West Virginia
Historical Society

Membership Information

October, 1999

Nobel Wyatt Presented Lewis Award

The West Virginia Historical Society presented the Virgil A. Lewis Award to Nobel K. Wyatt at its annual meeting on October 2. Nobel Wyatt was President of the WVHS from 1985 to 1986 and is widely known in Civil War historical organizations, particularly the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable. In making the presentation, Bill Wintz, a former WVHS president and Wyatt's long-time colleague and friend, gave the following biographical information on Mr. Wyatt.

NOBLE KENDALL WYATT was born in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 22, 1919. He is the son of William Howard and Helen Elizabeth (Hubbard) Wyatt. His mother's grandfather, John Calvin Gillespie, served in Company F of the 50th Virginia Infantry. John Gillespie was captured at the battle of Spottsylvania on May 12th 1864, and sent to Point Lookout Prison. He escaped on April 1, 1865 and returned home at war's end. Wyatt is a graduate of Charleston High School, Charleston, West Virginia, and worked for the Owens- Illinois Glass Co. for forty-two years. At retirement he was serving as Industrial Relations Director at their Mold Manufacturing Plant in Alton, Illinois. During his years of active service to the Sons of Confederate Veterans he was involved with many outstanding projects. His most notable achievement was the successful removal of the remains of Confederate Major-General Bushrod Johnson from a small country cemetery at Miles Station, Illinois, and having him placed by his wife's side at the Old City Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1977 with the help of many friends, he had a monument erected to General Johnson on the Chickamauga Battlefield. In 1978 he received the Jefferson Davis Medal from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Chicago, Illinois for these projects. Some of his other accomplishments include:

  1. Placing a gravestone on the final resting place of John Calvin Gillespie, Co. F, 50th Virginia Infantry.
  2. Placing a gravestone on the final resting place of General "Stonewall" Jackson's mother at Ansted, West Virginia.
  3. Having a bridge in West Virginia named for Confederate soldier, James P. Lanham (who was buried nearby). Lanham had served in the 22nd Virginia Infantry under Col. George S. Patton.
  4. Writing the final chapter of a reprinting of, "The Curious Career of Gen. Bushrod Johnson. The book was reprinted by "Blue and Gray Magazine".
  5. Helping to preserve a portion of the old Alton Prison wall which held many Confederate prisoners.
  6. Saving the wrought iron fence around the Confederate cemetery in Alton, Illinois.
Among his many other accomplishments, Wyatt has assisted noted Civil War author, James Robinson with his latest book on "Stonewall" Jackson. Wyatt was also the founder and first chairman of the Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable.

Prior to receiving his award, Wyatt made a most interesting presentation on a number of "vignettes" from the Civil War. Many of the topics were little known facts and tales from that conflict.

Former WVHS President TIM ARMSTEAD in Legislature

Tim Armstead, (R) Kanawha, 34, was appointed by Governor Cecil H. Underwood as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates on September 6, 1998, and was elected by the voters of the 32nd District of Kanawha County to a full term in the House of Delegates on November 3, 1998. Delegate Armstead currently serves on the Education, Constitutional Revision and Industry & Labor Committees in the House of Delegates.

A native of Clendenin, West Virginia Armstead graduated from the University of Charleston, West Virginia, in 1987 with a B. A. degree in Political Science and History. He earned his J.D. Degree from West Virginia University College of Law in 1990 and began his legal career as an attorney for the Charleston law firm of Spilman, Thomas & Battle. From 1991 through 1994, Armstead served as law clerk for the Honorable David A. Faber, United States District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia. He practiced law with the Charleston law firm of Carey, Hill & Scott from 1994 until October 1997.

Armstead has served on the staffs of two of West Virginia's governors. From 1986 through 1988, he served as a speech writer and press assistant for Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. He also served as Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff for current Governor Cecil H. Underwood from October 1997 until his appointment to the House of Delegates in September 1998. During his service in the office of Governor Underwood, he acted as liaison to the National Governors' Association, Southern Governors' Association and the Southern Growth Policies Board and was a member of the Governor's legislative team.

From 1990 through 1994, Armstead served as president of the West Virginia Historical Society and as an ex-officio member of the West Virginia Archives and History Commission. He is a former historical researcher for the West Virginia Archives and History Section and has served as adjunct professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Charleston. From 1994 through 1997, he served as General Counsel and Parliamentarian of the West Virginia State Republican Executive Committee. Armstead is currently a member of the Southern Growth Policies Board and the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Families.

Delegate Armstead is associated with the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson in Charleston, West Virginia, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Elk River Community Council. He and his wife, Anna, reside in Elkview and are the parents of a six-year-old daughter, Katie Ann.

The West Virginia Historical Society is proud to be able to claim Delegate Armstead as one of its own.

West Virginia Veterans Memorial Dedication November 11, 1999
by Larry Legge

The West Virginia Veterans Memorial, dedicated in ceremonies November 11, 1995, will reach another milestone in it's existence when the statue of the Vietnam soldier will be dedicated this coming Veterans' Day on the Capitol Complex. This memorial, dedicated to all West Virginia veterans who served their country, contains upon the sanctuary walls more than 10,200 names of those with specific West Virginia connections who did not survive the wars of the Twentieth Century. Thousands from across our nation and from other nations have visited this memorial and stood reverently before the engraved tablets. In leaving, many have left flowers and other items of personal remembrances of their loved one or friend at the base of the walls.

The memorial itself speaks to the sacrifice of those who perished in service to our country, but Fredrick Armstrong, Director of the West Virginia Department of Archives and History and the secretary of the West Virginia Historical Society, is encouraging all those with knowledge of veterans from West Virginia who did not survive the wars of the Twentieth Century to provide as much information as is available for inclusion in the "West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives of the Twentieth Century," a project which will supplement the memorial. It is hoped that families and friends will provide copies of newspaper clippings, telegrams, letters containing the circumstances of death, a copy of a photograph of the serviceman or servicewoman and any other information which may assist historians of the present and future generations.

Those who desire to provide such information may do so by mailing the information to Fred Armstrong at the state archives or to Larry Legge, a district vice-president of this society, who is assisting Fred and the archives staff in this project. You may contact Fred, or Larry at these addresses:

Fredrick Armstrong
Director, West Virginia Department of Archives and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305-0300
(304) 558-0220 Ext. 164

Larry Legge
104 Bartow Drive
Barboursville, WV 25504-1102
(304) 736-5340

Celebration WV 2000

CHARLESTON, WV -- More than 200 local, regional and statewide events have signed up to participate in West Virginia Celebration 2000. This celebration was initiated to commemorate West Virginians and statewide events and to call attention to the state's bright future for the new Millennium. The activities will emphasize the state's past accomplishments, vast recreational opportunities, rich heritage and vibrant culture.

West Virginia Celebration 2000 is being chaired by Governor Underwood and co-chaired by Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Bob Kiss. "The beginning of the new Millennium is a time for reflection and renewal, an opportunity for us as individuals and as a state to examine who we are, what we have accomplished and where we hope to go," said the Governor. "Most important, it must be a time to work together to ensure a bright future for our children."

Under the leadership of West Virginia Celebration 2000 Executive Director Scott Padon, the participating events will commemorate local history, reflect on current challenges and devise projects to prepare their communities and citizens for the 21st century. "West Virginia has always thrived from its spirit of imagination, volunteerism, creativity and innovation in the arts, humanities, education and technology," Padon said. "We envision this project as a catalyst for visitors both new and returning and see West Virginia in the splendor of today and for our citizens to celebrate the results of their labor and volunteerism. Under the banner of West Virginia Celebration 2000, the state can band together to celebrate our heritage and demonstrate our commitment to the future."

For additional information on West Virginia Celebration 2000, please phone 800/CALL WVA.

Link Between the North and South The Philippi Covered Bridge
by George Harris

"Generals of the North and South recognized the importance of this bridge [Philippi Covered Bridge] so necessary to each, and for all of its giant's strength and size, its very jeopardy - helpless against so small a thing as a match." (Chenoweth)

Before cement and concrete, covered wooden bridges were used to span many creeks and rivers. Even after structural steel and iron became useful in building bridges, many small, rural communities chose to use the cheaper wooden bridges. Covered bridges, however, did not originate in frontier America. Europeans were the first to design and build covered bridges. The roof and siding were primarily necessary for protection of the wooden structure that lay underneath (Barbour).

In frontier America, especially rural West Virginia, the roofed structure provided far more than just protection. The rafters were a place for children to gather and watch the farmers bring the cattle into town (Chenoweth). The roof was also shelter for local fisherman to get out of the rain. Town bridges were cherished by the townspeople. "Covered bridges are part of America's history, artifacts of the craftsmanship of the past, and picturesque reminders of another way of life." (Barbour) Presently there are seventeen covered bridges remaining in West Virginia. Perhaps the most famous of these bridges is the Philippi Covered Bridge.

The covered bridge in Philippi, West Virginia is a national historical landmark. The bridge served as a link between the North and South during the first land battle of the Civil War, as both Union and Confederate soldiers occupied it (Polsci). As well as being a historical landmark, the bridge is an architectural masterpiece. At the time it was built, the Philippi Bridge was the largest covered bridge ever constructed (Chenoweth). Even though the structure of the bridge is made solely out of lumber, it has survived a war, floods, large trucks, and even a fire.

The Philippi Bridge was one of two bridges required in the construction of the Beverly to Fairmont Turnpike (Chenoweth). In 1849, the Board of Public Works held an open invitation for engineers to display designs and scaled models for the new bridge. Most of the engineers showed up in carriages cautiously caring for their bridge models. However, one engineer, Lemuel Chenoweth rode over 100 miles with his model strapped to the back of his horse. As he took the model off his horse and unwrapped it from newspaper, he was laughed at by the other engineers. Chenoweth's model was much different than the rest of the engineers. Not only did it not have the fine detailing the other bridges had, it was not even painted. Lemuel had brought a stack of hickory wood without any blueprints to show to the Board (Chenoweth).

Chenoweth asked the Board to allow him to demonstrate the strength of his model, since he had no blueprints. Lemuel Chenoweth, in front of all the other engineers, said he could walk across his wooden scale model. The room filled with laughter. He placed the wooden model across two chairs and walked across it. The model was so well designed it could hold a load considerably larger than its own weight. No other engineer could match his feat, so the bridge contract was awarded to Lemuel Chenoweth of Beverly (Chenoweth).

Chenoweth chose Emmett O'Brien, a stone mason, to supervise the building of the stone piers. Local workers carefully pieced the bridge together in a nearby field without any blueprint or detailed drawing to go by. Every little detail was drawn out in Chenoweth's head only. The huge, yellow poplar logs, which had to be cut locally because of transportation problems, were held together with wooden pins. "The workman boasted that there was not 'a single nail in her.'

After the bridge was completed and thoroughly inspected, it was pronounced perfect, and unbelievable as it may sound, no alterations were required. It was then taken apart and carefully reconstructed on the wide stone piers." (Chenoweth) The bridge measured 26' x 285'10" and cost $12,181.84 to build (Citynet). Initially a tollgate was placed at the east end of the bridge to pay for the construction. A horse and rider was charged 10 cents; carriages with two horses, 35 cents; head of cattle, 1.5 cents; a score of sheep, 5 cents (Barbour).

The completion of the bridge was a great success. The bridge allowed travelers to easily cross the Tygart River at a reasonable price. There was only one problem; some animals were frightened to go through the bridge. Since the bridge was so long, it was dark throughout. After getting used to the darkness and with some gentle guiding by the herders and riders, the animals, however, usually succeeded through the bridge (Chenoweth). The effect of the bridge on animals was only a minor problem compared to what the town of Philippi was about to encounter.

The bridge was a great asset for the town of Philippi until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Control of the Baltimore and 0hio Railroad was a high priority for both the Confederate and Union armies. The B&O passed straight through Philippi, so the bridge became a prized treasure. "With the approach of the war the citizens of this quiet community became abruptly aware that no longer could their bridge be regarded as an object of pride and convenience, but its very presence, lying as it did at the gateway to the south, became a menace to the safety of the village, for official eyes were now turned toward Philippi." (Chenoweth)

Colonel George A. Porterfield moved his Confederate army into Philippi to await reinforcements and ammunition. His army was equipped with pistols, shotguns, and flintlock muskets, but no ammunition. The arms and ammunition from Richmond never made it to Porterfield (Chenoweth).

Union General George B. McClellan sent forces to Grafton to attack and capture Porterfield. Colonel Kelley had prepared a sneak attack on Philippi. He would take a section of the regiment and attack from the south and colonel Ebenezer Dumont would meet up with a regiment under colonel T.T. Crittenden and attack from the North. Hearing of the attack, a Miss McCleod and Miss Johnson from Prunytown rode undetected to Philippi to warn of the attack. Porterfield had no ammunition for a battle, so he called a conference to discuss retreating. The officers agreed that they would have to retreat. The night of June 2, 1861 a thundershower hit the region. Porterfield thought that the rain may halt the Union attack, so he decided to wait until morning to retreat. When daylight came, the Union army fired into the confederate camp and the streets of Philippi. Porterfield's men, believing they were trapped, abandoned their guns and ran in mass confusion. Kelley's army was supposed to have the southeastern end of Philippi blocked, but he did not. The Confederate soldiers ran to Belington with Kelley's army chasing them. The battle of Philippi is often referred to as the "Philippi Races." (Chenoweth)

Between fifteen and forty Confederate soldiers died in the battle. The Federal army did not lose a single life (Chenoweth). The short battle proved to be an important victory, as it strengthened the Union position in western Virginia and discouraged secessionist movement (Barbour). Local legend has it that President Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy held a secret meeting at the bridge shortly after the war began in an effort to end the conflict (Polsci). The war, however, did not end until four years later. The Philippi Bridge survived the war.

The Philippi Covered Bridge has not only survived the Civil War, but it has survived floods, large trucks, and even a fire. On Febuary 2, 1989, the bridge was severely damaged by a fire. A tanker truck overfilled a gas tank at the service station located above the bridge. Before anyone was aware of the mistake, gasoline was flowing down the street and onto the bridge. A ear entering the bridge backfired and ignited the bridge. The fire did not totally destroy the bridge. (Barbour Democrat). With the support of Gaston Caperton, local citizens and officials chose to rebuild the bridge to its original appearance.

Professor Emory Kemp, bridge historian, of West Virginia University directed the restoration. Local carpenters had to learn bridge construction techniques from the19th Century. They used epoxy and other adhesives to repair the damaged structures that could be saved. Members of the West Virginia Forestry Association furnished yellow poplar logs, three and half feet in diameter to replace the beams that could not be repaired. A special sawmill was constructed in Belington, fifteen miles southeast of Philippi, to shape and size the logs. As when it was built, very few bolts or nails were used in the bridge. Carpenters used hand tools to make and fit "mortices, tenons, and trunnels" for interlocking the beams. The restoration took two years and cost over $1.4 million (Barbour).

The rebuilding of the bridge became a menace to travelers, but when the bridge was completed, the local residents agreed it was all worth it. The bridge is an exact replica of the bridge during the Civil War, except for a few minor differences. The current bridge has a concrete floor that was poured in 1938, and safety devices such as lighting, sprinklers and smoke detectors that are required by law. The safety devices are so strategically placed though, that they are not even noticeable. With the white siding, red shingles and large arch entrances the bridge is still one of the most distinct objects in Philippi.

The Philippi Covered Bridge is the only two-lane covered bridge still serving a federal highway (Citynet). The true beauty and prestige can not be accounted for unless the bridge is seen in person. People come from miles away to see the battle of Philippi reenacted every year during the Blue and Gray Reunion. Travelers are in awe as they drive through the bridge and see the massive size beams connected by blocks of wood, or the remnants of the fire that are still noticeable on the wood structure. A wooden bridge so strong it will not even burn. The Philippi Covered Bridge is truly a historical landmark.

Works Cited

"Philippi Covered Bridge Catches Fire," Barbour Democrat, February 6, 1989, 1.

"Part of America's Past Preserved for its Future. The Historic Lure of Covered Bridges"

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