By Annie Cromer
Published March 1, 1973
I went to see Jennie Bell Slaven about helping me write an article on the history of Durbin. She is an interesting person with a remarkably keen mind and sense of humor. You have to know her to really appreciate her way of talking. Without trying, she can be funny. I have known her to ease the pain of the heartbroken by some simple remark “that would make a dog laugh,” as one person said.
She said, “If you want me to tell you about Durbin, you had better get it before I die.”
By Jennie Bell
About 76 years ago, I made my first trip to Durbin with my mother, Malcenia Tallman Slaven, a sister of the late Enos Tallman, from Back Mountain. We walked from the Wright Place, about two miles on the Back Mountain Road. When we came to the rushing water of the creek at West Durbin, I balked and refused to walk the two logs with only a rail on one side. Nothing my mother did could force me across that water. Your mother, Maggie Greathouse, slid back her window and said, “Mrs. Slaven, leave the little girl with me.”
It was a wonder I stayed. I was a mean little devil.
My mother went on to the store for the staples: green coffee, soda, sugar and Five Brothers Tobacco.
Green coffee was the raw coffee bean that had to be toasted in the oven, ever so expertly, by stirring with the hand and shaking it until it was evenly browned. Then it was ready to be ground. Not everyone could toast coffee.
My mother died September 24, 1901. There wasn’t anything for me to do but tag along with my daddy wherever he went.
I’ll never forget the first watermelon I ever saw.
Daddy worked for a Mr. Nicely on Cheat Mountain. On the evening before the Fourth of July, Mr. Nicely suggested they go to the store and get a melon for the Fourth. I thought it would be something walking. When they brought it in a sack, I thought it would jump out at me. After they put it in the cold spring, I made several trips to see if it had come alive.
I went to school at the Hoover School, about one mile off the Parkersburg-Staunton Turnpike on the Back Mountain Road. This schoolhouse was used for schooling, preaching, praying, and about anything else. Amos Gillispie taught school there and often had only one pupil, Elsie Curry.
Sally McLaughlin was my teacher at the Hoover School. Every Friday afternoon, she picked the two best pupils to go to the Gillispie Post Office, about two miles up the road, for her mail. She usually sent Ell Sheets and me. The mail carriers were paid with a stick of candy. It took us all of the afternoon to make the trip. The first letter I ever got was from her at this post office. Once she gave her $1 watch to me.
If I talk too fast for you to take notes, stop me. I know I am talking faster than Bernard Kelly could sing.
Some things that make me sick are the folks who come here for the first time or are coming home and wonder, “How do you ever stand to live here?”
A Mr. Bob Kerr used to tell them, “You’d be surprised to know how well we get along without you.”
Talking about the styles of this day, I told someone the other day, men used to marry a girl, wondering if she had any legs. Now they wonder about nothing.
To be continued…
Historical Sketches of Pocahontas County ~ 1901
By William T. Price
Jacob Cassell, ancestor of the numerous relationship of that name, was a native of Pendleton. In early manhood, he came to Bath, where he married Nancy McLaughlin, a sister of Squire Hugh McLaughlin, late of Marlinton. After living several years in Bath, he bought out Mr. Deaver, on Greenbrier River, three miles west of Greenbank, now known as the Cassell fording. Here he settled and became a well-known citizen of our county, about seventy years ago.
He had two daughters and five sons: William, Jacob, John, Samuel, James, Nancy and Jane.
William married Matilda Wanless, and settled on Back Alleghany where he spent the remainder of his life. He was married twice. His second marriage was with Nancy Collins…
Jacob Cassell’s son, Jacob, married Nancy Sharp, daughter of the late William Sharp, near Verdant Valley, and settled in Illinois.
John married Sally Curry and went to the far West.
Samuel married Eliza Valentine Tomlinson, of Augusta county, near Staunton, Virginia, and lived for a while on the Greenbrier homestead, then settled on Back Alleghany on lands now held by his son, Jacob Cassell.
Nancy Cassell, daughter of Jacob Cassell, the ancestor, married Allen Galford, and lived on the Greenbrier near the mouth of Deer Creek…
Jacob Cassell, Senior, the founder of the Cassell family, was a person of remarkable muscular strength and agility. He was passionately industrious, and even in extreme old age was never satisfied without something useful to do. He and his family have done very much in developing that part of the county where he resided.
In his attire he was very neat and particular, and a perfect gentleman in his deportment.
His personal influence and example were for fair dealing, strict integrity and pure morals. He lived to be ninety-two years of age.
Mrs. Cassell died several years before her husband. Her death was occasioned by nasal hemorrhage, brought on by overexertion in crossing a very high rail fence…