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West Virginia Archives and History Library

The History of Charleston
March 5, 2013

On March 5, 2013, Dr. Billy Joe Peyton will present “The History of Charleston” at the Tuesday evening lecture in the Archives and History Library in the Culture Center in Charleston. The program will begin at 6:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Charleston has a rich history that spans 225 years, starting with the founding of Fort Lee at the mouth of Elk River in 1788. Named for George Clendenin’s father, Charles, the little settlement grew slowly to about 100 residents by 1810. The presence of abundant natural resources like salt, timber, and coal helped Charleston grow into a busy river town of more than 1,000 by 1860. During the Civil War, Charleston was occupied alternately by Union, Confederate and then Union forces. After becoming the permanent state capital in 1885, Charleston entered into a period of rapid growth and development. By 1920, it had evolved into a mid-sized city of 40,000 people and was a hub of government, industry, and commerce. The population reached 85,000 by 1960, and downtown streets bustled with activity.

Much has changed in Charleston over the years, but the city retains a great deal of its history. Through words and images, Billy Joe Peyton will share glimpses of historic Charleston. He will recount some of the extraordinary moments in the city's past, such as the Civil War and capitol fire of 1921, and share details about some little known historical secrets of the capital city.

Billy Joe Peyton received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in History from West Virginia University. He has worked as a public historian at WSWP-TV in Beckley and for the National Park Service in Mississippi and West Virginia. He also served as associate director of the Institute for the History of Technology & Industrial Archaeology at WVU, worked for an historic architectural firm, and taught high school history. In 2002, Peyton joined the full-time faculty at West Virginia State University, where he is associate professor of history and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Active in local preservation efforts, he has worked as a writer and historian on several documentary films, including Ghosts of Green Bottom, winner of a 2005 Bronze Telly Award. He also may be seen in The 50 States series that airs on the History Channel. Three years ago Peyton authored a local history book titled Charleston Then and Now, and he has just completed the manuscript for a second book on the history of Charleston.

On March 5, the library will close at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m. for participants only. For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required to attend. To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, library manager, by e-mail or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

West Virginia Archives and History Workshops/Lectures

West Virginia Archives and History