LORENTZ — This series of regular articles explores aspects of Upshur County’s history, culture or people honored by the West Virginia Highway Historical Marker Program. The state register lists 20 of these iconic white plaques as being in Upshur County and each article will present as much information on the subject as can be found. This sixth installment discusses the community of Lorentz.
Lorentz, a small, unincorporated community nestled in northwestern Upshur County on U.S. Route 33, dates to the 18th Century. The first settlers were mainly of Dutch descent and some of the notable families, including the Regers, Allmans, Castos, Westfalls Clarks and Lorentzs. The community was named in honor of Jacob Lorentz (1776-1866), a wealthy businessman who moved there in 1800. Lorentz owned the first store in Upshur County and lived in the first pained house in the county. He and his sons owned large tracts of land in Upshur and Lewis counties. The Lorentz community itself was originally part of Harrison County; it became a part of Lewis County in 1816, also when the city of Buckhannon was founded, and later part of Upshur County in 1851.
The early frontier was a dangerous place to live. In 1795, the settlers were attacked by Native Americans, who took hostage or killed 18 members of the Bozarth and Schoolcraft families. Though the hostages were later released with the signing of a peace treaty, not all were left alive. According to later records, the natives “killed a crippled boy and three small children.” When such hazards were present, people often took refuge in Bush’s Fort near modern-day Buckhannon and near which Captain William White was killed in an attack. This story is noted on another Highway Historical Marker. However, it was not just the native people that proved a threat to the settlers. Sometimes, nature itself provided the peril. When one of the Bozarth children was sent to bring in the cattle, his scream went up from across the farm. Some men and two bear dogs ran to investigate and discovered a mountain lion perched upon a fallen tree, threatening to jump the boy. The dogs kept it at bay, while the men dispatched it with their guns.
With time, Lorentz became larger and less untamed as more and more people settled in and developed the community. Lorentz became the home of the first store, first tannery, first smithy, first brick house, first painted frame house and first road wagon (horse-drawn buggy) in Upshur County, as well as the third-oldest post office. The abundance of chestnuts and acorns made hog farming profitable; the livestock were driven on foot over the mountains to markets in Richmond and Baltimore and Jacob Lorentz is said to have once driven 937 hogs to Richmond. The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike was constructed through the settlement in 1843-44, providing many opportunities for the community to grow. The first church in Lorentz was built near the turnpike in 1857, on land provided by Jacob Lorentz Before that time, religious services were held in individual private homes. The congregation itself was organized in 1835. The church burned down in 1881 but was rebuilt in 1884 on the same site; the current Mt. Olive Methodist Church has stood since 1913.
During its heyday, Lorentz was known for producing a number of ministers and even more schoolteachers. At various times, it has been home to the Lorentz Sunbeam 4-H Club, a farmers’ club, which was the largest in Upshur County, and a baseball club. Even today, the community of Lorentz continues to thrive and readers are encouraged to visit this historic Upshur County location, still nestled along the turnpike.