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.
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