An Old Town with A Rich History
Mannington's biggest attraction to visitors is probably our rich and colorful past. We're an old coal and oil town and we've seen our share of riches. We have arguably the best indoor museums in the county, our West Augusta Museum in the old Wilson school on East Main Street, and the Round Barn Museum on Flaggy Meadow Road.
A Brief History:
Originally known as Forks of Buffalo, Mannington was first settled in the latter part of the 18th century. At the time of the first settlement, the west fork of Buffalo Creek was known as Warrior's Fork, while the North Fork has historically borne the name of Pyle's Fork. One of the first settlers in the area was John Ice, who was born in the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac in what was then Virginia. As a child, Ice and his father searched in vain for his mother, two sisters and brother who had been captured by the Indians. The mother was never found, although the children ultimately were. Only John's brother, known from then on as "Indian Billy" returned to the family. The sisters chose to remain with their one time captors (Prichard 1983).
Indian activity was not uncommon in the area and many settlers and travelers met their fate at the hands of the Indians, including John Madison, the cousin of James Madison the future president, who was killed on a surveying trip in the area in 1783. Although not necessarily as a result of this, James Madison did procure, as an investment, some land on Brush Run and Pyles Fork just north of Forks of Buffalo.
The earliest population concentration did not occur in what is now Mannington, but rather approximately two miles west of Dent's Run. Most of the land now falling within the city limits, some 1360 acres, was owned by Robert Rutherford, a Revolutionary War financier and an intimate friend of George Washington. In 1799, Rutherford sold his Forks of Buffalo holdings to James Brown of Berkeley County, Virginia, who, after experiencing financial setbacks, eventually sold the property at public sale in 1824 to a group of
Baltimore, Maryland, investors which included William Baker. Baker apparently bought out his partners and, in turn, sold the parcel to James Hanway, a surveyor living in Monongalia County, who parceled the land and began selling it. This final transaction occurred in 1840 and it was then that the area now known as Mannington had its genesis.
After the parceling of the land around the Forks of Buffalo, interest in the area increased as did the population. A number of log houses began to be built, with the accompanying entrepreneurial activities that one might expect in an early settlement. By 1850 a tavern owned by George and Samuel Koon appeared in the heart of the burgeoning town. Not long after the tavern was opened, the Forks of Buffalo began to be known as Koon Town. While the local inhabitants may have used the newer name, the United States government failed to do so, in 1850 naming their first postal office in the community the Forks of Buffalo Post Office. It was not until 1856 that the village officially became known as Mannington, named after Charles Manning, a civil engineer with the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. Manning was well liked by the community and the inhabitants were eager to have a more "dignified" name for a growing town on the new railroad line.
The coming of the railroad heralded the introduction of heavier industry in the Mannington area. Logging and coal were two of the obvious industries which were developed along the railroad line, but there were a great many peripheral industries which appeared as well. Tree bark was used by the tanneries, which, in turn, produced a wide range of leather goods. New planning mills, sawmills, and woodworking plants were started, and the availability of transportation also witnessed an in crease in cattle, sheep and crop production.
During the Civil War, the B and 0 railroad, of vital interest to both of the conflicting sides, sustained more damage than Mannington proper did. While Confederate forces succeeded in burning several of the railroad bridges at the very beginning of the conflict, reinforcements from the Union insured the integrity of the Mannington section of the line for the remainder of the war.
A new chapter in Mannington's history began in 1889 with the first oil drilling, following recommendations made by Dr. I. C. White, a geologist from Morgantown. Although many felt that the area was unfavorable for oil reserves, White persisted and soon gained enough local support to drill. Following the first strike, late in 1889, real estate prices soared 100% in two days in a boom-town mentality.
Dr. White pushed for natural gas exploration. It was this venture, more successful than any before or since, that was most responsible for Mannington's growth. The population increased from approximately 700 people in the late 1800's to over 4,000 by 1917. By 1900, Mannington was a thriving town, complete with its own trolley system, electricity, theaters, schools, fire department, telephones and other amenities. The Mannington School Building, constructed in 1902-03, was the pride of both the town and the state. In 1923, Albert Heck began the formation of the first community radio cable system from Mannington to its outlying areas. The 1929 stock market crash and the Depression severely affected Mannington's economy. The trolley ceased operation in 1933, factory workers left as demand for products decreased, and the town's population began to decline.
While Mannington has not regained its pre-depression status, it has made a strong comeback. The City of Mannington is fortunate, compared to many communities, in that many of the key elements necessary for revitalization are already in place. We have a new sewage treatment system and water distribution system. Because a WV Department of Transportation garage is located in Mannington, we are assured our highways are the first to be taken care. Strong State Representatives have seen to it that our local bridges are given priority in Charleston. Senator Byrd aided in the appropriation of millions of dollars in government grants to help us with flooding problems along Buffalo Creek. Seven flood control dams have been constructed and an $8 million creek dredging project completed. Congressman Mollohan focused much of his attention on securing government grants for Mannington to aid us in Historic Preservation.
Within the City of Mannington, we are blessed with a community that is strongly committed to improving Mannington for residents and businesses alike.
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