Ferrell Hotel at Brooksville about 1910 (L-R) Lou Ferrell, Nellie
Ferrell, Emily Ferrell, Gertrude Ferrell, George W. Ferrell

A Place With Schizophrenic Names: Big Bend Or Brooksville
By Ollie Bill Umstead (1973)

Some time after World War I my father and mother moved to Big Bend. where they had purchased the general store of Jim Rogers. They conducted this store until they sold it to Alfred Holbert, three or four years later.

Big Bend, known in the early years as Brooksville, was a thriving little village, a center to the famous Yellow Creek oil field some 20 years earlier.

No hard roads had been built, although automobiles and trucks were fast becoming the mode of travel. The Little Kanawha River was still being used by the owners of the gasoline powered to bring goods to the county. They operated from Grantsville to Parkersburg.

When I brought my wife, who is from Kentucky, to Calhoun in 1926, we came up the river, leaving Parkersburg before daybreak and arriving in Grantsville at midnight. The next day we continued by road wagon and horse to Mt. Zion.

Some oldtime Brooksville (Big Bend) residents (L to R) Mary>BR> Shanks, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Alfred
Holbert, Lona Carpenter Maze, Columbia Shanks, Emory Rogers
(Photo Courtesy of Ruth Holbert Bartlett)

Big Bend was much like Mt. Zion as far as pranks being played on people. At that time, people made most of their own entertainment. A bunch of young boys around the village never lacked for some joke to play on some older citizens, a stranger or just about anybody.

Hog butchering at Brooksville (Big Bend) 1910
(L-R) Ray Busch, Maxine Busch, Ted Golden, Lewis Ferrell


There were two old ladies, widows of some eighty years in age, living over the old store building in the middle of the village. One day they sent word that they wanted to see me.

I went down, and they reported they had been receiving so many letters from people they had never heard of, and wondered if I could tell them what it was all about.

I read a few of the letters and said, "You girls have advertised for a husband. These are love letters from men who want you to correspond with them."

Well, I found out in a day or so that some of the ornery boys had sent the old ladies names to a paper that ran a lovers column, stating the lonely old maids were only 40 years old and wanted husbands.


Charley Shanks was a pioneer in the telephone business in Calhoun. Mr. Shanks lived on the right of the road just before you cross the Yellow Creek bridge. He had his own switchboard in his house, his own telephone lines.

The people up in Grantsville could not talk to Parkersburg half the time, and went through Mr. Shanks' line to make the call.

Charley was a little hard of hearing, and talked loud and rough. One day it was storming when a person from Grantsville was talking to a person from Parkersburg.

Some of the boys, just to scare Mr. Shanks, hit the side of his house with a big pole that jarred the house. Charley immediately pulled the plug, causing a disconnection between the two.

The man from Grantsville kept ringing for Charley, and Charley finally yelled back, "Hell, wait a minute, lightening just struck the house!"


Phillip Knight, a pioneer of the Big Bend country, father of Homer, Harley and Hale Knight, was known as a thrifty man. My father was not too far behind. This you will know when I relate this incident.

Both were delegates to the IOOF (Odd Fellows) Convention in Huntington. They had all expenses paid, meals, lodging and travel.

It was in the fall and I drove them to Creston in a car, where they took a boat to Parkersburg.They were gone about four days and I meet them back at Creston.

On our way home, Mr. Knight asked my father how much of his own money he had spent.

Father, as I recall, said he had spent 15 cents. Mr. Knight said he had spent just 5 cents, having bought a newspaper.


Most of the older people I knew in those days have passed away or moved away: Bill, Curt and Romer Bower; Bill, Emory and Jim Rogers; Charley, Earl and Chick Shanks, Bob Williams, Sam Kellar, Carl Rader; Mack Criss, Batelle Ferrell', Thomas Cain, Creed Brooks; T. Yoak; Sheridan Snyder and many others.

Ray and Mrs. Busch now live in Grantsville, Dennie and Roxie Cronin still live at Big Bend, Homer Jones, with whom I use to work, is still living. Walter Lotts has passed away, but Lelah, my first cousin, still survives.

The little village once had this fine hotel building, and some of the prominent citizens of the settlement turned out for a picture taking in early 1900s, including Will Hardman, Lou and Bruce Ferrell, Earl and Charles Shanks, Lloyd and John Rader, the children belong to the Rader family and the Homer Knight family, Mrs. Everett Cain who said that two of her children were born here, during the years 1924-1928 when the Cains purchased the hotel from George Ferrell, prior to that run by Will Hardman
(Photo from an old newspaper clipping supplied by Ruth Holbert Bartlett)

Pier and stonemasons for original Rt. 5
bridge across Yellow Creek at Brooksville