West Virginia McCallister House
Richard McCallister, a farmer, built this house in 1827 in Cabell County, West Virginia, to house his growing family.
Richard was born about 1792 in Bath County, Virginia. His grandfather James was born between 1725 and 1730 in Pennsylvania or Ulster. ‘McCallister’ is a distinctly Ulster name, mostly found in County Antrim. Richard’s father acquired land in Cabell County in 1804, and in 1805-1806 moved with his family from Bath County to Cabell County.
Richard married his first wife, Sarah Nickell, a cousin, in February 1814 in Monroe County, West Virginia. The marriage was performed by Reverend William Adair. Their first child who survived to adulthood, Isaac Preston McCallister, was born in February 1816 in Cabell County.
Richard and Sarah built their house in 1827 in the hills along Tyler Creek using materials that were to hand – pine trees and local sandstone. Tyler Creek is near the town of Salt Rock, Cabell County, in the westernmost reaches of West Virginia close to the Ohio border. Richard was a farmer. The forested hills around the house and pockets of cleared, cultivated land provided food for the family and their livestock. They may have grown corn and flax, and tended cattle, sheep, and hogs. The house was doubled in size soon after 1827 and better accommodated the growing McCallister family.
Pictured above is the McCallister House interior, click image to enlarge.
In 1830, the McCallisters lived in the house with eight children - three under five, two aged between five and ten, and three between ten and fifteen. Other surnames recorded amongst neighbours in the area in the 1830 Census include McComas, McClasky, Miller, Moore, Morrison, Moses and Murrey.
In 1853, about 25 years after the house was built the County purchased the McCallister property for use as the Cabell County Poor Farm. According to tradition, after they sold their farm Richard and several of his grown up children and their families moved westwards to Arkansas. Richard returned to Tyler Creek.
Richard married his second wife Cynthia McCallister, a daughter of a cousin, in February 1857. They had at least five children. According to the 1860 US Census, Richard could read and write, owned land and property to the value of $1,000, and personal belongings to the value of $200. Richard died in June 1867 aged 75. He was buried in Enon Cemetery, a quarter of a mile from the house he built in 1827.
The house on the poor farm was extended in the early 1900s. One of the pens of Richard’s house was removed. The other – the part now reconstructed at the museum – was incorporated into the north end of the new structure and preserved. Cabell County Poor Farm remained open at Tyler Creek until 1929.
Clenon Ray describes his great-great-grandfather Richard’s legacy, ‘Richard McCallister’s contribution to the area is leaving a large trace of blood relatives.’
Lambert describes the people of the Tyler Creek area, ‘It is not necessary to lock smokehouses there. Honesty, fearlessness and godliness reign supreme. Few communities in this whole country can boast of so many men and women of strong outstanding character’.
The restoration and rebuilding of the McCallister house was made possible by a private donation and £75,000 investment by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, visit our news pages for more information.
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