The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Introducing "A New Preacher In Town"

By Emily P. Cary © 1986

Issue: March, 1986

Editor's Note: "A New Preacher in Town," was written by Earnest Markwood Pritchard, edited and submitted by his daughter Emily Pritchard Cary.

It is a story of Earnest Pritchard and his family and what it was like growing up a son in the family of a Methodist Minister in the small coal mining towns of West Virginia. His father, the "Preacher," in the story was Millard Fillmore Pritchard. He was born in Ritchie County (then) Virginia in 1857. This series of stories took place between 1893 and 1905. During that time there were many moves and adjustments for the family, and many interesting, happy, sad, and memorable incidents in between.

This month we are going to fill you in on a little of the family background so you can enjoy this series more.

"The story takes place between 1893, when my father was born in Coleta, Illinois (his father preached on the Illinois circuit of the United Brethren Church from shortly after his marriage to my grandmother in 1887 until he received a calling to the West Virginia Methodist Conference in 1897), and 1905, when they arrived in Richwood. From Richwood, they moved to Wheeling, where my father graduated from high school in 1913, then to Clarksburg and West Union, where my grandfather retired. My grandfather died on the operating table in Clarksburg July 27, 1927, just two months before his 70th birthday.

My grandfather, Millard Fillmore Pritchard, was born in Ritchie County, (then) Virginia, Sept. 22, 1857. The oldest of 8 children, the youngest of whom was not quite 3 when his mother died, Millard Pritchard worked as a farmer and carpenter while helping to support his brothers and sisters and studying for the ministry. His father, Thomas Willis Pritchard, died June 30, 1885, aged 59, when his youngest child was only nine.

Millard Pritchard's first church appointment was a United Brethren circuit in Barbour and Tucker Counties. There he met and married his first wife, Margaret Kelly, who bore him one son, Enoch, and a daughter, Amelia Gay. Margaret died in childbirth, so Gay was sent to be raised by an aunt and grandparents. (They subsequently moved to Oregon, and our family was reunited with Gay's children just three years ago.) Less than a year after his first wife's death, Millard married my grandmother, Rosa Bell Nestor, on October 12, 1887. She was not quite 16, and a member of his congregation. (He and his first wife had visited with her family many times, so she knew and loved Enoch, whom she raised if he were her own.)

Rosa's immigrant ancestor, Jacob Nestor (also spelled Nester, Nestler), founded the town of Nestorville in present day Barbour County shortly after the Revolutionary War, in which he served after arriving as a child with his family of the ship, Sally, at Philadelphia. (He lived in Berks County, Pennsylvania until joining the army.) Like the Nestors, the Lohrs and Foltz's on my grandmother's maternal side, came from Germany. However, they settled first in the Shenandoah Valley (New Market-Mount Jackson- Forestville - Timberville area) before moving on to the fertile lands of Nestorville, in what was then Randolph County, Virginia. Jacob Nestor, who with his wife, Mary Magdalena Durr, is buried in Nestorville, was an all-in-one community leader, being a farmer, millright, carpenter, shoemaker, and Lutheran minister.

My grandmother's side was all German and Dutch, while the Pritchards were Welsh and English. According to the History of Ritchie County, published in 1911, the first Pritchards to settle in Ritchie County were Thomas Pritchard of Monongalia County (now the area which is Preston County) and his son, Peter, who was born in Allegany County, Maryland where the family had moved from Leesburg. Following is a quote from the History of Ritchie County:

Near the year 1832, Thomas Pritchard came from the Glades in Preston County, and built the first mill on the South Fork of Hughes River, below Oxford.

Mr. Pritchard was born in 1768 (in Leesburg, Virginia). His ancestors came from England and settled at Jamestown in 1620, and his brother, John Pritchard, saw three years of service as a soldier of the Continental army during the American Revolution.

Thomas Pritchard was first married to Miss Nancy Tinchinell, who died at the Glades (Preston County), leaving seven children; and his second wife, Miss Mary Moody, was the mother of his other eight children. He survived until 1846 when he was laid in the Methodist churchyard at Oxford. His second wife rests by his side, but the first one sleeps at the Glades.

The family history states that the first Pritchard immigrant in our line arrived in Jamestown on the ship "Abigail" in 1620, and the James City records mention a Thomas Pritchard as one of the residents. However, because most of the very early records have been destroyed, we are, so far, unable to link that particular Thomas Pritchard with the earliest one whose family connection is confirmed, Thomas Pritchard, who purchased land in Westmoreland County in 1661 and 1668. My father always said that one of our ancestors was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and there is a Thomas Pritchard who served from Gloucester County in 1656, but I still have not located any early records which verify that he is the same one who appears in Westmoreland County records. It occurs to me that some of your readers may know of, or have, evidence to confirm the Prince William, Gloucester, and James City information that has eluded us.

Actually, the Pritchards never left Virginia, their native state - except for several years at Wills Creek, now Cumberland, Maryland - until the Civil War when their home state became West Virginia, by default.

My father, [the writer of "A New Preacher In Town"], Ernest M. Pritchard, died on Feb. 3, 1979, at Hakettstown, New Jersey. He worked as an engineer with AT&T for 30 years and also as an adjunct professor in math at a branch of Penn State in Philadelphia. After graduating from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, in 1920 (with several years out for war service), he taught high school math in Clarksburg and Parkersburg before joining AT&T in Pittsburgh in 1929.

Become part of a preacher's family at the turn of the century in the West Virginia coal mining towns, as you read their interesting story. Our thanks to Emily P. Cary for sharing it with us. Like Elizabeth's Journal, it's more than a story, its a description of way of life from that era.