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- the story of the fire

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 30 Sep 1869 [unknown]
Location: Osage West Virginamap
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- compiled by Robyn Boebinger

On September 30, 1869, Will married Maria Evans. Maria was the daughter of George Washington Evans and Pleasant Hunt. Maria's father died when she was just a few months old, as he tried to cross the Monongahela River near Jimtown. At the time of the wedding, Pleasant Hunt Evans had rented a small cottage in Osage, West Virginia, after moving from their house near Maidsville. During the winter of 1869-70, Pleasant, Maria and Will lived in the small cottage, but in the spring, they began plans to build a home about a half-mile from Osage on land they had purchased shortly after their wedding. By late fall, the house was far enough along that they were ready to put in the windows. This involved placing the window glass into the wooden frame with putty. They worked each evening by lantern light. Maria would hold the lantern and Will would spread out the frames on the floor, face down. Next, he would carefully lay a pane of glass in a frame while stepping in an empty frame. In the midst of their work there was a terrible crash - Will had accidentally stepped in a frame that already had glass in it. Maria began to laugh so hard she could barely hold the lantern, and soon had Will laughing too. The house was finally ready around the Christmas of 1870 so shortly after Christmas they began the move. Fortunately for them, the winter was exceptionally cold, and Scot's Run had already frozen over. They were able to move their furniture and belongings by sled over the frozen ice instead of taking it farther away and crossing a bridge. They were very pleased with this house which gave the three of them more room. Over time, Will and Maria added four more rooms to the house to hold their five children. On the night of August 19, 1871, the Hall home caught fire. Fortunately, a falling timber woke Will, who had been sleeping on the first floor with his youngest son Leslie. Will yelled upstairs to Sarah and Ida and told them to wake up and get out and he quickly carried Leslie and his feather bed out of the house. Sarah and Ida woke up but didn't understand what was happening and ran downstairs thinking Leslie was sick. As they ran, Will was hurrying the other children down the steps. As they all reached the bottom the stairway collapsed. Ramer, who turned nine the next day, was still half asleep and kept trying to go back into the house to go back to bed. Will knew he needed to keep the children away from the fire, so he had Dora, who was eleven, take Ramer and Leslie to Plummer Hall's home for safety. Plummer's house was only a short distance away, but by the time Plummer arrived to help, it was too late to save the house or most of their belongings. Will had managed to bring out some furniture, including a dresser full of Leslie's clothes, but with so little time to get things out, he did not remember a gold watch that hung on the wall in the bedroom. The morning after the fire, Plummer went to pick up Maria from her cousin's house in Easton, West Virginia. She had gone to a furniture sale with her cousin and spent the night there. When Plummer arrived and told Maria about the fire, she thought she was having a heart attack. She was so unnerved that she cried the whole way home, but as soon as she saw Will, looking so exhausted and dejected from the strain and he said, "Well, Maria, we are broken up.", she pulled herself together. She rolled up her sleeves and reminded him that they were still young, and they would just have to get to work and build an even better home. And that's what they did. The house and the coal house were burned, but there was a large outbuilding that had survived. The building had been used for grain storage and for sheltering their wagon. Will and some kind neighbors began immediately to remodel the building to serve as a temporary shelter while the new house was built. The family nicknamed the new living quarters "The Shanty". In a short time, the space was livable, and they had beds for the family and for the carpenters who would build the new house. When word reached John Hall (Will's brother) about the fire, he came and brought things he thought they could use. When he left, he took Dora and Sarah home with him, and when he brought them back two weeks later, the family was well settled into "The Shanty". Once settled there, Will and Maria started to plan the new house. They located it just a few feet back from the old foundation. Large stones were brought in for the foundation. By 1888, the excavation was done and the stones had been so well cut by Marsh Miller and Luke Murphy, that 50 years later, the daughter of a wealthy coal mine operator bought the farm and had the stones from the foundation used in the mantle of her beautiful country home. The carpenters began working on the eight-room house on a very memorable day. Will went to Mapletown to get the carpenters and their tools on the day of the big Monongahela River flood of July 1888. The small streams were flooded, and the trip took far longer than it normally would. He didn't arrive home until after dark and his family was very relieved to see him. The carpenters were three brothers, Ed, Eck and Will Cleavenger and the painters were John Davis, George Arrison and Bob Burwell. The workers stayed with the family for the duration of the work and Dora always remembered helping cook for the large group and the enormous stacks of buckwheat pancakes she helped make for breakfast. The family seemed to remember the days in "The Shanty" very fondly. The new house served them very well. Ida was married in the house in October of 1890 and in May of 1897, Dora married Charles Barker in the parlor with its gold and white woodwork. In 1903, Will and Maria bought a large frame home on Locust St. in Morgantown and moved in. In 1908, they had decided they would never move back to the farm, so they gave the land and coal rights to their children. At that point they had over 600 acres of land. They had been industrious and conservative and although Will made all the business decisions, he never failed to consult Maria.

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