Monday, November 13, 2006

First Settlers

How did Orlando begin? Earliest land records for Oil Creek and its tributaries are skimpy and until 1850 the census didn't give a clue about where in the district a citizen's property was located. Undocumented family stories do give us clues but still, it is difficult to discern the first settlers in the region that would become Orlando.

The first solid body of information about who lived along Oil Creek and its tributaries comes to us with the 1850 census. The 1850 census gives us names of everyone in the household and some useful details about them.

The 1850 census suggests that by that time the following 30 or so households had formed a community that in time would grow into Confluence and then Orlando.1 Looking at these 30 or s0 families it appears that most if not all of the settlers who had arived by 1850 came from one of three places. Several came from Braxton County2, farther upstream on the Little Kanawha River. The Mace, Sands, Heater and Skinner/Posey3 families can be traced to areas including Bulltown, Flatwoods and Salt Lick. Greenbrier County is the second source of settlers. The extended Williams family came directly from Greenbrier County, VA to settle throughout the Little Kanawha River watershed. The members of this clan who settled along Oil Creek and its tributaries include the names Williams, Blake, and Ocheltree. From Lewis County came Jacob and Dorothy Riffle with several of their children. They died in Braxton County in 1816/17. Several of their children and grandchildren were in the Oil Creek area by the time of the 1850 census.

In 1850 the community that would become Orlando included
In Braxton County
1 Nancy McPherson y/o widow
2 Benjamin Posey 35y/o, widower
. . . Had married Cynthia Robinson who was deceased in 1850, would marry her sister Sephronia Robinson
3 William 38 y/o and Sarah 26 y/o (Ste...) Posey
4 Catherine (Scott) Skinner Posey 68y/o widowed
5 Rebecca (Williams) Ocheltree 56y/o, widowed
6 John B. 42y/o Abigail 42y/o (Crissmore) Blake
7 Samuel 59 y/o and Nancy 54y/o (Hanna) Walton
8 Joseph 24y/o and Elizabeth 36 y/o (Walton) Blake
9 Jacob R. 45y/o and Elizabeth M. 37y/o (Williams) Riffle
10 Francis 69y/o and Elizabeth 45y/o (Conrad) Riffle
11 Jefferson 27y/0 and Elizabeth 23y/o (Heater) Riffle
12 Isaac Jr. 64y/o and Elizabeth 62y/o (Wash) Riffle
13 Jacob J. 29y/o and Francina (Blake) Riffle
14 Jacob 26y/o and Susannah (Riffle) Heater
15 Absolom 42y/o and Susannah 37y/o (Robinson) Riffle
16 James 33y/o and Mary 35y/o (Riffle) Sands
17 William John 27y/o and Elizabeth 32y/o (Riffle) Blake
18 John B. 36y/o and Mary 33y/o (Mace) Conrad
19 John A. 32y/o and Mary Ann 23y/o (unk) Harris
20 James 27y/o and Rebecca 23 y/o (unk) Williams
21 Hugh 49y/o and Jane 49y/o (Howell) Williams
22 Hugh 40y/o and Martha 44y/o (Williams) Blake
23 Marshall 23y/0 and Patience 27y/o (Ocheltree) Williams
24 James 44y/o and Bearsheba 42y/o (Howell) Williams
25 George 34y/o and Nancy 34y/o (Ocheltree) Williams

in Lewis County
26 William 55y/o and Mary 45y/o (Cogar) Heater
27 James 42y/o and Barbara 39y/o (Riffle) Posey
28 Andrew 40 y/o and Catherine 43y/o (Crissmore) Blake
29 Edward 44y/o and Margaret 39y/o (Ocheltree) Williams
30 Alexander 42y/o and Phoebe 35 y/o (Conrad) Skinner
31 John 42y/o and Sarah Ann 38y/o (Posey) Riffle

Four families that lived in this community at this time would be gone before the 1860 census and none of their children married within the Oil Creek community:
Gabriel Denison
Thomas Hudnall

William and Rachel (Emrich) Godfrey moved on west
Robert & Ann (Smith) Godfrey and their children would be found in Gilmer, Calhoon, and other West Virginia counties. Godfreys would move to Orlando.

The sketch above right of building a log cabin is by Alsacian immigrant Joseph H. Diss Debar from West Virginia History and Archives.

1. The assumptions used to determine who in the 1850 census belonged to the community that would become Orlando:
a. the households are listed according to their physical location. The census taker in the 1850 census went from one residence to the next closest and recorded the information that way.

b. there is a tight pattern of intermarriage among the children in the community

2 The Early History of Braxton County
"In 1798 Nicholas Gibson, 1800 Benjamin Conrad, John Conrad, Daniel Conrad, Thomas Murphy, in the years to follow: Col. John Hayman, Asa Squires, Elijah Squires, Andres Friend, Thomas Frame, Edward Posey, John F. Singleton, George F. Gerwig, William McCoy, John M. Brown, George W. Greene, Andrew Skidmore. Col. John Hayman, settled in what is now known as Bulltown. So called on fact it was occupied for many years by friendly Indians whose chief was known as Captain Bull."Further on this source says:"The first settlers in the Salt Lick District known as “Flatwoods” were Peter Shields, Asa Squires, in 1807. Soon after joined by P.B. Burns, John Hayman, Issac Riffle. Christian Heater, William McCoy, and John F. Singleton."

3. Because most of the spouses of the Skinner/Posey children were from early Little Kanawha River settlers we suppose this Maryland family came into the Oil Creek area via Braxton County.

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