Settlers of Sedalia and Cascara

 

Cascara is a little community located on Route 23 in Doddridge County, south of Center Point and a few miles north of Salem. Along the road sits a little country church built over 120 years ago. Today I will tell you the story of Cascara Church as written by Roy Lee Chipps (1928-1993), teacher and artist, who attended Cascara for many years. Then I’ll share with you how Cascara, and the larger community of Sedalia, were scratched out of the wilderness that was then western Harrison County.

 

Cascara

The following excerpt is taken from the history of Cascara Church written by Roy Lee Chipps in 1982:

Painting by Roy Lee Chipps

How Cascara Church appeared before modern upgrades.

During the late eighteen hundreds, the citizens of Cascara Community thought they had ~ with long travail ~ climbed from the valley of despair to the dawning of a new and happier age. The valley was anticipating new livelihood in the field of oil and gas production, and the need for more natural gas for industrial use was quite evident. These new developments required additional field hands ~ therefore a boarding house was constructed.

The Cascara community was full of religious complexities; at least three different denominations had moved into the area. In 1878 denominations working together formed a special committee to build a church ~ but due to various disagreements ~ nothing was accomplished. In 1887 ~ with Isaac N. Riffee heading the committee ~ a lot was purchased from Mark W. Tate for $25.00 ~ and a deed was drawn up during the year of 1889. The deed was admitted to record December 12, 1893.

 

The community held services at school house #13 sub-district of McClellan, Doddridge County, West Virginia until the school burned. Known teachers at the school were Anne Kile and later ~ Lee Taylor. By the year 1893 the church was everybody's dream. Isaac N. Riffee donated $100.00 to start construction. Labor, lumber and timbers for shingles was donated by various persons. A saw mill in the community was another asset. Thomas S. Chipps was awarded the finishing contract as the lowest bidder! The gold rush to the Klondike wasn't the only event taking place in 1896 ~ since Cascara Friendship Church was dedicated in August of that same year. The first pastor was Rev. T. M. Marble ~ and the district superintendent to dedicate the church was Jeremiah Eagle.

 

Partly due to woman suffrage and customs of those days ~ the church had two doors on one end of the structure ~ one door for men and the other for women. It has been said that the Cascara name came from ~ "casket-carry" ~ since the caskets had to be carried up the hill. The earliest marker in the cemetery dates back to 1833 - thirty years before West Virginia became a state and sixty-three years before the church was dedicated. On each side of the altar was the "Amen" or prayer corners ~ which was occupied by Thomas S. Chipps and Harvey Riffee. Alivia Shinn taught Holly Garner to play the organ. Holly held this position for many years. Other names to occupy the organ stool was Mary McQuaid ~ Silvia Smith ~ Daisy Chipps ~ Cleora Richards ~ ... ~; and today "Rosetta Chipps Pratt" at the piano.

 

Some of the early names of the community were:  Hagers ~ Underwoods - Garners - Suttons ~ Tates ~ Hursts - Stark ~ Hutson ~ Starkey ~ Fox ~ Collins ~ Chipps ~ Caytons ~ Gatrell and Taylor. The early church road passed [what] is now the back end of the structure. In 1929 the church was remodeled and moved back away from the new road.  During the 1940s the church was remodeled again and a basement was built ~ with Lenval [Lenville] Davis as head carpenter. Since 1940, various improvements and additions have taken place.

 

This history has been collected and oil paintings made in memories of all our forerunners of the past, and for the people of today ~ especially the young people that will be the church of tomorrow. Cascara has gone from oil lamps of the past to electric lights of today ~ Always in God's light! From woman suffrage to quilting parties ~ the women did their part..!

 

January 26, 1982, by Roy L. Chipps

Painting by Roy Lee Chipps.

How Cascara Church appeared after modern upgrades.

Cascara is typically thought of as the community along Route 23 roughly between Lynn Camp and Tarkiln Road. That area has never been heavily populated. According to Census records no one was living there in 1840. A few settlers made their homes along Robinson Fork and its hollows between 1850 and 1880, including the families of Riffee, Stark, Chipps, Starkey, Garner, Cayton, Hutson and Hurst. But it wasn’t until the mid-1880s that there were enough residents to justify building a church, which was completed in 1896. There were a couple of one-room schools in Cascara over the years, namely the Cayton School, Upper Robinson Fork School and Big Run School. After the church was finally built, it was also used as a school. Eventually all these schools closed and Cascara students attended the new Sedalia Grade School prior to 1954.

 

Sedalia

Cascara is part of the larger community of Sedalia, which stretches roughly from Cascara to Schutte Station. This area was settled after Center Point, which saw its earliest inhabitants around 1810. I will tell you later why Center Point was settled before Sedalia, but first I need to explain how the settlers, on horses and wagons if they were fortunate enough to have either, traversed the area prior to the network of roads that we have today.

Before construction of the Northwestern Turnpike, present-day Doddridge County was criss-crossed with trails and paths, but no real roads to speak of. The State Road from Clarksburg to Marietta was completed through Doddridge sometime between 1791 and 1801, but it was little more than a cattle path, impassable several months out of the year. It was not until 1806-1807 that sections of this State Road were improved to make it more traversable.

 

There was another path that went from Salem and followed Flint Run to McElroy Creek (just west of Elk Lick Run) then on to Middlebourne in Tyler County. This road did not follow exactly what is now Big Flint Road today, but it did pass through some of the same communities. On an 1821 Board of Public Works map, this generally north-south path was called the “Post road to Middlebourne,” which meant that it was used for mail delivery.

 

Prior to 1810, as people started pushing west from the more populated communities in Harrison County, the rugged terrain and lack of roadways gave them few travel options. Their route would have taken them from Salem along the “Post road,” following Flint Run northward until they reached McElroy Creek. At that point their choice was either to turn west and proceed to Middlebourne, or to turn east and follow the McElroy all the way to a place they called Three Forks, now known as Center Point. Settlers were drawn to Three Forks because it was the confluence of three creeks, Robinson Fork, Pike Fork and Talkington Fork, which joined there to form McElroy Creek. From Three Forks, people eventually wandered southward along Robinson Fork and settled near present-day Sedalia and Cascara.

 

Elk Horn Gap

The post road to Middlebourne was not the only access route into what is now called Sedalia. While examining legislative petitions trying to ferret out the Village of Middle Island, I found an 1809 legislative petition that mentioned a place called Elk Horn Gap in the vicinity of present-day Sedalia. In 1805 there was a boundary shift that forced the few inhabitants living around Three Forks in 1809 to travel to Clarksburg to attend required functions such as military musters and attending court. The petition stated that a virtually impassable and dangerous mountainous barrier known as Elk Horn Gap separated their community from the Harrison County court house.

 

After much research I finally found a place labeled Elk Horn Gap on an 1826 survey commissioned by Claudius Crozet, chief engineer for the Virginia Board of Public Works. The virtually impassable barrier mentioned in the petition was the steep dividing ridge that now separates Doddridge and Harrison counties. The gap was located on a path that ran from Indian Run in Harrison County, across the ridge, then dropped down into Elk Horn Run in present-day Doddridge County. Through this gap came people from Cherry Camp, Indian Run, Rock Camp and Grass Run into what we now call Sedalia. I’m not sure if this early roadway is still traversable, but we know that it was still being used in the 1890s or early 1900s. Rex Hutson (1926-2010) writes in his 1999 book The Ties that Bind

 

“In the summer months, she [Mary C. Hurst Hutson, 1879-1944] would hitch horse and buggy, load in eggs, butter, cheese and produce and deliver to customers in the Cherry Camp in Bristol area. It was several miles up Elkhorn, over the hill and down Indian Run to reach her customers.”

 

It’s unclear if Crozet did the actual surveying, but on the map at the intersection of Robinson Fork and Elk Horn Run are the words “81 marked on an Elm tree at the mouth of Robinson’s Fork” and “Here the surveyor spent the night.” Robinson Fork is the creek that runs behind the old Sedalia Grade School, and Elk Horn is just south of the school. 

 

Finding the names Elk Horn Run and Elk Horn Gap in documents written in 1809 and 1826 disproves the oral tradition that Winter Hutson (1814-1894) named that area Elk Horn because that’s where he killed an elk. Oral history is a great place to start when researching an area, but it’s important to corroborate those stories with primary sources.

 

However, it is well established that Winter Hutson was the first resident of Elk Horn, having taken his bride there in about 1837. By 1840 there were three families living in Sedalia: Charles Bonnell, Hugh Tate and Winter Hutson. This is documented in grants, deeds and census records. 

 

Skelton Run

Charles Bonnell was living on Skelton Run, near Sedalia Grade School, prior to 1839. When he arrived there, it was called Skelton’s Camp Run, as found on an 1833 map and in various land grants. The run was most likely named after Joseph Skelton, who migrated with the Davissons from New Jersey to Harrison County in the 1770s. Skelton’s name appears on a 1789 Harrison County tax list and list of electors. The last document I found for him in Harrison County was an 1801 tax list. Like many early residents of Harrison County, Skelton did not live here, but rather came to the area just to set up a camp of some sort. Many Doddridge County runs and streams were named in much the same way, decades before they were settled upon.

Time Marches On

Although never a bustling town like Salem and West Union, Sedalia was a somewhat self-sufficient community by the turn of the 20th century. It had boarding houses, stores, barber shops, and a doctor, veterinarian and blacksmith. One-room schools were scattered along the creeks and hollows. Large family farms were sectioned off as sons and daughters married and built their own homes.  When gas and oil was discovered in the McClellan District in the late 1890s, teamsters, rig builders and drillers moved into the area. More and more men gave up farming for better paying jobs in the oil field. Then when the boom was over, they pulled up stakes and left the area, seeking other industrial jobs elsewhere. Looking at Sedalia today, it’s hard to imagine that it was once a small town center. Little remains now of the once-busy community, other than modest family homes, a few churches, an old grade school building, and the Parrot Inn, a small watering hole where old-timers once gathered and exchanged the tales of which oral histories are made.

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