By Dwight Williamson
February 26th marked the anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster that took place in 1972. For those of us who were around back then, it was an almost unbelievable time of regret. Blackened waters, the result of a broken coal slurry pond following heavy rain at the head of Buffalo Creek, wiped out 16 communities, took the lives of 125 people, injured 1,121 others and left at least 4,000 homeless. The national news descended upon the Man area community. How interesting it is that the dam was inspected just four days earlier by a federal mine inspector, who declared the site to be “satisfactory.”
As a sophomore at Marshall University that fateful day, I recall my mother telephoning me (pay phone in the hallway) at the South Hall dormitory where I lived to give me the horrific news. But it was not until I saw the television news that I realized the full severity of this catastrophic and now historical event. At the time, about the only thing I knew about Man, West Virginia, was the fact that the place produced some really good athletes and that the Man Pioneers and Hillbillies were huge rivals of both Logan and Chapmanville, and even Sharples, Holden and Omar Junior high school athletic programs. Well, with time comes knowledge, I suppose, so, I now want to share some history with you, the readers.
First, let me assure you that I feel fairly certain there is nowhere else in the good ‘ole U.S.A. where a community exists with the name of “Man.” Of course, I also would be willing to be bet there is no place in the country called “Woman.” But that’s another story. So, let’s just pretend to be tuned into a version of the History or Discovery Channel and title this reading as— “The History of Man.”
The town has long been reported to have derived its name from the last syllable of the last name of Ulysses Hinchman, who according to founder of The Logan Banner and historian, Henry Clay Ragland, obtained about 2,000 acres between the years of 1840 and 1848, which included property at Madison Creek, Sandlick, Rich Creek, Laurel Fork and other places, mostly along the Guyandotte River. As a member of one of the early families of Logan County, Hinchman was also one of the early doctors of the area and was the county’s census taker. In addition, Ragland wrote that he also served as superintendent of schools, pastor, trader, and he also represented Logan County in the legislature from 1840 until 1858.
In an interview with Laura Hinchman, a descendant of Ulysses, local historian, Bob Spence, reported that “They were even going to call the place Hinchman… but they thought the name was too long. So they just called it Man.” It should be noted that Mr. Hinchman’s wife was Rebecca McDonald, as in McDonald Land Company, which still lays claims to much of the Triadelphia area. So, it would seem logical that the Guyandotte River town received its name from Ulysses Hinchman. However, a Logan Banner newspaper story from 1924 indicates otherwise. Here’s what I’ve found out about the little town located at the mouth of Buffalo Creek.
The 1924 headline reads: “Man, Fastest Growing Town in Logan County—History of How It was Named”. The story reads as follows:
“It is a center of a population of 10,000, and it has everything it takes to make a city, even to a Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce is big stuff, it is the latest development of a town that does nothing else but develops, so the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. It’s about the new commerce body that we shall first speak.” The story proceeded to say that an organizational meeting had been held in the Burgess Theatre building and the result was a “full grown thriving business body, with F.M. Burgess named President; George Barrick, president of the Man mining Company, vice-president; W.W. Goodwin, secretary, and J.L. Jones, proprietor of the Man Drug Company, treasurer.” The Banner reported that at the initial meeting the men laid out an outline for the town—“a city paving program, the boosting of good roads, keeping the city clean, and the fostering of all beneficial movements.”
The article said the “city” of Man had only one church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, but added that plans for the building of another church, yet, another Methodist Episcopal Church. The report said, “The new church will be built sometime this summer” (1926). “A new modern bank building will be built by the Merchants and Miners bank within the next year.” The story said the local banking institution had been established for two years and “was among the best of the small banks doing business in the Guyan Valley.” The bank, however, did not survive the Great Depression that crippled the nation just a few years later, starting in 1929.
Among the mines operating in the vicinity of Man at the time were Mallory Coal Company, Standard Island Creek Coal Company, Bengall Coal Company and the Man Mining Company.
When the railroad finally reached the Man area connecting it to Logan in about 1920 was when the community realized its growth potential, and by 1926, The Banner was reporting that the then County Court had agreed to the construction of a road between what was then the community of Wilburn and Rum Junction, which when completed, would finally connect Logan and Man with a real road. The story further read: “And with the completion of the road between Charleston and Logan this year, the city will have a hard road connection with the capital city.” The article also reported that the town’s streets were to finally be paved this same year.
South Man, one of the nicest communities in the county even today, was just beginning. Described “as the latest addition to the town,” it was depicted as being “a level stretch of land along the Guyan River which has been prepared for a residential district.” The story relayed that “a number of beautiful residences have been built in the section during the past year, and many others are being planned for the future.”
The history of Man isn’t as ancient history by any means, but its name has been described as the “first provoking feature of the little city.” The Banner’s story reported, “The name is unique by its very simplicity, and how it got tagged so is the result of a blunder on the part of the government’s official post office namer. Perhaps it was a bold stroke promoted by inspiration. Anyway, this is how it came about:
A few years ago the matter of naming the clump of houses, store and mine fell to the namer’s lot of task. He was told that the place was located at the junction of Buffalo Creek and the Guyan River. He wished to verify the information so he took his map in hand. There was indeed a spot at the point designated.
Nothing phases a man who has named some of the places in this county and the patient, uninspired plodder, we presume, thought of his thankless labor, the moil, toil and tediousness of it, his thoughts turned inward and he stuck his pen deep into the ink and scratched out the name Man.
So, it is not in the anticipation of a full grown city that the man gave the dot on the map the name of Man, his actions being nothing more than the result of following the course of least resistance,” according to the Banner story, adding that “It was a good stroke and the people of the little city are proud of the name, because of its very significance.”
The town of Man’s population in the latest census was 759 in 2010, which included 36.3 percent of those residents under the age of 18 as living below the poverty line. Like most of southern West Virginia, the Triadelphia area has been hit hard by the lack of coal mining, but unlike some places, it still enjoys an influx of tourism business generated by visiting Hatfield and McCoy trail riders. It is hoped that when the new road from Man to Logan is completed more opportunities for the area will arise.
Readers should know that the town of Wilbur mentioned earlier in this story is no longer even on the map. However, for historical purposes, it should be realized that the coal camp community was located on the property that is now the site of Walker Machinery. It should also be noted that in 1926 the district high school in the community had an enrollment of only 125 pupils, but the school was defined as a “first class institution.”
Another interesting factor from that time period is that the Man community consisted of Taplin, Mallory, Landville, Bengall, and Kistler. It would seem that other Triadelphia areas had not yet been developed by the various coal companies that would follow.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.
*Published with permission.