History of Capon Bridge

From the Hampshire Review, June 2, 1937

A Brief History of Capon Bridge, W. Va.

(The Following paper was prepared by Miss Gertrude Ward and read on the night of May 20th at the "Community Night" service of our revival which was held in our Capon Bridge Methodist Church from May 12th to May 23rd.) Rev. John R. Hendricks

In the northeastern part of West Virginia, between two small ranges of the Appalachian System, known as Schaffenaker and Bear Garden Mountains, lies the beautiful little village of Capon Bridge. Capon River, a clear stream of water fed by numerous mountain springs flows through the valley. This river was formerly called by the Indians "Ka-Kapon," meaning "To be found again," and was frequently used as a means of transportation for lumber, floating it down to the Potomac on rafts. Capon River was first crossed by a covered bridge in the center of the village, thus the origin of the town's name, Capon Bridge. The old covered bridge, being washed out in 1889, was later replaced by an open wooden one and recently by a modern metal structure.

The old northwestern turnpike running through the center of the village was surveyed by George Washington and his men, and was traveled many times by troops of soldiers, it being the main route connecting different forts, one, Fort Edwards, a short distance below the bridge. During the stage coach days taverns were scattered along the pike to accommodate travelers. The three known in this section were: The old Lovett homestead, two miles of here; what is now Frye's Inn in Capon Bridge, and the present Webster home two miles to the east. The early settlers were engaged in several skirmishes with the Indians in and near Capon Bridge. Darts and Indian heads are found to this day in various places. The last stand was made against the Indians in parts of what is now Hampshire, Hardy, and Mineral counties. The Northwestern Turnpike is now a national highway, known as Route 50.

About the year 1880 Capon Bridge was comprised of not more than fourteen homes and the entire area owned by a few families. Dr. J. J. T. Offutt, formerly of Charles Town, W. Va., was the first physician. He was succeeded by his son, Dr. J. S. Offutt, until his death nine years ago. Since that time Dr. II. L. Henry, of Elk Garden, W. Va., has been the practicing physician.

Probably the oldest house in Capon Bridge is the old Evan Caudy home, owned by Mrs. Mintie Oates Eaton. In 1833 James Caudy built the brick house now owned by Mr. A. L. Pugh. About seventy years ago the McDonalds ran a store in one room of this house. The old house of Dr. J.J.T. Offutt is now occupied by a Mr. Adams, near Gore, it being moved prior to the erection of the late Dr. J. S. Offutt home. The old log tavern owned Eli Beall is still sheltering travelers. It is known at present as Frye's Inn. Mr. Marvin Hook now owns the original John A. Smith house recently occupied by Fenton Riley. The one owned by Mrs. Frank Spaid is also quite old. Colonel Samuel Cooper sold his little one and a half story log house to C.M. McDonald, and it was moved where it now stands, occupied by Guy Larrick and family. He then built what is now known as Moss Rock Inn, where he lived until his death. The old Hook house, occupied by Albert Oates, the old log building owned by Mr. Henry Slonaker, formerly one of the Caudy homes, and the house occupied by Mr. Frank Schaffenaker were all probably built in the latter part of seventeen hundred.

Mr. Samuel Cooper ran the first store in a building under the old sycamore tree near the present post office. In 1881 and 1882 two more stores were built, one being the Company Store or Capon Supply, as it is now called, the other was on the lot adjoining the Methodist Church and run by Mr. Dan Oglesbee. That building was later torn down.

The first post office established at Capon Bridge was located in the office of Dr. J. J. T. Offutt. He took the appointment as postmaster until someone else could be found. All incoming mail was placed in one cigar box. The following postmasters were Mrs. George Nixon, Mrs. Minnie Beall, Mrs. Maggie Keckley, Mr. J. M. Ward and the present one, Miss Gertrude Ward. The mail facilities have greatly improved from the mule drawn stages to modern motor vehicles, affording us the pleasure of daily city papers, and quick mail delivery.

The older residents will remember with pleasure the little two-room school house on the hill, which was a general gathering place for all occasions, serving as a church on Sundays, preachers of different denominations holding services there. In 1920, Bloomery and Capon districts built a four-room frame Junior High School building. Five young people graduated the first year. This building burned a few years later and was replaced by a modern brick first class high school. Buses are now bringing children from other schools every day. A class of twenty-nine young people were graduated here last year.

In 1884, the Methodist Church was built on land donated by Mr. William Smith and the parsonage, where it now stands, seven years later. Mr. Samuel Cooper gave land and the Presbyterian church was built; organs and silver communion sets for both churches, were also donated by Mr. Cooper. The Disciple Church was built in 1907 on the site of the old Town Hall. Professor B. F. Sine had conducted a normal school in the hall for several years.

The elevation of Capon Bridge is 810 feet. It has a population of about 150 inside the corporate limits, with about 300 receiving mail at this office. The village was incorporated in 1905 with Mr. Bill Tucker Oates as first mayor. Boardwalks were laid in the town at that time, some replaced in 1919 by cement walks.

A tannery was built here in 1881, giving employment to a number of men, and increasing the population. This industry continued until the supply of bark was exhausted. A few years later a stave factory was opened on the site where the old tannery buildings were and run as long as stave material could be obtained.

Capon Bridge how has a funeral home, lunch room, service station, two garages, and three general stores.

In the last hundred years or so there has been very slow progress in Capon Bridge, due to the fact of no industry being able to continue here for long. The greatest improvement has been along educational and religious lines. The chief means of livelihood is farming, dealing in lumber, and trucking.

Although there are not many inducements here for new settlers, the older families are well contented and happy and proud of their little town of Capon Bridge.


 

Footnote #1: There are two predominant explanations of the meaning of the river's name. The one mentioned refers to the fact that at one point the river goes underground, thus the modern name, "Lost River." The other translation is "medicine water" referring to the spring at the modern resort, Capon Springs. It was known for special waters when the white man first came to the region.


Footnote #2: The Northwestern Turnpike was not surveyed by George Washington. It was laid out in the early 1830s by Claudius Crozet. Washington had done his surveys in the Cacapon Valley around 1749-52. However, in 1784 Mr. Washington recommended to the Virginia Assembly that Virginia should construct a major road to the opening western lands. It was not build during his lifetime.