During Jessi Hersom’s service term as a Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member she had the opportunity to give visitors personalized experiences during tours of the historic district at Jackson’s Mill. This summer she led a personalized tour for a family who homeschooled their children, that went along with their current school lessons.
This family decided to visit the Jackson's Mill Historic area as a field trip relating to their recent lesson about 19th century homesteads and farms. They were particularly interested in seeing the McWhorter Cabin, which was originally constructed in the 1790s by Henry McWhorter near Jane Lew, West Virginia and was relocated to Jackson’s Mill in 1927 for preservation purposes. This cabin is part of the historic area at Jackson's Mill and is set up to display how a home would have looked in the early nineteenth century.
The family was particularly interested in the fireplace and chimney and its role as the kitchen and how these elements connected to the neighboring garden and gristmill. They were given a full tour of the historic homestead after their specialized tour of the McWhorter Cabin, where they could see how the farm buildings and other components of the Jackson family business supported the Jacksons, who originally lived in a cabin that was similar to the McWhorter Cabin.
Jessi Hersom located specific examples of photos of the McWhorter Cabin from the Jackson’s Mill archives so the family had references during their tour, which also aided in providing an experience that was unique to their needs and educational. They greatly appreciated their time Jackson’s Mill and benefitted from the chance to have a hands-on experience in a nineteenth century cabin and shared that they would be visiting again in the future.
As the Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member at Jackson’s Mill, Jessi Hersom led tours of the historic area at and led demonstrations that included operating the historic grist mill and working blacksmith shop during special events.
During her term she also continued projects in the Jackson’s Mill archives. Creating electronic records, rehousing, locating and organizing items, inventorying, and processing new documents are some of the activities that are essential in order to maintain the archive. The continuation of digitally inventorying these historic items is vital to preservation and processing items and photographs allows for future access to those who are interested in the site’s history.
Several visitors directly benefited from this project by having access to historic documents that were otherwise inaccessible. On one occasion, a visitor requested any photos from the early days of the state 4-H camp at Jackson’s Mill, when his father was attending during the nineteen forties. Jessi was able to provide him with several dozens of images from this time period. He was then able to reference these images during his visit to Jackson’s Mill and could compare the historic photographs to the current status of the camp.
The archives are also essential for research and can be used as a tool for referencing primary sources regarding the Jackson’s Mill historic area and State 4-H Camp. Items in the archives are referenced regarding any new publications about the site and will be used for new signs and markers that will be created to aid visitors during self-guided tours. The 4-H Camp at Jackson’s Mill will be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary in 2021, and these documents will be vital for the research needed for future publications regarding this event.
Being able to provide guests with data from the archives supplements their visits and allows for a more satisfying and comprehensive learning experience and will also help people understand Jackson’s Mill in its historic context. These improvements may also allow for an increased interest in the site and help boost attendance in the coming years.
I have completed a number of projects as an AmeriCorps member for the history app and website Clio, which aims to provide a digital museum for the country where users can read encyclopedia-style entries on historic sites and institutions across the United States and engage with various forms of media. These projects have taken the form primarily of walking and driving tours, among them walking tours of historic Berkeley Springs, in Morgan County, Beverly, in Randolph County, and the Evansdale Campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. Perhaps my favorite, however, is a driving tour following the historic progress of the Jones-Imboden Raid of 1863, during which the Confederate military made a last-ditch effort to prevent the formation of West Virginia as a state separate from Virginia. The tour follows the campaign as it made a great loop from what is now the western edge of Virginia into Union-held territory and back once more into the Confederacy. In the process, users learn not only of the military situation in 1863 but of the political, economic, and social factors that helped to determine the loyalties of those involved not only before and during but after as well. Users are also treated to a number of interesting and entertaining stories from the campaign and can peruse a selection of videos, photos, and online resources related to the history of the raid and West Virginia’s relationship to the larger Civil War.
Led by Confederate Generals William E. “Grumble” Jones and John D. Imboden, the Jones-Imboden Raid of 1863 had a number of strategic goals. Most immediately, it sought to sabotage the operation of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the region (a key thoroughfare for Union goods and personnel from east to west) and disrupt the proceedings of the pro-Union government there. In less direct terms, however, it also aimed to gather important supplies for the beleaguered Army of Northern Virginia by begging, buying, and stealing as much livestock and food as possible and requisitioning horses for the perennially ill-supplied Confederate cavalry. Finally, with General Robert E. Lee hoping to confront and defeat the Army of the Potomac under General Joseph Hooker, the Confederates hoped to prevent reinforcements from arriving from the west to interfere with Lee’s plans in the east. Of those goals, only the last two were truly accomplished. Jones and Imboden funneled a considerable amount of supplies, livestock, and mounts back to the east and in the Battle of Chancellorsville that occurred during their raid, Lee decisively defeated Hooker in open conflict. While the raiders did manage to destroy significant portions of the B&O Railroad, though, trains were back up and running within a few months after hasty repairs. The goal of disrupting Union governance in the region failed entirely, and the raiders managed to alienate many in the areas they traveled through by their treatment of the local populace. West Virginia statehood became a reality shortly after the raid’s conclusion. Users can learn even more about the raid, its causes, and its consequences in the driving tour I’ve created on Clio.
Nathan served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member at the Clio Foundation during the 2018-2019 term.
For my Civic Service Project as an AmeriCorps member with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and the history app and website Clio, I helped lead volunteers in organizing a collection of historic newspapers and documents held at the Aull Center for Local History and Genealogy Research. Opened in 2004 as an annex of the Morgantown Public Library in the historic home of the Garlow family, the Aull Center contains a unique collection of primary and secondary resources related both to the history of Morgantown, Monongalia County, and West Virginia and genealogy of local families. This collection began on the second floor of the Morgantown Public Library next door but moved to the Garlow home in order to accommodate its continued expansion. The opening of the Aull Center resulted in the collection’s tripling in size. Within this collection is an assortment of historic newspapers and other documents in a filing cabinet on the second floor. This particular collection began life on the second floor the library as a keystone of the historical collection there but became disorganized in its transportation to the Aull Center and has since languished. Without the staff necessary to both operate the Aull Center on a daily basis and reorganize this collection patrons have been unable to benefit from the historical resources and knowledge held within it, once such a key part of the research capacity of the library’s historical records.
In the hopes that patrons might once again be able to benefit from the information in this collection, I helped to lead a small group of volunteers in cataloging, organizing, and when necessary more suitably preserving the documents in the first drawer of the filing cabinet that holds it. Over the course of three hours, we were not only able to complete our task, but enjoy the many interesting and enlightening documents across which we came. As they sought to bring order to this drawer in the collection, volunteers learned about the early industrial history of the city of Morgantown, the construction of the Morgantown and Kingwood Railroad, the early life of the Morgantown Public Library itself, and an episode during the Cold War when a West Virginia mayor invited Soviet officials to his town to complete the construction of a local bridge. Volunteers were also able to locate several resources for which Aull Center staff had been searching for some time, including a map of archaeological and historic sites in Monongalia County. In all, the volunteers organized over two dozen file folders of documents in the drawer. With their help, Aull Center staff will now be able to better serve their patrons by providing access to more in-depth and extensive research materials than was before available. Without the help of the volunteers in the Civic Service Project, this would not have been possible. The staff and patrons of the Morgantown Public Library and Aull Center for Local History and Genealogy Research thus owe a considerable debt to AmeriCorps and the volunteers who assisted in the project.
Nathan served with the Clio Foundation as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member during the 2018-2019 term.
Project Y is an $8.5 million, 40,000 square foot planned mixed-use development located at the corner of Fairmont Avenue and First Street, a visible corner in the commercial city-center of Fairmont, West Virginia. The site in its earliest history served as a YMCA and then transferred ownership in the mid-twentieth century to serve a fraternal organization. The building was originally constructed between 1906 and 1908 and was designed by architects Baldwin and Pennington, who also designed the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis.
In the fall of 2007, the Moose Lodge fraternal organization announced their intention to sell this building. When an outside interest did not present itself, the property was purchased in 2009 by the Fairmont Community Development Partnership, affirming their belief and intention that the building should serve a productive use in Fairmont’s Southside Neighborhood.
PAWV AmeriCorps member Allen Staggers, serving with the Partnership, began aiding the project in June 2019, shortly after they were awarded a Flex-E Grant, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
Upon notification of the Flex-E Grant Award, the Partnership issued an RFP for Architectural and Engineering services to conduct the work specified in the grant application. The bid was awarded to Omni Associates in Fairmont. Subsequent to that, the project developer, Mountain Town Strategies, prepared a successful Downtown Appalachia Technical Assistance Grant application on behalf of Project Y for $20,000. The combination of the two grants will cover the costs of the proposed schematic design work.
In addition, the City of Fairmont received an FY18 EPA Community-Wide Assessment Grant. Part of the grant funds were used to conduct a Marketing & Feasibility Study for the YMCA Building and the Fairmont Fire House that is owned by the City of Fairmont. The study was very encouraging and shows the proposed uses for the YMCA Building are feasible. Another component of the EPA work was performing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment on the YMCA property. Allen provided data and assistance to the City’s consultants for both studies.
Building programming and schematic design lay the groundwork for design and construction documents – all required steps before the redevelopment can begin. Accurate cost estimates will be used to determine project scope and confirm project viability. Along with the drawings, site assessment, and new feasibility study, Project Y will have planning documents that will facilitate the redevelopment and leasing of the historic YMCA building.
On May 21, 2019, the Harrison County Historical Society hosted a group of 17 students from St. Mary’s Catholic School for a tour of the Historic Stealey-Goff-Vance House Museum in Clarksburg.
The tour included an interactive game in which the students were shown artifacts and asked if they could identify them. The artifacts included a boot scraper, a watch fob, a canteen, leather embossing tools and a tabletop butter churn.
Harrison County Historical Society Executive Director, Crystal Wimer led the tour group. AmeriCorps members Susan Cook and Sarah Insalaco assisted with the tour and games.
Michael Spatafore, sixth grade teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School, said the students enjoyed the tour and learned a lot about history. “The students loved their entire day touring historic downtown Clarksburg. The Stealey-Goff-Vance House was enjoyed because of the age of the structure and the history of the various families that have lived in the house. The children learned about life long ago, what a tanner was, and how the many artifacts in the house each told a story about famous people, places and events in Clarksburg’s history.”
The Harrison County Historical Society owns and maintains the Stealey-Goff-Vance House, located at 123 West Main Street in Clarksburg. The House was built in 1807 for Jacob Stealey, an early settler of Clarksburg who was a tanner by trade.
The Stealey-Goff-Vance House is the oldest known brick structure still standing in Harrison County. The architectural style is a mixture of Georgian and Victorian. It was constructed with locally-sourced hardwood, heavy stone and molded brick.
In 1881, the house was sold to Nathan Goff Sr. The house was used as a doctor’s office and boarding home for about 25 years before it was purchased by Amy Roberts Vance in 1933. After the passing of Mrs. Vance in 1967, the Harrison County Historical Society purchased the house from Mrs. Vance’s sons, Cyrus and John.
The Stealey-Goff-Vance House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Tours can be arranged by calling the Harrison County Historical Society at (304) 709-4902.
Susan served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member at the Harrison County Historical Society during the 2018-2019 AmeriCorps term.
South Charleston Interpretive Center secures West Virginia Humanities Minigrant to revamp Union Carbide historical exhibit
PAWV AmeriCorps member Kyle Warmack, serving with the Clio Foundation, recently co-wrote a successful grant proposal on behalf of the South Charleston Interpretive Center to reinterpret and upgrade its historical exhibit on Union Carbide, the famous chemical corporation whose headquarters in South Charleston was one of West Virginia’s largest employers from the late 1920s through the 1990s. In addition to being a key economic player in the state, the company made huge advancements in synthetic materials, from antifreeze to synthetic rubber, though its policies also resulted in tragedies such as the Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster in the early 1930s.
The new exhibit, entitled “Chemical Valley: Union Carbide and the Shaping of the Kanawha,” is slated to unveil in March 2020. Much of the project’s funding is provided by the West Virginia Humanities Council, which will furnish new display hardware, interpretive signage, and lighting upgrades. Interpretive Center staff will also be conducting audio and video interviews throughout November 2019 with former Union Carbide employees to gain new insights, and a Hawks Nest Remembrance Day is planned to coincide with the exhibit’s opening in March 2020 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of work commencing at Hawks Nest Tunnel.
AmeriCorps member Kyle Warmack became involved with the Interpretive Center while serving with the Clio Foundation in 2017. Originally working in an advisory role on a digital walking tour of historical South Charleston, Warmack began contributing Clio entries on Union Carbide history, the South Charleston Naval Ordnance Plant, and more before being hired to work at the Center part-time. As “Chemical Valley” progresses, further content will be added to Clio.
For more information about the exhibit and upcoming events, contact the Interpretive Center at 304.720.9847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Built in 1910, the Woodburn Elementary School served the children of the Woodburn Neighborhood of Morgantown, WV for decades as a place of education and as source for childhood memories. When the school closed in 2010, the children left but the school building remained, a lonely monument to times gone by in the neighborhood. However, in 2013, the building was acquired by the city and in 2014 the Woodburn School Redevelopment Commission was created in order to bring life back to the building and make it a place for childhood memories once again.
Thanks to the efforts of the commission, the former Woodburn School building has been transformed into a non-profit hub. It’s home to several programs and organizations that are dedicated to improving the community and serving the children such as Friends of Deckers Creek, Boys and Girls Club, and PopShop. In addition to bringing in these non-profits, the commission has been working to maintain and rehab the physical building itself. It was for this endeavor that I contacted the commission and started planning a project with them that would help them in these efforts.
My project was a cleanup day of the garden spaces and walls of the main school building. While it might seem small in the grand scheme of preservation, a simple cleanup can and will have an impact on the other restoration efforts and the perceptions of the community. There were several vines growing on the facade of the building that my volunteers and I removed. Those vines would have exacerbated the erosion and deterioration of the brick and mortar. By clearing away the trash and clearing away dead and overgrown vegetation, the building looks more attractive and encourages people to engage with the activities hosted there. Once the garden spaces were cleared, there were new opportunities for one of the non-profits or the Woodburn community to replant and tend to the them.
Not only was the commission thankful for the help, the community also appreciated the project. While I organized the cleanup day, the commission had organized a block party to take place at the school to introduce the community to the non-profits and rehab efforts taking place. As my volunteers and I cleared away the trash and vegetation, community members, including former teachers and students would come up to us and say how happy they were to see people who cared enough to take care of the building. They would smile as they walked by saying how nice it is to finally be able to walk on the sidewalk now that the vegetation was controlled. With such a positive response from community members, I have high hopes that my project has helped encourage others to take part in the good things happening at the former Woodburn School.
In April 2019, Main Street Martinsburg coordinated a tour of the Martinsburg Roundhouse and the Arts Centre building (located at 300 W. King Street) for a group of historic preservation students from Shepherd University. During the tour the class not only learned about the history of the properties but the lengthy process of preserving and restoring them as well.
Shepherd University students who enroll in historic preservation courses spend their days in the classroom learning about what historic preservation is and how it is used as a way to both preserve historic resources and educate the public about those resources. Dr. Keith Alexander, Assistant Professor of History and co-director of the Historic Preservation and Public History program says that, “getting out into the field is absolutely essential for my historic preservation students to see how the things we talk about in class apply in the real world.” Throughout the tour students remarked on how, even though they knew some of these sites existed, they were less aware of the vast amount of history and recent preservation work that has gone into them.
Main Street Martinsburg is a collaboration of dedicated volunteers, business and property owners, concerned citizens, and local governments working together to promote and enhance the economic strength of historic downtown Martinsburg. With ongoing preservation projects like those at the Martinsburg Roundhouse and Shenandoah Hotel, Martinsburg provides the ideal setting for students to observe how historic preservation remains vital to economic development in West Virginia.
Main Street Martinsburg plans to continue inviting students to tour and discuss historic preservation efforts in the area in order to foster a sense of collaboration and education within the community.
Meaghan served as the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member at Main Street Martinsburg and the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission during the 2018-2019 program year.
By Sarah Hanna
One interviewee was Jill Thomas, who was a teacher at Wiles Hill in the 1970s and 80s. She reflected on how Wiles Hill was such a special place to work due to its small size and community involvement. Another interviewee, Sam Wilkinson, was a student in the 1990s. He was a high school student when Wiles Hill closed, and he recalled attending Board of Education meetings to advocate in favor of keeping the school open. Consolidation of schools was a trend in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century that caused the closure of neighborhood schools throughout the United States. Opponents argued that a more hands-on approach with smaller class sizes was preferable. Misty Williamson was a student at Wiles Hill in the 1970s and recalled the evolution of the Wiles Hill neighborhood from mostly families to college student rentals. The increase in college students and the closing of the neighborhood school both worked to dramatically change the demographics and culture of Wiles Hill.
While reflecting on this evolution can highlight how much the neighborhood has lost over the years, it also serves a positive purpose. Not only can it be cathartic, it also helps to preserve what the school and neighborhood once were. Oral history serves as a tool for the preservation of everyday history, and for when personal memories can tell us something different from the other archival records available.
Preserve WV Stories