|By Norma Knotts Shaffer and Robert J. Weaver 1999|
There is a conspicuous absence of record on the black families that
graced our Calhoun wilderness, some of them
arriving before the Civil War.
Many of them are buried on the
hillsides of farms on which they labored for others,
some of them as slaves, marked only by field stones.
There is no
mention of black families in the Calhoun History
Book in 1989.
While it seems that most of the Calhoun blacks were widely
accepted in the community, before and
after the Civil War, it was not without prejudice or stereotype that
they lived on Darkey Fork (down from "Nigger
Low Gap") and on Raccoon Run or Nigger Ridge.
In Calhoun County
the Klu Klux Klan was alive and well
during the early part of the twentieth century, although there is
little record they directly harassed our black
families, but that could be debated.
This account is a collection of
history, stories, and genealogy, compiled from
various sources, with the intention that others will be inspired to
A Day Trip To Darkey
Retired schoolteacher, Marvin Stemple, joined me for a day trip to
Darkey Fork. I love the adventure, as does
he, of burrowing deep into narrow, tree sheltered Calhoun hollows,
exploring primitive paths and abandoned roads,
or just running the sparsely populated ridges.
Calhoun County has
about 600 miles of "upkeep" roads, and
hundreds more of back paths, well roads and abandoned
"Darkey Fork" is one of them, the abode to one
of Calhoun's most memorable black families - the Hicks. It is listed on the
map as Big Fork, situated on the edge
of Center and Lee Districts, between the Joker Ridge Road near my
home place, and the waters of lower Pine
KEY - THE HICKS
1.Joker Ridge (Center-Lee District Line) "Nigger
2.Main Hicks Settlement on Darkey Fork (Big
4.Mouth of Hollow at Lower Pine Creek
We traveled around the ridge from Hur toward the long-gone village of
Joker, to dip down into the politically
incorrect "Nigger Low Gap."
Here we took down the narrow "Darkey
Fork" traveling by 4-wheeler to seek out
the site of the Hicks community, the location of the Hicks Cemetery,
and other house sites which once graced this
At the foot of the hill, up the first hollow, once stood the home of
Sherman and Annie Hathaway Barr (both born in
1866), now marked by a few flowering yard plants. They probably
built the house shortly after their marriage in
A short distance beyond, but leading back toward the ridge, resided
the Filmore and Dessie Weaver Reynolds
family, he being born in 1877, son of James Reynolds who lived in the
Using the creek bed as a road, we arrived at a spot once occupied by
a Calhoun mountain woman, Clara Jane
McDonald Blosser (1873-1950) and her husband, Oliver (1878-1955), who
came from Roane County.
her long red, hand-knitted wool socks circa 1940's, which went to
her thighs, often trudging around the ridge to a
Hur store on cold winter days. Others will remember the Sunday
afternoon square dances at her place, and those
held at the Hicks settlement.
Near the main settlement was the one room black school, first taught
by my grandfather, Franklin D. Weaver
Weaver, who was later a Superintendent of Schools in
Calhoun, took his new wife, Emma Burns
Weaver into the deep woods to live with the Hicks family for the
most of two years. Not a stick or stone marks
the school site.
Then we came upon a slightly wider area of the hollow, where most of
the Hicks houses were located, there are
remaining remnants of a large stone cellar, rock walls, a dug well
and a few rotted logs.
We discovered one of the
abandoned buses, more specifically an old hearse which many will
remember from the 1940's used by the clan to
come to Grantsville to shop.
A fire destroyed the main house and adjacent buildings about thirty-
five years ago, which was said to contain
thousands of items collected by the family, including every edition
of the county paper, going back to "The
Sunbeam," as well as a complete set of "The Grantsville News."
small boy, while visiting the Hicks, I recall
walking through an outbuilding filled with these papers, catalogs, and assorted containers.
Some old timers recall that one
of the items in the Hicks collection were carefully
preserved samples of each of the family member's
As a boy in the late 1940's, I walked from the Village of Hur to the
Hicks community with my mother, carrying food
for a funeral wake.
The clan had an early gas powered electric
generator which provided lights in their village, long
before electricity was generally available from the REA in Calhoun in
It was at this site that James Madison (Peter) Hicks (1849-1932)
first settled and married Laura Ellen Brown
Catlett in 1874, daughter of Jake and Mahalia Catlett from Calhoun's
other black community, Raccoon Run.
was referred to in spoken word as "ole Pete Hicks."
James Madison "Pete" Hicks
Said to have been the son of Hardin Neale of the prominent Neale
Family of Parkersburg.
He was given surname Hicks when his mother, Lucinda,
married Charles Hicks, possibly a brother of James Ashby who is buried in
Husband of Laura Ellen Brown
Hicks was born under the refined roof of one of Parkersburg's leading
white families, the Neales.
Pete's white father, and grandson of Capt. James Neale, impregnated
his slave, Lucinda, who later married a
Charles Hicks, after which Peter assumed his surname.
It has been told for many years that Neale helped support Pete Hicks
in his efforts to build a life for himself in
Calhoun, and probably helped him purchase the large acreage of wooded
land that was occupied by many of his
"Pete" was, by occupation, a barber and had shops in Grantsville and
Brooksville during the early part of the
Some of his advertisements read, "Peter Hicks, Tonsorial
Artist and Hair Dresser" and may be found in
the Calhoun Chronicle during this period.
The Hick's land has now been subdivided many times, mostly for
Marvin and I digressed from the main hollow about one-eight of a mile
to search for the homeplace of William
Stemple, later occupied by his son Lemuel and his wife, Eva Propst,
discovering only wood remnants and a dug
Lemuel's daughter, Clara Ethel, married "Pete's" grandson,
Ralph Leonard McDonald, for her first
Ethel and Ralph Leonard were the parents of a number of
children and lived in the Hicks community on
Then returning to Darkey Fork, we discovered the Hicks Cemetery
against a steep hillside. It was my third
attempt to find the burial ground with the graves of the clan,
twenty or more being unmarked.
A few named markers exist, including James Madison ("ole Pete')
Hicks (1849-1932) and his wife, Laura Catlett
Hicks exist. On a small scrap of paper from my family, this notation:
"Laura Hicks died May 20, 1934 and her funeral was on Wednesday 25,
age 81 years, four months and 14 days.
All 14 of her children living. The Hicks are the finest of people..."
Other gravesites noted in the cemetery: French Queen (1882-1937) and
wife Anna S. Queen (1883-1974); James
Ashby Hicks, died Feburary 8, 1886 at age 47; Ashby Neal Hicks (1874-
1962); Ralph Leonard McDonald
(1914-1963) and his eldest child, Veda Maisie McDonald (died 1950);
and an infant, Ralph Leonard McDonald
Marvin Stemple Explores Hicks Cemetery
James Ashby Hicks Tombstone
Although a more complete genealogical picture will be presented
later, it seems fitting that mention of James
Ashby Hicks be included here.
Blurred with the passage of time, is
the oral history of James Ashby, Calhoun's
only known black Civil War soldier. An associated bit of oral history
is the tradition that the Louisa Chapel
Methodist Church at Arnoldsburg was built on top of at least three
graves in which were buried black persons who
were slaves belonging to the Peregrine Hays family in Arnoldsburg,
and one of the graves is that of James Ashby,
the Civil war soldier.
According to the publication, Calhoun County in the Civil War,
published by the Calhoun Historical Society, James
Ashby was a private in Company K, 39th WSC Troops, enlisted July 1864
and was discharged in 1865.
shows that probably James Ashby and James Ashby Hicks, buried in the
Hicks Cemetery, are the same individual.
The 1880 Calhoun Census enumerates James Ashby a black male, age 41,
and his wife, Minerva, a black female,
age 45, along with a niece, Mary Williams, a black female, age 13.
If the census information for James Ashby is compared with the
information on the tombstone of James Ashby
Hicks, one is led to the conclusion that they are one and the same
Forever lost is the "familial
connection" between the two. One possibility is that James Ashby
Hicks may have been an older brother (or
half-brother) to "Pete" Hicks since some of "Pete's" descendants were
given the name Ashby.
Ahead down the creek was a house occupied by the black Queen family,
and at the mouth of Darkey Fork where it
empties into lower Pine Creek, stood the houses of Henry Probst (Propst) and
A map of 1911 indicates at
least ten dwellings in the hollow.
Marvin noted that the "hills are closing in" on Darkey Fork, the
narrow primitive road becoming almost
impassable at places, but its peaceful quiet remains the same since
the respected black families lived here for 100
As this century ends, it is the absence of people in the tiny
valley that is most notable.
The Other Settlement - Bear Fork
and Raccoon Run
The following article, written by Treacy Jane Wilson Stump, who died
in 1994, was written several years ago and
published in 1971 in The Calhoun Chronicle.
It is an excerpt from
her recollections of growing up and living all her
adult life in the Rush Run Community on Steer Creek.
A Negro Community Once Flourished
By Treacy Jane Wilson Stump
From my earliest recollections, there was a colony of colored people
living not far from our home, perhaps I should
say across the hill from our home. I never knew the year these folks
settled there; however, they owned several
hundred acres among the hills, from Raccoon, Three Forks and
extending to Bear Fork.Their farms were all
hillside, no roads, only paths.
Occasionally one would find a wagon
road (that is the path was wide enough for a
wagon to go on).
These people dug their living out of these hills,
with a few days extra work they did for their white
They were poor, but independent, had their own school, which building
also served as a church. Most all were
church going people.
Some couldn't read or write, but some had a
little education. They all had one thing in
common, to give their children all the education they could. There
was a man named John Sutton who had married
He was well educated and taught their school for
years. There were no preachers among them
and they depended on their white neighbors to fill their pulpit.
Rev. Billy Schoolcraft of Millstone is the only
minister now living that filled their need.
They purchased their supplies mostly from the late W. Ellsworth Stump
and the late Ralph W. Bennett of
Stumptown. The Stump store was closer for them. They received their
mail at the Apple Farm postoffice, now
Even though their education was limited, they were very polite and
courteous. When they had revival meetings or
Christmas programs, their white neighbors were invited and given the
best seats in the house.
They never went to
church with the whites unless invited.
One man I remember stands out
among the others for his long prayers at our
church. He was Jacob Catlipp, better known as Jake. A large man, he
came very reverently into church and
always took a back seat.
After the pastor would deliver an hour-long
sermon, he would call on Brother Jake to
He would walk halfway down the aisle, fall on his knees and
how he would pray! His wife's name was Dora.
They had a family, and when this family was grown, they moved to
A family by the name of Ivory lived on the Bear Fork side of the
hill. There were some children, as all these
families had several in number. Mrs. Ivory's name was Jenny, and she
was blind for many years before she died.
Despite her handicap, she found her way to church. One of the
daughters married a man by the name of Lewis
"Lew" Grant. As their family grew, they moved to Clarksburg.
all the family are now deceased. Their heirs
still own the farm on Three Forks. Other family names were Martin,
Galloway, Muse and Henderson.
One family perhaps most widely known was that of Bone and Carry
Radcliff. Bone was a nickname, but no one
would know him by any other name. He was born during slavery and was
owned by the late Samuel Hays of
He always had high respect for his former master. The
Radcliffs owned a farm and lived at the head
of Raccoon. Mr. Radcliff was married twice and I've been told he was
father of 24 children.
His last wife was
Carry McDonald. He used to be called on to care for sick animals or
stock by his white neighbors, and Carrie and
her girls worked for whites, especially if there was sickness - they
They did well toward educating their family, and all had enough to
get by with, and some were college graduates. I
remember Raymond, who was principal of a school near Morgantown; also
Lottie, a teacher in Detroit and Beulah,
who retired not many years ago after teaching 42 years in Scott's Run
section of Monongalia County.
after all the rest had moved out, one daughter, Libby, and her
husband, John Adams, lived at the old home.
All that remains of the colored community is
a cemetery with a few markers still standing
at the head of Raccoon.
Uncle Bone's real name was Napoleon Bonaparte Ratliff.
Earl Minney (deceased) related to Bob Knotts (deceased) of Stumptown
that when the blacks first came to Steer
Creek, they settled on Little Laurel Creek, which enters Steer Creek
adjacent to Mr. Minney's home.
waters of Little Laurel there are large piles of stones which Mr.
Minney claimed had been piled up during the time
Uncle Bone's family were there. The stones were probably plowed out
as they attempted to establish fields for
growing crops. Later, the family moved to and established a
community on Raccoon.
Brown Wilson (deceased), who lived on Sycamore Creek, related to Bob
Knotts that the Ratliff and Catlip
families were in close association with the McDonald and Hicks
families who were members of a black community
located on Darkey Fork which is located off Pine Creek.
that during the Christmas and New Year
Holiday season that one-half the time was spent by the combined
groups at one community, and then the groups
would travel to the the other location and spend the second half of
During the early 1900s, the Parkersburg's Neale family send Christimas gifts and supplies to the Hicks family.
Bob Knotts, remembers that there also was a man in the group who
lived on Raccoon by the name of Sandy Muse
who was visually impaired and always kept a small boy with him to
help him when he left the community.
tells me that many of the members of the community were musically
inclined, and that they had their own band
consisting of a guitar, banjo, fiddle, and probably other
During the 40's and 50's, a member of the Raccoon family by the name
of Libby Adams, worked for Dr. Boling
in Grantsville and Holly Nester at Mt. Zion.
Virginia Weaver Buck remembers "Aunt Libby" also
work for her late parents, Dewey and
Oleta Marshall Weaver as well as for Clint and Ina Hannah.
Glada Shields Stump, who is librarian at the Calhoun County Library,
has added some information, as she was
raised in that area, and has told me that some of these
folks "adopted" or considered themselves to be her
brother's God-parents. Their surname was Fulkner and were related to
the other black families on Raccoon.
Glada says that Mrs. Fulkner was named Mary and that she was a
daughter of Jake Catlip. She also remembers
that Mary had a sisters named Clara and Libby who married John
Libby Adams was the closest neighbor
to Glada's family, and Glada's mother, Frances Pearl Suttle Shields,
tells of her mother sending her to borrow
needed items from Libby. In order for her to get to Libby's house
she had to pass the graveyard, and her mother
said, "Wings couldn't have carried me fast enough to get past
When the Fulkner's left, they moved to
Illinois. Glada's mother used to receive letters from them, and they
frequently sent money or gifts for Glada's
Bob Knotts, Jr., often told the following story: Bob Bennett, who
lived in the big white house just across Steer
Creek opposite the Rush Run Church, reportedly had a disagreement
over church affairs with his brother-in-law,
"Doc" Stump, who was a deacon in the church.
As a result, Bob did
not attend church services (nor was he on
speaking terms with "Doc"), but it is said that when Jake Catlipp
attended church, knowing that Jake would be
called on to pray, would come across the creek and stand outside the
church so he could hear Jake offer one of his
It has been said that Jake Catlipp was one who
could "pray the house down."
On Raccoon Run, 2 miles up the creek from Steer Creek on what was
once the Ratliff farm, now owned by Ott
Suttles and James Shaffer, is the Catlip Cemetery.
It is located
about 150 yards from the creek in a grove of big
trees, sugar maple and yellow poplar. The site is downstream from
the old house site and a gas well, on the right
hand side of the run going upstream.
John Sutton was a schoolteacher here. John Adams was killed by an
accident with a horse here and is likely buried
here. Most of the folks left this community in the mid 20's but some
few were here until after WWII.
The black families on Three Forks and Raccoon were intermarried with
the Hicks and McDonald families who had
a community on Darkey Fork of Pine Creek.
School records in Sherman District show the payment for teaching at
the black school in Sherman District.
record for payment for teaching shows John F. Sutton receiving
payment on Sept. 3, Oct. 17, Oct 31, and Dec. 10,
1892. Each check was in the amount of $22.00.
salaries of other teachers, it appears that the
male teachers were paid $25.00, the female teachers $22.00, and John
Sutton $22.00. John Sutton is listed as
teaching the 1907-1908 term and seems to have been paid equally with
his white male counterparts.
1908-1909 term shows Lottie J. Ratcliff as teacher. This is probably
the same Lottie Ratliff who is enumerated
with the household of Napoleon B. Ratliff in the 1900 Census. She is
listed as 9 yrs., born Sept. 1890, and a
granddaughter of Bone. Salary, $30.00 per month.
appear to have been paid $35.00 per month.
Only one other female teacher is listed and she was paid $35.00 per
Enumerated in 1880 Lee District census is the
family of Charles W. Ratcliff, a black male,
age 30. This could possibly have been a
brother to Bone Ratliff.
More to follow...