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In that same time frame, John W. Runyon moved his family to Baileysville in Wyoming County, West Virginia, where he opened a business under the name of “Porter and Runyon.” He began to buy various items by credit at a store owned by Buskirk and Wittenberg, a partnership of contractors operating under the powerful Cole and Crane Company.

According to Bowman’s Reference Book of Wyoming County History (1965): “C. Crane and Co., by its contractors, Buskirk and Wittenburg, began a new era of removing timber by water. The company began building dams as soon as possible after taking over the contract.”

Buskirk and Wittenburg were often permitted to construct “roads for their convenience” and to destroy bridges for the purpose of splashing so long as they had them rebuilt. They built the only splash dam ever constructed on the Guyan River around 1903.

“The company maintained well stocked commissaries and logging camps to take care of their men,” according to the Wyoming County history. The main camp in their operation “had a commissary, blacksmith shop, business office, and post office named Vorheis, in honor of Buskirk’s daughter who had married a man named Vorheis. There were camps at Baileysville… Camps and stores were relocated from time to time as needed.” Their stores “carried a large and varied stock, including up-to-date clothing.”

Runyon’s bill at Buskirk’s and Wittenberg’s store began on May 22, 1899, when he bought a nine-dollar suit, and extended until July 17, 1900, when the store debt totaled $6,495.78. According to the bill, Runyon primarily purchased ordinary store items: bacon, beans, fruits, vegetables, coffees, tobacco, herbs, spices, silverware, kitchen utensils, nails, soap, shoes, hats, gloves, watches, candy, and various types of clothing. He also had bought a plethora of luxury items: a case of oysters, Cuban Gentlemen Cigars, several boxes of chewing gum, a box of roasted peanuts, dolls, musical instruments (including a violin), picture frames, guns, locks, turpentine, Castor Oil, clocks, fire crackers, and fishing gear.

Beginning on September 28, 1899, Runyon and Porter paid periodically on the bill (although Porter’s name was seldom mentioned specifically) and Runyon personally contributed $280.00 in January of 1900. The business folded around September 13, 1900, when Runyon made his last payment to Wittenberg and reduced his bill to $640.15.

Meanwhile, the census enumerator registered Runyon as follows: “John W. Ru[n]yon, logger, rents home, born Feb 1856 in KY, age 44, married 20 years, both parents born KY; Mary M. Ru[n]yon, born January 1861 in KY, age 39, married 20 years, mother of 1 child which is living, parents born in KY; Mary M. Ru[n]yon, born March 1889 in KY, age 11, niece, both parents born in KY.” John’s son-in-law Clarence Hinkle was listed two households away as a logger. Sam Porter was not listed in the census — perhaps well aware of the impending debt owed to Buskirk and Wittenberg. Little Mary Runyon was a daughter of John’s twin brother.

There were other legal troubles. In June of 1901, Drs. S.A. Daniel and C.W. Hall sued Runyon for a $50 debt (with interest). Apparently the doctors had rendered services to a James Ramey with the understanding that Runyon would pay his bill. When the trial took place on June 15, Runyon failed to show up. The court waited for an hour, then heard the plaintiff’s case and ruled against him. Curiously enough, Runyon appealed the decision on June 24, with funds for his appeal bond ($120) coming from the very doctors who originally sued him. In September a summons was delivered to an Anderson Beverly to appear as Runyon’s witness. On April 2, 1902 his appeal came before the court and the doctors didn’t appear even “though thrice solemnly called.” As a result, the judge ruled in Runyon’s favor and stated that he was to be paid “$5.00 for their false clamor herein” and that he “recover of the plaintiffs his costs in this behalf expended including an attorneys fee of $5.00 allowed by statute.”

By that time, Runyon was in a more serious lawsuit with Buskirk and Wittenberg over his store debt. In early July of 1901, Wittenberg sued Runyon and Porter, stating that he had not received a payment from them since September of the previous year. Wittenberg’s contacts with area politicians and influential residents had obvious legal implications. Runyon and Porter were issued a summons to appear in court on the first Monday in August to answer “A.R. Wittenberg of a plea of Trespass on the case in assumpsit damages $6,500.00.” Wittenberg’s use of the figure $6,500 referred to the original debt of $6,495.78, although records show the amount actually owed was $640.15. On the outside of this summons the following was written in poor handwriting, probably by a deputy-sheriff: “Serve[d] on the within name John W. Runyon by delivering to him an office copy of the within summon[s] in person on July 12, 1901.” A summons couldn’t be served to S.W. Porter who was “not found within my bailiwick this July 13, 1901.”

Porter was apparently not a resident of West Virginia (probably Kentucky). An affidavit of Non-Residence was filed on his behalf on August 5, 1901.

“This day I.E. Christian Personally appeared before me E.M. Seuter a Notary Public within and for said Wyoming County, West Virginia and upon oath says that S.W. Porter one of the defendants in the above styled action is a Nonresident of the State of West Virginia,” it read.

Because Wyoming County law couldn’t find him to serve a summons, an Order of Publication was issued on the first Monday in August 1901.

“At Rules held in the Clerk’s Office of the Circuit Court of Wyoming County on the first Monday in August 1901 A.R. Wittenberg vs. John W. Runyon and S.W. Porter partners trading and doing business under the firm name and style of Porter and Runyon,” it read. “The object of the above suit is to obtain a Judgment in favor of the plaintiff against the defendants for the sum of $640.15 and it appearing from an affidavit made and filed with the papers of this cause that S.W. Porter defendant in the above signed cause is a non resident of the State of West Virginia, and on motion of the plaintiff it is ordered that said defendant S.W. Porter do appear at Rules to be held in the clerk’s office of the circuit court of Wyoming County within one month after the first publication of this order and do what is necessary to protect his interest in this suit.”

Wittenberg spent five dollars and fifty cents paying for this publication, which was featured in the Wyoming Tribune from August 9th until August 30th.

It did little good. Porter was basically untouchable by Wyoming County authorities barring extradition papers.

Information at the Wyoming County Courthouse indicated that he never showed up to answer for his part in the failed business and, in so doing, crippled Runyon’s case against Wittenberg.

There is little information available on the actual trial, although records show the judge ruled against Runyon for $614.50 on September 30, 1901. Totaled near this figure was a compilation of the plaintiff’s costs ($32.81), which indicated that he was expected to pay that fee as well. Presumably, all of this debt fell on Runyon since his partner had left the state. He decided to appeal the case but as a non-property owner in Wyoming County, the owner of a failed business, and with no local contacts loyal enough to assist him, he was unable to put forth enough money to post the necessary bond. Wittenberg, meanwhile, prepared his case and hired lawyers.

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