Statehood is remembered in Wheeling, the first capitol
WHEELING, W.Va. -- On Thursday, Kay Gotschall of Carrollton, Ohio, packed up a Civil War diary she found at an auction and drove to the Old Custom House, West Virginia's Independence Hall.
The diary belonged to Thomas Brady of Wheeling, who was a second lieutenant in a West Virginia infantry unit. Brady was in Winchester, Va., in 1863. He recorded in his diary marching 15 miles to Hampshire County on March 17 to "vote for the state."
Brady was killed by a sharpshooter on June 13, 1863.
"He never got to see the new state," said Gotschall, so she brought his diary, put on her period hoop dress and joined about 400 people Thursday afternoon to mark the occasion
Wheeling church bells tolled at 1 p.m. -- just as they did on June 20, 1863.
Cannon fire rattled downtown windows periodically throughout Thursday afternoon as re-enactors from the 19th Ohio artillery unit from Salem, Ohio loaded and fired two guns -- a smooth bore Mountain Howitzer, a smaller gun for maneuvering in tight places, and a 3-inch Parrott rifled cannon.
Nearby, re-enactors of the first West Virginia infantry, Company A, also known as the Rough and Ready Rifles, set up a command tent.
Throughout the afternoon, they answered questions, modeled period-correct woolen uniforms and administered loyalty oaths, which citizens needed to get passports to move about during the Civil War.
The unit was the first one formed in West Virginia when President Abraham Lincoln put out a call for volunteers, said Lieut. Col. Kevin Skaggs. The original unit was four people out of Wheeling's fourth ward.
One story is that the unit formed out of a tavern, thus the "rough and ready" nickname.
Company B came out of Wheeling's nail factory and were known as the Iron Guards, said Skaggs, a Charleston resident. He took off from his job as an electrical engineer at American Electric Power to attend the celebration in Wheeling.
Skaggs, who grew up in Fayette County, has always been interested in history. "Where I grew up, we had an amazing amount of Civil War history. We played Army in actual Civil War trenches."
"I just said, I'm going to be at Independence Hall in Wheeling on June 20," he said. "Saturday, I'll be at the Capitol in Charleston all day."
Members of both units are looking forward to participating in events at Gettysburg, Pa., next weekend.
Bill Cullum, 87, of Moundsville, wasn't sure he wanted to attend Thursday morning, but his daughter was determined. They just recently discovered among some family papers that Cullum's grandfather, Cephas Davis, was in a Union cannon brigade, and was discharged after he went deaf.
"I wanted us to be here," said Bill Cullum's daughter, Kathy Jo Cullum. "I just wanted to come up here where it actually was."
At an afternoon ceremony, Travis Henline dressed as Francis Pierpont, the governor of the Reorganized State of Virginia, which preceded West Virginia's statehood. Henline, the site manager for Independence Hall, introduced a number of descendents of the original statehood convention delegates, including Michael Hayhurst of East Liverpool, Ohio.
Hayhurst greeted visitors at the door portraying his great-grandfather, Gen. John J. Jackson Sr., who spoke at the 1861 Wheeling Convention
Both the elder Jackson and his son, federal judge John J. Jackson Jr. were friends of President Lincoln, Hayhurst said. He portrays his ancestor periodically at Independence Hall as a way to remember his family, who were originally from Parkersburg.
"You're proud to have somebody like this in your family," Jackson said.
During the formal program, Wheeling actor Jeremy Richter portrayed West Virginia's first governor Arthur Boreman, and gave the speech Boreman gave after he was elected to lead the new state.
"I hope in after years to recur to the ceremonies of this day with pride and pleasure, not only for the part that I have taken in them, but as celebrating the most auspicious events in the history of this people," Boreman, and Richter, said.
The crowd, sitting under the sun reflected in the wavy glass of West Virginia's first capitol, answered the speech in the style of the time: three cheers of "hip, hip, huzzah!"
Reach Dawn Miller at email@example.com or 304-348-5117.