History of The Village Of Manganese Wood County WV
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If one looks at the earliest topographical map of Wood County, published by the Department of the Interior in 1906, he will find the name Manganese marking a small village along the South Fork of Lee Creek in Harris District of Wood County. Earlier maps do not show the village and later maps also fail to mention it. for only a short period in history was there a place called Manganese. For those few years great hopes were held by those who lived there. A town was established with its store, postoffice, hotel and houses. Then, as if a great catastrophe had destroyed the dream, it disappeared from the maps ,and few now remember even the site where it once stood. Most have not heard of the village and those who have most likely donot know of the derivation of its name or the reason for its existence.
The Manganese story began after the Civil War when two physicians living' in Belleville noted a reddish brown stain in the South Fork. Here 4 1/2 miles from Belleville, beyond the mouth of Slate Run, they found a noutcropping of strange rocks. In Poplar Hollow they. found a reddish brown to black ore which they sent to Pittsburgh for analysis. It was found to contain 25 percent manganese. Drs. John and WillKe ever had' found the manganese mines of Wood County. Knowing that manganese was essential in the hardening of steel, they realized its potential value the Keevers began extracting ore from the east side of the valley.It. was shipped to Belleville by ox cart, wagon and sled. Here it was transhipped by steam boat to Wheeling and Pittsburgh. After the Ohio River Railroad came to Belleville in 1884 it was sent by rail. At one time a spur line from the Ohio River Railroad at Belleville was contemplated. The line would have gone out the South Fork to the mines. It was never built. By 1886 James M. Eckels built a store at the crossroads near the mines. A few houses were built. On May 7, 1891, a postoffice was established in the store. Eckels was made postmaster. The postoffice was named Manganese after the mines.
Eckles opened part of his store building for lodging and his store became the Manganese Hotel. Jacob Houser became postmaster on June 12, 1893, and served until Jan. 16, 1898 when James Eckels again resumed the office. He served until John L. Toomey took over the office on April 23, 1900. William O. Toomey became postmaster on Jan. 18, 1905 and served until March 19, 1907 when the postoffice was closed forever While the postoffice remained open for 16 years, the mines from which it took its name discontinued operation about 1900. The mines had never reached the expected production. The low grade ore could not compete with the' rich ore then recently discovered in South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. There, ore contained as muchas 80 percent manganese.
The deposit along Lee Creek was not large enough, nor rich enough, to lend itself to profit able production. The mines ceased to operate. No more ore was dug from the site and the open pits gradually filled in. The hill side returned to nature and secondary growth covered the depressions. The area lay dormant for 40 years. When World War II came the United States was importing 90 percent of its manganese from other countries including Russia, India and Brazil.
Manganese was declared a strategic metal and efforts were made to stock pile the element so essential to the war effort. Two Parkersburg natives Richard. Debussey and Owen Bowser had heard of the mines in Steele District; They extracted. some of the ore from the hill side and sent it to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Here it was found to have from 15 to 75 percent manganese. Because of the urgent need form Manganese, a request was made to the goverment to consider opening the mines. Congressman George Johnson was interested in the project and contacted the War Department and the Department of the Interior.
He ran into much war time redtape. The project was set aside and eventually forgotten. Both Debussey and Bowser became' naval officers and were no longer able to take part in the project. By this time the town had been long forgotten. The mine pits had filled in and were grown over. One could drive along the South Fork Road and not detect that a town had existed here. He could walk along the road up Poplar Hollow and not see where the mines had been. the hillside remained undisturbed until 1953 when Thomas Arkle Jr. the state's economic geologist, studied the abandoned mines again. He found no reason to consider reopening the mines and they remain to this day asleep on the hillside just as they have been for 80 years. The village has disappeared so completely that even some living in the area donot know its story or its site. The mines are but depressions. Many who have heard of them think they are but a legend of the past. In the annals of Wood County the story of Manganese is but a foot note in her 200 years of history. Only the early topographical map of 1906 and postal history confirm that once there was a place called Manganese.