Athens West Virginia

1907 postcard of Concord State Normal School

1907 postcard of Concord State Normal School

In giving a history of this community, I shall have to refer to the time of the previous generation, as I obtained most of this data from my father, William Holroyd, who came to Mercer County in 1848 and bought a farm two miles from Athens.

At the time of the Civil War Summers County had not been cut off, so Mercer had quite a large territory. In 1869 the people in the northeastern part of the county became dissatisfied as to the distance they had to go to Princeton to court. The Court House had been destroyed by fire and it was necessary to build a new one. The people in the lower end of the county began to clamor for the Court House to be built at Concord, and at the election a vote was taken and carried in favor of Concord for the County Seat. Geo. Evans was County Clerk, and he moved the documents to Concord, into a four-roomed log house that had been built for the purpose. David Alvis was assistant clerk.

Colonel Henderson French gave the land as a site for the new court house and a brick court house was being erected, but when the wall of the first story had been completed the people of Princeton and vicinity called for another vote to move the court house to Princeton. This time the vote carried in favor of Princeton. This threw things in quite a dilemma. About this time the State Board of Control decided to build another Normal School, and this unfinished wall was the incentive for Concord to ask for the Normal School.
Col. William Henderson French Home
Col. William Henderson French House, near Athens
The owner of the wall and land told the people if they would secure the school, he would give the walls and all the land needed. J. M. Killey a lawyer, and who afterward became a teacher in this school, went to the legislature and with the aid of Major Reynolds who was then our representative secured the school. The people were elated.

In the meantime Colonel Henderson French died without making a deed, but William Martin and wife gave the site where the Normal was built, and where the Concord Training School now stands. In the spring of 1875 the Normal School opened in a frame building with about 75 students. Captain Harve French was the Principal and remained so for seventeen years. Major Reynolds was his assistant. The school was in session for five months. It closed for the winter but opened again in the spring. The students came in by numbers; some walked for miles and the people could not accommodate them, so Dr. Vermillion and Mr. Fanning built cottages for the accommodation ef the students, and “Loafer’s Joy” was added to the “Mountain House”.

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