Concord Church Becomes Athens
As stated before, when in 1858 a house of worship was erected and was called Concord Church, this “no-name” community became known as Concord Church. In 1866, a post office bearing that name was established, and the county seat was relocated to Concord Church. At that time, one could hardly anticipate the confusion that developed during the next thirty years.
The confusion seems to have started in 1872 when the West Virginia Legislature passed “an Act to locate a branch state normal school in Concord, in the County of Mercer.” Classes began in 1875, and until 1896, the official publication of this institution gave its location as being in Concord, Mercer County. Officially, this new institution was a branch of the West Virginia State Normal School, but it was commonly called the Concord State Normal School or the Concord Normal School.
As the community continued to grow around Concord Normal School, demand for building lots increased. A survey entitled “Town of Concord” was made and filed with the County Clerk’s Office. Deeds to building lots in the surveyed area gave the locations as being in the Town of Concord, or just Concord, in Mercer County, West Virginia.
So far, facts have been presented that may be the basis for the confusion that seemed to exist. Two examples are given where the town Concord Church was officially recognized within the State as being just Concord ---- with “Church” being omitted. At the same time, the postal address of patrons in the town was still, and would officially continue to be until 1896, Concord Church, West Virginia, according to the United States Post Office Department (see 1890 CSNS advertisement).
To add to the confusion, a Concord Post Office was established in 1876 in Hampshire County, and it continued to operate under this name until 1933, when it was discontinued, and the mail went to Lehew, West Virginia. Having two offices with similar names, Concord Church and Concord, evidently did not violate the Postal Office Department’s prohibition against two offices with the same name within the same state.
Common usage may change a name. A contributing cause of the confusion could have been that people, either by intent or neglect, dropped “Church” from the name of the town, and it became known as Concord. If this was the case, then one could see that mail addressed to a person in Concord, West Virginia could easily end up in either Mercer County or Hampshire County.
Regardless of the cause, some confusion apparently did exist. In 1896, a group of faculty of Concord Normal School go together and decided upon “Athens” (seat of learning in Ancient Greece ) as the new name for the Town. Credit for suggesting the new name has been given by previous writers to C. A. Fulwider and Miss Nannie J. McCreary, both members of the Normal School faculty, and to Dr. Waitman Barbe, of the West Virginia University.
On July 1, 1896, the name of the Post Office in Concord Church was officially changed to Athens. The 1896 – 1897 official publication of the State Normal School gave its location as Athens, West Virginia. Ten years later on August 6, 1906, Athens, Mercer County, West Virginia became incorporated.