West Virginia Incorporated:
Religion and the Railroad in the Timber Counties

Joseph Super


Just as natural resources attracted industrialists, people attracted Protestant missionaries. By the mid-1880s, the idea of West Virginia as a backward region confined completely within an otherwise advanced and modern country became accepted fact among mainline Protestant denominations. By the beginning of the twentieth century, these denominations established systematic and well-funded missionary endeavors into the southern mountains. The railroads themselves played no small part in the effectiveness of these efforts, allowing proselytizers to penetrate deep into the backcountry and high into the mountains, planting new churches, and growing existing ones. But this straightforward link between industry and religion hides a more complex and nuanced relationship between the secular and the sacred.


The West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway (WVC&P), founded by a group of capitalists, politicians, and industrialists, and headed by Henry Gassaway Davis of Maryland, was one of the first railroads to penetrate the state’s interior and the first to traverse its highest altitudes. “The Alleghenies were as rich in coal and lumber as the Rockies were in the precious metals. The heart of the wealth of the Alleghenies is in West Virginia, and its throbbing has just begun with the awakening of its industrial life.”1 These statements, part of a promotional publication by the Board of Directors of the WVC&P, aimed to draw attention to the railroad’s role in that industrial awakening and the profits which would follow. The publication covered the line’s route into the mountains and detailed the natural resources along the way.

But the West Virginia hills teemed with people as well as minerals and trees. And more people came as entrepreneurs like Davis laid more tracks, sank more mine shafts, and built more saw mills. Just as natural resources attracted industrialists, people attracted Protestant missionaries. By the mid-1880s, the idea of West Virginia as a backward region confined completely within an otherwise advanced and modern country became accepted fact among mainline Protestant denominations.2 By the beginning of the twentieth century, these denominations established systematic and well-funded missionary endeavors into the southern mountains. The railroads themselves played no small part in the effectiveness of these efforts, allowing proselytizers to penetrate deep into the backcountry and high into the mountains, planting new churches, and growing existing ones.

But this straightforward link between industry and religion hides a more complex and nuanced relationship between the secular and the sacred. The relationship between these two spheres in America frequently oscillates between close and distant, contested and cordial, conflicting and cooperating. Industrial capitalism refashioned the relation between these two in the late nineteenth century, thereby strengthening and solidifying a discourse of Christian civilization in America that equated moral progress with economic progress.3 At the same time, the secular components of this discourse achieved hegemony over the sacred ones, co-opting some of the language and the power of the church to more specifically secular ends. While this connection between morality and economics had a long history in the Christian West, the rise of industrial capitalism in the mid-nineteenth century had a profound effect precisely because it gave individuals and small groups the ability to wield unprecedented power and wealth. Capitalism determined the political, economic, and social relations between classes, and thus its provenance was primarily the secular sphere. But this power eventually trickled down to the sacred sphere, as new material realities forced churches and the families and communities forming them and surrounding them to adjust.4

In the North, this transition occurred just before the war. During much of the antebellum period, while sacred and secular authority, values, and discourse often cooperated and freely traversed each other’s borders, the church could at least respond to economic and social changes and their negative effects from its own independent vocabulary because it possessed the collective resources to act as counterbalance. This changed with the so-called Businessmen’s Revival of 1857–58. T. J. Jackson Lears argues that this event signaled the near total dominance by the business culture over mainstream Northern Protestantism. Businessmen, not professional clergy, conducted revival meetings, running them by the principles of sound business. “Ancient tensions between piety and profit were beginning to relax,” Lear contends. “By the late nineteenth century, business values permeated even the pulpit.”5

Throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century and continuing into the first quarter of the twentieth century, a similar process occurred in Appalachia. The advent of industrial capitalism not only changed political, social, and economic relations, but also wedded the sacred and secular in the mountains in ways similar to the rest of the country, especially the Northeast. The stories of industrialization and church activity in the highest elevations of West Virginia demonstrate both the hegemony of the discourse of Christian civilization and the processes whereby the secular components of that concept achieved superiority over the sacred components. Whereas religion itself had once taken precedence, with civilization following closely behind, now priorities were changing. As historian Robert Handy notes, proponents of Christian civilization “were in effect making the advancement of civilization the greater good, thus subtly reversing the earlier priority.”6

The work of Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries and churches in two West Virginia counties, Randolph and Tucker, reveals this shift, as well as the close connection between the secular and the sacred at local, state, regional, and national levels during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Substantial religious similarities existed between Appalachian Christianity and the rest of America. As small and isolated as the Tucker and Randolph County churches were, they did communicate, correspond, and fellowship with churches outside of Appalachia. At least to some extent they were aware of and involved in the theological, doctrinal, and polity issues affecting American Protestant churches at that time, especially those in the North. This close religious relationship facilitated the connection between the sacred and secular once industrialization began.

Railroads and backcounties in West Virginia, 1917. West Virginia Geological Survey; adapted by Debra Branson; reproduced with permission from Ronald L. Lewis, Transforming the Appalachian Countryside (1998).

Some pockets of Christians in the mountains did not fellowship with national, mainline churches and remained unconcerned with or outright opposed to the new order. However, the majority of Appalachian believers in the mountains belonged to mainline denominations, sharing with eastern industrialists the same broad assumptions about public morality and the connection between Christianity and civilization. This majority group retained the ability to speak and minister to people from all walks of life, especially those with the least amount of power and opportunity in the secular sphere. At the same time, however, they helped outsiders incorporate the region into the American mainstream. Common ideas about moral reform and the role of morality in public life bound believers and industrialists alike, as the drive for a unified Christian America continued to blur the lines between the sacred and secular.

This study is about both the power of ideas, and as John Hennen observes, “the importance of access to the knowledge and means to transmit ideas.”7 The concept of Christian civilization maintained a powerful presence in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century West Virginia. And both the church and industry were powerful, yet not necessarily always unified, exponents of this vision. The religious history of the West Virginia highlands during this period displays the increasing hegemony of the secular over the sacred; it also indicates that the sacred retained at least some ability to speak on its own, for itself, and to those who were subordinate and becoming increasingly more so.

The mountain South became the concern of both the spiritually and materially minded after the Civil War. Both missionaries and industrialists saw the mountains ripe for harvest. Northern capitalists and industrialists looked to the South for wealth-making opportunities in natural resources and inexpensive manufacturing. Despite West Virginia’s official political affiliation with the Union during the war and the Unionist sentiments of many residents from the higher elevations, many Northern political and business leaders saw it as part of a mountain South that needed to be economically and culturally united with the rest of the country.8 By investing in the extraction of timber, coal, and oil from the mountains, these men hoped to do more than gain wealth. They wanted to transform the backcountry.

The penetration of the mountains by the railroads connected what was believed to be a backward society and its people with the rest of modern America. People, wealth, technology, progress, industry—all the accouterments of civilization—could flow into the backwoods. To many Americans in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, religion and civilization were also inextricably linked. Industry was necessary for material prosperity and progress. It would bring higher wages than farming and enable more people to afford more consumer items. Along similar lines, religion would strengthen the moral fiber of the country and reinforce values that, while long-championed by Christians of various denominations, were conducive to an industrial society. Sobriety, industriousness, and self-control all fit nicely into capitalist plans for an ideal labor force. Religion and industry, then, were two important and related blocks in the foundation of a modern American civilization.9

Thus, religious activity in the mountains must be examined against the backdrop of industrialization. Both Randolph and Tucker Counties in West Virginia experienced significant political, social, and economic shifts around the turn of the twentieth century. The railroad channeled these transformations. It brought people to harvest timber, mine coal, and work on the railroad, ushering in a new way of life and causing population and power shifts that precipitated the county seat wars. It then shipped those natural resources out to national and international markets, bringing great wealth to industrial capitalists. The Iron Horse brought the promise of economic prosperity and earthly gain, even as it displaced traditional foundations of society and pushed existing means to economic well-being and political power to the periphery.

Lumber Men; courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WVU Libraries.

Mass timbering in the back counties of West Virginia began in earnest around 1880, and the Northern forests became depleted. By the early 1870s, the B&O and C&O railroads bisected the northern and southern tiers of the state, respectively. However, neither was willing to commit to surmounting the mountains and interior forests of the state. Regional, state, and local politicians and industrialists rushed to the fill the void. They began to build smaller lines into the interior of the state, connecting their rails to the major trunk lines and more of the state’s natural resources to national markets.10

In north-central West Virginia, Randolph and Tucker Counties were among the first to experience the effects of these changes. For example, they were among the top four counties in the state in lumber production and large mills between 1890 and 1930. In 1900, Randolph had a capital investment of over $1.5 million, with Tucker leading the way with over $2 million.11 Their industrial prominence highlights the confrontations of the era and shows that lines between the old and new economic interests were fairly well drawn, although by no means impermeable. Here the relationship between secular and sacred becomes particularly clear, precisely because of the vital role the railroad played in shaping both areas of life.

By 1887, the West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway had advanced south from West Virginia Junction, near the Maryland border, through the northeastern corner of Grant County past the Fairfax Stone into northwestern Tucker County. Two new towns were established—Davis and Thomas—to accommodate the flood of new workers in coal mines, lumber camps, sawmills, and tanneries. By this time, Davis and the board had already decided to take the line south into Randolph County.12 Yet the exact route was as yet unclear. Traditional trade routes ran through St. George, the Tucker County seat, to Rowlesburg in Preston County, where the B&O met the Cheat River. The Cheat and two tributaries flowing down from the south, the Black Fork and the Shavers Fork, were good rafting rivers.13

Davis was still considering going farther west in Tucker County to St. George before heading south. On July 20 of that year, he took an extensive trip through the mountains looking for the most profitable land and the best ground on which to lay track. From the town of Davis, he and his companions traveled west on horseback to St. George before heading south into the Tygart Valley in Randolph County and on into Webster County.14 He was already aware of the Roaring Creek coal near Leadsville in Randolph County. However, he found more timber than he expected. While Davis left good details in his journal about where he went and what he found, he wrote almost nothing about how the trip shaped his opinion of exactly where the route would go. Apparently, he expected land for a depot and free right-of-way in Beverly, although it is unclear why he would have such an expectation. In any case, he did not get it. In fact, he got nothing from Beverly residents at all at that time.15 They did not want the noise, smell, and other problems associated with trains.

As he headed back to his railroad, H. G. Davis finally commented very briefly on the route. The passage is telling. He describes the route going to Beverly and then from there on to Addison in Webster County. However, he does not mention St. George. Instead, he traces the path south beginning in Parsons, a tiny new community where the Shavers Fork and the Black Fork meet to form the Cheat River. Of course, he does not explicitly state the railroad will not go through St. George, but that day he mentions St. George for the last time and Parsons for the first of many times in the diary.16 He never directly states the reasons for bypassing St. George. However, it seems that Davis was looking for the most direct and most profitable route south, and that it was less expensive and more lucrative to go directly south to Parsons.

The fact that the WVC&P would not be going through St. George, or at least for the time being, Beverly, provided a perfect opportunity for both local elites and Davis and his partner and son-in-law, Stephen B. Elkins, to increase their power and position. A group of landowners in southern Tucker County, led by the Parsons family, decided to start a new town with the intention that it have a railroad, and thus become the county seat. Men who sold land to H. G. Davis came to dominate the town, becoming some of the wealthiest and most influential in the county. The railroad would increase the population and economic strength of the new town, which was called Parsons, after Ward Parsons, the leader and chief financial backer of the group.17

Mob taking records from courthouse in St. George to Parsons, Tucker County Methodist; courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WVU Libraries.

As the local elites of Tucker County worked to establish themselves, Davis and Elkins were busy in Randolph. Since failing to come to terms with Beverly, the plan now was to run the railroad down the Tygart Valley to the tiny village of Leadsville, near where Leading Creek flows into the Tygart River. In 1888, Davis and Elkins founded a new town around the existing one. This new town was called Elkins, and it became the southern terminus for the WVC&P in 1889.18

The course of the railroad had a direct and immediate impact on the political landscape of Randolph and Tucker Counties. In the final years of the nineteenth century, each county experienced a struggle over the seat of its government that exemplified the broader cultural and societal tensions of the period. The county seat battles represented the conflict between industrialists and agrarians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The moving of both county seats signaled the transformation from an agrarian economy and society to industrial ways of thinking and living.19

Between 1890 and 1893, Tucker County held several highly contested elections to determine if the county seat would remain in St. George or move to Parsons. Eventually Parsons won, but the people of St. George refused to submit. Alleging election irregularities, they secured an injunction from the state Supreme Court of Appeals. Realizing that the actual transfer of power and county records could take months, a group of six hundred men from Parsons decided to take matters into their own hands. They intended to take the county records themselves and establish the government in Parsons, as per the election results. A small band of resistors waited at the courthouse, but disbanded before the greater Parsons contingent arrived, and moved county government to Parsons. Although the railroad had not come to Parsons yet, the town fathers knew that trains would bring growth and that St. George would be largely isolated from the rest of the county.20

Four years later, a similar situation developed in Randolph County. With the railroad now in Elkins, and with its construction to Beverly still unsure, Davis and Elkins saw no reason why the county seat should not locate in the rapidly developing new town. Historian Ronald L. Lewis notes that there is no “smoking gun” connecting these absentee elites to the actions of the local elites in Tucker County, even though there were close business connections and H. G. Davis would certainly have been well aware of the situation. But in Randolph County, he and S. B. Elkins were directly involved in making the new town of Elkins the county seat.21

There were some highly controversial votes and legal battles over the location of the county seat between 1897 and 1899. Elkins finally won after a judge ruled 312 ballots that had been cast in favor of Beverly were illegal, thereby giving Elkins the required three-fifths majority. However, a circuit judge ordered a forty-two day stay to give Beverly attorneys time to prepare for the Supreme Court of Appeals. Such a further delay seemed intolerable to Elkins men, and six hundred of them planned to travel to Beverly by train and do the job themselves. Fifty Beverly men entrenched around the courthouse, determined not to surrender. While cooler heads prevailed and the Elkins contingent backed down, Beverly soon lost its position of political prominence. The county seat moved to Elkins. Economic and social decline followed for Beverly.22

People with secular interests, however, were not the only ones utilizing the railroads for their own ends. Christian denominations realized they could use the newly laid tracks for spiritual purposes. Those at the state and local level were the first to take action. While various kinds of support did come from the national bodies, a significant part of the evangelistic efforts in the region came from West Virginia Christians themselves, as state bodies cooperated closely with existing local churches. In many ways these efforts were more important than those coordinated on a national level.

Methodist Protestant Church, Parsons, Tucker County; courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WVU Libraries.

Methodists and Presbyterians were in a prime position to carry out missionary activities in the Central Allegheny region of West Virginia because of their existing presence in the area. Before 1880, there was a marked institutional Christian presence in Randolph and Tucker Counties. Methodists and Presbyterians were the two largest denominations by far. Four Presbyterian churches, all part of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the “Southern” branch) served the area, one in Tucker in Holly Meadows, just south of St. George, and three in Randolph—one in Beverly, one in Leadsville (later Elkins), and one in Huttonsville.23 Methodists had a much greater presence, and they were divided between three branches—the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC, the “Northern” denomination), the Methodists Episcopal Church, South (ME, South), and the Methodist Protestant Church (MP). The Northern and Southern branches had a combined five circuits and two missions between the two counties, serving over 1,000 congregants. The largest circuits were centered around the county seats.24

The Methodist Protestant Church was also well entrenched. The exact number is more difficult to determine than those of the other two branches of Methodism because the circuits of the Methodist Protestant Church in West Virginia cut across county lines much more frequently. However, it seems that by 1880 each county was served by at least one circuit each, with Tucker County sharing a circuit with Preston County to the north. Even though the circuit boundaries make it difficult to precisely ascertain the number of Methodist Protestants in each county, the records indicate that they did have a sizable following, even if not as large as their Northern and Southern coreligionists.25

This situation meant that the religious encounter that occurred during industrialization was different from what the literature on Appalachian religion suggests happened in some places. Deborah Vansau McCauley gives a detailed account of the dominant paradigm in the field, which she calls the “mountain church tradition.” This tradition does not find its roots in the “institutional structures and confines of denominationalism that characterize Roman Catholicism and the churches of America’s Protestant mainstream,” she asserts.26 Rather, it consisted of both the practices/doctrines and the organized church bodies which exemplified and adhered to these beliefs. The churches were either independent or very loosely associated with each other into subdenominations with no national organizational structures. According to McCauley, independent nondenominational holiness churches and small Baptist groups such as Primitives, United, and Old Regular constituted the broad center of a peculiar mountain sacred identity.27

But in Tucker and Randolph, Methodists and Presbyterians represented the core of Protestantism during the Gilded Age and into the Progressive Era. The only churches connected with the “mountain church tradition” were two small Primitive Baptist Churches in the Tygart Valley.28 Thus, missionary efforts did not witness the same culture clashes they did when national groups from both Southern and Northern urban centers encountered mountain churches with which they had little to no prior connection.29 Instead, West Virginians controlled missionary and church activities in their state, and in this portion in particular, from the outset.

In 1882, the West Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church created the Randolph Mission to serve Randolph and Tucker Counties.30 The goal was to expand the work of the existing church in Randolph County, taking advantage of the increase in population that was certain to occur with the coming of the railroad. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Methodist Protestants did not have a specific mission in this territory at either the state or the national level. Rather, they simply added new churches as necessary, ensuring that these new houses of worship received sufficient financial support for as long as was needed. For a while, both denominations grew through these means. The Southern Methodists in particular experienced rapid growth into the earliest years of the twentieth century, adding new churches and increasing the population in old ones. But the situation would not last. For whatever reason, the Annual Conference reorganized circuits frequently. By 1910, Elkins and Parsons were on one charge; Davis and Thomas were grouped together in another. St. George was not even listed. Ten years later, more shuffling occurred. Elkins and Parsons were separate charges again; the town of Davis was also a charge once more.31

Episcopal Church, Whitman, Randolph County, 1878; courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WVU Libraries.

Methodist Protestants suffered a similar fate, going through their own shifts in circuit boundaries, but still remained relatively numerically healthy. Randolph County had one church, located in Beverly, while St. George was on the Preston Circuit. St. George eventually became a circuit with four churches, while another three-church circuit was added in Hendricks, a small town in central Tucker County. Randolph County, on the other hand, had two circuits briefly in the early 1890s. But for whatever reason, by 1900, they were back to just a single church, located in Beverly. From 1880 through the second decade of the twentieth century, Methodist Protestants flourished more in Tucker than in Randolph. By 1920, Tucker County had two MP circuits with twelve churches. Randolph had only a mission in Elkins, with the Beverly church fading from the records.32

While the three branches of Methodism met with differing levels of success in the mountains, Methodism in general was by far the most popular brand of Protestantism in both counties at the time. The mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church to Randolph and Tucker Counties struggled at first. But by 1920, membership in the Elkins church numbered 1,011, the largest in the county by far. The church in Beverly lost over 50 percent of its membership between 1890 and 1900, but by 1920 membership increased again, standing at 256 congregants.33

General reports from Tucker County also indicate that Methodism was more predominant than Presbyterianism or any other Protestant denomination, even if the numbers of adherents were not as high as in Randolph County. By 1910, the St. George Circuit consisted of six churches with a total membership of 300. A church had been established in Parsons in 1892, and by 1900 had 163 people. Membership peaked at 265 in 1910 before sliding to 205 in 1920. Churches in Davis and Thomas each maintained memberships approaching 200 through the period.34

These are just the numbers from the northern branch of the Methodist Church. While Southern Methodists and Methodist Protestants were not as numerous, they each achieved notable success in the state in general and the mountain region in particular. Methodism’s popularity during this time of social, economic, cultural, and political upheaval demonstrates David Hempton’s observation that Methodism thrives on mobility and change; it plateaus and even declines where social and economic circumstances are more stable and established.35 In fact, beginning in 1890, Methodism actually began a gradual nationwide decline, even as it thrived in West Virginia.36

The fact that Methodism flourished in West Virginia as it began a slow decline overall suggests that at the beginning of its second full century in America, it was still able to speak to a broad spectrum of people, especially a burgeoning working class. While complete records are not obtainable, what available membership information strongly supports an enduring commitment to egalitarian theology. People from all social classes exercised leadership roles in these local churches. The 1912 list of class leaders from the Elkins ME Church lists two lumber manufacturers, a light plant superintendent, an insurance salesman, a coal miner, and a day laborer.37

Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1890-1910; courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WVU Libraries.

A similar pattern occurred in the ME, South Church. In 1920, the trustees included a tannery worker, a warehouse foreman, a planning mill foreman, a retail merchant, a general painter, a railroad detective, and a railroad carpenter. The warehouse foreman was also a steward, a local preacher, a recording secretary, and a lay leader. Another tannery laborer was a local deacon, and the exhorter was a fifteen-year-old boy employed as a janitor at the YMCA.38 Clearly, temporal station had no necessary bearing on one’s standing in the church. Even those with the most menial tasks and at best comparatively little education preached the Word of God, albeit to a limited extent under a pastor’s supervision. But the fact remains that the local Methodist church was a leveling place where unequals in the temporal sphere could be equals in the spiritual sphere. Those with the least amount of power in the secular world had some means of controlling their own situation in the sacred world.

Local forces also drove Presbyterian missions. The dominant trend in the literature focuses on urban believers, usually from the North, going into mountain towns, setting up schools, and equating converting with civilizing. The emphasis is the religo-cultural clash between the mountaineer and the urban humanitarian.39 Books following this paradigm provide important insight into the nature of Gilded Age and Progressive Era Christianity. However, that subject is more nuanced than it is often portrayed. Presbyterian growth in West Virginia, for example, proceeded overwhelmingly from the local and presbytery (a regional body of Presbyterian churches) level and had little to do with education. This was the standard pattern for Southern Presbyterians until the last decade of the nineteenth century. In 1890, in response to increasing financial costs linked to increasing population, that the Synod of Virginia (a synod is comprised of a group of presbyteries; until 1912 West Virginia’s Southern Presbyterian churches were in this synod) started conducting missions at the synodical level. Even then, the process was decentralized, with the presbytery retaining much of its authority. They synod would send out and fund a missionary only if the presbytery so requested. Even then, the presbytery determined where he went and coordinated any church-planting initiatives. Furthermore, each presbytery retained its own home missions operations.40

In 1880, the Lexington Presbytery stretched from the central Virginia Piedmont to the heavily forested interior counties of West Virginia, including Randolph County. Tucker County belonged to the Winchester Presbytery, which was comprised of counties in northern Virginia and West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. At that time, very few churches existed in the western lands of either presbytery, but the railroads soon spurred the Presbyterian growth in these areas. In 1886, just two years after the railroad rolled into the town of Davis, the Winchester Presbytery organized a church there.41 It would be a decade before another new church sprang up in the county, and this new one was founded by members of the existing Holly Meadows Church. Thirteen women and four men, about half the church, petitioned the Winchester Presbytery to start a new church in Parsons in 1898.42

Although the denomination had a much greater presence in Randolph County, a similar mix of local and presbytery efforts prevailed there too. In 1899, a local farmer and merchant name Jacob C. Harper petitioned the Lexington Presbytery to establish a church in the fledgling town of Harman along the Dry Fork River.43 The town itself was established when the Dry Fork Railroad came through hauling out timber, but the area had been occupied for generations. With the major towns already occupied, the presbytery did its best to establish congregations wherever the logging railroads went. In 1904, for example, a committee was sent to Alpena, a small community between Harman and Elkins; that church was officially enrolled in the presbytery in 1905.44

Presbyterianism fared far better in Randolph County than in Tucker County, but in both counties it was the second largest Protestant denomination, well outpacing the Baptists. By 1920, fifteen Presbyterian churches occupied Randolph County and six occupied Tucker. The Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elkins was the second largest Protestant church in the county with 600 members. The churches in Davis, Thomas, and Parsons in Tucker County each had between approximately 130 and 160 members by that time. Of course, not all local congregations were viable. Holly Meadows drifted in and out of existence, dissolving in 1911 before being reconstituted later on. The mission churches in Hambleton and Hendricks struggled as well and never became viable. Even the Beverly Church in Elkins came on hard times and continued to receive financial support from the presbytery’s Home Mission Society until 1912. Several churches in the eastern part of Randolph County were consistently without full-time pastors, but managed between 50 and 100 members throughout the period.45

Thus, it appears Presbyterianism, like Methodism, also appealed to a wide spectrum of society. Yet during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, secular elites had greater control in Presbyterian churches in both counties. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Elkins. During the first decade of the twentieth century, only one deacon worked an industrial, wage-earning job. The elders, or members of Session, were an even more exclusive group, with no one from the working classes among their ranks and only one from the middle class, a bank cashier. Several prominent men associated with Davis and Elkins exercised church leadership. For example, C. Wood Dailey, a lawyer and a Davis lieutenant, and James A. Allen, president of Davis and Elkins College, both served as ruling elders in the early years of the twentieth century. Howard Sutherland held the post of deacon, even as he held a seat in the state Senate. He surrendered his seat to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Davis and Elkins both served as trustees from 1895, when they both joined the church, until their deaths.46

Records for the Parsons church are less complete, but it seems to have a similar situation. The Parsons families, led by Ward’s son Lemuel, were responsible for the church in that town, and they donated land to Baptists and Methodists as well. Two of the founding trustees, Solomon W. Kalar and Riley Harper, worked with the Parsons family to move the county seat from St. George. The former became mayor and the latter was county sheriff from 1897­–1901. Sansome Parsons, Ward’s half-brother, who had served as a delegate to the quarterly meetings of the St. George District of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1870s and 1880s, was one of the first two trustees, along with farmer Creed Minear.47

But middle- and working-class parishioners did have some opportunities, even as company men continued to be involved. The Presbyterian Church in Davis reflected more of a mixed social composition. Of the four original deacons, one was a stonemason. But two others were company men, one an auditor for a coal company and the other a supervisor for the West Virginia Coal and Coke Company, one of H. G. Davis’s operations.48 The leadership of the Parsons church also began to show greater social diversity. By 1920, the list of elders included a tannery night watchman, a house carpenter, an elementary school teacher, a medical doctor, and a lumber company superintendent.49

The work of both Methodists and Presbyterians in West Virginia reflects close and nuanced connections between local, state, and national denominational bodies that are often overlooked. However, even though local believers controlled much of the missionary and church activity in the two counties, there were important cultural factors involved. Both groups advocated for distinct reforms to improve society, despite differences in theology and polity, as well as some occasional differences in the ability of non-elites to exercise power. These reforms were often at odds with the local population, both before and during industrialization, but they did fall in line with the industrialists’ plans to transform West Virginia and fully integrate her into the American mainstream.

The two most prominent moral concerns among West Virginia Methodists and Presbyterians, and in many ways among American Protestants in general, were temperance and Sabbath-keeping. Grouped together under the aegis of “moral reform,” these concerns captured the connection between sacred and secular and blurred distinctions between the old and new orders. The religious historian Robert Handy points out that while the quest for Sabbath observance stemmed largely from a desire to preserve past practices, the quest for temperance and prohibition was relatively new, and that “the adding of temperance to the definition of Christian civilization was for the most part an innovation of the nineteenth century.”50

These issues represented an evangelical sentiment that clashed with traditional understandings of masculinity in the rural and mountain South. Men did not reject the power of the church and the importance of the sacred in everyday life, public and private, but the power of the concept of masculinity that demanded aggressiveness, assertiveness, and toughness prevented the church from making an unchallenged claim on the behavior of its members and attendees. Industrialization exacerbated this reality. The requirements of factory work and the increase in the single male population caused male vices to increase.51 At the same time, industrialists found much use for moral reform, especially temperance, as a drunken and disorderly workforce was bad for business.

Both Methodists and Presbyterians wanted to check, and if possible reverse, this condition in the mountains. But each denomination had different understandings about the proper way of doing so. Furthermore, each had its own view about which method was more important. Methodists used the phrase “moral reform” as a catchall that included a variety of social issues considered vital to the private Christian life and to the health and prosperity of the society as a whole. They had long supported both temperance and Sabbath-keeping.52

Presbyterians were likewise concerned with temperance and Sabbath-keeping. However, Southern Presbyterians, more so than their Northern counterparts, retained a commitment to their traditional understanding of the spirituality of the church. This doctrine stated that the church was a distinctly spiritual entity and as such should refrain from “engaging in the broader cultural aspects” of society.53 This stance did not mean that the churchy remained completely silent on reform in the public sphere or that they were in favor of the liquor traffic or Sabbath-breaking. Rather, it meant that the Southern Presbyterian position on the proper role of Christian activism was more complex and nuanced than that of their Northern counterparts as well as that of other denominations. In some cases they remained primarily concerned with ensuring that their own adhered to Christian morality. The doctrine of spirituality of the church taught that the state should do what was necessary to maintain order and ensure progress. To Presbyterians, that included curbing drunkenness and promoting rest one day a week, and thus the church did not necessarily have to make explicit declarations concerning these issues.

Thus, Presbyterian cries for government involvement were far less frequent than those from their Methodist counterparts, most likely due to continued allegiance to the spirituality of the church. Methodist advocacy increased significantly over the period. Despite these differences in emphasis and approach, both denominations linked temperance and Sabbath-keeping to civilization and progress in America.

In 1882, the West Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church called for a state constitutional prohibition amendment as the only solution to the liquor problem. That body also pledged to vote only for “open and avowed temperance men” who would help rid the state of “the mildew and blight of the rum traffic.” While nondenominational temperance groups proliferated, increased cooperation outside specifically institutional religious confines also appeared promising. In 1887, the ME state conference voted to cooperate with all anti-saloon leagues and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.54

In 1886, the Western Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South called for political action against alcohol and also began coordinating dry efforts with the national temperance organizations. Southern Methodists submitted to the annual conference on temperance an extensive report that expounded the connections between liquor and civilization. “We hesitate not to say, observation having convinced us, that intemperance is the giant foe of mankind, undermining the foundation of the social fabric and poisoning the very fountain heads of society.” They went on to declare “the liquor traffic everywhere as the giant foe of Church and State.”55

Biblical teachings and morality were driving factors for sectarian and nonsectarian temperance activists alike. Historian Richard Hamm notes that prohibitionists in particular, and progressive reformers in general, held an Old Testament conception of the legal system that equated law with morality. Temperance supporters were both behind and ahead of their time in championing this idea. While it had deep roots in the Anglo-American tradition, this view receded before the Civil War. On the other hand, the idea that the government had a responsibility and a duty to promote morality for the common good and general welfare of all society was foundational to the progressivism of the early twentieth century. As Hamm writes, “Since no one had a right to make others suffer by offering them temptations to sin, the government needed to command the end to such temptations.”56

This suffering was widespread. And many, especially women, recognized that those who suffered the greatest were not the ones doing most of the drinking. Women and children, who had relatively little legal protection against husbands and fathers in the nineteenth century, often found themselves at the mercy of men who, in lieu of rent, heat, and food, may spend what money the family had at the local pub and then stagger home to assault wives and children. “Given a woman’s limited legal rights, the drunkard as head of the household was seen as a true oppressor of his wife and family,” observes scholar Ruth Bordin.57 In fact, Eliza Thompson, the first president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, saw the effects of strong drink firsthand. Alcohol contributed to her son Allen’s early death. The family also experienced serious financial problems stemming from her husband James’s drinking problems.58

Thus, the 1886 Southern Methodist temperance report, for example, also mirrored many of the concerns of the nonsectarian groups about the deleterious effects of alcohol on the home. “We have seen young manhood debauched and ruined; . . . childhood’s sunny hours merged into shadow and blight whilst gray hairs have come with broken hearts to the grave,” the committee laments.59 The 1900 report further emphasized the pernicious and far-reaching impact of strong drink. Drunkards not only destroyed themselves, they also brought “their families to want” and became “a blight on human society.”60

Nonsectarian groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Protestant groups such as the Methodists expressed similar concerns about alcohol. It crippled the individual, destroyed the family, and poisoned society. More so than Southern Presbyterians, Methodists as a whole saw the value in cooperating with national prohibition forces and adopting their methods. In addition to political and legal reform, efforts were made to organize anti-saloon leagues in every county in the state.

Southern Methodists took a few years longer than their northern counterparts to call for the direct political and legal action against the drink that had always characterized the missions of the nonsectarian groups. But neither they nor the Northern Methodists were then ready to reject the moral suasion strategies employed in the antebellum era. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, all Methodist ministers continued to preach in favor of temperance, and were instructed to do so every quarter. Sunday schools and revival meetings also devoted time to preaching about the evils of alcohol and the benefits of sobriety.

While it is unclear if any Methodist group achieved the goal of organizing anti-saloon leagues in every county in the state, by 1904 great strides were made in West Virginia. The Oakland District of the ME Church, which included churches in Tucker County, claimed that all but one of the seven counties in its jurisdiction were dry. In 1910, the Union Association, which included churches in Randolph County, claimed only 500 saloons operated in its five counties, down from 3,000 seven years before, despite the presence of a large number of timber workers known to enjoy blowing off steam at a saloon.61 Strong denunciations of alcohol and vehement calls for state and federal constitutional amendments continued, but local success in reducing alcohol consumption coincided with a marked drop-off in local temperance preaching. As the Methodist Protestants remarked in 1905, “We further believe that at the ballot box alone can this perplexing question be met and successfully settled.”62 Likewise, the 1900 ME, South report referenced earlier contained no mention of preaching or any other distinctly church-based efforts. Thus, in just a few decades, the Methodists significantly de-emphasized practices they had seen for over one hundred years as fundamental to moral reform of any kind.

Calls for temperance reform were extremely rare among Southern Presbyterians. They too had temperance committees, although detailed reports were almost never included in presbytery or synodical meetings. And they too denounced strong drink. However, they were never nearly as vocal as Methodists in favor of temperance reform. No records explicitly, or even implicitly, discuss why this is so. The most likely answer is the doctrine of the spirituality of the church. Yet that did not stop them from speaking out on Sabbath reform. And even though calls for this reform were still not as frequent or vehement as Methodist calls for temperance, they nevertheless reflect the connection between morality and civilization and show Presbyterians, explicitly or implicitly, placed a substantial burden on the civil government to perform its duties.

Sabbath obligations were binding on Christians, and the civil authorities had their role to play in ensuring these duties were carried out.63 In 1880, the Lexington Presbytery petitioned the Virginia legislature to enact a law prohibiting unnecessary use of trains on the Sabbath. Such a law had already been passed in North and South Carolina.64

But railroad use was only one cause of Sabbath desecration. Worldly pursuits such as baseball games, fairs, shopping, theater shows, and drinking also contributed to the decline in public morality and the loss of respect for God’s holy day.65 By 1921, the Synod of West Virginia began cooperating with nonsectarian Sabbath reform organizations, such as the Lord’s Day Alliance, in continued efforts to promote official pro-Sabbath legal and political action.66

Methodists joined in on this condemnation of leisure on Sunday. Northern Methodists argued that “Sabbath breaking is the hand-in-hand companion of intemperance and viciousness, and is a pre-condition to crime and lawlessness.”67 The 1900 Southern Methodist report on Sabbath Observance declared that “the principles of our civilization are being ignored by the inordinate demands of commerce and of the pleasure seekers.” “Both as Christians and as citizens we must cry out against these things,” the report continued.68

Looking at temperance and Sabbath-keeping together shows how churches saw their role in society. They were not just winning converts; they were bettering society as a whole by improving the condition of its constituents. This was not just the opinion of supporters and members of the institutional church. As Handy observes, late Victorian culture saw a morally upright and self-restrained people as essential for economic progress. Just going to church became a symbol of commitment to the moral and social framework of Christian America.69

However, these particular moral crusades could also be interpreted as signaling the decline of sacred authority in the mountains and the transfer of that authority and influence to secular vestiges, be it industry or civil government. Calls for intervention by local, state, and government authorities indicate that perhaps the church recognized the limitations of its authority and the potential effectiveness of the laws of men in the face of new conditions. Both denominations grew increasing silent on Sabbath reform as the twentieth century progressed, although there were still some murmurs on Sunday’s behalf. Yet unlike temperance, there were no reports of progress or victory in Sabbath reform. And after state and federal constitutional prohibition amendments passed, although Methodists continued to urge the government to strictly and consistently enforce the law, they ceased to request their preachers make conscious efforts to preach against alcohol.

Henry Gassaway Davis; courtesy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WVU Libraries.

The fact that temperance reform succeeded where Sabbath reform apparently failed may reflect the continued tension between sacred and sec­ular and the ultimate dominance of secular interests in the two counties. Henry Gassaway Davis himself embodied the capitalist culture seeking to establish itself in the mountains, which sought to integrate Appalachia and establish hegemony over the existing agrarian culture. In 1907, Davis wrote a letter to the Board of Church Extension of the West Virginia Methodist Protestant Church:

Church Extension and State development should go together. There is work to do, not only in the new communities that are springing in West Virginia, but in the older ones, where the people are unable from want of opportunity, to receive proper spiritual instruction. In your endeavors in this work you have my best wishes.70

It is difficult to pinpoint Davis’s precise religious conviction, but he practiced what he preached. Through his business ventures he helped develop the state of West Virginia. Through charitable giving to all Protestant groups he encouraged church growth and demonstrated an appreciation for basic Christian morality and the stability it could bring to society. Yet there is little indication that Davis thought any particular denomination and its doctrinal specifics were best suited to accomplish this civilizing task. He acted in ways that he believed were most beneficial to industry. Much of what he did to help temporal progress also aided the church and the spiritual progress for which it strove.

For example, despite the fact that neither his church nor the presbytery to which it belonged made specific calls for temperance reform, Davis, as a private entrepreneur, did write to all the magistrates in Randolph County asking that they deny liquor licenses for establishments along his train routes in the hopes of decreasing conflict in the camps and boosting productivity.71 Other members of the new local elite also supported the temperance cause. When the state legislature voted on a prohibition amendment in 1911, three of Davis’s associates and fellow Presbyterians represented the district containing Randolph County. In the Senate, Howard Sutherland voted dry. As delegates, Davis’s son John T. Davis and James W. Weir, both Presbyterians from Elkins, also voted against the drink.72

David Corbin overviews some of the other ways industrialists in West Virginia attempted to exert this type of social control over their workers. In the wake of the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912, coal operators funded the establishment of YMCAs across the southern tier of the state. Drinking in the region went down 50 percent over the next five years.73 H. G. Davis was well ahead of that bandwagon. In 1906, the Young Men’s Christian Association of Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia recognized his years of dedication to the organization in West Virginia. During his keynote address, he remarked that the YMCA “is doing such wonderful work in improving the moral and spiritual condition of the time.”74

Later that year he gave a substantial donation to a YMCA building in Charleston. His daughter Hallie, wife of his business partner and US Senator Stephen B. Elkins, donated land and fully funded the construction of a YMCA building in the town of Elkins.75 The local Presbyterian elite, many of whom were also the industrial and political elite, remained active in the YMCA. Howard Sutherland’s wife became president of the Ladies Auxiliary in 1911. That same year Presbyterian ruling elder and deacon Boyd Wees was elected YMCA Senate President, with H. G. Davis chosen as YMCA Board President.76 While there is no known correlation between the YMCA and lowering alcohol consumption in or around Elkins, Davis, his family, and their allies cast themselves in the role of benefactors of all society while promoting a particular set of late Victorian values. Thus, Davis in particular and the entire process of industrialization in the mountains in general served as an example of the unity of the sacred and the secular and the blending of the discourse of Christian Civilization and the discourse of industrial capitalism.77

Historian Alan Trachtenberg observed that the multifaceted tumult of the Gilded Age was also a cultural struggle over the very meaning of America. Different groups fought “over the political and cultural authority to define the term and thus to say what reality was and ought to be.”78 Progress was the spirit of the age. Business and religious leaders had long seen a connection between moral and economic progress, but the Gilded Age witnessed a unique cultural merger of the two. These common beliefs congealed into a type of civil religion, a “quasi-religious secular faith” which employed portions of religious traditions as symbols of national unity behind a common goal. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this common goal was an industrial and moral America, leading the world in temporal and spiritual progress and teaching other nations to follow in its steps.79

During the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, industrial capitalists wanted to bring West Virginia into the mainstream of American culture—the state would help fuel the economic, and by extension moral, growth of the nation. They brought new technologies, started new industries, founded new towns, and challenged existing power structures. They radically changed the state, especially the most mountainous regions. But not everything was foreign and new. There were moral issues that capitalists shared with Christians all over the country, including those in the mountains of West Virginia. The fact that a significant part of industrial culture did not go against the prevailing religious culture meant that West Virginia churches played an important role in incorporating the state into mainstream America. Many Christian values in the mountains were also middle-class Victorian values. The Christian Civilization both groups, which overlapped significantly, desired was based on the idea of “guaranteed freedom through the social behavior of obedience to recognized authority.”80

As industrialization progressed, the “recognized authority” became increasingly secular. Church influence declined over a period of approximately forty years between 1880 and 1920, as government and business became more and more powerful. This reality came about because sacred rhetoric fit so nicely with secular goals. And when the ends did not fit, as in the case of Sabbath-reform, it was clear which source of authority had more clout.

This pattern could not have occurred unless there were some fundamental and substantial religious similarities between Appalachia and the rest of the country. Both Presbyterians and Methodists, by speaking to all members of society and allowing even the lowest to have some control of their spiritual affairs, showed how churches could maximize the autonomy of the contracting sacred sphere, even as they could not and did not resist the secular culture which co-opted religious discourse. Thus, mainstream Protestant churches could bolster secular power relations as they simultaneously gave a voice to the subordinate within those relations.


This article was previously published in West Virginia History, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2013.

1 Sam Griffin, West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway Company (Indianapolis: The Independent Job Room, 1899), 8. For whatever reason, all official company publications, including the original charter, spelled “Pittsburg” without the “h.” Accordingly, when referring to the company name, “Pittsburg” will be spelled with the “h.” It will be spelled correctly when referring to the city.

2 Henry David Shapiro, Appalachia on our Minds (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978), 32, 33.

3 Robert T. Handy, A Christian America: Protestant Hopes and Historical Realties (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), ix–xi. For how these types of beliefs and processes developed in the antebellum period, especially in the North, see Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); and Paul E. Johnson, A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815–1837 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978). Similar conceptions developed in the South at the same time, of course in conjunction with the slave society of that part of the country. For insights on how Southerners conceived of the relationship between spiritual and temporal progress, see Eugene D. Genovese, The Slaveholder’s Dilemma: Freedom and Progress in Southern Conservative Thought, 1820–1860 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994); Michael O’Brien, Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810–1860 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003); and Christine Leigh Heryman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998).

4 See Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital (New York: Random House, 1975), 141, 142 for a brief discussion on the power of the economic system of capitalism to influence political decisions on a regional and national level. See Thomas L. Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins of the Humanitarian Sensibility,” 2 Parts, in The AntiSlavery Debate, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 104–160. Haskell traces the rise of the humanitarian sensibility as an extension of the original moral philosophy behind capitalism. He chronicles the development of the moral effects of capitalism from Quaker abolitionists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Haskell’s work provides excellent examples of the pervasiveness of capitalism.

5 T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 24.

6 Handy, x.

7 John C. Hennen, The Americanization of West Virginia (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1995), 4.

8 Nina Silber, The Romance of Reunion (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 143–149. See also James Klotter, “The Black South and White Appalachia,” The Journal of American History 66 (March 1980): 832–49. See C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971) and Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) for a detailed analysis of the creation of the New South and the North’s role in that process. Handy, 79.

9 Ronald Lewis, “Industrialization,” in High Mountains Rising, ed. Richard A Straw and H. Tyler Blethen (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 63–67. See Carroll Bateman, Baltimore and Ohio; The Story of the Railroad that Grew Up with the United States (Baltimore: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Print, 1951) and John Stover, History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1987) for more on the B&O. For more on the C&O, see Thomas W. Dixon, Jr., Chesapeake and Ohio Subdivision (Alderson, WV: The Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society, 1985), and Cicero Fain, “Into the Crucible: The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and the Black Industrial Worker in Southern West Virginia, 1870–1900,” Journal of Appalachian Studies 17 (Spring and Fall 2011), 42–65.

10 Ronald L. Lewis, Railroads, “Deforestation, and the Transformation of Agriculture in the West Virginia Back Counties, 1880–1920,” in Appalachia in the Making, ed. Mary Beth Pudup, Dwight Billings, and Altina L. Waller (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 82. Lewis details the effects of the timber industry in fourteen “back counties” in the West Virginia from 1880–1920, the period of heavy logging. Timber was the primary industry in these areas, with coal being important but secondary. He covers the political contests that framed the complete deforestation of the state, weaving in the social ramifications of rapid in-migration, immigration, and industrialization. In Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers, Ron Eller examines the rise of both coal and timber across the upper mountain South in general and the cultural changes that affected the people, particularly the transition from farming to industrial life. Company mining and mill towns were particularly oppressive places, making the transition to new ways of life more difficult. He generally stays to the south of the area covered by Lewis, dealing with the southern most counties in West Virginia and the highlands of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky. In Coal Towns, Crandall Shifflett examines coal towns that sprang up in eastern Kentucky and the particular culture which developed in them. Contra Eller, he asserts that company towns constituted an overall improvement in Appalachian life. Most recently, and specifically incorporating religion into the industrial transformations of the period, Richard Callahan, in Work and Faith in the Kentucky Coalfields, probes not only how indigenous religious groups adapted to the new patterns of life and work necessitated by mining coal, but also how they resisted the attendant “railway religion” associated with the companies and bosses. Hennen, in The Americanization of West Virginia, argues that World War I brought West Virginia into modern America by legitimating the power and values of a professional probusiness, proindustry elite who had long dominated the discourse of the rest of the country.

11 Sixth Annual Report of the President and Directs of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway Company to the Stockholder (Baltimore: Guggenheimer, Weill, and Co., 1888), 5.

12 Lewis, 38.

13 H.G.D., “Journal,” July 20–27, 1887.

14 Henry Gassaway Davis, An Old Fashioned Biography (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Company, 1994), 162.

15 H.G.D., “Journal,” July 27, 1887.

16 Homer Floyd Fansler, History of Tucker County, West Virginia (Parsons, WV: McClain, 1962), 248–249.

17 Don Teter, “Elkins,” Tygart Valley Press, February 15, 1978.

18 Lewis, 217. Most recent scholars of Appalachia reject the simple industrial/preindustrial dichotomy. Lewis, Kenneth Noe, and Wilma Dunaway, among others, recognize that industry had been a part of Appalachian life long before 1880. The term “preindustrial” is still acceptable as long as it is clear that it refers to a society that, while dominated primarily by agriculture, does have an industrial segment to the economy, even if this segment is comparatively small and primitive by emerging national standards at the time. While industrialist is here contrasted with agrarian, this does not mean that the agrarians were necessarily anti-industry or that they did not engage in industry themselves in some way. Rather, the agrarians believed in a society based on agriculture and traditional ways of work and land usage. Industrialists, or Ironheads, as many were known at the time, wanted to use the railroad to expand access to and use of natural resources. This would decrease overall direct reliance on farming and so alter everyday patterns of life and culture. While initially the difference may be one of quantity, a qualitative difference eventually emerged. Thus, while precise terminology may be difficult to find, there was a clear, multifaceted distinction between the pre- and post-railroad Appalachia.

19 Fansler, 252–55. See also Homer Floyd Fansler, “The Tucker County Seat War,” Parsons Advocate, April 16, 1959.

20 Lewis, 224.

21 Donald L. Rice, Bicentennial History of Randolph County, West Virginia, 1787–1987 (Elkins, WV: Randolph County Historical Society, 1987), 40–45.

22 Thomas Richard Ross, The Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church 1895–1995: A Century of Service (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 1995), 10.

23 “Statistical Report,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church,1878, n.p.; 1877, n.p.” A circuit, now known as a charge, consisted of a group of churches served by a single pastor, usually in a rural area too expansive to allow easy travel for all parishioners to a single location on a single given day. Technically, there could be just one church in a circuit, but if more churches were established in a given area, the pastor could be responsible for those as well. A single church could be made a station church, in which case the pastor would be minister to that congregation only.

24 “Statistical Report,” Proceedings of the Twenty-Sixth Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (Adrian, MI: M.P. Magazine Printers, 1880), 20–21.

25 Deborah Vansau McCauley, “Religion,” in High Mountains Rising (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 180.

26 Deborah Vansau McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 7, 25, 26.

27 Daisy Ferguson Martin, Montrose Community History (Elkins, WV: Published for Montrose Historical Society, 1991), 13, 14. See also Minutes of the Union Association, 1826, 4. The same could be said for much of North-Central West Virginia at the time. Methodists and Presbyterians dominated the Allegheny region from the Maryland border to the Virginia border. There were also some mainline Baptists and a handful of subdenominational Baptists. Records for these small Baptist groups are virtually nonexistent, and the scarcity of Baptists in the region is an exception in Appalachia, not the rule. Holiness churches had not yet sprung up in the mountains of West Virginia. In fact, the holiness movement began as a primarily urban and Northern movement before the Civil War. It retained its appeal to city dwellers throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, while spreading into rural areas. Indigenous Appalachian holiness movements developed in the late 1880s, but took about twenty years to spread across the whole region. Overall, the available church records from the counties studied here to do not indicate that the beliefs and practices of these local churches differed noticeably from those in churches of the same denomination outside Appalachia.

28 Shapiro, 32, 33.

29 “Home Mission Report,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1882, 29.

30 “Clarksburg District Report.” Journal of the Western Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1900, 37; “Fairmont District Report,” 1910, 38; “Fairmont District Report,” 1920, n.p.

31 “Statistical Tables,” Proceedings of the 26th Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church, (Adrian, MI: M.P. Magazine Print, 1880), 20, 21; “Statistical Tables,” Proceedings of the 36th Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (Pennsboro, WV: Beacon Light Power Press, 1890), 40, 41; “Statistical Tables,” Proceedings of the 46th Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (Harrisville, WV: Standard Print, 1900), 75, 76; “Statistical Tables,” Proceedings of the 66th Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (Published by the Secretary, 1920), 70, 71.

32 “Buckhannon District Report,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1893, 67; 1900, 100; 1920, 78.

33 “Oakland District,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1890, 89; 1900, 48; 1910, 101; 1920, 75, 145.

34 David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 199.

35 Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1777–2005 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 157.

36 “Register of Leaders,” Elkins Methodist Episcopal Church; Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. The “class” was a small group designed to encourage members to fellowship together, seeking salvation and growing in holiness.

37 Hallie Kyle, ed. “Elkins Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1912–1987,” Our Church History: Woodford United Church Methodist Church (Elkins, WV: Self Published, 1987), n.p.; Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.

38 For a few of the best examples of this, see Shapiro, McCauley, and David Whisnant, All That is Native and Fine (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1983), among many others.

39 Minutes of the Synod of Virginia, 1890, 99–104.

40 Minutes of the Winchester Presbytery, 1886, 101.

41 Cleta Long, History of Tucker County, West Virginia (Parsons, WV: McClain Publishing, 1996), 135.

42 “Minutes of Session,” Harman Presbyterian Church, 1899, n.p.

43 Minutes of the Lexington Presbytery, 1905, 126.

44 “Statistics,” Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1920, 260, 261, 278, 279; Long, 137; Ross, 30.

45 “Register of Deacons,” Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church; Thomas Richard Ross, The Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church 1895–1995: A Century of Service (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Company, 2010), 124–27; Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900; Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910; Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.

46 Lewis, 222, 223; “History of Parsons Presbyterian Church,” Parsons Presbyterian Church, 2, 3; “Register of Members,” Parsons Presbyterian Church, 23; Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900.

47 Minutes of the Presbytery of Winchester, 1887, 128.

48 “Parsons Presbyterian Church Elders,” Parsons Presbyterian Church, 7.

49 Handy, 45.

50 Ted Ownby, Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation, and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865–1920 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 130–34.

51 William G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 112­–14.

52 Randall Balmer and John R. Fitzmier, The Presbyterians (Westport, CT: Praeger), 91.

53 “Temperance Report,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1882, 36; “Temperance Report,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1887, 44.

54 “Temperance Report,” Official Journal of the Western Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1886, 27.

55 Richard F. Hamm, Shaping the 18th Amendment: Temperance Reform, Legal Reform, and the Polity, 1880–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 34–37.

56 Ruth Bordin, Women and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873–1900.

57 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990), 6, 7.

58 Holly Berkley Fletcher, Gender and the American Temperance Movement of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2008), 83–85.

59 “Temperance Report,” Official Journal of the Western Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1886, 27.

60 “Temperance Report,” Official Journal of the Western Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1900, 40, 41.

61 “Oakland Report,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1904, 47; “Temperance Report,” 1910, 71.

62 “Temperance,” Proceedings of the 51st Session of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (Grafton, WV: Grafton Printing Company, 1905), 57.

63 Minutes of the Winchester Presbytery, 1880, 65.

64 “Committee on Sabbath Observation,” Lexington Presbytery, 1880, 42.

65 “Sabbath Report,” Minutes of the Presbytery of Lexington, 1895, 44.

66 “Sabbath Observance Committee,” Minutes of the Synod of West Virginia, 1921, 15.

67 “Committee on Observance of the Sabbath,” Official Journal of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1896, 37, 38.

68 “Sabbath Observance,” Official Journal of the Western Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1900, 41, 42.

69 Handy, 73.

70 “Board of Extension,” Minutes of the West Virginia Conference, Methodist Protes­tant Church, 1907, 25. This board was in charge of funding construc­tion of church buildings and expanding existing structures to accommodate growth.

71 Alan Clarke, West Virginia’s Coal and Coke Railway (Lynchburg, VA: TLC Publishing, 2002), 15.

72 “First Prohibition Amendment Vote in House: 73 For to 9 Against,” Elkins Inter-Mountain, Feb. 3, 1911; “Prohibition Amendment Goes Through Upper House by Vote of 23 to 7,” Elkins Inter-Mountain, Feb. 7, 1911.

73 David Corbin, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 124, 125.

74 H.G.D. “Journal,” Jan. 26, 1906.

75 Ibid., May 25, Dec. 6, 1906.

76 “Ladies Auxilliary,” Elkins Inter-Mountain, Jan. 12, 1911; “Y.M.C.A. Senate Organized on Thursday Night,” Jan. 13, 1911; “Y.M.C.A. Board of Directors for Coming Year,” Feb. 6, 1911.

77 Handy, 101–104; 123–30.

78 Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982), 73.

79 Charles W. Calhoun, “Civil Religion and the Gilded Age Presidency: The Case of Benjamin Harrison,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 23 (Fall 1993), 651–4. See also Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation (New York: Harper, 1999) and No Place of Grace (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994).

80 Hennen, 149.