Thursday, August 12, 2004

West Virginia History Lesson

The great state of West Virginia was born of the Civil War. Tired of being used and abused by their kin in Richmond following Virginia's succession from the Union, the bastards formed their own government under the state of Virginia and subsequently received permission from themselves to become a different state. Pretty crafty huh? The Union (i.e. Federal Government) saw this as a way to increase their land mass and were more than willing to overlook such small things as who actually owned the land that would become West Virginia. Abraham Lincoln signed us up and on June 20, 1863, we were born (again). West Virginia has a rich, rich history. Depending on the historian, West Virginia either boasts the last battle of Lord Dunmore's War (the western most fight against the American Indian) or the first battle of the Revoluntionary War at Point Pleasant, WV (VA at the time) which is about 45 minutes from my house. There the legendary Shawnee Chief Cornstalk and his braves and regiments from VA battled it out. The militia was victorious and stopped Lord Dunmore's War which would have prevented VA from entering the Revolutionary War. The most interesting thing about this to me is that possibly one of my ancestors fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant. I haven't been able at this time to confirm that he is actually my ancestor as I don't have a paper trail as of yet. The chances of that happening are slim but for the most part I'm 99% sure he was my grandfather. That was on my dad's side of the family. On my mom's side, I do have a confirmed Revoluntionary War veteran for a grandfather, he's actually my grandfather twice, but I'll get to that in a later post. George Belcher is definitely my ancestor and definitely fought in the Revolutionary War. He served as one of 11,000 men at Valley Forge with George Washington in the sad sorry winter of 1777-1778. He is also said to have fought at the Battle of Cowpens, made famous by the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot. Either way, he was made of sturdy stuff. His grandson married a Ramey (Remy). The Rameys were said to have migrated from Eygpt to France in 600-700 A.D. and were descendants of or related in some way to Charlemagne. I like seeing how my family fits into the history of West Virginia, not to mention, the world at large. I grew up in a semi-rural area of the southern part of the state. My dad's family were the first white settlers in Boone County in the mid 1700's. It is hard to imagine how difficult it was to reach such an outlying area for the time period. That's where I grew up. No more than 10 miles from where my great-grandfathers first settled the wilderness. The Battle of Blair Mountain, also called "The Redneck War of 1921" (because the miners wore red bandanas around their necks) and "The Miner's March" was the largest labor uprising in the history of America entailing some 8,000 to 13,000 men fighting for the right to unionize the coal mines. The fighting became so bad President Harding called in federal troops. This interests me because they marched through Madison, the county seat of Boone County and had organized about 10 miles from my house on Lens Creek. I'm not sure if any of my family were present. I do know that my great-grandfather was a miner in Kanawha County at that time, where the march began, but its my understanding that Kanawha County was already unionized at that time, although miners from all over WV and neighboring states came to assist. For me, it is difficult to imagine walking the route that they did. It was still a dirt road at the time. A road that is now a divided four lane highway linking Charleston to the Kentucky border. Without a knowledge of the mountain ranges and what lies in each valley it is difficult to understand the exact layout, even with a map, for someone not familiar to the area. I would like to do my next post on deep Southern WV and Homer Hickam. Homer wrote "The Rocket Boys" which later became "October Sky" and a movie starring Jake Gyllenhall and Laura Dern was made. Read the book, much better stuff. I had the pleasure of visiting Coalwood, WV and meeting Homer and the other Rocket Boys (not to mention getting my book signed by all of them.) Considering the time period and where they lived, it is really an amazing and inspiring story. I have photographs also and would like to post those but alas, I have no scanner and will have to ask someone to do it for me. I guess I will wait until I can do that. I would also like to post a map or something to show exactly how freaking rural the area he grew up in was. It made Boone County look like New York City. Well... not quite (wink).
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    Blogger Celti said...

    wow...fascinating stuff. I love studying my family's history and the things they did. I have a huge pile of letters written in the late 1800s between my ggg grandparents in Texas and their children who stayed behind in Missouri. How different their lives were then.

    My great great grandfather (or was it three greats), William Cook fought as a Union soldier in the civil war. His brother was killed at the battle of Vicksburg right next to him, and he was injured and left for dead on the battle field. He was rescued by a group of african-americans and lived cast his first vote for Lincoln. He lived to be 93 and fathered 12 children.

    Great post, as usual, Inanna. :)

    8/13/2004 10:46:00 AM  
    Blogger Cattiva said...

    I LOVE the Homer Hickham story! That is so COOL that you have a signed copy of the book. Actually, I am into anything rocket related as I have a huge interest in space. Apollo is one of my favorites.

    Civil War is also an interest. I used to say I *love* the CW, but honestly that just sounds wrong. It was the most tragic event in our history...nothing to love there. Being fascinated with it is OK, though. We've visted several sites, though none in WV yet. We were thinking about Harper's Ferry at some point this summer, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

    I like to drag the kids to historical sites. It's my interest of course, but they seem to be getting into it, which can't hurt right? Nothing wrong with them actually learning something. At least their social studies grades are usually pretty good!

    Looking forward to seeing the pictures!

    8/13/2004 10:46:00 AM  
    Blogger Traci Dolan said...

    Cattiva -- Harpers Ferry is a beautiful area of the state. What am I saying? All of WV is beautiful but the Potomac Highlands have a different sort of rugged beauty. Harpers Ferry boasts several ghosts so make sure you take a few midnight strolls if you get the opportunity. Hope you get a chance to visit!! As for Homer, he was an absolute sweetie!! Can't wait to post about my trip to Coalwood.

    8/13/2004 10:53:00 AM  
    Blogger Traci Dolan said...

    Celti - That is great!! I love it when folks save things and pass them down. Very interesting about your great-great (great?) grandfather. He must have had an interesting life.

    8/13/2004 12:01:00 PM  
    Blogger T - Another Geek Girl said...

    I don't have a scanner either, but I love posting pictures so I go to Walgreens or Eckards, they let you scan your pictures to a cd. It only costs $3.99 for the CD... the scanning is free and you get the CD right on the spot so you don't have to wait for them to send it out.

    I put all of my old family photos on a CD. They will hold around 100 per CD.

    I put 58 pictures on one CD... it took a good 45 minutes to scan them all, but it was worth it.

    You might want to call around, this will also let you preserve them and reprint them in the future... Cool!

    Hope it helps, would like to see your pics.

    8/13/2004 02:35:00 PM  
    Blogger Cattiva said...

    Celti that is really interesting! Do any of the family letters you have describe your great grandfather's rescue from the battlefield?

    Inanna, when do you think is the best time to visit Harper's Ferry? Would you say in the fall when the leaves change? I was thinking it would be a beautiful trip then. It's good to get the input of someone who's been there. And thanks for the heads up on the ghosts! My kids LOVE that kind of stuff. We've taken a couple ghost walk tours when we've visited Gettysburg before. Being close to Williamsburg/Jamestown we have lots of stuff like that here, too. Always popular with the younguns.

    8/13/2004 03:30:00 PM  
    Blogger Traci Dolan said...

    Fall is beautiful in the Highlands. The leaves change earlier up there so I would suggest calling 1-800-CALL-WVA and asking for Harpers Ferry and finding out when the best time is.. my best guess late September, early October. Also, in Romney, where the State School for the Deaf and Blind is, they have a Hampshire Heritage Days (September 11-12th this year) with rides, parade and crafts. Just down the road is the Potomac Eagle, an excursion train which travels down the Potomac to look for eagles. Romney is about 2 hours from Harpers Ferry. If it were me, I would skip Heritage Days and go to Harpers Ferry and make a day trip for the train ride. :o)

    8/13/2004 03:44:00 PM  
    Blogger Phoesable said...

    Hi Sister Spirit --
    just dropping by for a history lesson before going on vacation. Have a great couple of weeks. S'Moon

    8/13/2004 03:45:00 PM  
    Blogger Michael said...

    That was interesting -- I liked how you incorporated your family history into it. Now WV will be more to me than just a lyric from "Country Roads".

    8/13/2004 04:06:00 PM  
    Blogger Tsarina said...

    That was so beautiful~ I love history and geography, so keep up the lessons! Celti's letters sound like they would make a wonderful book, too.

    8/13/2004 07:59:00 PM  
    Blogger Traci Dolan said...

    Sister Moon -- Have a wonderful vacation. You'll have much to read when you return ;o)

    Michael -- Thanks for coming by. LOL! I had completely forgetten about "County Roads." For some stupid reason its not the state song. Beatdown with a John Denver CD.

    Tsarina -- I'll keep 'em coming. Excellent idea about Celti's letters!!

    8/13/2004 09:20:00 PM  
    Blogger evilsciencechick said...

    Wow. You're family really does go back in history, huh?

    Very interesting. You should be a teacher! :)

    8/13/2004 09:46:00 PM  
    Blogger Seeker said...

    Awww there was no mention of the Monkey damn it!

    8/14/2004 06:49:00 AM  

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