This article from the Beckley Post-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, dated Sept. 28, 1961:
Keaton Was River Ridge Historian - Part 1
By SHIRLEY DONNELLY
Before me is a presentation copy of the "History of the Descendants (sic) of Drewry Farley and the Community of River Ridge" of Summers County. This booklet of 48 pages was written by Julius H. Keaton, the ill-fated Primitive Baptist Minister whose remains were found hard by the "tunnel" on Route 16 a couple of mi1es west of the city limits of Oak Hill on September 16.
This work is illustrated with, a number of pictures and one of the author, when he was much younger, serves as a frontispiece. The foreword says "I present this little History as a tribute to my family, my relatives and my friends. I trust it may be as interesting to the reader as it has been to the writer in compiling it."
BUT where is River Ridge where these good people lived? In the words of the Primitive Baptist Elder:
"River Ridge is a community in Pipestem District, Summers County, W. Va. It has its beginning at the southern end of a point known as Beech Spring. The spring takes its name from a large beech tree under which it is located.
"The ridge is approximately four miles in length and extends to a point at the north known as Dunlap Flat. At the base of the hill on the south is New River from which the Ridge takes its name. On the west side of the Ridge is Pipestem Creek.
"The Ridge has an altitude of several hundred feet. Between the waters of Pipestem Creek and New River there is probably more than three thousand acres of land. The most of it is rough and steep. Perhaps not more than one-half of the entire boundary has been cleared. It is extremely doubtful if the entire boundary contains more than two hundred acres of cleared land.
"There is no outlet whatsoever from the Ridge to the New River from Beech Spring to the point mentioned above; and only one road leading from the Ridge to Pipestem Creek, and that is known as the Cook Hill outlet."
WHAT YEAR this booklet was printed is nowhere stated, but the author continues:
"From the description given it is hardly necessary to say that the people of this community have not been favored with too much of the modern way of life. There is but one school house situated in this community. It is located at about the central point and is known as the River Ridge School.
"There has never been a store, nor a post office located on this Ridge; and not until 1907 was there a telephone. The nearest telephone was at Beech Spring, a point already mentioned. At the southern end and on the northern extreme, to reach a telephone it was necessary for the people to go to the mouth of Bluestone River, a distance of three miles."
SOME EARLY TEACHERS in the River Ridge school, according to Keaton, were Morris Parker, John Ball, William O. Farley, Bertha Farley, Charles Meadows, Nannie Meadows, Ola Leftwich, Josie Farley, Vernie Hogsett, Pearl Parsons, Sadie Barker, Myrtle Smith, Blanch Ellison, Kary Hopkins, Russell Keadle, Laura Hughes, and others. Long ago some of these, including Josie Farley, Sadie Barker, Russell Keadle, and perhaps others passed on.
Children of families who attended River Ridge schools largely came from the Farley, Cook, Keaton, Petry, and Lane families who lived in the remote Ridge region. By reason of marriage and intermarrying the children who attended Ridge School were mostly kin folks. Often as many as sixty pupils at a time attended this school, ranging in age from the six-year old beginner to the grownup students. All attended and recited in this one room school.
THERE WAS one but one meeting house in River Ridge community. It stood some five hundred yards from the school house and was a log structure. It was called the Rocky Mount Missionary Baptist Church. Parleys and Petreys were of the Missionary Baptist persuasion and were the ones who kept the church going.
In subsequent years the church house became a community church but has been kept in good repair. There the annual homecomings and family reunions are held. But the Lanes were the pioneer settlers in this section. The first burial that Elder Julius Keaton could remember there was that of Charles Lane, some time after the turn of the century. Lane was buried on the River Mountain on an isolated farm.
Charles Lane had a son who left early in life for the Philippine Islands where he raised a family. Another son of Charles Lane was Deamon Lane who was killed in a locomotive explosion at Huntington years ago, Clifton Lane, another of the sons of Charles Lane, married a sister of J. H. Jordan, Hinton banker. They had a daughter whose name was Pearl Lane and who married Shelton Trail.
Old timers over Summers County way will likely remember that Shelton Trail was killed when lightning struck him near his home on Tallery Mountain in Summers County.
From the Beckley Post-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, dated Sept. 29, 1962:
Keaton Was River Ridge Historian - Part 2
By SHIRLEY DONNELLY
Many of the early settlers in the River Ridge section of Summers County were long-lived. For instance, there was the family of Joel Farley, the maternal grandmother of the late Elder Julius H. Keaton who was murdered near Oak Hill on Aug. 11.
Joel Farley married an Ellison and they reared a family of seven: Sarah, mother of Elder J. H. Keaton; Chapman, Allen, Parris, Mary, Julia and Lina. When Sarah Farley married Ward C. Keaton they raised a family of twelve. Mrs. Sarah Farley Keaton died Dec. 12, 1904, at the age of 54.
Her children were long-lived There was not a death among them for close to sixty years.
VIOLA KEATON, third daughter of Ward Keaton, married Albert Martin, They had five children, the oldest being Basil Keaton. He was killed by coming in contact with an electric power line at Raleigh in 1942 while working around the mines.
Fifth daughter of Ward Keaton was Lochie Keaton. She married Claude Wilburn. They lived here in Raleigh County at Daniels. Two of their daughters — June and Virginia — studied to be nurses. During World War II they were army nurses and saw a lot of service in the hospitals overseas.
WHEN ELDER Julius H. Keaton compiled the vital statistics on Ward Keaton, his father, some fifteen years ago he was not able to tell how many descendants his father had. At that time he estimated seventy grandchildren, one hundred great-grandchildren, and twenty-five great-great-grandchildren. Since then that number has doubtless been increased.
DURING World War II it was reported that of the numerous progeny of Ward Keaton there were twenty-two grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the armed services of our country. Ward Keaton was a Primitive Baptist Minister, as was his son, the ill-fated Julius H. Keaton. For years Ward Keaton was minister of Pipestem Primitive Baptist Church and the only ordained preacher in the River Ridge district.
THOSE born and brought up in the River Ridge district had to rough it. "There Is not one pound of coal in the whole territory, neither gas nor electricity," wrote J. H. Keaton. "The only means of heat in this community has been wood, cut from the forest of the individual farmer....The only light has been the oil lamp and there is little prospect that this condition will ever be improved....There is but one road leading from Beech Spring to the Dunlap Flat." This was written over a dozen years ago.
IN THE FARLEY family, a large family of River Ridge, there were two who mysteriously disappeared and were never heard of. They were brothers, Henry and Perry Farley. They were sons of John Farley, a local Missionary Baptist Minister, who was never ordained.
Mary Farley, daughter of Joel Farley,, married George Farley. One of their three children was Ballard Farley, once a Beckley merchant. George Farley, husband of Mary Farley, just mentioned, was killed at Stanaford while going down the incline at that mine.
ANOTHER large family of River Ridge is the Cooks. Cooks, Farley, Petreys, and Keatons intermarried freely. The Cooks lived on the Bench of River Mountain. Manderville Cook married a Farley and reared a family there. George and Ben Goff married two of Manderville Cook's girls.
When Mrs. Manderville Cook died her husband married a sister of George and Ben Goff, his sons-in-law. She was Sally Goff. Hutson Cook, long a State Police Trooper was one of their sons, Manderville Cook had a brother, Riley Cook, who died in the Spencer State Hospital. Joel Farley had a sister who married William Dwiggins who likewise died at Spencer. After his death his widow married Samuel Hopkinson, whose son had married her daughter, Anna. What relation would children of these couples be?
DANIEL and Rosanna Willhoit Cook were married in Germany in 1789. They settled in Pipestem District of Summers County and reared a family of thirteen children. Their oldest child, Rhoda, was born in 1791. Rhoda Cook married Larkin Williams in 1812. They settled in Jumping Branch District.
Rhoda Cook Williams lived to be 98 years of age. She died in 1879. Annie Cook, one of Rhoda Cook's girls, married Andrew Farley. One of her boys was Thomas Farley who fought in the Confederate Army under General Jubal Early and was captured at the Battle of Winchester. He died in Camp Chase, Ohio, in 1864.
There was not a well on River Ridge, family washing was carried to Pipestem Creek and then washed.