Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Next Stop: Kemper or Bennett Siding!"

by David Parmer

One hundred years ago the first stop on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line beyond Orlando on the Weston branch was the small village known as Bennett Siding. The name Bennett Siding was derived from the name of Louis Bennett, Sr., the largest land owner in the immediate area. This small community however was known by the United States Post Office as Kemper. Established in 1903, this post office was named for Richard Henry Kemper, a local blacksmith who was originally from the Freeman’s Creek area of Lewis County, who came to Oil Creek around 1890, most probably in connection with the building of the railroad. Located at the mouth of Second Big Run of Oil Creek, even today some old-timers call this dual personality village "Kemper" while others call it "Bennett Siding." Folks of a younger generation who drive through this stretch of road by Oil Creek notice only one residence at this old railroad stop, and the names of Kemper or Bennett Siding would only conjure up a furrowed brow and a question, "This spot in the road has a name?"

A Railroad Siding
Ruth (Mick) Gay moved to Bennett Siding in 1945 when she married Ira Gay. She recalls that when she was growing up on Rag Run about two miles below Bennett Siding there were three railroad tracks at Bennett Siding. According to Dale Barnett, aside from the main rail line, the other two tracks were used to park and switch rail cars. Ruth also recalls that her father-in-law Noah Gay told her that a store which was operated by his brother John Gay at Bennett Siding had a platform between the store and the boarding area for the trains.

Left and right, above: B & O Train Schedule for Januarry 6, 1895.
Kemper Post Office
One of the earliest postmasters at Kemper was Charles Fultineer, son of James Polk Fultineer and Catherine Griffin Fultineer of Bear Run, a short distance above Kemper. Dick Fultineer recalls his father, Ted Fultineer, talk about his father putting mailbags on a hanger which were lifted off by a postal clerk as the mail car passed the Kemper post office at Bennett Siding. Carol Mick advised this writer that she has a photograph taken at Kemper which shows the mail hanger, as well as the railroad sidetracks. John Gay and his wife Bessie Gay reportedly shared postmaster duties at Kemper during the early 1920’s.

According to David Blake who wrote an article about Kemper for the Lewis County History, the Kemper post office was discontinued in 1929.

Who Lived There
Ruth (Mick) Gay also recalls that a number of families lived up Bennett Hollow, or Second Big Run. They included the families of Jesse Conrad, Stanton "Pat" Conrad, Virgil Conrad, Edward Blake, and Jim Posey. Ruth recalls two large two-story houses near the head of the hollow which were derelict and vacant when she moved to Bennett Siding in 1945. She recalls a total of seven houses on Second Big Run. There were numerous other families living on Oil Creek in the vicinity of the Bennett Siding railroad stop, including Jedidiah "Jeddy" Groves, brothers John Gay, Charles Gay, and Noah Gay. The Gay brothers’ Uncle Robert, owned a farm a short distance below Bennett Siding. His two-story house stood on the east bank of Oil Creek. This house was later used as a barn of sorts by Coleman Jeffries who later owned the farm. This writer recalls that the inside walls of the house barn were papered with issues of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper which had been published in 1902. In 1909, a Kemper News column published in the Weston Independent listed as residents of Kemper the following families: Earl Camp, John Wolfe, C. W. Freeman, Flem Riffle, Alva Freeman, Edgar Freeman, and C. F. Freeman.

Above right: Ruth Gay.
Left above: Steam engine 536 with John Gay in the center with Charlie Givens on the left and Joe Skinner on the right.
Left, below: railroad station, store at Bennett Siding/Kemper
Fultineer’s Store
About ten years ago, Dale Barnett lectured at a Masonic Lodge meeting in Marietta, Ohio. In the course of the lecture, Dale mentioned his hometown of Orlando. During a break in the proceedings, one of his co-lecturers, Ted Fultineer, approached Dale and told him that he was very interested in Dale’s mention of Orlando because his own parents, Charles Fultineer and Mary (McCray) Fultineer, had operated a general store at Bennett Siding during the years of World War I and that he was born at Kemper in 1904. Of course that led to a little reminiscing about the olden days on Oil Creek. Ted recalled that when news of the World War Armistice came to Bennett Siding, his father locked up the store and everyone adjourned to Orlando to celebrate the victory over Germany. It was also reported that as the Kemper celebrants made their way to Orlando, other Oil Creek residents along the way joined their neighbors on the celebration march to Orlando.

Charles Fultineer was well integrated into the Orlando community despite the fact that he lived in Kemper, Orlando’s suburb. In 1905, Charles was the financial secretary of I.O.O.F Washington Lodge No. 194 in Orlando. The other officers of the lodge at that time were George Gay who was Noble Grand, Sylvester "S. D." Oldaker who was Vice Grand, Andrew Jackson "A. J." Heater, Financial Secretary, and Charles Francis "C. F." Skinner, Treasurer.

Around 1918, Charles and Mary Fultineer sold the store to John Gay and moved to Buckhannon in order for his children to have access to a high school education. Charles remained in the teaching profession and store business according to his death certificate. He died in 1958 at age eighty-five.

Blacksmith Shop
Richard Henry Kemper is believed to have operated an early blacksmith shop at Bennett Siding in the 1890’s around the time that the railroad was built down Oil Creek. Since Kemper died in Weston in 1911 and Flem Riffle was operating the blacksmith shop as early as 1909, Kemper obviously would have left Bennett Siding prior to 1909. Ruth Gay recalls that Brooks Moody of Rocky Fork once told her that he would bring his saws to Flem Riffle at Bennett Siding to be sharpened. This blacksmith shop was located between the rear of the railroad station and Oil Creek. Flem, whose name was James Fleming Riffle, was married to Mary Susan Gay, the daughter of Samuel and Jane Gay. Flem died in 1943 and his wife died in 1950.

The James and Sarah Catherine Fultineer Family
Norma Fultineer, daughter-in-law of Charles Fultineer, recalled that during the 1950’s her late husband, Leland Fultineer, took her for a drive from Parkersburg to Oil Creek and showed her where his father’s Bennett Siding store, then gone, had been located. Her husband also told her that his grandparents, James and Sarah Catherine Fultineer lived on a farm on Bear Run, just north of Kemper. According to Norma, James and Sarah Fultineer were the parents of Andrew, Lloyd, J. A. (Al), Charles, and Gracie (Mrs. W. C. Ratliff.) The 1900 census reports the household members living in the James Fultineer household on Bear Run were son Lloyd, James’ father John, who later died in 1903, a granddaughter Nellie, and a boarder named Byron Hinebaugh.
Bennett Siding School
Norma Fultineer of Parkersburg is the widow of Leland Fultineer, a son of Charles Fultineer. Norma also advised that in addition to operating a general store, her husband’s father Charles was also the postmaster of Kemper and teacher of the one-room school at Bennett Siding. At one time, Norma had her father-in-law’s teaching certificate which had been re-issued in 1918. Norma also recalls that her father-in-law was paid thirty dollars per month for his teaching service. Dick Fultineer, the son of Ted Fultineer and grandson of Charles, told the writer that the children of Charles Fultineer were taught by their father at the Bennett Siding School.
The Bennett Siding School was known at times as the Bennett Grove School. The school was located on the upper side of the old county road just north of Bennett Hollow. The highest enrollment of the school appears to have been in 1926-1927 when thirty-two students attended the school. Thomas Groves was the teacher during that school year. He later was a teacher at Walkersville High School. Lynn Riffle served as the teacher from 1937 through May 1941. Thomas Byrne who lived in the old Ollie (Skinner) Blake house on Flint Knob in Orlando was the school’s teacher during the school year of 1941-1942. The final teacher at the school was March Linger who served the eleven pupils of the school during 1942-1943. The school was closed by the Lewis County Board of Education after this year and its school children were sent to Walnut Grove School at Peterson Siding. Some of the other teachers who served Bennett Grove School were Blaine Rollyson, Jr., Glen D. Collins, and Brenton Hull.

Ruth (Mick) Gay who lives at Bennett Siding advises that when she moved to the Bennett Siding area in 1945 the old one-room Bennett Siding School had been closed and was being used as a church. Eventually the old school building fell into disrepair and was torn down.
Left: a train derailed about a half mile down (toward Orlando) from Kemper. Appears to be the 1920s.

The End of the Railroad
In 1941, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad determined that its profitability did not include the need for the Oil Creek route. Because the future of the railroad in West Virginia was coal hauling and the Clover Fork route was better suited to handle the heavy coal cars, the rail carrier abandoned the superfluous Oil Creek branch and the tracks were removed. Bennett Siding ceased to exist as an adjunct of rail service and reverted to marginal farming patterns of use. There is little trace of the railroad in Bennett Siding today and few people in the area remember the names of Kemper or Bennett Siding. Mrs. Ruth Gay and Mrs. Homer Brown are the only present inhabitants of the community with the dual names of Bennett Siding and Kemper.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A Family History of the Fultineer Family

by Marguerite Fultineer


Dick Fultineer of Pittsburgh, son of Ted and Agnes (Wyatt) Fultineer, and grandson of Charles and Mary (McCray) Fultineer, kindly provided to this writer a family history which had been written by his aunt Marguerite Fultineer Bell who was born at Kemper in 1906. She lived the early part of her life on Oil Creek until she was twelve when the family moved to Buckhannon. With minor revisions, that history is tendered.

James Polk Fultineer
My grandfather was James Polk Fultineer. He was too young to fight in the Civil War so he joined up as a water boy. He always walked with a cane. We don’t know if he was injured in the Army or if it was arthritis. He married Sarah Catherine Griffith from Gilmer County, near Glenville.

A California Sojourn
When Dad (Charles Fultineer) was still single, he and his father’s family decided to go to California. Grandpa Fultineer’s sister, Aunt Margaret had moved there and married a very wealthy man. She wanted the family to move out there. Aunt Mag’s husband owned a big orange grove. Dad and the family did not like it in California so they returned to Bear Run. Aren’t we glad they did? Ted and Agnes think he wanted those four big boys – Uncle Al, Uncle Andrew, Uncle Lloyd and of course Charles, who was my dad— to work for him. [Many years later] when we were living at Kemper, Aunt Margaret came from California and visited us there.

Aunt Grace
Aunt Grace (Lucy Jane Grace Fultineer
) was the only daughter of James Polk Fultineer and Sarah Catherine (Griffith) Fultineer. She was a gentle, kind person like her mother, Catherine. Aunt Grace had no children so she adopted Charlie’s kids as we lived close by. They had a real nice house and spent a lot of time at Aunt Grace’s. She taught me many things and encouraged my interests in sewing and cooking. When we washed, we had to carry water from a spring quite a distance away. We also needed water for the cooking we did. ( Lucy Jane Grace Fultineer, aged thirty five, married Warrick Cameron Ratliff, aged thirty seven, son of William and Elizabeth (Gay) Ratliff, in 1910.)

Father, Charles Sidney Fultineer
My father, Charles Sidney Fultineer, married Mary Anne McCray from Buckhannon—like my brother Ted who went to Weston for his wife, Agnes Wyatt. We lived at Bennett’s Siding or Kemper, West Virginia, which was the post office. We lived in a large house, the front part of which was a store. Dad was a merchant in the area. He had a post office and also taught school part of the time. Mother took over the store when he was teaching at the school house up on the hill across the road. It was a one-room school house but the younger children learned a lot as they listened to the older students give their answers. Dad was an excellent teacher but he was strict with his own kids and poor Ted often got a switching if there was a row with the other boys. He couldn’t show favoritism—his kids had to be the best.
Right: Charles and Mary (McCray) Fultineer
Left below: the home of C. S. and Mary (McCray) Fultineer

Mother, Mary Anne McCray Fultineer
My mother had to quit school in the eighth grade when her mother became blind. Being the oldest, she had to help her mother take care of the rest of the children—four boys and three girls besides herself. Mother loved flowers and we always had all kinds of flowers. She often exchanged starts with other people. She was anxious to learn new things; had nutritious meals for us and never permitted us to read the wrong kind of books or magazines. She often sent us kids to neighbors with food when someone was sick.

All of the children of Charles Sidney and Mary Anne McCray Fultineer were born at Kemper on Oil Creek. The oldest child, Herman, was born on November 12, 1900. Amy was born on June 2, 1902 and Madge came along on November 19, 1903. Ted arrived on Christmas Day 1904, and a year and a half later, I (Marguerite) arrived. Frank was born on August 7, 1909 and eight years later, the youngest child Leland was born. My sister Amy died of diphtheria when she was five years old. I had it at the same time – I was quite young- and I had it again when I was eleven.
Help from Florida
Mother had a lot of help in the summers. Grandpa McCray owned lots of land in Florida, part of which was in orange trees. Mother’s sisters, Ora, Laura, and Amanda lived in Florida during the winter but they would come back and spend the summers with us. Aunt Ora taught me to crochet, even though I was left-handed. My aunts taught Mother how to bake bread. Aunt Laura sewed for us and so did Dad’s sister, Aunt Grace. We had a big garden, two cows, pigs and chickens.

Visits with Grandma
We loved to go to Grandma’s house on Bear Run which was three or four miles away. Ted was about six when he started going there. We’d pack up a few things and start walking. Mother had all these kids to take care of and the store to tend. When Dad was teaching school, our young sister Madge would go out and sit on the railroad tracks, so Mother sent her to Grandma’s too. Our cousin, Nellie, daughter of Uncle Al was also at Grandma’s. Her mother had died of tuberculosis and Nellie was also sick with the same disease. Her sister Thelma and brother Jack did not contract the disease. When Madge was older she helped take care of Nellie who also often visited our home at Kemper. Madge told me in her later years when she had health problems that the doctors told her that she had tuberculosis scar tissue on her lungs. It is surprising that we didn’t catch the disease too.
When Madge got married, our folks were then living on Gee Lick. Madge took her new husband to visit Grandma and Grandpa on Bear Run. Grandma gave them a little white Bible as a wedding present. They were such kind, Godly people. They lived with a son Lloyd and his wife.
They had a big orchard, garden and lots of farm animals on Bear Run. I remember sitting on the back porch at Bear Run, churning to make butter. A spring house was built into the hill. It had troughs on the sides and back. That is where they kept the crocks of milk in cool running spring water. Then the milk was cool, the cream would be separated and saved to make butter. When it turned sour, it was put in a tall churn. The lid had a hole in it and a paddle was in the bottom of the churn and would go up and down…up and down… until it turned to butter. After the butter was removed, we drank the buttermilk or cooked with it. I did a lot of churning at Grandma’s.
When we were at Grandma’s in the winter, the snow would cover our bed, but we were all cozy under our feather comforters.
One time, Uncle Lloyd had been down to Dad’s store to buy supplies. I was riding back to Grandma’s with him and he started to sing, "After the ball was over, after the dancers were gone, many a heart was broke, after the ball."
Frank and I were up at Grandma’s one summer and Frank was about six. We were over at Uncle Andrew’s house picking berries down by the barn. Frank got into a yellow jackets’ nest. I ran screaming for Aunt Isey. I don’t remember how she got them under control but I’ve often wondered it that was why Frank was allergic to so many things—including his own bacteria.\
The Boy’s in Trouble
One Sunday, all of us were dressed up to go to church. Ted had on his white linen suit, short pants, and jacket. He didn’t like his shoes, so slipping them off, he got into a mud puddle. Imagine Mother’s reaction!!

Fire, Fire
One day, I was sitting at our kitchen table eating buttermilk and corn bread. Dad was churning butter and Mother was standing at the stove—a wood and coal stove with a warming oven over the back of it— when a can of something fell down and set the stove and Mother on fire. Dad jumped up, ran to the bedroom and got a quilt, threw it over Mother and put the fire out. I ran over to the neighbors and told them our house was on fire and they came running.
Ted's Illness
One time, Ted got sick while he was at Grandma’s. He says he was about six. They took him back home and he sat on Aunt Grace’s lap in the buggy. He had typhoid fever. They made a bed for him in the parlor and we were not allowed to go in. They had a nurse who came to take care of him because his illness was contagious.
A Baptist Church
Dad and Mother started a Baptist Church in the Bennett Siding school house and we had circuit-rider preachers. They came every so often and always stayed with us. I remember sitting up at night listening to them tell of their adventures. I’m sure they made a lot of them up because they were sometimes scary stories—like the time one preacher told about the whiskey still in the mountains and the "revenooers" came. I couldn’t sleep very well that night.
The Move to Buckhannon
After Herman left home at sixteen to get work, my parents started thinking that the rest of us should have more education. Dad had a normal school degree. In 1918, Dad sold his successful business and position as a leader in the community so that his children could get an education. Mother’s father owned several houses in Buckhannon. My parents bought a large house on Barber Street which was one block from the grade school and high school and five blocks from West Virginia Wesleyan.
Back in those days there were no moving vans so Dad rented a boxcar from the railroad. There was a siding on the other side of the railroad so the rental boxcar was left there. Ted says they moved all of the furniture, as well as the chickens and pigs, into the boxcar and it was taken to Buckhannon by the railroad. Dad and Ted walked the two Jersey cows to Buckhannon. It took them two days.
At Home in Buckhannon
Our home in Buckhannon had a barn, pigpen and chicken house. There was also a large garden. We had our own milk, butter and buttermilk and did our own canning. We made apple butter every year in a big 20-gallon brass kettle with apples from Uncle Lloyd’s orchard on Bear Run. There was a long-handled big paddle which was used to stir it back and forth—that was an all-day job. Mother cooked the apples on the stove inside and would run the apples through a sieve. As the apples cooked down, she would keep adding to it. Mother cleaned pennies with vinegar and put them on the bottom of the kettle. The pennies and the back and forth action of the paddle kept the apple butter from burning.

When we moved, I was twelve years old and Dad placed me in the fifth grade. I felt bad about that since I was older than the other kids. I went to summer school, made up the lost time and graduated from high school at eighteen.
Dad bought me a piano and I took piano lessons. I took sewing and cooking in high school. Mother always let me make at home what I had made in school. She encouraged me. They bought me a Singer sewing machine when I was about fifteen. I sewed for several of the girls at school and was able to pay for all my graduation expenses. Madge and I worked at the A & P Store downtown. We walked to work and made $1.00 per day but it was an extra education.
When we moved to Buckhannon, we joined the First Baptist Church. We had an Evangelistic meeting and I was baptized in February 1919, but it wasn’t until years later that I finally realized what Christ meant in my life. I taught Sunday School and directed the little kids in plays. Later on in high school, Made dated the preacher’s son. We were all active in church and BYPU.

A Move to Gee Lick
After we moved to Buckhannon, my Aunt Margaret sometime later visited us from California and brought Grandpa with her and stayed with us for two days. Aunt Margaret wanted us to have something better so she gave my parents $3000 to buy a two-acre farm on Gee Lick in Lewis County. Dad and Mother, Grandpa and Grandma, Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Min, moved there and are buried there today. I count it a great privilege to have people like that as my heritage.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Good Counseling
Margaret (Fultineer) Bell, the author of the Fultineer Family Memoir published above, lost her husband to death when she was but in her forties. The death devastated her. She received a kind and consoling letter from her aged father, Charles Fultineer, which was published in the Christian Standard of Cincinnati on June 21, 1998 and titled "How a Dad Helped His Daughter." Sam Stone, Editor, prefaced the letter, "Fathers don’t stop helping their children even when they are grown. Margaret Bell, Cincinnati, Ohio, can attest to that. At the sudden and tragic death of her husband while in her forties, she was devastated. She shared with us a letter she received from her father at the time (1953). He wrote:
" Dear Margaret,
Glad you are recovering. I know you have had a hard shock.
It is hard to understand why a good God lets good people suffer and die.

I worked out the answer to this when your little sister Amy died. I was so confused. I was just bitter at God. But after thinking and praying over it, I came to the conclusion that death is a natural process. It is inevitable. We must all die, like every other living animal on earth.
We cannot blame God if people die young. It is just because our bodies are mortal and must be changed to immortal.

Trouble of some kind, especially bereavement, is the common experience of mankind. How does one endure it? How does one keep one’s faith and deal with it constructively? The answer is faith in God. I often wonder who those who do not have such faith manage to survive sorrow.
I have found in time of trouble that there is no substitute for Him. Grief is sickness of the heart and God alone is physician to the spirit.

When your mother died, I did not think life would be worth living without her. For a long time I could not bear to look at her picture or go in her room. Even now suddenly coming across something of hers, the old pain is back with stabbing force.
But I am gradually forgetting. We must let the past fade away and live in the present. Let the future bring what it will, both sorrow and happiness. They are part of life.
I can say today that I am enjoying life and am happy with a deep satisfying contentment, waiting patiently for the time I shall be called to go to meet the loved ones gone before.
God be with you and comfort you.

"Wise words from a loving father continue to comfort and bless, even forty-five years after they were written. On this Father’s Day, each dad should carefully weigh his words. They have the potential to bless untold generations."
Note from David Parmer: This past Memorial Day as I was entering the Orlando cemetery, I paused at a faded tombstone, standing solitarily near the entrance. Though time has washed away some of the carving, I noticed the name "Fultineer" at the base of the stone. Recalling the story I wrote about the Fultineer family of Kemper or Bennett Siding, I looked more closely at the stone and noticed the name of Amy, the Fultineer child who died young, and whose death was the cause of much grief to her father Charles Fultineer. Over one hundred years have passed since the death of five year old Amy Fultineer, but the agonizing letter of Charles Fultineer to another daughter consoling her over the death of her husband and recalling his grief many years earlier over the death of his daughter Amy, made my viewing of this solitary tombstone all the more poignant.
. . . . .
Note about Louis Bennett, Sr., for whom Bennett Siding was named:
The Hon. Louis Bennett was the grandson of the Bennett, McCauley and Jackson pioneers who settled the area that would become Walkerville. We don't know whether he was related to the Clover Fork Bennetts who helped to build the farm community around Orlando.

By the time he was born his family was well removed from the creeks and hollows of the Oil Creek watershed. "He was born at Weston, West Virginia, November 27, 1849. He attended the private and public schools of Weston and Richmond. . . . He was among the largest landowners in the state and partly through his realty has derived a large fortune. He is also extensively interested in coal and in oil and gas wells, from which he realizes a handsome income."

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