With a ball rack in his hand, Walter Scarff looked on disapprovingly as Joe Pardue slammed the cue stick into the cue ball and sent it careening toward the tightly racked nine balls. The yellowish white cue ball smeared with blue chalk glanced off the triangular mass, flew off the table and ricocheted among the chairs lined up against the wall. Walter knew what to expect when the ham-handed Pardue walked through the door of the Crutchfield Pool Room in Burnsville. But Walter was a quiet man and spoke with his eyes. There was no laughter in the crowded room and all eyes, including Pardue’s, sneaked a peek in Walter’s direction as the ball continued to bounce from chair leg to chair leg. Walter bent over, deftly retrieved the ball from its erratic path, walked to the end of the table and, unsmilingly, placed the ball on the tight green felt. No words were spoken and Pardue meekly took a seat against the wall and mumbled his apologies to no one in particular. The remainder of game was played in silence and solemn decorum, in deference to the steely visage of Walter Scarff.
Walter was one of John Marshall "Zach" and Martha Scarff's nine children raised on Rag Run.
Left, above: On the right is Walter, hamming it up with hi brother Tom.
The wife of John Marshall Scarff, the former Martha Alice Blake, was born in 1869 to Joseph E. and Elizabeth Jane (Sands) Blake. Among Martha’s siblings were the notable P. N. Blake, known as “Uncle Zeke,” a columnist for central West Virginia newspapers, Francis M. Blake, prominent Orlando postmaster and businessman, and C. V. Blake, rural mailman.
bottom row: John Marshall Scarff, Martha Alice Scarff, Walter Scarff, Virgil Scarff.
top row: Thomas Marshall Scarff, Necie Davis, Tina Riffle, Iva Oldaker, Herbert Scarff, Clarence Scarff.
Nine children were born to John and Martha. There were five sons of the family. Clarence, the oldest son born in 1886, married Angaletta Davis of Burnsville. Thomas married Georgia Ercel Gay, the daughter of George Gay and Lucinda (Freeman) Gay; Virgil married Ruby Smith and Lucy Gay Rittenhouse; and Herbert married Clarice Richards. The daughters of John Marshall and Martha Alice Scarff were Tina, Ivy, Necie and Dorothy. Tina married Ebbert Riffle; Ivy married the congenial Elbert D. “Red” Oldaker, the long-time janitor of the Burnsville School; Necie married W. L. Davis, who was the brother of Clarence’s wife; and Dorothy married the then-railroader Everett Posey, son of Lloyd Posey and Maggie (Clark) Posey of Clover Fork.
It was in Burnsville that Clarence met his future wife, Angaletta Davis, daughter of Jonathan and Martha (Nicholson) Davis. Their children, Eula Pauline, Regina Grace, and Mary Alice were born in Burnsville in 1911, 1913 and 1916 respectively.
Right: Clarence and Angeletta in Burnsville
Like many of his Orlando counterparts, Clarence later became employed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and moved his family to Orlando to a house on the hill behind what was later the store of J. W. Conrad. Like many railroad employees during the days of few safety rules, Clarence was seriously injured in a work-related accident during the mid 1920’s. In his May 13th, 1926 column, Uncle Zeke reported that Clarence received $13,100 as a settlement from the railroad for his injuries. A promising railroad career was thus concluded for Clarence and his focus thereafter was as a garage-man, merchant and entrepreneur.
Garage Man and Grocer
According to Uncle Zeke, by the summer of 1926, Clarence and his cousin Wade Blake of Rag Run had teamed up and opened the Home Garage in Orlando and were doing repairs and selling oil and fixtures. In his August 26, 1926 column, Uncle Zeke reported that “Scarff & Blake are putting up some kind of building at Orlando. I think they call it a ga-rodge.” The garage was located on the western bank of Oil Creek near the Oil Creek Bridge. By mid 1928, according to Uncle Zeke, Clarence had begun to sell groceries in connection with his garage. At that time, Orlando had four storekeepers selling groceries: J. W. Conrad, Charley Knight, Lee Skinner and Clarence Scarff. The Depression and competition however took a toll on the Scarff garage and grocery store. In July 1931, the Scarff garage was sold at public auction to Mike Moran for $200.
Selling groceries and repairing the new-fangled automobiles were not the only things that kept Clarence busy. According to Uncle Zeke’s report, he also helped build, along with O. M. Stutler, a home for Doc Henline, did carpentry work for Claud Mick, did cabinet work, and plumbed houses for gas, including Uncle Zeke’s. It would appear that Clarence was a jack-of-all-trades in earning a living.
Herbert’s only child, Helen (Scarff) Wine, graduated from Burnsville High School in 1947. She is married to James Lee Wine. Their daughter Sondra is married to Orlando native Larry Casto, an outstanding football player for Burnsville High School of the mid 1960’s. Larry was a consensus all-state tailback for the Burnsville gridiron team. Their son Michael, a graduate of West Virginia Tech, works for Tony Stewart Racing of Nascar as a jackman.
As the story that begins this entry says, Walter Scarff managed the Crutchfield Pool Room in Burnsville for many years. Prior to managing the pool room, Walter had worked in the B & O Tie Yard at Burnsville. Walter and his wife Anita lived near the mouth of Oil Creek at Burnsville in a house they bought in 1945 from Leonard Lindsay. Born in 1906, Walter was the youngest son of John Marshall and Martha (Blake) Scarff of Rag Run. Walter grew up in the Orlando area and attended the Lewis County Orlando School. In 1940, he married Anita Stewart, the daughter of Robert and Biddie (Skinner) Stewart of Cogar, formerly of Orlando. Anita’s materal grandmother Permelia (Godfrey) Skinner was the daughter of D. N. “Newt” and Mary Jane (Skinner) Godfrey of Orlando. Anita worked for many years at the Burnsville Variety Store and later at the label factory near Weston. The construction of I-79 during the late 1970’s took the Walter and Anita Scarff home in Burnsville and they moved to upper Oil Creek near Arnold. Walter died in 1986 at age 80 while he was mowing weeds with a scythe at his home. He is buried at Orlando.
Virgil lived on Rag Run until around 1934 when he moved to Clover Fork. For a short time, Virgil also lived at Lumberport. He moved shortly afterward to Akron during World War II and worked at the Firestone rubber plant. His daughter Edna Helmick of Weston recalls that she attended school in Akron during the 7th and 8th grades and that the family returned to Weston the following year and her father resumed work as a house painter and carpenter.
Virgil married the former Ruby Lee Smith and became the father of six children, Edna, June, Larry, twin girls Jean and Joyce, and Melanie. Virgil’s daughter June died young at the age of 18 and his son Larry tragically drowned in 1957 at the age of 18 while swimming in a pond. Larry had been a radio announcer for WHAW in Weston.
Dorothy and Evert were the parents of seven children, three daughters and four sons. Dorothy died in 1995 at Morgantown at age 85 and was the last of the children of John Marshall and Martha Alice (Blake) Scarff to pass away. Evert preceded Dorothy in death in 1983. They are buried in the East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown.
According to Helen (Scarff ) Wine, her Aunt Tina was her favorite aunt and was a very loving and protective person. Helen would frequently stay with her when she was young and enjoyed each opportunity. Tina’s grandson Tom Riffle recalls his grandmother with great affection. Tom particularly remembers that his grandmother was an outstanding cook and her Sunday dinners were legend to the family and much enjoyed by his Scarff uncles, Tom, Walter, Herbert and Clarence. Another frequent Sunday dinner guest at his grandmother’s dinner table was Bill Beckner of Orlando.
Tina died in 1976 and is buried in the Orlando Cemetery.
Necie and her husband had three daughters, Freda Mae, Elouise and Bernadette. Helen Scarff Wine recalls her Aunt Necie as a fun-loving person, as were her other Scarff family aunts. Helen recalls spending a night many years ago with her Aunt Necie who lived at Cherry Falls, just outside Webster Springs.
Walter Davis died in 1962 and his wife Necie Victoria (Scarff) Davis died age 87 in 1980. Both are buried in the Orlando Cemetery.
I recall when I was a boy I would frequently see Clarence Scarff and other older Orlando residents sitting on the porches of the various buildings in downtown Orlando. I recall that Clarence chewed tobacco and one of the philosophical discourses among the Orlando sages was “what was the best chewing tobacco?” Clarence was certain that his brand was the best of the lot. There seemed to be a lot of serious discussion about the merits of the various brands.
Another favorite topic of discussion by Clarence and the other participants was the worthiness of a new locomotive engine put into service recently by the Baltimore and Ohio which altered the normal up and down stroke of the pistons. This discussion was without end.
Comment 2 by Dale Barnett
I remember that Zach Scarff was a dyed –in-the-wool Republican. On election night he would come into Orlando and monitor the poll proceedings. If results didn’t conform to his expectations, he would become quite agitated and go home mad.
Comment 3 by David Parmer
The daughters of Clarence and Angeletta Scarff were Pauline, Grace, and Mary Alice. In 1931, Marie and Bill Barnett became the parents of twin babies, a boy and a girl. It was not an easy birth for Marie and it was touch and go whether the infants would live. The new-born twins required around-the-clock care which lasted better than a month. The Scarff sisters who were 19, 17 and 15 years of age respectively, provided much of the late night tending of the twins. Dale Barnett recalls the Scarff sisters were very attentive and caring. Eventually, the twin boy died but the twin girl, named Betty Jean, survived.
Comment 3. by David Parmer
In the very earliest references to the first run above Orlando flowing into Oil Creek from the right, the name of “Crooked Run of Oil Creek” is given in deeds of record in the County Clerk’s Office of Lewis County. Today, this run is known as “Rag Run” and it is designated as such on current maps of the area.
Comment 4. by David Parmer
Most every family in Orlando could post a long list of nicknames which were given to family members. Uncle Zeke gave us his list of nicknames in a previous story on this webpage. To add to the list of nicknames for Orlando residents, we look to the Scarff family. John Marshall Scarff was known by his contemporaries as “Zach” Scarff. When Parker B. Scarff died in 1924, his obituary listed his brothers among his survivors. There was no mention of “John Marshall Scarff” but “Zach” Scarff was listed as a surviving brother. This writer asked “Zach’s” daughter in law, Anita Scarff, and his granddaughter, Carol Bennett, about the nickname, but neither knew its origin.