By Joe, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
They stand as silent sentinels; reminders of our past. The historic buildings in the Heritage Area of Jackson’s Mill remain from that past to allow current and future generations to better understand their collective history. The Farmstead – as it is unofficially referred to – tells the story of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century of West(ern) Virginia, as well as the formative years of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. His is a story of overcoming adversity, and young man’s commitment to better himself despite difficult circumstances.
For years, the story of the Jackson’s was not shared at Jackson’s Mill; that is until Around the turn of the twentieth century, a regional railway service ran a trolley line, which featured a stop near the historic Jackson’s Mill. The public could visit the boyhood home of the man known as “Stonewall” and could walk the grounds or picnic there on pleasant days. It was here that in 1921, the state of West Virginia forever linked the story of one youth who overcame adversity with the development of untold thousands of others; when Jackson’s Mill was selected as the permanent site for the first state 4-H camp in the world!
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Camping in West Virginia 4-H, and although Jackson’s Mill as a 4-H site is not quite so old, it will see tremendous celebration throughout the camping season. As a result, the time is ideal for the development of a volunteer program in the Heritage Area, and on April 25th, we took the first steps.
Although Jackson’s Mill as a site is quite busy throughout the year with various camps and other groups who rent various buildings in the mill for conferences with a sizable staff, the staff at the Farmstead and in Heritage Programming consists of a Program Specialist and one historian, who cover both on-site and outreach programs. This has been augmented with the assistance of an AmeriCorps Member, but we still struggle to meet the programming mission and our role in the West Virginia University Extension Service under which we operate. In addition, meeting this mission often leaves many of our historic buildings and the physical site in desperate want of attention. So I determined that we should organize a workday dedicated the buildings and site, as a whole.
After welcoming them, I described the work we intended to get done that day: cleaning the historic buildings – we have four of them altogether and redoing the planting beds in our Heritage Garden. We quickly divided the group and set out to work – the first task: to clean our two pioneer cabins. It went surprisingly quick. The volunteers were far more enthusiastic and energized than I could have hoped. In less than 2 hours, we had two buildings completely cleaned, and both groups decided to work on getting the Heritage Garden done. This was completed in about another hour and a half. As we continued to work on this task, both of the 4-H mothers asked if they could move on to another building. While the rest of us worked to finish the garden beds, they moved onto our water-powered gristmill. All of this was completed by a little after 1 in the afternoon; at which point, we broke for lunch, which we had provided down in our store. All that remained was one final building to clean. Unfortunately, the weather that had been threatening all afternoon finally turned. I decided that instead of asking the volunteers to stay and risk traveling back home in worse weather, that they should make their way home. This left only one building for “Gabby” and myself to finish.
As they left, I thanked the volunteers for selflessly giving of their time and energy. They were a small group, admittedly, but they were a cross-section of ages, and all of them willingly gave up their Saturday to come in and help us. I told them that while it may only appear to have been some gardening and spring cleaning in our buildings, it represented more than a week or two worth of time for “Gabby” and myself; time that we could now spend on other critical projects in the Heritage Area. I also told them that they were the first participants in what I intend to be a long-term commitment to utilizing volunteers in our programming and in helping to maintain our area. All of the volunteers mentioned that they would love to come and help us again, and would encourage more people to join them in the future. I am still truly humbled that these people came to help, although, it is not because of me that they came necessarily. In many ways, I merely offered them the opportunity to become involved with, and take ownership of their history and they seized on that opportunity. I believe that young Thomas would have been proud of these people and their efforts, as am I.
Preservation Alliance of WV is currently accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Preserve WV AmeriCorps program year.
The Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is a statewide program administered by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV), the statewide nonprofit organization promoting historic preservation in the Mountain State. The purpose of the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is to implement historic preservation and heritage tourism projects throughout West Virginia by way of historic resource re-use, improvement, development, and interpretation. Members’ service will focus on economic development through historic resource improvement, nonprofit organizational capacity building, heritage tourism development, historic preservation, and environmental stewardship. Volunteer management and community engagement are other important facets of the program.
Preserve WV AmeriCorps members will be placed with an individual site throughout the state of West Virginia. Program start date is August 31, 2015. All members are expected to serve for 11 ½ to 12 months with full-time members serving 1750 hours and half-time members serving 950 hours.
AmeriCorps site locations include Beckley, Morgantown, Wheeling, Fairmont, Ripley, Shepherdstown, and more. For a full list of sites and position descriptions, email email@example.com.
To begin the application process, either send your:
Resume, cover letter, and three references with contact information, emailed directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, including which interest areas appeal to you and why you think this AmeriCorps position would be a good fit for you. Please give us multiple ways to contact you, especially if your email access is not reliable.
Complete the AmeriCorps application, submitted to PAWV through http://www.americorps.gov web site. (http://www.americorps.gov/for_individuals/ready/index.asp) Alternatively, you can do the AmeriCorps application later if you are selected for interview. A cover letter must be emailed directly to email@example.com as well.
By James, Preserve WV AmeriCorps serving at Historic Shepherdstown Commission and Museum
Recently, the Historic Shepherdstown Commission and Museum received a donation from local resident Jim Schmitt that sparked wonder and imagination into Shepherdstown’s past. The donation was of two baseball gloves and a jersey that read “Red Sox” on the front. These were left over treasures of the Shepherdstown Red Sox, a black baseball team that operated from the 1930’s until the late 1960’s. The donation not only impressed and awed the members of HSC, but also pointed out a dire problem facing the museum. While the museum has operated since the 1970’s and the various hands that have run it did their best to represent the history of Shepherdstown as a whole, there was no real representation of the African American community in the museum.
The baseball team items seemed like a perfect opportunity to address this problem head on and started a wave of interest and activity in order to bring this important part of the history into the museum. To do this initial research on the baseball team was done through pulling out an article that was published in 1986 that summarized the history of the team. But interestingly enough there were people living today who could remember the Red Sox playing in Shepherdstown. Since the ’86 article was the only bit of history found at the time, a project emerged in order to get the stories of the black community and the baseball team’s role in it, oral histories.
HSC decided to partner with Shepherd University’s Keith Alexander who ran an oral history class at Shepherd and allow the students to contact these people to hear their stories and memories. Finding members of the community who were old enough to remember the Red Sox and willing to participate was challenging for the students who decided to then expand their search to the African American community in Jefferson County. The oral histories were presented at a HSC event this past month and the histories will soon be passed over to the university archives, HSC archives, and the Jefferson County Historical Society archives.
In a recent development, two former players of the Red Sox agreed to step forward and be interviewed for the project. Reverend Charles Hunter and Clarence Branson had both played on the Red Sox in the 1960’s and were born and raised in Shepherdstown. In an hour and half interview they recounted stories of playing for the team, the sense of community felt in the town, and the discrimination they had experienced in their lifetimes. The stories were very helpful and incredibly interesting. Both men also still have their uniforms from playing and are willing to lend them to HSC for use in their display. The African American and Shepherdstown Red Sox display is still likely to be ready several months in the future, a lot of the initial research has been made possible by the truly amazing stories told through the oral history project.
AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. To learn more about AmeriCorps see www.americorps.gov. The PreserveWV AmeriCorps program is sponsored by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service: www.volunteerwv.org/
This AmeriCorps program is funded in part by a grant from Volunteer WV, the State’s Commission for National and Community Service and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Volunteer WV encourages West Virginians of all ages and abilities to be involved in service to their community.
WHAT’S WILD? WHAT’S WONDERFUL? WHAT PRODUCES AMERICORPS? WEST VIRGINIA ANNOUNCED AS TOP 5 #AMERISTATES
As part of National Volunteer Week, Volunteer West Virginia announced today that West Virginia ranks 5th among states for citizens enrolled in AmeriCorps per capita, according to new data released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program and leads the nation’s national service and volunteer programs.
“Volunteers are at the heart of our state’s communities, and AmeriCorps members are an indispensable resource for a number of West Virginians across the state,” said Governor Tomblin. “Citizen service is an essential part of solving many of the challenges West Virginia and our nation face, and AmeriCorps members unite people to support a common goal. I’m grateful for the West Virginians and those around the country who have answered the call to serve one another through AmeriCorps.”
Since AmeriCorps began 20 years ago, West Virginia has produced nearly 11,000 members who have given more than 17 million hours of service to their communities. This year, more than 1000 members will serve in communities across West Virginia. The program allows volunteers to make a difference while obtaining real-life education and work experience.
“I remember them saying in one of our trainings that one year in AmeriCorps is compared to ten years in the workplace. AmeriCorps has given me the opportunity to decide what I want to do with my future,” said Richelle Pugh LifeBridge AmeriCorps Member.
“AmeriCorps members make a powerful impact on the toughest challenges facing our nation,” said WendySpencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “Building on West Virginia’s strong tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, AmeriCorps members from West Virginia will improve lives and strengthen communities across the nation. I salute all the AmeriCorps members from West Virginia for their dedication, and thank our outstanding partners who make their service possible.”
AmeriCorps West Virginia is currently seeking members for 2015-2016. Discover your future in service. To learn more visit http://www.volunteerwv.org .
Volunteer West Virginia is the state’s Commission for National and Community Service. The agency challenges West Virginians to strengthen their communities through service and volunteerism by identifying and mobilizing resources, promoting an ethic of service, and empowering communities to solve problems and improve the quality of life for individuals and families.
We GROw, Inc. (Winding Gulf Restoration Organization), the non-profit organization for the Helen community of Raleigh County, is in the process of obtaining a historic property. An apartment building dating to the 1920’s represents Helen’s role in the heyday of coal mining. Helen remains one of the last surviving intact coal communities of the Winding Gulf Coalfield. The apartment building is a historic staple of the community, and once restored it can potentially be an important resource for community and the public. Helen is situated along the Coal Heritage Highway – a project of the National Coal Heritage Area Authority.
On April 11th volunteers will come together to clean the building of debris. Volunteers will also help to architecturally mothball the structure to protect it from vandalism and the weather. The Planned activities will make a big impact on the community by preventing vandalism and improving its visual appearance. The project is a collaboration of We GROw, The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV), National Coal Heritage Area Authority, The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, The Raleigh County Commission, and The Raleigh County Office – West Virginia State University Extension Service
We GROw, a fully registered 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, was founded in 2004 and has accomplished many positive outcomes in the community; including development of a park and the installation of a Coal Miner’s Memorial. Cleaning and boarding up this building is their next improvement effort. You can find more information about WeGROw on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WeGROwWV .
Two Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps (PAWV) members Tiffany Rakotz and Nicole Marrocco have been working to organize volunteers and logistics for the project. To learn more about The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia visit their website at http://www.pawv.org/
To volunteer or ask questions please contact Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member Tiffany Rakotz at (734) 787-6784 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morgantown History Museum has been selected to participate in the Museum Assessment Program (MAP). Through guided self-study and on-site consultation with a museum professional, participation in MAP will empower the Morgantown History Museum to provide better services to the citizens of Morgantown. This will help the museum to meet and exceed the highest professional standards.
The program is funded by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and throughout its 30 years has been administered by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). As part of the IMLS National Leadership program, MAP advances best practices and fosters improvement in museums. MAP is a self-motivated program; application to and participation in MAP is initiated by each local institution, and those accepted invest considerable human and institutional resources into the assessment.
The Morgantown History Museum is excited to grow and expand from within in order to better serve the needs of the community. Coordinator, Pamela Ball expressed her gratitude and comments, “We have progressed quite a bit in the last three years in particular. The change from the tiny operating space upstairs and our current facility has made all the difference!” Our commission, staff, friends of the Morgantown History Museum, and volunteers will work together to strengthen the museum in order to have a brighter and more successful future.
MAP is a confidential process of self-study, peer review and implementation. Museums use the assessment process to strengthen operations, build capacity, and enhance communication throughout the organization and in response to community needs. Participant museums choose one of three categories for its assessment: Collections Stewardship Organizational, Community Engagement. The Morgantown History Museum will take part in the organizational assessment process. Small and mid-sized museums of all types, including art, history, science and technology, children’s, natural history, historic houses, nature centers, botanical gardens, and zoos participate in the program.
“Choosing to be part of the MAP program is indicative of the commitment to civic involvement, public service and overall excellence on the part of the Morgantown History Museum,” said Ford W. Bell, president of AAM. “Studies have shown America’s museums to be among the country’s most trusted and valued institutions. MAP is designed to make them even better.”
Since its creation in 1981, the MAP program has served over 4,300 museums. MAP is supported through a cooperative agreement with IMLS. For more information, including a complete list of museums participating in MAP, please visit www.aam-us.org/map, call 202/289-9118 or e-mail email@example.com.
AAM is the only organization representing the nation’s entire museum community and has been dedicated to promoting excellence within the museum field for over 100 years. For more information about AAM, visit www.aam-us.org. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. To learn more about the Institute, please visit: http://www.imls.gov.
The Morgantown History Museum is located at 175 Kirk Street in Morgantown, West Virginia. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum features collections that take visitors through the history of Morgantown. The museum also features special temporary exhibits focusing on particular aspects of local history. For any further questions visit our website morgantownhistorymuseum.org or call at (304) 319-1800.
The Helen Boarding House has been an eyesore to the members of the community for years after falling into disrepair. It was being processed through the Abandoned and Dilapidated Properties Program. The eight-apartment structure has been stripped of copper pipes; the windows busted and anything of value has literally been torn from the building. Lynn Stasick completed a building needs assessment and concluded that the building is architecturally intact and savable. A Historic Property Inventory Form has been completed and The Boarding House is a potential candidate to be put on the National Register of Historic Buildings. WeGROw recognized the buildings potential and stepped up to save it.
The Boarding House had been auctioned off earlier in the year to a third party because of back taxes owed on the property. If the taxes and fees were not paid by the current property owner by March of 2015 then the third party would take over ownership of the property. WeGROw’s President Tracy Lewis, with support from her board, stepped into action and got in contact with the current property owner. They worked out an agreement to allow WeGROw to pay the $2000 required to take over ownership of the property. With the support of Raleigh County’s Extension Agent David Rotenizer, WeGROw asked The Raleigh County Commission for a $3000 grant to cover the cost and to secure the building and was approved.
WeGROw is currently exploring funding options to help cover the costs to protect it from further damage and do much needed repairs. With the aid of The AmeriCorps we hope to organize a volunteer clean-up day at The Boarding House to get rid of the garbage that has piled up over the years. The building will be mothballed to prevent mold and mildew from forming and keep vandals out. The roof will need replacement and the windows will need to be repaired. A wooden window restoration workshop will be scheduled to save and restore the original windows that are left. The porches need stabilization as well.
Once the repairs are done WeGROw can decided how they want to use the building. Some uses that have been proposed are to make it the new office space for WeGROw, turning it into a convenience store; which would not only benefit Helen but also the neighboring communities of Amigo and Rhodell. It could also be used as a vacation rental for people hunting and fishing in the area. It absolutely has the potential to do all three of these proposed functions.
By Crystal, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
As I have learned through my AmeriCorps training, there are a variety of reasons why someone serves as a volunteer. Some volunteer because they are passionate about an organization’s cause. Others volunteer because they are required to fulfill a community service requirement. Then, there are those people who volunteer because they are a caregiver for an ailing family member, and they are searching for an opportunity that allows them to do something enjoyable for a few hours a week. This type of volunteer cherishes these few hours as a much needed respite from the stresses of caregiving. The Harrison County Historical Society has such a volunteer named Carol Bennett.
I recruited Carol Bennett as an archive volunteer while the Harrison County Historical Society was promoting its re-published local history books at a craft fair in November. She expressed an interest in historic photographs and documents, and she really liked the she could set her own volunteer hours at our archive. At first, she found the archival training and handling procedures slightly intimidating, but she always maintained her willingness to learn. Accessioning photographs and documents is tedious, but every once in a while, Carol and I discover something unique in the archives that makes us excited. Once, we found a late nineteenth century wedding album which included the wedding guest list and gifts given to the couple. But, what made this find special were the pieces of the wedding dress and other swatches of fabric from the bride’s trousseau attached to the album. Carol and I were amazed at the colors of the fabric the bride choose for her dresses. The vibrant purples, greens, and yellows used contrasted with our preconceived notion that people from the Victorian era dressed mainly in drab colors. We were so fascinated by this album that it was all we could talk about when people came into the archives that day. Every time Carol or I find something interesting, we turn it into a small show-and-tell which helps lighten our work day. Moments like these make the work fun and has shown Carol that accessioning isn’t always tedious or intimidating.
Since that initial training, Carol has been my most regular volunteer at the archives, and that dependability has certainly helped me get things accomplished. She volunteers approximately six hours a week on average because she is the primary caregiver to her elderly parents. Having a mother with multiple sclerosis and cancer, I personally know how having an outside activity is beneficial to your emotional well-being when you are a caregiver. I am glad the Harrison County Historical Society’s archive provides that outlet for Carol Bennett, and we, in turn, are grateful for her service and dedication.
In preparation, the Blockhouse Hill Cemetery Association paid a contractor to mow the cemetery. They also bought the 20 bags of sand and gravel that were used to level the headstones. A local restaurant, the Bee Hive, and the Doddridge County Historical Society donated pizza, coffee and water for lunch.
The SDB portion of the Blockhouse Hill Cemetery is considered Doddridge County’s pioneer cemetery. A few of the more notable citizens buried there are Nathan Davis (founder of West Union and a captain in the War of 1812), Lewis Maxwell (Congressman), Judge Chapman J Stuart (responsible for naming West Virginia), George Revels (black civil war veteran), Samuel J Cupp (confederate soldier), William J Maulsby (union soldier), Captain John Carroll (union soldier) and Joseph Cheuvront (physician and merchant).
The cemetery sits on the site of the original SDB church that was built ca 1800. The DAR erected a monument in 1925 stating that the church was there from 1792 until 1832. I believe this to be an error, because after much research, the earliest I can place any SDB member living in Doddridge County (then Harrison County) is in 1802. The SDB Church in Salem, erected before the one on Blockhouse Hill, was not even built until 1796. A tornado in 1833 razed the hewed-log church and another tornado in 1837 killed a father and daughter, both who are interred at the cemetery.
Blockhouse Hill is a historical and cultural asset to the 8,300 citizens who currently live in Doddridge County. Not only are our foundering fathers buried here, but many of the families that live in Doddridge County today can trace their roots back to those resting in this long-forgotten cemetery. There is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, but thanks to AmeriCorps’ help, we can now efficiently and safely assess what repairs need to be made.
Our endeavors uncovered many exciting finds:
Thank you so much to all the AmeriCorps members and community volunteers that helped.
By Raven, Preserve WV AmeriCorps serving at Marion County Historical Society
My name is Raven Thomas and I am excited to be starting my second year of service as a Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member in my hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia. I am continuing my service at the Marion County Historical Society, Inc and Museum until 2015. I enjoy giving back to my community and preserving the heritage of my family and every other family that has roots in Marion County.
Part of my service to the county is to completely restore and preserve the attached portion of the Marion County Jail for future use. This is an ongoing project and once the jailhouse is finished, it will be open to public tours. The training at Jackson’s Mill provided a nice refresher course on hazardous materials and historic preservation and restoration techniques that are used for structures such as the jailhouse. I used the information that was given during the training to properly test the jail for lead paint and other materials and purchase the appropriate safety gear for myself and the volunteers for this project. I am looking forward to the coming year and the progress of this project.
The Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is made possible with grant funds from Volunteer WV and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
News and Notes
Subscribe to our mailing list to receive e-news updates on historic preservation news and events in West Virginia.