Saturday, April 25, 2009

From Knawl to Orlando

The Barnetts

by David Parmer
The brothers Alva and Bill Barnett were prominent members of Orlando’s community in the first half of the 20th century. Both marketed livestock and both delivered mail. Both were also active in Orlando’s United Brethren Church. They grew up in Knawl, a community just outside the Oil Creek watershed, to the south. 

Right: Alva & Bill carried mail on horseback
First, Some History of
Knawl and the Southern Ridge
The ridge between the Oil Creek/Clover Fork valley on the north and the Little Kanawha valley on the south is typical of the hills in central West Virginia: it is quite flat and relatively easy to travel. In the 1800s, communities developed along this ridge where some of the creeks draining south into the Little Kanawha began. Heaters, Riffle Run and Dutch are the names of some of the communities which formed on the Little Kanawha River side of the flat-topped divide.  
Further east along this ridge the town of Knawl formed on Knawl’s Creek. This community at one time boasted three stores, one hotel, a post office, blacksmith shop and gristmill. The original poplar log St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church was located in this area also: just over the hill from Clover Fork. There was, of course, a Methodist Church, too.  
Left: map shows Knawl, southeast of Orlando, and four or five miles from Orlando, Burnsville and Bulltown. There were many small communities that are not noted on this map including Heaters, Riffle to the west, also high up on the south side of the ridge separating the Oil Creek/Cover Fork watershed from the watershed of the headwaters of the Little Kanawha River.
Right: Thaddeus Pritt of the left and James Alexander Barnett on the right, both of Knawl

In the area where the little town of Knawl developed, on both slopes of the ridge families settled who would become part of the fabric of people of the Oil Creek watershed and Orlando. The first known settlers in on the south slope in the Knawls Creek area were Benjamin, Daniel and John Conrad, sons of the immigrant son Jacob Conrad, Jr. and his Dutch-heritage wife Hannah (Bogard). The Conrad brothers came with their wives from Pendleton County in the early 1800s. Their children married Skinners, Blakes and Riffles, among others, and so became part of the fabric of the Oil Creek pioneer community. Other settlers who would become part of Orlando’s community were the Irish immigrants Michael and Margaret Griffin and Patrick and Ellen Carney who settled on the north slope of the ridge just before the Civil War. Another family that would be part of Orlando came after the Civil War: Thaddeus and Laura (Bennett) Pritt came from the Walkersville area in Lewis County. James Barnett would also come from the Walkerville.
The grandchildren of Clover Fork pioneers Andrew and Margaret (Williams) Blake spread into this area from their original settlement closer to the confluence of Oil Creek and Clover Fork.
James Alexander Barnett
& Mary Jane Townsend
of Knawl
The Blakes, pioneers Andrew and Margaret (Williams) Blake, settled on Clover Fork, on the north side of the ridge. Their great-granddaughter Mary Jane Townsend was born and raised in this area. In 1889 she married James Barnett from Walkerville. They settled near Knawl and had six children, including Willie "Bill" and Alva, the brothers who would move to Orlando. Their other children were Ella, Charles, Allie Belle and Lura Gay.

Upper Right: James and Mary Jane (Townsend) Barnett on their 50th wedding anniversary

Left: James with Allie and Lura
Right: Bill, Charles, Alva, Lura and Belle with their parents Mary Jane and James

The oldest child, Ellie, married Tony Mick. She died young as the result of standing too close to a fire which set her clothing afire and caused her a painful and early death.

Charles, the oldest son, served in the First World War. He married Gae Myers of the Knawl area. Charles operated a grocery store in Weston and later was a mail carrier.
Belle, the second daughter of James and Mary Jane Barnett, never married and lived her entire life at Knawl.

The youngest Barnett child, Lura, married Arthur Williams, a railroader. Lura and Arthur lived in the Weston area. Arthur loved to fish and was mentioned as an Oil Creek fisherman.
Left: Lura (Barnett) and Arthur Williams

The Barnetts
of Orlando
Alva Barnett, the second son, born 1896, married Gay Marple. Gay Marple’s family were merchants throughout the upper Little Kanawha River valley.

Alva and Gay were the parents of Herald Barnett and Denver Barnett. Alva was an early rural mail carrier out of Orlando on Route 1. At the time Alva carried the mail, the roads could only be navigated by horse. After many years riding horseback on his mail route, Alva developed a terrible case of hemorrhoids which prompted his retirement from carrying the mail. Alva and Gay moved to Weston where Alva was a cattle marketer, a salesman, and later a night dispatcher for the Weston City Police Department.
Left: Alva and Gay (Marple) Barnett
Right: Bill and Marie (Parmer) Barnett

Willie Lee "Bill" Barnett was a farmer, stockman, and shipper of agricultural and poultry products. He also helped with the mail on Orlando Route 1. Bill’s contributions to Orlando were great. He helped the economy of the community by facilitating the processing and selling of farmers’ cash crops such as ducks and turkeys and skins. He also gave to the community in his exceptional leadership and guidance with the youth at the United Brethren Church. Bill married an Orlando girl, Marie Parmer, whose roots go back to Orlando pioneers. Bill and Marie were the parents of Dale Barnett and Betty (Barnett) Mick.
Left: Betty and Dale Barnett

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