(Papers of the Gilkeson and related families)
Archive of Correspondence, Diaries, Memorandum and Account Books, and Ephemera, for the Related Families of Barger, Gilkeson, Hall, Van Meter, and Whitesel, of Buckhannon, Moorefield and Petersburg, West Virginia, 1820s-1950s

Large manuscript archive consisting of: -571 letters, 1074 pages, dated 1820s-1940s, the bulk from 1898-1900. -5 Diaries (540 pp.), of Thomas R. Hall, of Buckhannon, West Virginia, dated 1937-1949 (with gaps). -7 Memorandum and Account Books, possibly of John P. Barger, of Petersburg, West Virginia, 1883-1884. -572 pieces (approximately) of ephemera, including contracts, deeds, agreements, postcards, invitations, circulars, receipts, printed and manuscript materials such as accounts and financial statements, etc., plus several photographs, the ephemera dates from 1820s-1950s.

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Archive Description:


      571 letters, 1074 pp., dated between 1820s-1940s, with the bulk of the letters (391 of 571) being dated from 1898 to 1900. A further breakdown of the correspondence in this collection is as follows:

1820s-1880s. 48 letters, 101 pp.

       1890-1897. 34 letters, 127 pp.

       1898. 110 letters, 176 pp.

1899. 281 letters, 387 pp.

1900s. 30 Letters, 91 pp.

1910s. 28 Letters, 114 pp.

1920s-1940s. 5 Letters, 16 pp.

Undated letters, 22 letters, 42 pp.

Undated and Incomplete letters, 13 letters, 20 pp.

      Much of the correspondence centers around John W. Gilkeson.  Including 33 letters (41 pp.) dated 1898-1900 on the letterhead of the West Virginia Penitentiary, of which Mr. Gilkeson served on the board of directors. Other incoming letters to Gilkeson also concern the penitentiary. These letters tend to be written by other members of the board of directors and are written on that members own company letterhead, but they discuss the business of the prison.

Diaries of Thomas R. Hall, of Buckhannon, Upshur County, WV, 1937-1949

       5 volumes (540 pp), comprising 262 pp. of diaries, plus 278 pp. of memorandum notes, cash accounts, and address books. Diaries measure 2 ½" x 5 ¾", bound in limp red leather, format is 5 to 7 diary entry days per page, mostly written in ink, but with some pencil. Diary volumes dated for years 1937, 1939, 1945, 1947, and 1949. Diary entries detail the day to day activities, of Mr. Hall, a father, husband, and insurance salesman. The memorandum notes, cash accounts, etc., at the rear of the diaries appear to deal with his work as an insurance salesman for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.  He keeps track of personal production, income, automobile repairs, oil, gas, bus, train, mail, other expenses, etc.  Individual diaries pages are as follows:

1937 - 53 pp diary, 50 pp. memorandum, cash accounts, address book.

        1939 - 53 pp diary, 60 pp. memorandum, cash accounts, address book.

        1945 - 50 pp diary, 55 pp. memorandum, cash accounts, address book.

        1947 - 53 pp diary, 51 pp. memorandum, cash accounts, address book.

        1949 - 53 pp diary, 62 pp. memorandum, cash accounts, address book.

      Memorandum and Account Books

     7 Memorandum & Account Books, possibly of John P. Barger, of Petersburg, Virginia, 1883-1884, comprising 128 pages in total, each volume measures approximately 3 ½" x 5 ¾", and is bound in paper wrappers, and dated from 1883 to 1885.Two of the volumes lack wrappers. The volumes are worn, mostly written in pencil, but in a legible hand. The names of John P. Barger and George Harman are mentioned in most volumes.


185 (approximately) pieces of manuscript ephemera, for the Barger, Gilkeson, and Van Meter families, includes bills, receipts, contracts, deeds, agreements, memorandum notes, promissory notes, etc., dated c1820s-1940s, mostly from the late 1880s-1890s.


200 (approximately) pieces of printed and manuscript ephemera for the Barger, Gilkeson, and Van Meter families, includes letterhead receipts for various goods, transport receipts, hay scale receipts, tax bills, a couple of telegrams, car registration, used checks, a checkbook, membership cards, insurance policies, etc., dated 1847-1950


62 used postcards, 1877-1924 (mostly 1880s-1890s), many to John P. Barger from his bank showing a deposit was received, others between members of the Gilkeson family and their associates. Post cards addressed to Mrs. Alice Barger, Petersburg, WV; John P. Barger, Esq., Petersburg, WV; Mr. Max Barger, Petersburg, WV; E. M. Gilkeson, Moorefield, WV; Hon. John Wm. Gilkeson, Moorefield, WV (also seen as "cashier"); Ms Martha [V.] Gilkeson, Moorefield, WV; George Harman, Esq., Petersburg, WV; Ms. Clarice Shobe, Petersburg, WV; Jos. Vanmeter, Moorefield, WV; Wm. C. Vanmeter, Old Fields, WV; J. C. Wilkins, Franklin, WV


75 used envelopes, 1889-1936 (mostly 1910s), addressed to various members of the Barger, Gilkeson, Harman, Van Meter, and Whitesel families, of Moorefield, Old Fields, and Petersburg, WV.


39 pieces of printed ephemera including 9 invitations, 8 greeting cards, printed unfilled forms, newspaper clippings, circulars, etc.

1 hand drawn land survey, by surveyor M. D. Neville, for 3 lots, total of 364 acres, "east of the Elk Gorden Road."

       5 manuscript pages of financial statements and comparative statements of the "Old" and "New Administrations" of the "West Virginia Penitentiary," including 2 pages of notes for a board of directors meeting, 1896-1899.

2 manuscript pages on the genealogy of William Thompson Van Meter family.

       3 photographs, black & white, two are cdv's, of women, not dated, nor identified, the other a very small photo of two women identified as "Miss [S]imville & myself."

  John W. Gilkeson (1861-1917) of Moorefield, WV and Van Meter family of Old Fields, WV

       John William Gilkeson was a prominent and prosperous citizen of Moorefield, West Virginia. He had a beautiful farm and home near town, and was a banker, businessman, a man of the highest standing and character, an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and had the confidence and respect of his community.

      His father John Bell Gilkeson (1818-1891) was born at Romney, Hampshire County, Virginia (later WV). He was married in 1857 to Nancy Jane Kuykendall Wilson, the daughter of Nathaniel Kuykendall. John Bell was the son of James David Gilkeson (1793-1872) and Sarah Dixon Bell (1797-1850).

      James and Sarah had several children, Besides John; one of them was Robert B. Gilkeson (1821-1891) the father of Edwin Myers Gilkeson (1854-1946) and Henry Bell Gilkenson (1851-1921). Edward and Henry are among the correspondents of John William Gilkeson. There are at least 32 letters which the two brothers wrote to their cousin, John William Gilkeson.

      Edwin Myers Gilkeson (1854-1946) had his own mercantile establishment at Romney, WV. He became the President of the bank at Parkersburg, WV, after having been the Cashier. He was at one time (1921) the treasurer of the Democratic County Executive Committee and the 1st ward leader at Parkersburg, WV. He married Cora Williams Finley and had several children, one of whom was Emily Gilkeson who attended, along with her cousin (Henry's daughter Laura), the Mary Baldwin Seminary.

      Henry Bell Gilkeson (1851-1921) was a lawyer, politician, school administrator, and banker in the state of West Virginia. He was born in Moorefield in 1850, the eldest child of dry goods merchant Robert B. Gilkeson and his wife Sarah E., and was raised in Romney. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College and became a school teacher and served as superintendent of the Hampshire County Schools from 1877-1879. He then began to study law and became a successful attorney at Romney. His popularity in education circles and legal circles propelled him to the next phase of his career, that in politics. He was elected to the West Virginia Legislature as a state senator for the years 1890-1893 and as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates for 1883-85 and 1909-11). He also served as mayor of Romney, West Virginia, and as the first president of the Bank of Romney (1888-1913). Henry married a woman by the name of Mary Katherine Paxton (1853-1910) and had a son Henry B. Gilkeson, Jr. (1890-1901). Another son, Robert William Gilkeson (1887-1918) died while serving with the 316th Engineers in WWI in France. Henry Bell Gilkeson died on 29 September 1921 and was interred with his wife and son Henry Jr. at Indian Mound Cemetery, in Romney. The Gilkesons had one other child, a daughter Laura Paxton Gilkeson (1885-1973) who married Romney lawyer George Sloan Arnold (1885-1986).

      John William was also one of the directors of the West Virginia Penitentiary, at Moorefield, at least for the years 1898-1904. He was also the Cashier at the South Branch Valley National bank, in Moorefield, and acted as a delegate to the American Bankers Association in 1901. With a man by the name of Williams, he was part owner of "Williams & Gilkeson," a company that was a member in the American Short Herd Breeder's Association.

      John William Gilkeson married Janie White (1861-1935). They had at least three children. John died the 5 July 1917, his wife on 14 December 1935. They were both buried at Olivet Cemetery at Moorefield.  John William Gilkeson, John T. Van Meter, and several others, founded the Olivet Cemetery, at Moorefield, about the year 1887.

      James William Gilkeson (c1847-1920) married Sallie C. Van Meter (c1851-1930). Sallie was the daughter of William Cunningham Van Meter. The marriage of James and Sallie connects the Gilkesons to the Barger, Harman, Van Meter and Whitesel families mentioned below. James William and Sallie had at least two daughters, Damaris and Martha (Mattie), who are mentioned in this archive.

      William Cunningham Van Meter (1811-1889), the father of Sallie C. Van Meter (mentioned above), was the son of David Van Meter (1784-1871) and Hannah Cunningham (1793-1878). He married Martha Ann Peerce (1820-1895) and together they had at least eight children: David Peerce b. 1844; Milton Point, b. 1846; Damaris Ellen b. 1848; Sallie C., b. 1851; Annie E., b. 1853 who married Edward Williams; Martha Cornelia, b. 1854; Fannie O., b. 1857; and William Thompson Van Meter.

Barger, Harman, and Whitesel Families, of Petersburg, West Virginia

      Alice A. Harman (1854-1942) was the wife of farmer John P. Barger (1861-1901), the daughter of George Eston Harman (1828-1899) and Mary Jane Smith (1832-1858). Alice's father was a member of the West Virginia Legislature and ran for U.S. Congress in 1890 aligning himself with the Prohibition Party.

     John P. Barger died at Petersburg, WV at the age of 40. He was the son of Michael Barger. Gracie Whitesel (1878-?) was the step-daughter of John P. Barger and the daughter of Alice who was previously married, before her marriage to Barger, to the Rev. James Edward Whitesel (1851-1878). Alice married Whitesel in 1875. Whitesel was the son of Simon and Catharine Whitesel. Alice and Whitesel had three children: George Harman, Emmett Wycliffe, and Grace mentioned above. With Barger, she had one child, Max. Max carried on the family farm, along with his mother Alice, after the death of his father (Alice's second husband) in 1901.

      Grace Catharine Whitesel is the daughter of James Edward Whitesel and Alice Harman Barger. Grace married Wm. Thompson Van Meter, at Petersburg, WV, on 16 December 1903. William was the son of William Cunningham Van Meter and Martha Ann Peirce (mentioned above in the Gilkeson and Van Meter biography). William was born at Old Fields, Hardy County, WV. His ancestors were among the first to settle on the south branch of the Potomac River. At the time of William T. Van Meter's death, he and his wife made their home at Mrs. Van Meter's brother, Mr. Harmon Whitesel at Petersburg, WV. Van Meter spent the greater part of his life in Hardy County. He was buried at Olivet Cemetery at Moorefield, WV. He was a member of Moorefield Presbyterian Church.


     Thomas R. Hall (1878-1963) of Buckhannon, Upshur County, WV

      Thomas Roberts Hall, our diarist, was the son of Strother I. Hall (1835-1905), a farmer, of Grays Flat, Virginia and his wife Mary Ann Wells (1835-1909) of Basnettsville, Virginia. Thomas was the youngest of the couple's eight children. He was born in 1878 at Grays Flat. The family then moved to Marion, West Virginia. Thomas later attended West Virginia Wesleyan College where he studied business.

      Hall married Rosa Maude Vincent (b. 4 Sept. 1881), of Upshar Co., WV.  In the 1940 Census he, his wife Maude V., son Frank V. (b. abt. 1910) and step-mother Virginia S. Vincent (b. abt. 1858), are found enumerated at Buckhannon, Upshur County, WV. Thomas is listed working as a general insurance salesman. The family owned their home. When he filled out his WWII draft registration card he stated he worked for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

      Thomas R. Hall died on 16 July 1963 at Buckhannon, WV, at the age of 83.


Further Description of Correspondence:

     1820s-1880s Correspondence

      The earliest correspondence (first 10 letters dated 1824-1839) is written to David Van Meter, of Moorefield, Hardy County, Virginia (listed on letters as "near Moorefield" this is an area that would later become West Virginia). Of these 10 letters, 6 are written by his children, the others from associates.  After these letters to David Van Meter, there are 4 letters written by members of the Ogilvie family (1850-1857). They appear to be written to John, or David Ogilvie, of Moorefield, VA from family members in Virginia, and at Warsaw, Ohio (John Ogilvie/Oglesbee). Then there is a letter (1857) written to W. C. Van Meter, who appears to be the son of the above David Van Meter. Following this there are an additional 3 letters written apparently to John Ogilvie in 1858, two of them are from family. A letter after this (1866) is from James Ogilvie to Wm. C. Van Meter. The bulk of the remaining letters in this section are incoming letters to Wm. C. Van Meter.


1890-1897 Correspondence

      The 1890s correspondence begins 11 letters written to Gracie Whitesel (6) from family and to John P. Barger (5) from business associates. In 1892, a business letter is written to J. Wm. Gilkeson. Then there are 3 further letters to Gracie Whitesel. These letters are followed by letters written between the various female members of these families, in particular several letters are written to and from Mattie V. Gilkeson in 1895-1896, who was attending the Augusta Female Seminary in Stanton, Virginia. She writes letters to her mother, Mrs. J. Wm. Gilkeson, of Moorefield, WV. Letters are also written to Damie Gilkeson, of Moorefield, Mattie's sister. There are also a couple of business letters to John P. Barger.

1898-1900 Correspondence

      Of the 571 letters in this collection, 391 of the letters are dated from 1898 to 1900. These 391 letters are for the most part either written to John W. Gilkeson, or written by him. For the most part these are retained copies, on tissue paper, but several are on the letterhead of the South Branch Valley National Bank, where John Gilkeson was Cashier. A couple of the letters are written to U.S. Congressman Alston G. Dayton, and A. C. Scherr, among others.

      Gilkeson has many correspondents, two of the main writers being his relations Edward Gilkeson (17 letters) and Edward’s brother Henry Gilkeson (16 letters). Edward Gilkeson's letters are written on the letterhead of the Second National Bank of Parkersburg, WV, where Edward was Cashier. The letters discuss financial matters, investments, family, and local news. Henry Gilkeson's letters are written on the letterhead of "H.B. Gilkeson," his law practice in Romney, WV.

      Other correspondents are A. C. Scherr and Alston G. Dayton. A. C. Scherr, a woolen manufacturer, writes 31 letters to Gilkeson, many on the letterhead of Keyser Woolen Mills, a business he owned at Keyser, WV. Scherr served on the board of directors, along with Gilkeson, of the West Virginia Penitentiary. Some of these letters are personal, they appear to have been friends, some are business oriented (Scherr appears to be in financial troubles), and others speak to their activities on the prison board, such as the hiring of convict labor.

      U. S. Congressman Alston G. Dayton (1857-1920) writes to Gilkeson on four occasions, three of which are on the letterhead of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Naval Affairs, of which Dayton was a member. Dayton was elected a U.S. Congressman from West Virginia for the years 1895 to 1905. The letters concern politics and campaigns. There is also 1 letter from Governor George W. Atkinson, who was West Virginia's Governor from 1897-1901. Gov. Atkinson writes to Gilkeson about an upcoming "Congress of the National Prison Association of the United States."

      The archive includes 33 letters written on the letterhead of the West Virginia Penitentiary. They are written to Gilkeson because he served on the board of directors of the prison. Some of the letter writers are S. A. Hawk, the warden of the prison who writes 7 letters; A. C. Scherr, a fellow board member who writes 1 letter. Gilkeson himself writes 1 letter (retained copy) to John A. Bloyd, a fellow board member and also treasurer of the prison. Bloyd writes 5 letters to Gilkeson. The rest of the letters (19) were written by John L. Laughlin, listed as the clerk and secretary of the board of directors of the prison. These 33 letters, combined with the other letters of A. C. Scherr written to Gilkeson on his personal letterhead, as well as several manuscript pages of accounts for the prison in the ephemera section of this archive, give great insight into the financial status and the mechanics running and financing the prison from the board of directors' perspective.

1900s-1940s Letters

     In this section of the archive, there are 12 letters of Pvt. Bernard M. Taylor dated 1918-1919, while he was serving during World War One. Pvt. Taylor was serving in France with Co. B of the 505th Engineer Battalion. The letters are written to Damie E. Gilkeson, with a couple to Mattie Gilkeson, Damie's sister?

Other letters in this section of the archive appear to be written to John P. Barger, or other Van Meter family members, and some to the Gilkeson family.