Saturday, September 05, 2009

The John Marshall Scarff Family of Orlando

by David Parmer

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.

John Marshall Scarff and Martha (Blake) Scarff
John Marshall Scarff was born on Oil Creek to Walter M. Scarff and Jane (Ford) Scarff during the final year of the Civil War. John Marshall was the sixth child of the family. According to the 1860 census, most of the older children were born on Hackers Creek of Lewis County. His father, Walter M. Scarff, was born in Ohio and was the namesake for John Marshall’s youngest son Walter who is mentioned above. It is believed that the senior Walter Scarff was a laborer who worked on the construction of the lunatic asylum in Weston. With the coming of the Civil War, all work halted on the construction of the asylum, and the senior Walter Scarff turned to farming for a living. According to the 1870 census, Walter M. Scarff is listed as a farmer on Oil Creek in what was then known as Battelle Township, but later renamed Collins Settlement District.

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.

The Sons of J. M. and Martha Scarff
Clarence Scarff
Saw Filer
Clarence, the oldest of the children of John Marshall and Martha (Blake) Scarff, came of age during the halcyon days of railroading in Orlando. Clarence however found his first non-farm related employment in Burnsville as a saw sharpener, or “filer,” for the timber company of Bender & Conrad. During the first decade of the 20th century, Burnsville was the center of several timber-related companies, and many Orlando area boys who were not interested in farming, went there for employment.

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.

Left: Angaletta (David) and Clarence Scarff
Right: Clarence and Angeletta in Burnsville
Left below: Pauline, Clarence, Mary Alice on lap, Regina Grace and Angeletta.

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.

General Handyman

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.

Off to Weston and a Final Trip to Orlando
In 1934, Clarence saw greener pastures in Weston and turned his entrepreneurial endeavors in that direction. Along with his daughter Grace, he opened a grocery store in the Kitsonville section of Weston. Clarence and Grace operated this store, called Scarff’s Grocery, for many years. He died in 1967 and his wife Angaletta died the following year. They were returned to Orlando and buried in the Orlando Cemetery.

Clarence and Angaletta's Daughter Pauline Scarff: “Rosie the Riveter” When the World War II demand for fighting men had seriously depleted the civilian workforce in critical war-related industries, Uncle Sam called upon the American women to ditch the aprons and pick up riveters and welders. One of the Orlando women to answer the patriotic call was Pauline Scarff, the daughter of Clarence Scarff. According to Carol Bennett of Weston, her mother Pauline worked for American Aircraft, a Goodyear Company, in Akron as a riveter. This plant manufactured the FG-1 Corsair fighter planes for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. During the war, this plant turned out 4006 Corsairs, some of which were fixed wing and some with fold-up wings. Pauline’s job for American Aircraft was to rivet the wings of the planes.

Left: Pauline with cousin Charlotte Riffle
Right: Rosie the Riveter, the World War II heroic icon acknowledgeing and celebrating women's strength and contributions to the war effort.

Tom Scarff

Thomas Marshall Scarff
, the second oldest of the sons of John Marshall and Martha Alice (Blake) Scarff, was born in 1896. Tom was one of the lucky townsmen who posed for a picture for photographer extraordinaire Lee Morrison which recorded the visit of an itinerant bear trainer and his bears to Orlando during in the early 20th century. A few years later he joined the American Army during World War I. Tom lived on Rag Run during his early working years and was for a time employed as a carpenter for the B & O Railroad. In 1925, he married Georgia Ersel Gay, daughter of George and Lucinda (Freeman) Gay of Oil Creek. Around 1930, Tom landed employment in Weston with the predecessor of the West Virginia Water Company which proved to a steadier job than railroading. He worked many years for that company until his retirement. He died in Fairmont in 1968 at age 72; his wife Georgia Ersel died the following year at age 66. Both are buried in the Masonic Cemetery at Weston.

Left: Tom and Ersel (Gay) Scarff
Right: Tom Scarff is the first person on the left. Dick Skinner is next to him. See The Bear Trainer for more about this photo.

Herbert Henry Scarff
Herbert Henry Scarff was the third son of John Marshall and Martha Alice (Blake) Scarff. Born in 1899, Herbert lived on Rag Run during his young adulthood.

A Daughter Recalls
According to his daughter Helen (Scarff) Wine of Bragg Run, Herbert began working for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad when he was 18 and retired when he was 65. He worked both as a brakeman and as a conductor. Because of the nature of his employment, Herbert lived for years in railroad YMCA’s or hotel rooms on the end of the passenger lines, but eventually settled down in Gassaway.

Helen also recalls that her dad had an uncanny connection to the number 13. He was born on the 13th of March, was married on the 13th of December, retired on the 13th day of the month, and died on the 13th of September. Helen also recalls that her father was very generous and a humorous man who loved practical jokes. She remembers that he “could take a joke as well as dish them out.” He was also the first man Helen ever saw wear short pants, unusual garb during the 1940’s. “Sometimes he would wear his short pants and don a red wig and go to the grocery store. This always attracted quite a bit of attention,” said Helen.

Herbert married the former Clarice (Toms) Richards of Gassaway. Herbert and Clarice cared for his mother, Martha Alice (Blake) Scarff, during her later years and she died at their home in 1951.

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.

Herbert died in Gassaway in 1973 at the age of 74 and is buried at Orlando.

Walter Scarff

Right: Walter in a dress with his mother Martha, then Tom, his dad J. M., Herbert, Ersel Tom's wife) on his right and Gladys (Henry's wife) and Tina on his left.

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 Scarff
Virgil, the fourth son of John Marshall and Martha Alice (Blake) Scarff, was born in 1902.

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.

Edna recalls that her father was a very religious man. His second wife was the widow Lucy Gay Rittenhouse whom he married in 1969. Virgil died at age 71 in 1973 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Weston.

The Daughters of John Marshall and Martha Alice Scarff

Ivy (Scarff) Oldaker
Iva Oldaker always had a nice smile and a kind word when this writer knocked on the Oldaker door in Burnsville to collect for the Charleston Gazette newspaper during the mid-1950’s. On my paper route, some ladies of the house seemed a little grouchy on collection day so it was always a pleasant respite to knock on the Oldaker door. I always thought that Mrs. Oldaker reminded me a lot of Mr. Oldaker, or “Red,” as he was called. Elbert D. "Red" Oldaker always seemed to have a smile on his puffy cheeks as he pushed the playground mud with a push broom across the school hallways. He never seemed to ignore any student as they passed by him, and always had a kind word, or smiling glance. I could never imagine Mr. or Mrs. Oldaker exchanging an unkind with each other, or anybody else for that matter. The Oldakers had one child, a daughter Evelyn who was born in 1914. She married Maple Townsend and lived in Clarksburg. Iva passed away at age 86 in 1997. She was buried in the Orlando Cemetery next to her husband Red who died at age 85 in 1976.
Right: Iva/Ivy, Elbert and their daughter Evelyn Oldaker
Dorothy (Scarff) Posey
When Dorothy Scarff, the youngest of the Scarff children of John Marshall and Martha Alice Scarff, married Evert Posey, son of Lloyd and Maggie (Clark) Posey of Clover Fork, in 1929, Evert was working for the B & O Railroad. During the Depression, railroading was an “on again, off again” occupation. Usually it seemed that the younger workers were more “off” than “on.” Evert sought more steady employment. The coal mines around Morgantown always seemed to lack for men willing to go underground, so that is where Evert found his lifetime occupation. He worked many years for Dunkard Mining of Point Marion. Evert and Dorothy however never forgot their Orlando roots. Carol Posey Johnson recalls that her Uncle Evert and Aunt Dorothy, bringing food,came visiting to Clover Fork every Thanksgiving. Evert loved to deer hunt and Dorothy loved to visit with Carol’s parents, Dee and Goldie Posey. Carol remembers her Aunt Dorothy as a very pleasant guest and her Clover Fork relatives always looked forward to the Thanksgiving visits. Dorothy’s daughter Betty Powers of Morgantown recalls that her mother and her mother’s sisters were all great cooks, loved to bake pies, can garden produce and set delicious tables of food.

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.

. Tina (Scarff) Riffle
He had picked several quarts of the strawberries he loved but a failed heart would allow Ebert Shiloh Riffle to pick no more. Eb died in his strawberry patch in Orlando in 1960 at age 71. Tommy Skinner, son of Vaden and Opal Skinner, had spotted Eb lying prone amongst his strawberries and ran to Brown’s Store for help but his fate was already determined. Eb was buried in the Orlando Cemetery.

Right: Tina, Eb, Lynn and Tut Riffle.

Tina Scarff married her neighbor Eb Riffle, son of John Scott Riffle and Mary Ann (Skinner) Riffle, who lived on Oil Creek, not far from the mouth of Rag Run. Tina, who was just a few months older than Eb, attended school with him in Orlando and had known him all of her life. According to family observers, both Tina and Eb were independent–minded individuals and sometimes did not see eye-to-eye.

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 (Scarff) Davis
Born in 1893, Necie was the 3rd daughter born to John Marshall and Martha Alice Blake Scarff. Like her siblings she attended school in Orlando at the Lewis County School. Necie married Walter Davis, the brother of Angeletta Davis Scarff who was married to Necie’s oldest brother Clarence. She and her husband lived in Webster County most of their married life. Her husband was employed as a coal miner in Webster County. Tom Riffle, son of Eb Riffle and Tina Scarff Riffle, recalls that his Aunt Necie usually would come to Orlando every Decoration Day in order to visit the Orlando Cemetery.
Right: Walter, Freda Mae, Necie and Bernie Davis

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.

. . . . .

Comment 1 by Dale Barnett
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.

During the early part of the 20th century when local newspapers such as the Weston Independent, the Weston Democrat, the Burnsville Kanawha Banner and the Burnsville Enterprise began running local columns written by local correspondents, it became vogue by the correspondents to create interest in their columns by “livening up” their news items with levity. For example, P. N. Blake, who wrote under the nom de plume of “Uncle Zeke,” for a number of local newspapers as early as 1905, began calling the area between Orlando and McCauley Run as “Buzzardtown.” Uncle Zeke also referred to other nearby geographical areas by humorous names. For example, Uncle Zeke referred to an area in the Knawls Creek watershed as “Booger Hole.” On occasion, Uncle Zeke referred to Orlando as “Skinnerville.” An early family residing on Rag Run was the John Marshall Scarff family, whose matron was Martha Alice (Blake) Scarff. She also happened to be Uncle Zeke’s sister. Uncle Zeke’s earliest reference to “Crooked Run of Oil Creek” was “Rag Run” rather than “Crooked Run.” This lead may have been followed by the local residents who may have preferred the name “Rag Run” instead of “Crooked Run of Oil Creek.” The fact that there were two other “Crooked Runs” in Lewis County may have accelerated the adoption of the “Rag Run” name.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Thouroughly enjoyed this posting. I am a decendant of Walter M. Scarff, my grandmother was Wilda Lee Scarff Sandy. Stories like this are invaluable. Thank you for sharing.