HUR HERALD'S BEAR FORK TALES - Early 1900 Railroad Brought Jobs To Mountains

(09/07/2015)

VAST BEAR FORK WILDERNESS MAP

Map shows main railroad line, but does not show the extensions to the Right Fork of Crummis Creek or to Frozen, Spruce and Nicut

The history of transportation in Calhoun County has often stated that no railroads reached into Calhoun County, although several efforts were made. Calhoun County, however, did have a railroad, the tail end of the Elk and Little Kanawha Railroad, a narrow gauge railroad laid from Gassaway to Rosedale and Shock in 1912, with spur lines extending into the Bear Fork backwoods and parts of Calhoun.

Railroad Piers Near Shock
Rail Bed is Still Visible
Along Steer Creek.

Frank Miller Talks About Railroad
Memories at Rosedale,
Beside His '57 Chevy.

Jerry Moore at Fletcher Stout Place (circa 1880) at Shock.
Nearby was Shock Railroad Station at Mouth of Tanner.
She Grew Up in Log House and is daughter of Ralph Perrine.

Knotts and Lauson Store on Frozen.
Rail Lines Extended Down Frozen to Left Hand.
Store was operated by R.J. Knotts, Sr.
and Lex Lauson (Larson)

The Elk and Little Kanawha Railroad, owned by the Interstate Cooperage Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil, was to have connected Gassaway with Parkersburg. Calhoun native, Harlan Stump, researched the fingers of the railroad into Calhoun, considering it an "amazing phenomena," since little had been recorded of the venture.

"The Bennett Land Timber was sold to Interstate Cooperage, and to transport the vast amounts of stave timber, square timber and softwood, the railroad was built," he recorded. The Elk and Little Kanawha transported passengers and freight in both directions.

The railroad beyond Shock was a spur line that ran up Tanner (now known as Tanner #4) and across the divide ridge into the head of Laurel (considered to be the head of Bear Fork) and down stream to the mouth of Trace Fork. There the main Bear Fork Mill was located, as well as a store and several houses. (SEE map in earlier Hur Herald article)

The Bennett Land was not only in Bear Fork, which dwells mostly in Gilmer County, but extends into Calhoun, including Frozen Run, Spruce Run (a branch of Frozen), Little Frozen, Left Hand of the West Fork, Upper Big Run, Mount Run, Bear Run, Head of Crooked Run, and the Right and Left Forks of Crummies Creek.

There were two spurs into Calhoun, according to Stump's research. The first ran down Frozen and back switched up Spruce Run, and continued up the Left Fork of the West Fork of the Little Kanawha to the mouth of Upper Big Run, a distance of four to five miles.

The second spur came into Crummies Creek through "Deep Gap" from Sugar Camp, a branch of Trace Fork of main Bear Fork, a feat which he describes as amazing. "This distance was about three miles," he said. Total spur mileage was about eight, with turnaround switches included.

Stump did most of his railroad research in the early 1980's, interviewing old-timers, studying aerial maps, county maps, topo maps and actually inspecting the old grades.

Stump talked at length with Mary Schoolcraft Cottrell, who was 95 in 1983. She lived in the immediate vicinity since 1909. Cottrell said that the train ran to the mouth of Frozen, twice a day. "The main mill on Frozen was the Boggs Fork Mill, where Grey Robinson lived. Claude Rogers lives on Oak Log Holler," she said.

"There was a back switch at the foot of Frozen Run Hill. There is a picture of the cut at the head of Bear Fork, including 'Ross" over in Gilmer." The Normans, Cottrells and Millers worked for the Interstate Cooperage Company.

Bly Miller who lived close to the Shock Post Office, and was the son of Grover Miller, worked for Interstate Cooperage as a fireman on the mill boilers. "Grover told Bly the train engines were 'Climax' engines," reported Stump. Ray Cottrell, who had a "sheepskin deed" to land on Bear Run, told Stump of the evidence of tram roads on Bear Run.

Edna Yoak Altizer, Post Mistress at Millstone in 1983, told of living in adjoining rooms to the Field Office of the Interstate Cooperage Company. Her father, Lloyd Yoak, Sr., ran a general store and post office at the Mouth of Tanner, known as Shock.

Bly Miller also reported that Park Woodyard had told him the E and LK Railroad ran up Spruce Fork of Frozen to a mill near the Spurgeon Smith Farm. He said Bob Tucker lived as a lad near the Mouth of Spruce, and said that "The switch at the foot of the hill was a double switch.

The train when loaded ran up Frozen Run toward where Ezra Cottrell lived, then backed into Oak Log Holler, then went toward the hill climb." This gave an advantage on the grade and still let the train continue in the proper direction.

Tucker maintains there never was a mill on Spruce, but was on Frozen just above the Warren Knotts farm. "The train ran up through the John Smith farm almost to the head of Spruce," he told Stump. "There was another back switch on the ridge where the Chapel Baptist Church is now. The mill at the mouth of Frozen was the only one."

Homer King, when he was 81, reported that the county road up Frozen was the original railroad grade. He said as young lad he saw the No. 5 mill in operation on the Right Fork of Crummies Creek. His father worked for the Cooperage Company on this mill, which was located half way between the head and mouth of Crummies. The railroad came down Crummies Creek a short distance below the No. 5 Mill.

Samuel Rector "Rex" Woodyard, father of Park Woodyard, was an engineer on the train. Stump said they had several pictures of train engines and a picture of stave blocks stacked at Rosedale, exceeding 500,000 in number. Also reported was a picture of the train station at Rosedale, and the much smaller station at Shock, which had large sliding doors, but no windows.

Part of the right-of-way deal for hauling wood products, was an agreement to haul passengers out of the area between Shock and Gassaway.

EDITORS NOTE: We gratefully acknowledge the work of Harlan Stump for his extensive research on Calhoun's unknown railroad, which until now has not been printed. Harlan lived for many years at the top of Millstone Hill, where he operated a small store and grist mill. We also acknowledge the cooperation of Harlan's daughter, Robin Stump of Spencer, and others who have assisted in this piece. We will continue the railroad story soon from a Braxton County newspaper account.


Hur Herald ®from Sunny Cal
The information on these pages, to the extent the law allows, remains the exclusive property of Bob Weaver and The Hur Herald. information cannot be not be used in any type of commercial endeavor, or used on a web site without the express permission of the owner. ©Hur Herald Publishing, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017