and Buffalo Street is a very old intersection, and around it had grown a little village known as "The Round."
The present day downtown was owned by the family of Amanda Harper, she also being a child of Ananias Hinkle, and having derived her title from him. The farmhouse stood at the current location of the Catholic School and Nunery, and this may well have been the site of the Thomas Skidmore cabin dating from the 1780s. The evidence would tend to suggest this but is inconclusive.
Across the road to the east stood the home of Creed Earle, it having been an old blacksmith shop dating from before the Civil War. Past the Earle residence, on the site of what is now Barb's Laundromat, stood the "White Church," a Presbyterian church, land for which had been donated by Job Wees in the 1850s. In the point of the intersection, on the site of what is now Brad's Exxon, stood a house, the home of John Baylis Ward Sr. Perry Hart Wees had acquired the lot and sold it to John Shomo for a blacksmith shop in 1888.
The lots that now are occupied by Ward Auto Parts and the Masonic Hall were the store and home respectively of Perry Hart Wees, one of the best known merchants in the area. Wees' orchard was on the site of what is now the courthouse. Further south, in the bend of the road at Hardees, stood the farm of Lewis Woolwine, the famous round barn occupying the site of Hardees and the house being across the road. While Bernard Hinkle, P.H. Wees, and Lewis Woolwine all sold part of their farms to Henry G. Davis, they each retained enough of their holdings to lay out their own additions to the town, a move that would profit them considerably.
The round bard dated from well before the Civil War, and when it was destroyed by a storm in 1898 the newspapers reported that the last remnant of the little village called "The Round" was gone.
The area around the present day McDonald's Restaurant was also a well known spot when Davis and his little party rolled through the area on their scouting mission. On the site of what is now the Kump Mansion stood the Goddin House Hotel and tavern, owned by Jesse W Goddin. It was here, local legend states, that Jesse James spent a few days in hiding from the law in the 1870s. A small stream cross the road near the Goddin House. It is now covered by a culvert, but at the arrival of Davis one crossed it on "the Red Bridge." Further south, across from the present day Western Steer Steakhouse stood the home of Sarah "Sallie Mike" Yokum, a structure which was also reportedly a tavern for a number of years.
Such was the site of Elkins as seen by the Davises and Elkinses if they ode through the area in 1888 via the main road. A Such was the site of Elkins as seen by the Davises and Elkinses if they ode through the area in 1888 via the main road. A number of other farms were located nearby.
In what is now south Elkins was the Andrew Taylor home, now occupied by Dr. Jerry Metheny, and the old Levi D. Ward farmhouse stood near the east end of what is now 16th Street.
The old George Hill farm, now the Smith property on Scott Hill, appears to have been occupied by Allen Taylor. Across the river, Zirus Wees had a farm behind what is now the Elkins Junior High School, and the Lough farm was in the bottom west of it. Morgan Kittle lived in what is now 3rd Ward, and William H. Coberly lived on the campus of the present day college, near Harper McNeeley Auditorium. A number of other families also lived on the site of the town, but these for the most part rented and therefor are harder to pinpoint.
In 1880 the area that is now contained in the corporate limits of Elkins, plus Leadsville, had a population of about 125. Much has been written over the years to the affect that H.G. Davis came to this area when it was an unbroken wilderness. Company publications are to some extent responsible for this. In fact, the valleys had been well developed for over 100 years at the coming of the capitalists, and generations had lived, worked and played in little villages like The Round and Leadsville. To these areas Davis brought the industrial revolution. He brought jobs, activity, and a building boom. He replaced the old with the new, the past with the future, and changed the face of the area forever.
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