What might the senator see?

Photos by Shannon Bennett Campbell U.S. Sen. Henry Gassaway Davis, a prominent figure in Elkins’ early history, is portrayed by this famous stature guiding his favorite horse through town.

There are times when passing by the Henry Gassaway Davis statue on Elkins’ main thoroughfare that I wonder to myself what he would say about the town and area were he still among us. Of course he would expect changes, so I thought it might be interesting to envision what observations might emerge from him on travels were he to make them today.

I definitely must mention his certain comments about how good this town looked for the recent Forest Festival. We were presented with an uncommon problem this year mentioned by many, and that was the lack of coloration in the hills and forests leading to Elkins.

If our town was to be its beautiful self, our people were going to have to go the extra mile to produce the colors to which we were accustomed. They did not fail.

The lavish displays of colored mums supplied by our greenhouses were artistically placed at federal, county, and city buildings, businesses, individual residents’ porches and yards, and the festival was one of classic beauty. It did not miss a beat. Like the many parade bands, things fell in place, as usual, and this celebration was completed with style. Credit undoubtedly went to all in the community.

While taking a downtown ride, Davis would have viewed the recent transfer of cornfield scarecrows onto the city streets that would never have been considered by turn-of-the-20th Century farmers. Assembled to promote tourism activities, efforts on the part of our local travel industry and development groups to expand our economy made sure the scarecrows were standing beside nearly every parking meter in town.

The Polar Express, active several weeks each year in our area, has been recognized nationally as one of the best portrayals of the story’s concept annually.

Sen.Davis, who had so many financial investments in the railroad, would also be shocked today to find the depot tracks hauling hundreds of children on the Polar Express rather than loads of fresh-cut trees, coal, and staple goods from the East. It is a result of several generations improving their financial disposition that tickets could be afforded for such a fantasy ride.

As the community is surveyed further, he would note that our churches and faith groups remain active with many preparing for their annual holiday bazaars through Thanksgiving and Christmas. People, generally, are peaceful and extra efforts are made to help the hungry and needy.

The town’s retail section has certainly expanded and shopping malls on either side of Elkins proper garner trade that used to be focused in only the downtown area. While this has changed Davis Avenue storefronts, it has allowed the Elkins area to become a hub of activity in providing for various needs of surrounding counties. Consequently, the entire area does well with commercial endeavors.

Sen. Davis would find the lumber industry continuing to have prominence in the Tygart Valley with the Armstrong Plant adding workers repeatedly for their flooring production. He would, no doubt, note that hardwoods are remaining in-state to be processed instead of being sent south.

Davis would probably be most astonished at the medical services development in this area with specialty equipment and staff addressing cancer, heart, physical therapy and women’s issues.

Additionally, several businesses promote care for the elderly and not only give them attentive places to live, but assure support for them in their homes as they come to the end of their lives.

It is easy in this world where criticism is common to sometimes get bogged-down and negative about so much we see, especially if one is an avid television fan. If we back away from this and put ourselves on Henry’s pedestal we might view things differently with more appreciation for what we have today and garner more hope for tomorrow.

One thing is undeniable about small town life. Everyone is counted upon to do something positive. Good things only fall together if everyone does their part. Whether small or large, personal responsibility and acts of kindness are always welcome and never out-of-place.

As we prepare to celebrate a season of thanks and joy, let us be mindful of our heritage and the dreams we have for our children knowing that what we pass-on will chart a direction for their futures.

It is doubtful that any of us will have a statue sit in the middle of the town commemorating our lives. We will have to depend on Henry and his horse to keep an eye on the place, but we can continue to do our part to help in having an active and productive area.

Evidence tells us we have come a long way. History will record whether we continue.


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