Editor’s note: The following story is part of a monthly series of articles that examine the people, culture and history of the small towns that dot the landscape of Fayette County.
Markleysburg is a community of only roughly 300.
To some, it’s the only life they know. Nellie Fisher has lived here for more than a century.
And Mary Markley Hinebaugh, 96, remembers her school days in the community fondly as the great-granddaughter of the town founder, Squire John Markley.
Then there are others, who never grew up in the community, but one day came to know the town of sunset mountain views and hard-work ethic, and settled in among the locals.
People like the Rev. Donald and Dorothy Hersom, who moved here 30 years ago from Maine.
Others like Anna Mitchell, who transplanted 14 years ago from the hustle and bustle of the west coast, and now runs the register at the G.W. Superette on Main Street.
Their beginnings may have been as different as night and day, but to the folks of Markleysburg, they are now a united community. They are family. And they don’t intend to change it.
Like many small towns, the people of Markleysburg said it’s a friendly place, where people help their neighbors, and everyone knows everyone.
“A lot of people (outside of Markleysburg) don’t know their next-door neighbor. They live in places all their lives, and they might now know,” said Dorothy Hersom. “You don’t see this everywhere. You don’t get this kind of attention everywhere.”
In the early years, Markleysburg was a community built around the timber business, some mining and farming. The Main Street echoes the typical small-town main drag — a military honor roll, a post office and of course, the borough building.
It is still a town of “mom and pops,” including the Superette and eateries like Curt’s Family Restaurant, which is owned by Curt and Debora Hager. It is the place in town churchgoers congregate after services from one of the several churches in town.
Residents saw their first public water opportunity just 12 years ago. And it was big news to the town when a Family Dollar opened last year.
Although Fisher appreciates the improvements over the years, she reminisces over her 103 years with crystal clear memories when there were mud streets and Model T cars about town. She lived through the Depression and the war. She watched people leave in the hopes of success elsewhere. Fisher admits she and her husband also moved to Arizona for five years, but deeply missed where she belonged.
She delved into her community, serving as the town auditor and a judge of elections. She raised the couple’s five children, and she cooked for the church.
“There are a lot of special people here, like Nellie,’’ said Dorothy Hersom.
For Mitchell, it was easy to give up the noise and the fumes of Seattle for the quiet, fresh mountain air.
“Up here, it’s total opposite. People take their time and are courteous,” she said. “If you have five people in line, it’s ‘Oh, you go ahead.’ People always bring their buggies back in. It’s nice. The special part is the people.’’
Dick Dennis is board president for Mountain Fellowship Center, a community-run, non-profit facility on 168 acres that offers recreation such as softball, volleyball, basketball and rollerskating, as well as a flea market and food pantry.
“I’ve had people in the past tell me they considered going somewhere else but built here because of the activities of the center,’’ said Dennis.
The center, according to Fisher, is a vital part of keeping the town as it’s always been.
“The center is very important because it brings the community together,” she said.
Other entertainment in the town is usually crafted by the local fire department, including Community Days and Thursday night bingo.
“We support the firemen in any way we can,’’ said Melina Appleby, VFD auxiliary president. Appleby realizes firsthand the importance of the fire department after fire struck her home.
“If anything happens, families are there to help you. Friends are there to support you,’’ Appleby said. “I think we have something special here.’’
For Dorothy Hersom, there is comfort in finding a home with no regrets.
“We come down here because we felt that was God’s plan for our lives,” she said. “I don’t know of a better place he could have sent us.”