~ History ~
About 1752, the first white settlers arrived in Mount Sterling and Provance's Bottom, namely Wendell Brown and Sons. In the 1770's more settlers poured into the Masontown area, including families such as Robbs, Mack, Provins, DeBolt, Franks, Poundstone, Riffle and Newcomer, among others. The Riffle family built a fort on the site of Masontown, near the present Lutheran Cemetery, called Fort Riffle.
In 1774, Johanias Mansonge and his wife Apalonia took up land and erected their fort on what is now South Water Street. Their "Americanized" names were John and Abigale Mason and they named their fort, Fort Mason. John Mason patented his land claim as "East Abbington," laid out a plan for a town, where lots 66 x 165 feet sold for a Spanish half-dollar. Many German-speaking people settled here, hence the name "Germantown" and German Township. It is often said that Germans came to this beautiful country because it so reminded them of their native homeland.
After many years as a fledgling village, Masontown was finally incorporated in 1876.
Masontown, once a booming center of the bituminous coal region at the turn of the century. Immigrants from southern and central Europe came to work in the mines and the coke ovens in the surroundings area. Their descendants make up a large part of the borough's population.
Today, Masontown has about 3,450 inhabitants (2010) and is currently trying to revitalize itself. One constant has always been the resilience of all of Masontown's citizens.
~ Early Jewish Settlers ~
Information on the earliest settlers in Masontown is recluse, however, the Jewish population was primarily involved in town-centered mercantile pursuits. In 1925, 24 Jewish families were residing in Masontown.
As time passed, very few Jews remained in Masontown, though it had a sizeable community from the turn of the century until the late 1920s.
Following are a few notable citizens born in Masontown:
Frank Llewellyn Bowman, (b. Masontown, 21 January 1879), was a politician who represented West Virginia in the United States House of Representatives from 1925 to 1933. Attending public schools here and then he graduated from the West Virginia University in 1902, a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. After graduation, he worked in a bank in Morgantown from 1902—1904, when he resigned to take up the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in 1905 and commenced practice in Morgantown, West Virginia. He was appointed postmaster of Morgantown 25 May 1911 and served until April 14, 1915. He was the city mayor in 1916 and 1917, but declined renomination. He was elected as a Republican to the Sixty-ninth and to the three succeeding Congresses (4 March 1925—3 March 1933), but was an unsuccessful for reelection in 1932. After leaving Congress, he organized a coal company in Washington, D.C., and served as president until appointed a member of the Veterans' Administration Board of Veteran Appeals in 1935. He served until his death in Washington, D.C., on 15 September 1936.
Col. Lester C. Mcclelland, USAF (b. Masontown, 5 September 1932), was Aircraft Commander of Air Force One from 1974 until 1980. In 1950, he graduated from Masontown High School, followed by graduation from Syracuse University in 1954 where he played football. He had played one season of professional football for the Hamilton, Ontario, Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League. Colonel McClelland retired in 1980 as Aircraft Commander of Air Force One after 26 years in the Air Force. He was commander of Air Force One during President Gerald Ford's administration from 1974 until 1976, and also during President Jimmy Carter's administration, from 1976 until 1980. He later retired from Canadair in 1995 after 15 years as a Director of Flight Operations, then worked until 2003 as the Chief Pilot for Cape Clear, LLC. He died on 12 February 2007.
Michael Nixon (b. Masontown; 21 November 1911), was a football player, coach and scout. He was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in WWII for three years. In 1946, he was a Steelers assistant under his former coach Sutherland. His positions were as head coach of the National Football League's Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers. The son of a Serbian coal miner, Mike Nikšic', he attended the University of Pittsburgh, playing three seasons under the legendary Jock Sutherland, including in the 1933 Rose Bowl. At Pitt, he won All-America recognition as a running back, and advanced to the NFL, but played just one season with the Steelers in 1935, before entering the coaching fraternity at his alma mater in 1936. During this same period, he also played third base in minor league baseball's Southern Association. When Sutherland resigned on 6 March 1939, he stayed on for a year before joining Bill Kern's staff at West Virginia University. It was shortly after this period that changed his name from its original "Nicksick" to Nixon, because Sutherland suggested it would help him with respect to coaching positions in the South. He died on 22 September 200 at age 88.
Frank L. Bowman - bioguide.congress.gov
Col. Lester C. Mcclelland - legacy.com
Michael Nixon - Post-Gazette
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