The archives and history section of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History will present a lecture by the award-winning historian Brian Kesterson on June 2, at 6 p.m., in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. He will discuss his most recent book, The West Virginia National Guard 1898 - 1919, from Arcadia Publishing. Photographs from his book and items from his personal collection, along with photographs from the State Archives, will be on display during his presentation. The lecture is free, and the public is invited to attend.
Kesterson had been planning to write a book on the West Virginia National Guard since he found an album of photographs in an Athens, Ohio, antique store in 1997. The project got off the ground when Arcadia Publishing contacted him last year after learning Kesterson had acquired the collection of photographs of the National Guard and wanted to compile the images into a book. Arcadia offered to publish it and Kesterson was off and running.
The rare photographs have images of the West Virginia National Guard taken between 1898 and 1919, during the Spanish American War and World War I. Kesterson learned from the antique store’s owner that the album of pictures was miraculously rescued from a trash bin by a man while he was walking on Quincy Street in Parkersburg earlier in 1997. “It was a real trash to treasure find,” says Kesterson.
Kesterson began researching the photographs and discovered that they were from the collection of the late Fred Cochran, a native of Parkersburg, who was an officer in Company E, 2nd West Virginia National Guard. Cochran, who died in the late 1950s, appears in many of the photographs. There are pictures of soldiers on maneuvers at various camps and also some photographs of men deployed in Texas to protect the border with Mexico from 1916-17.
A resident of Lubeck, Wood County, Kesterson is the author of several books and articles, including Last Survivor: The Memoirs of George William Watson, A Horse Soldier in the 12th Virginia Cavalry and Campaigning with the 17th Virginia Cavalry: Night Hawks at Monocacy. In 2007, he was awarded the Jefferson Davis Gold Medal by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for his book Dear Sir . . . Dear Miss . . .: The Letters of Granville B. Mann, Company A, 30th Battalion Virginia Sharpshooters and Miss Lucinda Maria (Chandler) Mann. The book contains a brief history of the regiment, a genealogy of the Mann family in West Virginia, period photographs of the Mann family and Civil War artifacts and more than 45 letters written by Granville and Lucinda. The Mann and Chandler families were from Monroe County and many of the letters deal with the home front in Monroe County and Granville’s military life in the Confederate Army.
Kesterson is a substitute teacher for the Wood County Board of Education, teaching history and English literature, and serves as a commissioner on the Fort Boreman Park Commission. In 2005, he was presented with a West Virginia History Hero Award for his work with the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society.
For more information about the Kesterson lecture, contact Bryan Ward, assistant director of archives and history for the Division, at (304) 558-0230, ext. 723.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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