Well, like with the TV's human interest commentaries on "Every person has a story," a young lady from Mankato, MN asks us editors in Gilmer County, WV, if Glenville, the county seat, has a special tale to tell.
Since this newspaper issue comes out on "History Day at the West Virginia Legislature" (Thurs., Feb. 13), it is appropriate that we answer her sincere questions about us Gilmer Countians.
"Hello from Mankato, Minnesota!," Ms Leah Blocker, a junior at Bethany Lutheran College, begins her letter of February 1, 2014.
Continuing, she explains, "I am ... studying to become an elementary school teacher. For my Teaching Social Studies class, I am doing a project, which is simply to find out information about a community."
Leah explains, "I have always been interested in the eastern part of the country, and after simply looking at a map, I stumbled upon the town of Glenville. I found your address using the internet, but my professor requires that I get the rest of my information from real people, without using the internet. (Smart professor, this editor judges.) This will allow me to get a deeper understanding of your community by learning info that may not be known on the internet."
A student's plea ...
"I would love to hear from your readers about what makes your community yours," she affirms.
Her first question, residents of all ages can answer: "Is there anything special you do for fun?"
Well, Gilmer Countians, what do we do for fun?
For me, I guess that I enjoy going to the Gilmer County Historical Society's meetings, and learning more about the area's heritage, along having good times at the Senior Center's colorful and tasty dinner-dances.
A history lesson
Gilmer County was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1845, being named after the late governor of that commonwealth, Thomas Walker Gilmer. Related to both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Gilmer was a rising political star on the national scene when a tragedy took his life in the line of duty. As Secretary of War, he directed the firing of the cannons to christen the Navy's U.S.S. Princeton, but a backfire killed him and several other cabinet members. So, Gilmer County was named in his honor, while, in 1845, Glenville was established at a place of a wide "glen" between the mountains, where travelers could ford the Little Kanawha River.
Indeed, Glenville started out as a river city, with locks later being constructed, upstream and downstream from us, thereby allowing commercial boats propelled by horses to go from Gilmer County all the way to Parkersburg, the big city in Wood County, where the goods could enter the mighty Ohio River's much larger trade route.
At that time, agriculture was the county's main industry. Hemp plantations for the making of rope, and other food crops were grown here, along with some timbering, for export along the river, while the pioneer settlers and businesspeople received hardware and cloth materials in the many warehouses hugging the river's bank from the bigger cities.
Founding of Glenville State College
In 1872, West Virginia had already become a separate state, breaking away from Virginia during the Civil War, of which we are now commemorating the 150th anniversary. Moreover, at that time, the legislators felt strongly that many rural youths ought to have college educations, so Glenville State College was founded here, as originally a "teachers college." In those days, after a couple of years of study here, a student could become a teacher in the one-room schools that were being built in every community. As Mrs. Mary Ann Radabaugh, our local poet-historian, explains, the government in Richmond, VA never gave its western counties enough money to build schools and to educate our youths. Hence, during the Civil War, we broke away from that tyranny, forming our own state.
Shortly thereafter, natural gas was discovered in this county at both Sand Fork and Letter Gap, so the Oil & Gas Industry boom years began, and continuing to varying degrees since then. Currently, we're in the first phase of the growing Marcellus and Attica Shale gas extraction era. The latest are projected to bring the golden boom days of the past back to this county.
Also, as to the industries, we have two plastic pipe manufacturing plants in Glenville Ñ Flying "W" Plastics and Appalachian Piping. Among their products are pipes for underground drainage, I believe.
We also have a 1,700 inmate medium and low security Federal Correctional Institution here. It employs about 350 correctional officers, doing various jobs. This has led to GSC beefing up its Criminal Justice degree programs, utilizing, in part, the new I.L. and Sue Morris Criminal Justice Center, where all of the correctional officers in the state prison and jail systems get their initial orientations and training.
Mr. and Mrs. Morris, a local Oil & Gas Industry family, have also been generous to renovate the college's football stadium and to contribute to the new basketball-medical-forestry dept. center, a state of the art educational and community center.
Now, what makes our community rather special statewide in addition to Glenville State College, is we are the home of the West Virginia State Folk Festival. This event takes place every year during the third weekend of June. In fact, this year it runs from Thurs.-Sun., June 19-22.
At that time, the town changes completely, being alive with the folk music being played on the street corners and old-fashioned hoedown square dancing taking place on a downtown street, next to our modern and beautiful City Square Park.
Also, a wide variety of Appalachian folk tales and ghost stories are told, a bird ID contest is held, and spelling bee takes place. Additionally, the old-time quilt contests are featured, along with fiddle and banjo competition, for young and old categories.
Thus, I'd like to invite you, Leah, and your friends to attend this year's Folk Festival. Then, you'll get the real flavor of our Mountain State's history and culture. It's truly a rich heritage, being preserved right here in Glenville.
I think that I've answered most of your questions, but if any of our many readers also want to comment to you on what I've unintentionally omitted, they can write to you at:
Bethany Lutheran College
700 Luther Dr.
Mankato, MN 56001
She also asks us to send her any photographs, artifacts, recipes, etc. that may be of help to her. I will mail her this edition of the newspaper.
Finally, as with all of our GSC students, with whom I come in contact, I'd advise Leah to stick with her studies, to learn as much as she can, to earn that college degree and, then, to go out and do her share to change the world for the better. A tall order, but attainable for each college graduate and the rest of us, as well.
Last Thurs., Feb. 6, I attended "Newspaper Day at the Legislature."
Thanks to State Delegate Brent Boggs for attending our West Virginia Press Association Breakfast. The speakers were all good: Senate President Jeff Kessler (one of our Gilmer County legislators), Sen. Mike Hall (Minority Leader), House Speaker Tim Miley, and State Delegate Tim Armstead (Minority Leader).
Needless to say, they all, along with all of the attendees, were talking about the Charleston tainted water disaster. And, to answer your question, "No" I didn't drink the State Capitol's water, but only drank bottled H2O.
Like most of those present, I, too, am fearful of what other toxic chemicals may be in that WV-American Water Company's system after the Freedom Industries' chemical spill.
More on this in a future story!
Remember, at 5 p.m. on Thurs., Feb. 27, Lamberts Winery of Weston will be the "Business After 5 PM Social Hour" host at the Glenville Inn. A wine tasting will take place, too, making the social more social.
Postscript, No. 3
Happy Valentine's Day!
As always, we want all of you readers to be our special Valentines this year. This is a special day for all of us, because it's our chance to let the love inside us shine out to those special others in our lives. So, gents and ladies, don't forget to give your well-wishes to your special family members and friends.
Finally, be good, kind folks, and try to perform at least one "Random Act of Kindness" this week, if that's possible as we deal with all of the changes in our weather..