Area celebrates Mountain State milestone

Across the rolling hills and West Virginia countryside, communities gathered to celebrate 150 years of West Virginia’s statehood Thursday.

“It’s a time to reflect on the history of the state,” Upshur County Commissioner J.C. Rafferty said. “West Virginia has contributed more of its sons and daughters per capita in time of war than any other state in the Union.”

Rafferty said that West Virginia was a state born in strife during the Civil War. West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1863, becoming the nation’s 35th state.

Philippi has a special connection with the history of West Virginia’s statehood as the home of the very first land battle of the Civil War. Community members gathered at the Barbour County Courthouse square for live entertainment and a celebratory birthday cake honoring West Virginia. The event was hosted by the Barbour County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We were definitely a part of Civil War history. We wanted to join in with all the communities across the state honoring West Virginia today,” CVB President Annette Fetty-Santilli said.

Gerald Fogg, Karen Skidmore and Jim Murphy performed music for the community.

One Barbour County family with a history linking them to the Civil War came to celebrate. Sylvia Markley’s great grandfather was a Confederate soldier in the war, and she remembers celebrating West Virginia’s 100th birthday. Linda Proutfood said that Markley, her mother, can still wear the dress she wore to that celebration.

Across the hills into Upshur County, multiple West Virginia Day celebrations were conducted. The Upshur County Republican Committee celebrated the occasion in front of the Upshur County Courthouse Annex with music, birthday cake and a presentation of colors by the Upshur County Color Guard.

“I think the people of West Virginia are what makes West Virginia great,” Upshur County Commission President Donnie Tenney, the keynote speaker, said. “I think God gives us a little taste of heaven in West Virginia.”

Corporal Rocky Hebb, with the Upshur County Sheriff’s office, and Lenny Stone, performers at the Gandy Dancer Theater in Elkins, performed the National Anthem and “Country Roads” at the Upshur event.

Also Thursday, the West Virginia State Wildlife Center in French Creek hosted activities, ladies’ tea, live music and much more. A reenactor portraying General Robert E. Lee and even French Creek Freddie made appearances.

The Wildlife Center also celebrated the recent birth of a new baby elk.

The Upshur County Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitor’s Bureau celebrated West Virginia Day Thursday and also hosted a ribbon cutting at the Bureau’s new location on West Main Street.

The ribbon cutting featured live music from Keith Buchanan who also is on the chamber’s board of directors. The county’s events were well attended.

“It just shows what West Virginia is all about,” Laura Meadows, executive director for the Upshur County CVB, said. “It shows off how much community spirit we have by having so many people come out for it.”

The celebrations were conducted on a blue-sky day throughout the region.

“What a beautiful day for a birthday,” newly appointed Buckhannon City Councilmen Tom O’Neill said.