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Linger Chair Factory

The Linger chair factory, located in Upshur County near Rock Cave in West Virginia, made the sturdy ladder-back chairs known to generations of 4-H campers at Jackson’s Mill. Waitman T. Linger started making chairs in 1887 at Beans Mill, Upshur County. After a disastrous fire, his small family-run business relocated to several places over the years, including Alton, Sago, Indian Camp, and then French Creek in 1928. During this period Linger ran a successful cant hook handle manufacturing business in addition to making chairs.

The factory was moved to Rock Cave in 1950, after being sold to James G. Linger, Waitman T.’s grandson. After operating successfully for almost 20 years, he sold the business in 1969 to the Upshur County Chair and Craft Cooperative, which was formed with the help of a federal grant. By 1971, ownership had returned to James G. Linger. The factory was sold in 1973 to Richard Virship, who operated it until 1981, when he stopped making chairs and put the business up for sale.

After remaining idle for 17 years, the chair factory was purchased by Lonnie Bender in 1998. Repairs and restoration began on the century-old machines, which include a 1902 nine-foot back knife pattern lathe, a boring machine, and a mortise machine. Bender learned chair making during an apprenticeship with Tom Lynch, a former apprentice at the factory, and with guidance from James G. Linger. Bender expected to put the chair factory back into full production, crafting stools and the chair known locally as the Linger ladder back. This chair is constructed from West Virginia hardwoods using greenwood mortise and tenon interlocking joints, a traditional technique that ensures strength and longevity.

Most of the chairs made at the chair factory over the years were sold locally, many to the Jackson’s Mill 4-H Camp to use in the seat-weaving classes and in the dining hall. Many remain in use today.

Written by Tom Lynch