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Meet
West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2019

What is a History Hero?


Vickie Baker is the organizing regent for a new chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in Spencer. She has been working with local women to document their lineage to DAR standards and has completed the application process for several of them. In addition, Baker has assisted the Roane County Historical Society with the annual genealogy fair, and she has helped organize society materials in storage.
Nominated by Roane County Historical Society

Allen Barker has been instrumental in setting up the Richwood Heritage Center and Artisan Co-op. He participated in planning, implementation, and interpretation, and he helped to develop concise and interesting displays. Barker’s knowledge of local history and access to historical photos was key to developing exhibits and authenticating sources. He also frequently volunteers to staff the center, produces souvenir items that can be sold to help with funding, and uses his storytelling skills to make local history more accessible to the public. In addition, Barker has become somewhat the historian in residence to the Chamber of Commerce.
Nominated by Richwood Heritage Center, The Richwood Chamber of Commerce

Rebecca J. Beckett donated the Ralph Leonard Beckett Yearbook Collection, a nearly complete set of Woodrow Wilson High School annuals (1922-2007) that were accumulated by her father, to the Raleigh County Historical Society in 2018. The society in turn donated the volumes to West Virginia Archives and History, making them available to future researchers. Her donation is an important contribution to the preservation of state and local history.
Nominated by Raleigh County Historical Society

Gwen Blevins joined Guyandotte Civil War Days in 1999 and has been an incredible asset to the group and the annual event over the past two decades. She has served on several committees, including registration, nominating, and military ball; participated in the educational day, instructing more than 500 students; assisted with the Ladies Tea; acquired ads and worked on putting the program together; participated in fundraising activities; and served as an organizational partner with the annual lecture series programs. Blevins also is an active member of the Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Nominated by Guyandotte Civil War Days and Raid on Guyandotte, Inc.

Through a project of Wheeling Heritage, Laura Carroll meticulously worked to archive the papers of the La Belle Nail Company, organizing, cleaning, and rehousing documents into about 100 boxes that are now usable by historians and other researchers. Now an archivist at the Ohio County Public Library, she continues to preserve and share the area’s history. Carroll currently is spearheading efforts to archive the City of Wheeling’s documents at the city building, which date back to the late 1800s. She also is working with the American Legion Post One to archive its documents. In addition, she regularly contributes to the Upper Ohio Valley Historical Review and is an active member of the Wheeling Heritage Roundtable.
Nominated by Wheeling Heritage

Roberta “Bertie” May Cremeans Casey is secretary and registrar of Cooney Ricketts Chapter 2726, UDC, and was instrumental in the establishment of the chapter last year. Her genealogical research provided the proof that enabled eight new applicants to become charter members, and she has assisted numerous others in becoming members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans. As a member of the executive board, Casey helped plan a charter presentation ceremony. She has been involved in every activity of the organization. After obtaining a marker for an ancestor, she planned a memorial service in 2018 with the local SCV to honor him.
Nominated by Cooney Ricketts Chapter 2726, United Daughters of the Confederacy

Over the past nine years, retired math and science teacher Edward Clevenger has written a book about Virginia frontiersman Jesse Hughes (published in 2012), authored several screenplays on Hughes, and filmed ten episodes of a documentary on Hughes in various locations around West Virginia, enlisting the help of reenactors in some scenes. The first film premiered in Ripley in October 2018, and Clevenger plans to premiere the second one in the spring.
Nominated by Daniel Boone Chapter, West Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution

Jane Conrad has been vice president of the Pendleton County Historical Society since 2012. One of her principal duties as vice president is to chair the membership committee and maintain membership records. During her term of office, membership has tripled and expanded to 23 states. Conrad also has presided at several meetings during the past year in the absence of the president. A member of Old Bethel Church, which dates to the settlement period, she gave a memorable program at a society meeting at the church, wearing period dress and presenting materials from church records.
Nominated by Pendleton County Historical Society

Ira Cook Jr. was the organizational president and a charter member of the Captain Ralph Stewart Chapter, SAR. He has held several chapter offices since 2007 and currently serves as chapter historian. A former educator, Cook presents Good Citizenship awards to a student at four middle schools in Wyoming and Raleigh counties every year, and he has overseen the administration of the SAR Knight Essay contest at two Wyoming County high schools. In 2013, he became president of the West Virginia Society SAR. In addition, Cook has worked on two highway historical markers, researches and writes about Wyoming County genealogy, and coordinates the Oceana High School Alumni Association scholarships for Westside High seniors.
Nominated by Captain Ralph Stewart Chapter, West Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution

An elementary school principal, Eric D. Croasmun has led efforts to ensure students in his school not only learn about the U.S. Constitution but also receive a copy of it, and he also has spoken on the Constitution to the Ohio Valley Chapter. He previously taught West Virginia Studies and was the Social Studies Fair coordinator for Pleasants County. In 2017, Croasmun developed an online course for WVU-Parkersburg that teaches students pursuing a middle school endorsement for teacher education how to implement effective strategies to teach history and other areas of social studies.
Nominated by Ohio Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Jenny Ellison is an active member of the Summers County Historical Society. She has preserved the life of people in the community of Jumping Branch though publication of eight books, including Sand Knob: Through the Eyes of a Child and her most recent Living All of My Life in One Place, and she has generously donated profits to the historical society. She assists with the society booth during the annual county festival, Hinton Railroad Days.
Nominated by Summers County Historical Society

Alan Fitzpatrick has participated in Fort Henry Days since its inception in 1997, and he served on the board of directors of Fort Henry Living History for several years after its incorporation in 2004. He helped build the original recreated Revolutionary-era Fort Henry and other outbuildings for the annual event. Fitzpatrick has extensively researched the history of Native Americans in the Ohio Valley, has written four books on the subject, the most recent being White Indians, and portrays a white man who voluntarily joined and was adopted by the Wyandot tribe.
Nominated by Fort Henry Living History, Inc.

Jeannine Garton was placed in the Hacker’s Creek Library through the National Council on Aging to be trained for the work force, and the library intends to hire her because of her interest in genealogy and learning the correct steps in doing ancestor/historical research. She has proven an asset to the library, doing genealogy/history research, taking phone calls, responding to e-mails, and answering local history questions. Many members have commented on how well she does the work. Garton is very helpful with any project and is now spearheading the development of an ancestral fan chart.
Nominated by Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants, Inc.

A member of the Mining Your History Foundation for many years, Elaine Gates served on the board of directors and as assistant treasurer for more than a decade. She is familiar to many for her work at Hoot Owl, the annual all-nighter at the Archives and History Library co-sponsored by MYHF. Though an employee at the library, she put in many hours of her own time as a member of MYHF to prepare for the event. Gates also was a longtime member of the Kanawha Valley Genealogical Society. She spent hours reading tombstones for the society’s Spring Hill Cemetery volumes, and she compiled and typed the first volume of Kanawha Valley cemeteries in the 1980s while also serving as treasurer.
Nominated by Mining Your History Foundation

Max Gibson is an outstanding volunteer at the Greenbrier Historical Society. His work to organize, understand, and communicate the information in the Greenbrier County Courthouse Papers, which were acquired by the society about twenty years ago, regarding the establishment of roads has been invaluable to researchers seeking to identify early transportation patterns. Gibson was recognized by the Ruritan Clubs for having logged more than 7,000 volunteer hours, most of them spent as a volunteer at the historical society.
Nominated by Greenbrier Historical Society

Suzanne Hadley has been a member of the Ritchie County Historical Society since 2000. Since then, she has helped catalogue furnishings in the Old Stone House Museum and the Pennsboro Depot, prepare the National Register nomination for the depot, and compile information for the society’s book on the depot. She also worked on the restoration of the depot, helped create the Fourth of July ice cream socials and Depot Market Days, and gave tours of the museum and depot. Since 2013, Hadley has been the editor of the newsletter, which she sends in digital format, lowering the cost to the society.
Nominated by Ritchie County Historical Society, Inc.

Hailey Horn became familiar with the DuBois on Main Museum while a student at Marshall University working on a research project and later spearheaded preparation of a highway historical marker application for DuBois High School. She has conducted oral interviews, compiled information on the historical significance of integration at the school, worked on a fundraising committee, and created press releases for newspaper and social media. Although by then living out of state, Horn helped with preparations for the September 2018 marker dedication ceremony, which she attended. Since then, she has helped create the application form for a new scholarship.
Nominated by DuBois on Main Museum Company, Ltd.

Gaines R. Johnson is a charter member of Camp A. G. Jenkins, SCV, organized in 2017, and has represented the camp in numerous parades and memorial services and participated in several battle reenactments. In addition to his participation in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, he served as president of the Guyandotte Civil War Days in 2017. More important, Johnson has filmed multiple Civil War-related events in the past two years, including activities in the Guyandotte and Barboursville area, and produced entertaining and informative documentaries, which he has made available on the Internet, sharing Civil War heritage in a format that can readily be viewed by today’s generations.
Nominated by Camp A. G. Jenkins, Sons of Confederate Veterans

An avid historian, Julius Edward Jones has always shared local, county, and state history with others. During his teaching career, he gathered more than 200 photographs of well-known West Virginians, which he displayed in his classroom, sharing the story of how these people achieved success with his students so that they would know that they could succeed with hard work. Jones also collected historical documents, books, and other types of photographs, including the only known photo of the first capitol in Charleston, an enlargement of which now hangs in the west rotunda of the capitol building.
Nominated by Nicholas County WV GENWeb Project

For nearly twenty years, Barbara Kemper has been a member of the Fort Randolph Committee, and she has devoted countless hours to supporting and promoting the reproduction colonial-era fort as a West Virginia historical site of interest. She was instrumental in establishing non-profit status for the Fort Randolph Committee, transitioning the group from a subcommittee of the City of Point Pleasant into a separate entity. In addition, Kemper has overseen much of the operational management and care of the fort structure, coordinated educational events such as the annual Siege of Fort Randolph, and served as a dedicated historical interpreter/docent.
Nominated by Fort Randolph Committee

The late Sheridan “Skip” Lane gave his time and talents to KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society. In addition to serving as a member of the board, he volunteered at the library, recruited new members, and contributed to the society’s second history book and to its cookbook. Lane was instrumental in bringing the Joanne Hensley Smith Collection of genealogy on families from Wayne and Cabell counties to the library. He also provided maintenance for the facility. Before his death, Lane donated his personal research to the library.
Nominated by KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society

Ed McDonald has been an active member of the Mineral County Historical Society for 25 years. He has served as society president and currently is vice president. An experienced broadcaster, McDonald is the founder of Mountain Streams Radio, a broadcast service of the historical society that seeks to celebrate the musical traditions of West Virginia and the Appalachian region and to offer community radio services to the Keyser/Mineral County area. This past year, he gave a society presentation on the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, which he attended. In 2009, in recognition of his significant contributions to the society, the Mineral County Historical Society elected McDonald a member of its Order of Crozet.
Nominated by Mineral County Historical Society

Mike McGrew has served on the board of directors of the Jackson County Historical Society for many years. He was a major contributor to both of the society’s publications, not only submitting articles but also providing office space for the compilation of the volumes. In addition, he handled reprinting of O. J. Morrison’s 1897 publication The Slaughter of the Pfost-Greene Family of Jackson County, W. Va. and served as a source for the 2018 docu-drama on John Morgan and the murders. McGrew also helped gather information for signage along the Civil War Trail and video recorded interviews with key community leaders in Jackson County.
Nominated by Jackson County Historical Society

Stacie Meadows volunteers in every activity of the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society. She helps with cleaning, decorating, and serving guests. A seamstress and a cook, as well as a former teacher, she provides living history presentations on historic sewing and cooking, such as how to make butter with just a jar and some cream. Meadows acts as a docent who always greets visitors in the finest historical attire that she has made. In addition, she has been a member of the board of directors and society treasurer since 2015. Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

Roger Micker has served in various offices with the Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable and is the current president. For the past four years, he has organized summer symposiums to increase awareness and appreciation of history. A retired social studies teacher, Micker also frequently gives living history presentations at local schools, participates in cemetery walks, and gives lectures at libraries and historical or social gatherings in the area. In 2017 and 2018, he organized and produced two contemporary trials of John Brown at West Virginia Independence Hall. During the Civil War sesquicentennial, Micker served on the Ohio Civil War 150 committee.
Nominated by Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable

Anne Montague is the founder and executive director of Thanks! Plain and Simple and has given the past ten years of her life to collecting the stories and celebrating the lives of West Virginia Rosie the Riveters. She has interviewed more than 150 women, collaborated with other institutions to share and preserve their stories, created projects that recognize and teach about the work of Rosies, and produced a documentary film about West Virginia’s Rosies. Montague currently is promoting the American Rosie Movement, which encourages people to work together like Rosies did and organizes events such as a national/international bell ringing ceremony on Labor Day.
Nominated by Thanks! Plain and Simple, Inc.

April Gardner Norris is the current regent of the Kanawha Valley Chapter, NSDAR, as well as state historian for the state society. Under her leadership, the chapter has become the largest and most active chapter in the state. As state historian, she spearheaded the documentation of historical markers and monuments placed throughout West Virginia by DAR chapters, which will be compiled into a book. Norris is an active contributor to Find A Grave, and she created a Facebook page where members can contribute West Virginia cemetery information and assist others in locating graves. This past year, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, she asked members to post information about veterans of that war and their graves.
Nominated by Kanawha Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

David J. Perri has been involved with Fort Henry Living History and the annual Fort Henry Days for more than 15 years. A reenactor, he has portrayed various characters, and for the past decade he has served as battle coordinator, planning battle scenarios that incorporate diverse groups and reenact an event in Wheeling area history. Four years ago, Perri added the duties of overall coordinator for Fort Henry Days, while also camping and participating in the reenactment. His leadership has fostered cooperation between Fort Henry Living History and the Fort Henry Chapter, SAR, which has brought an increase in membership for the latter.
Nominated by Fort Henry Chapter, West Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution

Barbara Pirhalla, a member of the board of directors of the Victorian Old Town Association, has been a tireless proponent of historic preservation in North Wheeling since moving to Wheeling in 2004. In addition to working with her husband to renovate four houses, she has researched the neighborhood’s history and early residents and uncovered valuable information on vacant structures, area commercial entities, and absentee landlords. Pirhalla was one of the key organizers of the 2017 Save Our Structures house tour, an effort to rescue two antebellum houses, and is currently a member of the association’s Design Review Committee that is collaborating with the City of Wheeling in instituting additional protections for the neighborhood.
Nominated by Victorian Old Town Association

Lavonne Roberts has been an active member of Border Rangers Chapter 2580, UDC, since 2012. In addition to holding several chairmanships, she has held the offices of historian and chaplain and currently is serving as treasurer. Roberts has organized and hosted the Ladies Tea for Guyandotte Civil War Days, organized a program on women in mourning in the 1860s at a historic funeral home in Kentucky, and served as hostess at a Christmas tour at another historic property. In addition, Roberts is the current West Virginia district chairman of a relief fund to assist daughters and granddaughters of those who served the Confederacy.
Nominated by Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy

Over the past two years, Cathey Sawyer, producing artistic director of the Greenbrier Valley Theatre for 27 years, compiled information about singer and dancer Ada “Bricktop” Smith from personal diaries, telegrams, interviews, articles, and other materials. She used this research in writing the musical “Bricktop,” which was produced and performed at the theatre in the fall of 2018. Sawyer also wrote the book and lyrics for the musical “The Greenbrier Ghost” about Zona Hester Shue, which premiered in 2003.
Nominated by Greenbrier Valley Theatre

Master craftsman Jon Smith has worked on countless historic preservation projects in West Virginia, including the Lookout Tower at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, several buildings on the Capitol Complex, train stations at Martinsburg, Lost Creek, and Hinton, and covered bridges at Philippi and elsewhere in the state over a 50-year period. In 2014, he received a Friends of Wheeling Preservation Award for Lifetime Achievement in Restoration and Preservation. Smith passed on his knowledge of the historic preservation trades to future generations as a field lab instructor in the building preservation/restoration program at Belmont College, a position he held for 14 years.
Nominated by Friends of Wheeling

Marshall University student Steven Cody Straley has made a significant contribution to West Virginia history by researching and writing information on dozens of historic sites for the Clio mobile history app. In addition, he has created digital walking tours of Ceredo, Kenova, and Harpers Ferry. Straley has volunteered for the Kenova Historical Commission and the Ceredo Historical Society Museum, where his responsibilities included management of the Ceredo Museum’s Facebook page. He currently works part-time as a docent at the Heritage Farm Museum and Village. In 2018, Straley was a recipient of the Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award in recognition of his work on the Clio app.
Nominated by Westmoreland Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

For the past year, longtime teacher Philip Sturm has been organizing and documenting a vast Wood County Historical and Preservation Society collection received from the estate of a local historian/genealogist. In addition, he has made presentations at several meetings, and in January he became second vice president. Sturm’s knowledge of Capt. James Neal has been vital to a recent society project on Neal Station. He served as president of the Wood County Bicentennial Commission two decades ago and currently is a director of the Fort Boreman Park Commission. Sturm also is co-writing a history of the community of Belleville.
Nominated by Wood County Historical and Preservation Society

For years, Tom and Judi Tarowsky worked to develop educational programming at the Cockayne Farmstead. He served as part-time program director for four years, but he volunteered many additional hours each week, with Judi often working by his side. They researched and were involved in some of the most important decisions regarding the direction of the Cockayne preservation project. Tom and Judi have always been ready to portray Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Cockayne at various events. Several years ago, they began spearheading the annual Mother/Daughter Victorian Tea and the annual “Things That Go Bump at Cockayne” tours and talks, fundraisers for the farmstead.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society

Ruth Tichnell has been an active member of the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society since it was formed in 1995, and her love of history has been a great asset to the society. A talented researcher and genealogist, for many years she has opened the library every Friday, and she has provided research and articles for society books. Although 93 years of age, Tichnell also volunteers at the museum, to which she has donated historical items. In addition, she contributes ideas for fundraisers, and she represents the society at meetings of the Preston County Historical Society.
Nominated by Rowlesburg Area Historical Society

Iretta “Jeanie” Turnley is the epitome of a reliable, knowledgeable, and thoughtful volunteer, and her help is critical to Arthurdale Heritage’s efforts to preserve and share the history of Arthurdale. She assists the archivist in museum projects, documents structures, recruits new members, gives visitor tours, and is involved in special events. Turnley heads the food committee for the biggest yearly fundraiser, the annual New Deal Festival. An original homesteader descendant, she spends countless hours on the phone and travels around the state to collect oral and written histories of other descendants and those who made invaluable contributions to Arthurdale.
Nominated by Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Carla Tustin is a tireless researcher of cemetery markers and genealogical information in Ohio, Marshall, and Brooke counties in West Virginia and Belmont County in Ohio. Over the past six years, she has responded to an amazing 3,846 individual requests for information and added more than 20,000 photos to Find A Grave. When not working, Tustin often spends as many as six hours a day in cemeteries, photographing stones and conscientiously checking all sides of monuments as well as adjacent markers to make sure she has found all pertinent information. She often consults cemetery records to add more information.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Genealogical 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