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Meet
West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2020

What is a History Hero?


The team of Cookie Ambler and Betsy Allen serve as co-chairs of publicity for Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy. The mother and daughter team write articles about history and historical events, both past and present, for the Hurricane Breeze, a newspaper founded by Ambler’s father in 1900. Ambler, a 32-year member of the UDC, and Allen also write about Border Rangers activities and other Civil War re-enactments.
Nominated by Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy

Brandon B. Bennett made a significant contribution to preserving state and local history by organizing and serving as faculty advisor to a team of Shady Spring High School students who played a major role in acquiring a highway historical marker. The students conducted research and raised funds for a marker that commemorates the early history of Shady Spring and the importance of the turnpikes that met there. Bennett organized an amateur athletic event that generated much of the funding and also co-organized a special media event for formal dedication of the marker in September. This project generated positive publicity for the Raleigh County Historical Society and stimulated student and community interest in local history.
Nominated by Raleigh County Historical Society

Marshall County Historical Society member Hilda Blake is a pillar of the community. As president of the Moundsville Landmarks Commission, she spearheaded the restoration of the historic home, Kirkside. More recently, she worked to have signage placed on 100-plus year-old buildings that are still in use. She partnered with the city council on a streetscape project and worked tirelessly to obtain the funding for a survey of the downtown commercial area with the goal of having it listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Blake was a founding member of the Moundsville Economic Development Council, which is responsible for the Elizabethtown Festival, an event that provides a forum for historical and cultural groups.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society

Thomas Jefferson Bowman IV has provided exemplary and creative service to the Pendleton County Historical Society board of directors. Among his contributions, he played a leadership role in contracting and supervising a major drainage project at the society’s Upper Tract Heritage Site; acquired the capitals from the old courthouse columns and helped collect Dahmer early farm implement artifacts, all now stored in the society’s museum; co-chaired a committee to purchase a flagpole for the Boggs memorial dedicated in October; and chaired the nominating committee for new officers and directors. Bowman has an in-depth knowledge about Franklin and has been a tireless advocate for maintaining the integrity of the historic district.
Nominated by Pendleton County Historical Society

Thomas Buckley has been a member of the Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable since 1998 and has served as trustee, vice president, and president. Currently he is newsletter editor and notifies members of upcoming meetings and events. As an officer, he has promoted the study of Civil War and local history by scheduling and giving presentations for local libraries and organizations. Buckley participated in two modern-day trials of John Brown at Independence Hall. He also updated a list of Belmont County, Ohio, Civil War soldiers for the Tri-State Military Veterans Museum. Among his other activities, he is a volunteer at the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio.
Nominated by Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable

A volunteer at The Cockayne Farmstead, Daniel Butler is a skilled woodworker who has taken on oversight and maintenance repairs at the farmhouse, reading preservation briefs and talking to the architect before beginning work. When he takes on extensive repairs, he will work long hours day after day until the task is completed to his perfectionist standards. In 2019, he constructed a new sill for one window and made repairs to the wraparound porch. Butler also identifies issues that can be addressed by volunteers during “United Way Day of Caring” events at the farmstead, picks up supplies as needed, provides the tools, and supervises the work of the volunteers.
Nominated by the Cockayne Farmstead

Denise Cyrus is vice president of fundraising and special events for the St. Albans Historical Society. She is chairperson of the annual St. Albans History and Mystery Tour in October and organizes the Scary Stories event at Morgan’s Kitchen. Cyrus helps with St. Albans Founders Day by leading a historical walking tour and also works with Morgan’s Kitchen Fall Festival Committee and the annual Christmas Historic Homes tour. In addition, she volunteers to teach local history to St. Albans elementary school students.
Nominated by St. Albans Historical Society

Thomas J. Galloway has held several offices with Camp A. G. Jenkins 628, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and currently is serving as aid-de-camp. He has helped clean and repair tombstones of Civil War veterans and, for the past two years, has been chairman of the Civil War Graves Committee working to locate and catalog the graves of Union soldiers in West Virginia. He also is assisting with a project to locate Confederate graves. At the same time, Galloway, who is president of the General Andrew Lewis Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, is compiling information on graves of Revolutionary War soldiers in West Virginia.
Nominated by Camp A. G. Jenkins, Sons of Confederate Veterans

William Hal Gorby has worked with Wheeling Heritage on several projects over the last few years, ranging from development of a walking tour brochure for the South Wheeling neighborhood to a review of LaBelle Nail Company records to determine a representative sample collection. His most recent work is a podcast on the life and legacy of Wheeling industrialist Henry Schmulbach, which was the first podcast and new media production for Weelunk, Wheeling Heritage’s web-based magazine. Gorby has written about immigration, labor, and Appalachian, West Virginia, and Wheeling history, all of which inform the work and programs of Wheeling Heritage.
Nominated by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation

A retired history and civics teacher, Richard G. Grogan is the current vice president of the Gen. Hugh Mercer Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, and is the chapter’s former president. He has organized chapter participation in the Mercer County Fair and Veterans Day parades and served on a committee to select people for the Citizen of the Year awards. He was emcee at the first “Walk of Honor” ceremony at the Mercer County Memorial Building to honor veterans. Grogan also has served on a committee to create a monument to General Hugh Mercer.
Nominated by Gen. Hugh Mercer Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution

Blye LaCourse Grove served as treasurer of the Ohio Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution from 2016 to 2019 and currently is chapter historian. She helps with several chapter committees, including fundraising, programs, refreshments, and scrapbook. Grove was on the committee that made the Gold Star Mothers quilt for the past state regent’s project, and she not only printed the quilt design but also did the quilting. She also has made quilts for veterans. Grove and her husband have searched local cemeteries to answer questions from people looking for graves and ancestors.
Nominated by Ohio Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Seibern K. Hazelett recently completed detailed research on cemeteries relocated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the East Lynn Lake flood control project, providing the original location of each cemetery, a list of graves contained therein, the relocation site of each grave, and, where possible, annotated information on the deceased. He currently is doing similar research for graves relocated by the Beech Fork Lake flood control project. As a member of the Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society, Hazelett has contributed to the society newsletter, participated in historical marker ceremonies, and provided genealogical research.
Nominated by Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society

For more than two decades, Craig Mitchell Hesson has contributed to the preservation and promotion of West Virginia history through his commitment to the Fort Randolph Committee. After serving two years as vice chair, he was chair from 2008 to 2018, providing stability and a strong foundation for the committee. He led the construction design of the fort’s colonial-era interior buildings in the early years and later assisted with constructing the native village outside the fort. Hesson also developed and participated in living history events, summer seminars, and educational talks. In addition, he has served as a liaison between the organization and various entities, such as the city of Point Pleasant.
Nominated by Fort Randolph Committee

Tom Isaac is a valued member of the Greenbrier Historical Society board of directors. A very capable administrator, he has served as treasurer for the past five years and has overseen the conversion of financial records from an old accounting system into a new one. Isaac has chaired the Events Committee and also has been a member of the Barracks Development Committee, assisting with the planning, fundraising, and construction oversight for renovation of the 1799 log building. If Isaac agrees to work on something, it will be done and done well.
Nominated by Greenbrier Historical Society

A life member of the Mineral County Historical Society, Robert Pat Mason edited a 1954 history of education in Mineral County for the society and brought it to publication. Currently, he is working with the society and the WVU Extension Service to hold a series of meetings within each school district for the purpose of gathering information for a second volume that would complement the original book. Mason is a member of the Mineral County Historic Landmarks Commission and helped produced a book on historical sites in the county. He now is working to restore a one-room schoolhouse owned by the commission.
Nominated by Mineral County Historical Society

Merrilee Ann Matheny has written a book about John Morgan and the last public hanging that is an in-depth look at life in rural West Virginia at the turn of the twentieth century. She also served as a consultant and historian for a documentary on the subject. In addition, Matheny has given a presentation on Victorian-era crime and punishment, provided information for the Ripley Ghost Walk, helped the Jackson County Historical Society with a highway historical marker on the last public hanging, and represented the society at the Roane County Genealogy Fair.
Nominated by Jackson County Historical Society

Robert A. McColloch is a charter member of the Fort Henry Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, and a founding director of Fort Henry Days Living History. He was treasurer of the latter organization for more than a decade and also volunteered as a re-enactor. Preparations for the siege re-enactment involve a substantial commitment of time and effort, and McColloch was a member of the Fort Henry Days Planning Committee for many years. In 2019, he contributed to a program about the McColloch family for a series that was part of a yearlong celebration of Wheeling’s 250th anniversary.
Nominated by Fort Henry Chapter, West Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution

Lisa McNeil is an active member of the Wheeling Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and is serving her second term as chapter historian. She is preserving DAR history through scrapbooking and has won several awards for her work. McNeil has volunteered for or co-chaired several commemorative events, including the Foreman Massacre and the Zane memorial service during the Wheeling 250 celebration, and works with the Christopher Columbus and American History essay contests. She also is serving her second term as chair of the Blanche L. Reymann Scholarship Fund Committee for the state society.
Nominated by Wheeling Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

A longtime member of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, Randall Modesitt became a volunteer at Henderson Hall in 2013 and has been the director since 2014. In addition to increasing the number of docents, he has involved numerous volunteer groups in projects that support the historic site, among them planting dozens of apple trees and adding herb, rose, and pollinator gardens. In 2019, Modesitt added a heritage village with blacksmithing, glass blowing, and spinning and arranged a partnership that brings visitors from Marietta. His efforts have dramatically increased public interest, historical tourism, and preservation efforts of Henderson Hall.
Nominated by Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, Inc.

A faithful member for many years, Andrea Pack was secretary for the Summers County Historical Society from 2011 to 2018 and has been historian since 2018. She makes arrangements for society meetings and serves on various committees. Pack’s most significant contribution to the preservation of Summers County history is through her online work with various genealogical platforms. She is most willing to help others seeking information about ancestors from the area and has been tireless in posting information for those doing research.
Nominated by Summers County Historical Society

Mark Reed is a lifetime member of the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society and the society’s current president. He has worked to secure B&O train depot historical artifacts for the town, donated time for repairs and restoration of old houses, worked on the promotion and revitalization of the Cannon Hill Civil War historical site, and helped develop historical information for the publication of books and booklets. Reed is vital in helping preserve local history and sharing his knowledge with other people, and his contributions are important to the growth and welfare of the organization.
Nominated by Rowlesburg Area Historical Society

Melinda Shrout is one of the most dedicated and reliable volunteers at Arthurdale Heritage. A constant presence of helpfulness and kindness, she will always step up to help when staff need an extra hand at the visitor’s center or someone to bake cookies for an event. In the past year alone, she has logged more than 100 volunteer hours. An essential member of the Events Committee, Shrout has demonstrated her ability to organize events, coordinating everything from schedules to decorations to ensure that events run as smoothly as possible. In addition, she recently has been working with homesteader descendants to collect oral history interviews.
Nominated by Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Cleia Lovejoy Simmons grew up participating in Historic Carroll House events and volunteering in its endeavors. She was elected to the board of directors in 2016 and also is chair of the Security Committee and the Easter Egg Hunt event. The latter is attended by more than 200 children and their parents, and Simmons works with other members to get more than 3,000 eggs stuffed with candy and prizes for the children. She also acts as docent and assists with cleaning the historic house. In addition, Simmons has participated in Guyandotte Civil War Days and the Raid on Guyandotte for many years.
Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

Linda Smith came to Guyandotte Civil War Days as the liaison between that group and VFW Post 9738. She gathered information and coordinated activities dealing with planning and preparation of the meals provided to re-enactors, refreshments for the military ball, arrangements for the ballroom, and assistance for the Ladies Tea. A member of Guyandotte Civil War Days since 2014, Smith has been invaluable to the organization and all aspects of its planning and organization, and she continues to coordinate activities with the VFW. Her service and dedication to veterans—past, present, and future—is second to none.
Nominated by Guyandotte Civil War Days and Raid on Guyandotte, Inc.

James R. “Jim” Stultz has spent decades fostering a love of and dedication to keeping the historical record intact. As a member of the Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library’s board of trustees for more than a decade and as current president, he has been active in the library’s history-themed programming and helped secure funds for the purchase of land for the future establishment of an archival center. From research to groundskeeping to fundraising, his active involvement in preserving sites and artifacts has shone a light on the importance of the past in cementing a positive future for a community. Stultz also is active with the Marshall County Historical Society.
Nominated by Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library

Melinda Tabor contributes to the events and activities of Camp 1694, Sons of Confederate Veterans, participating in Iron Cross grave services and a service for a Confederate monument for Monroe and Summers County, helping with programs for services, and cleaning tombstones in Monroe and Mercer counties. She was instrumental in obtaining a Confederate Medal of Honor for Camp 1694 and also helps the camp with member recruitment. Dressing in period costume, Tabor also has made presentations to school groups about the Civil War. In addition, she has compiled the names of Confederate veterans buried in Giles County, Virginia.
Nominated by Camp 1694, Sons of Confederate Veterans

A longtime member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Barbara Alene Angus Wallace is a charter member of the Cooney Ricketts Chapter, organized in 2018. She provides guidance to the chapter, faithfully attends meetings and activities, serves on a committee that sends cards to veterans at the Barboursville Veterans Home, and does genealogical research that spans the Revolutionary and Civil War eras. Wallace recently presented a program on her home at a chapter meeting. Among other contributions, she spearheaded the cleanup of a cemetery in Jackson County and taught elementary school students.
Nominated by Cooney Ricketts Chapter 2726, United Daughters of the Confederacy

Roy Elwood White has been an active member of the Gilmer County Historical Society since 2016. With family roots in the county extending back to the 1800s, he absorbed a lot of local history and in the past two years has shared much of this with society members and the general public. White helped establish the town of Sand Fork’s local history museum, co-chaired a committee to identify student members of Gilmer County’s high schools joint band from the 1950s, helped the landmarks commission attempt to preserve the poor farm infirmary building, and has spearheaded the effort of Sand Fork School’s alumni to gather the school’s history.
Nominated by Gilmer County Historical Society

Louis A. Yurkovitch is a former president of the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society and currently serves as a member of the board of directors and as webmaster. He has taught genealogy classes and acquired computer equipment and peripherals, helping the society enter the modern era. His efforts have also made the organization more attractive to members who rely on social media. As website administrator, Yurkovitch has worked to create one location from which information can be disseminated about meetings, classes, genealogy, and local people and history. The site not only carries information about the genealogical society but also publicizes the meetings and events of other local historical and genealogical organizations.
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