This is a brief history of Arnoldsburg written by the late Mattie
Starcher Carper, a
Calhoun school teacher. It was written for and re-printed from
Centennial 1856-1956" a celebration of the county.|
In the study of the history of a commonwealth, be it an empire or a
village, it is necessary that we understand something of the causes
which led to its foundation, and that have since acted in creating and
advancing, or retarding and destroying the various institutions, civil
and otherwise. Then that we may know the history of my community,
Arnoldsburg, we must first know something of the history of Calhoun
County, of its settlement and occupation by the white man.
It was in -the year 1607 that the first permanent English Colony was
planted on the shores of the new world. For one hundred years the
settlements were confined to the coast and the river basins of the
Atlantic Coast. At length, however, the red man retreated beyond the
Ohio River and bold adventurers crossed the Alleghenies and carried
the standards of civilization with them; they first planted it along
the south branches of -the Potomac and Monongahela and soon were
founded many pioneer homes. But no white man had yet settled in the
Little Kanawha Valley.
It was in the autumn of the year 1772-the same in which Washington
located his lands in the Great Kanawha Valley-that William Lowther,
Jesse Hughes, and Elias Hughes set out from their homes near where
Clarksburg now stands, with the determination of reaching the Ohio
River. They journeyed up the west fork of the Monongahela, and crossed
the dividing ridge or watershed, separating the eastern from the
western waters, then they came down Leading Creek and, reached the
Little Kanawha river near the present site of Glenville, in Gilmer
County. From here they journeyed down the river and halted at the
mouth of Steer Creek, where they stood, the first white men on the
banks of the Little Kanawha, or within the present limits of Calhoun
County. They continued, to travel down the river until they reached
the Ohio and then they returned to their homes.
The work was done; the county was explored; the story of its hunting
grounds, of its forests, of its fertile soils, was told, and it was
enough to induce many of those who had already crossed the mountains
to again become pioneers, to remove farther into the wilderness. James
Mayes, Thomas Holbert, John Haverty, Phillip Starcher, and Peter
McCune were some of the first settlers in Calhoun County.
The first cabin was erected by a man by the name of West, who came
from Ohio to the vicinity of Arnoldsburg about the year 1807. He was a
squatter and did not remain long.
The first actual settler was Phillip Starcher, my great-grandfather,
who built his cabin where Arnoldsburg now stands, in the year 1810.
Soon after his settlement he was joined by Peter Cogar, Isaac Mace,
William Brannon, and Peter McCune, all of whom found homes along the
West Fork. Descendants of all these men are still living in my
community and I have heard them tell many interesting stories of
pioneer days which have been handed down from one generation to the
Although the first permanent settlement was made at Arnoldsburg in
1810, it was not until 1856 that Calhoun County was- formed out of a
part of Gilmer County. The county was named for John Caldwell
Calhoun, one of the most distinguished men in the political history of
the United States.
In no county in the State has there been so much difficulty concerning
the permanent location of the county seat as in Calhoun. For thirteen
long years it was a perplexing question and one, ere it was settled,
which cost the County many thousands of dollars.
The bill providing for the formation of the county, also provided for
the location of the county seat, either at Pine Bottom at the mouth of
Yellow Creek, or at Big Bend on the Little Kanawha, a vote of the
people to decide between the two places. And further it provided, that
until the vote be taken, the circuit and County courts should be held
at the house of Joseph W. Burson This last requirement on the part of
the general assembly appears to be about the only one complied with,
as we shall now see.
The first court ever held in the County convened, as prescribed by
law, on the 14th day of April,
1856, and adjourned to meet in September, not at Pine Bottom or Big
Bend, but at the residence of
Peregriene Hays where Arnoldsburg is now located.
Accordingly, the second court convened at that place on September 9,
1856; and here it continued
to be held until 1857. But in August 1857, two courts were in session
at the same time, one at
Arnoldsburg and the other at the house of Collins Betz, on the Little
Kanawha, three miles below
where Grantsville now stands. For the purpose of effecting a
reconciliation between the opposing
factions, it was decided that the Courts should be held at the mouth
of Yellow Greek, now
A contract for the erection of a court house was now let to a man by
the name of Ernest
McCloskey, who, in compliance with his contract, erected a frame
building for which he received
$675.00. But legal proceedings were instituted, and on the 15th day of
June, 1858, the court again
convened at Arnoldsburg, and here it continued to be held until 1869.
It now seemed that the matter
was; settled and the question would never more be agitated.
The erection of a substantial brick building was begun at Arnoldsburg,
but after the basement story
had been completed-all of cut stone at a cost of $1500.00-the question
was once more revived, and
an other move made, this time to Grantsville, where a frame court
house was erected, but burned to
the ground before it was occupied. Another arose upon its ruins which
continued to be occupied
until 1880, when a brick building was completed at a cost of
In 1939 the citizens of the county decided to build a modern court
house and jail so in January 1940
the building was started and cost about $45,000. Such is the history
of the seat of justice of Calhoun
County. An attorney who located in the county soon after its
formation, but afterward moved to an
adjoining county, once said that he was obliged to move for he had
been broken up trying to keep
up with the county seat.
So Arnoldsburg was once the county seat and the stone basement is
still standing. As I stand on the
cut stone reminiscing I always wonder in what ways the county might
have been different if
Arnoldsburg had remained the county seat. The basement of cut stone
reminds one, perhaps, of
some of the ruins of the castles in Europe and I always think of the
poem, "The Prisoner of Chillon",
especially in the lines which go "My hair is gray though not with
years, Nor grew it white in a single
night". I wonder how many prisoners might have languished in that
dismal and gloomy basement,
which was to be used as the jail, until their hair turned white.
To go on with my history. It was on the 31st of July, 1863, that a
bill entitled, "an act to provide for
the, division of the various counties composing this State into
townships", passed both houses of the
legislature, and a few days later became a law.
One of the sections of the bill made provision for the appointment of
several prominent and
competent men in each of the counties. Those selected in Calhoun
County were: James Barr,
Thomas Jarvis, Morgan Marks, and G. W. Blackshire These gentlemen
convened at an early day,
and with the aid of the county surveyor, divided the county into five
townships. The name was
changed to districts under the Constitution of 1872. These districts
were: Sheridan, Center,
Sherman, Lee and Washington.
Arnoldsburg is in Lee District along the West Fork of the Little
Kanawha. It was named in honor of
James Arnold who patented the land upon which the town stands. A
postoffice was established here
in 1832 and in the same year the first school was taught by Charles
It was in the year 1835 that the pioneers decided they should -have a
permanent place for schooling
so they joined together and erected a log cabin for a schoolhouse. An
old pioneer describes the
building thus: "It was a log cabin, fourteen by sixteen feet, a dirt
floor, and without a loft or chimney.
A fire place was constructed of flat rocks set on edge, and the smoke
was permitted to seek the
upper regions through the roof; for windows a log was cut out, and
grease paper was used as a
substitute for glass". Michael Haverty was employed to teach in this
building during the winter of
1836-37 and thus became the first "regular" schoolmaster in Calhoun
County at Arnoldsburg.
In 1848, Dr. David Chapman was the first to practice medicine in this
vicinity, but Dr. John P. Lynch
was the first resident physician.
John Campbell was the first blacksmith and a blacksmith shop is still
operated on the same site, now
owned and operated by F. N. King.
The credit of having preached the first sermon has been awarded to two
gentlemen, both noted
pioneer preachers, and to which the credit belongs is a matter of
dispute. All, however, are agreed
as to the place. It was the house of Phillip Starcher at Arnoldsburg.
The preachers were the Rev.
Barnabas Cook and the Rev. Lorenzo Dow. A study has been made of the
early church, records of
the respective denominations represented by these ministers and it has
been decided that probably
the Rev. Mr. Dow preached the first sermon in the year 1820 but that
the first church was organized
in 1822 by the Rev. Mr. Cook. The first Sabbath School was organized
by George Lynch in 1856.
The Arnoldsburg Baptist Church was organized in 1840. It was located
at the mouth of Crummies
Creek, two miles from Arnoldsburg. In 1920 this building was moved to
its present location in
Arnoldsburg. Because the new location was very inconvenient for some
of the members, in 1928
they built the Knotts Baptist Church about four miles from
In 1848 the M. E. Church South established a church at Arnoldsburg.
The Rev. Samuel Black was
the first minister of this church. The building is still used.
The Rev. John A. Thomas was the first Presbyterian minister who ever
visited in Arnoldsburg; he
made a visit in 1856 but no church was organized until 1878 when the
Rev. Samuel Hench began
preaching here and organized a church. However, there is no
Presbyterian church in Arnoldsburg at
the present time. They united with the Baptist Church about 1895.
The first grist mill was built by Daniel Duskey in 1843. George Lynch
and James Mayse erected and
put in operation the first saw mill in 1855.
Arnoldsburg is located in an agricultural section. Corn and vegetables
are the leading crops. The
population is about 200. There are five stores, carrying a line of
groceries and general merchandise,
three garages, one restaurant, and one blacksmith shop in
There is a new nine room school building and a bus takes the high
school students to the Calhoun
County High School at Grantsville. Arnoldsburg is on routes 119 and
There are no railroads in Calhoun County, but oil and gas developments
have furnished employment
to many people, especially around Grantsville and Arnoldsburg. Also
offering employment to several
people, is the recently located factory, The Rubber Fabricators, Inc.,