When one really thinks about the history of Logan, there are some things that many people simply are not aware of; some of which exist right before our eyes. For instance, when one enters the town/city of Logan by crossing the Guyandotte River by either bridge on the western part of town and you’re headed to the courthouse or some other downtown location, then you will drive down what is known as Main Street.
Without knowing any way of calculating the accuracy, I still feel confident in saying there may be at least a thousand streets in America which bear the name of Main Street. However, I am unaware of anywhere else in the nation where there is a Stratton Street, or a Holland Lane. Granted, those two names may exist elsewhere, but if they do, I would appreciate someone letting me know their whereabouts.
The reason I mention this is because I just recently received a letter from David Holland, a resident of Middletown, Ohio, which is near Cincinnati, and because last year I spent some time with John Stratton, a Utah resident and descendant of Confederate Major William Stratton, for which Stratton of Logan is so named. The major also has the distinction of having built the first brick house in Logan County.
My interview with John Stratton will be forthcoming and I hope to meet with Mr. Holland when he visits Logan. Here is a portion of Holland’s letter, which is addressed — Dear Judge Williamson:
“While researching family history this past Saturday I ran across one of the articles you had authored for the local newspaper. I ended up spending several hours tracking down your other articles about Logan history, to the neglect of my household chores and yard work. Enjoyed it thoroughly! Thank you for writing them. I am interested in visiting my great-grandmother’s grave in the old city cemetery on High Street and would like to do a little advance planning before making a trip to Logan.
“My great-grandmother was Mary C. (Bortz) Holland, wife of Benjamin Holland (B.O. Holland). B.O. and his brother Bruce Leonard Holland were active merchants and real estate men in Aracoma in the 1890’s. One of the buildings on Stratton Street is known as the Holland building, although I don’t know which of my brothers was responsible for it. B.O. was actively involved with the Buskirk’s and the Robertson’s. He was a founding partner in the Robertson Mercantile co. in 1901. After Mary died, he married Anna Robertson in 1900. He was a representative to the state legislature in 1903-04.
“I am writing to you seeking information on the old city cemetery. My great-grandmother was Mary C. Holland. She was married to B.O. at the age of 16. Gave birth to my grandfather Thurl Otto Holland in 1893, then had a second baby, Leo Paul, who died at one month of age in 1895. Mary then died two years later at the age of 22.
“For many years I was unable to locate Mary’s final resting place. Then in 2013, a lady named Teena Merlin mapped some of the old city cemetery and posted her records to FindAGrave.
“Mary is buried in the same cemetery with Leo Paul. I would like to like to visit the gravesite to pay my respects.
“Since it is a pretty long drive from my home near Cincinnati, I want to do as much advance preparation as possible. Do you know if there is a map of the recorded gravesites, or other information which would help me locate Mary’s grave at the cemetery? I tried to contact Ms. Merlin, and the Logan Genealogical Society, but never heard back from either. Is the cemetery cleared enough that someone could search it, or is it so overgrown that I would be wasting my time traveling to Logan?
“I have heard that it is infested with copperheads or rattlers. Is this true? I am an outdoorsman, so I run into a poisonous snake occasionally. But if the area is truly dangerous, I would not come.”
Mr. Holland included a picture of the tombstone bearing the Holland names that he obtained via the website of FindAGrave, of which I am a member. The grave marker — like too many others at the one-acre site — was lying flat on the ground when the picture was taken several years back.
I have not yet replied to the gentleman. In fact, I intend to first visit the cemetery again (since I have not been there since springtime) and to get in touch with the fine people with the Logan County Genealogical Society, who, by the way, just recently sent me their Ancestree Newsletter. I’m sure Barbara Kovach, president of the local group, will accommodate Mr. Holland in every way possible.
Although I’m unaware of any map of the gravesites of the old cemetery, I do have a complete listing of everyone who was buried there. I also have a video of my visit to the cemetery that in historical records is referred to as “Our Cemetery,” “Aracoma Cemetery” and the “City Cemetery.”
I don’t know about snakes currently being present in the abandoned cemetery, but logically there probably are. The best time to visit the cemetery, in my opinion, is early spring or autumn, when the snakes are no longer a factor. However, I’m fairly sure that the gravesite sought by Mr. Holland is in the visible section of the cemetery and easily accessible. Another half of the cemetery, unfortunately, remains covered with overgrowth.
Ironically, John Stratton visits Logan regularly and attends his family cemetery, which is also in Logan on the eastern part of Logan near what is called Mountain Lake Park, a name which does not fit the area. That cemetery has traditionally been well kept by an endowment left to Nighbert Memorial Church by Vicie (Stratton) Nighbert, daughter of Major Stratton and the wife of Major James A Nighbert.
Both the Stratton Cemetery and the City Cemetery are enclosed by rock walls, with a large railed fence surrounding the Stratton Cemetery. Major Stratton and his family are buried at the Logan site, while Nighbert is buried at his family cemetery at Nighbert Bottom, which is located near Lyburn.
So, with all of the craziness that is going on in America right now, including the removing of Confederate statues from public locations, I suppose it is suffice to know that Stratton, Nighbert and even Devil Anse Hatfield himself, also a Confederate leader, are buried in private cemeteries.
For Mr. Holland’s information, my research tells me that his family was Republican and not true fans of the Confederate cause. However, I will let him know that some of the Holland family is actually buried in the Stratton Cemetery.
Of course, I will also inform him of the Mamie Thurman story. After all, it just may have been in the Holland Building in downtown Logan — a three-story structure that still bears the Holland name — that Mamie may have met her demise. It was there that the “Amen Club” did exist, according to courtroom testimony in 1932.
When uncovering the history of one’s family past, you should be prepared for what lies beneath. History truly involves the good, the bad and the ugly.
BITS AND PIECES
The Freedom festival is over and whether you attended or not, I have to say there has never been a Logan mayor, with the possible exception of Litz McGuire in the late 1950s, who has taken a hands-on approach to the activities of the town that now has fewer than 1,800 residents than that of Serifino Nolletti.
I know his love for the town where he grew up and where his family-owned bakery was a favorite stopping point for me, even when the mayor was just an employee there. It is my fondness for the mayor, who seems to be called upon more and more for his financial help that will keep me thinking positively and not exposing the serpents that regularly cross the Guyandotte River.
Having said this, I must add that I am both pleased and surprised as the rapid progress of the new boulevard bridge near Logan Regional Medical Center
The old bridge was built in 1951 and has an average daily traffic flow of around 13,300 vehicles per day, according to a pre-bridge study, which included eight alternatives to the new bridge’s construction. One of those likely would have included the purchase and demolition of the old bus terminal building that was built in 1928.
With the former Midelburg Theatre partially collapsing and then being razed completely, I am glad to see the former terminal building still there to remind us of days gone by.
By the way, the beautiful sod that was placed at the former theatre site and the nice “Welcome to Logan” banner that greets folks as they enter that end of town are likely the direct result of Mayor Nolletti paying for them.
To the mayor, I say thank you, sir.
Oh, by the way, what’s the new name of Stratton Street going to be?