Featured, Local History, The Centennial History of Hurricane

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 215th installment of the Centennial History.


Submitted by Carol Rowsey and Marion Howell

Riley Washington Sovine was born September 27, 1857, on Sleepy Creek near what is now Hurricane, Putnam County, West Virginia, the oldest child of William Halpayne Sovine (1832-1910) and Harriet Ann Woodson Sovine (1833-1871). His paternal grandparents were Henry Sovine II and Catherine Courtney Thomas Sovine.

Riley Washington Sovine had two brothers – Charles C., died 1938; and William Sherman, died 1941 – and three sisters – Sarah Ellen Gibson, died 1935; Mary Catherine Hodges, died 1929, and Pauline Victoria Crowder, died 1912. There were also three half-sisters born from William Halpayne Sovine’s second marriage to Amanda Aumiller Foster – Cora Alice Leadman, died 1949; Eva Ora Wallace, died 1955; and Nora Mae Taylor, who is also deceased. There are two stepbrothers – James W. and Charles E. Foster – and one stepsister – Mary E. Foster.

Riley Washington Sovine married Clara Elmeda Montgomery on October 7, 1884, and to this union twelve children were born: Alpha Lillian (1885-1957) married Jay Hawkins Sovine and lived their last years in Huntington. They were the parents of four children: Inez died in infancy, Beulah Hope Shepherd died in 1973, Mildred Humphries Renkenberger lives in Portsmouth, Ohio, and Lester Ellsworth lives in Huntington. Alma Lockwood (1887-1972) married Ivan T. “Mike” Henson, had no children, and lived most of their married life in Huntington. Warner Preston (1888-1889) was the only one of the twelve to die in infancy. Orville Windom (1890-1965) married Mabel Lois Gibson, lived in Hurricane, and had four daughters: Phala (Eastes), Eloise Fern (Taylor), and Kendall Lee (Womack) all of whom live in Hurricane. Clara Catherine died in childhood. Chester Reed (1892-1968) married Ann Marie Stephens, lived in Charleston, and had one daughter, Mary Delores Wilson, who died in 1969. Robert McKinley (1893-1942) never married and lived in Huntington. Guy Elkins (1895-1956) married Artie Leadman, lived in Hurricane, and had two children: Warren Denver (died 1984) lived in Milton, and Dorothy Jane Maynard lives in Hurricane. Burke Allison (1897-1972) married Bertha Alice Sovine, had no children, and lived all his life in the Riley Washington Sovine home place where he was born and died. Homer Creswell (1899-1941) married Mae Chaney and had two sons: Ray Wilton died in infancy, and Raymond lives in Elkhart, Indiana. Arthur Everett “Preacher” (1901-1974) married Doris Qualls, had no children, and lived in Hurricane. Howard Taft (1905-1941) married Thelma Mae Smith, lived in Hurricane, and had five children: Marion Agnes Howell lives in Vienna, Carol Joyce Rowsey lives in Hurricane, Lois Jean White lives in Huntington, Bruce Lynn died in infancy, and Riley Smith lives in Craig, Colorado. Hazel Irene (born 1906) married Hallie Gordon Wise and had three children: Loretta Joan Beaver lives in Luling, Louisiana; Lowell Gene lives in Washington, D.C.; and Roger Blaine lives in St. Albans. Hazel Irene is the only surviving child and lives in Pinellas Park, Florida.

Elmeda Sovine

Although several descendants of Riley Washington Sovine live in other states now, a large number still reside in the Hurricane area. However, from this large family of nine boys (who were businessmen, railroad and Carbide workers and/or farmers and school teachers) only two great­ grandsons remain to carry on the name as direct descendants of Riley Washington Sovine. They are Thomas Clay Sovine of Milton and Robert Scot Sovine of Craig, Colorado. Riley Washington was a school teacher at Signal Gap School near his home for many years. He died March 25, 1917. Clara Elmeda Montgomery Sovine died September 28, 1934, at her home where all her children were born and raised. They are both buried in the Old Hurricane Cemetery on Virginia Avenue.


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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