Education in early Logan County

September 6, 2013

First Schools

and Buildings

When the first settlers of Logan left their homes in the East and came to the Guyan Valley to carve homes for themselves and their children out of the forest, they brought with them a desire for schools for their offspring. One of the pioneers, Peter Dingess, of this valley erected very early in the last century a log cabin upon the ruins of the Indian lodges on Big Island for a schoolhouse. This is the island in the river near the present Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad passenger station.

That was the first schoolhouse erected in the county, and in that building the children of The Islands—the first name of Logan—were taught “readin’, ritin’, and spankin’”. After they ceased to use this house for school purposes, the people annoyed Mr. Dingess so much wanting to rent the building in which to live that he had his son, John, go out at night and burn it down.

Early Teachers

After the cabin on the Island ceased to be used for a schoolhouse, Lewis B. Lawson erected a round log house near the mouth of Dingess Run for a school building. In that house George Bryan taught the children of Lawnsville — known as Logan at that time — for a number of terms. A Mrs. Graves from Tennessee and the wife of a Methodist circuit rider also taught several terms in this school. Her work was of high order, as few of the older citizens yet attest.

A short time after Mr. Lawson built his schoolhouse at Dingess Run, his brother, James, erected a schoolhouse on his land at the forks of Island Creek in the Old Fork Field where J.W. Fisher recently lived. The Reverend Totten, a famous and popular Southern Methodist circuit rider, taught the “urchins” of Aracoma—the name of Logan at that time—for several terms in the early fifties of the last century.

After the passage of the Free School Act by the General Assembly of Virginia, in 1846, the people of Aracoma and Dingess Run erected a boxed building for a schoolhouse by the Big Rock in the narrows above Bill Ellis Hollow. The county paid the tuition of poor children in that school. Reverend Totten taught for several years in that schoolhouse. He was teaching there when the Civil War began, at which time he discontinued his school, joined the “Logan Wild Cats,” marched away to Dixie, and never returned. Each of the last three mentioned houses was washed away in the great flood in the year, 1861.

A description of the schools before the Civil War in what is now West Virginia is given by a resident who was born in 1809.

This typical description is as follows:

….the school houses were generally abandoned log cabins, the furniture consisted of slabs with holes bored in each end and pins driven in them for legs. For those learning to write a space was hewed out about six inches wide between two logs and sticks set up perpendicularly in this space, and on them was pasted paper, mostly foolscap, that had been used as copy books. This paper being greased afforded enough light for the boys and girls of that primitive age. Holes were bored in the legs under this open space, wooden pins driven in, and a board a little sloping laid on them. This constituted the writing desk. The master made all the pens out of goose quills. He would write a line at the head of a page of paper in his best style, and the scholars would rule the paper with a piece of lead, and copy his sample. I remember one copy was “six times six is thirty-six”. The books used were Primers, Webster’s Spelling Book, and the Testament. I recollect an elder brother at one school used “Gulliver’s Travels” as a reading book. It was the custom for the teacher or master, as he was called, to go around in a neighborhood and procure subscriptions for as many scholars as the head of the family could furnish and pay for. The tuition was, I think, about two or two and a half dollars per scholar, which was sometimes paid in linsey, linen or grain. The branches taught were reading, writing, and arithmetic. I never heard of grammar. I remember at one school that I attended that a middle aged woman was a scholar with four or five of her children, some nearly grown. Her object was to learn so that she could read the Bible, and it was said that she learned faster than her children.

The Logan Institute

This was the only academy located in Logan County in this period. It was incorporated February 21, 1853, and was located at Logan Court House — now the city of Logan. It did not fare well and was soon abandoned. It was the 55th such academy in the state.


The settlers brought with them their old homes the idea of free education for their families. Most of the schools of this period were inadequate; the masters did well to earn a living. Salaries varied over the state from $12.00 to $15.00 per month, and the length of the term was perhaps two and one-half to three months.

The Assembly provided for three trustees but later increased the number to range from five to ten. Also the county was divided into equal divisions according to population. The duties of the trustees were various in nature, and to their responsibility rested the educational development of the county.

Although much difficulty was met in obtaining information prior to the formation of the state of West Virginia due to the lack of complete records, Table 1 will show the steady increase in population from the year 1830 through the year 1940 with the exception of the year, 1880, when there was a decided drop in the population.*

Population of Logan County, W.Va.

1830 — 1940

Year Population of Logan County

1830 — 3,680

1840 — 4,309

1850 — 3,620

1860 — 4,938

1870 — 5,124

1880 — 7,329

1890 — 11,101

1900 — 6,955

1910 — 14,476

1920 — 41,006

1930 — 58,534

1940 — 67,768

*The population chart as given does not show a drop in population in 1880, but does show one in 1900.

As published in Logan County Genealogical Society Newsletter, Vol. 25, Issue 3, 2002

— Logan County Genealogical Society meetings are held on the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Logan Area Public Library at Logan. Anyone wishing to learn more about researching their ancestors is welcome to attend the meetings or follow them on Facebook at Logan County WV Genealogical Society.