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The Centennial History of Hurricane: Meet Some of Hurricane’s Oldest Families

In 1988, The Centennial History of Hurricane, WV was published to commemorate the town’s 100th anniversary. Since the Centennial History is now out of print, the Breeze is reprinting articles from the book as space allows. This week’s selection will be the 193rd installment of the Centennial History.



Elias Judson Qualls, born September 7, 1876, in Putnam County, traces his roots, through the Burton family, to the 1600’s in Virginia. Mary Lawrence Thompson was born May 6, 1877, in Lawrence County, Ohio, to Margaret McComb who came from Belfast, Ireland, and her husband, William Thompson, a Scotsman.

Jud and Mary were married August 7, 1901, and lived to celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary. They had 10 children: Doris – Mrs. A. E. Sovine, born 1903; Evelyn – 1905 to 1908; Mildred – Mrs. M.R. McCoy-1908; Thais – 1910 to 1912; Geneva – Mrs. D.E. Wilson – 1912; Lois – Mrs. F.C. Coleman – 1914; Rachel – Mrs. C.D. Gibson – 1916 to April 26, 1987; twins died at birth – 1918; and Raymond – married to Bertie Lee Robinson – born 1920.

Jud Qualls had little formal education but became a successful businessman. He worked on the C&O Railway for 42 years, beginning in 1902. He was foreman of bridge and water construction during the building of the Eighth Street underpass in Huntington.

He invested in property in the Hurricane area and owned the first three story building in town. The first bank was located in this building on Putnam Avenue, now the site of apartment buildings constructed by George Alexander. Jud also owned the building at 2902 Putnam Avenue, the location for many years of Hurricane Auto Supply, operated by his son-in-law, Dennis Gibson.

Over the years, Jud bought and sold various other pieces of property in the area, including what is now Orchard Park and the land at 3725 Teays Valley Road, where Raymond and his family have lived for many years.

Jud and Mary’s first home was on the current site of Hurricane High School. From there they moved to Putnam Avenue, and in 1912 to the home that Jud built at 2863 Virginia Avenue. The modernized structure is now the Methodist Church parsonage.

Jud purchased eight lots on Virginia Avenue. It was his desire that all his children live on this property. Three daughters and a granddaughter helped to fulfill this wish – Lois at 2851 Virginia Avenue, Rachel (until her death) at 2847, Doris at 2837, and, from 1957 to 1971, Jackie Coleman Ashworth at 2839.

As hard-working and investment-minded as Jud was, his wife was his equal in industriousness. Mary took care of her growing family while her husband was away working on the railroad. She raised the family’s meat and vegetables and managed their finances. Among her contemporaries, she was regarded as an excellent cook, but she was even better known for her beautiful flower garden.

Jud died in 1963, at the age of 87, and Mary died in 1970, shortly after her 93rd birthday. Surviving them are children who witnessed much of Hurricane’s first century. The older ones remember when there were no paved roads in town, the street lights were gas lamps, and the lamplighter, Mr. Bias, would stop at their home in the winter to warm his hands.

The Qualls also have contributed to Hurricane’s growth. Always civic minded, they have been active in the Eastern Star, Woman’s Club, Junior Woman’s Club, and the Band Boosters. Five generations have been active in the First Baptist Church. In addition, Raymond served in the U.S. Army in World War II.

Of the six children who reached adulthood, five graduated from Hurricane High School and three attended college. Jud and Mary had eight grandchildren, five of whom graduated from college. There are 12 great-grandchildren and today, two great-great grandchildren.

The Qualls family is not as large in number as many West Virginia “clans,” but we are proud of the fact that we still practice the principles our parents lived and taught us – hard work, honesty, and respect for others.


A digital copy of the Centennial History can be obtained from the Hurricane City Hall for a small donation. For more information, call the City of Hurricane at (304) 562-5896.

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