Beginning a service year in September 2020, in the height of a COVID-19 uncertain world, was a challenge. Having served a year as an AmeriCorps previously, part of my service that I loved was getting immersed in a community and connecting with folks on a face level. Serving with the West Virginia Association of Museums (WVAM), I was excited to get to know museum and art professionals from around the state and explore sites that were beyond my Mountaineer Country-centric world. The big yearly gathering for WVAM is the annual conference, which is held in a different West Virginia town each year. This conference is a time for museum workers around the state to network, grow professionally, and also to relax and get to know their colleagues at other sites. By the time I started my service, the 2020 conference had been cancelled and 2021 was up in the air.
It was eventually decided that the safest course of action would be to host our annual conference virtually, much like a lot of other events around the country. This was unchartered territory for all of us at WVAM. We had to figure out the technical aspects, while also crafting a virtual experience that would still be worthwhile and engaging for our members and other professionals. We had to cancel some fun aspects of previous conferences - like the annual banquet and raffle dinner, and the pre-conference excursions to local museums and cultural sites.
Altogether, we were able to craft educational and social sessions throughout the week of March 22nd-26th, ranging in topics including grant writing, public arts, paper conservation, black COVID-19’s impact on museums in West Virginia, and more. One of my favorite sessions of the week was the session hosted by Black in Appalachia. I’ve admired their organization and the important work they do, and it was a great opportunity to work with them and bring them to a virtual audience in West Virginia that is equally excited about the work they’re doing.
I also really enjoyed one of the social sessions I led, the “Artifact Show & Tell.” We wanted to replace some of the networking and socializing opportunities that are normally present at a conference with light-hearted evening social sessions. While it was a bit awkward at first to adjust to a virtual format, the show and tell session ended up being a fun way for art and history nerds to show off items in their personal collection or at work that they find fascinating, weird, or just plain interesting.
After the conference was over, we sent out a survey and collected feedback to see how the conference was received by the attendees. From the responses we got, most folks were very pleased with the conference, which was a huge relief. Here’s some comments that we received:
“I appreciated the great variety of sessions and that they were strung out over a week, which made it easier to work into my busy schedule. I also liked the social activities--it is what I miss most about conferences.”
“It was much easier for me to access because it was virtual. I would not have been able to attend an in-person conference. It tends to be too far from the Eastern Panhandle.”
“I attended multiple sessions for the West Virginia Association of Museums Virtual Conference and enjoyed them all, but 'Black Narratives, Exhibition, and Engagement' stood out in particular. The erasure of Black histories in Appalachia makes researching, understanding, and interpreting sites associated with Black communities difficult. The resident-driven work that Black in Appalachia does is remarkable”
“This year's WVAM conference was a great mix of practically and theoretically based sessions that helped to round out my current studies at WVU and my continuing field work outside of the classroom.”
Planning and organizing this conference was a lot, but it was a relief to see the feedback and know that folks enjoyed and benefited from it. Personally, it was a great learning experience for me to see what goes on behind the scenes at a large event like this - marketing, session planning, schedule coordinating, and registration - it can be a lot. Add on top of that technical issues, and things can get a little hectic. Although COVID-19 forced our hand into hosting a virtual event, I think there are a lot of benefits to virtual gatherings that we discovered. It can be easier and more accessible for folks to attend due to costs and the time commitment, and we were able to invite speakers from outside of the state that maybe wouldn’t have been able to attend an in-person one. Although my service year is ending with WVAM, I am looking forward to following how the 2022 conference (which might be in-person!) develops and hopefully will be able to attend myself.
Lauren served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member for the West Virginia Association of Museums during the 2020-2021 service year.
During the past year, I made several trips to Ronceverte to help organize the city museum at its new location on the second floor of the Clifford Recreation and Community Center, following the sudden passing of Doug Hinton, the long-time curator of the museum. My primary objective was to inspect more than 50 boxes of artifacts and documents and prepare a computerized catalogue of the contents, which I completed.
In a random box, I discovered an incredible, priceless piece of West Virginia history: a 1796 land deed from the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia to Alexander Robison of Greenbrier County! It was folded firmly and stored in an envelope for many years, and I refused to harm a 200+ year old document by attempting to unfold it. Instead, I found a donor and researched a firm that could safely unfold, flatten, and frame the deed. I found a professional artifact restoration firm in Ohio, Old World Restorations in Cincinnati. They did an amazing job of safely unfolding the deed document, flattening it, and framing it in archival glass. I was proud to hand-deliver the framed deed to Mayor Smith in Ronceverte in April 2021.
I discovered many other gems in the Ronceverte Museum’s collection. Highlights from the 50+ boxes include the following:
1. 3 body tags with wire attached with notes from coroner; two have no date, but one is marked 'found May 23, 1963.'
2. 1880 Two small original photographs of West Virginia native Pearl S. Buck's parents Reverend Absalom Sydenstricker and Mrs. Caroline Stulting Sydenstricker in 1880.
3. "Good for 5 cent" tokens, five total. Rare. Often called trade coins, they were especially used after the Civil War as a substitute medium of exchange instead of nickels; they had limited use and were often issued by a private company, group, association or individual.
4. 1890s-1902, Set of funeral home or cemetery plot records in delicate, damaged condition. Interesting look into what people died of in Ronceverte in the late 19th and early 20th century. One page has a record of a black man who was killed, but he was not given the dignity of his name, age, date of death and location like the white West Virginians on the other pages..
5. 1881-1889, book of State of West Virginia court judgements. If you take the time to read the handwriting, it has an interesting look into what was brought to court in late 19th century West Virginia.
6. 1885-1887, three autograph books; two of Nellie Longfellow, one of Laura Forgelson. Very cute entries from school friends and family members.
7. Some kind of Ronceverte athletic uniform from the 1950s-1970s of a top and shorts, jockstrap included!
8. White folder with material relating to petitioning Colonel Clifford of Ronceverte for the Medal of Honor. He served with distinction in World War II and the community center housing the Ronceverte museum is named after him. It is worth noting because not many people know about what goes into the process of petitioning for a Medal of Honor.
9. Register of Hotel Dickson, Ronceverte 1888, including a signature of President Glover Cleveland with a cute notation “and Mrs. C” from October 11th, 1888!
During my final visit to Ronceverte at the end of my AmeriCorps term, I cleaned all the exhibit cabinets, window wells, and floor. I compiled all my work and ideas for the future of the museum into a Final Report, which I presented to Ronceverte City Administrator Pam Mentz. The report includes suggestions on how the city can engage the local schools and further preserve their collection. The Ronceverte Museum has great potential, and the Final Report for the next AmeriCorps member assigned to Ronceverte will help them build off of my service.
It was my sincere pleasure to work with the city of Ronceverte and discover the jewels contained in its museum.
Megan Ksenia bradner
Megan Ksenia Bradner served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.
The Monroe County Historical Society was awarded a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council for the creation and installation of interpretive signs for the two historic church buildings owned by the society in Union. Both buildings have undergone extensive repairs over the past two decades. Ames Clair Hall, formerly the Ames Methodist Episcopal Church, is available for use as a performance and meeting space. The First Baptist Church building still requires extensive repairs before it can opened to the public.
Both of these churches were originally built for the white congregations and after the Civil War were purchased by the African-American members of the congregation. One man, James Clair, and his descendants were instrumental to the formation and success of both the Baptist and Methodist congregations and these churches. James Clair was baptized into membership at the First Baptist Church in Union in 1868. His family remained active in the community. His son, James Clair Jr. was also baptized into the First Baptist Church. His grandson, Matthew Clair, became one of the first two African-American bishops of the Methodist Church.
The slave James Clair was born in 1810 and was purchased in Richmond Virginia by the owners of the Salt Sulphur Springs resort to work at this resort in Monroe County. While the owners of the resort rode horses back to Monroe County, the slaves had to walk about two hundred miles to the “Salt”. Mrs. Kate Clair, a daughter-in-law, relates that the slaves were guided on their journey by forked sticks placed at the forks in the road to indicate which way their owners had taken.
Generations of church members have worshipped in these two historic churches. Both buildings were deeded to the Historical Society after membership declined.
Justine Nall, of Union, got the project started. Her father, Russell Newsome played the organ for services when Ames Clair Hall was the Ames Memorial Methodist Church. Marilyn Adamson provided information about the First Baptist Church where she, her great-grandmother, grandmother, and parents worshipped.
Photos show the interpretive signs installed. The signs will help expand the knowledge of the buildings and the importance of the church community on the wider community for the people of Monroe County and surrounding areas. This project received financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Vernessa served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member with the Monroe County Historical Society in Union during the 2020-2021 service year.
For months, I looked for evidence of a Mabel Hull in Wheeling, and came away with only scraps of information--until I finally found her family.
Mabel Hull was an African American newspaper columnist, working woman, and mother who lived in Wheeling, WV during the mid-20th century. I became interested in her story after browsing several scrapbooks of her newspaper clippings that had been sitting in the Ohio County Public Library Archives, gathering metaphorical dust. Mabel’s columns ranged in topics from society news to local events, painting a vivid picture of a vibrant Black community in Jim Crow Wheeling.
Female journalists--let alone Black female journalists--were underrepresented in the mid-20th century, so I decided to find out more about Mabel with the intention of doing a relatively quick article about her history and work. I scoured censuses, archival material, newspapers, and other records and could only find bits and pieces here and there. I asked people who seem to always know everyone in Wheeling, past and present, and they had never even heard of Mabel. She felt like a ghost. My last ditch attempt was to find her descendents, but I wasn’t hopeful, considering the majority of her six children were dead.
Through a son’s obituary, I managed to track down an email and decided to shoot my shot--within 24 hours, I was in touch with several of Mabel’s grandchildren and her only living daughter, who made Mabel come alive. They shared stories, memories, anecdotes, and photos that quadrupled my understanding of Mabel and opened new doors to historical documentation I didn’t even know to look for.
Apart from the scrapbooks sitting in the basement archives of the Library, there is very little trace of Mabel left in Wheeling. The street where she lived, Morrow Street, no longer exists due to urban renewal, none of her direct descendents live in Wheeling anymore, and the department stores she worked at closed long ago. After researching and learning Mabel’s history, I used my platform to share her almost-forgotten story with the Wheeling community through an article on Weelunk and a public lecture at the Library--yards away from where her scrapbooks lived.
The reception of Mabel’s story was amazing. Community members at the lecture questioned why her story has been covered up for so long in a town that loves to explore its local history--I encouraged them to continue to search for others like Mabel, amazing histories that have gone untold. Some of Mabel’s descendants watched the livestream of the lecture and Gina Stewart, Mabel’s granddaughter and strongest advocate, told me that I had found “the pearl in the shell” because she never stopped believing that her grandmother’s story was worth telling.
Emma is the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with Wheeling Heritage during the 2020-2021 program year.
The Patchwork Church - Windowsill Restoration at Pleasant Green Methodist Episcopal Church in Hillsboro, WV
Hillsboro, WV, is a small town that packs a big historical punch. It’s home to the Pearl S. Buck House, Watoga State Park, and another lesser known gem – the Pleasant Green Methodist Episcopal Church. This historic African American church is so modest and unassuming that most passersby probably barely even realize that it’s there, but I’ve been fortunate enough to learn its heartwarming history and assist in its restoration during my time as an AmeriCorps Member here in West Virginia.
I was first introduced to Pleasant Green in October 2019 while serving with the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area’s Hands On Preservation Team. It was the first month of our service term and my first time doing official preservation work in the field, so I knew almost nothing about what I was doing and even less about the site itself. We were greeted by Ruth Taylor, Secretary of the Pocahontas County Historic Landmarks Commission and the church’s next-door neighbor, who told us all about Pleasant Green’s history.
Built in 1888, the site was specifically designated at the time of sale for use as a church and school for the growing number of black families in and around Hillsboro. Pleasant Green was a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, an African American-based denomination founded in Philadelphia in the late 1700s that grew popular throughout West Virginia following the Civil War. The congregation built and maintained the structure themselves with any materials they could scrape together, making Pleasant Green a true testament to people doing the best they could with what they had.
The church remained a cornerstone for the local black community all the way up through the 1970s, acting as a place of social gathering and of education as well as one of worship. The adjacent cemetery became the final resting place for most of the congregation as well, with approximately 50 marked graves and many more unmarked ones suspected. Two of the people buried there were not just beloved community members but notable historical figures: “Miz Eddy” Washington, a well-known cook at Watoga State Park and former employee of the family of WV Governor Wallace Barron, and Gordon Scott, the first African American to become Superintendent of a WV State Park.
Over the years, as families moved and the once-thriving congregation dwindled away, the church unfortunately fell into disrepair. On top of the chipped paint, rotting wood, pest damage, and other woes that typically plague old buildings, a fierce hailstorm in 2016 broke the glass in almost every one of the windows. The hail damage was especially disheartening, as it left the interior extremely vulnerable and destroyed multiple panes of rippled, amber-tinted “rootbeer glass” – a simple but beautiful decorative element that would have been very costly for the congregation and a point of pride on the otherwise unadorned structure.
Luckily, Ruth was able to have the Hands On Team come in to repair and reglaze the historic wooden window sashes (saving and reusing all the surviving rootbeer glass in the process). At that time, however, the team and I were not able to carry out some additional work that we realized needed to be done to the windowsills. So, when I finished that service year and began my current one with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, I already had a plan in place to return to Hillsboro for my upcoming civic service project.
There are four large windows on the body of the church and two very small windows on either side of a vestibule that was added to the front façade at a later date. Because the larger windows were paired with equally large sills cut from single pieces of old growth hardwood, those four sills all remained in relatively good condition. These simply needed to be scraped, treated with consolidant to reharden the “punky” (or softened) wood, and repainted. The sills for the smaller windows, on the other hand, were much worse. The vestibule was a poorly constructed addition using lower quality materials and has not aged well as a result. Nearly one third of each of these two sills had completely rotted away, making a full replacement necessary for both. Fortunately, these sills were only 1-inch thick boards inserted very simply into the overall frame, so replacing them wouldn’t be very difficult (I hoped).
After visiting the church to make this assessment in Fall of 2020, Ruth and I planned for me to come back and complete the project in conjunction with a cemetery cleanup event to be held on Earth Day of 2021. I then spent the rest of the Winter being anxious and concerned that I might have committed to a project too big for one novice preservationist to successfully complete solo (since, as anyone who has ever worked on an old building can tell you, you never know what you’re going to find when you start poking around and even the simplest-seeming projects can quickly turn more complicated). Thankfully, Ruth helped put my mind at ease by reminding me that Pleasant Green has always been what she lovingly calls a “patchwork church” – it’s not all perfect, and it doesn’t all match, but everybody doing their small part to keep it stitched together over the years is what the true spirit of this place is all about.
So, with that reassurance in mind, I returned to Hillsboro this past April and got to work. Everything miraculously went according to plan, and I was even lucky enough to be joined by another volunteer who was a master carpenter and could help me make the cuts on the new replacement sills. As I worked on the sills, other folks cleared away the overgrown brush from the cemetery or cleaned up the inside of the church to turn it into a community space once again. At the end of the day, as I stood back and looked around at all the progress that had been made, I couldn’t help but remember how the site looked when I first arrived to work on the windows two years before. The church’s restoration and continuing survival is truly a product of 130 years of collaboration and faith, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.
Kelsey Romer is the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center's BAD Buildings Program during the 2021-2022 service term.
How do you engage the community with history during the time of COVID and social distancing? As more of the population gets vaccinated and the country starts to open up, many historical institutions and organizations are itching to restart in-person programming and events. However, the pandemic and the shift to everything virtual opened a door to creatively exploring ways to get communities to participate in local history.
History’s Mysteries is a digital crowdsourcing partnership project between Weelunk, Archiving Wheeling, and the Ohio County Public Library, that solicits photo identification help from the Wheeling community. As the primary history collecting archive in the county, the Library has hundreds of photos of Wheeling people, places, and events that are unidentified. While these photos are important snapshots of Wheeling’s history, our knowledge is limited when they are unidentified. Once a month, we choose five photos based on a theme from the Library Archive to feature on Weelunk with an entry form where people can submit identification information.
Our two goals were: 1) to get photos identified and therefore enrich the historical record, and 2) to engage the local community in the history that it has created. The reason for including the community in this form of creating history is because “historians have an important job of verifying, analyzing, and interpreting history, but it is the entire community that is responsible for maintaining and expanding the stories, records, and narratives that create the foundations of their society. Sometimes history’s mysteries just need someone with the right key.” Through History’s Mysteries, people who had never stepped foot into the Library recognized their mother or grandmother online--in some cases, they were photos they had never seen before.
Expansion of the internet and digital technology has made it possible to reach a wider audience and engage with people who may not walk into the physical space of the Library. To increase our chances of identifications, we leveraged social media to get the project in front of as many people as possible. In addition, since many of the photos are older and therefore would only be able to be identified by the older population who is less likely to be on social media, the Library printed and distributed brochures with the photos for those who prefer paper. Not only does History’s Mysteries allow us to restore identities to the unnamed, but it educates the community on the resources and services the Library provides.
When we started this project, we told ourselves that even just one identification would make this project a success in our book. One identity, one story, one life remembered would be worth it. Yet, we are pleased to report that with three monthly editions of History’s Mysteries under our belt, we have identified twenty-eight people so far!
If you know anyone with connections to Wheeling, please forward them our History’s Mysteries Project--we are always trying to fill in the gaps!
Emma Wiley is the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with Wheeling Heritage during the 2021-2022 program year.
The Foreman Massacre took place on September 26, 1777 at the Narrows just north of Glen Dale, WV. Captain William Foreman and twenty-one militiamen from Hampshire County, Virginia were killed in an ambush by indigenous warriors. In 1835, a light horse company in Elizabethtown (now Moundsville, WV) raised money for and put up a sandstone memorial headstone at the Narrows where Foreman and his men’s remains were buried after the attack. Then in 1875, the stone and remains were moved to Mt. Rose Cemetery in Moundsville, WV by the County Court (now County Commission). The stone was placed in a concrete puddle in 1974 and is in very poor condition. The sandstone is cracking off on the front and back of the stone and there are many chips and cracks on the sides. The front has the historic inscription on it so will not be addressed in my civic service project because a skilled mason conservator would be needed to repair it. The back, however, is something I can help with. I have done a great deal of research on gravestone preservation over the last few months. I consulted skilled conservators Bekah Karelis and Sarel Venter of Adventures in Elegance based in Wheeling for advice on my project.
Funding for my project is still pending but I purchased Natural Hydraulic Lime 5.0 from Otterbein and a consolidant from Bellinzoni called Strong 2000 that will be used in the preservation work. First, the damaged part of the stone that is falling off will be removed and the consolidant will be applied with a paintbrush. The stone will be completely saturated with distilled water and the lime putty will be plastered on and covered with wet burlap to cure. Once dry, it will be lightly sanded down until flush with the original stone. Then the cleaning process will begin with distilled water and a soft bristle brush to remove the green organic growth and black carbon residue. In the heavily soiled spots, D/2 Biological cleaning solution will be used. Once these steps are completed, the stone will look better and be preserved for many years to come.
Pending additional funding, I would like to also take the project further and place a clear acrylic box around the stone to protect it from weather and pollutants. I also would like to place a granite plaque next to the Foreman Stone that has the inscription written out so it is easier to read, a summary of the massacre, and the stone’s journey from the Narrows in 1875. Bekah and Sarel also recommended the concrete puddle surrounding the stone be lifted out of the ground and a plastic sheet be placed under it to further help protect the stone from weathering. Once this project is completed, this portion of Marshall County’s Revolutionary War history will be looking its best!
Evan is the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with the Cockayne Farmstead for the 2020-2021 service year.
When starting the process to identify potential sites for a Historic Property Inventory (HPI) form I was able to work off another Preserve WV AmeriCorps member, Iain Mackay's work and that of another Preserve WV AmeriCorps member who had done some work compiling West Virginia Green Book sites and determining which were extant, demolished, or questionable. It took me a couple hours of searching to find possible sites to research. I knew of some sites in Jefferson County, but discovered that HPI forms existed for those and I decided to find a site closer to home so that I could go take pictures if needed. Using Google Maps and preliminary internet searches I could not solidly identify or find information on any of the possible Fairmont sites, so I moved my focus up to Morgantown to try again. My colleagues had already determined that two of the five Morgantown sites no longer existed, and the remaining three were all tourist homes (individual homes that would offer lodging).
The three tourist homes in Morgantown were: “Okey Ogden—1046 College Ave,” “Mrs. Lizzie Mae Slaughter—3 Cayton Street,” and “Mrs. Jeanette O. Parker—2 Cayton Street.” Unfortunately, Google Maps is not great in that area and has no street view on Cayton Street, but I was able to determine that 1046 College Avenue did exist and real estate information indicated that the existing structure was the correct age to have been Okey Ogden’s Tourist Home in the 1950s. Next I turned to Ancestry to dig into the census records and find any information on Ogden. I could find him and his family in the census records between 1900 and 1940 in different homes in Morgantown, including the 1046 College Ave address starting on the 1930 census. I also discovered that Ogden was a veteran of World War I and served in the 542nd Engineers. This is where the process took its first turn. There are few records available in Ancestry or Fold3 connected to Okey Ogden’s military service. However, there was a digitized request form for his military headstone after his 1953 death (his grave and headstone are in East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown, WV). The person who requested Ogden’s headstone was Mrs. Linnie M. Slaughter, the proprietor of the Green Book site at 3 Cayton Street. Somehow Slaughter and Odgen were connected. According to the scanned map cards digitized by the Monongalia County Assessor’s Office, Lizzie M. Slaughter acquired the plot for 1046 College Ave in 1953, the same year that Okey Ogden died. When I delved into the parcel maps and tax records for Cayton Street I discovered that Linnie M. Slaughter’s name was on all three plots of land, along with Jennette O. Parker. At this point I knew that all three structures were extant, expanding my project from one HPI form to three, and all three proprietors were connected in some way.
The difficulty in connecting Ogden, Parker, and Slaughter together was the different last names. I knew that Slaughter and Ogden were directly connected because Slaughter had requested Ogden’s headstone. However, after about an hour of searching I could find no record of Slaughter’s marriage to Charles William Slaughter to determine her maiden name. The break-through came after switching to focus on Jennette O. Parker. In the tax map cards Parker was always listed together with Grace Edwards, who I determined was Parker’s daughter. By following Parker and Edwards backwards through the census records I determined that Linnie M. Slaughter’s maiden name was Edwards; Grace and Linnie Mae were sisters from Jennette Parker’s first marriage to Charles Edwards. Parker was her married name from her second marriage to Hartley Thomas Parker. I was able to trace Jennette Parker through her first marriage record to Edwards and discovered that her maiden name was Ogden. Jennette O. Parker was Okey Ogden’s sister.
Considering how often Green Book sites are lost due to demolition, extensive changes, or poor documentation it was amazing to find this cluster of three extant sites all together and discover how they were all linked to members of the same family. Okey Ogden’s tourist home only operated between 1949 and 1952; these were the years between the death of his mother (who owned the home prior) and his own death in 1953. However, Jennette O. Parker and Linnie M. Slaughter continued to run their tourist homes into the 1960s when the final edition of the Green Book was published. As I continue to work on the HPIs I hope to dig further into local records to piece together more of the lives of this family that committed themselves to providing safe lodging for black travelers for more than a decade.
Dr. Katie Thompson is a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with Clio during the 2020-2021 program year.
How do you do historical research for a site few people previously considered historical? This was the question I was faced with when my program director at Preserve WV AmeriCorps, PAWV's national service initiative, put out a call for volunteers for a new project. The project centered around The Negro Motorist Green Book, a series of African-American travel guides published by Victor Hugo Green. The Green Books, as they were colloquially known, were published from 1936 to 1966. They listed locations for black travelers to eat, stay, and socialize without fear of complications or danger. Early editions of the Green Book contained places Victor Green knew of or had heard about through his travels as a New York City mailman. As the popularity of the guides grew, readers began submitting their own information; by 1949 the Green Book contained hundreds of entries spread across every contiguous state.
One complication to consider was changing addresses. Hotel Capehart in Welch initially had the address 14 Virginia Avenue, but the name of Virginia Avenue has been changed to Riverside Drive. Other locations moved from one site to another. Moss’s Garage in Beckley was located at 501 South Fayette Street for many years before moving to 135 South Fayette Street. Finally, one of the most common types of entry in the Green Book was private residences willing to rent a room. The homes of normal regular people rarely command attention or recognition, making finding these homes a tall order.
I employed several methods in my attempts to locate West Virginia’s Green Book sites. One helpful tool was comparing copies of the Green Book from different years to look for changes in address or operation. Historical city maps showing street names were similarly helpful when contrasted with modern ones. However, by far the most effective tool at my disposal was Google Maps. Beyond simply providing address information, the satellite imagery and street view technology were huge boons. Satellite imagery allowed me to check if a building was still standing, while street view let me see locations as if I were actually there. If the streetview of an address showed a modern office building, it was pretty safe to conclude that the Green Book site was demolished. Likewise, when the streetview showed a building that looked relatively older, it was often possible to use architectural clues to narrow down if the building was once a Green Book site. My work was primarily a broader overview that set the stage of other AmeriCorps members to dive deeper into the history of specific Green Book sites.
Iain MacKay is a West Virginia native and WVU graduate serving with Clio through Preserve WV AmeriCorps.
Preserve WV Stories