County Seat Struggle Resurrected in 1898

(05/05/2001)

Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilms of the Calhoun Chronicle dated as indicated.

5/26/1898
An impression has gone out in this county, especially in Washington and Lee districts, that the court house and jail of this county had been condemned and that new ones would have to be built at once.  There is not a word of truth in the report, but on the contrary the court house will be abundantly good for ten or fifteen years yet.  The court house needs a new roof and ought to have it whether the county seat is removed or not.

5/26/1898
Hon. B.F. Sturm, a commissioner of county court, was over from Arnoldsburg last Tuesday night.  He came for the purpose of trying to have the work of re-roofing the court house suspended until after the vote on the county seat question is settled.  By an order of the court, more than a year ago, T.R. Stump was appointed to have the court house re-roofed and all of the material for that purpose was put upon the ground last year, but for some reason work has been postponed from time to time ever since.  We understand that Mr. Stump will go on with the work unless injoined.

7/5/1898
For a number of years the county seat of this county was on wheels, so to speak.  Then were our citizens a laughing stock for the outside world.  People wanting to purchase homes would pass by and go to a county where they knew values were settled.  And during the period the matter has rested no county in the state depending alone on its farming resources had had more phenomenal growth.  And the growth has been comparatively uniform, values of real estate being about the same all over the country.  Begin the agitation of the subject now and it will necessarily impede the era of prosperity that is dawning upon us.  "United we stand, divided we fall."  The interests of each section of the county are identical, and that which impairs values in one section must, as a natural result, affect the other.

7/5/1898
The agitation of the county seat question at this time is bound to disturb business and political matters considerable.  It will necessarily impair the value of property here without any percepitible increase in values at Arnoldsburg until the question is finally settled.  We are not going to find fault with anyone whose interests would be promoted by the removal of the county seat for trying to get it moved now, but we will most assuredly oppose the removal with all of the energy we can summon, and at the proper time will show some facts and figures that ought to convince any reasonable man of the folly of such an attempt at this time.  Should that section of the county secure the first railroad and chances for their securing the seat of government would be much better.  In that event we are not sure that we would not vote to put the county seat on the line of a railroad.  But this is not the time nor the place to spring this question.  As before indicated we may have something more to say on the subject.

7/5/1898
It requires a petition of two-fifths of all the voters in a county, varified by proper affadavits, to get a vote to move a county seat.

7/19/1898
Now let us all be men, and observe the golden rule.  The citizens of Arnoldsburg and vicinity or any other section of the county, for that matter, have a perfect right to petition for anything they want and the right to have questions of public polity settled by a vote of the people is one guaranteed by our constitution and statutory laws.  In view of this fact let those of us who want the county seat remain where it is, at Grantsville, not allow our zeal in the matter to get away with our better judgment.  Voters are reached in two or three ways.  Sometimes by questional methods, occasionally by appeals to passion, but in a majority of cases the most effectual work is done by appealing to the good sense and reason of the voter.  In this county seat fight, if we accomplish anything in favor of leaving the seat of government where it is we expect to do so by addressing ourselves to the reason of the voter.  Instead of stirring up sectional hatred we expect to do all in our power to keep our social relations linked in one indessoluble chain, extending from the remotest section of the county in such fact that it will tend to the upbuilding of the common wellfare of all the people.  If after the votes shall have been taken, three-fifths of the voters favor Arnoldsburg, then believing in majority, rule, we shall accept the will of the people and (last line illegible).

8/2/1898
On all questions affecting the taxpayers of this county we know no section nor no political party.  The question of a removal of the county seat is one which addresses itself to each and every tax payer, without reference to the locality in which he lives.  Before casting a vote let each tax payer count the cost.  Let each tax payer consider the present indebtedness of the county and then further consider that a removal of the county seat will necessitate a bond issue for the purpose of erecting public buildings, and see if you can find in your calculation a point any where this side of a ripe old age of your children’s children when they can say we owe no county debt.  It is not a question of whether Grantsville dudes part their hair in the middle or whether they smoke a high or low grade of cigarettes, but purely a question of “Will it pay.”  We most assuredly think it will not and will (one line illegible)
from time to time.

8/16/1898
Suppose our taxes are as high as the law will allow.  Are we to be put so deep in debt by the removal of the county seat, that we are always to be taxed to the extreme legal limit to keep the interest paid?  In order to keep up our local expenses with levies as high as the law will allow, our Assessors have to put a much higher value on personal property already than like property is assessed in wealthier counties, whereby we are compelled to pay much more, in proportion to our wealth, into the State Treasury than wealthy counties.  The remedies for this inequality rests wholely with our own system of economy.  In the matter of removing the county seat we believe every good citizen will make a complete calculation of the cost before depositing his ballot.  Remember a removal means high valuation of property for taxation, and extreme limits in laying levies.  It means that our county paper will go into the hands of soulless "paper shavers."  It means that, for work done for the county, you are to take whatever the greedy broker will give you.  It means not only this to you, but it will extend for years and years, to embarras your children after you are sleeping beneath the sod.  Count the cost and see if it will pay.

8/23/1898
A great many people on this side of the county, whose financial interests would be greatly disturbed by the removal of the county seat, seem anxious for us to make a great fight in favor of Grantsville and the trouble with so many is, they want us to make it lone handed.  They can not so much as contribute two cents a week as a sort of bracer.  We have a mighty liberal patronage from the people of the West Fork and therefore do not argue the question from a sectional nor personal standpoint.  Within forty eight hours and at an expense not exceeding $25, after the removal, we can have our outfit on the ground and be right in front of the procession, but some of you farmers, who are too stingy to pay us two cents a week for our efforts, can not move your farms.  By request we reproduce the following article on the subject of removing the county seat:

Suppose our taxes are as high as the law will allow.  Are we to be put so deep in debt by the removal of the county seat, that we are always to be taxed to the extreme legal limit to keep the interest paid? In order to keep up our local expenses with levies as high as the law will allow, our Assessors have to put a much higher value on personal property already than like property is assessed in wealthier counties, whereby we are compelled to pay much more, in proportion to our wealth, into the State Treasury than wealthy counties.  The remedies for this inequality rests wholely with our own system of economy.  In the matter of removing the county seat we believe every good citizen will make a complete calculation of the cost before depositing his ballot.  Remember a removal means high valuation of property for taxation, and extreme limits in laying levies.  It means that our county paper will go into the hands of soulless "paper shavers."  It means that, for work done for the county, you are to take whatever the greedy broker will give you.  It means not only this to you, but it will extend for years and years, to embarras your children after you are sleeping beneath the sod.  Count the cost and see if it will pay.
 

8/23/1898
When you go to vote on the county seat question, remember that three districts of the county are already bonded to the constitutional limit, and that, in all human probabilities, the other two will, in the near future, want to vote a subscription for a like purpose.  One vote may settle a question right or it may be wrong.  Be governed by the axim “the greatest good to the greatest number,” and we will be content.

8/30/1898
Here is to the People's Cause

Some strange rumors are afloat relative to the proposed removal of the Court House, and it is hard to understand why they should be given credence, even for a moment.

One of them is that the present Court House Building has been condemned and that the Court has determined to erect a new building and the only question is whether it shall be at Grantsville or Arnoldsburg.

The fact is that the question of building a new house has never been agitated or thought of until the filing of the petitions at the last term of the County Court, asking for a submission of the question of removal.

There is absolutely no reason for the building of a new Court House at Grantsville, as the present house is one of the most substantial buildings in this section of West Virginia, and as far as strength and durability is concerned it is as good as when it was erected twenty years ago.  It does need a new roof and the Court has gone to the trouble and expense of getting the roofing and lumber necessary for that purpose and it would, no doubt, now be under work, if the present agitation had not been begun.

We are unalterably opposed to the erection of a new building at this place now, or hereafter, until the business of the county shall demand it, and we are satisfied that no member of the county court has ever, for a moment, thought a new building necessary.

It is reported that the walls of the building are cracked, when, the truth is, the walls are as sound today as when it was built in 1878.

It is a 22 inch wall upon a solid concrete and stone foundation, three feet above and three feet beneath the ground, and the building is good to stand for a century.

In addition to this a Court House cannot be built in this county at this time, either at Arnoldsburg or Grantsville, without the execution of county bonds, and such bonds can only be issued after a three-fifths vote by the people.  This is the main reason why the county seat should not be moved.

When the taxpayers of the county, at large, are considered, Grantsville and Arnoldsburg both together form a very small part of Calhoun county and this question is not here discussed with respect to the advantages to be gained by either of said towns upon the question involved.

This paper has at heart the good of the whole county and all the tax payers thereof and would oppose the erection of a new Court House at Grantsville to the same extent and for the same reasons it now opposes the removal.

With a good substantial building, good for at least 25 years yet, we see no use of bonding a people, now already tax ridden, to build a new house at Arnoldsburg or Grantsville.

Another reason we have current is one to the effect that our taxes are now at the limit and even a removal and re-building of the Court House cannot raise them.

This is a strange proposition, and any one who counts upon it will find that he has made a great mistake.  The law is that county taxes shall not exceed 95 cents on the $100.  Except by a vote of the people, but this vote of the people is the very thing in question and about which we are talking as the same three-fifths who remove the county seat can also vote the bonds, and then the limit of taxation is raised.  We have nothing to say against the people of Arnoldsburg and vicinity for supporting their town if they see fit to do so and desire to bear their share of the additional burden, nor against the people of Grantsville for desiring the Court House to remain where it is, but we desire to be heard for the hundreds of citizens of this county who have no special interest in either of thest towns, and who have no ax to grind.  And for them we do raise up and say that taxes are now high enough, and that this county does not now need a new Court House at either point.  Nor will it get one, unless the county seat is removed, in which event the Court will be compelled, by law, to erect one at Arnoldsburg no matter what the cost.

8/30/1898
Oka, W. Va., Aug. 24, 1898

Editor Chronicle:

I am glad to notice in your paper of the 23rd, that in the event of the removal of the county seat you could move your outfit with so little cost, and we hope we may get the county seat moved and that the Chronicle may come with it to Arnoldsburg.  Give us the Chronicle and the county seat at Arnoldsburg, that is all we ask.  So far as taxes are concerned, the removal of the county seat could not alter them, for we are already taxed to the full extent of the law.  We have heard it said:  "The harder the storm, the sooner over."  If the county seat is moved we will get a new Court House and Jail, and thus get out of debt sometime.  But as long as we patch at the old Court House we will always be in debt and our money will be doing us no good.  So let us move the county seat, build a new Court House and Jail, and when we get out of debt we won't have to go in debt to repair an old Court House.  Arnoldsburg is the center of the county, it is 18 miles from the head of Beech Fork to Arnoldsburg, it is about 18 miles from the lower end of the county to Arnoldsburg and about same distance from each side of the county to Arnoldsburg.   H.E.A.

A gentleman making pretentions to intelligence and honesty can ill afford to make statements like some of the above.  One of which we call special attention to.  He says: "So far as taxes are concerned, the removal of the county seat could not alter them, for we are already taxed to the full extent of the law."  One of two things is true of a man who makes a statement like the above.  He is either ignorant of the facts or wants to mislead voters.  ART. X. SECS. 7 & 8 of the Constitution says:  (and we want you to carefully read and study that part of it we put in italics.)

7.  County authorities shall never assess taxes, in any one year, the aggregate of which shall exceed ninety-five cents per one hundred dollars valuation, except for the support of the free schools; payment of indebtedness existing at the time of the adoption of this Constitution; and for the payment of any indebtedness with the interest thereon, created under the succeeding section, unless such assessment, with all questions involving the increase of such aggregate, shall have been submitted to the vote of the people of the county, and have received three-fifths of all the votes cast for and against it.

8.  No county, city, school or district, or municipal corporation, except in cases where such corporations have already authorized their bonds to be issued, shall hereafter be allowed to become indebted in any manner, or for any purpose, to an amount, including existing indebtedness, in the aggregate, exceeding five per centum on the value of the taxable property therein to be ascertained by the last assessment for State and county taxes, previous to the incurring of such indebtedness: nor without, at the same time, providing for the collection of a direct annual tax, sufficient to pay, annually, the interest on such debt, and the principal thereof, within, and not exceeding thirty-four years;  Provided, That no debt shall be contracted under this section, unless all questions connected with the same, shall have been first submitted to a vote of the people, and have received three-fifths of all the votes cast for and against the same.

9/13/1898
Oka, W. Va. Sept. 6th 1898

Editor Chronicle:

In your issue of Aug. 30th, you say we are not to the limit of the law.  By the Sheriff threatening of levying ye scribe has his tax receipt for 1897, and the county taxes is seventy cents on the $100.  You see it will put our taxes to the full extent of the law to re-roof the old Court House, besides when it is re-roofed it needs plastering.

You can see at once our taxes will go to the extent of the law any how, whether the county seat is moved or not.  So while our taxes goes up lets move the county seat up near the center of our county and have a new Court House instead of an old one fixed up and then get the benefit of our money by getting something new instead of something old.  What it takes to roof and fix up the old Court House will make a good start at building a new one.  Besides the removal of the county seat to Arnoldsburg, the center of the county, it means the completion of the R.S. & G. railroad right through the county which would start a booming business in our county.  The R.S. & G. railroad is chartered   is by way of Arnoldsburg, I think.  Am I right?  Bro. Barr, be a good little man and take your medicine well, and when we get the county seat on wheels and start to Arnoldsburg with it this fall, we will give you a free ride if you choose to come with us.  We know you are a nice fellow and would hate to leave you behind.

For fear of waste basket I will close by saying, if this escapes the waste basket I will come again.  H.E.A.

The game is hardly worth a shot.

The poor misguided man has either failed to read the sections of the constitution we published in the issue to which he refers, or he is unable to comprehend its meaning.  And we are inclined to think the latter is true.

Let it be understood once for all that the County court can levy a tax of 95 cents on the $100 valuation as the law now is.  And if you, by vote, take away the constitutional prohibition, the County court can fix the levy at five or any other number of dollars on the $100 valuation.  The only question to be considered is whether the taxpayers of this county want to vote down the only safeguard they have.

11/8/1898
Unofficial Return - County Seat - For Re-Location            925
                                                   Against Re-Location      935

11/22/1898
Official Return - County Seat - For Re-Location                912
                                               Against Re-Location           916
 
                                               Majority                                  4


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