History Of Prospect Valley Community|
By Bertha Coffman*
October 19, 1889 – September 2, 1965
The Early Pioneers
Prospect Valley Community is situated on Robinson's Run, in Eagle District, Harrison County, about three miles west of Shinnston. It is one of the oldest communities in the district, dating back more than one hundred and fifty years.
The first settlement ever made on what is now Robinson's Run of which we can find any record, was made by William Robinson, who patented a large tract of land on Robinson's Run and Jone's in 1775, and from whom Robinson's Run received its name. William Robinson was very prominent in the early history of Harrison County, having been one of a group of justices, composing the County Court, commissioned by the Governor of Virginia soon after the County was laid off by the Virginia Legislature. On July 20, 1784, this body of men met and took the oath of Allegiance to the commonwealth and also the oath of office as directed by law. Mr. Robinson held different offices in the County, having been the third sheriff, serving in 1788.
In the year 1782, William Robinson transferred 550 acres of land to Benjamin Robinson who was also prominent in the early history of the County, serving as sheriff in 1794. He also owned the first grist mill and the first saw mill in Eagle District. These were located on Ten Mile Creek at Lumberport about the year 1800.
Benjamin Robinson served in the Revolutionary War, and attained the position of Major and was afterwards spoken of by that title. He also took part in many Indian raids in the surrounding country. In 1806 Major Robinson's daughter, Elizabeth Robinson, married Henry Coffman who came to this community from Pennsylvania and in 1816 Major Robinson conveyed a tract of land to the heirs of Henry Coffman. This land as far as we can find has never been sold, but has been handed down from generation to generation, since it was taken up as government land and is still owned and farmed by the Robinson and Coffman families.
Henry Coffman was a cooper by trade and some of his old tools used in the cooper business are still in the possession of his great grandchildren.
In 1798, William Robinson also transferred a portion of his land to John D. Lucas who was the grandfather of R. G. Lucas now living near the mouth of Robinson's Run. John D. Lucas built his log cabin near where Pigotts Run joins Robinson's Run, and lived and died at that place. The Lucas family are prominent farmers and stock raisers, still owning this land which they • bought more than 125 years ago. Another early settler in the community was John Flowers, who came here from Delaware and settled in a log cabin just above the bridge near the laurel thicket. Mr. Flowers was the great-grandfather of the present John Flowers who still lives in the community and of Dr. A. O. Flowers of Clarksburg. He with others constructed the only Indian fort ever built on Robinson's Run, This fort was erected near a spring, just above the laurel thicket, and was about forty feet square, with two rows of port holes, one up stairs and one down, with a stockade
extending around the spring, to give protection against siege by Indians. There is no record of any attack upon this fort by the Indians, although the people sought its protection on several occasions. At one time an Indian was seen prowling about the fort, was fired on, wounded and run into the laurel thicket where his pursuers dared not follow, but stood guard for several days. When at last a party ventured in they found the Indian dead. He was buried near that place. Another slight encounter took place between the Indians and the people of the fort a short distance away. Several were wounded, but no one killed and the Indians retreated into the forest. John Flowers engaged in the pottery business having his kiln near the old house below the fort. His chief out put was crocks and besides selling to the settlers he would occasionally build a boat at the mouth of the run, load it with crocks, wheat, potatoes, etc., and float it down to Pittsburgh.
Mr. Flowers' son Jesse Flowers, was a well educated and influential man, served in the Virginia Legislature, and after the formation of West Virginia was a representative in the State Legislature. There were probably other pioneer settlers on Robinson's Run, but if so we have no record of their settlements.
The first Church on Robinson's Run, which was also the first in Eagle District, was organized by the Rev. Poole, a Methodist Minister, in 1816, and a building was erected near the mouth of what we now called Harbert's Run. Among its first members were David Masters, Basil Lucas, and Basil Harvey. As this was the only church in the district, people came for many miles to attend services here. The first Sunday School ever held in the district was organized at this church by John Flowers about 1820 and soon had an attendance of forty. This building was destroyed by fire about 1855. The present church building was built about 1857. It was built by a man by the name of Kennedy for the sum $1000. It was built of stone and was known for many miles around as the "Old Stone Pile Church." A few years ago it was remodeled, the old stone covered with stucco, the inside plastered and papered and at the present time is a very modern building, No one seeing it now would believe it was built before the Civil War.
The first school house in Eagle District was also built on Robinson's Run in 1818. It was a log structure and was built and furnished in much the same way as other school houses of that time, and stood near the old church. I do not know who taught the first school in this building but think John Flowers taught there at one time.
The next school house was built in 1867 and the first school taught in the new building was by a man by the name of George Fletcher. At the present time there are three school houses in the community with an enrollment of about fifty-six pupils, while several of our boys and girls are attending nearby high schools, normals, and colleges.
From these little schools have gone out a great many teachers, some ministers, doctors, lawyers, and county officials, who have held positions worthy of being mentioned. The Prospect Valley Community hopes some time in the near future to have a centralized school where all our children may have better educational advantages than our forefathers had.
In War Times
The Prospect Valley Community played an important part in the Civil War, having several men and boys who took an active part in the service and one, Theophilus Coffman, was killed during a raid at Fairmont. James Moffatt who lived on the farm now owned by E. V. Richardson was a captain in the army.
This community also responded nobly to the call of her country during the World War, sending three or four of its boys into the service.
Weyman Robinson spent several months in France, being in the battles of St. Miheil and Argonne Forest, and was on the front at the time the Armistice was signed.
Okey Shreve also spent some time with a hospital corps in France.
The people remaining at home contributed liberally both time and money, raising food, sewing, and knitting for the Red Cross, buying government bonds, and helping in many ways to win the war.
For several years the farmers of the community have had a lamb club in which all the members hold their lambs together and ship them to some market. This has proven very successful. Many farmers in the community also belong to the Farm Bureau and are members of the West Virginia Cooperative Wool Growers Association.
In 1922 a community club was organized, and monthly meetings are held and with the help of the county agent, home demonstration agent, and other extension workers. Some very good programs have been given. Later in the same year a woman's club was organized which has done some very good work in the community. We also have two Four-H clubs.
In 1925 our first Country Life Conference was held at which our community made the highest score ever made in a first Country Life Conference in West Virginia up to that time. The score made was 728 out of a possible thousand points. In 1924, at our second conference our score was raised to 756.
At the present time Prospect Valley Community has a population of about two hundred people, most of whom are honest, industrious, law-abiding citizens, who hope to improve the community not only to raise the score but to make it a better place in which to live.
by Dick Wilt
*Bertha Coffman was born on October 19, 1889 in Harrison County Eagle District the daughter of James T. and Mary Anne (Shaw) Coffman. She never married and was a teacher in Harrison County her whole adult life. She died on September 2, 1965 and was buried on September 5, 1965 in the Shinnston Masonic Cemetery.
You can find Bertha and her siblings attending Cunningham Run School in the Harrison County Catalog 1896 in the Eagle District.
One of the Trustees is James Coffman which is probably Bertha's father.
West Virginia Census for 1880 Eagle District in 1896
John G. Coffman Head of Household age 55 born in Pennsylvania
Auhsah Wife age 49
Benjamin L.. male age 29
Jesse L. male age 18
Elizabeth E.T. female age 16
Luther H. male age 11
James T. male age 9 (father of Bertha Coffman)
George W. male age 7 (father of Aura Coffman)
Charles T. male age 4
Joseph Monroe farm hand age 19
Martha Kile domestic Servant age 19
Listed as neighbors of the Coffman family are: Griffin, Heldreth, Harbert, Robinson, Moore, Holden, Bartlett, Childs, Fortney
West Virginia Census for 1900 Eagle District
James Coffman Head of Household age 39 birth listed as 1861
Annie Wife age 37 birth listed as 1862
Aubra Son age 16 birth listed as 1884
Stella Daughter age 14 birth listed as 1886
Hugh Son age 12 birth listed as 1887
Bertha Daughter age 10 birth listed as 1889
G. Berl Daughter age 4 birth listed as 1895
Listed as neighbors of the Coffman family are: Hufflin, Cunningham, Drain, Richardson, Grim, Sterm, and Hass.
I never had the honor of meeting Bertha Coffman but was well acquainted with Bertha’s first cousin Aura L. Coffman. I knew Aura through her daughter, Virginia Ruth and her children. I have been a close friend with her grandson John E. Nay Jr. from the age of 10 when we first met in the fifth grade in Shinnston Grade School. With John and his family I spent many memorial days at the farm of John E. and Aura L. Coffman Martin located at Prospect Valley. The Martin farm had been a dairy farm but was not a working farm during my memory. Everything at the farm was as it had been during the days of the dairy so it was exciting to just explore all of the buildings and examining all of the equipment used on a Dairy Farm.
John Earl and Aura had three children. Two daughters, Viginia Ruth, Margaret Irene and George Lee. Ruth married John Edward Nay Sr. on Dec 27, 1933. John and Ruth had four children, John, Judith, Linda and Richard. Margaret Irene married Charles King. Margaret was a victim of Polo at a young age and lived in AZ for many years where she died. George when a young man joined the US Army to serve during WWII. George was killed July 19, 1944 shortly after “D”Day at Normandy. George was only 18 years old. He served with Company C 60th Inf, 9th Div. He was buried in France and four years later in 1948 was brought back to West Virginia and is buried in the Shinnston Masonic Cemetery.
West Virginia Census for 1910 Eagle District
George B. Coffman Head of Household age 47
Rosealee Wife age 45
Jessie L. Daughter age 19
Aura L. Daughter age 18
Listed as neighbors of the Coffman family are: Barnes, Griffin, Robinson
Aura L. Coffman married John Earl Martin on June 1, 1913 in Harrison County, WV and were married by Jas H. Ryan minister of the Baptist Church
This farm was purchased by the Consolidated Coal Company and a railroad spur or siding was built to serve the needs of the Robinson Run Mines.
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