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
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
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
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
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.
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.  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.
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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