Bramwell Pioneer John Freeman & Family

( Wife: Isabella "Belle" Rutter Bilbie Freeman - Sons : Charles Wesley, W. George, Rollin - Daughter: Kate F. Freeman Blanton)

Historian Martha Jane Becker has written:

John Freeman was born in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, England in 1822. After coming to America he engaged in coal mining at Trenton, Pennsylvania. Leaving Pennsylvania hefirst came Fayette County, West Virginia. He was involved iron mining at around Clifton Forge until 1883. Around that time he started work in the Flat-Top coal fields in Mercer and McDowell counties. John Freeman died in 1892.

Following his death the Caswell Creek Coal & Coke Company was managed by his son, W. G. Freeman. The Caswell Creek mines were the third mines to open up mining coal in the Flat-Top coal fields. Their first shipment of coal made in August, 1884, by Jenkin Jones and John Freeman. This continued until 1889. At that time the Caswell Creek Coal & Coke Company was organized and incorporated under the laws of West Virginia. Jenkin Jones was made president and general manager. John Freeman became secretary and treasurer. John's son, Charles Wesley Freeman was made vice-president. The company leased approximately 1400 acres from the Flat-Top Land Association. On this land they built over 200 coke ovens. The company emloyed over 300 men.

John Freeman married Isabella "Belle" Bilbie of Treverton, Pennsylvania in 1863. She was the widow of John Bilbie. "Belle" was born in July, 1830 in Gateshead, England. She had three husbands and outlived them all. Isabella Rutter Freeman's first husband was James Ellwood. He died around 1851-1852. Isabell then married Joseph Bilbie. He died around 1862-63. Isabella then married John Freeman and they moved from Treverton, PA to Bramwell,WV. She was the mother of at least ten children. One husband, one son-in-law and two sons became millionaires; John Freeman, Jenkin Jones, George and Wesley Freeman. All these individuals are well known as Bramwell pioneers.

Charles Welsey Freeman, Sr (1873 - 1930) - John Freeman's son, Charles W. Freeman was also a coal operator, for the Pocahontas Fuel Company, of which he became a director and was also associated with the Caswell Creek Coal and Coke Company. Charles W. Freeman acquired his early education in the common schools of Simmons and Bramwell, took a business course at Dunmore College at Staunton, Virginia. Charles Freeman married Martha Francis Wheeler in 1909 at Lynchburg, VA. They had four children: Martha Wheeler, Charles Wesley, Jr., Margaret Ann and May Lewellen. Charles Wesley "Sunny" Freeman, Jr., 87, passed away Friday, May 5, 2000, at Lewis Gale Medical Center in Roanoke. He was born Dec. 10, 1912, at Bramwell, the eldest child of Charles Wesley "Wes" Freeman, Sr. and Martha Frances Wheeler Freeman of Bramwell. He completed his elementary education in Bramwell public schools, and went on to do undergraduate work at Davidson Coliege in Davidson, N.C. He graduated from VPI in Blacksburg having majored in civil engineering, and he joined the engineering department of the original Pocahontas Coal Company at Pocahontas.

Charles Wesley Freeman's Spouse: Martha Francis Wheeler Freeman (1884 - 1965), Children: Charles Wesley Freeman, Jr. (1912 - 2000), Margaret Ann Freeman Austin (1915 - 1954).

John Freeman's son, W. G. Freeman (born 1870) also served as secretary and treasurer of the Caswell Creek Coal & Coke Company. He married a daughter of Hiram Beals, of Pennsylvania, and they had a family of four sons. They owned one of the historic homes in Freeman. He and his family were members the local Methodist Church that later became the Baptist Church in the Oak Hill Cemetery. John Freeman and wife are buried there.

John Freeman's daughter, Kate F. Freeman Blanton (1868-1938). Kate married Sidney M. Blanton. Sidney died in 1968.


The Isabella Freeman Memorial Bridge was built across the Bluestone River at Freeman, West Virginia in 1991. This modern structure honors Isabella and John Freeman for whom the community of Freeman was named. This bridge replaced the orignal Route 52 ( Freeman Bridge ) that was built some 90 years ago. The old bridge was removed in the 1990s with the completion of this present modern bridge. Note that the Pinnacle Rock is visible in the photograph background. A view of John Freeman's grave marker located at the Freeman Cemetery in Freeman is shown below.

Isabella's husband, John Freeman was one of the pioneers of the Flat-Top Coal Fields and head of the original firm of Freeman and Jones. He was born in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, England on October 29, 1822 and came to the United States around 1850. He was a true pioneer in the southern West Virginia coal fields. As his gravemarker below shows he died at the age of 69 on October 14, 1892, leaving behind a legendary name. His and Isabella's grave sites resides in the historic Freeman Oak Hill Cemetery that is located next to the Riverside Baptist Church (formerly known as the Bluestone Baptist Church) in Freeman, WV.


(By: Senator Chafin)

Requesting the Division of Highways name bridge number 28-52-3.55, located in Mercer County, the "Isabella Freeman Memorial Bridge". Whereas, Isabella Freeman was born July 11, 1830, in England; and Whereas, Isabella Freeman came to Mercer County with her husband John, who was the owner of Caswell Creek Coal & Coal Company, a forerunner of Pocahontas Fuel Corporation; and Whereas, Isabella and John Freeman built a home on the property located at the end of the existing Route 52 bridge, where they lived for many years and are buried in the cemetery within site of the bridge; and Whereas, It is fitting, to honor the memory of Isabella Freeman, who represents the strong women of the pioneer coal mining days who helped husbands achieve success for themselves and the great Pocahontas coalfield, by naming bridge number 28-52-3.55, located in Mercer County, the "Isabella Freeman Memorial Bridge"; therefore, be it Resolved by the West Virginia Legislature: That the Legislature hereby requests the Division of Highways name bridge number28-52-3.55, located in Mercer County, the "Isabella Freeman Memorial Bridge"; and, be it Further Resolved, That the Division of Highways is hereby requested to have made and be placed signs identifying the bridge as the "Isabella Freeman Memorial Bridge"; and, be it Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the Senate is hereby directed to forward a copy of this resolution to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and the family of Isabella Freeman.


Bluefield Daily Telegraph April 13, 1899:

ISABELLA FREEMAN: Mrs. Isabella Freeman, relict of the late John Freeman of Caswell Creek Coal and Coke Company, died at her home at Simmons at 11:45 pm. Tuesday night and will be buried at Simmons on Friday afternoon at 2. p m. Mrs. Freeman was born in England but spent the greater part of her life in this country. Her husband, John Freeman was one of the pioneers of the Pocahontas Coal Field. He was the first president of the Caswell Creek Company. Mrs. Freeman left the following children: John Bilby, a son by a former marriage; Mrs. Jenkin Jones; Mrs. Chas. Scott; Mrs. Samuel Toy, Mrs. S. M. Blanton; Mrs. George Dikinson; and three sons George, Wesley and Rolin Freeman. She was a lady highly esteem and beloved, and her death is a source of general regret both in the section in which she lived and in this city (Bluefield).

Mrs. Isabella Freeman was buried next to her husband, John Freeman's grave in the Oak Hill Cemetery, Freeman, WV.

.John Freeman Tombstone, Oak Hill Cemetery, Freeman, WV