“As you traveled the now blacktopped road through Huntersville, have you ever wondered how it came to be, or how it got its name?
“What were the early years like or what took place here?”
So begins the play, “A Saga of Huntersville,” written by Rene White, of Minnehaha Springs.
Those questions and many more were answered by the actors in the first public performance of the play Friday evening as part of Huntersville Traditions Day.
Filling the historical Huntersville United Methodist Church, the actors told the tale of Huntersville, the original county seat of Pocahontas County which was settled around 1773 by William Sharp, Sr.
In the spring of 1776, John Bradshaw, portrayed by Del Cohrs, was assigned the Huntersville territory as an Indian spy. He opened his home to hunters and trappers, trading furs for dried goods, weapons and the occasional moonshine.
“John Bradshaw gave enough land from his vast estate to the county as a place to build public buildings so that Huntersville could become the county seat when the county was organized in 1821,” narrator Alice Irvine read. “For many years after it became the county seat, it retained the importance as the principal trading center for the entire county. Quite a number of merchants from the eastern counties would come to sell hats, saddles, harnesses, stoneware, tobacco, whiskey and many other things.”
The courthouse and jail were completed in September 1824.
The town grew and the community built a school, churches and several businesses.
In 1862, Huntersville was at the center of the Civil War, and both Union and Confederate troops used the buildings in town as shelter and makeshift hospitals, specifically the Huntersville Presbyterian Church.
“The skirmish at Huntersville took place on January 3, 1862,” Sherman Taylor said in his portrayal of a Confederate soldier. “After Milroy’s defeat at Allegheny Mountain and his return to Cheat Mountain, he received reports of a small cavalry force at Marlin’s Bottom and Huntersville. Since Huntersville was the county seat and the supply depot for supplies coming from Millboro, Virginia, he ordered Major Webster of the 25th Ohio from Huttonsville to raid Huntersville with a detachment of the 2nd (West) Virginia under Major Owens and Bracken’s Cavalry to capture or destroy the supplies at that point. In 1861, when Lee left everything in charge of Loring, the Confederates made it their headquarters for all their activities in this part of the county.”
When the war was over, the town regrouped and rebuilt, repairing any damage caused by the battle.
The town continued to thrive and in 1880 a new two-story school building was built, which was used until 1968.
Despite the growth of Huntersville, there was a movement afoot in the county to move the courthouse and county seat to Marlinton. The county court held a meeting in April 1866 and the vote was 2-2 and the matter was tabled. Conversation about the move continued and the county court again held a vote.
“In June 1867, in response to a petition, the county court again ordered a vote to change the county seat,” county commission Jesse Groseclose said. “At the election on October 24, the vote was 45 for removal and 110 against.
“The county court ordered the subject be laid aside. The next effort to have the courthouse moved from Huntersville came in 1891. There were plans to promote a new town at Marlinton. At the county court meeting on October 6, 1891, John McGraw presented nine petitions signed by 697 voters expressing their desire to move the county seat to Marlinton. At a special meeting on December 12, 1891, the court declared Marlinton to be the county seat of Pocahontas County as of that day.”
Although Huntersville may no longer be the county seat, it continues to be a reminder of Pocahontas County’s past. Both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches are still used and maintained and Huntersville Historic Traditions has restored the Huntersville School and are in the process of restoring the old jail.
Along with the play, a choir performed tradition hymns – “The Old Rugged Cross” and “The Church in the Wildwood.”
Bringing the history to life were: narrator Alice Irvine; Del Cohrs portraying John Bradshaw; hunters Tony Kelly and Eddie White; Civil War soldier Sherman Taylor; Civil War ladies and officer Vonda Dixon, Dottie Meadows, Tom Meadows and Betty Aronson; Hallie Herold as the neighbor; Joyce Mullens as Aunt Sarah; Dondi Stemple as the teacher; students Kirstan Friel, Isis Halfler, Winsor Alderman, Jesse Kelly and Gabe Dean, Tom Sanders as sheriff; Jesse Groseclose as county commissioner; and the choir – Charlotte Alderman, Leota Abdella, Linda Daniels, Bill Daniels, Randy Andrick and Hope Andrick, accompanied by Judy Dean.
Additional music was provided by Paolo and Erica Marks.
Other festivities Friday evening included the local favorite pie auction and a spooky ghost walk through town.
The walk through history continued Saturday with re-enactors and crafters turning back the clock.
Student re-enactors from Huntington assisted the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps with the flag raising at the Huntersville School.
Crafters – including wood carver Lance Brooks, crocheter Marsha Grimes, book artist Reta Blankenship, blacksmith Woody Harman, broom maker Brenda Harman, knitter Linda Stewart and bobbin lace maker Suzanne Stewart – demonstrated their various talents, and had items to sell, as well.
Artist Lois Young, and apple cider vinegar-makers Kermit and Karen Friel were also selling their wares.
A quilting bee was held in the Huntersville school cafeteria where the walls were draped with old and new quilts made by Sandy Irvine, Sherry Hudson, Cheryl Taylor and Erin Lore.
Behind the school, visitors tried their hand at a muzzleloader, filling the valley with the the echoes of gunshots.
There was plenty of food on the school grounds with Frostmore Farm, Sharp’s Store, Marlinton Woman’s Club making kettle corn, Tim Wade and friends making ice cream and the Green Bank Elementary-Middle School eighth grade selling baked goods and breakfast items.
At the Methodist Church, there was apple butter making and chair caning. On down the road at the Presbyterian Church, Bob Sheets had a display about Green Bank’s Revolutionary War fort, Fort Warwick.
And there was no shortage of entertainment with Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters, The Stony Bottom Boy, Back to the Cross and the Appalachian Country Cloggers in town.
Members of the Tennessee Order of the Confederate Rose – with assistance from the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps and Civil War re-enactors – dedicated headstones for three Confederate soldiers buried at the Huntersville Cemetery.
Through tireless research, the Order has identified the names of more than a dozen soldiers and placed headstones in their honor.
As part of the ceremony, the Order’s “mourners” sprinkle Tennessee soil on the grave site, place a Confederate flag there, and a re-enactor soldier salutes the stone and the soldier it commemorates.
Huntersville Traditions Day is held the first full weekend in October and celebrates the traditions of our ancestors and the history of Huntersville.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org