Pocahontas County is rich in history and one way to celebrate the history of Marlinton is to recognize the individuals who served as mayors of the town.
A project began in 2004 with an end goal of collecting photographs of all the town’s former mayors to display in Marlinton’s Town Hall. After nearly 12 years of research and collaboration, the project came to fruition Thursday when three former mayors – Dottie Kellison, Dennis Driscoll and Joe Smith – and current mayor Sam Felton completed the final phase, with the assistance of Preservation Officer B.J. Gudmundsson and former councilmember Kenneth Faulknier.
“Dottie started this project almost twelve years ago when she was mayor,” Smith said. “She worked very hard at it, and Dennis came in office as mayor, and he worked on it, and I came in office as mayor, and I worked on it. Then, I solicited [B.J. Gudmundsson], who has found probably close to half of the pictures we have here today through her research.”
Digging through the photo collections of Preserving Pocahontas and the Pocahontas County Historical Society, Gudmundsson was able to find portraits or pull photos from group shots.
“It was hard,” Gudmundsson said. “I found probably sixteen just by going through the archives. I remembered seeing people here and there. We’ve got three that the photos are not very good at all because the only place there was a picture of them was in that great big panorama of the Rod and Gun Club back in 1928, so I cropped out their little head and blew them up so they’re a little fuzzy, but at least they don’t have an empty frame.”
Gudmundsson printed the photos and included the mayor’s names and the years they were in office. Jim VanReenan built the frames for all the photos.
“Jimmy made the frames for us,” Smith said. “They’re solid oak frames from Pocahontas County oak. I went up and hand selected it from ITL.”
As the photos were hung on the wall, the group shared memories and stories of the individuals who shaped the town of Marlinton.
Through her search for photos, Gudmundsson found many interesting stories connected to the mayors.
“Edwin Dorsey King – he built the hospital,” she said. “He built the Bank of Marlinton building. He really built a lot. He was quite well-known around this town. E.M. Arbogast actually used to go to Florida every year to near St. Augustine and vacation. He went down there one year and bought this big piece of land. It’s all over the St. Petersburg website – the history of E.M. Arbogast and how he developed this big resort down there. It was the first big, high stakes real estate community in that part of Florida.”
Some stories were laughable, while others were very telling of the time.
“Next is the ‘hanging mayor’ – George Robinson Richardson,” Smith said. “He actually hung people that committed crimes. Another interesting fact for anybody who doesn’t know it, in the earlier days of town government, you only served one year.”
Robert A. Kramer owned the Marlinton Messenger newspaper. Thomas Summers “T.S.” McNeel was the first mayor to serve multiple terms. Captain Abner E. Smith was in the White Pine Loggers Association. Fred Clay Allen served as a state senator.
Smith is a third generation mayor and he hung the photos of his grandfather, Berton E. Smith, Sr. and a frame for a photo of his uncle, James W. Smith. The search continues for that photo.
In more recent history, George Douglas “Doug” Dunbrack was the longest serving mayor in the history of Marlinton. Dunbrack was first elected in 1981 and died three months into his sixth term.
“Doug died three months into a term, and Dottie took over,” Smith said. “He served twenty-four years.”
Kellison, who was the recorder at the time of Dunbrack’s death, was appointed mayor and became the first – and only – female mayor of Marlinton.
“It was a unique experience for me,” Kellison said. “It was challenging, but I always tried. There’s not a person that worked for this town that – if I called them any hour of the day or night – didn’t comply with what I wanted, because I was good to them.”
Faulknier hung the photo of his father, Guy Richard Faulknier.
Of the 36 mayors to serve in the past 115 years, only six frames remain without photos.
A list of the mayors and dates of service are below. Names followed by an asterisk [*] currently do not have a photo. Anyone with information concerning photos of the mayors may contact Gudmundsson at 304-799-3989 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Gatewood Price, 1900
Edwin Dorsey King, 1901
Nathan C. McNeill, 1902*
E.M. Arbogast, 1902*
George Robinson Richardson, 1903
Robert A. Kramer, 1904
Thomas Summers McNeel, 1905, 1906, 1907
Captain Abner E. Smith, 1908, 1909, 1910
Allan Penick Edgar, 1911, 1912
Ernest B. Hill, 1913, 1914*
John Whitfield Milligan, 1915, 1916, 1918
Frank M. Sydnor, 1917, 1918
William L. Dearing, 1918
Frank R. Hill, Sr., 1919, 1920
Norman Randolph Price, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1927
Mark S. Wilson, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1931
Fred Clay Allen, 1928, 1929, 1930
George Steele Callison, 1933, 1937-1943
A.H. McFerrin, 1934
Berton E. Smith, Sr., 1935-1937
Carl Lynn Sheets, 1943-1947
George Winters Sharp, 1947-1951
George Stewart Sharp, 1951*
J.E. Hamrick, 1952*
John W. Moses, 1953-1957
James W. Smith, 1957-1959*
Dale Gray Curry, 1959-1960
Guy Richard Faulknier, 1960-1965
James Russell Waugh, 1965-1971
H. Guy Fultz, 1971-1975
Edward W. Rexrode, 1975-1979
Frank R. Hill, Jr., 1979-1981
George Douglas Dunbrack, 1981-2004
Dorothy L. Kellison, 2004-2007
Dennis C. Driscoll, Sr., 2007-2011
Joseph W. Smith, 2011-2015