Monday, March 03, 2008

Michael Rush's Family & the Rush Hotel

by David Parmer

Michael Rush was the youngest son of Andrew and Abalene Rush, immigrants from the County Roscommon. In 1892, he married Elizabeth Farrell, another child of County Roscommon immigrants. They were the parents of eight children who were born in Orlando, namely Andrew, Peter, Abalena, Anna, Helena, Gertrude, Bertha, and Marie.

To the left are Andrew and Elizabeth Rush with their two oldest children, Andrew (left) and Peter (right). A photo of Elizabeth in later years is at the end of this entry.

See the Feb '08 entry The Rushes From County Roscommon for more on Michael's parents.

See the Jan '08 entry A Summer Wedding for Elizabeth's sister's wedding. It includes a photo of the Farrell sisters in old age.

As the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railroad was building its track from Weston down Oil Creek around 1890, Michael Rush, the third son of Andrew and Abalena Rush, recognized the economic potential of the little town of Orlando, then known as Confluence, and began purchasing land in the village. Between 1891 and 1899 Michael Rush purchased ten different parcels of land in or around Orlando. From 1900 to 1907, he bought ten additional parcels of land. These twenty parcels of real estate were in located in Braxton County. Michael also owned land on Goosepen and Indian Fork in Lewis county, as well as approximately 400 acres in Gilmer County. By 1907, when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Coal and Coke Railroad were shuttling trains through the little town of Orlando day and night, Michael had become a successful businessman and one of the largest landowners in this little community at the mouth of Clover Fork. Judging from his real estate holdings, he was doing very well. Several of the parcels of real estate purchased by Rush were oil or gas producing properties.

Right are young Marie and Andrew Rush with Roy "Boss" Riffle at the Orlando train station. Boss Riffle's wife Idena & son Fred are in the Sept "07 entry Fred Riffle's Strawberries

The Rush Hotel
The Rush Hotel was one of the major investments made by Michael Rush in the Confluence community. The hotel was located on the northern (left) side of the street as you pass across the Oil Creek Bridge headed toward down town. The building was a two story frame building, approximately fifty feet long running with the street and forty feet deep, with porches on both floors, running across the street side of the building and across the eastern end of the building. The eastern end of the building faced toward the right of way of the West Virginia and Pittsburgh Railroad (Baltimore and Ohio ) coming down Oil Creek. The entrance to the hotel was on the eastern end of the building. The Rush Hotel was the first and finest hotel in Confluence at the time. Just as in the Dolan Hotel of Orlando, members of the Rush family worked in the hostelry.

The Rush Hotel.

Susie Stark of Weston, granddaughter of Margaret (Rush) Kraus who was the sister of Michael Rush, recalls that her grandmother told her that she prepared and sold lunches for passengers on the trains which stopped in Confluence to allow passengers to change trains and also for water and freight stops. Members of the Dolan family likewise made a living for many years selling packed lunches to train passengers. In the first decade of the 1900s, oil and gas exploration brought a boom to Confluence. The town was the nearest rail freight stop for equipment and supplies needed by the drillers and related trades. Teamsters were on the streets of Confluence everyday picking up supplies or oil and gas field workers, or bringing barrels of oil for shipment by rail. The Rush Hotel enjoyed the trade brought by the boom and prospects looked good for the Michael Rush family.

To the right is a photo taken from the Henline home on the hill south of downtown Orlando.

The Michael & Elizabeth Rush Home
The Michael Rush home in Confluence was originally the home of H. D. Mitchell and was acquired by Rush in 1891. This two story frame dwelling was located on the western side of Oil Creek and just south of the later-built Coal and Coke Railroad line. It was next to the later-built St. Michael’s Catholic Church which was erected on land conveyed to the Catholic Bishop by the heirs of Michael Rush. On the east side the Rush house was next to the original Dolan Hotel which was built approximately 1905.

Michael Rush's Death
The Burnsville Enterprise newspaper dated November, 1907 reported on the death of Michael A. Rush:

M. A. Rush Dead
A Well Known Merchant of Orlando
Died of Typhoid Fever
"The many friends throughout the county and all over the State will hear with regret of the death of Mike Rush of Orlando, at the home of his sister, Mrs. William McGann of Weston, last Friday noon. He went there a few days ago to take medical treatment when it was discovered that he had a well developed case of typhoid fever. He immediately took to bed at the home of his sister, where he died at noon Friday. He was a well known merchant of Orlando and leaves a wife and six children. His remains were brought to Orlando Saturday morning when his interment took place Sunday.”

In the early twentieth century, medicine was still a primitive art and preventive health care was practically nonexistent. Vaccinations, serums, and effective medicines were still decades away. Some diseases were common, unchecked and nearly all fatal. One of these diseases was typhoid fever and many deaths in the early 1900s were attributable to the disease. Michael, who in November 1907 had been married for only fifteen years and was but forty two years of age, fell a victim of typhoid fever. Michael Rush took ill in the first week of November 1907 and was dead by November 7th at the home of his sister Mary McGann of Weston. The angel of recovery did not visit Michael Rush. His body was returned to Orlando from the home of his sister in Weston and lay in repose at the Rush Hotel for the wake, with Mike Moran in charge of arrangements.

November 10, 1907 was a dark, cold and sad Sunday as the funeral procession for Michael A. Rush prepared to depart Orlando for St. Bridget’s Cemetery at Goosepen. Mike Moran's two-horse funeral wagon bearing the casket of the deceased paused briefly at the end of the Orlando Bridge so Lee Morrison, photographer extraordinaire of Orlando, could memorialize the solemn occasion of the death of Michael Rush, the prominent Orlando merchant and hotel keeper. Many kinsmen and friends, mounted upon their horses, arrayed in front and behind the funeral wagon and carriages bearing the Rush family, for the five mile trip to the burial ground. Michael’s oldest child Andrew was thirteen, his child, Marie, was seven months old. It was a long cold trip to the cemetery for adults and more so for young grieving children. But such is God’s will.

A Change of Hotel Management
At the death of her husband, Elizabeth (Farrell) Rush had eight minor children to nurture, the youngest of which was not yet a year old. Elizabeth operated the hotel for a few years, but, determining it impossible to raise her children and operate a busy hotel, she made arrangements with Burgess V. Kelly to lease the hotel. Kelly operated the hotel for a short period and renamed it Hotel Kelly but he soon decided that the hotel trade was not for him and gave it up. Elizabeth then arranged for her late husband’s sisters, Margaret (Rush) Kraus and Ella (Rush) Kraus, to operate the hotel which they did for a short while.

To the right, an ad for Hotel Kelly from a Braxton County newspaper.

We know that in August 1917, the hotel was again known as the Rush Hotel. In his column in the Buzzardtown News, Uncle Zeke mentioned that Mrs. Solomon Mick of Rocky Fork who came to Orlando to shop “got lost in the city of Orlando the other day and mistook the Rush Hotel for Dock Means Store. Mrs. Mick will have to come to town a little oftener.” The Dock Means Store was in the building opposite the hotel.

The Rush Hotel remained in the ownership of the Rush family until 1933. The Michael Rush heirs sold the former Rush Hotel in Orlando to J. E. Riffle, C. M. Mick and D. S. Bennett, Trustees of Washington Lodge No. 194 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in August 1933 for the sum of $491.36 to be paid within one year. The parcel conveyed contained approximately 3968 3/4 square feet, or roughly an eighth of an acre.
The Rush Children and Memories of Orlando

“Helen” Rush, daughter of Michael and Elizabeth, married Bernard Fahey of Crooked Run. Helena and Bernard lived their married lives in Akron, Ohio and had no children. Bernard’s twin brother William also lived in Akron. William’s daughter, Anne Frey, recalls that the last time she saw Elizabeth (Farrell) Rush was at the funeral service for her Aunt Helena.

Helena (Rush) Fahey is to the right.

Gertrude & Bertha, the Twins
Robert Bramham, the son of Marie (Rush) Bramham, recalls that his Aunt Gertrude Rush frequently talked about the marvelous dances which took place in Orlando during the weekends. The top floor of the Wholesale Building owned by Mike Moran was frequently used a dance hall on weekends and undoubtedly was the site of the weekend dances.

Two photos of the twins. Double click to enlarge the photo to the left to see the patchwork quilt the girls are wrapped in.
To the right are, (L to R) Gertrude and Bertha Rush.

Elizabeth Wright, daughter of Marie (Rush) Bramham, recalls hearing conversations about Orlando among her family when she was young and recalls her aunt Bertha, known to her as “Aunt Bobbi,” talk about the “rooming house” her family owned in Orlando, and that the family was busy providing lodging to itinerant farm and oil field workers in the Orlando area.

Gertrude became a nurse and last worked in New Yourk. Bobbi worked in Clarksburg in dress shops and other retail stores.

Abalena was a secretary. She married Peter Frederick Von Thaden from Weehawken, NJ. He was known as “Von”. His parents were immigrants: his father from Germany and his mother from Denmark. Peter was not Catholic, but on Nov 7, 1935 they were married in the Sacristy of Clarksburg’s Catholic Church

In 1936, Von and Abelena moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where he worked in the Soil Conservation Program as an Accountant. Abelena worked in New Mexico as a stenographer for the Santa Fe Railroad.

On November 28, 1936, their only child, a daughter, was born in Albuquerque. They named her name is Martha Ann. She had strawberry blond hair and was the apple of her father’s eye. Martha can remember going on family picnics. She remembers her mother as knowing her own mind and she was willing to share it with others. Martha remembers her father a quiet and rather passive.

Von transferred to job in Colorado and in late 1950’s and he and Abelena retired in Melbourne, FL Abelena (Rush) Von Thaden died October 31, 1978 while she and her husband Peter were visiting relatives in WVA. She suffered a stroke. She was buried in Melbourne, Florida. Peter died of complications of Leukemia in 1983. He was buried in Melbourne next to his wife.
Above, left and right, Abalene
Left, Peter "Von" von Thaden

Marie: Love is a Carved Name
The name M A R I E .R U S H was carved deeply into the wooden steering wheel of the old Model T Ford. Tom Pumphrey was just a boy when he read the inscription. He had heard of the etched name of the young Orlando lady on the car’s steering wheel long before he saw it and he was anxious to have his first look at it. The carving was obviously done with great care and love. Many people asked to look at the mystical name embedded permanently on the steering wheel of the old car which Tom Pumphrey’s father had bought second-hand from Tom Straley in the early 1930s. Now eighty six years of age, Tom Pumphrey recalls the story well.

The Fealy farm was located at the junction of the Goosepen Road and the Three Lick Road as it came down westward off Ryan’s Hill. Ella Fealy had married Floyd Straley and the couple lived on her family’s farm. One of their children, Tom, was born in 1903. Floyd and Ella Straley bought a Model T Ford when their son Tom was a teenager. Although originally intended as a family automobile, young Tom soon found it to be a necessity for traveling to Orlando, the closest metropolis to his family’s Goosepen farm, where he spent most of his leisure time. A young lady of Orlando, Marie Rush, the daughter of Elizabeth (Farrell) Rush and the late Michael Rush, was the most beautiful thing young Tom Straley had ever seen to that point in his life and he was immediately infatuated with her. He made many a trip thereafter to Orlando.

A bashful youth, Tom, could summon up enough courage to speak with the beautiful Marie, but lacked the confidence to express his romantic interest in her. As a substitute for advising Marie of his love, Tom lovingly carved her name on the steering wheel of his car.

Elizabeth Rush, the mother of Marie and her two brothers and five sisters, had decided to move her family from Orlando to Clarksburg around 1920. Without knowing of Tom’s love for her, the beautiful Marie and her family moved to Clarksburg, far from the Goosepen farm of Tom’s youth and his heart.

Tom Straley lived the remainder of his life as a bachelor. His beautiful Marie met her future husband in Clarksburg and never returned to Orlando. Tom finally sold his old Model T with the inscription of his secret love in mellowed patina emblazoned on the steering wheel. He died in 1951 at the age of forty eight.

Elizabeth (Bramham) Wright, daughter of Marie (Rush) Bramham, when recently asked about whether her mother knew Tom Straley, her secret admirer from Goosepen, recalls that her mother used to be teased by her sisters about some boy from Orlando but she never learned his name.

Andrew Rush
John Rush, son of Andrew, says Andrew was living in Clarksburg when he was called up for service during WW I.

Pictured left and right is Andrew V. Rush.

In the 1930s and 1940s, when Andrew Rush was engaged in the insurance business in Weston, he would often find his occupation taking him through Burnsville. Andrew’s son, John, would frequently travel with his father. Andrew always made it a point to stop by the Burnsville Drug Store and say hello to Doctor Stanton Trimble who also once made Orlando his home in the early 20th century. Although Doc Trimble was a bit older than Andrew they enjoyed reminiscing about their former days in the railroad town of Orlando. John Rush, son of Andrew Rush, and grandson of Michael A. and Elizabeth Rush, recalls that his Aunt Bertha Rush, his father’s sister, worked in Clarksburg in dress shops and other retail stores after the family moved to Clarksburg.

Ann and Pete
Ann became a nurse along with her sister Gertrude. Ann died of Multiple Sclerosis at Johns Hopkins Hopsital at the age of 57.

Pete also died from Multiple Sclerosis. He died at the age of 61 in St Mary's Hopsital where his sisters had trained.

To the left is Anne, detail taken from a group picture.

To the left is Pete Rush riding a cow in Orlando, with the help of buddies. Holding the cow is Doc Henline. Behind the cow from left to right are Hob Henline, Sam Craft's son, Albert Butcher, Clyde Skinner, Dan Moran, and Sam Craft.
To the right is Uncle Pete with Andrew's son Michael.

The Widow Rush and Her Family
Leave for Clarksburg
Two of the Rush daughters, Anna and Gertrude, decided early in life that they would devote their careers to nursing. They enrolled at the St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing in Clarksburg about the time of the First World War.

In order to stay close to her daughters and to take advantage of the amenities of a larger city for her family, Elizabeth left the still booming town of Orlando. She moved in 1919 to 311 Jefferson Street in Clarksburg where she remained to the end of her life. Thus ended a thirty year connection between the Rush family and the town of Orlando.

To the left is Elizabeth (Farrell) Rush.

To the right are Andrew, Abelena, Elizabeth, Gertrude, Bertha, Helen, Marie and Peter. Ann took the photo.

Below right, Elizabeth with daughter Abelene, granddaughter Martha and great-grandson Josef.

Elizabeth sold some of the real estate holdings owned by her late husband in the Orlando area however she continued to hold other real estate and the oil and gas leases which she had executed with the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Gas Company and the Hope Natural Gas Company on about 270 acres in Braxton County and on her interest in the Farrell property on Rocky Fork which consisted of about 600 acres.

Although Elizabeth occasionally returned to Orlando for visits and stayed at the Dolan Hotel, she lived the rest of her life in Clarksburg and died in 1970 at age 98. She was buried at St. Bridget’s Cemetery.

comment 1: The St. Mary’s School of Nursing, which was affiliated with St. Mary’s Hospital, was chartered in 1905 and continued graduating nurses until 1968. It was operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wheeling.

To the right is the St. Mary Hospital about the time the Rush sisters were there.

comment 2: The Rushes' Orlando home, which they purchased from businessman H. D. Mitchell, was later the home of Charley Knight. Later, the buildning's materials were used to build the home of Coleman and Helen (Frame) Jeffries. The home built from the materials of the Rush house is featured in the Feb '07 entry
Childhood in Orlando: Early Remembrances of Hauling Lumber.


  1. Does anyone know what the two-story buiding is across the road from the curent post office. There used to be a barn or blacksmith shop on the east bank of Oil Creek by the bridge and the two-story building set beside it along the road. The building is white with green trim.

  2. We just call it the warehouse today. It's served many functions since it was built in 1909. It was originally three stories tall. The warehouse fingures into many of Orlando's stories. There is no one blog entry that covers everything but some of its history can be found at

    If you have more questions, do contact me at

  3. I wonder if these Rush's could be related to our Rush family?