The annual celebration of West Virginia Day at West Virginia Independence Hall Museum in downtown Wheeling will kick off with a day-long event beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 20. Activities will go on throughout the day, culminating with an Afternoon Tea from 3 - 4 p.m. The celebration is free and open to the public.
Children’s activities will take place from 10 - 11:45 a.m. and again from 1 - 3 p.m. Grace Nida, a costumed tour guide for the Capitol Complex in Charleston, will lead kids in parlor games such as “Last Man Standing,” now called “Musical Chairs,” and “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button.” They also can participate in 19th-century craft activities. In addition, John Mattox, curator of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio, will present a “Freedom Seekers” program for all ages. Mattox will tell true stories about slaves who tried to escape to freedom before the Civil War from 10 a.m. - noon in the third floor library. Visitors also can have their photographs taken in Civil War costumes by Kirk’s for $2 from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. in the first floor exhibit area.
Members of the Wheeling Civil War Roundtable will have a small display in the first floor exhibit area with artifacts and brochures from 10 - 11:45 a.m. At 10:30 a.m., visitors are invited to take a tour of the West Virginia Independence Hall Museum led by the colorful 19th-century character, Elizabeth Busbey. Dressed in period clothing, the living history guide brings to life the turmoil citizens of Wheeling felt during the Civil War.
There also will be a booksigning from 10 a.m. to noon by Robert Greenwalt for his first novel, 1861: A Time for Glory. The book, which was published in 2006 by Blue/Gray Press, LLC, takes the reader on a journey to explore the life of Civil War soldiers and civilians alike. The opening year of the conflict is portrayed from both Confederate and Union sides, from the first stirrings of nationalism to bloody confrontation. Rich in historical detail, readers are treated to the maneuvering of Washington political circles and crackling battle scenes. An attorney from Baltimore, Md., Greenwalt is a lifelong enthusiast of the Civil War and member of the Baltimore Civil War Roundtable and Civil War Preservation Trust.
At 12:05 p.m., the main birthday ceremony will begin on the north lawn. Jim Stultz of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation will read Lincoln’s proclamation on West Virginia statehood followed by former delegates Gil White and Chris Wakim, and Del. Orphy Klempa (D-Ohio) reading excerpts from speeches delivered by state leaders during the original West Virginia day celebration in 1863. Visitors are invited to participate in the proceedings by cheering or booing, as the original crowd did, at appropriate times during the speeches. Speeches will end with a cannon salute and Maria Busic of Wheeling will lead participants in a sing-along of Civil War and West Virginia songs, and free refreshments, including birthday cake, will be served. Participants are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs for the outdoor activities. The caterer, “Endsley’s Restaurant” will be on hand to sell various lunch selections beginning at 11:30 a.m.
A special exhibit, Victorian Trade Cards, will be on display from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on the second floor. The cards are part of the collection of Ben Crane of Wheeling. More than a century ago, during the Victorian era, a favorite American pastime was collecting small illustrated advertising cards that are now called trade cards. These cards evolved from cards of the late 1700s used by tradesmen to advertise their services. Although examples from the early 1800s exist, it was not until the spread of color lithography in the 1870s that trade cards became plentiful. Common products that were heavily advertised were in the categories of medicine, food, tobacco, clothing, household items, sewing needs, stoves and farm goods. The popularity of trade cards began to fade in the early 1900s when other forms of advertising in color, such as magazines, became more cost effective.
At 1 p.m., Colerain Connection, a regional band, will perform traditional Civil War-era music in concert in the third floor Courtroom. At 2 p.m., Jeanne Sheets Carter of Wheeling, will give a living history presentation on Laura Jackson Arnold, younger sister of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Like her brother, Arnold spent her early years at Jackson’s Mill, near Weston, W.Va. At 18, she married Jonathan Arnold and settled in Beverly. During the Civil War, she established a hospital in her home, and treated war casualties from both the North and the South, but openly support the Union.
Carter has been performing living history presentations since 1976. She and her husband, Ted, serve as volunteers during the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee over Labor Day Weekend. In 1998, the couple moved back to the family farm, Everbreeze, where Carter ancestors settled in 1796, and the land has been continually farmed by the family ever since. The Carters were presented with the first Farming Heritage Award by Governor Joe Manchin III and the first lady in 2006 for their dedication to their community, state and agricultural contributions.
Closing out the day’s activities will be the Afternoon Tea with the living history guide, Busbey, on the second floor.
For more information about West Virginia Day activities, contact Melissa Brown, site manager of 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 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 Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of major holidays, and 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. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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