June 14, 2010
The annual celebration of West Virginia Day at West Virginia Independence Hall (WVIH) Museum in downtown Wheeling will take place on Sunday, June 20. The celebration is free and the public is invited to attend.
The 19th Ohio Infantry will be encamped in the courtyard of West Virginia Northern Community College at 1704 Market Street. The reenactors will provide presentations from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can join in military drills, witness cannon and musket firings and enjoy learning about a soldier’s way of life, care of equipment and hear stories about camp life.
Activities begin at WVIH at 1 p.m., when visitors are invited to come tour the new exhibit, The Wheeling Room on the second floor of the museum. JoAnn Lough of Fairmont, a member of the Marion County Historical Society, will perform a first-person presentation as Julia Pierpont, the wife of Francis Pierpont who is referred to as the “Father of West Virginia.” Pierpont was the governor of the restored government of Virginia during the Civil War and governor of Virginia during reconstruction.
Julia Pierpont is frequently credited by historians as being the founder of Memorial Day in May 1866. Initially, the holiday was called Decoration Day and was a day to repair and decorate the graves of the Civil War soldiers. In 1882, the holiday’s name was changed to Memorial Day, and became a day to honor all who have given their lives in service to their country. Following Lough’s presentation, participants can enjoy a Victorian tea reception.
Julia Pierpont’s piano is in the exhibit, as is a mirror belonging to Waitman T. Willey of Morgantown, a United States senator for the Restored Government of Virginia who presented the formal petition to the U.S. Senate for admission of West Virginia as a new state in the Union.
The Wheeling Room also showcases Wheeling’s history. The city’s geographic position, at the confluence of the Ohio River, the National Road and the B & O Railroad led it to become the gateway to westward expansion in the 19th century. The area also was abundant in its supply of coal and natural gas. Steel and iron mills, glass factories, cigar factories, breweries, and the manufacture of nails all made Wheeling a city of privilege and prosperity. Visitors can see period glassware, furniture and other artifacts.
At 2 p.m., Matthew Dodd of Mechanicsburg, Pa., will present “Songs and Stories of the Civil War” in the third floor courtroom. Dodd, a musician and historian, uses period songs, excerpts from letters and anecdotal stories to evoke the feelings and passions of a pivotal era in American history. He will play guitar, harmonica, banjo and mandolin in an informal story-circle setting.
Visitors are then invited to participate in cutting the cake and a reception which will round out the day, beginning at 3 p.m.
For more information about birthday activities, contact Travis Henline, site manager at West Virginia Independence Hall, at (304) 238-1300.
West Virginia Independence Hall, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is maintained and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with the exception of major holidays. The museum is located on the corner of 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling.
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.