MACFARLAN WAS A ROUGH AND TUMBLE VILLAGE - Despite Serious History, Most Will Remember The Roadhouses


Last of the Mcfarlan road houses

By Bob Weaver 2002

Macfarlan, on the historic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (Route 47) of 1840's and 50's construction, is remembered for its role in the timbering, oil and gas industry, which came to the front in the late 1800's. A few miles away at Cairo was the east-west B & O Railroad, a gateway to the greater world.

However, for the most of us, the village of never more than 100 will be remembered for its rowdy and bawdy road houses, which managed to maintain themselves long after the village hit its prosperity in the early 1900's. Years beyond prohibition, some of the saloons held forth through the 1970's.

Macfarlan was like a frontier town, with "dust on my saddle, blood on my boots" survivors - rough and tumble, with the taming influence of the Catholic Church for the Irish and German immigrants who came to the area. Many are buried in the Oxbow Cemetery a few miles away.

People would stop to "sip and shop"

The village had two hotels, the Dogwood and the Beechwood, and several stores including the W. R. Hayes Trading Company and the F. J. Lemon Store, in addition to a blacksmith shop and other amenities.

Local storytellers remember dozens of incidents, brawls, stabbings and shootings. People would come from miles around to get drunk and participate, according to a local resident. "One time the fight got so involved, the brawlers drifted into the middle of Route 47, closing the highway," they reported.

Calhoun tourists to Parkersburg would stop to sip, breaking the journey, or pour out of the hills for action on Friday and Saturday nights. I tipped a few "social suds" at Smitty's in my pre-alcoholic days, if indeed there were such days. It met my need to socialize in dark and dank places, fitting in.

In the new millennium, the roadhouses have all faded with the rest of the villages history.

Beer parlor memories overshadows real history

Macfarlan was the terminus of the narrow-gauge Cairo and Kanawha Valley Railroad, also known as the "Calico Road," whose owners obviously had a vision of going beyond the small village. The railroad was an extension of a line built from Cairo to the nearby Ritchie Mines.

The Ritchie Mine "lode" was discovered in 1852, and brought investors and workers to test and mine the vast deposits of crystallized petroleum, much like mining coal. The deposits were described as a freak of nature, the only discovery of its type in the United States. The commercial use faded when "real" oil was pumped from the earth.

Today the village is noted for a remaining general store and a few houses, most in disrepair.

All that remains of the old Cline Nutter place

Over toward Cantwell, a real country store, holding on

Store's window has signage from 100 years ago

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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