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Meet
West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2006

What is a History Hero?


James S. Bailey, a native of Gilmer County and an Air Force veteran, has devoted his retirement to preserving the county's historic sites and promoting them for heritage tourism. Since 1994 he has spearheaded the preservation initiative of the Gilmer County Historic Landmarks Commission. As its president and primary public advocate, Bailey has written a number of crucial grants and received public funding to evaluate the county's history. He also wrote the National Register nomination for five historic sites. In 2003, Bailey was named Gilmer Countian of the Year by the Gilmer County Economic Development Association.
Nominated by Gilmer County Historical Society

April Bennett is one of the youngest members of the Cabell County historic preservation community. She has volunteered at the Historic Madie Carroll House, acting as a docent as well as cleaning and decorating the house for special events. Bennett earned a Girl Scout Silver Award for developing a tour of historic Guyandotte. She has volunteered during Guyandotte Civil War Days and was one of the first to join in the efforts to save the Martha Bridge.
Nominated by Save the Historic Martha Bridge, Inc.

Richard Blake of Huntington has been the webmaster for the KYOWVA Genealogical Society for several years. The technological services he provides have been instrumental in furthering the goals of the Society. Blake is also the webmaster for the Gallia County Historical and Genealogical Society (Ohio). His work includes the 1820 census as well as his extensive Blake family history.
Nominated by KYOWVA Genealogical Society

For years Rae Amiss Browne was the heart and soul of efforts to preserve Sumner School and its history and traditions. Her tireless endeavors for the Sumnerite Association over the years played a major role in its continued existence and success. Browne's work for the Sumner School Museum, to recognize the significance of the institution and those who attended it, was a cause to which she dedicated herself until her death on October 13, 2005.
Nominated by Wood County Historic Landmarks Commission

Walter S. Carpenter, president of the Pleasants County Historical Society, is regarded as the county's leading authority on its history. Through his leadership, the society remains an active organization, and the society's archives continue to grow. An ongoing project is the collection of pictures and histories of Pleasants County's one-room schools. Carpenter provides support to the Pleasants County Public Library, as well as elementary, middle and high schools, on historical and genealogical projects and requests. The "Walter S. Carpenter Genealogical Room" at the library serves as a magnet for the donation of family histories, reference books and genealogical files.
Nominated by Pleasants County Historical Society

Susan Everson Church is a nationally recognized Civil War historian. In addition to serving on various battlefield preservation boards, this Barbour County native has been an educator at several Civil War sites and has spoken at national conferences. For more than five years, she has portrayed Mrs. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson at events throughout the country. Since her return to West Virginia, Church has become a key volunteer for WVU Jackson's Mill, accompanying the History Hitting the Road outreach education program to various locations around the state. She is currently executive director of the Lewis County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Nominated by Historic Area at WVU Jackson's Mill

Kenneth F. Craft Jr. has spent years tracing his family roots. He has authored thirteen volumes of the Ohio County (WV) Index through Heritage Books, and has generated a cumulative index of people and place names in these court records. Craft is also the co-author of fifty-three booklets of the Brooke County (WV) Index and has created an index to these publications. He has provided substantial financial support for microfilming the Ohio County Court records from 1776 to 1930.
Nominated by Brooke County Genealogy Organization

Mary Sleeth Creamer, a member of Hacker's Creek Pioneer Descendants since 1999 and its current president, has written a comprehensive Sleeth family history, compiled and edited several publications published by HCPD, and developed a computerized system for recording and updating cemetery records. As vice president of the organization for five years, Creamer was responsible for the Annual Gathering. She is currently reading cemeteries in Monongalia County which have not been read since the WPA, and is completing a 3-volume set of McWhorter Family group sheets. She has taught classes on genealogy research, and represented HCPD at several genealogy fairs.
Nominated by Hacker's Creek Pioneer Descendants

Steve Fesenmaier was director of the Film Services Division of the West Virginia Library Commission from September 1978 to January 1999. As director, he purchased hundreds of films about West Virginia and Appalachia and, with the assistance of AppLit, created a Web site listing the films. Fesenmaier introduced a series of West Virginia films at The Pioneer Theater in New York City in 2004, and currently programs the West Virginia series at the South Charleston Museum. He has written extensively on state films and has been the film reviewer for Graffiti magazine for fifteen years. He co-founded the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild and the West Virginia Filmmakers Film Festival in Sutton.
Nominated by South Charleston Museum Foundation

Sister Joanne Gonter, V.H.M., is the historian at Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling. She has assisted numerous researchers, provided material for various publications and collaborated in setting up exhibits at the Stifel Fine Arts Center, Oglebay Institute Mansion Museum, Wheeling Jesuit University and the Catholic Heritage Center. Sister Joanne was a member of the commission that planned the West Virginia Catholic Heritage Center. She is the official tour guide for Mount de Chantal and gives talks on the history of the institution to local organizations.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Historical Society

Ruby Greathouse, who has extensive knowledge of Brooke County history, works tirelessly to promote the preservation of that history for future generations. As curator of the Brooke County Historical Museum, she records archives acquisitions, and is liaison for schools, public meetings, and government officials. She is a board member of the Historic Landmarks Commission and president and charter member of the Brooke Pioneer Trail Association. Greathouse was recognized as the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, and received the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Award, the Northern Panhandle Resource Conservation & Development Council Award, and a WVU-Wheeling Walks plaque.
Nominated by Brooke County Historical Museum

Ray and Sandra Harper have been members of the Ritchie County Historical Society since 1988. In the early 1990s, they were instrumental in helping the society establish a historical exhibit at the Cairo Oddfellows Building, now known as the Cairo Museum. Over the years the Harpers have collected artifacts on Cairo, Grant District, and Ritchie County history which are displayed in the museum. They open the museum on special occasions and have organized a group of local citizens who open it by appointment.
Nominated by Ritchie County Historical Society

June Jefferson copied application records for naturalization and transferred them to pages, resulting in the creation of eleven indexed books covering the period of 1837- 1904. Jefferson also created a book from more than two hundred memorial cards that she collected, copied, and alphabetized. She hopes to produce another book with cards collected from all over the United States. These books have been added to the Ohio County Public Library.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Genealogical Society

Debra Keddie has provided invaluable supporting services in the development of the National Road Alliance of West Virginia, and has been instrumental in disseminating the story of the National Road. A founding member of the organization, she served as president for two years and has been integral to its success through the development of interpretive materials, fund raising for projects and forming successful partnerships for the purpose of informing and educating the public. She is a board member for the six-state National Road Alliance and is chairperson of the 200th anniversary events to be held in 2006. Keddie also wrote the successful application for Scenic Byway status, and set up and manages the listserv for West Virginia by-ways. She served on the board of Preservation Alliance from 2002 to 2005.
Nominated by National Road Alliance of West Virginia, Inc.

James G. Legg has been an active member of the Fayette and Raleigh Counties Genealogical Society for many years. For the past fifteen years he has directed the publication of its newsletter, which he developed into a professional quarterly publication of history, family information, research aids, and genealogy that is sent to over forty states. Legg has spent numerous hours recording cemeteries in Fayette, Raleigh, and Greenbrier counties. His work has been used in cemetery books in all three of these counties. Through his research and publication he has furthered the preservation of the history of this area.
Nominated by Fayette and Raleigh Counties Genealogical Society

JoAnn Lough has spent a great part of her life preserving and promoting the history of this state. Following her retirement from Fairmont State College, she was instrumental in establishing the Masquers Historic Costume Collection (1850-1950). She presents two original one-woman shows, portraying Julia Pierpont and Mary Rose Keneade. Lough was instrumental in establishing The Pierpont Room and The 1865 Room at the dining hall at Fairmont State. As chair of the Fairmont Historic Landmarks Commission, she led a grassroots effort to save the county jail from demolition. Through her efforts, the state, county, and city named May 25, 2005, Julia Pierpont Day.
Nominated by Marion County Historical Society, Inc.

Margaret Glass Martin has served as both president and vice-president of the Summers County Historical Society while employed as a nurse and actively involved as a minister's wife. She helped assemble the society's historical publication The History of Summers County and contributed heavily to the collection and assimilation of materials for a cemetery book and recent postcard pictorial book of Summers County.
Nominated by Summers County Historical Society

Linda Murdock has spent many years compiling family history in Jackson County. Beginning in 1989, she has spent countless hours copying birth, marriage and death records in the Jackson County Courthouse and converting data from official records into book form. Murdock has compiled several volumes covering 1856-1949, which are available at the Jackson County Library, and currently is working to update information to 2000. The books provide an invaluable resource for genealogists.
Nominated by Jackson County Historical Society

Joseph D. Parriott published a comprehensive family history, Descendants of Christopher Parriott and Martha Clark Parriott and Their Descendants, in 1999. He also is the author of From the Outhouse to the Poor House to the State House and Marshall County History of the Twentieth Century and World War II Veterans of Marshall County. A long-time member of the Marshall County Historical Society, Parriott donated the proceeds from one of his books to the organization. He is creating an index of the Moundsville Echo and has provided countless articles for presentation on the Internet, as well as his database of World War II veterans who are not memorialized on the county courthouse wall. Parriott also helped save the county's history by preserving a number of historic structures.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society and Marshall County Virtual Genealogy Society

Richard Pettit became the president of the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc., in 2003. An active member, he gives tours, meets with vendors, and has gone out in any kind of weather, at any time of the day or night, to check on alarms set off at the Historic Madie Carroll House. He also plays Santa Claus for the children during the Christmas event. Pettit does all these things out of the goodness of his heart and love for the Historic Madie Carroll House.
Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

Frank and Linda Roleff have co-chaired all the fund raising activities of the Mineral County Historical Society for the past ten years. During that period they have raised well over $15,000 for historical projects, edited the book, A Pictorial History of Mineral County, WV , and overseen the renovation of the Claysville Church. In 1997 Frank was elected president of the society and served in that capacity for eight years. During his tenure, membership more than doubled and attendance at meetings increased from about six to an average of thirty-five people per meeting. The Roleffs have also been involved in other projects, including the Carskadon Mansion, Nancy Hanks birthplace, and The Stone House.
Nominated by Mineral County Historical Society

Clifford Rutherford, a genealogist for twenty years, was a charter member of the Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society. He has served as president and vice-president and is currently a board member of the organization. Rutherford has contributed to and is instrumental in the sale of society publications, has contributed to the quarterly newsletter, and actively seeks donations for the society research library and commemorative highway historical markers for Wayne County Revolutionary War soldiers. He has conducted workshops and presented genealogy information at Wayne County schools and community events.
Nominated by Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society

William Sanders is a well-known historian of the Bluestone/New River Valleys. He is a noted historical speaker, and has written thirteen historical books on the region, including History of Homes and Families, Princeton-Athens Area, West Virginia . Mr. Sanders has devoted many hours on the Shawnee Parkway project to get a historical highway through southern West Virginia. He also is a member of the Clay Foundation, which is committed to preserving the Clay settlement and cemetery in Mercer County.
Nominated by Mercer County Historical Society

Ray and Judy Schmitt, founders of Real Earth Productions, have produced over thirty video productions, many of which document the "old ways" of West Virginians. The Schmitts have also recorded bluegrass and traditional music indigenous to the region including an album, Songs of West Virginia . Both have served terms as president of the Lost River Craft Cooperative and Lost River Museum, where they were involved in activities celebrating and documenting local and West Virginia heritage. They are also members of the Hardy County Historical Society. Ray has been a board member since 2000, and Judy has served on the board of the Heritage Weekend Committee. The Schmitts are also active in the Lost River Educational Foundation. In 2004, Ray Schmitt was named West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year.
Nominated by Hardy County Historical Society

Walter B. "Bud" Shaver is a life and charter member of the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society. His perseverance secured the donation of land encompassing the Civil War site Cannon Hill. Through his efforts, the site has been restored, made accessible, and become a tourist attraction. He is an exquisite figurine wood carver, donating many carvings for fund raisers and displays within the society's museum. Shaver's abilities have been utilized in the restoration of historical buildings, in genealogy, and in preserving history.
Nominated by Rowlesburg Area Historical Society

Gerald R. Sites, who is currently vice-president of the Grant County Historical Society, has volunteered his time and services to preservation projects in Grant and Pendleton counties for the last forty years. In 1965, as a member of the South Branch Ruritan Club, he served as treasurer of the Log Church Fund and chairman of the Log Church Project to raise funds to restore the St. George's Historic Shrine. In 1973 Sites spearheaded fund raising efforts to restore the Old Judy Church, which was placed on the National Register, and he has been chairman of the Alt and Kimble Reunion almost continuously since 1970. In 2000, he became fund raising chairman for the two-room schoolhouse at Scherr.
Nominated by Grant County Historical Society, Inc.

Adith Spencer, a founding member of the Wirt County Historical Society, has served as vice president and is currently the treasurer of the organization. She also assists in preparation of the society's newsletter. She served as a West Virginia GenWeb volunteer, has cleaned up and recorded cemeteries, compiled early birth and death records, and was instrumental in planning the first Wirt County genealogical fair. Spencer willingly shares her knowledge with other people and assists them with their genealogy research. She has been active in the planning for Pioneer Days and participated in Heritage Day with Primary Center Children. Spencer is a member of the Daughters of American Pioneers, the Little Kanawha Scenic Byways Committee, and has been supportive in the Burning Springs oil well restoration.
Nominated by Wirt County Historical Society

Bettie Steele has been a member of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation for more than fifteen years and has worked on several interpretive and fund raising programs for the WVIH museum. In 2003 she researched, wrote scripts, and directed "Voices of the Civil War," a major interpretive program held in the museum's historic courtroom. She is also a guiding force behind the foundation's efforts to raise funds for an exhibit of original West Virginia Civil War battle flags planned for the museum.
Nominated by West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation

Virgil and Ruby Bland Swadley have been members of Pendleton County Historical Society for years. Ruby has served as secretary and been the Union District representative for the past seventeen years. Virgil has worked with other former students to restore the old Propstburg School at Brandywine. Ruby is devoted to preserving her family genealogy and is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, while Virgil is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. The Swadleys are owners of Bland Hills Farm, which was designated as a Bicentennial Farm in 1988.
Nominated by Pendleton County Historical Society

Frances Hill Webb has been a significant force in support of the Tyler County Museum since its opening ten years ago. Webb and her committee established a room in the museum and are identifying, labeling and placing pictures in a large display. Webb keeps the second-floor room clean and ready for viewing by the public and is also involved in yearly projects of the Tyler County Museum. Webb's committee has prepared a pictorial section for the second volume of the Tyler County history book.
Nominated by Tyler County Museum

Pat Phillips Wendell, a founding member of the Fayette County Historic Landmark Commission, has served as treasurer and vice president, and been a board member for the past 21 years. She worked on the restoration of the Fayette County Courthouse and served on the Centennial Commission, which planned activities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the present building. Wendell also helped raise funds to erect a life-size bronze statue of the Marquis de Lafayette on the courthouse grounds. She designed a map for the historic walking tour of Fayetteville, was a member of the Fayetteville Historic Landmark Commission for several years, and helped prepare a National Register nomination for the Fayetteville Historic District. Wendell also participated in several successful grant projects for surveying historic sites throughout Fayette County.
Nominated by Fayette County Historic Landmark Commission

Robert C. Whetsell is an archaeologist and historian devoted to the interpretation of the history and heritage of north-central West Virginia. He is the author of Elkins, West Virginia: The Metropolis Revisited , and has developed a number of interpretive exhibits on railroad and forest history in Randolph County. Whetsell also co-produced the interpretive film The Cliff-Scaling Soldiers of West Virginia , which explores World War II training at Seneca Rocks. He is an active member of the Randolph County Historical Society, C-HOPE, Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Association, and a past president of the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission.
Nominated by Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission

Margaret Williams of St. Albans has been an active member of the St. Albans Historical Society for more than fifteen years. She served on a committee that gathered articles and photos for the book History of St. Albans and also provided a number of articles for that publication. She always volunteers to work the Morgan Kitchen Summer Open House and its fall festival. Williams also works at open houses at the St. Albans Historical Society building and volunteers for other events.
Nominated by St. Albans Historical Society

As a Jenkins family descendant, Victor Jenkins Wilson is dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the Jenkins Plantation at Greenbottom. He was a founding member of the Greenbottom Society, Inc., and has donated his time, money, and family artifacts and furnishings to the historic site. He is also an active member of the Historic Madie Carroll House Preservation Society and Save the Historic Martha Bridge, Inc.
Nominated by Greenbottom Society, Inc.

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For more information about the History Hero Awards, contact Joe Geiger.


West Virginia's History Heroes

West Virginia Archives and History