History of the Meyer House

Meyer House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010

Town of Davis, West Virginia 1898

Meyer House & Herman August Meyer

The Davis Coal and Coke Company built the Meyer house around 1891 for its then superintendent, Charles Coburn. In 1895 the house was sold to Thomas Burger, the owner of the Rumbarger lumber mill on nearby Pendelton Creek. In 1898 the property was acquired by Herman A. Meyer, beginning its long association with the Meyer family who owned it until 1988. Meyer House is now a 4-room bed and breakfast. Jon and Cindy Robeson are the current proprietors, adhering to much of the history and tradition of the property. They left their lives in Northern Virginia to live their dream of running a B & B in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia in November 2003. Jon and Cindy were married here in 2004.

Meyer, son of German immigrants, was born in Wellersburg, PA in 1856 and was a school teacher in Hampshire County, WV when he met and married Mary Jackson Powell in 1880. The Meyers moved to Davis in 1886 and Herman became the first school teacher in the newly built school, eventually rising to become Superintendent of School…as there was only one. Various records indicate Meyer was employed by or was associated with a number of local business enterprises. Among them was the Davis Coal and Coke Company and the Meyer Insurance Agency which he founded and which remained in operation in Davis into the 1980s.

The Meyer Children

Herman and Mary Meyer’s family grew to include four children. It is not known where the Meyers lived during their early years in Davis, but by the late 1890s Herman Meyer had become financially settled and thus able to purchase the present property. He lived the rest of his life in this house and, as was the custom of the day, was buried from this house following his death at the age of 73. His obituary eulogized him as a “foremost citizen” and recorded that he was the first Principal of the Davis Public School, although the term “teacher” and “principal” may have been interchangeable.

Davis School in 1905

During his lifetime, Meyer became a local giant in business and commerce in Davis and the immediate region. Meyer was associated with Davis-area real estate developer Fairfax S. Landstreet and was variously bookkeeper, auditor, and general manager of all of the company stores of the Buxton and Landstreet Company. This company represented the retail general merchandise arm of H. G. Davis’ extensive local operations, and was undoubtedly the “company store” of the Davis Coal and Coke Company.

Note, the B & L building has been restored in Thomas and you should visit this historic old structure, turning left just as you enter the Town of Thomas, heading North. For those unfamiliar with coal (and other company) operations in that era, workers often had the choice of being paid in cash, or something known as company “scrip.” This “scrip” could be spent in the “company store,” owned and operated by the coal company. After loading upwards of seven tons of coal a day for a week, when a miner’s costs for company-provided housing, food, heating-coal and medical expenses were deducted, there was often little or nothing left. For the lowest class of laborer in the coal or lumber operations around the turn of the last century, life was often hand-to-mouth, much as it is today. But education was provided, along with medical care, albeit not free, and company housing was at least adequate. Especially during the depression, conditions here were not nearly so bad as in many other places.

Meyer’s commitment to education lasted far beyond his years as a schoolteacher. His 1919 obituary noted, “It was characteristic of Mr. Meyer that he retained throughout his entire life this early interest in schools and in the best training of the young people of the community.” Meyer displayed this commitment by maintaining a substantial personal library in his home which he opened to Davis citizens. Meyer’s great-granddaughter, Susan Meyer, confirmed this, stating, “The library, although personal, was open to anyone in the town who wanted to use it. It was located in what became a bedroom,” [formerly the Peach Room]. Much of the collection stayed in the family after Meyer’s death, and many of his books were sold at auction in 1988 when the property left the original family. Susan Meyer continued, “We have found a few books from great granddad Meyer’s library. They have bookplates with numbers in them so you can tell it was a lending library. The size of the original collection is not known, nor has any inventory of the collection been found. Neither is it known whether the library kept regular hours. What is known conclusively is that in the Meyer House was the community’s first lending library.

Meyer House, 1905

Some of the books remaining in Susan Meyer’s possession are illustrative of the broad array of titles in Herman Meyer’s library, ranging from history to children’s literature, indicating that Meyer’s library served the general adult public as well as Davis’ youth: a series entitled J. G. Wood’s lavishly illustrated Natural History (1869), Pollyanna (1912) and its 1913 sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up (1915), from the series focusing upon the young heroine by the same name in the novels by Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868-1920); the best-selling 1894 novel, Trilby, the work of George DuMaurier; Whitney’s German Grammar (1869); A Child’s Story of the Bible; and Mary Johnson’s 1912 Cease Firing, a novel of the Civil War published in 1912 with illustrations by N. C. Wyeth. Each of these retain Herman Meyer’s hand-numbered bookplates.

A very prominent and active citizen, Meyer founded and was director of the Meyer Insurance Agency, which remained in operation in Davis into the 1980s. He was also, at the time of his death, president of the National Bank of Davis, that imposing stone building on William Avenue in the heart of downtown. In the town of Thomas, a nearby H.G. Davis-founded community established in 1892, named for Henry’s brother, Thomas, Herman Meyer was a director of the Miners and Merchants Bank, established in 1902. He was also president of the F.S. Johnson Drug Co., which operated drug stores in Davis, Parsons, and Elkins and he owned a substantial share of the Durbin Mercantile Company, of Durban, West Virginia. Meyer served as secretary of the Davis Electric Light Company and as secretary and treasurer of the Deep Run Big Vein Coal Company. He was a local religious leader as well, having been a charter member of the local Presbyterian Church. Elected a member of the Board of Deacons upon the organization of the members, he served in this capacity until 1915 when he was elected ruling elder and became clerk of the Session, a position which he occupied faithfully and efficiently during the remainder of his life.

National Bank of Davis, 1910

National Bank of Davis, 1925

Meyer remained in the house until his death in 1919 after which his widow, Mary, remained until her death in 1931. The house became the property of Meyer’s grandson and his family and remained so until its sale in 1988.

Meyer House, 1930. The “x” marks where Mary was born.

Jon and Cindy married here in 2004.

The last proprietors, Jon and Cindy Robeson, left their lives in Northern Virginia in November, 2003, to live their dream of running a Bed and Breakfast in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. Accompanied by family and friends, they were married in Meyer House on April 17, 2004.

The Meyer House was a popular place to hang your hat when visiting Davis, thanks to the well appointed rooms and Cindy’s amazing breakfasts.  In 2015 John and Cindy opened a new craft brewery, Stumptown Ales, and soon after the Meyer House became their family home.

This history has been compiled from a number of sources, many of them containing conflicting dates or information. Quite some effort has been put into chronicling an as-accurate as possible depiction of who…did what…when. There have been a number of books and articles written covering this area and these times and events. You can Google Davis and Meyer House and you’ll find most all of them; a bibliography of sources referenced in this document is here along with further research information for Tucker County. You are invited to do further research if your interest has been piqued.

Photos of the Meyer House B&B

Click the photos to enlarge.

Photography by Victoria Weeks