Featured, Local History, The Centennial History of Hurricane

Centennial History of Hurricane: Arthur Nathaniel Sumner

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 226th installment of the Centennial History.


Submitted by Merdith F. Sumner

About 1895 Arthur Nathaniel Sumner came to the Hurricane area from Christiansburg, Virginia. His family settled on Trace Creek, where he met and married Lula Estelle Rupe April 5, 1898. They established a home and farmed until 1913, when they moved to Hurricane.

Three sons and two daughters were born of that union. The boys-Clive (1899- 1901), Ronald Earl (1900-1976), and Clay (1906-1985) are deceased. The daughters, Merdith F. and Lillian M. Sumner Roach still reside in Hurricane.

Ronald married Kathleen Garrett and they were the parents of one child, Vera Jeanetta Sumner Hash (Mrs. Bruce B.) of Florida. Ronald worked as an agent for the C&O Railroad for several years, and later managed the A.N. Sumner Furniture Store. He was Mayor of Hurricane for two terms. Lillian married Charles Robert Roach and taught school in Putnam County for 40 years. Merdith and Clay remained single, and became co-owners of Sumner’s Department Store in 1955.

A.N. Sumner (1877-1960) worked for several people in Hurricane, including Noah Allen. He got his start in the merchandising field under Mr. Allen, and in 1917 started his first business on Main Street. This was an “ice cream parlor” in a building beside the Conner Hotel, located between the present-day Ward’s TV and Peabody’s. Here the family sold ice cream and sundries. In a year the Sumners moved to a larger building where the Putnam County Bank stands. In a few years they started a general merchandise store on the first floor of the IOOF building. In 1922 Mr. Sumner built a brick structure on Main Street beside the Hurricane Breeze building. Thus began Sumner’s Department Store, an establishment for general merchandise, with the slogan, “Sells Everything.”

This was a family business for 52 years, until Merdith and Clay retired in 1974. They sold the building in 1975, and it burned in March, 1979.

The store had a reputation for miles around and won many honors, including an award from the Friedman-Shelby Shoe Company.

In 1949, Mr. Sumner built a new structure on Second Street which housed the A.N. Sumner Furniture Company. This store was managed by Ronald Sumner and Bruce Hash until the building was leased and later burned in 1969.

Mr. Sumner was a civic-minded person who was Mayor of Hurricane for two terms. He had a great interest in education, serving on the Board of Education for several years, first on the Curry District Board and later on the Putnam County Board, being president of both. He was a charter member of the local Lions Club, and a member of the IOOF Lodge.

Mr. and Mrs. Sumner joined the First Baptist Church in 1914, and were devout Christians and faithful church members through the years. Mr. Sumner served as deacon and Sunday School superintendent, and in the latter-role, conducted the first meeting in the new church building on November 9, 1924. He was a large contributor to the building program for the new edifice, completed in 1924. Mrs. Sumner (1880-1971) served as Sunday School teacher and deaconess for several years.


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.

Mr. Sumner is standing at the right of the door with his two sons, Ronald and Clay.
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