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Evolution of Putnam County entails a great deal of history

Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Most anything you may want can probably be found in Putnam County. We have both black and white -- opposites to each other. The dictionary tells us that black is opposite to white. It is the color of coal or pitch.

Black is a popular color especially with clothes and shoes. We are familiar with the black bear, black eye, black bird, black book, black board, black belt, blackberry, Blackfoot, Black Forest, Black Hawk, black mail, Black Mountain, black sheep, black market, blackout, black pepper, black snake, black walnut, black tailed deer and black strap molasses.

What would we do without the word black? My rough copy of this story is being done with black ink on white paper. Often we describe pictures as being black and white. We have all that in our county. We do, however, have something not found in all counties.

We have our own Black Betsy. Putnam County was formed on March 11, 1848, when a bill was passed in the General Assembly of Virginia to form our county from parts of Kanawha, Mason and Cabell. This new county was named in honor of General Israel Putnam, who was commander of the Continental Army at Bunker Hill. It straddles the Kanawha River, midway between Charleston and Point Pleasant.

Our county seat took its name from General Winfield Scott. During the Civil War, there were significant battles at Scary Creek, Red House, Hurricane Bridge and Winfield. Black Betsy is down river from Poca and Raymond City and followed along the river by Bancroft and Plymouth.

The River Tipple of the Black Betsy Coal Operation was first called "The Queen City Mining Company," which began operating in 1882. Later it became known as "The Black Betsy Coal & Mining Company." One of the famous pictures of it is that of Fred Lett and Greely Green with a coal-mining mule in the early 1900s at the Black Betsy Mines.

Over the course of many years, there were several mining operations on the north side of the Kanawha River in that general area. There was the Plymouth Coal and Mining Company, the Raymond City Coal and Transportation Company and the Big Otto Mine.

For the finest pictorial history books of Putnam County get in touch with Cheryl Wintz Withrow, phone 304-760-2121, President of The Upper Vandalia Historical Society. Cheryl will tell you where you can buy your personal copies of these great books.

The latest book is one you will enjoy immensely, just as I do. Many Putnam County residents help make these books possible. I look forward to their next book. If you live in Putnam County, these books are a must and important gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and especially Christmas. I think they would make terrific textbooks for students in our public schools who certainly need to know more about the county in which they live.

If you have pictures of the county that would contribute to an interesting story in the Putnam Herald, please let me know.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist who can be reached at P.O. Box 345, Scott Depot, WV 25560; phone 304-757-6089.

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