'History Day' Fun

As the Mountain State celebrates its 150th Anniversary year, which began on last June 20, 2013, Gilmer County topped that by its 169th year with a "County Birthday Party" at the Courthouse in Glenville on Wed., Feb. 5. (The actual date the county was founded - Feb. 3, 1845 - is rarely the day the sponsoring Gilmer County Historical Society commemorates the festivity, due to the likelihood of drawing a larger crowd on the day the County Commission meets. Significantly, the County Commissioners of President Brian Kennedy and fellow Commissioners Darrel Ramsey and Larry Chapman are staunch supporters of our local Historical Society, of which we members appreciate.)

Likewise, as "History Day at the State Legislature" in Charleston takes place on this Thurs., Feb. 13, it should be emphasized that several organizations in Gilmer County take our local history seriously and steadily work to preserve and enhance it. Hence, the state legislators are to be commended for setting aside this day for us to showcase our projects.

Leading in this noble effort to save and publicize Central West Virginia's rich heritage is the Gilmer County Historical Society, which holds monthly meetings with appropriate programs and covered dish luncheons Ñ indeed, food for thought and the stomach. The afternoon's activities start at noon on the third Thursday of the month, and the general public is invited to attend. The program begins at 1:15 p.m., and many informative ones have taken place during the past 12 months, the January meeting being highlighted by Dr. Tommy Smith's spirited recounting of several Civil War battles. Dr. Smith, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the History Ranger at the Bulltown Battlefield Historic District in adjoining Braxton County and is a member of our Gilmer Historical Society.

This year the society is honoring Dr. Bob Henry Baber, of Glenville State College, for his visionary leadership in preserving and cataloguing our state veterans' biographies in the school's "West Virginia Veterans Legacy Project," which has been a roaring success with over 250 former service men and women being personally interviewed by the archival staff. In addition, a WV Veterans Play was produced, a book was written highlighting their lives and heroics, a photo exhibit of the honorees was held at GSC's Art Gallery and, finally, a formal Military & Veterans Ball ended the week of congratulatory activities lauding our state veterans' achievements. Although Dr. Baber had much help in planning and producing this weeklong extravaganza for our defenders of liberty, it was mainly his hand that penned the many words, paragraphs and chapters of all of the above-mentioned written scripts. That's why he so richly deserves the society's "Gilmer County Historic Hero's" Award for 2014, and will receive his recognition citation on this Thursday morning at the State Division of Culture and History's gala ceremony.

Also, the Historical Society is caretaker of the Historic Holt House Museum on East Main Street in Glenville, the birthplace of the late Helen Holt Mollohan, who was the wife of a U.S. Congressman, Robert Mollohan (deceased), and the mother of another, former Congressman Alan Mollohan, of Fairmont and Washington, DC. The early 1900s river city frame home is open to the public for tours by appointment, but is also available all day long during the annual Folk Festival the third weekend of June and during other Glenville community festivals. Additionally, behind the Holt House is the modern annex, which houses much of the society's vast archival and genealogical record collections Ñ this being a popular destination of history buffs searching out their families' histories. Mrs. Dot Frey, Librarian, and Laura Reed Yates, Treasurer, are the able archival helpers on duty there. Call them for the days and hours the library is open at 304-462-4295 (afternoons).

A major restoration project in the county was completed within the past two years at Job's Temple, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site's preservation advocates, headed by President and First Lady, Bob and Allie Maxwell (two county History Heroes of the recent past), worked closely with State's Division of Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, who provided well over $100,000 to restore the rustic and popular Civil War Era log church. Past Respects, a Spencer-based historical preservation contracting company headed by Frank Unger, replaced the deteriorating portions of the structure, including a new wood shake roof and drains on the hill side to divert the rain water from soaking and rotting the sill. Also, they removed the bad boards in the flooring and replaced them with similar vintage boarding. To participate in this most notable preservation project, we editors recommend that all historically-inclined people send a check Ñ in any amount Ñ to the: "Job's Temple Association," c / o Louella Stalnaker, Assoc. Treasurer, 9 Lorentz Dr., Glenville, WV 26351. Contributions can be made in the name of anyone, including as an honor to a loved one or as a memorial to a deceased relative or friend. They are also tax deductible. Finally, the church's 76th Annual Homecoming will be on Sun., Aug. 10, 2014, starting at 10 a.m. The public is invited to this old-time church service and luncheon in order to experience the strong feelings of love and kinship the past congregation's descendents have for each other at this landmark.

In mentioning landmarks, the WV State Folk Festival's Committee ably operates the Country Store Museum and the Old Kanawha Union Bank Building, both in downtown Glenville. They are open and alive with people during the annual Folk Festival, which will take place from Thurs.-Sun., June 19-22, 2014 in the downtown and at Glenville State College. This is the yearly heritage event where Belles from each county Ñ ladies of 70 years or older who represent our state's pioneering traditions and achievementsÑ are honored for their years of service to their families, communities, the state and nation. Each county is invited to send a Belle, who must be nominated by either the County's CEOS or Economic Development Authority/County Commission.

Finally, and in a lighter historical tone, the considerate and scholarly George Moore, a Gilmer County native, stopped by this newspaper's office of late to remind all Mountaineers to do something significant to celebrate our Mountain State's 150th anniversary.

Here's some early WV history from Mr. Moore: West Virginia voters went to the polls on May 28, 1863, to elect their government officials. The Constitution Union Party candidate, Arthur I. Boreman, of Wood County, won the election as the state's first governor. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state in the Union. The Inaugural Ceremonies were held in Wheeling, the first capital. In his inaugural address, Mr. Boreman referred to the state as "the child of the rebellion," and stated that "today after many long and weary years of insult and injustice, culminating on the part of the East, in an attempt to destroy the Government, we have the proud satisfaction of proclaiming to those around us that we are a separate State in the Union." George Moore's history, "A Banner In The Hills: West Virginia's Statehood," is available at most public, college libraries and bookstores. That was his contribution to West Virginia's Sesquicentennial, and one that is difficult for the rest of us to top! But, "History Day at the Legislature" helps!