Calhoun County is no stranger to immigrants. The entire
area west of the Appalachians was a beautiful, but unknown landscape
that no one Indian tribe laid claim to.
Some of the earliest settlers came here from Europe,
made it their home, and left their mark upon the land.
During the Great Depression, in the 1930s, a Spanish
man, Joe Janerio, came here as a stone mason. His work is still visible
all over the county through the stone walls, bridges and buildings he
crafted from the native stone quarried here.
This is a story about a modern day immigrant, who is a
general contractor and also a stone mason.
Peter Cobbett of Five Forks came here from England in
1976 after touring much of the world with only a bedroll on his back. He
was drawn to America by the promises of freedom, opportunity and
“England being so small, I actually came from all over.
I’ve lived in all parts of the country. The place I left to come here
was Wales. Wales was a great place to live, but I like it here much
better. I love living in Calhoun County and cannot imagine living
anywhere else,” said Cobbett.
He learned stone work in Cambridge, England, where there
is very little wood for construction, but plenty of stone.
When he arrived in Calhoun, he found there was very
little work for him. Out of necessity, he joined the bricklayers union
in Parkersburg and Charleston and was able to make a living driving long
distance to work every day, until he established himself here as a stone
Cobbett began working here doing carpentry and general
contracting work with Mike Delassandro, who helped introduce him to the
people of Calhoun and start his business. Today, he owns Quality
“Stonework and fireplaces are my specialty. I built the
stone fireplace in the Brooksville Church with stone taken from the hill
at David Cain’s. It is one of my most memorable jobs,” he said. “Working
with stone, for me, is a gift from God.”
This fireplace at the home of Helen Morris features old-world charm,
with a built-in storage area for firewood.
Many homes in the county have a stone fireplace that he
has built. The brick work on the Senior Citizens Center in Grantsville
was done by Quality Construction.
Stone work deck for gazebo.
While he has not built any stone cellars or stone walls,
he has made repairs on some stone work in the area, including repairs
last year to the former county jail building in Grantsville, after
lightning struck the chimney blowing some stones off and damaging the
slate roofing tiles.
Peter Cobbett repairs lightning damage to the
former old jail building in Grantsville.
Impressed with all of the stone work in the county,
Cobbett doesn’t think it will ever be replicated.
“There were many man-hours spent on those projects,” he
said. “Imagine the amount of work it took to cut the stone, move it to
the project, cut it to size and set it in place. And, they did it so
well that it still does the job even today.”
The work done for the old bridge in Grantsville is
particularly impressive. The stone piers have withstood the passage of
time. The wall holding the hill in place at the southern end of the old
bridge has held the massive hill back for over eighty years.
What has kept him in this county? “The good-hearted
people and the friendliness of the county. I discovered that quality
here straight away and that is why this is my home,” said Cobbett.
He is a member of New Testament Baptist Church, Big
Springs, and lives in Five Forks with his wife Lori Jean. He has two
grown sons, Trystan and Finn.