STUMP HOTEL AND LIFE ALONG THE RIVER - Historical Project Calls For Preservation, Miss Nettie And Spav Remembered

(05/02/2004)

The Stump Hotel was "one of the outstanding small
town hostelries for long years" (Photo about 1915)

By Robert Bonar, Calhoun Historical Society

After the Civil War, the State of West Virginia approved a new location for the Calhoun County seat and in 1866, a town was laid out on the Simon Stump farm in a sharp bend of the Little Kanawha River. The next year the town was named Grantsville in honor of the Union general.

In 1883, A. H. (Dick) Stump, Grantsville’s first mayor, and his wife, Druscilla Ball Stump, built a house a block from the courthouse on what was to become Main Street. The Stumps turned their home into a hotel and in 1897 (See ad left in the Calhoun Signal 1899), constructed a two story, 10-12 room addition on the back, giving the hotel an “L” shaped look.

The expansion was necessitated by an increase in population and economic activity in Grantsville that began at the end of the 19th Century. Timbering, oil and gas exploration, the Cabot carbon black factory (largest in the world at the time) and a booming riverboat building industry made Grantsville a commercial hub in the Little Kanawha Valley.

Following the deaths of Dick and Druscilla, Miss Nettie Stump, their daughter, operated the hotel for several years. However, in 1919, Miss Nettie closed the hotel and it reverted to a private residence. During the Depression, the addition was detached from the home, moved to the back of the lot, and turned to face Mill Street, where it began a new life as a boarding house. This structure was dismantled in the late 1950s.

In the years following World War II, the Stump home itself was remodeled into offices on both floors, and the exterior was changed with the addition of asbestos shingles, brick porch posts and an outside stairway. For the past 20 years the building has been unoccupied. However, it remained in the Stump family until being donated to the Calhoun Historical Society by Dr. Charles Albert Stump, great-grandson of Dick and Druscilla, and son of the late Albert and Gladys Weaver Stump.

In 1999, the Calhoun Historical and Genealogical Society received notification from Congressman Mollohan’s office that both the Calhoun and Gilmer Historical Societies had been awarded a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help fund museums in each county.

The Calhoun Society submitted three buildings for consideration - the former Stump Hotel, the county jail, and the Grantsville Grade School. After being informed that the Stump Hotel had been selected, the Society pursued acquiring the property on Main Street. The owner, Dr. Charles Albert Stump, donated the Hotel and lot and the Society purchased the adjoining store building (the former Quality Shop).

Working closely with Congressman Mollohan’s office, the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, the West Virginia Department of Culture and History, and the Mid-Ohio Regional Council, the Society joined with its counterpart in Gilmer County in 2000 and 2001 in gathering information and planning for state-of-the-art museums and history education centers in both counties.

The Calhoun Society then developed a three-phase plan. Initially, the exterior of the hotel was to be preserved and restored as it appeared in the early Twentieth Century when it was in its heyday.

This phase should be completed by the spring of 2004.

The second phase involves turning the former Quality Shop building in to a museum portraying the history of the county through a multi-media approach. The final phase will restore the interior of the hotel for displays, Society offices and meeting rooms.

In 2001, preliminary work began on the hotel including removal of asbestos shingles and pest control. On June 7, 2001, the Society held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the hotel officially opening the museum project. Also, Vandalia and the two societies interviewed architects, and in February, 2002, SEM Partners of Beckley, WV, was chosen.

The former Quality Shop was renamed the Family History Center and it was used by the Society for meetings, fund raising activities, and to display historical items until renovations could be completed.

The Society met with the architect during 2002 continually refining and revising the blueprints. That fall, a WVU landscape architect student, Susan Spengler, chose the hotel grounds for her senior project. She developed short and long-range landscaping plans and provided the society with detailed diagrams of walkways, shrubbery, flowers and parking.

With the blueprints finalized, bids for the restoration of the hotel were let in the spring of 2003. A separate contract for a new roof on the Family History Center was awarded to Williams Construction. That summer, Creston Oil Company donated equipment and manpower to clear and grade the lot. Olentangy Restorations of Columbus, Ohio, was awarded the contract to restore the exterior of the hotel with work beginning in November, 2003.

Future plans include painting the exterior of the hotel with volunteer labor in cooperation with a Lights On! workshop, beginning the first phases of landscaping, and securing funding to renovate the Family History Center. A continuing concern is how best to finance fixed costs, further renovations, and maintenance.

MISS NETTIE AND BROTHER SPAV - Remembered "Ghosts" From The Stump Hotel

By Bob Weaver

Miss Nettie Stump (1872-1958) and her brother Charlie "Spav" (1869-1956) were well-known characters during the early part of the last century, characters of a different sort.

Miss Nettie lived in the Stump Hotel all her life, and Spav did periodically.

Miss Nettie (left) visiting Gladys Weaver Stump and her son,
Dr. Charles Albert Stump, shortly after World War II

Miss Nettie Stump was Grantsville's only published poet. Never married, she labored in her parlor on hundreds of poems, many of which were published in her book Trail of my Pen. She aspired to be an artist, painting landscapes with un-used house paints, one of which still survives and will likely be hung in the restored hotel.

She wrote "Down through the years of my life, there were so many things I wanted to do. Life is made up of sunshine and shadows and often one's dreams do not come true."

"My heart has been stirred by the beauty of West Virginia, with its hills and winding streams, and the songs of its birds so enchanting."

Miss Nettie was prim and proper, maintaining her status in Grantsville society, appropriately dressed and refined. She was often conflicted over the behavior of her brother Spav, a happy-go-lucky horseman, animal vet, junk dealer, crafter and man-about-town.

She was proud of the history of the Stump Hotel, described as "one of the outstanding small town hostelries for long years." She was the press correspondent for the Grantsville Women's Club. It was in the day when the town had numerous social and civic organizations.

Nettie will be remembered by old-timers sitting on the front porch in her wicker chair, conversing with folks who passed down Main Street.

She wrote "Why I Repose"

The fire is bright at home tonight,
And I have closed the shade.
Sink in my chair with greatest care,
And gaze on a picture I have made.

This view to me as I do see,
Is a cold winter night;
Clouds look gray in distance away,
Snow all banked so white.

No one knows why I repose,
And study my work with care,
It is a pleasure to me, and I can see-
What all is lacking there.

The firelight glows, reflection throws-
Shadows in the distance I see,
The moon hangs low and I know-
What this picture is to me.

SPAV - Man About Town

Few Calhoun kids who came to Grantsville went away without Spav's famous trinket - a monkey carved from a peach seed. He must have made hundreds in his spare time.

Spav frequently imbibed and displayed his musical talents from the second-story porch of the old hotel, much to the satisfaction of town residents who gathered on Main Street for the entertainment.

Before one administration after another declared "war on drugs," Spav was among several residents, many of them prominent, to register under a federal act to obtain narcotics legally from the local pharmacy. He obtained Dilaudid, a morphine, or narcotic analgesic.

Miss Nettie had a difficult time with her brother, and he recused himself to a hastily made shack built between the hotel and the Kanawha Theatre, where he lived with his mutt dog that accompanied him on his daily jaunts around town.

Spav his mutt dog and famous push cart

Spav was always dressed in his well-worn crimped hat, leggins' of the First World War variety to his knees, and a colorful handkerchief around his neck.

His daughter-in-law, Gladys Weaver Stump, had Stump Funeral Home bury him in the regalia in 1956.

He enjoyed his many lady friends around the bustling town, hauling their trash away or delivering goods to their houses.

Spav was of privilege around Grantsville.

When Spav wandered into the local grocery stores, including P. P. Gunns, he would walk behind the cooler, open the door, take his castration knife and whittle some cheese and meat for himself and his mutt. Poe Gunn turned his head.

The late Carl Morris, while serving as Sheriff, recalled appointing Spav as the Court Bailiff to the Circuit Court. "He played his role well, hear ye, hear ye," said Carl. He also helped maintain the county jail, having a key to the building and cells. Sometimes when he had a little too much to drink, not unlike Otis Campbell in the Andy Griffith Show, he would place himself in an empty cell.

A tale once told about Spav while visiting Creston, where he bragged to the locals about being a "doctor," not defining the animal variety. Staying all night in a Creston hotel, during the late night hours a man came to fetch him to his house to deliver his pregnant wife. One version says Spav went. Another said he left town.

E. E. Echols, a West Virginia poet laureate, even wrote a poem above Spav.

Both Nettie and Spav will likely bring an unusual presence as ghostly personalities in the restored Stump Hotel.


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