I’m going in another direction with “Mercer Memories” for a little while, a direction which will check on areas that haven’t been the focus of recent columns. For this exploration, I turn to the pages of William Sanders II’s “A New River Heritage, Vol IV” (1994, McClain Printing Company, Parsons).
In this book, Sanders pays considerable homage to another great historian in Barty Wyatt (1880-1973), using several of his stories as content for a chapter in his book. Barty Wyatt was born and raised in the Nubbins Ridge area of Mercer County, so called because the corn only grew to nubbin-size there.
Among the many hats Wyatt wore was that of newspaper publisher. He created The Mercer Recorder, a weekly community newspaper published in Matoaka for a few years before selling it to Gordon Garner, who renamed it the Twin City Advance after moving it to Princeton.
Sanders wrote of Wyatt, “(He) did his utmost to achieve a sense of community in the scenic highland border of Mercer and Wyoming counties.”
Another profession Wyatt was involved in was that of land developer. He, with the backing of Pat Murphy and O’Ferrell Quillian, Matoaka bankers, bought the Freelon Dillon farm, just after World War II, on the north side of the new Route 10 for $3,000. Wyatt, his brother, Eli, and his sons, Claron and Harley, built 33 houses on this land and sold them for whatever down payment the miners could make up and the rest in low monthly payments, like rent. Only two of the deals failed to be paid off.
This venture followed the tendency of great mobility created by the increase in automobiles, which allowed the miners to move away from the coal camps. This became modern Lashmeet, moving it away from the area of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church and along Wright’s Mountain toward Rock and Matoaka.
Wyatt lived for a while in the old Argabright house in the old Lashmeet area. He then built a house for his family and third wife Virginia Cooper, where his sons Claron and Harley and daughters Glenna and Jeanous were raised.
Wyatt was also a schoolteacher and principal in both Mercer and Wyoming counties. He was the first principal of both Mullens and Pineville high schools and taught at several other places, including Concord College. He lived in, bought and sold homes in Athens four different times. He lived in Princeton on two different occasions, serving as principal at Glenwood School. He was principal at Lester and Trap Hill high schools in Raleigh County. While a resident in the country, he publicly advocated for the college known as Beckley College.
— Contact Jeff Harvey at email@example.com