A History of Monroe County, West Virginia
The archives in the capitol of Virginia and the public records of the parent counties of Monroe have contributed a very important share of the material out of which this volume is compiled. Several books touching more or less closely on this region have likewise been consulted, although it has not seemed necessary to consume space in enumerating their titles. Acknowledgment is freely and gladly extended to the writers of these books, as well as to all persons whomsoever who have extended their courteous aid to the author during his field work. Throughout his touring of Monroe he was treated with unfailing kindness and hospitality. His contact with, the county and its people has been such as to render the preparation of this work a pleasure and not a task.
There are those to whom special mention is due. Had it not been for the liberality of Rufus K. Smith and his warm feeling for his native county, it is not probable that the author would have come to Monroe. He regrets that he never met Dr. Smith and that that gentleman did not live to see the completed volume. Even greater credit must be given to Albert Sidney Johnston for the unselfish public spirit and boundless energy that carried forward to success the initial effort of Dr. Smith and steadfastly furthered the enterprise to the end. Judge A.N. Campbell and his daughter, Miss Nannie, have rendered very extensive and valuable assistance, particularly in biographic matters. Isaac N. Ballard has taken a most lively and efficient interest in supplying information from the Greenville region. John W. Boon has written up with much care and detail the history of Methodism in this county and a statement of the families of Springfield district. This is the more praiseworthy because a merchant has constant demands upon his time. Robert F. Fleshman has been particularly helpful in furnishing prehistoric data. The contributions of Cornelius S. Scott have been of much service with respect to the physical geography of Monroe and its pomological interests. John H. Cook has contributed most freely of his long acquaintance with the Sweet Springs valley. And last, but by no means least, generous credit must be given to Hubert P. Tracy and Ashby A. Hodge for their financial assistance.
No two persons are ever precisely alike and writers on local history employ differing methods. It is now in order to call attention to the plan on which this history of Monroe is constructed.
The book that is classified as a local history is often a bulky volume in an ornate binding and is sold at a very high price. There is a brief, sketchy outline of the general history of the county. The distinguishing feature is the biographical department, and it greatly overshadows the other. It is true enough that John Doe values the book for little else than the elaborate write-up for which he has paid a good price and which appeals to bis pride and complacency. This sketch, which portrays John Doe as he wishes the world to view him and at the same time arouses the amusement and perhaps also the caustic comment of his neighbors, is in the nature of current biography and its permanent value is small. The book is primarily a money-maker and is written in response to an artificial demand.
The present writer is not in sympathy with the method just pointed out. He holds that if every well-informed American should know his country's history, he should also know his county's history. Patriotism begins at home, after the same principle that geography is best taught by beginning with the school district. If this view is correct, local history should be presented with a fullness comparable to that of national history. It will throw a light upon the latter and receive a light in return. It explains when, how, and why the county was settled and traces the various phases in its development. It enables the residents of today to comprehend the share in this development which has been taken by the preceding generations. And by better understanding the past of the county, they may become more of a force in contributing their share to its further uplift. The true purpose of local history is educational. This purpose is largely defeated if the price is beyond the reach of the average man, and if the book is designed and used as a parlor ornament. But if the price is to be reasonable the book cannot be large. It cannot be sold at so low a price as the books that circulate heavily in all the forty-eight states of the Union.
The views set forth in the above paragraph have governed the preparation of this volume. A large portion of the book is therefore devoted to the general history of the county. This feature interprets family history as well as local events, and it often presents facts relating to particular families. It is the one section of the book which is certain to convey a message to every inhabitant.
At the outset a volume of about 350 pages was contemplated. To present within this compass the annals of an area that has been occupied by white men a century and a half, and to give fundamental genealogic facts for a population of 13,000, it was necessary to be concise in statement and to omit details of small general importance. Elaborate biographic sketches were out of the question and they could not be inserted gratuitously. Biographic mention is given where it n plainly called for, but it does not usually attempt to go beyond statements of fact. What is known as complimentary mention is sparingly used.
There was found an unexpected wealth of material relating to die general history of the county and also a singularly large number of family names, both living and extinct. The number of pages has been increased. Even then it was found necessary to leave out a few chapters and also a few sections of several others. Although this was done with reluctance, these omitted portions will be published in the Monroe Watchman, Again, the very unusual diversity in family names and the comparative absence of very large family groups with a common surname have made it too inconvenient to follow the intended plan in arranging genealogic data.
To the individual reader what is related of his own kindred is esteemed as of peculiar importance. He is liable to feel aggrieved if the account is not written with the minuteness of an article in the local newspaper. Yet a little thought should make it clear that in a volume of limited size, and with a great deal of ground to cover, it is quite impossible to write some family sketches in great detail without crowding out many others whose claims to similar attention may be fully as good.
This volume does not assume to be a business and professional directory of Monroe county in 1916. The place for such an undertaking is a booklet or a newspaper supplement. A directory may be expected to vary from the actual fact even before it can come from the press. Within a few years the discrepancies are very noticeable. In ten or twenty years it reads almost like ancient history.
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The county discussed in this volume is one of the sixteen named in honor of the fifth president of the United States. The others lie in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The Monroe of West Virginia lies so far south in its own state that it lacks only 10 miles of reaching as far in that direction as McDowell, which is the southernmost county. The parallel of 37 degrees 30 minutes and the meridian of 80 degrees 30 minutes intersect about one mile eastward from Zenith. More than one-half of the United States lies in a more northern latitude.