Pocahontas County Bicentennial ~ 1821-2021

October 23, 1934


Now, going back to the lands of the early settlers of the Greenbank community, we find that the town of Greenbank is situated on the lands of grants of Jacob Gillispie and Thomas Cartmill; and North Fork was called “Cartmills Creek” up until about 1830 when some old fool who didn’t know the points of the compass called it North Fork, and it has gone by that name since. It is the East branch of Deer Creek, and it should have continued under the name Cartmills Creek, in honor of Thomas Cartmill who fought in the Revolutionary War, and was sworn in as Captain of the Virginia Militia on May 11, 1780.

Thomas Cartmill conveyed his land to Abraham Ingram on June 13, 1798.

The Greenbank High School is situated in the grant of Jacob Gillispie. The old Gillispie homestead is now owned by F. J. Hedrick, Vo-Ag teacher.

The town of Arbovale is situated in the grant of Benona Griffin and James Rucker, Jr. The Set Stone corner near the gate at D. O. Woods’ store building is a common corner to the two grants mentioned and to the lands supposed to be owned by Jacob Rumbeau. The Arbovale church is in the Griffin Patent. James Rucker conveyed part of his land to Moses Houchin, where we get the name “Mosey Flat,” which lies on the west side of Arbovale.

The North Fork Milling Company’s Flour Mill is in the grant issued to Thomas Jarvis. Jarvis conveyed his land to Gillispies, and Gillispies to Patrick Bruffey in 1822, who developed the water power for the North Fork Flour Mill.

William Taylor conveyed his land to John Brown on September 8, 1795 and Brown conveyed his land to Harman Conrad on August 3, 1799, and the same land still remains in possession of the Conrad heirs.

The first church in the Greenbank community was built in what is now the old part of the Arbovale cemetery, and was erected sometime long prior to 1800 and named the Deer Creek Union Chapel. It was located on the lands of Jacob Rumbeau who sold the lot to the union Committee, but no deed was made till the same land came in possession of James Tallman who made the deed on July 5, 1831.

It is legendary that Jacob Rumbeau and a man by the name of Covelough were the first settlers in the Deer Creek Valley, but we have no records to verify the fact. Jacob Rumbeau’s home was on the lands now owned by James Cassell, which was formerly the James Rucker Patent.

Much could be written about land grants of the pioneers of the Greenbank community but it would be an elaborate piece of work to go into detail with them all.

It appears that in this busy progressive age, that we seem to forget all the local history of our community and put in oblivion the lives of our pioneer settlers, who carved the farmland out of the wilderness, and made the way possible for our homes, churches and schools, which should be considered as a monument to them.

R. W. Brown

January 29, 1948

Dear Cal;

Some time ago, someone asked me to write for The Times of the big red oak which stands in the village of Greenbank, just west of the Odd Fellow Hall.

The oak has been from ancient times an emblem of strength. The ancient Druids had altars under the sacred oak. It was the tree of Jove and Thor. It is mentioned often in the Bible. Jacob hid treasure under the oak of Shechem. Absolom was hung by his hair in the great oak.

The red oak tree in Greenbank is the oldest of living things thereabouts. Its struggle for life has been incessant and severe. It is a wonder it escaped the axe of the pioneer.

In 1772, by the treaty of Albany, the King of England renounced to the Indians all claim to the lands on these, the Western Waters. Then, on the formation of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1776, the State assumed ownership.

The old tree first appears in the records in the survey by Thomas Cartmill on June 13, 1780 for 358 acres, the line passing near and east of the tree. This survey embraced the greatest part of Greenbank. Later Cartmill conveyed the land to Abraham Ingram, the two men having title to the tree for a period of 21 years.

On June 9, 1801, Ingram conveyed all his land to James McKeamy. Seven years later, April 26, 1808, McKeamy, conveyed all his lands to Joseph Wood-Dell. Later this family name became Wooddell. Joseph Wood-Dell owned the oak for 18 years. On June 3, 1826, he conveyed part of his lands, including the oak, to his son, James Wooddell. He owned it about 11 years. On September 3, 1837, he conveyed an acre and a tenth to a board of trustees consisting of George Burner, Robert C. Warwick, James Wanless, John Waugh, Henry Arbogast, Solomon Arbogast, James E. Moore, Jacob Sutton and James Wooddell. On the lot was to be built a Methodist log church.

This church, erected a little to the west of the old oak, was called New Salem. It was a nucleus around which began to build the village of Greenbank, first called New Salem for several years.

After the erection of the church, it was decided to cut the tops out of all the trees in the grove. So, the top of the old red oak was cut 110 years since. These wounds finally healed over. Its limbs are crooked and gnarled – a healthy, sturdy, rugged giant with top branches 75 feet above the earth. At its base, the massive trunk measures twenty-three feet in circumference eighteen inches above ground.

After about twenty years, the Methodists abandoned the old log building and erected the present church. The old oak was still held in a line of a small lot, reserved from the larger lot, for hitching ground.

In the early forties the General Assembly of Virginia provided for three academies in Pocahontas County, as preparatory schools of the University of Virginia. So the old Brick Academy of Greenbank was erected near and to the east of the old oak. This was the second building of importance in Greenbank.

Then came the brick house erected by Rev. Ben Arbogast, who for a time was a teacher in the Academy.

Under the old tree, the late J. H. Patterson erected a small building for a cabinet shop. This was later used for an office by the late Dr. L. L. Little.

For three quarters of a century all elections were held in the old brick academy and the frame school house which took its place. Many a hot political argument and knock down fist fight took place under the old oak. In those long years the students of Greenbank schools came under its shade and shelter too.

Many times, owners of adjoining lots have proposed cutting the old oak down, claiming its shake and its roots were detriments to their ground. However, someone always spoke up for the historical old landmark, and it is there to this good day.

The only “U” turn in Greenbank is under this ancient oak.

New Salem was the first Methodist church in Upper Pocahontas. Here early ministers for about twenty years preached to congregations of anxious people. From it went out many persons, influenced by its uplifting surroundings and religious training.

The historic old Red Oak of New Salem should be preserved so long as it can stand.

Roscoe W. Brown.
Arbovale, W. Va.

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