Oceana and the Cook Family

Number 6 - Folk Studies

August, 1940

COMPILED AND WRITTEN BY WORKERS OF THE WRITERS PROJECT
WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION IN WEST VIRGINIA

Sponsored by
State Department of Education
W. W. Trent, State Superintendent of Free Schools

Co-Sponsored by
Wyoming County Board of Education
Wyoming County Court

Federal Works Agency:
John M. Carmody, Administrator
Work Projects Administration:
F. C. Harrington, Commissioner
Florence Kerr, Assistant Commissioner
J. N. Alderson, State Administrator

West Virginia Writers Project
312 Smallridge Building
Charleston, West Virginia

Bruce Crawford, State Supervisor, Paul H. Becker, Assistant State Supervisor

G. P. Goode, County Supervisor; Research Assistants: Juanita Brooks, Minnie Canterbury, Lightburn L. Shannon and Henry Martin Houck

OCEANA AND THE COOK FAMILY

Site of the first settlement, county seat for 57 years, and today the center of a developing industrial area, Oceana, in the drama of Wyoming County, has held the center of history's stage. In 1799, John Cooke, weary of his less adventurous homeland near the Narrows of New River, brought his four stalwart sons to the confluence of the Laurel and Clear Forks of the Guyandot River, and with axe and whipsaw built the first permanent home in the region. To the "Big Bottoms":, as the level river lands of the Clear Fork were called, came Big Ed McDonald in 1802 to found the county's first slave plantation. "On the lands of William Cooke, Sr., where Madison Cooke now lives," stated the Act Creating the County of Wyoming, "shall be the permanent place for holding the courts of said county." And to Oceana in 1938 and 1939 came the coal operators to develop a new bituminous producing area.

John Cooke Comes To The Guyandot

In the autumn of 1799, John Cooke brought his wife, four sons and a daughter-in-law to the cabin on Laurel and Clear Forks. He had come a long way from the day in 1772 when he and a girl named Nellie Goodal (or Pemberton) had been shanghaied aboard a vessel on the Thames in London port (Cooke was born in London twenty years before) and started on his adventures in the New World. Apprenticed to a planter in the Valley of Virginia upon his arrival in some American port, Cooke was a victim of that system of slavery-with-a-time-limit that was used to provide England's colonies with white labourers. The girl he had invited to dinner aboard the ship of a supposed friend was also apprenticed. Cooke served out his apprenticeship, and then helped the girl serve out hers, feeling obligated, no doubt, because he was responsible for her misfortune.

Misfortune, it must surely have seemed at first, but the opportunities of the frontier world soon became obvious to Cooke and Miss Goodal (Pemberton). As soon as their term an bonded servants ended, John and Nellie were married and established their home in Shenandoah County, Virginia, where their five children were born. His daughter married in Virginia.

Indian uprisings in the western part of Virginia and along the Ohio River called John Cooke to military duty in 1774. A member of Captain Buford's Bedford County Riflemen, he marched with General Andrew Lewis to meet the forces of Cornstalk, Chief of the Northern Confederacy, at Point Pleasant. Before the actual fighting began in this battle, however, John, and others were dispatched to Fort Clendenin for supplies; nevertheless, he is listed on the Point Pleasant Monument as a soldier in that battle.

In January, 1777, John Cooke enlisted as a private in the American Revolutionary Army, serving under Captains Jonathan Landon, Abraham Hite, and George Waite in Colonel James Wood's regiment, the Eighth Virginia Continentals. Cooke was in the battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, and was later with "Mad Anthony" Wayne in the storming of Stony Point on the Hudson. He was discharged from the army on December 29, 1779.

At the close of the Revolution, seeking greater opportunity and freedom, Cooke moved his family to the Narrows of New River. While there, he and his sons served with the Rangers, an organization for protecting the frontier against Indian attacks. On May 27, 1793, John and his son Thomas, a boy, from Montgomery County, Virginia, were with Captain Hugh Caperton's Company of Rangers at Fort Lee on the Elk and Kanawha Rivers, guarding the Kanawha Valley settlements. "Mad Anthony" Wayne's victory over the Indians in 1794 ended the Indian menace of the Ohio, and permitted white settlement to move westward almost unmolested.

The rich hunting grounds of the wilderness called to Cooke, who found life at the Narrows too tame after his military service. In 1799, he resisted the call no more, but with his small family moved into the region his children later named Wyoming County, after the Wyoming tribe of Indians.

Guyandot Valley of Neighbors

John Cooke was not the first white man to live in Wyoming County. When he and his sons were walking down Laurel Fork in 1799, they met the man Milam, whose first name is not remembered. This hermit had three hunting lodges in the region and is supposed to have named many landmarks in the county. He soon disappeared, and tradition only recalls his sojourn in the Guyandot Valley. David Hughes, who was perhaps the first white man to view the Valley and who led Edward McDonald to the region in 1784 to make the first survey, was never a resident of the region. Like so many in later years, he just passed through.

One year after Cooke moved his family to Clear Fork, in October 1899, his first neighbour arrived. Capt. Ralph Stewart built his cabin on Clear Fork a few miles from the Cooke homestead in 1800. Stewart was born on Cow Pasture River, Augusta County, Virginia, in 1752; in 1773, when a youth of 21 years, he was commissioned a captain of Rangers, and in 1774, was with General Lewis in the Battle of Point Pleasant. In 1778, he was again commissioned a captain of Virginia troops and served in the regiment of Col. Robert McCleery. He fought in the battles of Guilford Courthouse, Ground Squirrel Ridge, and Charlottesville, and, in one of these engagements received a sabre wound in the right arm, inflicted by English General Tarleton himself. When Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Washington made Stewart one of the guard that kept the English commandant a prisoner of war in a cave near Williamsburg, Virginia.

Soon after the Revolution, Captain Stewart married a second wife, Mary Clay, daughter of Mitchell Clay, the first settler in Mercer County. His family became one of the most prominent in Wyoming County. In 1835, at the age of 83 years, he died on his Laurel Fork homestead and was buried near by.

In 1802, Edward McDonald, who had been a captain in the American Army during the Revolution and had served in the Rangers along the Ohio, and his son-in-law, James Shannon, brought their families and slaves into Wyoming County; McDonald to settle the Clear Fork "Big Bottom", which he had surveyed in 1784, and Shannon to establish his plantation on the main fork of the Guyandot. McDonald came from the eastern part of Montgomery County, Virginia, where during the Revolution, powder for the American forces had been manufactured on his father Joseph's farm. He, his son-in-law Shannon, and James Bailey, Sr., who moved from Bluestone River to settle below the present site of Baileysville in 1813, built up slave plantations of considerable proportions. In 1861, when slavery split the Union, the sons and grandsons of the slaveholders entered the war with the South. Among them Alexander Bailey, Theodore Bailey, James S. Bailey, James A. Cook, John McDonald, Floyd McDonald, and Col. Isaac E. McDonald. James A. Cook was the son of "Old Jack" Cook of Big Huff, a grandson of the first settler, who had purchased Negro slaves and established a plantation in the Huff Creek section.

Thomas Morgan, who had been an Indian Ranger under Major Robert Crockett on the Tazewell frontier, settled on Indian Creek in 1804, becoming the fifth settler of the county. His home was built just above the ruins of the old Shawnee-Mingo Indian Village that gave Indian Creek its name. A tradition in the Morgan family says that when Mrs. Andrew Davidson and her children were captured near the present site of Bluefield, West Virginia, they were held prisoners by the Indians of this village, and that the lady herself was tied with rawhide thongs to a beech tree that stood near George T. Lester's spring.

John Cooke's first wife died about 1812, and June 28, 1813, he married Ann Hendrix of Monroe County, Virginia. On September 17, 1832, he filed a petition for a soldier's pension, and two months later, November 21st, died before the pension could be granted, at the home of his son William, who was then living in the second cabin Captain Stewart had built on Laurel Fork. He was 80 years of age. The Col. Andrew Donally Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated a road marker monument to the memory of the first settler, July 29, 1934; the marker stands on West Virginia State route 10 directly in front of his grave. The date of the first settlement as given on the marker, 1797, is incorrect; according to court records at Christiansburg, Virginia, John Cooke was appointed constable November 7, 1798, and must have been at that time still resident in New River, precluding the possibility of Wyoming settlement until 1799.

When Logan County was created out of Kanawha, Cabell, Giles, and Tazewell in 1824, four of the new county organizers were upper Guyandot Valley men: John Cooke, Jr., James Shannon, and Edward and Joseph McDonald. Joseph McDonald was selected first clerk of the new government unit.

Pioneer Life (1800 - 1850)

The pioneer period, 1800 to 1850, was occupied with making farms out of forests, homes out of the wilderness, and a livelihood from hunting, fishing, digging ginseng, and herding cattle, sheep, and swine.

Thomas Cooke, eldest son of John, Sr., born July 27, 1776, was married to Eleanor Riggins of Gilos County, Virginia, born May 4, 1782, when he came with his father to Clear Fork. He established his home just below the present site of Oceana, and on another large farm, patented on Big Huff Creek, raised cattle and hogs. Thomas, although a married man, participated in all the merry doings of the frontier settlement. Hunting, fishing, log-rollings, and house-raisings filled the less busy intervals of his life.

In the spring of 1800, Thomas and Jack Cooke were cutting browse for the cattle by felling trees. Jack delighted in selecting trees above the place where his brother was cutting, and felling them in Tom's direction, forcing Tom to scramble for safety. Finally, Tom decided to teach Jack a lesson. When Jack cried "Timber!" again, Tom avoided the branches of the falling tree as usual, but before the leaves had ceased moving, threw himself under their cover, exactly as if he had been struck down. When no outcry came from Tom, Jack began to worry. "Tom! Tom!" he called, but got no answer. Then he saw Thomas lying beneath the tree. Tears began to fall, and Jack began to whimper, "Dam'mo, I've killed Tom! Don't that beat hell!" Thomas got up and laughed heartily at his brother's defeat.

Thomas Cooke was five feet ten inches in height, weighing 180 pounds. He had the reputation of being the strong man of the "Guyan" Valley in fist fights and wrestling matches. And he was fearless; foolhardy, some said.

On one occasion, while hunting with Jack, they treed a bear on Big Huff Mountain, and Tom decided he would engage the beast barehanded. A shot from Jack's rifle had wounded bruin in the jaw and made him clamber down the tree to do battle. "Jack," said Tom, "hold the dogs until I saw let go. I'm going to whip that bear barehanded or know the reason why."

As the bear touched the ground, Tom landed a powerful uppercut below the heart, staggering the animal. With a well directed kick he completed bruin's upset. The bear got up and turned viciously on Tom, who dodged to one side and upset him again with a kick that broke two of his ribs. Thoroughly enraged, the wounded creature charged Tom so quickly that he could not escape but fell back winded and helpless. Jack released the dogs and fired a well aimed shot. Tom had to admit that he wasn't the undisputed champion of the Guyandot Valley. He "knew the reason why."

About 1814, Tom Cooke was at a hunting camp at the mouth of Rum Creek a few miles above the trading post at Logan. Rum Creek was a noted rendezvous for bear hunters; "fire-water", ammunition, and bait were obtainable near by at Logan. To the camp came a certain Humphreys with several hunters and sportsmen from Ohio. A group of Tom's Guyandot friends were already in camp, and, friendly relations established, a ten-day hunt was organized. The Ohio men swaggered under the leadership of "Mr. Humphreys," who boasted that he was the "best" man from Gallipolis to Cincinnati and had never been "licked" and never expected to be. One of the Logan men pointed out Tom Cooke and said, "'Hump 'Em,' do you see that short, thick-set man over on that log with the 'Guyan' boys? After you have "licked" him, I'll give you a jolt, myself, if you feel like it." The Ohioan walked over to Tom and said: "Mr. Cooke, I'm the champion of this valley, and I have to whip you before that big Logan sport will agree to let me "lick him." Tom rose to his feet, opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, set his teeth with a snap, and began to strip down to the waist. Humphreys also stripped, and the camp gathered in a circle to watch.

As the combatants closed in, they seemed almost evenly matched. It was a desperate battle. They clinched, fell, got up, tumbled; at last both were about exhausted, and they began to gouge and bite. Presently, the two lay quiet, breathing heavily. Tom was on his right side with his left arm around Humphreys' neck, his teeth set in the right cheek of the Ohioan, who fainted as the champions were pulled apart. Humphreys was hauled from Rum to Logan on an ox-sled for repairs. Tom was helped to a near-by shanty where his bruises were washed and dressed.

After Tom defeated "Gip" Jarrol, 225-pound giant who towered six feet nine inches, from Augusta County, Virginia, in a match at Peterstown, Virginia, there is no record of his being bantered for a fight. He died in 1854 at the age of 77.

Oceana Gets Her Start

A petition of the citizens of Logan County praying for the formation of a new county out of the upper regions of Logan was introduced in the General Assembly of Virginia on February 27, 1849, and rejected on the grounds that no vote had been taken in the area. On December 17, of the same year, Senate Bill No. 86 was introduced and on January 26, 1850, passed into law, providing for the creation of a new county in the upper reaches of the Guyandot River system.

The fourteen justices appointed to organize the new county met in the home of John Cooke, one mile below present Oceana at a place now called the "John O. Cooke Field," Friday, March 22, 1850. Present were John Cook, James Shannon, James Cooke, James Bailey, Jordan McKinney, John Howerton, George B. Sizemore, Layne Shannon, Thomas Godfrey, Levi Gore, William McDonald, Isaac Bailey, William Brooks, and Jacob Cooke. The oath of office was administered by James P. Christian, a justice of Logan County and father of C. Russell Christain, "The Mountain Bard", who wrote "Grandfather's Clock."

Judge Matthew Dunbar held the first term of court in Wyoming County in the John Cooke home below Oceana. The act creating the county had provided that the permanent place for holding court should be on the lands of William Cooke, Sr., on Clear Fork. At the first term of the county court, March 23, 1850, James H. Ferguson, Patrick K. McComas, and Stephen McDonald were appointed a committee to superintend the survey of a public square, and to draw specifications for, receive bids for, and superintend the construction of the public buildings of the county.

William Cooke, third son of the first settler, donated the one-acre square, and around it surveyed a townsite of thirty, one-fourth acre lots, which were sold to relatives and friends. At first named Cassville to honor the American statesman, Lewis Cass, the town was renamed Sumpterville in a court order dated 22 November, 1851, because Cassville already existed in Wayne County. In 1853, Thomas Dunn English, author of "Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt", who was then practising law in Wyoming County, persuaded the court to change the name to Oceana to honor the younger of Chief Cornstalk's daughters.

The county court awarded contracts for the three public buildings in amounts totaling $2,000. In August, 1851, the court met in its new home, built by Job Lambert. Near-by was the jail constructed by Mitchell Cooke, and the small brick clerk's office built by James Cooke. The courthouse itself was a large, low barn like structure containing a courtroom, two jury rooms, a sheriff's office, and a cubby hole for the prosecuting attorney.

Created primarily as a county seat, Wyoming Court House, as Oceana was familiarly known for many years, soon became a trade center as well. L. B. Chambers, Lewis McDonald, and Floyd McDonald, each put up small stores where the natives could trade ginseng for commodities brought in from the East, such as salt and cooking utensils. In 1852, Chambers built a large hotel. After the civil struggle ended in 1865, Capt. James A. Cook and Capt. William T. Sarver established two more hotels. A few residences were built. Rev. Geo. T. McClure established a gristmill below town.

In 1890, an attempt was made to erect a new courthouse, but the citizens refused to vote bonds, and enjoined the court from laying special levies for that purpose. An attempt to repair the old building met similar opposition. The land owners around Oceana were the proprietors of the business establishments as well and refused to sell land for fear of business competition. This prevented any large growth, and in the spring of 1907, after many bitter contests on the question, the county seat was moved by popular vote to Pineville. In November of the same year Oceana was destroyed by fire.

Nineteenth Century Parade

For more than half a century, the old courthouse had been utilized for every conceivable purpose, as a courtroom, for public and political gatherings, as a meeting hall for debating clubs and other social societies, for summer normal schools, for teachers institutes, for revival meetings and conferences of the churches, in fact for every public need. The procession of persons who used the old building provided a pictorial record of the life and issues of the age.

First came Judge Matthew Dunbar, then Judge Edward B. Bailey of Fayetteville in 1852, and Judge Evermont Ward of Logan in 1858. Judge Ward's "Sentence of Death", passed on Laban T. Walker, has become a judicial classic. In 1861, Judge Ward, then ill, sent Judge David McComas to hold court for him, and when the new arrived on April 25th that Virginia had seceded from the Union, April 17th, Judge McComas adjourned court and departed without waiting to sign the record. McComas, when in the Virginia Assembly some years before, had made the first outright secession speech heard by that body.

Following the War between the States, Judge Henry T. Samuels reorganized the courts of the county at Oceana. He was followed on the bench by William L. Hindman and Henry L. Gillespie of Beckley. In 1880, Judge David E. Johnston ascended the bench, a herald of the death of sectional bitterness. He had marched in Pickett's disastrous charge at Gettysburg, and as he mounted the rostrum, a slight limp reminded his audience that he had not crossed the bloody space between Little Round Top and Seminary Ridge unscathed. No "test oath" barred this eminent jurist and historian from the bench. Twenty-five years can assuage hatred.

In 1888, he was succeeded by Judge Robert C. McClaugherty, and eight years later he was superseded by young Joseph McDonald Sandors of Bluefield. Judge James H. Miller of Hinton, elected in 1904, presided over the last court at Oceana in April, 1907.

Among the lawyers, Judge James H. Ferguson, first prosecutor and the delegate sponsor of the bill that brought Wyoming County into being, came first. Before the War between the States, the names of Patrick Keenan McComas, Judge Isaac Samuels, Alexander Mahood, Dr. Thomas Dunn English, the poet-lawyer, and Capt. William Walker, who represented Wyoming County in the West Virginia Constitutional Convention at Wheeling, recall the trials and interests of pioneer days. The years of growth and development after 1865, offer names that are synonymous with the changing aspects of local, state, and national history. The was James Hereford "Fud" McGinis, the eccentric Irishman, Col. James Milton French, Capt. John A Douglas, Gen. C. C. Watts, John A. Cook, Judge Luthor Lybrook Chambers, John L Stafford, John W. McCreery, Colonel Childers, Powell Lane, Mike Matheny, H. Ken Shemato, A. J. Lacey, and Judge John M. McGrath, the only survivor in 1940.

The old courtroom had housed many groups gathered to hear Ballard Preston, the Whig Congressman, of whom it was said that "he flattered so many vain and proud mothers, and kissed so many dirty babies, and so endeared himself to the common people, that the Democrats never could defeat him." John S. Witcher spoke feelingly from the raised platform of the judge's stand on "Test Oaths and Reconstruction" and "The Justice and Injustice of the 13th and 14th Amendments." Major Frank Hereford of Monroe County, who, as Congressman and Senator, came to Oceana to glare at his constituents with his one good eye, corralled votes from the same dais, although he had lost the other eye for the Confederacy.

On behalf of his candidacy for the Senate came John Edward Kenna, and with him his opponent, Henry S. Walker, the "Greenbacker," who wanted to pay the debt created by the War between the States in paper money. From the Oceana platform, William E. Chilton, then a mere stripling, delivered his first speech, supporting the candidacy of Kenna. The old walls echoed to the eloquence of Col. J. W. St. Clair of Fayetteville, perhaps the greatest orator of them all, and to the voice of his fellow townsman, Joseph Holt Gains, who could be heard all over the Clear Fork valley when he spoke from the courthouse steps. Gains, in 1904, delivered the last great address made at Oceana.

Such topics as "Civil Service Reform," "A high Protective Tariff," "Tariff For Revenue Only," "The Gold Standard," and "Free Silver-16 to 1" bring home the fact that Wyoming County, rural and isolated, was keenly aware of national problems and actively seeking their solution. In the hall built on the land donated by William Cooke, the national issues were argued pro and con by the leaders of the day, and in the Wyoming homes, many of them the same pioneer cabins built by the first settlers, proudly independent men decided how their vote should be cast.

In The Midst Of Battle

During the War between the States, Wyoming County witnessed no great battles, but, on the border line of Northern and Southern territories, was the scene of raids and counter-raids, and guerilla fighting. Gen. John B. Floyd passed through the county in the summer of 1862, organizing a regiment of State troops. In the fall, this partially mounted group came to the McDonald farm below Oceana and remained until all food supplies were exhausted. Lewis B. Cook of Oceana, when 90 years of age, recalled that he had twelve acres of the finest corn he had ever seen on the farm that year, and at gathering time he went through the field and brought out the crop in his coat pockets.

Brig. Gen. W. W. Averill led his brigade through Wyoming County in 1864, but did no fighting within the county boundaries. Many of Averill's men were Wyoming countians. Adams W. Cooper, brother-in-law of Rev. W. H. H. Cook, and Corporal Edward H. Cook, brother of the famous minister, and James, son of Senator Mitchell Cooke, were among those captured when Averill was defeated at Rock Gap near Wytheville, Virginia. Confined in the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia, they died of dysentery before the war ended.

Col. V. A. Witcher led 523 men on a raid through Wyoming County in September, 1864. On the way he took horses, cattle, and hogs wherever he found them. One of his victims was Mack Ramey, who lived three miles below Pineville on Guyandot River. Witcher killed Ramey's hogs and robbed his mill of grain and meal. Another to suffer was Jack Mullens, whose mare was taken. On the raid, Witcher captured Major Green N. Cook and Paren Collins, but the two escaped ahile Witcher's men were feasting on Ramey's hogs.

An ambush arranged by Bill Adams and Leroy Perdew, Pineville men, who concealed themselves in the cliffs of "Sulkey Narrows" below Pineville, planning to shoot Witcher as he rode by, was frustrated when the boys saw "Uncle Jackey" Mullens following Witcher, begging for the return of his mare. They realized that any action on their part would endanger the old man's life.

The Men And Women Of Oceana

Throughout its history, Oceana has been the home of the Cook family. The third and fourth generations after John Cooke had dropped the English "e" of the name, but retained the tradition of independence, pride in family, and public service begun by the first settler. Soldiers, teachers, statesmen, business men, educators, the Cooks furnish a large percentage of Wyoming County's distinguished men. Because the Cooks intermarried with the Stewart's and other first families, their story can also be said to be the story of the county, certainly the story of Oceana.

Prominent in the family tradition is the figure of Miss Eleanor Riggins who became Mrs. Thomas Cooke and aided in establishing the first home in Wyoming. Affectionately known to her contemporaries as "Aunt Ellen", Mrs. Cooke was the mother of eleven children. A very religious woman, she taught them first from the bible, imparting her own undoubting faith in its teachings. It is said that Elder John Anderson of the Greenbrier Valley Baptist Church, hearing of "Aunt Ellen's" residence in the wilderness of the Guyandot country, visited her home on several occasions to hold services. Later, he aided her to persuade Rev. James Ellison to effect the organization of the Guyandot Baptist Church in 1812. Mrs. Cooke was one of the seven charter members. Her example of the Christian way of life is a beloved part of the family tradition.

William Cooke, third son of John, founder of Oceana, built the first residence in the town, and died there three years after he had founded the town. William married Katherine Stewart, daughter of Capt. Ralph Stewart, and united the two pioneer families. He lived most of his life in the second cabin Captain Stewart had built on Laurel Fork. The first water gristmill in Wyoming County was the product of his industry. Located in Laurel Fork at the Charley P. Stewart Narrows above Oceana, the mill served the community long after William was dead.

The fourth son of John Cooke, James (1786-1864), married Docia Meadows, daughter of Rev. Josiah Meadows, soldier in the Revolution, who accompanied Gen. George Rogers Clark on his expedition against Kaskaskia and Vincennes in 1778. James settled at Jesse, above Oceana, and his descendants still provide the larger part of the populace in the region.

Oceana Changes Its Habits

Failing to grow, Oceana was shoved backstage in 1907, when its function as a county seat was transferred to Pineville. For many years it slumbered in a civic sense, remaining a rural village with few business houses, no industry. A lovely residential town for the farmers of the section and a trading post for the few timber workers of the near-by lumber operations and the farmers, Oceana was the scene of the Cook Family Reunion once a year, and spent the rest of the year in quiet daily routine.

Suddenly, now life was injected into the rural village. The railroad was building a spur line to Oceana. The Koppers Coal Company had leased large land holdings and was preparing to open a new coal mine near-by. Property values mounted. New business came in. Stores were built: drugstores, general stores, gasoline stations, automobile repair shops, barber shops. A new highway connected the town with Pineville and Logan. A new high school, with a metal gymnasium, looked down from and eminence across the river from the old section of town. A new era had dawned. Oceana was becoming an industrial center.

In 1940, the scene is one of activity and change. Not yet devoid of its rural habiliments, as yet unaccustomed to its new industrial trappings, Oceana is a town in transition. Frame buildings house local businesses, stores, and residences are intermingled, lawns are fenced, and many backyards have small vegetable gardens. Beside the older frame houses of the past, stand new trim structures of the present. The old tavern has been torn down. "Boom town" characteristics replace rural peace. Everything is building.

In the town gather the workers from Kopperston and other mining operations newly opened in the vicinity. Here come the farmers to trade at the old established stores run by descendants of the pioneers, or to buy at new cash-and-carry establishments. Here congregate the mill hands and timber workers from the E. H. Crouch lumber plant on the old McDonald plantation. Yet, with all its bustle and change, Oceana is still the town of the Cooks, Baileys, Brooks. The new blood has not yet replaced the old. In spite of newer trends, Oceana seems to linger in the past, reminding the spectator of the pioneer traditions of the Cooks.

Again the center of the Wyoming drama, Oceana plans a future in which the immense wealth of local coal will provide the way toward a new existence, a new importance. Coal, 31 seams of coal, underlie the rich soil of the Guyandot Valley. Gas wells, already drilled and capped, are yet to be used. When this natural wealth begins to pour forth, Oceana will be the largest benefactor.