By Charles Teter
The story I am about to write is about a man named Moses Bennett who was born in the year of 1869. He was born, raised, and lived in the Spruce Mountain area, which is the highest point (4863 square feet) in West Virginia. At the time of his birth, West Virginia had just become a state in 1863, breaking off from Virginia. During that period of time people depended on wildlife for their food supply. Wildlife was plentiful. People didn’t go out and shoot game for the fun of it. They took only what they needed.
Food supplies such as salt and other spices were purchased at Circleville, a little community that developed around a man named Zircle who operated the post office there. The location, if you are aware of the old baseball field at Circleville High School, with home base being at 12 o’clock, the little post office was located at about two o’clock across a small stream on a bank.
The writer as a young boy, use to chase baseballs over there and would wonder what that odd depression was in the ground. The land is now owned by Robert Phares. The old post office still stands in another location. From Moses’ log cabin to Circleville was about 15 miles down and 15 miles up. So, in elevation, you dropped from 4800 feet to 2500 feet. Moses’ physical features were very large. He was 6.2 inches tall, straight as an arrow, very muscular and strong.
What did Moses do? He was very intelligent, always working to find out more of what was going on around him. That is why he would always stop and talk to people when he came upon them. As I stated previously, he would come to Circleville to get supplies. A bag of flour, sugar, or salt was sold in 100-pound bags. Once Moses put this on his shoulder, he never laid it down until he arrived at home on Spruce. If he happened to come upon someone, he would stop and talk to them but never put the bag down. When he left his house, which was after the log cabin he and his wife, Ellen, lived in, he carried the boards from a sawmill in Circleville. Once again, when the boards were on his shoulder, he never laid them down until he arrived home.
He built his house, which was a two-story house with two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and several outbuildings. The author remembers seeing the house. It was approximately 75 yards away from the road going south. From this area he had a beautiful view of the North Fork Valley, North Fork Mountain and Blue Ridge Mountain into Virginia. He actually could see as far as the eye allowed him to see. On a clear day one can see forever.
Moses was employed by the West Virginia US Forest Service. From his own timber, Moses built the first observation tower on Spruce Knob. The observation tower was a two-story structure with a telephone. The telephone line connected to another line which was connected to Circleville. Moses had to maintain the line to keep it open. Once when he was climbing the tree, the limb broke which caused an injury to his leg that he carried to his grave. After Moses’ death, the tower was burned down by vandals.
The author can remember as a young boy going up on Spruce and seeing the charred remains of the tower. Modern ways of fire observation came along. It was the fire tower where men stayed day and night during fire season. One fire tower was located at Gatewood switch. It remained there for several years until the forest service started using airplanes. The type of communication from the tower was telephone and then came radio, CB. The Gatewood fire tower was located at Spruce Knob.