Monday, August 18, 2008

A Clover Fork School Report

by David Parmer
In the latter years of the 19th century, education was still a rather novel undertaking in central West Virginia. There were no mandatory school laws at the time and many families frankly did not see the need for much in the way of formal education. Around the end of the 19th century, Lewis County undertook an extensive school building program in rural areas in order to provide basic education to rural students.

Left: a page from a McGuffey Reader, the text that would have been used at Clover Fork School in the 1810s.
Clover Fork School Built in 1881
One of the schools built by Lewis County in the latter years of the 1800’s was the school on Clover Fork, about four miles east of Orlando. Establishing the date the Clover Fork School was built is quite easy. Charles Bennett of Clover Fork recalls that when he was a student at Clover Fork School, Hayward Skinner pointed out to Miss Juanita Warner, the school’s last teacher during the 1960-1961 school year, the year “1881” inscribed on a siding board about halfway up on the outside of the building. Miss Warner had inquired as to when the Clover Fork School was built. Charles remembers the date because it was also the year of the birth of his grandfather, George Bennett.

The Clover Fork School, Class 1914-1915

Robert T. Crawford
In the school year 1913-1914, the Clover Fork School was headed by Robert T. Crawford as teacher and principal. Crawford was a native of Collins Settlement District. His ancestral family pioneered Cap Run, a tributary of the West Fork River, just north of Walkersville at Emmert. He obtained his teaching certificate in 1913 by examination when he was seventeen years of age and a student at Abram’s Run School. The Clover Fork School was his first teaching assignment. One of his students from that first assignment, Charley McIntosh, the adopted son of Willy and Mary (Weaver) Cunningham, would marry his daughter Lena.

Crawford, who later was superintendent of schools for Lewis County and Dean at Glenville State College, was a firm believer in keeping the community aware of the conduct of the school under his charge. In 1913, Crawford sent a report of his school on Clover Fork to the Weston Independent newspaper which was published on November 25, 1913. He reported,

“The following is a report of the Clover Fork School for the month ending November 7th. Number of pupils enrolled: boys 11, girls, 10, total 21. Average daily attendance: boys 10, girls, 9, total 19. Per cent of daily attendance: boys, 98, girls, 92; average, 95. The following students were neither absent nor tardy: Archie and Eddie Cosner, Patrick Carney, Thomas and Eugene Kelley, Fred Holbert, John Murriner, Okey Carter, Charles McIntosh, Margaret Carney, Mary Holbert and Lorena Kelley. Both patrons and students seem to be interested in the welfare of the school.”

The Students
Archie and Eddie Cosner were sons of Alonzo and Birdie (Singleton) Cosner. Archie married Virginia Wade of Burnsville and worked for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in Baltimore. Archie owned a fifty acre farm in Dundalk, Maryland. This writer visited the Cosner family in Dundalk in 1951 and rode on Archie’s tractor as he plowed the black soil of the Dundalk farm. Archie died in 1997.

Patrick and Margaret Carney, brother and sister, were the children of James and Catherine “Kate” (Moran) Carney. Patrick was a long-time resident of Clarksburg and worked for the Feeney Roofing Company of Clarksburg. This roofing company was owned by Jimmie Feeney, an Orlando native. Patrick died in 1985. Margaret Carney married John Dolan, Jr. of Clarksburg late in life. She was a resident of Weston at her death in 1995.

Thomas Kelley, his brother Eugene, and their sister Lorena were the children of James P. and Agnes (Carney) Kelley of Clover Fork. They were cousins of Patrick and Margaret Carney, pictured above.

Three students at the Clover Fork school at the time of Mr. Crawford's report:
Left above: Patrick Moran
Right above: Margaret (Carney) Dolan
Right: Fred Holbert

Fred Holbert and his sister Mary were the children of Abia and Amanda “Maggie” Holbert who owned a nice farm on Clover Fork near Mount Hope Church. Mary’s first year in school was the first year that Mr. Crawford taught school. Fred was one of the earliest Orlando natives to graduate from a four year college. He received a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in 1928. Mary married Russell Ellyson, a teacher and native of Gilmer County. Mary was a graduate of Glenville State College. She and her husband resided at Morgantown.

John Murriner was the son of Newton and Mary (Rohrbaugh) Murriner. This farming family lived on upper Clover Fork.

Charles McIntosh was the son of George and Mary (Lyons) McIntosh of upper Clover Fork. Charles lost his mother when he was young and he was raised by a Cunningham family on Clover Fork. Charles later resided in Walkersville and was a teacher in Lewis County at the time of his death in 1958.

The Pocket Watch
When Robert T. Crawford successfully passed his teaching examination and became a full-fledged teacher, his father, Robert Willey Crawford, gave his seventeen year old son a new pocket watch. The pocket watch was dutifully carried throughout Robert’s teaching career. The watch was then given to Robert’s daughter, Mary (Crawford) Clawsey. The cherished watch however fell victim to a house burglary a few years later and the sentimental keepsake was lost forever.

Locust Grove
For some reason, the official Lewis County Board of Education name of the Clover Fork School was “Locust Grove.” This writer has yet to find anyone familiar with the school to call it anything other than the “Clover Fork” school. In deference to the local name of the school, the school will be labeled as the Clover Fork School.

By the time Clover Fork school closed, the Dick and Jane series was being used.

School Closure
Closure came to the Clover Fork School at the end of the 1960-1961 school year for the fifteen students who attended the school during its last year.. The students of the school were transported to Orlando which still had a few years left before consolidation also took that school from the community. The Lewis County Board of Education sold the old Clover Fork School to Pres and Jessie Bragg who remodeled the school building into a dwelling house and sold it to Bill Skinner, son of Hayward Skinner, and his wife, Donna (McCauley) Skinner. The building was later sold to Shirley Short who owns the building today.

Comment 1 by John Carney
A few years ago I made an effort to locate the children of my Aunt Agnes (Carney) Kelley and my Uncle James Patrick Kelley. Three of the Kelley children, Thomas Eugene and Lorena were students of Robert T. Crawford at the Clover Fork School in 1913. I remembered that my father told me that the Kelley family had moved to Detroit many years ago and that my family had lost all trace of them. I made several inquiries in the Michigan area about my Kelley cousins to no avail. Quite some time after I had given up hope of locating them, I unexpectedly received an email from a lady in San Diego, California with an attached obituary of my Aunt Agnes (Carney) Kelley who had died in 1961 in California and had been returned to Michigan for burial. I learned that my Uncle James Patrick Kelley had died in Michigan in 1931.

With the help of my aunt’s obituary, I have been able to be in touch with my Kelley cousins who are scattered all over the United States.

comment 2 by Donna Gloff
Another teacher at the Clover Fork school, in the 1940s and 50s, was Virginia (McCoy) Skinner, pictured to the left.

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