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West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2011

What is a History Hero?


A member of Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s advisory panel, John C. Allen has assisted PAWV efforts for cultural heritage development and heritage tourism. Over the past decade, he has been a major force behind the creation of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly. Under his presidency (2005-present), the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission has acquired the county poor farm and stabilized the house, re-activated the county landmark designation, recommended comprehensive historic preservation measures to the county zoning ordinance, taken steps toward restoration of the Peter Burr House, and initiated county viewshed surveys. Allen has documented the architectural features of many historic homes in Jefferson County and has completed Uncommon Vernacular: The Early Houses of Jefferson County, West Virginia, 1735-1835 (forthcoming).
Nominated by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, Inc.

For the past four years, Bro. John Byrd, FMS, and Ginger Kabala have worked as a team to create the South Wheeling Preservation Alliance, which seeks to identify, preserve, and promote the unique spirit and character of the South Wheeling neighborhood. Brother John was its first president, and Ginger is the current president. In addition to revitalization and beautification efforts, they are leading the group in the development of an oral history project and are working to identify extant historic structures in the South Wheeling neighborhood. Ginger is also a member of the Wheeling Heritage Roundtable, and Brother John often serves as a volunteer at various functions for Wheeling Heritage.
Nominated by Wheeling National Heritage Area

Irene M. Campbell has been an active member and trustee of the Fayette County Historical Society since 1962. She has served as hostess at the society’s museum, Contentment Historical Complex at Ansted, for many years, and she frequently is requested to be a guest speaker at dinners and organizational meetings. Campbell has worked tirelessly to improve the museum holdings and displays, in order to aid in interpretation of 19th-century life and to provide for the growth and expansion of the historical complex. She was a co-compiler of and contributor to History of Fayette County (1993).
Nominated by Fayette County Historical Society

Glenna Dillon has been a member of the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society for almost ten years and currently is a board member, book committee member, and occasional substitute secretary. She is a very active genealogical researcher, transcriber, and compiler, as well as a conscientious and reliable society member who helps as a volunteer in the Wheeling Room at the Ohio County Public Library. For several years, she has volunteered for Fort Henry Days. Dillon researched and wrote The Cemeteries of Ohio County, West Virginia (2007), and she has extracted records for several funeral homes.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Genealogy Society

Charles Robert Elder, a member of the Pleasants County Historical Society, has been mapping active and abandoned cemeteries and burial grounds in Pleasants County. He has visited, recorded GPS coordinates, and photographed 114 cemeteries and burial grounds in the county. Elder has cleaned and restored several old cemeteries, and he also has assisted in the placement of military markers on Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War veterans’ graves. He currently is restoring the Fetty-Hogue Cemetery in Monongalia County and placing a marker for Pvt. George Fetty. In addition, Elder has prepared genealogical studies on several Pleasants County families.
Nominated by Pleasants County Historical Society

Every week for two years, Edmund Grose has volunteered at Marshall County Historical Society’s Cockayne Farmhouse, scanning more than 6,000 pages of documents that span more than 150 years of farmstead history. In so doing, he has made copies of these documents available to the public to create a better understanding of the activities of the farm and the family while preserving the originals. In addition, he has made valuable discoveries about the farm and family heretofore unknown and has become the project’s “genealogy expert.” Grose also maintains the project’s Facebook page and helps the site’s program director with educational events and classes at the farmstead.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society

Dora Kay Grubb has been president of the Marion County Historical Society since 2005 and acting director of the museum since 2006. She took a dying organization and brought it into the 21st century through computerization, new programs, concentrating on preservation, and showing the county the valuable contributions of its forefathers. Her efforts led to restoration of the former sheriff’s office and jail cells, which opened for public display purposes in May 2010. Among her many activities, Grubb has been involved with preserving local black history, reaching out to youth to encourage them to appreciate local history, beautification of the Civil War marker depicting the Jones Raid and the Skinner Tavern, and starting the Marion County Sesquicentennial Coalition.
Nominated by Marion County Historical Society, Inc., and Museum

Mary Davis Gumbita is historian for the Wheeling Chapter, NSDAR, and is an inspiring, award-winning member whose historic preservation efforts through artistic “scrapbooking” and promotion of Constitution Week have won three state awards and three national awards. She lends her genealogical skills to help others find their roots. She taught American history, West Virginia history, and civics for 39 years and so many of her students were Golden Horseshoe winners that she received an honorary Golden Horseshoe in 1995.
Nominated by Wheeling Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Loretta Hagler is the corresponding secretary for the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation. She has helped the organization tell the historical stories and contributions of West Virginia African American leaders such as Carter G. Woodson and Memphis Tennessee Garrison. She assisted with fundraising for projects such as the statue of Woodson erected in 1995 on Hal Greer Boulevard in Huntington. Hagler chairs the annual banquet committee and is also a board member of the Huntington-Cabell Branch of the NAACP and the Black Professional Women’s Club.
Nominated by Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Eleanor L. Heishman has served on the board of directors (2002-2010) of the Hardy County Historical Society and as secretary (2008-2010). A retired library director, she was instrumental in processing the Bowen family papers and other documents donated to the society. Her volunteer work includes researching Hardy County courthouses, helping individuals research their homes, organizing and indexing the McCoy Theater archives, and working several hours a week in the public library archives. She provided historical information for the recent Moorefield program in the PBS series Road Trip to History. Since 2004, she has been researching 18th- and 19th-century ironworks in Hardy County.
Nominated by Hardy County Historical Society, Inc.

David R. Houchin has been described as a “walking encyclopedia” of Harrison County genealogy and history and the person to seek if you are looking for an answer to a genealogical or historical question. He has researched many north-central West Virginia families and is well versed in area history, including the militia, Revolutionary War pension fraud, and platting early settlers’ lands. Houchin is secretary of the Harrison County Genealogical Society, editor of the newsletter, a member of the book committee, and he processes memberships.
Nominated by Harrison County Genealogical Society

Richard Leon James has been a member of the board of directors of the West Virginia Center for African American Art and Culture since 2009. He participates in the organization’s signature project, Annual Valley Heritage Tour, and also is providing vital input for designation of a new local historic district in Charleston that covers a significant portion of the black historic area. James has attended meetings with the landmarks commission and city planning commission and is a member of North Side Historic Community Group, which will facilitate the project. He is president of the Garnet High School Alumni Association and author of In the Hollow: One Mile from Here (2009).
Nominated by West Virginia Center for African American Art and Culture, Inc.

An active member of the Ritchie County Historical Society since 1988, Donnie Jones served as treasurer for two years and has been first vice president for twelve years. Since he joined, he has been involved in and helped with nearly every society activity. He volunteers at open house events at the museum and helps with fundraisers. In addition to conducting tours of the Old Stone House Museum and the Pennsboro B&O Railroad Depot/Museum, for several years Donnie helped coordinate the Vendor Days activities. He also helped compile information for Ritchie County WV Cemeteries—Through 1993.
Nominated by Ritchie County Historical Society, Inc.

Mary Virginia Jones is a charter member of the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society and her expertise and support was very instrumental in its formation. She was involved in setting up both the museum and the genealogy library. A native of Rowlesburg, she has shared with others a wealth of information and history about her childhood, industries, houses, and people of the area. At the age of 96, Jones still contributes to local history research and donates books, pictures, and money to the society.
Nominated by Rowlesburg Area Historical Society

Rebekah Karelis is an active participant in the history, archives, and preservation efforts in the Wheeling area. As a staff member of the Wheeling National Heritage Area, she worked to research, refurbish, and reopen the Capitol Theater and also to organize and conserve its archives. Rebekah currently is compiling a book on the history of the radio program It’s Wheeling Steel. She has begun taping speakers at Wheeling Area Historical Society meetings. She also has written articles for the society’s publication The Upper Ohio Valley Historical Review and recently became its editor.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Historical Society

Walter Hunter Lesser is the foremost authority on the first campaign of the Civil War. He was a founding member and former board member of Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation, is a longtime supporter of Historic Beverly Preservation, and serves on the West Virginia Civil War Task Force, including consulting on the Civil War Trails project. An archaeologist by training and a gifted interpreter, Hunter wrote interpretation for Rich Mountain Battlefield and contributed extensively to exhibits for the Beverly Heritage Center. He is a sought-after tour guide and portrays Henri Lovie, a Civil War correspondent, during living history events. Hunter Lesser is author of numerous articles, as well as the books The Battle of Corrick’s Ford (1993) and Rebels at the Gate (2004).
Nominated by Historic Beverly Preservation, Inc.

Michael Lipton is the founder (2005) and current director of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, whose mission is to preserve, collect, and share the musical history and heritage of West Virginia. Lipton is involved in every activity of the Hall of Fame. The organization currently is educating students with a traveling exhibit, a mobile museum containing artifacts and memorabilia of musical stars and people of historical significance. The exhibit, funded in part by the Department of Education, has been to 110 schools in 52 counties.
Nominated by West Virginia Music Hall of Fame

Bob and Allie Maxwell spearheaded the recent restoration of the historic log Methodist church Job’s Temple. They helped write the grant to obtain funding for restoration and worked onsite, helping the contractor, for ten weeks. During the annual Job’s Temple Homecoming in 2010, the Maxwells gave a PowerPoint presentation, and they also have constructed a display on the restoration work for the Gilmer County Historical Society Museum. Bob Maxwell is president of the Job’s Temple Association, whose origins date to the 1930s, when his grandmother Ella Woofter Maxwell was a leader in the effort to preserve the building.
Nominated by Gilmer County Historical Society

Patricia Ann McDonald is the coordinator of the Mineral County GenWeb Project, through which people around the world benefit from her work. She never turns down a request for information and willingly researches or directs a researcher to a source. Her most recent contribution to the Web site has been the transcription of old issues of the News-Tribune. Through the site’s cemetery link, much valuable information has been provided for family members seeking information about deceased relatives. The generous sharing of her research, her willingness to research for others, and her endless hours of loading information for the GenWeb site make McDonald a true History Hero.
Nominated by Mineral County Historical Society

Shirley Miller has been a member of the board of directors of the West Virginia Northern Community College Alumni Association for fourteen years and has served as chair of the Hazel Atlas Historic Collection Committee for twelve years. In 1997, she began developing the collection, which has expanded from 80 to more than 1,000 items. Miller acquired a broad knowledge of Hazel Atlas Glass, traveled extensively to purchase items, and sought donations. She also recorded oral histories from several former employees. Miller developed a major exhibit of the glassware in 2000 and recently helped organize a display in the Ohio County Library.
Nominated by West Virginia Northern Community College Alumni Association

Sue Miller has been a member of the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society for more than ten years. Her efforts make it possible for the organization to continue telling the 200-year story of the site and surrounding community. The organization holds several large events each year, and Miller is a constant, reliable, and efficient volunteer. For two years she headed the annual Christmas event, and she volunteers as a docent when the house is open. Miller also volunteers with the Greenbottom Society, where she prepares food for special occasions, and Guyandotte Civil War Days, where she volunteers during registration and has portrayed Mary Carroll.
Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

Paula Mitchell is a constant and enthusiastic supporter of the Pendleton County Historical Society’s activities. She organized the two most recent programs held in her home district, Sugar Grove, and volunteers every year at the society’s exhibit at the Treasure Mountain Festival. In 2010, she volunteered at the recently opened museum. Mitchell’s weekly “Sugar Grove” newspaper column in the Pendleton Times reports on the origins of language, food, culture, and tradition of the Dutch and German settlers in Pendleton County and their place in Appalachian regional history. The column’s cumulative effect places her at the forefront of authors of historical material in the county.
Nominated by Pendleton County Historical Society

Jeanne Mozier was the first president of the Museum of the Berkeley Springs (1984-1985) and currently serves on the board of directors. Jeanne could be said to have “birthed” the museum twice. She lobbied for its establishment in 1984 and was instrumental in renovation of the Roman Bath House space. In 2003, when the board petitioned the Morgan County Commission to take over the institution, she organized public meetings to recruit involvement. Mozier has developed three major exhibits, originated several events, raised more than $50,000, and developed the Virtual Museum Web site. In 2010, she completed work on interpretive signs for the Washington Heritage Trail National Scenic Byway. The author of several publications, Mozier is working on a history of Berkeley Springs.
Nominated by Museum of the Berkeley Springs

Michael Edward Nogay has been active in fundraising for the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, and the net proceeds from his book Holliday’s Cove Fort: Virginia’s First Defense Along the Ohio River (2008) were donated to the museum. He also has given presentations on the Revolutionary War history of the Upper Ohio Valley. In 2009, he gave presentations for the Weirton museum at its Festival of Nations celebrating the city’s 100th anniversary and, in 2010, he appeared on WQED-TV Pittsburgh’s special on Weirton history. Nogay is the author of Every Home a Fort, Every Man a Warrior: Stories of the Forts and Men of the Upper Ohio Valley during the American Revolution (2009).
Nominated by Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center

Bradley R. Oldaker is an avid collector of photographs and postcards of Lewis and Upshur counties and is knowledgeable on early Lewis County photographers. A member of Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants since 1998, he has provided the organization with copies of his early Lewis County photographs. He also is helping the group with identifying and organizing its photograph collection. Oldaker is the co-author of the book Images of America: Lewis County (2010).
Nominated by Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants

Amanda Griffith Penix was executive director of Arthurdale Heritage from 2004 to 2007 and remains the principal grant writer for AHI. As executive director, she secured and managed more than $125,000 in grants and, in 2010, secured a $142,000 grant from HUD. Penix has organized the archives, served as the volunteer archivist, and designed displays in the museum. She also continues to work at events, provide lectures, and advise the board. For her efforts, Penix was chosen as AHI’s Volunteer of the Year in 2010. She is the author of Images of America: Arthurdale (2007) and has written several articles.
Nominated by Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Patricia Irene Piercy has been a member of the board of directors of the West Virginia State CCC Museum Association for five years. She is active in planning and conducting various events sponsored by the organization, including the CCC anniversary celebration and the spring and fall jubilees, and has spoken with many people to promote the history, heritage, and legacy of the CCC. Piercy has also been a leader of the homestead preservation effort and is a member of the Tygart Valley Homestead Association.
Nominated by West Virginia State CCC Museum Association

A member of the Berkeley County Historical Society since 2001, Paul Planchon has been on the board of directors for seven years and served as vice president (2004-2007). Since 2002, he has been a volunteer genealogist at the Archives and Research Center. Planchon has served on numerous committees and chaired the Black History Room Committee, supervising all displays and information placed in the room. He is the author of “Free Blacks in Berkeley County and the Black Community of Douglas Grove” for the society’s journal (2006) and is working on another article on the history of African Americans in Berkeley County. He also authored/co-authored two volumes on Back Creek Valley for the journal.
Nominated by Berkeley County Historical Society

A retired coal miner and school teacher, Fred Powers gives unique storytelling presentations to audiences of all ages, telling stories of miners through his own experiences. He has been an actor in the outdoor drama Terror of the Tug, had several cameos in Hillbilly: The Real Story on the History Channel, and performed at WVU’s Miner’s Day in 2010. In 2008, Powers received the Coal Heritage Award for Excellence in the Arts for his one-man theatrical presentation Buried Alive: A Coal Miner’s Story. He has published short stories and articles on the coalfields and is putting stories together for a book.
Nominated by Mercer County Historical Society, Inc.

William L. “Bill” Roberts helped form the Kentucky-based Levisa Artillery re-enactment group and serves as the group’s captain. The group has participated in Guyandotte Civil War Days for eight years, and Bill has served as safety officer for the past two years. He also serves on the Guyandotte group’s Re-enactment and Planning Committee. Bill has always promoted the educational aspects of the Civil War, providing school and 4-H Camp demonstrations and living history programs at places such as Jenkins Plantation. He was artillery honor guard at the burial of the Hunley crew in South Carolina and has participated in the local reburial of two Civil War soldiers.
Nominated by Guyandotte Civil War Days and Raid on Guyandotte, Inc.

Phyllis Rose was instrumental in the formation of the Gulf Preservation Authority in 2003 and served as its first director. The Authority was founded to bring local communities together to preserve the history of the Winding Gulf Smokeless Coalfield in southern West Virginia and to promote tourism in the area. Projects have included restoration of Main Street in Sophia and renovation in 2008 of that community’s historic Boy Scout cabin. She is an enthusiastic and hard-working person who believes that the important coal heritage history of the region should be preserved for future generations.
Nominated by Raleigh County Historical Society

Mike Sheets has been a member of the Greenbottom Society since 1988. For a number of years, he organized a Civil War Academy event at Jenkins Plantation to teach about the life of a Civil War soldier, and he has volunteered to bring that back this spring. He helped organize the 36th Virginia Infantry Re-enactors in 1982, coordinated the Carnifex Ferry Re-enactment (1986-2005), and was the first official overall commander of the Guyandotte Re-enactment in 1990. Sheets has provided numerous living history presentations for the Greenbottom Society, at public schools, museums, and elsewhere. A teacher, he organized the Western Virginia Military Academy re-enactors for students ages 10 to 15.
Nominated by Greenbottom Society, Inc.

Peggy Shields volunteers at the Tyler County Heritage and Historical Society museum, helping keep it open for researchers and visitors, sorting and filing papers, and helping clean, dust, and wash windows in the spring. She also helps with the society’s fundraising activities. She assists with the newsletter and has written several articles for the publication. Shields has compiled the 1930 census for Tyler County, which will be published by the society.
Nominated by Tyler County Heritage and Historical Society

A native of Jackson County, Lesley L. “Les” Shockey has always been willing to share his knowledge of the county’s genealogy and history with others. He was on the cutting edge of Internet genealogy and became involved with USGenWeb in 1996 as the county site coordinator. A year later, he became the state coordinator, and he has held both positions since that time. In 2010, Shockey was elected to the advisory board of USGenWeb as the state coordinator representative for the Southeast/Mid-Atlantic Region. Shockey has also served the Jackson County Historical Society as co-editor of the newsletter (1997-98) and member of the board of directors (1999-2004).
Nominated by Jackson County Historical Society

Jeffrey Smith has been maintaining and restoring local cemeteries for several years, including Smith Cemetery and Chichester Cemetery in Wood County and Callow Cemetery in Roane County. He has researched and photographed cemeteries, repaired markers, and formed new bases for headstones. Since its creation about two years ago, he has worked with the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society cemetery project. Smith created a video on cemeteries of Williams District in Wood County that brought faces to many tombstones. He is the author of an article for the society’s newsletter on Civil War soldier David K. Page, whose grave he found while cleaning Kinnaird Cemetery.
Nominated by Wood County Historical and Preservation Society

Ryan Stanton, a local educator, is a member of the board of directors of Friends of Wheeling. In 2010, he chaired the society’s “Passport to Wheeling” event, helping organize an education tour of the Wheeling waterfront in partnership with the Wheeling Heritage Trail Association and portraying Henry Schmulbach. Ryan is researching the life of Schmulbach, a Wheeling brewery owner, and collecting information and artifacts about the brewery; and he has presented programs on the man to several groups. Stanton is a member of the Wheeling Area Historical Society, South Wheeling Preservation Alliance, and Upper Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable.
Nominated by Friends of Wheeling

An active member of the Genealogical Society of Fayette and Raleigh Counties, Dreama Stewart served on the editorial staff of the newsletter from 1985 to 1993. She has tirelessly assisted others in research and recorded cemeteries, compiling information that went into society books. She also was co-compiler of 1870 Census, Fayette County, West Virginia. In 2010, when the society was notified that it had to remove its holdings from the public library, Dreama was one of the members who were proactive in bringing the situation to the attention of local media and others. Though it failed, her effort was admirable.
Nominated by Genealogical Society of Fayette and Raleigh Counties

Al Stone has portrayed Gen. Robert E. Lee for more than a decade. He has appeared as Lee at Civil War re-enactments, schools, and other events, and he is a presenter with the History Alive program. He also has portrayed Lee in the History Channel documentary April 1865 (2003) and for the DVD No Retreat from Destiny (2006). Stone has participated in graveside services marking Confederate burial sites in Mercer and surrounding counties, and he participated in the reburial of Capt. Philip Thurmond in Putnam County in 2010. Stone is an honorary member of Camp 1694, SCV.
Nominated by Camp 1694, Sons of Confederate Veterans

A resident of Virginia with roots in Summers County, Phyllis Campbell Whitley joined the Summers County Historical Society two years ago and became an active member. She has taken on the task of photographing barns built in Summers County before 1950, chronicling stories about the people involved with them, and publishing a book (forthcoming). In the process, she has travelled more than 600 miles of roads in the county. She also developed a Web site on the barns and produced a calendar. In addition, Whitley has designed a membership form for the society, prepared press releases, and hosted a luncheon.
Nominated by Summers County Historical Society

Robert C. Withers, a charter member of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society in 1959 when he was still a teenager, has served as recording secretary (1963-1971) and president (1972-1973). He currently is chapter chaplain. He was active with restoration of the passenger car “Emerald Waters” and regularly volunteers at the chapter’s outdoor museum in Huntington. Withers co-chaired the chapter’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2009 and compiled its 50-year history. A retired newspaperman, Withers is the author of several books and articles about railroads, including Images of Rail: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in West Virginia (2007).
Nominated by Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, Inc.

Richard A. Wolfe has advocated for Civil War battlefields his entire life. His commitments are wide ranging—from lectures on West Virginia Civil War history to untold hours donated to historical societies and roundtables. As president of the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation, Rick has helped drive the organization’s outreach on both a state and national level and has made the organization a leader in battlefield preservation. He has served on the West Virginia Civil War Task Force for many years, is an advisor for the West Virginia Civil War Trails program, and is a member of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission.
Nominated by Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation

Jesse Womack spearheaded the movement to establish the Wyoming County Historical Museum, which opened to the public in 2010, and has been its president for more than a year. Through his efforts, the museum received funding to refurbish the building; acquired museum pieces, including a rifle owned by the first known settler, and display cases; and recently obtained a corporate donation to double the size of the museum. Womack was part of a team that worked to secure two Civil War trails markers, one already installed and one to go up in the spring.
Nominated by Wyoming County Historical Museum

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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