| || |
Benign Betrayal: Capitalist InterventionBy John Hennen
The process of intervention in
By the early 1900s, small timbering operations in
As timber and mineral resources in
The developmental ethos formalized by the
The practices of land transfer from mountain families to the agents of modernization varied. Whether legal or extralegal, ethical or unethical, the transfers were usually voluntary but hardly carried out between equal parties in the business of land speculation. Mountaineers had little knowledge of the value of their lands' resources to industrialists, or of the potential impact of large-scale mineral extraction and clearcutting. Land had always seemed abundant, and environmental damage from traditional agricultural and logging methods, while certainly in existence, was limited and diffuse. Moreover, ownership carried the tacit assumption that title was not a deterrent to common use of wildlands, within certain culturally defined limits. Few residents resisted the land agents' offers of cash, a rare commodity in the mountains, for use or transfer of their holdings. Those who did resist usually lost the rights they claimed to limit capitalist access to their lands. The litigious "Lawyers Constitution" of 1872 worked to the advantage of speculators, designed as it was to supersede the obscure land titles, lost deeds, and poor records common to mountain counties.6
The developmental ideology formulated by national powerbrokers such as
Those who questioned the prudence of rapid capitalist intervention did so at the risk of being cast as obstacles to progress. "The people," wrote James Murray Mason in the 1884 report of the West Virginia Tax Commission, "have been educated to believe that our immediate development must be obtained at any cost and regardless of sacrifices; the public mind has been saturated with an idea that progress means one railroad where there is no railroad, and two railroads where there is only one." The report continued, "the question is whether this vast wealth shall belong to persons who live here and are permanently identified with the future of West Virginia, . . . or pass into the hands of people who care nothing for our state except to pocket the treasures which lie buried in our hills."8
The career of Colonel John T. McGraw of Grafton illustrates the ideology and process of development which engulfed the state in the 1880s and 1890s. A lawyer, land speculator, developer, and activist in Democratic party politics, McGraw embodied the modernizing spirit which engineered the transformation of the
One of McGraw's most ambitious plans for the accumulation of personal wealth and the modernization of
Plans for the anticipated boom in Marlinton were enthusiastically endorsed by a progression of editors of the town's newspaper, the Pocahontas Times, which also relocated from Huntersvilie with the transfer of the county seat. Editor John E. Campbell reported early in 1891 that "
. . . composed of men of wealth and influence prone . . . to make Marlinton a city, and we have every reason to believe they will, knowing as we do the vast surroundings of timber, coal, iron ore, limestone, building stone, fire clay, and in fact everything that is calculated to furnish for ages to come, industrial manufacturing plants of almost every description. . . . Ex-Senator Camden says that Marlinton will become at no distant day the largest manufacturing city in the interior of the State.11The gentlemen of the Marlinton company, said
A lengthy editorial comment by
Confining ourselves to our own mountain county, we can see that the first bright rays of our prosperity are falling upon us. In the North, East, South, and West, capital has turned its lynx eyes this way . . . let us prophecy that when the new shall become old, the iron horse shall be waking from their long sleep their echoes with his piercing neigh. A
has been laid off in the heart of our county. Men of money are visiting us from all quarters and are going to the great financial centers and telling their friends of our iron, our coal, and our timber. new city
Let us lay aside our petty prejudices and the lethargy of our long isolation, look at the dawning sun of permanent development, now, for the first time in all our history shedding his fructifying rays upon us and "get a hustle on with us." With the right kind of work performed in the proper spirit, we can make our loved Marlinton did not become the commercial center envisioned by McGraw and other developers. In fact, the timber boom came after McGraw had divested himself of much of his property in Pocahontas and surrounding counties. The economic slowdown leading to the financial panic of 1893 inhibited railroad construction nationwide. Careful surveys revealed engineering obstacles which
equal to any in our state. . . . Let us waste none of the golden days of '92. Let us begin to hasten our prosperity now.13 county of Pocahontas
Because of the potential represented by timber resources, the railroad finally arrived in Marlinton in October 1900. The
The economic and social impact of West Virginia Pulp and Paper, indeed of the timber industry in Pocahontas generally, are directly linked to the life and career of a prototypical liberal modernizer, Andrew Gatewood Pinkerton Price, 1871-1930. A gifted lawyer, respected citizen, and editor of the Pocahontas Times, Andrew Price bridged the gap between the rural, tradition-bound mountaineers and the captains of industry who came to dominate this development. Price, and hundreds of other local elites of similar background and accomplishments, expedited the transfer of
Andrew Price earned a law degree from
In 1900, Price was elected the first mayor of Marlinton. He was the attorney for the Bank of Marlinton, as well as for several timber companies, railroads, and the Pocahontas Tanning Company. Described in a 1930 memorial as a Calvinist, Price was a deacon in the Marlinton Presbyterian Church, displaying a firm belief in the teachings of the Bible, but with an aversion to the "spectacular." He was an accomplished poet and geologist, and a "clever writer" whose columns were often carried by newspapers around the state. A lifelong Democrat, Price was nominated for the United States House of Representatives in 1908, and appointed postmaster at Marlinton by Woodrow Wilson in 1913, serving until 1922. He was a founder of the West Virginia Fish and Game Protective Association, and at various times served as president of the Pocahontas Bar Association and the Board of Education of the Edray District. He was an organizer of the West Virginia Historical Society and its president until shortly before his death. Price was known as the "Sage of Pocahontas," and was described at his death as the leading citizen of the county. An appreciation written by fellow lawyer T. S. McNeel declared,
His wide field of activity gained for him an intimate contact with persons in every walk of life. . . . The learned and the unlearned, the adult and the youth, the aristocrat and the masses, all alike found in him a charming companion because of the human touch of the man. The lowly enjoyed easy approach into his presence.18Even with the reverential tone of McNeel's eulogy, it is not idle speculation to assume that Price, with his long family association in the county, apparently respectful manner, Calvinist discipline, and literary, legal, and scientific accomplishments, would be a man of influence among all classes of
Price, a partner in the firm of Price, Osenton, and McPeak, corresponded with an extensive network of political and industrial elites, statewide and nationally. He represented many corporations in land title and right-of-way condemnation proceedings, and as bank attorney protected its interests in land deals and foreclosures. His position as counsel for West Virginia Pulp and Paper illuminates his dual roles as protector of the company's interest and propagandist in the Pocahontas Times. In a 1911 letter to J. S. Alexander of the National Bank of Commerce in
Your letter to the Bank of Marlinton in regard to the financial standing of the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company . . . has been handed to me as attorney for the bank to answer. I am also local attorney for the concern that you inquire about, but do not know very much of their business holdings outside of this county and adjoining counties. This company holds here about 140,000 acres of good land valuable for timber and coal. I think this land is worth something like three million dollars. The company has in addition valuable railroad and mill property, and is now building an important railroad under the name of the Greenbrier, Cheat, and Elk Railway connecting the C&O, B&O, and Western Maryland railways, and is developing a county rich in coal and timber, of which the company owns a large part of it.
The men who manage the company, the Messrs. Luke, Mr. Cass, and Mr. Slaymaker, are men of the highest type of business integrity, and are conservative and safe men. It is one of the strong companies of America.19Price had been defending the prerogative of West Virginia Pulp and Paper for years. While fighting litigation over alleged pollution of the
Price elaborated on the environmental defense in a subsequent editorial, "We have very little law on the subject of pollution of streams in this State, our laws being sufficiently strict to prevent any unnecessary pollution of streams, but not interfering with an industry such as the pulp mill." Quoting a "prominent West Virginian, who loves the shaded woods and a clear stream," Price remarked,
He said it is a sacrifice we must make to progress. We cannot afford to keep back the development of our country for the sake of a stream of water, and the day is coming when we will have to go back in the woods to find pure streams. You cannot change a forest to farmland without polluting to a considerable extent the streams which drain it. It is the price we have to pay for the benefits of civilization.21Price equated the discharge from pulp mills with the natural process of drainage from spruce forests into the streams of
Price's defense of the environmental responsibility of industry extended to other companies which retained him as well. Ironically, his strongly-worded communique to a
Of all the industries known to this state, tanneries are least hurtful to fish, and as compared to coal and iron mines and pulp mills, the tannery sewage is inocuous. I can see no reason therefore why tanneries should be singled out as the horrible example. . . . The two large tanneries on As legal representative for several timber and railway companies doing business in the county, Price often participated in the transfer of land titles and condemnation proceedings to the benefit of his clients. He once advised Gilfillan, Neill, & Company to move against the minor heirs of James Kinsport to acquire lands of the Kinsport estate "before there is a chance of them giving you trouble." In another case, he advised his law partners that land deeded from Henry Yeager to "a married woman" was not valid under
do not hurt the fish any. . . .23 Greenbrier River
Price also felt obliged to convince Pocahontas Times readers that land was more valuable to the community when it rested with timber companies than in the hands of private citizens. Tax payments on the land, even if unproductive, he explained, benefited the community and relieved the previous owners of hidden burdens:
The Greenbrier River Lumber Company's tax ticket in Pocahontas for the year 1898 amounts to $1539.36. This is tax on timberland which is unremunerative. It is a great help to the county treasury. Formerly this tax was divided among smaller landowners who did not realize how much their wild land was costing them. This is still true of the greater part of the county.25Regardless of the efforts of Price and other local elites, some citizens resisted the encroachment of industrial capitalism. Resistance to development could take the form of a landowner refusing to acknowledge the right-of-way prerogative of railroads, for compensation, through private land. County courts often convened special hearings for right-of-way disputes, where the mechanism was in place to protect the interests of big capital. County judges and court officers were by 1900 usually professionals or businessmen whose economic well-being was linked to development. If persuasion "proved ineffective, resistance could be overcome by the alliance between capitalists and local promoters. Courts simply condemned land and required that it be sold to the railroad."26
Price advised his readers on the wisdom of settling condemnation proceedings out-of-court, warning them against being greedy and of hidden costs in a lost condemnation judgement. "Some of the prices asked by landowners are too high," he wrote in 1899. "The rule is when a private contract can not be agreed upon for the condemnation proceedings to be initiated. If the landowner recovers less than the amount proffered by the company, he pays the costs, and vice versa."27
To illustrate, Price wrote to S. E. Slaymaker of West Virginia Pulp in
In addition to his interest in fostering industry in Pocahontas County, Price and other modernizers were obliged to cultivate a moral framework compatible with the new age. The social stresses which accompanied rapid population increases and new economic relationships mandated greater regimentation and social control than did traditional mountain culture. The personalized relationships of preindustrial economies were not well-suited to the competitive demands of the commercial marketplace. To guarantee the benefits of economic modernization, local elites set out to reshape the provincialism of traditional society. Since mountaineers had gained a reputation for violence and traditional ways, boosters had to prove that local citizens were peaceful and willing to welcome industrialization.29
Price used the forum of the Pocahontas Times to promote a modern, functional moral code for his neighbors, in the style of the "unspectacular" Calvinist eulogized by T. S. McNeel. While Price extolled the resourcefulness and honesty of a people who had "prospered . . . in a quiet way" before capital came to the county, he admonished his readers to seek the self-discipline necessary to profit from new opportunities. For example, Price equated education with success and good moral fiber.
Non-attendance at school, and consequent ignorance thereof, is truly a menace to the peace and prosperity of our country.
The boy [who] is permitted by his father and mother to exchange the restraining and refining influences of the school room for the more fascinating associations of the street corner, where he can enjoy to his heart's contend [sic] the deadly cigarette, and a thousand other evils whose certain tendency is to the destruction of body, mind, and soul; or, if not so bad as this, he may be placed in some position which he is at best poorly qualified to fill, and from which he can never rise to prominence or usefulness in the world.
Some there are who go through life in a dilatory manner, never prompt in the performance of any duty, never punctual in attendance upon any important public gathering.30Like many other modernizers, Price contributed to the negative mountaineer image by focusing on the damage to order and efficiency caused by whiskey consumption and latent violent tendencies. Whether drinking and violence were actually increasing is debatable, and in any case they could arguably be attributed to the social instability of emerging industrialization.
Nevertheless, Price cautioned repeatedly that "disregard for law and order [is] a real menace; at present there is an era of lawlessness which we must consider seriously. The root of it is the illegal sale of whiskey." Concealed weapons, another social menace feared by Price, should be controlled by the vigilance of the people: "When you take a revolver away from a hasty youth it is like clipping the claws of a tiger. . . . The condition is such that every endeavor must be fostered and endorsed by every good citizen."31
Price's admonition on rowdiness may simply have been the moralizing of a Calvinist reformer. But it may also reflect his reaction to widening class divisions in
The Organization of West Virginia Railway and Mine Police, under the management of our intrepid townsman, W. G. Baldwin, and his able assistants . . . will soon cause the toughs of the Tug and other points of the Ohio extension to amend their ways or move on to Moundsville. The better class of people in these regions fully appreciate the great work they are doing and lend their aid and influence in every instance.32Andrew Price played an important role in
As a prominent representative of the local elite, with the ability to communicate easily with the mountaineers, Andrew Price helped set the stage for the patterns of exploitation typical in the
Notes1. Altina Waller, Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in
2. Ronald D Eller, Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930 (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1982), 86; Waller, Feud, 151.
3. Eller, Miners, 86, 92; Norman R. Price, interviewed by O. D. Lambert and Charles Shetler,
4. John A. Williams, "The New Dominion and the Old: Ante-bellum and Statehood Politics as the Background of West Virginia's `Bourbon Democracy'," West Virginia History 33(July 1972): 322-23.
5. Ibid., 321.
6. Ibid.; Eller, Miners, 56.
7. Eller, Miners, 58, 63.
9. William Patrick Turner, "John T. McGraw: A Study in Democratic Politics in the Age of
10. Pocahontas Land Development Company, "Manufacturing and
11. Pocahontas Times,
14. William Patrick Turner, "From Bourbon to Liberal: The Life and Times of John T. McGraw, 1856-1920," (Ph.D. Diss., West Virginia Univ., 1960), 97-107.
15. Ibid., 106.
16. Norman Price interview, 9, Price Papers; Pocahontas County Historical Society, History, 401.
17. Deposition to the County Court, Pocahontas County, 26 May 1910, Price Papers; Pocahontas County Historical Society, History, 404; Gibbs Kinderman, "The Pocahontas Times," Goldenseal 16(Summer 1990): 9-17. Price left an estate of approximately $20,000 in personal and real property, the latter appraised at about $5,000 and totaling some 1000 acres in 22 parcels, the largest of which was an 102-acre tract on
19. Price to J. S. Alexander,
20. Pocahontas Times,
23. Price to Jake Fisher,
24. Price to Gilfillan-Neill & Co.,
25. Pocahontas Times,
26. Waller, Feud, 165-66.
27. Pocahontas Times,
28. Price to Osenton,
29. Waller, Feud, 165.
30. Pocahontas Times,
31. Ibid.; Waller, Feud, 204.
32. Pocahontas Times,
33. Waller, Feud, 204; John Gaventa, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1980), 55-58.
34. Eller, Miners, 42.
West Virginia History Journal
West Virginia History Center
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.