Friday, January 05, 2007

Aunt Ann Skinner - Orlando's Real Estate Baroness

David Parmer shares the following information and photo. In addition to considerable research at the Lewis County Courthouse, he brings invaluable information directly from "Heater Henline, Margaret (Henline) Nixon, Lula (Henline) Mitchell, Opal McCrobie, and my father in law, Coleman Jeffries, all of whom knew Aunt Ann, and who spoke of her with affection." In particular, he tells us "Heater Henline had a remarkable memory and related much to me about Aunt Ann and her good fortune and that she had 'good horse sense'. I was very interested and listened intently."

Ann Katherine Skinner was the seventh of thirteen and second oldest of the female children of Alexander Skinner and Phebe Conrad Skinner. Ann never married. It has been passed down in family lore that the reason Ann never married was because her right incisor tooth was unusually long, and dangerous looking, which had the effect of scaring off potential suitors. At any rate, Ann devoted her life to her father and to the orphan children of her deceased brother Luther Skinner and his wife Miriam Walton Skinner1, and particularly her niece Olive, known as Ollie2.
Ollie's portrait is to the left.

In 1887, Alexander Skinner, with thoughts of mortality on his mind, began carving up his large real estate holdings. In the Orlando area alone he held title to approximately 370 acres of land, and held additional tracts in the upper Clover Fork and Knawl's Creek areas. To his daughter Semantha Henline he gave 44 acres on the south bank of Oil Creek. To Ann, his spinster daughter, he gave 54 acres which included all of the area around the confluence of Clover Fork and Oil Creek. This section of land was later to prove to be a very valuable tract of real estate and lay in the heart of the later boomtown of Orlando. But in 1887, the land was used for farming as were the tracts he deeded to his other children.

Farming of her inheritance came to an end for Aunt Ann a couple of years later when a predecessor of the West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad, the Weston and Elk River Railroad, came prospecting for a rail route from the north to the south. A couple of years later the West Virginia and Pittsburgh built its rail line down Oil Creek on the way to Burnsville and Richwood. With the location of a depot for the WV & P in the sleepy little bit of country of Confluence came the demand for building lots for budding entrepreneurs. Ann Skinner happened to own most all of the land that was of interest to land seekers. Ann, with counsel from her father, and considerable business acumen of her own, subdivided her land and began selling the precious lots to an unending stream of buyers.

During the period of 1890 to the time of her death in 1914, Ann was the one of the most active real estate developers in southern Collins Settlement District, and easily the most active in the Orlando area. Ann deeded to the trustees of the Methodist Protestant Church the land for a cemetery to be known as the "Skinner Cemetery". She also deeded to the Lewis County Board of Education the land for the Lewis County School and also deeded to the Orlando IOOF the land for its lodge hall. The location of the B & O depot in Orlando was part of the Ann Skinner land, as were all of the businesses properties in downtown Orlando. Ann lived simply and unpretentiously, but was comfortable in her old age when she passed away in 1914.

1. Ann and Luther Skinner's parents and Miriam Walton's parents were pioneers on Oil Creek. See the entry for Nov 13, '06 First Settlers.
2. For more on Olive Skinner see the entries Jul 12, '06
Ollie and Nathan Parmer
and Apr 19, '06 Alexander Skinner's Will, 11 OCT 1887

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