Our History & Our Heritage By Bill Kiefer

The John Newell who was born near Burgettstown in 1796 and who moved to Pughtown, and had children with Lydia Edie was a man of many talents. He was an early entrepreneur in a manner of speaking. In addition to being a tanner and a miller as mentioned in last week’s column. He lived to be eighty-seven, passing away in 1884. He is known to have operated a two kiln pottery on the right bank of Tub run, (a site which became Newell Station), it is reported that he produced a “creditable article of yellow ware.” This was one of the first known commercial potteries for production of domestic ware, here, on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River.
One of his grandsons, Robert C. Newell son of John Bentley Newell attended George Washington University in Washington D.C. He followed that up by attending law school at WVU. He was admitted to the bar in 1908 and began practicing law in Hancock County. Yet he still remained highly involved in the family farm. At that time the farm consisted of 254 acres and had shifted from the sheep farm of John Bentley Newell to a fruit farm. Mostly it produced the Red Willow Twig Apple, along with the Grimes Golden Delicious Apple and Elberta peaches. I believe that the Red Willow Twig was developed in Hancock County and the Grimes Golden Delicious Apple was developed in Brooke. Both of these apples are still grown but are somewhat rare. You won’t find them at Krogers. Elberta peaches are still popular, but are more prevalent in the south such as in the state of Georgia.
For me tracing the genealogy of the family is confusing. RootsWeb an internet site has the Newells as a main descending line of a certain Bentley family in America. Robert C. Newell brings us to the seventh generation of the Bentley family. The first generation of the family were William Bentley and his wife Sarah Leithfield both born in the 1600’s in Scotland and passing in 1720 in Rhode Island. Their grand-daughter Margaret married an Irishman named Hugh Newell and they became parents of the John Newell mentioned in the first paragraph of this column. Last week I wrote somewhat about Hugh’s line, the above is John B.’s (the B stands for Bentley) line. According to Roots Web the family has not died out but many of the descendants moved west and stayed west, being born and buried in California.
Besides, the welcome sign says Newell was founded in 1905, and Robert came home a lawyer in 1908. So what happened next? Ahh, that’s a good question. I don’t think following the Bentley- Newell family line, as interesting as that might be, answers the question of what changed this location on the Ohio River into a place named for the Newell family.
It seems like it was a great farm. That is due to the Ohio River. Like all winding rivers, the Ohio twists and turns. On the outside of a turn the river flows faster and carves the land away eventually resulting in a steep embankment or even a cliff. That same river flows slower on the inside of the turns and some of that soil builds bottomland there. In the case of the Ohio, some of the soils eventually meet the Mississippi River and do the same there, or help create its delta, or go into the Gulf of Mexico. This doesn’t happen much overnight, except maybe in severe flooding, but mostly happens over millions of years. Sometimes the Ohio River changes course and what was once the river bottom becomes a Valley; think of the Old North end of Weirton from where much of the mill is being torn down to where Freedom Way and Harmons Creek meet the Ohio River. The changes in the course of the river create Islands which further influence these actions. I know that I am really generalizing and simplifying here, but there is a word limit to this column, and what I am writing about takes much more room than I have.
Okay the eons of deposited soil made Newell a great place to farm in the nineteenth century. That same flat spot made a great space for industrial expansion and the accompanying change in population in the late 1800’s and thereafter.
The change was, in a way inspired by John Newell, as it may be said that the region’s expansion of the pottery industry provides the answer to the question. An excellent website: www.laurelhollowpark.net provides a fantastic amount of information about the history of our area. This case is no exception. The site has a section devoted to the History of Newell and includes much of a piece written by Glenn Waight in the late 1950’s and is noted to have originally run in the East Liverpool Review. Parts of it are noted to have been re-printed in 1976, presumably for the U.S Bi-centennial. The website has updated or commented concerning the history of Newell as necessary.
According to this source a Pittsburgh syndicate, known as the Lloyd Group began buying up options on the farms for the purpose of creating a large industrial site, potentially a rolling mill, and for the housing boom which would occur to accommodate its workers. The plan fell through likely because of the Panic of 1893 which was a true national depression. It hit the banks, railroad and steel industries particularly hard. National unemployment rates among industrial workers were high, allegedly fifty percent at times. The period is known for such events as Coxey’s Army’s March of Ohio workers on Washington D.C. in 1894 and a political re-alignment leading to the election of President McKinley. The crisis ended in 1897. It may well have been the reason why a steel manufacturing facility could not be financed and built in Newell. However, the leaders of the Homer Laughlin Pottery in East Liverpool, Ohio began looking at the site.
Whatever interest the Lloyd group had in the 428 acre site was acquired by an Elijah Hill, whom, it was later revealed sold the site for $75,000 to North American Manufacturing. In terms of the value of the dollar that would approach $2,500,000 today. So who was the buyer? The North American group was headed by Louis Aaron of Pittsburgh, President of Homer Laughlin, and Joseph G. Lee Secretary and General Manager of the Knowles, Taylor & Knowles Company (later to become T S & T), both of which companies were then located in East Liverpool. From that point forward, it is difficult to consider the history and development of Newell without considering the impact of the pottery industry.