Kanawha Valley Leader, Nitro, W. VA., Jan. 22, 1960

By Ivan N. Hunter

No history of Nitro would be complete without a section devoted to the families who first settled here. The following family sketches were collected from the West Virginia Department of Archives, Kanawha County Records, from old family Bibles, and from many personal interviews.

Descendants of these early families now number in the thousands and have scattered to all corners of the United States. While checking with some of these people we discovered just how little the average American knows about his/her own people. This is probably due to most parents’ failure to instill in their children any sense of pride in family heritage and tradition. After all it is an accepted fact that our American way of life is best kept intact by the Historical background of the families.

The Dudding Family

According to Atkinson’s history of Kanawha County, John Dudding was the first permanent settler in this area coming in 1798. However early Kanawha County Court records indicate that George Blake, John Persinger and Samuel Gillispie were here around the same time. An early history of the Dudding family was furnished us by Dr. EARL ELLIOTT DUDDING of Washington, D.C. and his son, Earl B. Dudding who lives in Provo, Utah. With all due respect to these two gentlemen, after a very thorough search, we were forced to take some exceptions to their findings. Perhaps the local records available to us have been more complete than the sources they have had at hand.

Dr. Dudding claims the original family name was Duddingston. He says that A. Earl Duddingston with his brother-in-law John Ellicott sailed from England to Virginia in 1650. That they settled on the Potomac River where the city of Washington now stands. He further states that the grounds on which the National Capitol now stands was once known as Duddingston Manor.

According to our research, this land was first settled by the Carroll family from England and was named Duddingston Manor for the Duke of Duddingston who was a near relative. However this may be one of those incidents where family tradition is more accurate than the historical data which has been recopied many times. Dr. Dudding tells us that A. Earl Duddingston’s only son, Alfred Wellington Duddingston, became involved in a dispute with the English authorities when he was a young man. To escape persecution, he changed his name to Dudding and moved to the back country of Virginia.

The only record of any Dudding we could find during this period was one Andrew Dudding who appeared on the quit rent records of Essex County, dated 1704. (ref: Vol. 33, p. 362, Va. state Papers). We further found the will of Andrew Dudding in an Essex County will book, dated 1719 which stated that he was a planter of South Farmham Parish. That he left sums of money to four godchildren (no relation) and his estate to a Mary Richards, his housekeeper (no relation). Since he died without any apparent relatives, we could assume this was the end of this original Dudding line. However, again, we cannot discount Dr. Dudding’s record on mere assumptions.

If it were not for the next Dudding reference we came up with, we would never have raised a question in the first place.

In Vol. II, p 47 of the Virginia state Papers, we found an enlistment roll dated 1776 of Capt.  Christopher Gist’s Company made up of Augusta County Troops. This Company fought under Col. George Washington during the French and Indian War. Included in this list was a John Dudding who was 5'4 ½" tall (short and stocky was a Dudding family trait), he enlisted Oct. 10, 1756 and it stated he was born in England.

The record of John Dudding, the French and Indian War, is interesting since it could have a direct bearing on the reason the Dudding family eventually settled in the Kanawha Valley. Capt. Christopher Gist, who was Dudding’s Company Commander, was one of the first white men to explore the Kanawha Valley. In 1749 he passed through this area looking for lands for the Ohio Land Company.

The next coincidence was that Nitro was originally part of a 21,941 acre Military Land Grant which was awarded to certain veterans of the French and Indian War.

There is no record that we could find to indicate that John Dudding ever received any of the Military Grant. However since he served with the officers that were awarded this land, it is possible that one of them allowed him to settle with the right to buy when it was clear for sale.

This possibility is supported by Mr. Earl E. Dudding who states that according to family tradition, the first Dudding to settle in the Kanawha Valley came in connection with a Land Grant.

We next checked the records of Augusta County and the other counties that were formed from within its original boundaries. In Court Records of Botecourt County we found a John Dudding who was married twice. First to Sarah Bellamy, and second to Rebecca Persinger, daughter of Christopher Persinger.

At this point we can quit assuming and begin accepting facts. For instance, the John Dudding who first settled here, (according to his will) had a wife named Rebecca and his nearest neighbor (according to the census of 1810), was John Persinger.

John Dudding with his wife Rebecca and his younger brother William settled on the banks of the Kanawha River below present Nitro about 1798. This was only ten years after the Indians captured Fort Tackett at the mouth of Coal River and caused the lower Kanawha Valley to become unsafe for settlement. As late as 1794, Shadrack Harriman became the last white man to be killed by the Indians in this area.

As early as 1813, William F. styles conveyed 150 acres to John Dudding that included the section known as Dudding’s Lane.

William F. Styles was one of the first surveyors for Kanawha County, which gave him opportunities to capitalize on certain land deals. John Dudding was the father of William Dudding who was the first permanent settler on Blake’s Creek. In Hardesty’s History of Kanawha County, published in 1883, he states that John Dudding was the first settler in this area, sometime around 1798.

In 1843, W. F. styles conveyed 138 ½ acres to Lewis Bowling. This marked the beginning of the famous Bowling estate which by 1836 included approximately 3,500 acres. It took in all the land except one small strip that fronted the river from the mouth of Armour’s Creek to the General Chemical Co. plant. The back line ran parallel with the river about one mile east of Route 35.

The only tract that he did not own and could not buy belonged to Anderson Dudding, a grandson of John Dudding. It was a triangular shaped tract, 200 yards wide at the river, with sides running back to a narrow point located in the present Ortin Heights sub-division.

In the 1850s, Lewis Bowling had one of the largest and most prosperous farms in the Kanawha Valley. He had built the Bowling Mansion (still standing at the entrance of Ortin Heights, but not on the Fry tract). He had amassed 3,500 acres of land and he owned more than 100 slaves. All he needed now was one little tract of land called “Dudding Lane”, which split his great plantation half-in- two. Try as he may, however, he could not get Anderson Dudding to sell.

Anderson Dudding was different from Lewis Bowling. He lived in a log cabin on the river bank and he barely had enough land to provide a road across the bottom to his house. He owned and operated a boat mill that was anchored to a large rock below Johnson’s Shoals. This was located nearly opposite the Monsanto Chemical Co. His father before him had also operated a mill and his cabin was the old home place. It seems that Anderson Dudding was satisfied with his lot in life and did not want it changed even for silver or gold.

According to local tradition, however, one Sunday afternoon, Lewis Bowling appeared at the front gate of Anderson Dudding’s cabin carrying a large sack over his shoulder. When Dudding came out, he surprised to see Lewis Bowling carefully laying out dollar bills side-by-side all over his front yard. Bowling confidently explained that he was prepared to cover the entire front yard with dollar bills as payment for the land. This made Dudding angry and he told Bowling “that he didn’t care if he laid down 5 dollar bills the land was not for sale, and besides he never discussed business on Sundays.”

Kanawha Valley Leader, Nitro, W. VA., Jan. 29, 1960

At nearly the exact spot where the Duddings built their cabin more than 160 years ago, a new multi- million dollar interstate highway bridge will span the river. The north approach to the bridge will be built on the narrow tract of land that is still known as “Dudding Lane”. We would like to be the first to endorse a movement to name this new span “Dudding Bridge” in honor of Nitro’s first settler.

In 1807 William Dudding the younger brother of John married Nancy, a daughter of George Blake. They settled below Winfield and part of their lands is referred to as “Dudding Woods”, or “Oak Forest”.

John Dudding the common ancestor of most of the Kanawha County Duddings became an extensive land owner before his death in 1842. According to the Kanawha County land books, he owned as much as 600 acres at one time.

In his will, recorded September 9, 1842, he stated that his wife Rebecca should receive one third of his estate and that the remainder should be divided between his three sons, Joseph, William and Anderson; and his four daughters, Elizabeth McCown, Polly Harris, Sarah Dudding and Nancy Johnson.

John and Rebecca’s first son was Joseph, he was born in 1801, he was a blacksmith and he married Catherine Thomas. They had seven children, namely: John T. born 1834; Margaret born 1835; Ann born 1837; Aletha born 1839; Seay born 1841; Mary born 1844; Nancy born 1848. Of these seven children, we only have the record of John T. Dudding who married Martha (Kelly) Melton. He owned a 560 acre farm on Rocky Fork and he was justice-of-the-peace for 12 years and president of the Board of Education for 3 years. He had 10 children whose names were: Josephine born 1862; James W. born 1863; Emmeline born 1865; Benjamin H. born 1867; Joseph T. W. born 1869; Mary born 1871; Sidney F. born 1873; Francis D. born 1875; Sarah E. born 1878; and Mattie B. born 1880.

John and Rebecca’s second son was William. This William has often been confused with John’s younger brother William who settled near Winfield. This was probably due to the fact that they both married women by the name of Nancy. William, the uncle, married Nancy Blake and William the nephew married Nancy Persinger.

William was born in 1802 and when he married Nancy Persinger in 1821 his father deeded him 100 acres of land which included what we know as the Old Golf Course at the end of 21st street. Here he built a house which was used in later years as the club house for the golf course. William died in 1860 and Nancy died in 1869 and they both were buried in the cemetery on Blake’s Creek Road. They had seven children who were: Sampson born 1822, married Lizzie Ann Goff; Catherine born 1825, married N. B. Lilly; Leander born 1827, married Perlina Thacker; Alonzo born 1846, also married Perlina Thacker after Leander died in 1873; Benjamin born 1834, married Martha Thacker; and Joseph born 1830 who never married.

We mentioned Joseph last because soon after we started this research on the Dudding family we discovered that “Little Uncle Joe” was one of the most colorful and best loved characters who ever lived in this area. As you can see by his picture, posed in front of a park bench, Uncle Joe, nearly 4 ft. tall, could have passed for any one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs. Needless to say, he was a favorite with children and grown-ups alike.

He never stayed at home much as he was continually visiting at the farms of his many friends and relatives. Uncle Joe would make his rounds showing up periodically at the various farms of his relatives and neighbors. He would spend his time doing various odd jobs and playing with the kids, always leaving before he wore out his welcome.  It is said that one of his favorite tricks was to fold his hands behind his back and bend over and drink out of the creek without bending his knees.

Joe Dudding also had a more serious side. In the late 1800’s when building perpetual motion machines was sweeping the country, he amazed everyone by building the longest running contraption in the county.  Although his hearing was seriously impaired, he could play several different musical instruments.

When Little Joe’s father, William Dudding, died in 1860, he fell heir to a strip of land that ran from the hill to the river between what is now 14th and 18th street in Nitro. He lived to be 74 years old, dying in 1904, his grave is also in the Blake’s Creek Cemetery.

Sampson and Lizzie (Goff) Dudding had the following children: Mary S.; William W.; James B.; Alvin N.; Harvey N.; Alonzo O.; Betty E.; John C.; and Alamanda. Of these children, James B. was the father of three daughters: Bertha who married Jess Melton; Clara who married Lawrence Bailey; and Della who married Bill Wilkinson.

Alonzo O. another son of Sampson, had a daughter, Annie born about 1899, who married Frank Bennett, and also two sons, Ernest S. and Carl Ottis who lives in California. Still another son of Sampson was John Calvin who married Lucinda Burford and they had Earl Sampson who married Pearl Copen; Sara Osa married Lee Mays; Lola G. married Albert Moore; Loy A. married Rosie Legg; Burton A. married Blanch Brown.

William and Nancy Persinger Dudding’s second son, Leander, married Perlina Thacker and their children were: George F. who married Lenora Marianna and are the parents of Ivan Dudding a Kanawha Valley Bank official. Henry O. married Blanch Mason; Robert L. who married Minnie Plunkett and became the parents of Alma Dudding who has been an outstanding teacher in the Nitro Schools for more than thirty years; Alwilda who married George Carte and became the parents of Carl and Denver Carte. Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of William and Nancy, married A. N. Burdette who operates the Saint Albans Ice Co.

These are just a few of the hundreds of Duddings we have located on our Dudding genealogy chart. For instance we know that Byron T. Dudding, a retired United Fuel Gas Co. official is a direct descendant of William and Nancy (Blake) Dudding who settled near Winfield. We have located another Dudding in Hollywood where he has played an extra on the TV series “Wagon Train”, and another who is a student at Harvard College.

If any member of the Dudding Clan would be interested in becoming the family historian, we will be only too happy to turn all of our Dudding records over to them. This is providing they are willing to handle any further inquires on the subject that might come our way.