marrtown history parkersburg wv

HISTORY OF MARRTOWN

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I Want To Thank Les Halfhill for this History 

The History of Marrtown by Les Halfhill

in 1813 a baby boy was born in Scotland. His name was Thomas Marr. Tommy's parents would have been very surprised, could they have known that their son was destined to travel many miles across the sea and give his name to a community in America The fact that Marrtown is only a tiny section of this great country of ours, and that the name is known only to a handful of us would not have mattered to them.  It is a piece of America , none the less, and they would have been proud.  The following year a baby girl, to be named Mary, was born to the Ellis family and she too was destined for adventures in America for in 1835, when Mary was twenty-one and Tom twenty-two, they were married.  Mary was an Autumn bride and perhaps that was something of an unfavorable omen; for the life that she and Thomas were already planning in America , though a long and active one for her, was often touched with tragedy.

They left Scotland soon after they were married and settled here in Wood County in the section now known as Marrtown, in 1836.  The future did look bright, indeed.  The land was rich and beautiful, the trees tall and plentiful, and the Marr’s were soon established in a fine log home; and best of all, in June of 1837 they were blessed with a son.  Thomas, like all new fathers, was proud as a peacock.  They named the boy Rheuben Francis.  This was the beginning of a long and fruitful life for Rheuben, who became the father of three sons: Frank, Charles, and Thomas, and lived to be ninety-six years old.  But Fate did not always deal so kindly with the Marr’s.  Of the eight more children that Mary bore in the following twenty-five years, only two lived to marry and raise families of their own.  The rest died before the age of eighteen years.  The other boys were named Morgan, Phillip, Samuel, Thomas, Franklin, George, and Henry Clay.

The youngest, Henry, became the father of six children: Mamie, John, Emmitt, Francis, Esther, and Anna, and lived to the age of sixty-six.  The Marr’s one daughter was their third-born, and her name was Tamer.  She later became Mrs.  Samuel Segar and the mother of ten children: Markus Bonaparte, Dale, Thomas, Joseph, Samuel, Alice , Mary, Harriet, Sally, and Dixie .  Tamer lived to be seventy-seven years old.

When Tamer was six years old, in 1847, the Marr’s were joined by a new neighbor, young James Hollister Smith from Massachusetts .  Jim settled in Marrtown and was soon a good friend.  He also made some friends over in Parkersburg , among them the Decker family, who had moved to Parkersburg from Pennsylvania and were then living on Seventh Street .  When Jim first met Phoebe, the Decker’s fifteen year old daughter, he thought of her as a pretty child.  After all, he was twenty-seven, wasn’t he? But Phoebe was already a young woman and it didn’t take her long to change Jim’s mind.  She was not yet sixteen when they were married in 1848 and the Marr’s acquired another new neighbor, and a very charming one.

In 1858, three more names were added to the Marrtown roll call.  They were: Markus and Susanna Rapp and Louis Hebrank.  Markus Rapp was born in Hohenzollern , Germany , on April 4, 1834.  He came to New York City when he was twenty years old.  From there he went to Wheeling , Ohio County, this state.  There he met Susanna Rockenstein.  Susanna, too, had been born in Germany and was delighted to find someone from her home country, and she and Markus became fast friends.  Although Markus was four years her junior, Susanna soon found that he was older in many ways than she and turned to him many times for advice.  Their friendship blossomed into love and on April 5, 1857, they were married.  When the newlyweds arrived in Marrtown they were surprised to find another arrival, Louis Hebrank, who was also from Hohenzollern.  Louis had come to this country with his parents in 1853 when he was only sixteen.  They had settled first in Brook County , Va.

That same year Markus and Louis became partners and started a brewery.  Neither of them had much money to begin with, so they began on a very small scale but they were both hard working and thrifty and, as time went on, it became a large and profitable business.  In December 1858 the Rapp’s first child, George, was born.  By this time, Jim Smith, although pleased with his bevy of daughters, was becoming a bit anxious for a son and heir, so great was his delight when in March of 1859, Phoebe bore him a bouncing baby boy.  They named him William.

By the time 1861 rolled around, Marrtown was growing by leaps and bounds.  The Rapp’s had two more children, Mary and Threcia; all but one of Thomas and Mary Marr’s children had already been born; their daughter Tamer was a young lady and had married Samuel Seger, and James Smith had donated ground for the purpose of building Marrtown’s first school.  But then came the Civil War and the next four years were troubled ones for Marrtown as they were for all of the country.  Soldiers of both armies passed through Marrtown during the war.  Part of the time there were Union troops camped on Fort Boreman .  The fighting at times came almost to their doorsteps.  It was not unusual for Mary Marr to go to milk her cows and find that soldiers had been there before her and the family would have no milk.  Several times they were surprised at their meals and driven out while the soldiers had at their meager fare and ended by upsetting the table and smashing everything in sight.  But somehow they managed to keep up at least a semblance of life as usual.  In 1862 the births of Henry Clay Marr and Catherine Rapp provided a happier note, as did the births of the Smith's fourth daughter, Mary Jane, in May, 1863, and the Rapp's fourth daughter, Louise, the following November.  In December another new member was welcomed to the community; Louis Hebrank’s new bride Suzanne.

The year of 1864 brought great happiness to the Hebrank’s for with it came their first child, Sarah, but great sadness to the Smith’s who that year lost their little Mary Jane.  Death claimed her just one short year after her birth.  1865 brought the end of the war and much thanksgiving, and the following year saw the arrival from Cookstown, County Tyrone , Ireland of Margaret Doyle and her sixteen year old son Patrick and daughter, Margaret.  She had left her youngest son, David, at home with his father, David Sr., and three older children: John, Henry, and Ellen, Several years later, the David’s, Jr.  and Sr., joined Margaret and the others here and the Doyle’s made Marrtown their permanent home.  Henry, who had been an officer in the army, came to this country after he left the service, but he located near Pomeroy , Ohio .  Ellen married and lived in Australia .  John never married and, though he visited his family here several times, kept his permanent home in Ireland all his life.

By the year 1879, there had been five more births in the community--the Smiths had a new daughter, Victoria (born in 1866); the Hebrank’s two daughters, Catherine (born in 1866) and Rosina (born in 1868); and the Rapp’s a son, William (born in 1866) and a daughter, Martina (born in 1867).  Also that year, another new family moved to Marrtown: John and Louisa Fries and their six children, Hannah, Katherine, Elizabeth, Mary, Gustavus, and Fred.  The Fries family came originally from Baden Baden, Germany.  They arrived in this country at New York and from there went first to Valley Mills, Va. , then to Parkersburg , and then to Marrtown.  John was a cooper by trade and he now went to work for Markus Rapp and Louis Hebrank at the brewery, making kegs for their beer.  That same year another new son, Markus, arrived at the Rapp household and the Hebrank’s fourth daughter, Amelia, was born.  The next January, when Suzanne Hebrank was only thirty-one years old, death took her from her husband and her four little girls, and all Marrtown was saddened by the loss.  Susanna Rapp kindly took charge of the little girls.  In May of 1872 Louis married his second wife, young Mary Schafer, and after that the family was able to be together again.  The following October, Susanna Rapp gave birth to another baby girl, Jacobina, and in December, Mary Hebrank’s first child, Christina, was born.  In March of 1873, the Rapp’s last child, a girl, Susanna, was born.

Thomas Marr was sixty-one years old now and Mary sixty.  Thomas was working as a watchman on the covered bridge.  The years, it seemed to Mary, had fairly flown.  Already they were grandparents.  They had been through a lot together--smiled a lot and cried a lot and watched their town grow. Then came the fateful night of February 6, 1874.  On that night Thomas went to work, as usual; but he never was to return.  While on duty, he was shot and killed.  His murderer was never brought to justice, never identified.  No one could even guess at a possible motive.  

Mary was heart-broken.  For a while it seemed to her that life was over, but finally she pulled herself together and went on.  She wanted to watch over her children and grandchildren and her town--and she knew that Thomas would want her to.

Mary lived to see two more sons, Stephen Carl and George Louis, born to the Hebrank’s and Dixie , the youngest child of her daughter Tamer, born.  She was there for her son, Henry Clay’s wedding to Martha Elisabeth Chancey and the births of their six children.  Many were the important events during Mary’s lifetime She saw the children of her neighbors marry and start families...Sarah Hebrank married Henry Kurtz and had a daughter, Emily.  Catherine Hebrank married Gustavus Fries and had four boys: Louis, Gustavus, John, and George, and three girls: Rhea, Helen, and Mary.  Rosina Hebrank married George Ecker.  Amelia Hebrank married Michael Kane but was left a widow soon after and later married James Smith.  Carl Hebrank married Alma Schnider, Mary Rapp married Conrad Goetz; Threcia Rapp married Ed Burd and had two children, Mildred and Markus.  Salome Rapp married Will Fox, Matilda Smith married Joseph Beavers and had five children: Columbia , Phoebe, Bert, John, and Henrietta.  Emmaline Smith married Peter Moyers and had four children: Christopher, Ina, John, and Louis.  Victoria Smith married Henson Moyers (Peter's brother] and had two children: William and Harley.  William Smith married Effie Campbell and had five children: Galvin Hollister, Lester, Norman, Irma, and Lila.  Adaline Smith married Albert “Doc” Mayhew.

She saw many of her grandchildren marry and start families also…Alice Seger married Abe Grey; Markus Seger married Anne Fogg and had two children: Leslie and Bessie before they moved to Maine.  Mary Seger married Preston Jones and started her family with a boy, Harvey.  Harriet Seger married James B.  Kidd.  Thomas Seger married Phoebe Seevers and  had three children: Vernon , Raymond, and Lola.  Sally Seger married John Mays.  Joseph Seger married Emma Kesterson.  Dixie Seger married Milton Sams.

Mary saw Marrtown’s first Park opened by “Gusty” Fries in 1892, and the ground donated for Marrtown's first school by Emmaline Smith Moyers in 1898.  She was saddened by the deaths of Margaret Doyle in 1892, of Lew Hebrank and Adeline Smith Mayhew in 1896, and of Louisa Fries and David Doyle in 1899.  And, at last, it was time for Mary to end her adventures in America .  She was tired, and she longed to see Thomas again.  In November of 1904, at the age of ninety, Mary Marr died.

 

Fries Park

One of Wood County , West Virginia 's most popular parks, Fries Park , was established in Marrtown, just southwest of downtown Parkersburg , in 1892 by Gustavus Louis "Gusty" Fries (pronounced “freeze”).

Opening of park

From a Parkersburg newspaper, May 6, 1893  “You Are Invited. Gusty Fries has provided a place long needed. By hard work and at great expense he has fitted up grounds beautifully located below the city, that is just the thing for public or private picnic parties, dances, excursions, etc. He has the park ready, better and bigger than ever and he will be there tomorrow and will be glad to welcome and entertain any of his friends who care to visit his inviting place. There is no prettier, cooler, or better place for a private or public outing.”

The appeal was a family operation where people could relax by picnicking and enjoying square dances and round dances like the polka and schottische in the park's dance pavilion. Fresh crabs were brought in by train from Baltimore , and beer was provided by the Hebrank & Rapp Lager Beer Brewery, the first brewery in the Mid-Ohio Valley . (Louis Hebrank was Fries’ father-in-law, as he had married Hebrank's daughter, Katherine, in 1890.)

Amenities, Events, and Scandal

The park contained a dance hall, a concession stand where visitors could buy sandwiches and drinks, and a ‘bowling alley’, where visitors played duckpins or skittles, using wooden balls. Some stag events, such as beer and crab parties, were staged there in the park's early days. Other activities included professional boxing matches, which led to the park’s greatest tragedy.

On June 29th of 1899, a boxing match was held at the park between Kid Wanko and Felix Carr. [3]  Weighing in at 151 pounds, it was a twenty round contest, ‘for points only’. In the fifth round, Carr received a blow to the side of the head and fell to the canvas; the fight was over. Though he was able stand and receive condolences from his opponent, he soon collapsed again. He died the next morning; Kid Wanko was charged with murder. Following an autopsy, it was determined that Carr had several health problems that contributed to his death. The charges against Kid Wanko were dropped.

Park Closes

Fries Park prospered until increasing use of the automobile made the public more mobile and long for new sights. The appeal of small local picnic parks decreased, making Fries Park a less profitable concern.

It closed in 1939, four years before the death of Gusty Fries. The main building at the park, the dance hall, was transformed into a house by Fries’ grandson, Lewis V. Moyers. The house changed hands several times, and was eventually dismantled. The only remains of the park now are a dry cistern and the ruins of a bomb shelter built in 1962 in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Its memory has lingered on, however, as one of the area's favorite leisure-time places. 

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