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Photo of the Month
March 2021
See Previous Photos     Unknown Faces and Places


Rev. Okey Mayle, Sr. -- the great-grandson of the Native American/Pennsylvania German couple Jacob and Ruth Ann (Adams) Minerd -- was a well known preacher in and around Philippi, WV. Okey "was an early leader in the drive to recognize the native heritage on Chestnut Ridge," said a 1999 article in Goldenseal Magazine, published by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

Born in Philippi in 1903, he was the son of William Stephen and Ruth Ann (Minerd) Mayle, who in turn were one of more than 240 known marriages between the Minerd-Minard-Miner and Mayle-Mayle families of West Virginia and Eastern Ohio. Okey was a coal miner at age 14 and in time learned the trade of carpentry and painting. In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked in Detroit. He later returned to his home region of Philippi and founded St. Peter's African Methodist Episcopal Church. Perhaps his most fulfilling project occurred after the church was destroyed by fire. Undeterred at the age 87 or 88 at the time, he oversaw its reconstruction in 1991, with the structure built of concrete block to prevent another conflagration.. Today it is known locally today as "Okey's Gospel Church." He was active in the Allegany Nation of the Native American Association and drew others in the family to become involved.

Okey is pictured in the 1981 book, Our Kind of People: Identity, Community and Religion on Chestnut Ridge, authored by Thomas McElwain. He also was featured in a 1984 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article headlined "Ridge Folks: Heirs to Uncertain Identity," written by Barry Paris.

He died at the age of 91 in 1994. His remains were lowered into rest in the sacred soil of Chestnut Ridge Cemetery, among several generations of his ancestors including his parents and grandfather and step-grandmother, Civil War veteran Henry C. and Sarah Catherine (Croston) Minerd. His influence is still strongly felt today.

This image is thought to have been made by author McElwain and graciously has been provided by Okey's niece, Beverly Joanne (Johnson) Smith of Canton, OH.


Copyright 2021 Mark A. Miner