Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Short Lifetime on Oil Creek

by David Parmer
Bud Hamilton
Richard Francis “Bud” Hamilton was born in 1884 in Daybrook, Monongalia County, about fifteen miles west of Morgantown. The son of Daniel L. and Martha M. (Shriver) Hamilton, Bud was one of eleven children.

Right: Bud Hamilton and his wife Georgia (Riffle) Hamilton in their tomato patch

In the early 1900s several new family names entered the communities in the Oil Creek watershed as young men came to busy and growing Orlando where work was plentiful. They married local girls and built a life there. Stutler and Beckner were two, Hamilton was another. Exactly when Bud Hamilton came to Orlando is uncertain although we know he was an employee of the Philadelphia Company and in the Posey Run area in the fall of 1915, when the gas company completed a successful gas well on the property of W. T. “Taylor” Riffle, Bud’s future grandfather-in-law. We further know that he was acquainted with Grafton Riffle, his future brother-in-law, also a Philadelphia Company employee, by that date because in a December, 1915 Uncle Zeke newspaper column, Bud reportedly was thinking of joining with Grafton Riffle to start a blacksmithing business. This of course was most likely an Uncle Zeke jest since both Bud and his brother-in-law Grafton used horses in connection with their employment with the gas company.

In 1916, according to a news item in the Braxton Democrat, Bud and another brother-in-law, Homer Skinner (married to his bride’s older sister Bessie), were engaged in building a road at Blackburn (located at the confluence of Rocky Fork and Sand Fork in Gilmer County) for the Philadelphia Company in order to access a drilling site. They were using a Philadelphia Company horse named “Rex,” which had been injured and for which Bud was providing veterinary skills to bring the horse along.

Right: Georgia (Riffle) Hamilton as a child, young woman and adult

Bud and Georgia

In his April 16, 1916 column, Uncle Zeke reported the case of a “missing person,” “Lost somewhere between Buzzardtown and Skunkville, a young man by the name of “Bud H., between the ages of twenty five and fifty. When last seen he was at W. T. Riffle’s at the mouth of “Possum Holler” on his way to “Georgia.”

Bud Hamilton must have had “Georgia on his mind,” because he married Georgia Riffle, daughter of Minerva Riffle, and granddaughter of W. T. “Taylor” and Margaret (Posey) Riffle. The Riffle and Posey families were pioneer families with deep roots in the Oil Creek valley. Georgia was raised in her grandparents’ home on a twenty three acre farm on Posey Run which Taylor and Margaret Riffle had purchased from Tom Conley when Georgia's mother Minerva was five years old (in 1881).

Left: In this 1907 photo of the Poey Run school, Georgia is the tall girl next to the boy with the bat. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Georgia attended the Posey Run School when she was growing up and then attended high school at Flatwoods. She finished her high school course and stood for the teacher’s uniform examination at Sutton in 1913. Georgia received her teaching certificate but did not get the opportunity to embark upon a teaching career because this attractive and intelligent lady was quickly snapped up by the most eligible bachelor in the Posey Run area and became a bride in 1916.

In 1918 Bud contracted with Porter “Port” Loudin of Burnsville to build a home on Oil Creek. Assisting Port with the construction was Bud’s grandfather-in-law, Taylor Riffle who was a master carpenter and cabinet and coffin maker. (Taylor had recently finished building a home at Copen for his nephew, Andrew Jackson Heater.) The Hamilton home was finished in January 1919 and Bud and Georgia and Stanley, their first born, moved into their new home. Bud’s friend O. P. McCord told Uncle Zeke that “since Bud moved into his new home, he just sits and sings “Oh, its nice to be a father.” In his news column, Uncle Zeke offered “Shucks, Bud couldn’t sing ‘ta, ra, ra, ra, bum, ta, ta.’”
Left above: Georgia, Stanley and Georgia's mother Minerva on the left, Minerva's mom Margaret Posey on the right.
Right: the Hamilton home

Uncle Zeke, further joshing Bud about his fretfulness with his new child, joked in a November 1918 column that “Bud Hamilton thinks his baby has chicken pox because he found a feather in the bed the other morning.”

The Hamilton Household
Bud and Georgia would have eight children: Stanley, Lemoine, Francis, Helen, William, Mark, Margaret and Max. Of course, his family would always share Bud’s heart with his hounds and love of fox hunting. Bud’s fox hunting is the topic of a separate entry that will be posted following this one.

Six of the eight Hamilton kids: Stanley, Lemoine, Helen, Bill, Margaret and Max

In March 1924, Uncle Zeke reported that “It is no more Bud Hamilton. It is now Mr. Frank Hamilton, owner of a Ford car.” Although automobiles by the early 1920’s were becoming more commonplace around Orlando, poor roads and flooding made them unreliable. Uncle Zeke remained skeptical of the horseless carriage, and more skeptical that Braxton County could build and maintain roads suitable enough to run the “infernal machines.” Uncle Zeke frequently complained in print that the road to Burnsville was impassable and the road up Posey Run to the Gilmer County line was non-existent. Many a car, according to Uncle Zeke, was lost in the bottomless mud holes of the Oil Creek Road. To carry on this theme, Uncle Zeke reported that “Bud Hamilton has to ride his Ford with two Mexican spurs.”

Since Bud used a horse for purposes of work to maintain the rights of way for the gas pipelines and to check on the gas wells under his supervision, his Ford automobile was primarily used for recreational purposes, or going to the many fox chasers’ reunions he attended throughout central and northern West Virginia.

In 1925 the Hamiltons built an addition to accommodate their growing family.

In 1928, the Oscar Posey farm on the second right hand fork of Posey Run came up for sale by auction. Oscar, the son of Andrew Newton “Ruddel” and Mary (Murphy) Posey, re-located to a more productive farm in the Crawford area. Bud was the high bidder for the Posey farm which he considered a rental investment. This farm was about three-quarters of a mile from the Hamilton home. The farm also afforded Bud another place to hunt.

Georgia and the Ladies Aid
Being the mother of eight children did not inhibit Georgia from her love of service to the United Brethren Church. Georgia was a long and faithful member of the Ladies Aid of the Orlando church as well as an officer of the church and Sunday school teacher. Family may have come first with Georgia but her church was not far behind. When her daughter Margaret was less than two years old, Georgia saddled up her horse, took Margaret in tow, and rode to the Ladies Aid meeting in Orlando in 1934. Uncle Zeke reported that while Georgia was on her way home, the saddle turned on the horse and Georgia and her infant daughter Margaret were thrown to the ground. Maintaining a firm grip on her swaddled daughter, Georgia hit the ground awkwardly on her elbow, dislocating it. Pearl (Riffle) Edgell, who was riding alongside of Georgia, dismounted and pulled Georgia’s arm back into place. After re-positioning and tightening the saddle, Georgia resumed the journey home and neither she nor her daughter was any the worse for wear.

Can a Ground Squirrel Get Religion?
Bud Hamilton’s three oldest children, Stanley, Lemoyne, and Helen, were on their way to Sunday school at the Orlando U. B. Church one Sunday in May 1929 with Lambert, Marvin and Ruby Beckner and Hubert Posey, when they decided to proselytize a ground squirrel and convert it to United Brethrenism. In his October 30, 1929 column, Uncle Zeke reported: “There was much fun galore last Sunday morning when a bunch of Sunday school kids tackled a ground squirrel which they had run into on their way to Sunday school. Your Uncle Zeke happened along at the time that war was waged the hottest and viewed the scene with anxious look. Finally they succeeded in capturing the little animal and what a happy set of boys and girls you hardly ever see. The captors were Stanley, Lemoine and Helen Hamilton; Lambert, Marvin, and Ruby Beckner, and Hubert Posey. The children asked that mention of it be made in the Democrat.” If there was room for a ground squirrel in Noah’s Ark, the Orlando United Brethren Church would certainly have welcomed the little critter.

We have a few more stories about the Hamilton kids.

Stanley Hamilton
Stanley was the oldest of Bud and Georgia’s children. Following the strong work ethic of his parents, Stanley was working in the hayfields of the Posey Run area when he was ten years of age. Among the farms in the area he helped to hay were the Tom Conley farm and the farm of his grandfather, W. T. Riffle. Stanley also looked forward to accompanying his father on his rounds for the Philadelphia Gas Company and learning the “nuts and bolts” of the gas business from his father. Under the guidance and tutelage of his father, Stanley learned the location of the gas wells of the Philadelphia Company, how to read the gauges of the gas wells, and how to recognize and remedy problems which may occur.

A certain admirer of Stanley was Uncle Zeke, who frequently mentioned his young friend in the Buzzardtown newspaper columns. Perhaps trying to steer Stanley into the field of medicine as a career, Uncle Zeke often used the title “Doctor Stanley Hamilton” in his column. Uncle Zeke mentioned that Stanley would visit the sick in the neighborhood, encouraging them on their quest for good health and recovery. Mentioning Fred McCord’s severe tumble while ice skating on Oil Creek one February 1935 day, Uncle Zeke said that Dr. Stanley Hamilton had “examined the ice and didn’t think it was hurt very much.” Uncle Zeke at times also referred to Stanley’s veterinary skills, and the excellent care he gave to his dad’s horses and dogs. For example, in his column of May 24, 1934, Uncle Zeke stated that “Dr. Stanley Hamilton, our city veterinarian, has been kept pretty busy this spring.”

Stanley’s work ethic was admiringly mentioned by Uncle Zeke such as his August 1935 mention of him doing “considerable corn plowing with his trusty little pony.” The next month, Uncle Zeke mentioned that Stanley was “farming extensively this summer.” Stanley’s love of tilling the soil led to his joining the Future Farmers of America at Burnsville High School. In August 1934, when a sophomore, Stanley and Denver Barnett of Orlando accompanied their Vo-Ag teacher, Virgil O. Dolly, on a trip “to Washington, Baltimore, Ocean City and the Atlantic Ocean in the interest of the Future Farmers of America.” When he was ten years old Stanley's grandmother, Minerva Riffle, married Wade Mick, operator of the Orlando grist mill. Stanley devoted considerable time to working at the mill. Uncle Zeke praised him by reporting that folks should, “for a safe and careful mill-boy, see Stanley Hamilton.”

In addition to his work, Stanley took a keen interest in politics as well. When he was but a teenager, in the days when the voting age was twenty-one, Stanley accompanied his father to Republican Club meetings in Burnsville. A further example of the closeness of the father-son relationship, Stanley and his father took an excursion trip to Niagara Falls in August 1934. Little did sixteen year old Stanley know that the respect and interest he demonstrated in his father’s occupation and pastimes would be rewarded in just a few short years. That story is coming soon: Working for the Philadelphia Gas Company.

Stanley and Lemoine
The Hamilton home was just a few miles from the high school Burnsville. But living relatively close had its drawbacks. According to their younger brother Bill, when Stanley and Lemoine Hamilton were attending high school in Burnsville, transportation to school was the legendary truck which Lee Blake of Clover Fork had rigged up to transport his own children to school in Burnsville and was ridden by other Orlando area children who were picked up on the way. Stanley and Lemoine were among the last students picked up and there was no room for them to sit, so they stood up in the back of the truck to Burnsville.

Uncle Zeke, who had chronicled her parents’ courtship, had the opportunity to celebrate a new generation’s love. Zeke wrote this in his column about Lemoine Hamilton and her youthful swain Ed Bennett:
"A young lady was heard soliloquizing about a young man:
A little longer here below,
Then up to Bennett’s I will go.
Half my life I’d freely give,
The other half with Ed to live.
Millions live out in New York,
But I’d rather live on Clover Fork.”

Sixteen year old Helen left us a peek at her teenage years on the pages of a neighbor and classmate’s autograph book. In study hall on a day in May, 1939 Helen filled the page that is copied to the left for Mary “Nick” (short for Nicodemus) Stutler, who lived on Oil Creek near the Hamiltons. Click on the page to enlarge it.
She wrote:
“You may forget many of your friends and some of your enemies and I want to be last so I’ll write next to the cover.

While sliding down the banister of life, may I be the splinter in your career. Until the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry, Windy Helen Hamilton”.

The youngest daughter of Bud and Georgia Hamilton, Maggie Hamilton, a 1952 graduate Burnsville High School, was also very talented and involved in youth activities at the Orlando United Brethren Church. A take-charge girl, Maggie directed many of the Christmas and Easter pageants which were presented by the youth Sunday school class of the United Brethren Church.
The Death of Bud Hamilton
The age of fifty-four is middle age, with many more years to live. Unfortunately, the state of medicine in the 1930’s was such that what we consider relatively harmless diseases today were then fatal. In the mid 1930’s, Bud Hamilton was afflicted with a gastric problem which inhibited his body’s ability to absorb vitamin B-12. This problem developed into pernicious anemia and, lacking effective treatment, led to the death of Frank “Bud” Hamilton in December 1938, when his youngest child, Max, was just two years of age. His eighteen year old son Stanley took over his job with the gas company to support the family and Georgia lived another forty-three years to watch their children marry and raise babies of the own.
Right: Two of Bud and Georgia's grandchildren: Helen's son Tom Ridgway and Lemoine's son Rex Griffin.

. . . . .

Comment by David Parmer
William Taylor Riffle was the first born child of Jacob Isaac Riffle and Francena Elizabeth Blake Riffle. Born in 1846 when the Oil Creek valley was still mostly virgin wilderness, Taylor, as he was known, picked up the saw, block plane, and hammer at an early age and during his lifetime became a master carpenter and craftsman. A builder of houses, Taylor was involved in the construction of many of the structures erected in Orlando during its heyday, and in the surrounding countryside. His experienced hand was lent in the construction of the homes of his granddaughter Georgia Hamilton, and his nephew, Andrew Heater, when he was already over seventy years of age.

Taylor married Margaret Posey, pictured above, and they had at least four children, on of whon was Minerv, Georgia Riffle's mother.

Right: Taylor Riffle, wearing his IOOF awards

Although a very pious man, Taylor was kind and considerate, with an ironic sense of humor. Also a craftsman of fine caskets, he built his own coffin which, after the death of his beloved wife Margaret, he kept in his home on Posey Run. In his eighties, he frequently would climb into the casket to demonstrate its functionality to visitors to his home.

All who knew Taylor Riffle, who themselves are now mostly all dead, sang his praises and wished that the memory of his goodness not be “interred with his bones.”


  1. The Orlando, WV is a beautiful area of the U.S. and so is the Hamilton family! I'm the daughter of Max and the granddaughter of Georgia. And I have two children! Thank you David Parmer...

    1. I'm the daughter of Max. I reside on the west coast of Florida. I'm 51 years old. My name is Fran. My daughter is 21 years old. My grandson is 2 years old. And my son is 17 years old. My father will be 77 years old this year. 2013. I love to read all this family history! In addition my closest brother will turn 50 this year and my youngest brother will turn 37. He has a lovely son and daughter too.

  2. My name is Frances and I'm the only daughter of Max Hamilton. We reside in Florida.My daughter Jenna has a two year old son. I'm a joyful grandmother now and Max is a great grandfather. Life is good. Personally I miss the beauty of the mountains. Hope to return one day :) <3

  3. This month we are attending a Hamilton birthday party in Riverview,Florida. It's at the home of Bill Hamilton's granddaughter named Dawn. The party is for Bill's great grandson, he is turning one. It's super hot during June in Florida. I'm grateful that they have a swimming pool! God Bless everyone<3 Sincerely, Fran (Hamilton Family)

  4. I am the grandaughter of Helen Hamilton. My mom and I are trying to gather more family information. Please email me at or call Frances (Ridgeway) Valiquet at
    410-631-2866 and leave a message.

  5. Greetings Clan Hamilton. My name is Lisa and I am the grandaughter of Helen Hamilton. My mom Frances and I are trying to collect more information about our family history. Please call 410-631-2866 (Frances) and leave a message, or email me at Thank you. I was so happy to find this page about my grandmother and our family I miss her very much.