The History of Taylor County Chapter One Hundred-Twenty-Eight

Great Flood Recalled

Miss Rossie Hewes ended the year of her dancing school in Brinkman hall by a grand ball Thursday evening, December 27, at which all the parents of her class were incited to witness the progress made by the school during the year. Miss Hewes was perhaps the best teacher of the terpsichorean art in the state and her pupils showed the effect of her training.

Tuesday night January 3, 1884, Copestone Chapter No. 12. Royal Arch Masons entertained their members wives and friends in the historic old dining room of the Grafton Hotel at a reception and banquet prepared by Manager Colonel George W. Hoover and his efficient hotel staff. Perhaps no more brilliant gathering of prominent men and women of Grafton ever assembled between the walls than those who came on that early day of the new Year of 1884 as the guests of the local Masonic order and it was a grand sight to see the beautiful woman arrayed in rustling silks, rich brocades and shimmering satin walk down the wide old stairway on which the feet of many notables in days a gone had trod. Three long tables the length of the room were beautifully arranged to seat members, wives and guests.

Reverend Doctor James H. Flanagan, after all were seated asked the grace.

Charles H. Brendel acted as toastmaster and called on General George W. Brown, Judge V. P. Chapin, Dr. Flanagan, A. J. Stone of Fairmont, and Arthur Sinsel of Grafton for short talked. Judge Chapin delivering the speech of the evening in a witty, interesting and instructive manner. The committee of Charles Brendel, George W. Creel, John T. Pilson and Nicholas Rogers was highly complimented on the manner of arrangements and had souvenir cards printed for the occasion and a bouquet for the ladies. One hundred and twenty-five persons were seated and partook of a menu which included everything in season.

General B. F. Kelley was cordially invited by President B. F. Martin of Grafton and Greenbrier Railroad to be his honored guest at the formal opening of this newest railroad in West Virginia. At first, General Kelley hesitated to accept the incitation on account of the feeling that the people of Barbour county still were bitter toward him for his part in bombarding the town of Philippi in the first land battle of the Civil war on that historic Monday June 3, 1861. To set his mind at rest in regard to the feeling of the people of Barbour county, President wrote saying:

“The presence of yourself and good wife will add greatly to our enjoyment. The spot where we celebrate our opening is historic ground to yourself and many others. The gathering storm of more than twenty years is lost is the hallowed sunshine of peace. The dark clouds and thunderstorm have passed swords have been beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks. I can assure you of a warm welcome on behalf of all the people of this section.”

A very warm spell of weather during the middle of February and abnormal rainfall and this with melting snows on the slopes of the Tygart Valley watershed caused the streams emptying into the river to pour tremendous volume of water into the river causing it to lave its banks inundating all low lying property along its length.

The property damage over in West and South Grafton while severe on Maple avenue and Front street was not as bad as the property damage suffered at Wheeling and Parkersburg where both town suffering tremendous losses and untold suffering on the people of the two towns.

Train service out of Grafton was abandoned and special writers for the big city papers to the number 93 were hurried to write of the greatest flood since 1832. The cry for help from the stricken towns brought action from Mayor Deck who called a mass meeting of the citizens at the Court House on Wednesday, February 20, and asked for contributions of money, clothing and foods to relieve the suffers of this frightful disaster. The Baltimore and Ohio cam with a contribution of $600, and First National Bank $100.00. The foundry force of the Baltimore and Ohio save $65.00 and the fraternal order contributed funds to swell the total to $100. Foods and clothing were contributed by the generous people in large amounts that the railroad carried to the suffers free of charge.

A great throng of people went to South Grafton on Monday, February 4, 1884, to witness the first train on the Grafton and Greenbrier Railroad leave the station carrying the people to the “Philippi Jubilee.” Everything in the way of rolling stock owned by the company was pressed into service box and flat cars., gondolas were fitted with board seats to accommodate the passengers anxious to be present at the celebration.

The train carrying President Martin, the board of directors and his distinguished guest. General Kelley, and Mrs. Kelley, was backed into the station and when the party arrived at the station a great cheer greeted the veteran soldier by the comrades who followed him in that historic march to Philippi years before. General Kelley paused to acknowledge to greeting of the men bowed his thanks to the throng.

Engine No. 1 driven by the veteran engineer, William Graham and Fireman Bernard Wilmotn, was coupled to the train by Brakeman Charles Bishop. Captain James Flanagan waved the signal for departure amid the shouts of those unable to find a place on the train and the others whose business prevented them from attending the “Philippi Jubilee.”

President H. H. Hoff of the Barbour County Court, came to Grafton at the invitation of President Martin as the guest of himself and Board of Directors and rode with them on this first train bound for the Barbour county metropolis. He being in a reminiscent mood as the train flashed by will remembered scenes caused him to write of his experience saying:

“When the engine stopped for water from once will remembered spring at which I often quenched my thirst fifty-five years before as a lad, my eyes turned to the hills all about all wrapped in a mangle of purest white and at my favorite hill down which I had coasted in the years of my adolescence and which stood as grand and indomitable as when nature in ta fitful mood in an upheaval of the earth mounded then up I walked some two hundred yards toward the engine all bright and we spoke to the white haired driver who doubtless began his career when both he and the railroads of the nation were young and what must have been his experience with the passing of the years? The snow, the steam, the train, the fine cars were. Beautiful! Entrancing! Joyful! Returning to the car-the thoughtful mood still on me my thoughts turned back to the home of my youth hard by and led me to wonder what I was doing 55 years ago? Probably roaming the mountains in search of “seng”  which I took fifteen miles to exchange for necessaries for our family of five of which I was the eldest or probably cutting a “grub” to make a flail to thresh out wheat to make a hundred pounds of flour, a circumstance I well remember, and taking the flour distance of sixty miles to exchange for a bushel of salt. Then I was more glad that I used my influence and contributed my mite for this railroad that mine and my neighbors children may love and enjoy an improved country surround by conditions that those old hard pioneers who broke a wildness never dreamed of. Then I wished that this railroad would be pushed far into the interior of our grand state that is blessed with all that is needed in abundance to make West Virginia the store house of the nation perchance the few aged pioneers still living might get the same thrill that came to me at his first train ride though scenes of my earliest recollection were this accomplished and they were permitted to see this fine train flash by their humble abodes or perhaps, like me enjoy their first ride on something different from the mule team or the ox cart to which they were accustomed all their lives.”