The History of Taylor County Chapter Three Hundred-Sixty-Seven

A Freak Locomotive

The old John Robinson circus, which began its amusement career in 1824, and which has visited this section of West Virginia long before its separation from the mother state of Virginia and untold time since came to Grafton for two performances, May 21, 1909. Perhaps no amusement enterprise was a more welcome visitor than this aggregation of animals, athletes, freaks and whatnot that usually was found under the big top. Robinson, the elder, and Abraham Smith, four most citizen of Pruntytown, we’re boyhood friends, and both educated in William and Mary college and Virginia and Robinson never while in this section of Virginia failed to bring his attraction to Pruntytown traveling by road at that time. The coming of the railroad and the greater size of the circus ended these old road incursions and Grafton, with its railroad facilities in greater population, became the logical place to give these entertainments. Few of the present population recall the famous Stickney family, perhaps the greatest bareback riders of their time. The Holland family of aerialists, Nonpariel Lewis, The wonderful negro rider; Old John Lowlo, the famous clown, Who made untold thousands laugh at his mots and quips and comic songs.

Hon. Stuart F. Read, secretary of the state for West Virginia, was Memorial Day orator on this 59th year exercises. A highly polished speaker whose newspaper training and experience made him familiar with much of the history of the events that led up to the civil war and much of his talk during the afternoon was confined to these events. He paid a very beautiful and glowing tribute to the living and dead who came forward at the time of the nation’s greatest crisis and stressed the need of keeping in mind all things for the preservation of that freedom and liberty no other people on earth enjoy but the sons of the great United States.

The graduating class of 1909 held the exercises in the Opera House and was composed of six members who were: Edith Boliner, Nina McDade, Leonidas Knotts, Bertha Newlon, Lila Clare Rector, frank Rector. Mrs. Edith Boliner Madera is employed as a saleswoman in employee of B. F. Poe, prominent merchant of Grafton. Mrs. Nina McDade Powell is the wife of Edwin Powell and resides in West Grafton. The others live within the confines of this state except frank rector, who resides in California. 

George Timmons, one of the quaint characters of the town, died in a dilapidated building on the old Taylor County fairground, June 15, 1909. A veteran of the civil war on the side of the confederacy, he with his family came to Grafton in about 1884 in hopes of providing a better living condition. He bent his energies in this direction by doing odd jobs of hauling for people of the town. Industrious and honest, but sensitive, this trait was quickly recognized by the rougher element of the youth of the town, who made sport of this weakness and at times hurled insulting remarks at him as he went about his daily tasks of honest labor and worthy purpose to provide for those depending upon him. Like untold other men in this unequal struggle for a bare existence have gone the way of all flesh and soon forgotten. No monument marked the last resting place of this man who had no higher motive than to provide a decent living for his family. But those who knew and respected him remember him with a kindly word and the tongues that in the past jibed at him, many, 2, are silent and sleep in close proximity to him in Bluemont cemetery.

Perhaps the most far-fetched fictional writer of the 1900s could write a story of the freak prank of locomotive No. 870, drawing passenger train No. 4 into Grafton on the night of June 17, 1909. Driver John Cummings feeling his engine leaving the rails and bumping the ties at distance, some 250 feet, as his train was entering the West End railroad yard and when it’s wild ride over the ties jostled and through the passengers about in a frightening manner, nearing the switch that leads to the old passenger station, the engine returned to the rails and drew into the station without harm to any of the passengers aboard the headed Captain Michael Shields shout to hold on to the car seats, which possibly saved many from injury. This mishap was one of the most remarkable in the history of the old mainline division. Among passengers on board were C. W. F. Kunst And daughter, Miss Hattie, A. Hood Phillips, Frank A. Rauscher, Harry M. Murray, Joseph Dorsey, Claude E. Vincent, William Archdeacon, Clark Madera, Mrs. N. F. Kendall, Mrs. Cora Burdett, Misses Nettie Priess, Kate Smith, Reverend W. H. Myers and Catcher Miller, of the Grafton- Pennsylvania- West Virginia baseball club, who possibly would not care to have this freak prank repeated while riding a passenger train.


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