Pioneering in Old Pokey
By Billy Hill

Round-Up Time and
Cattle Drives

Like the story of wagon trains, round-ups and cattle drives are associated with the ‘Old West,” but before the advent of the railroad up the Greenbrier, they were a regular thing in Pocahontas.

The Little Levels District, before the turn of the century, was noted for its fine cattle. Most of the “ranchers” in the valley owned grazing land on Viney and Cranberry mountains, so they would drive their herds to the mountains and turn them loose to graze all summer; come fall they would round them up and bring them back to get ready for market.

Before the railroad was built they had to drive their herd to the railhead at Ronceverte. When the railroad was completed to Seebert and beyond, stock pens with loading chutes were built at Seebert.

On the occasion of this account, the cattlemen were scheduled to drive their herds into Seebert on a staggered basis so that there would be an even flow into the stock pens and into the cattle cars. This was fine, but they overlooked one possibility, that of the uncertainty of train schedules.

You guessed it, the train was more than two hours late but the cattle were right on time, and, brother, you never saw anything like it.

Seebert is in a narrow valley with the railroad and river on one side and steep hills on the other. Before that train came, every foot of space was filled with steaming, bawling, milling cattle.

They filled yards, gardens, knocking down fences, they were on porches, looking in windows. It was impossible to leave your house for four or five hours. These cattle had never seen anything more than a road wagon – had never moved from their quiet and peaceful environment, so you can imagine their reaction to a train coming through with whistle and bell and with steam hissing.

If there had been any place to stampede, there would have been one of the dangdest stampedes in history. Two or three steers were killed by getting down and being trampled to death.

I took a look at Seebert, a few years ago and noted that the stockyards were gone.

Thus, endeth an era of Pioneering in Old Pokey.

Historical Sketches of Pocahontas County ~1901

BIOGRAPHIC
THOMAS McNEIL

The McNeil relationship on Swago trace their ancestry to Thomas McNeil, who came to Swago from Capon Valley, Frederick County, between 1768 and 1770… His wife was Mary Ireson, from Franklin County, Virginia.

About 1770 Thomas McNeil entered three hundred acres of land and settled where Joseph Pennell now lives, and built the house occupied a few years since by the family of the late William McNeil, one of his grandson.

Thomas McNeil’s family of sons and daughters were widely scattered in the course of years, but wherever they went they became useful citizens. His sons were Jonathan, Absolem, Enoch and Gabriel, and the daughters were Naomi and Mary.

Naomi became Mrs. Smith, and Mary was married to William Ewing, and both went to Ohio.

Gabriel married Rebecca Stephenson and settled where Jonathan McNeil now lives, then moved to Jackson County, Ohio, where he became a well known citizen…

Gabriel McNeil was a civil engineer, machinist, chemist, botanist, farmer, physician and preacher, and not a quack in any one, says a writer in the Jackson County paper, who had been on a visit to the neighborhood where Dr. McNeil had lived…

Jonathan, senior son of the pioneer Thomas, married Phoebe Moore, a daughter of Moses Moore, and settled at the Swago Mill, now held by Withrow McClintic. He appears to have been an enterprising person. Milling, weaving cloth and powder making were carried on under his supervision.

William McNeil married Nancy Griffey, from Franklin county, Virginia, a daughter of a Swiss soldier who came over with the Marquis Lafayette, and remained and became a citizen. They settled on the Thomas McNeil homestead…

Their sons were Jonathan, James, Claiborne and Moore. The daughters were Jane, Elizabeth and Agnes.

Jonathan McNeil, married Angelina Adkisson, daughter of the late Daniel Adkisson, at the head of Swago, and they settled on the old homestead near Buckeye, where he now resides.

Mrs. Aaron Kee and Mrs. John Buckley are their daughters, Rev. Asa McNeil, McNeil, William, Daniel, Doc, Ulysses, Enoch and the late McNeil.

Captain James McNeil, second son of William McNeil, married Sarah Young and settled on a section of the homestead, where he now lives… He became a prisoner of war at the Battle of Droop Mountain and was kept at Fort Delaware a long and tedious time. His second marriage was with Mrs. Fannie Perkins,…

For years Captain McNeil has been disabled by rheumatic affliction, but the worthy old veteran’s heart is still warm with sympathy for the “lost cause…”

Thomas McNeil’s name deserves honorable recognition for his courage in penetrating the dangerous recesses of these forest wilds, at the time among the most exposed and dangerous points of the Indian frontier. He overcame difficulties and encouraged others to do the same, and showed how it was done. Then when this place came to be too narrow, his sons and daughters, trained by him, were fitted to make the best of the opportunities opened up on the Ohio frontier and were ready for them.