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Meet
West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2018

What is a History Hero?


Susan Barnes has been a member of the Calhoun County Historical and Genealogical Society for 24 years and has served as treasurer for 20 years. She also tracks membership and distributes the newsletter. She spearheaded the "Freedom Flags" project, which served both as a society fundraiser and as a way for the county to honor veterans with banners that are displayed on special holidays. For several years, Barnes participated in the society's "Legends and Lore" historical drama, and she has been an active facilitator of historical programs to familiarize medical students with rural areas. In addition, she volunteers at the society's museum and Stump House.
Nominated by Calhoun County Historical and Genealogical Society

Ernest Everett Blevins has been commander of the Robert S. Garnett Camp, SCV, since 2015. During his term, he has increased meeting turnout, established a social media presence, secured meeting facilities, and established the annual Lee-Jackson Banquet. Blevins also is brigade commander of the 4th Division, West Virginia Division, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In addition, he has written numerous articles on a variety of history topics for newspaper and Internet publications and currently is a merit badge instructor in genealogy for a Boy Scout troop. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and West Virginia Society of Mayflower Descendants.
Nominated by Robert S. Garnett Camp #1470, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Albert Lee Bourne is currently serving as both vice president and newsletter editor for the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society. As vice president, he has inventoried materials in the genealogy room at the Ohio County Public Library, and he responds to requests for material. As newsletter editor, he coordinates submissions for the publication, prepares the layout, and ensures timely printing and distribution. Bourne also has compiled local reference materials, such as census and birth records and cemetery listings, and in the past performed extensive work on the society's obituary file. He is an invaluable asset to the society and to Wheeling's genealogy efforts in general.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Genealogical Society

Morgan Bunn founded the Friends of the Old Stone Cemetery in 2013 and serves as the restoration expert. She has led workshops to teach proper cemetery preservation and restoration techniques, conducted tours of the cemetery to bring awareness to the historical space and the need to preserve it as a piece of Lewisburg's history, and spoken about the burial ground at different events and meetings in and around the community. Bunn also created a database of the people buried in the cemetery and wrote three books about the graveyard, donating proceeds from book sales to the cemetery restoration.
Nominated by Friends of the Old Stone Cemetery

A longtime member of the Nicholas County Historical and Genealogical Society, Anna Campbell is historian for not only the society but also the town of Summersville and Memorial United Methodist Church. She has volunteered at the society's museum for 15 years, given historical programs, and gathered materials on local cemeteries for society publication in 2015. She and her late husband organized the church's archives and history room, and she has been the chair of history for 34 years. The couple also wrote more than 175 stories for the local newspaper. In addition, Anna Campbell provided historical materials for a walking/bicycle trail brochure of Summersville and Muddlety.
Nominated by Nicholas County Historical and Genealogical Society

Lisa Carper-Stott is a longtime member of the Roane County Historical Society. She frequently attends the annual genealogy fair, where she shares her knowledge about the cemeteries, genealogy, history, and people of Roane County. She has photographed more than 50 cemeteries in the county and has given the society permission to use her images in publication. In 2016, Carper-Stott created a Facebook group for genealogy in a multi-county area, and she does free lookups for people who need research help. She has helped to reunite long lost family members and to find new connections. Genealogy is her passion, and she loves helping people.
Nominated by Roane County Historical Society

Roger A. Casey has been the commander of Camp A. G. Jenkins, SCV, since January 2017 and has reactivated the group after 3 years of inactivity. In just a few months, he quadrupled membership, and he was awarded the National Dixie Club Award bronze medal for his recruitment efforts. Casey has involved the membership in Civil War re-enactment events. Recently, he placed a stone at the Milton grave of Lt. James Henry Holley of the 34th Virginia Battalion. Casey also is commander of the West Virginia 8th Brigade and is serving on the Sons of Confederate Veterans' national genealogical committee.
Nominated by Camp A. G. Jenkins, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Gilbert Owen Casto advises the Sons of the American Revolution color guard on proper dress and weapons, and he assists the children's education outreach coordinator with the display of authentic items in the traveling truck and traveling tent. He has been an active re-enactor since 1975 and during events at Fort Randolph portrays different historical personas, such as surveyor, fur trader, and militia captain. Over the last decade, Casto has held numerous positions on the board at Fort Randolph, and he currently is serving as historian. He also was a founding member of the Fort Lee Scouts and the Kanawha Rangers. Nominated by Daniel Boone Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution

Beverly Wilson Chaney spearheaded creation of the Friends of Ashby's Fort in 2014. Since then, the Mineral County native has served as secretary and on the board of directors. She guided the Fort Ashby Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to deed the site to the Friends' group and successfully arranged for donation of two adjoining pieces of property on which an archaeological dig has revealed more of the fort's original footprint. In addition, Chaney serves as a museum docent, writes press releases and news articles, coordinates events, and has written successful applications for financial grants.
Nominated by Friends of Ashby's Fort, Inc.

Because her family was among the founders of Hacker's Creek Pioneer Descendants, Elaine Allman Coulter has been involved with the group in some way since 1982. She has been a member of the board of directors since 2009 and has been secretary since 2010. Always ready to help in the library when needed, Coulter is very knowledgeable about how to research and utilize genealogy Web sites. She also helps organize information for the annual gathering and cooks, cleans, and serves at fundraising events. In 2017, she designed and painted rocks for the gathering that were given to attendees to hide in different states.
Nominated by Hacker's Creek Pioneer Descendants, Inc.

Bobby Cox has worked for many years to preserve local history and currently is working on a cemetery book that will be published by the Summers County Historical Society. As president of the Hilltop Cemetery association, he has spent countless hours resetting and photographing tombstones, making road improvements, and compiling information on the people buried there; and he is spearheading efforts to have the cemetery listed on the National Register. Cox is a member of the county historic landmarks commission, a weekly volunteer at the railroad museum, and a frequent speaker to civic organizations about the historic county courthouse and the cemetery.
Nominated by Summers County Historical Society

Sally O. Cyrus has been an active member of the Buford Chapter, DAR, for more than 50 years. In addition to her current position as chapter historian, she has served as regent, vice regent, and treasurer. She also has held positions at the district and state levels of the Daughters of the American Revolution. For the chapter centennial, Cyrus wrote a short history, and she recently completed a comprehensive history of the monuments and markers placed by the chapter. Interest in history has always been a focus of her life, and she has presented many programs about local history to organizations.
Nominated by Buford Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Kathy Eckert, a retired teacher, has been a member of the Ohio Valley Chapter, DAR, for only two years, but in that short time she has presented three programs about Native Americans to the chapter. In addition, she participates in chapter fundraisers for veterans and contributes decorations and food for chapter activities. Eckert also is a docent at three museums in Ohio, including one that is displaying her collection of Native American dolls. At Campus Martius in Marietta, Ohio, she works with students from Ohio and West Virginia in classes on Native American history, writing with quills, and wildlife.
Nominated by Ohio Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Sharon Fuller is a valued member of the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society who volunteers in every activity. If the doors are open, she is present to lend a hand. Fuller works as a docent and gives living history presentations to school groups and other audiences, portraying a historical nurse to show the medical heritage associated with the site. She helps clean and decorate the house and serve guests. A member of the board of directors, Fuller also serves as chair of the Landscape Committee, keeping the property filled with flowers and overseeing development of the landscape.
Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

David M. Gillespie is involved in many activities of the Webster County Historical Society, giving time, knowledge, transportation, and other resources to conserve, preserve, and share the history of the county. He helped clean and improve the society's parking area and rear yard facilities, has overseen lawn care and maintenance at the museum, and donated time, labor, and materials to the collections and archives. Gillespie strengthened ties between the society and the history/genealogy room at the public library, which he has revitalized. Among his other projects, he has worked to rebuild an historic board walk and to preserve a pump house, swinging bridge, and historic roadside park.
Nominated by Webster County Historical Society, Inc.

Janet Hodge has been a friend and supporter of the Ritchie County Historical Society for more than two decades. She helped compile the society's nearly 900-page book on county cemeteries in the 1990s, and then she typed and indexed the publication. After producing a book on Irish immigration in the county, she donated proceeds of the sales to the society and gave the society permission to reprint it for fundraising purposes. Hodge also created the society's Web site, which she maintains.
Nominated by Ritchie County Historical Society, Inc.

John Huffman was a member of the board of directors of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society from 2012 to 2017 and currently is chair of the committee overseeing restoration of the Phelps-Tavenner Research Center. Since the society purchased the house in 2015, he has scraped, painted, drywalled, and done electrical and plumbing work. Huffman has created fireplace inserts and built or rebuilt mantels, and he has installed safety railings and a handicap ramp. He also has helped raise money through raffles and yard sales. Huffman is active in all society activities, and his talents and energy have been important to the success of the historical society. Nominated by Wood County Historical and Preservation Society

Although Billie Irene Johnson has been a member of Guyandotte Civil War Days only a short time, her numerous talents were immediately recognized and she was made committee coordinator. In 2017, she served as chair of the Ladies Tea, and she also chaired the Wednesday program of the lecture series for which she wrote a script to showcase the fashions worn and life in Guyandotte during the Civil War era. The show ended with rave reviews and a standing ovation from the audience. She also was chair of the 2017 Event Program, which entailed researching and writing articles and compiling the program for printing.
Nominated by Guyandotte Civil War Days and Raid on Guyandotte, Inc.

For decades, Charles T. Jones has given his time, influence, and resources to the documentation and preservation of local and state history. He maintains his 124-year-old firm's corporate museum at Port Amherst and operates many historic riverboats on the inland waterways. In 2017, in cooperation with the National River Center's RiverWorks Discovery, Jones sponsored the "Who Works the River" program at Point Pleasant, which introduced high school students to the rich heritage and career opportunities of the river industry. He also sponsored the Point Pleasant River Museum's "Tribute to the River" celebration. His generosity has led to restoration of historic rail equipment and salvage of early mining artifacts and steam-era riverboat relics.
Nominated by Mining Your History Foundation

David Jopling has been a member of the Hardy County Historical Society for more than 20 years. He was society president, 2006-2010, has served on the grant and research committees, and currently is chair of the Museum Committee. Jopling is always available to help with fundraisers and events, and he not only opens the museum every Saturday but also catalogues items donated to the society. A surveyor by trade, he is very knowledgeable about county land boundaries and family holdings, and he collects and shares artifacts with the community at events such as the Hardy County Heritage Weekend.
Nominated by Hardy County Historical Society

Robert Kelley has given his time, talents, and finances to preserve history through the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center since 2006. Although he lives in the State of Washington, he travels to Weirton throughout the year to help the museum with his rich knowledge of the African American community from segregation to desegregation. Kelley has been a guest speaker at many events, encourages high school students to use the museum as a resource, and has donated artifacts and photographs to the museum. He is considered "The Ambassador" because he brings all people together at the museum to learn about local and state history.
Nominated by Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center

The team of Louis H. Khourey, Jonathan E. Turak, and Christopher M. Turak has worked behind the scenes to assist in the preservation of the Cockayne Farmstead from its beginning, enabling the project to exist and thrive. The three men were instrumental in the society recovering significant plots of land to create the farmstead, and they introduced committee members to influential people who have helped the project over the years. Monthly committee meetings are held at their offices. For the past three years, Khourey, Turak, and Turak have been major financial sponsors of the farmstead's annual golf scramble, organized by the team's staff.
Nominated by Cockayne Farmstead

Maxine Landfried has been an active member of the Jackson County Historical Society since 1989. She served as secretary for 19 years and has been a member of the board of directors since 1993. Landfried worked on both family history books, oversaw management of the museum in Ravenswood for 3 years, and helped the society with three moves. She also has organized programs for society meetings and answered genealogy queries. In 2010, she co-founded the genealogy branch of the society. For the past 5 years, Langfried has maintained the Web site, and in 2017 she organized a meeting of area webmasters who provide Jackson County information. Nominated by Jackson County Historical Society

Elma Leaman is a lifetime member of the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society, and her enthusiasm, commitment, and support have been great assets to the society. She has participated in the Civil War re-enactment weekend and Cannon Hill rides, volunteered at society dinners, opened and closed the museum on holidays and special occasions, and helped clean and open the depot. She also is very knowledgeable about antiques. Leaman has made donations to the museum and provided funds for repairs at the depot and historical society building. The society is lucky to have her as a member.
Nominated by Rowlesburg Area Historical Society

Sara Marcum was an early member of the Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society, and she is involved in every aspect of the society. She served as vice president, 2015-2016, and has been recording and corresponding secretary since 2016, having previously served as recording secretary, 2001-2003. Marcum has helped with research and annotations of census records, researching for local families, raising funds for markers, and keeping the library clean and in order. For one marker dedication, she cooked and served lunch for nearly 100 people. In addition, she has spent much time inventorying cemeteries and preparing annotations for publication, including the society's next cemetery book.
Nominated by Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society

Priscilla M. Marten, retired manager of the Guyandotte Public Library, wrote a successful grant in 2012 through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for the "Civil War 150" exhibit, and the library received both the loan of exhibit items and funds for programming. She assisted the Border Rangers Chapter 2580, UDC, with yearly programs for Confederate History Month and collaborated with the chapter in arranging for several other programs. For one program, Marten used her talents as a member of the Huntington Calligraphers Guild to create displays of Mark Twain quotes. Throughout her career, Marten planned numerous events to encourage patrons to pursue an interest in local history.
Nominated by Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy

Shirley Phillips has worked very hard as a member of the Wyoming County Genealogical Society. She has been secretary for several years. In the 1990s, she helped compile the Wyoming County Heritage book, and she also worked on the reprint. In addition, Phillips has helped type cemetery listings in Wyoming County.
Nominated by Wyoming County Genealogical Society

Larry L. Rowe is a founding member of the Montgomery Historical Committee, organized in 2012, and serves on the executive committee. He has been a driving force in helping the group gather, preserve, and display the history of the upper Kanawha Valley and has spoken at meetings on topics such as the historic black district in Montgomery. Rowe also has written articles on Malden, the Midland Trail, and Booker T. Washington; and he has produced three editions of the booklet, "History Tour of Old Malden." In addition, he provides tours of the Malden church that Washington attended and the reconstructed cabin in which he grew up.
Nominated by Montgomery Historical Committee

Peggy Boso Ryan is co-chair of the Volunteer Committee of the Greenbrier Historical Society and is a wonderful volunteer herself. She has developed recruitment methods and organized a reception for prospective volunteers that have led to an increase in the number of excellent volunteers. In addition, Ryan has increased outreach activities with local schools, arranging visits, providing historically oriented educational materials, and helping with activities when the students arrive. Whether getting ready to provide refreshments for a book signing or being a bright and cheerful face and voice on the front desk and telephone, she is always there to help.
Nominated by Greenbrier Historical Society

Christina Schessler is a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Wheeling. An architect, she has been involved with several historic building restoration and rehabilitation projects over the years. Capitalizing on her work experience, she has taken on the daunting task of cataloging and duplicating a large set of architectural drawings of important Wheeling buildings that were donated to the Friends of Wheeling many years ago but had remained in storage. Schessler also has volunteered with the Greenwood Cemetery and North Wheeling House tours and prepared the National Register nomination for the Virginia Apartments.
Nominated by Friends of Wheeling

When Tom Sopher became president of the Raleigh County Historical Society a decade ago, the group was dying, with dwindling membership and a lack of activities. He has revived the society, which has become involved in the preservation of many of Beckley's historic sites, including Wildwood House Museum. Sopher led an effort to purchase and restore Alfred Beckley's grist mill, which was listed on the National Register in 2017, and for which current plans call for a small park. Through his efforts, the society has funded several highway historical markers, organized a cartography club, and received grants that allowed members to attend workshops on proper techniques to clean grave stones.
Nominated by Raleigh County Historical Society

David Swecker has been president of the Pendleton County Historical Society during a period of substantial growth. He was instrumental in the society taking possession of the Upper Tract Presbyterian Church, resolving legal issues and supervising improvements and maintenance, and he oversaw construction of an adjacent building to house the society's extensive collection of primitive farm tools and machinery. Swecker works tirelessly to oversee the society's program of outreach. For many years, he has been a willing volunteer at the museum during the annual county heritage festival, and his superb knowledge of local history has made him a key person in guiding tours and explaining exhibits.
Nominated by Pendleton County Historical Society

Dolores "Lori" Thompson is a member of the board of directors of the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation and an advisor and supporter of plans to restore the Memphis Tennessee Garrison home for use as a local black history museum. She volunteers her expertise as an archivist and digital preservation librarian to Huntington's Fairfield community. Reaching out to a demographic that traditionally has not seen its historic treasures preserved, Thompson developed a workshop titled "Don't Throw That Away! Preserving Your Family History," which she delivers to community groups. Thompson also is co-director of the Center for Study in Ethnicity and Gender in Appalachia and archivist/historian for the Appalachian Studies Association.
Nominated by Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Edward Turnley is a member of the board of directors of Arthurdale Heritage and the backbone of the Maintenance Committee, which carries out the bulk of the historic preservation projects. Last year, he spearheaded a project to replace rotted wood in doors at the museum building and repurposed original wood flooring from the Central Hall that had been replaced in the 1990s. Turnley also supervised AmeriCorps members in repainting and glazing windows and led volunteers in applying UV film to museum windows to reduce the harm to collections. In addition, he is an avid amateur photographer, and the society used his photos of building damage to publicize fundraising efforts.
Nominated by Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Harold E. Vitalie has spent four decades teaching history to hundreds of high school students in the Marshall County school system. This work has added to the Marshall County Historical Society's success by creating the core foundation that helps bring interested individuals to society functions. He also has been a loyal supporter of the public programs offered by the society through his attendance and interaction with participants.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society

For his Eagle Scout project, Benjamin Woodard spent more than 400 hours researching the soldiers from Cabell County who give their lives in World War I, using numerous resources, including information from the National Personnel Records Center. In the 1920s, trees had been planted along Huntington's Memorial Boulevard to honor these men, but they were unmarked so Woodard worked with the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District to design and place 17 signs along the boulevard. He shared some of his research on the Clio app and all of it through a Web site that he created. Woodard intends to donate his binders of information to local libraries.
Nominated by KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society

Click here to view History Hero photographs taken by the division photographer

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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