The Town of Franklin, Pendleton County, West Virginia

In 1769 Francis and George Evick surveyed 160 acres of land on the left bank of the South Branch. It is on a portion of this tract that Franklin is built. George appears to have lived across the river at the mouth of the Evick gap. The early home of Francis was near a spring that issues from the hillside above the upper street and near the Ruddle tannery.

In June of 1788 the first county court of Pendleton met at the house of Captain Stratton, six miles below the Evicks. One of the duties assigned to it by the legislative act creating the county was to determine a central position for the courthouse. Just what motives led to the selection of the Evick farm we do not know. As the southern county line then stood, the position was much less near the center than it is now. The Peninger farm near the mouth of the Thorn would more nearly have met the geographical condition. But Francis Evick appears to have been thrifty and business like, notwithstanding his inability to write his name, at least in English. It is probable that he presented a more attractive proposition to the county court than did anyone else.

The Evicks had been living here about twenty years, yet the neighborhood was thinly peopled. Up the river the nearest neighbors appear to have been Ulrich Conrad and Henry Peninger. Conrad built a mill at the mouth of the Thorn about the time the Evicks came. Down the river near the present iron bridge was James Patterson. A nearer neighbor in the same direction was George Dice. Above Dice along Friend's Run were the Friends, Richardsons, Powers, and Cassells.

Within a few weeks after the action of the county court, Francis Evick laid off a town site along the foot of the ridge above his meadows. Incidentally thereto, but probably a little later, George sold his interest in the tract of 160 acres, and moved to a larger farm on Straight Creek. The date of the transaction is August 16, 1788, and the consideration is 250 pounds ($833.33). The place was for several years called Frankford, apparently an abbreviation of "Frank's ford," as the crossing of the river at the mouth of the Evick gap was known. In the older states it was usual for a town to grow up at haphazard, with little regularity or system in its passage-ways or in the shape of its lots. But the county seat of Pendleton was laid out with a method that does credit to all who were concerned in the matter. The amount of ground covered by the original survey is 46 1-2 acres, the county according to statute law requiring two acres for its public buildings. Within this original area the streets and alleys are straight and the lots are parallelograms.

The selling of lots and the building of houses began at once. As will presently be shown, Evick did not always yield full possession of the ground. Yet he had some advanced ideas. He seems to have been unwilling to sell lots for merely speculative purposes or to permit a lot to harbor a public nuisance.

Robert Davis, the sheriff, bought a lot on the same day that Francis Evick bought out the interest of George. For the single lot of one-half acre Davis paid 5 pounds ($16.67). The deed stipulates that the purchaser is to build within two years a good dwelling house, at least 16 by 20 feet in size, and with a chimney of brick or stone. There was to be no distillery on the premises. Each New Year's Day he was to pay a ground rent of 33 cents in gold or silver at its current value. If no building were put up, the rent was to be three shillings, or 50 cents.

Samuel Black, a cabinet-maker, was already in the town, but there is no record of his purchase of a lot. He may have occupied the old Evick home, for Francis Evick was already living in a stone dwelling, now a part of the Daugherty Hotel and not in full alignment with the main street. Garvin Hamilton, the county clerk, was also prompt to locate in the new town. He lived on the Anderson lot in front of the courthouse, and the first term of court at the county seat was held in his house in September of the same year.

We have no record of further sales until 1790. In that year a double lot was sold to Joseph Ewbank for $43.33 and a ground rent of one dollar. This property lay close to Evick's old home and springhouse. A single lot was sold to John Skidmore at the same price and on the same terms as to Davis. Single lots were also sold to Hamilton and to James Patterson for $20 and $15 respectively and without conditions. About the same time a lot was sold to George Hammer with conditions and price the same as to Davis, and a lot to Jacob Reintzel without conditions. Reintzel, whose lot was on the upper street, sold two years later to Sebastian Hoover. John Painter bought a half lot at half price.

The price of town property was soon rising. In 1792 Michael McClure bought a lot without conditions for $33 33. Edward Breakiron paid $41.67 for another, which he resold to Stephen Bogart. In the same year James Patterson sold his property, then the home of John Roberts, to Jonas Chrisman for $366.67. In 1795 Oliver and William McCoy paid $40 for a lot originally granted to William Black and then occupied by William Lawrence. Before 1797 George Dahmer owned the lot which was later the property of Adam Evick. In 1800 lots were purchased by Aaron Kee, a merchant, and by a man whose name is written "John Steal." In 1803 Francis Evick, Jr., sold a house and lot for $800. In the same year John Roberts moved away selling his lot opposite the courthouse to Peter Hull for $1333.33.

Within a half dozen years there was a cluster of dwellings of sufficient importance to cause the legislature to designate it as a town under the name of Franklin. The Act of Assembly is dated December 19, 1794. The name Frankford would doubtless have been retained, had not the legislature in 1788 designated a town in Hampshire by that name, to say nothing of the Frankfort in what is now the state of Kentucky. The new name evidently commemorates the eminent statesman and philosopher, Benjamin Franklin.

The trustees of Franklin, as named in the legislative act were Joseph Arbaugh, Jacob Conrad, James Dyer, Sr., John Hopkins, Peter Hull, Joseph Johnson, William McCoy, Oliver McCoy, James Patterson, and John Roberts. By another act, dated Christmas day, 1800, the trustees were authorized to make and establish legal regulations for protecting property from fire, for keeping hogs from running at large, to prohibit the galloping and racing of horses in streets and alleys, and preserving good order generally.

The population at the opening of the new century was probably about 100, and the growth has ever since been slow though steady. The changes among the residents are too numerous, however, to be followed. But step by step the hamlet springing up around the log courthouse developed into the completeness of an inland town.

James Patterson appears to have been a merchant as well as justice, although the first recorded license to sell goods was that granted to Perez Drew in August, 1790. From the frequency of his mention in the early records, John Roberts would appear to be one of the early merchants. He removed to Washington County, Pennsylvania. Aaron Kee opened a store in 1800. But until his drowning in Glady Fork, while on his way to Beverly about 1825, Daniel Capito was the leading man of business. The first license for an ordinary was that granted to Joseph Johnson in 1795.

There is mention of a "meeting house" in 1790, but this can hardly refer to a church building within the corporate limits. The first mention of a school is in 1802, when the use of the courthouse was granted for this purpose. In 1809 Francis Evick, Jr., deeded two and one-half acres on the west side for the purposes of church, school, and cemetery. A commodious frame church was erected thereon by Campbell Masters. The site is between the houses of John McClure and H. M. Calhoun. It remained many years a plain weather beaten structure without bell or belfry, but was painted and improved some years prior to the civil war. This building was a union church, though at first used mainly by the Lutherans. Later it was used chiefly by the United Brethren, Methodists, and Presbyterians. The last two congregations finally put up brick houses of worship of their own, and the union church having fallen into decay was torn down. A schoolhouse was built on the hillside above the Evick spring, and the summit of the knob beyond was used many years as a place of interment. But at present the property is not used for any of the three original purposes. The three roomed schoolhouse stands on the main street, and the town cemetery lies a mile north on the Harrisonburg pike.

In 1834, after the town had had an authorized existence of forty years, there were two stores, two tanyards, three saddlers, two carpenters, two shoemakers, two blacksmiths, one gunsmith, one tailor, one hatter, and one cabinet and chair maker. The professions were represented by two attorneys and one physician. There were also a school, a temperance and Bible society.

In 1867 a photograph taken from nearly the same position as the picture appearing in this book does not show a very striking contrast with respect to the upper end of the town, save in the appearance of the Union church. The houses were generally weather boarded and painted.

The last fifteen years have witnessed a decided growth toward the north and also on the Smith Creek road. Houses of modern design have arisen, and the greater share of the oblong two-storied log dwelling houses have been removed. The number of private houses has increased to about 100, and Franklin in its present guise is one of the handsomest of the small towns of West Virginia. There are three stores, two drugstores, two hotels, two tanneries, a bank, a printing office and newspaper, a carding mill, an undertaker's shop, a photographic gallery, a planing mill, a blacksmith shop, a wheelwright shop, and a grocery. There are two resident ministers, four attorneys, four physicians and a dentist.

Pendleton County | West Virginia AHGP

Source: History of Pendleton County West Virginia, By Oren F. Morton, Franklin, West Virginia, Published by the author, 1910.

 

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