The History of Taylor County Chapter Three Hundred-Seventy


The History of the Town of Alpena

Henry Leuthardt, Sr. a respected and dependable citizen of Walter St, died at his home on July 14, 1909. a native of Basle, Switzerland, he was induced along with other families of his native land to come to West Virginia by Mr. R. Agricola, a land agent, whose ambition was to establish a settlement in a portion of Randolph County of French and Swiss people in this county whose climate and topography was much the same as their countries. His dream was to establish industries such as these people were engaged in and produced in their homelands. In 1878 he brought a few families and started the settlement he named Alpena among them the family of Henry Leuthardt, and the parents of Ralph Knutti, former instructor in the Grafton high school. The lack of rail facilities and good roads was, probably, the greatest deterrent to the growth of the settlement of these thrifty and frugal people. The nearest rail point to the settlement at that time was the town of Grafton and the products of the settlement must be hauled in wagons to Grafton in exchange for such food products and wearing apparel to provide for the people of Alpena until they were firmly established and beginning to produce for their needs. The lack of a nearby market to absorb the products of their handiwork and the lack of roads to the settlement was the largest factor and inducing more people to establish themselves in the colony, and, 2, the lack of schools for training the young in the ways of their new environment caused them to leave the settlement and seek a living in the more populous communities where they found employment at their trades and on public works. Mr. Leuthardt believing a better opportunity to provide for his family and the education of his sons left the settlement in 1883 and took up his residence inn Grafton where he found employment on many public and private projects underway in the town. Energetic and thoroughly dependable he never lacked for employment until incapacitated by infirmities incident to the age and, at his passing, kindly hands after the last words were said overall that was more to love him carried his remains to the resting place in Bluemont cemetery, for from his native Switzerland. His youngest son, Alphonse Leuthardt, prominent in business and political activities, former postmaster of Grafton, and respected citizen of the Blueville section, is the only member of the family now a resident. Sad to say Mr. Agricola’s dream of a considerable colony in Randolph County never came true, but the village of Alpena still exists and the descendants of the first settlers still occupy the lands settled by their forebearers and are probably the most thrifty people in their county and still engaged in the pursuits established by their parents six decades ago. The city of Elkins now provides a market for the ones of these people and their products find a market in the towns and cities throughout the nation.

Bernard Hessen, a patriarchal resident and highly respected resident, died at his home, July 22, 1909. Mr. Hessen came to Grafton about the time of the northwest Virginia railroad completed the old stone shops at Grafton junction in 1853 and was one of the first men to man a machine in the old shops. He was one of the organizers and charter members who met an old Gerkin hall, N6, 1866, to form Grafton Lodge No. 31 Independent Order of Odd Fellows and retained his membership in the order throughout his lifetime period he was a witness to the many changes that happened and the shifting changes that come about with the passing of the years and so many of the men who worked by his side in the stone shops depart the way of all flesh and, 2, he saw, and doubtless, attended the funeral rites of his fraternal brothers who had part in the organization ceremonies of Grafton lodge No. 31 a half century before and the latter affiliates of the order carried all that was mortal of him to Bluemont cemetery, where he was laid beside those who founded this order, devoted to friendship, love and truth. One by one those old settlers were called:

“To that mysterious realm, where each shall take

His chamber in the silent halls of death.”

And the sight of his kindly face in aged form is removed from the picture and remembered by his other old friends until the time comes for them, too, to join the “innumerable caravan” and then they fade from memory as the younger generation is called to take their places in the van.

The Grafton Daily Republican in an editorial began the agitation for a new high school building and calling attention to the already crowded condition of the present classes in the old Central School, which at the time how’s the high school students and part of the building and calling attention to the Board of Education, which estimated that with the fall opening of the school term not less than 250 more pupils than the school could accommodate would seek admission to classes. This overcrowding would force the Board of Education to procure additional classrooms and engage extra teachers outside the regular school buildings and add greatly to the school taxes period this is a matter that should receive attention and consideration at this time period with the constant growth of the school population and the need have adequate housing of the high school classes in a building separate and apart from the elementary grades is a needed want and should receive the support of all the people of Grafton.

While the classes who began and completed their elementary and high school training in this 40 year old educational institution around which claims treasured memories and so many pleasant hours, the many friendships formed, which resulted in the romance that joined many of the boy and girl students in the bonds of matrimony after graduation, doubtless would resent the abandonment of this treasured old building yet they would, and all possibility lend their aid and support and procuring a new and more modern building adequate to care for the educational need of this growing school population.

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