Jane Metters LaBarbara
March 27, 2017
Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC
I recently processed a new collection for the archives here at the WVRHC – A&M 4179, the Larry Jones, Collector, Postcards and Photographs. Among this lovely collection of West Virginia related postcards and holiday postcards are three mounted photographs of the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) of West Virginia Wesleyan College–two of them include Ralph Jones. One of them is below.
Ralph Jones is behind the right shoulder of the fellow in the “C” sweater—can you tell which one?
A quick search of the WV Vital Research Records database shows that Ralph Reynold Jones was born June 20, 1900. It also shows that Ralph’s father, listed as a “baggage master” (railroad clerk), had to provide an affidavit to have some of the birth record information corrected in 1941. You can view the corrected image of the register of births at this link: http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=1971433&Type=Birth.
My curiosity led me to look for Ralph in the WV Wesleyan yearbook, the Murmurmontis, and I found his picture in the 1920, 1922, and 1923 volumes—because of the way they produced yearbooks back then, this means that he was a senior in the 1921-1922 academic year. Digital copies of all of these volumes can be found in the Internet Archive.
Ralph in the 1920 Murmurmontis
From the 1921 Murmurmontis–sadly, dashing young Ralph’s photo doesn’t appear in this volume, but he is listed as a member of the sophomore class. I was less disappointed about him not appearing in this yearbook when I was told that his signature appears on the front endpapers. Thank you, Ralph, for donating this yearbook to WV Wesleyan!
Ralph in the 1922 Murmurmontis
Ralph in the 1923 Murmurmontis
Now that we have a little more information on Ralph, what was SATC? I had never heard of it before, but I assumed it was something like the ROTC. It turns out that I was close, but it’s a little more complex than that. Thankfully, the Murmurmontis anticipated my question almost 100 years ago. In the 1920 volume, page 115-116, the SATC is described as follows:
At the beginning of the past college year the United States Government assigned a unit of the S. A. T. C. at Wesleyan College.
The Government agreed to induct the members of this unit into the United States Army as regular soldiers. Members of the S. A. T. C., therefore, received soldiers’ pay of $30 the month and had all their necessary expenses met by the Government.
Admission to this soldier group was limited to men physically fit, who were 18 years of age or older, and who could present thirteen or more units of high school credit. One hundred and eighty-six of the men who applied for admission met the conditions, passed the physical test, and were soldiers of the United States Army.
The college gymnasium was fitted up as a barracks for the soldier-students. A large room in the basement served as a mess hall.
On the 21st day of December  the men were discharged, and it was a jolly crowd of young fellows who arrived home in time for Christmas, conscious that they had done their duty for their country.
You can read more about the purpose of the SATC in the October 7, 1918 issue of The Pharos, which WV Wesleyan has made available digitally here: http://cdm16111.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p271901coll13/id/7243/rec/5.
The purpose of the S. A. T. C. is to secure officer material and at the same time to allow the student to continue his school work…The first quarter will probably end about December 21st, and it is then that the first transfers from here will be made. Men will be transferred to Officers’ Training Corps, to Non-Commissioned Officers Training Camps, to Vocational Schools and to Line Regiments for active duty.
Since these men were under 21, the SATC would have made them more prepared to serve in the event that they were drafted after turning 21, the youngest age eligible for conscription at that time. The end of hostilities removed the pressing need for the SATC. The December 15, 1918 issue of The Pharos tells us that the War Department decided to disband the SATC by the end of the term, and that many of the SATC members had indicated their desire to continue studying at WV Wesleyan.
In case you think that WV Wesleyan was alone in helping train West Virginians as soldiers for America’s military, William T. Doherty, Jr. tells us in his West Virginia’s University that WVU, Bethany College, and Davis & Elkins College also had SATC programs. To see images from WVU’s SATC and their training, check out this link: http://wvhistoryonview.org/?f%5Bcorpnames_sim%5D%5B%5D=United+States.+Army.+Students%27+Army+Training+Corps.&search_field=all_fields
After Ralph’s time with the SATC, the 1920 and 1930 censuses list him as living with his parents in Buckhannon, working as a clerk in a bookstore. He went on to less book-oriented things, as you can see in his obituary from the June 14, 1973 issue of the Nicholas Chronicle, available on microfilm in the Center. I’m glad that a little piece of the history of this well-liked West Virginian resides in our archives.
If you want more information on SATC rules and regulations, check out the “Special Regulations No. 103” booklet available here: https://archive.org/details/studentsarmytrai00unit. To learn more about the SATC at WVU, check out pages 76-80 of Kenneth P. Stites’ A History of Military Training at West Virginia University (1935), which includes Dr. L. D. Arnett’s “University in the War” (1925).
Jane Metters LaBarbara
March 23, 2017
Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.
As of Monday, spring is officially here! Every year when the time changes and we have evening light, I look forward to blooming buds and the appearance of leaves on the trees, also known as “green-up time.” I was not familiar with this colloquialism until I read poet Louise McNeill’s memoir, The Milkweed Ladies. McNeill describes all the activity that took place on the farm just before and during springtime in the chapter, “Green-up Time.” It is nostalgic and beautiful, revealing a routine unknown to most in our modern times.
“Soon after sassafras time, it was green-up time, with the first shoots coming up out of the ground. We watched the sprouts hopefully, for this was the time of year for Granny to go to the fields and woods to pick her wild greens, the “sallets” of the old frontier. Granny Fanny taught us all the plants, and how to tell the good greens from the bad. We gathered new poke sprouts, always being careful not to snip them too close to their poison roots; and we gathered “spotted leaf,” leaves of “lamb’s tongue,” butter-and-eggs, curly dock, new blackberry sprouts, dandelions, and a few violet leaves.” — The Milkweed Ladies, page 45.
Louise McNeill in 1941
“Green-up time was also ramp season, but Mama wouldn’t let a ramp come into the house, for the ramp is a vile-smelling wood’s onion whose odor, like memory, lingers on. Some of our neighbors and cousins hunted ramps every spring and carried them home in gunnysacks to boil and fry. In the spring down at school, the teacher would sometimes have to throw the windows wide open to air out the smell of ramps, wet woolen stockings, and kid sweat.” — The Milkweed Ladies, page 46.
“When we saw our first dandelion, we could take off our long winter underwear. When we saw our first bumblebee, we could go barefoot.” — The Milkweed Ladies, page 48.
West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill (1911-1993) was born on her family’s farm on Swago Creek in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Her ancestors had lived and farmed there since 1769 and her connection to the land, people, and traditional folkways entered deeply into her writing.
“Until I was sixteen years old, until the roads came, the farm was about all I knew.” Louise McNeill, The Milkweed Ladies, page 5.
McNeill achieved success early in her career with Gauley Mountain, a collection of poems that describe Appalachian life through rich characterizations and natural language. She published poems throughout her life was also a teacher of history and English at West Virginia University, Potomac State College, Concord College, and Fairmont State College. In 1939, she married Roger Pease and is sometimes identified with his surname. Governor Jay Rockefeller appointed her as poet laureate in 1979 and she held the title until her death in 1993.
The West Virginia & Regional History Center holds Louise McNeill’s papers (A&M 2215 and A&M 3201). These collections include correspondence, photographs, and literary manuscripts. Among them are handwritten and typescript versions of The Milkweed Ladies.
From A&M 3201. The handwritten text at the bottom of the page on the right appears on page 5 of The Milkweed Ladies edited slightly more:
“Still it was with us, and is with us still, over two hundred years and nine generations of the farm keeping us, and we believing that we keep the farm. But that is not the way it is in the real truth of it, for the earth holds us and not the other way. The whole great rolling earth holds us, or a rocky old farm down on Swago Crick.”
The Milkweed Ladies is Louise McNeill’s only work of prose and turns out to be one of my favorite books. Although it is autobiographical, it is still poetic and profound. I savor it just as I cherish “green-up time” every year.
A more detailed biography and additional items from the McNeill manuscripts collection are available in this blog post from 2014: Remembering Louise McNeill Pease.
Jane Metters LaBarbara
March 14, 2017
Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian
Civil War Military Camp newspapers are few and far between, but the news they printed is still valuable to us today. As troops came into town, if there were newspapermen among the regiment, they often took over the press to print their own regimental newspaper. The press may have been abandoned by fleeing residents or it may have been taken over by the troops, in any case, these rare survivors of Civil War news often reflect the movement of troops, the availability of soldiers skilled as newspapermen, and the proximity of a usable press. These papers document the continuing flux of the military during the war, the development of western Virginia as it strives for independence from Virginia, and the need to support and bolster troop morale. Few copies survive and those that do are extremely valuable for their reports of daily life, the publication of popular songs and humorous sketches, and reports on battles, politics, and troop movements.
The Confederate occupation of Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia) in September and October of 1862, lasted a mere six weeks before the Union regained control of the area. However brief the occupation, two newspapers flourished amidst the competing camps: the Knapsack and the Guerilla.
The Knapsack, a Union newspaper published by the 5th Virginia Volunteer Infantry and the Guerilla, a Confederate newspaper published by the Associate Printers of the Confederate Army, waged the war, not just on the battlefield, but also on the printed page.
WVU holds original copies of the Knapsack and the Guerilla. Issues of the Knapsack and the Guerilla are currently being digitized and will be available on the Library of Congress site, Chronicling America, at the close of the present NEH grant cycle.
On August 22, 1862, Confederate cavalry rushed into the Union supply depot at Catlett’s Station, Virginia, and captured a small number of Union soldiers and a vast amount of Union supplies. Included in the spoils of war were the personal belongings of Union Major-General John Pope, pictured below, commander of U.S. forces in northern Virginia. Aside from capturing the general’s uniform, horses, and money, the Confederate cavaliers also uncovered a dispatch-book of General Pope, reported to superiors as containing “information of great importance to us, throwing light upon the strength, movements, and designs of the enemy.”
The captured dispatch book quickly made its way to Confederate authorities in Richmond. On August 29, Confederate Secretary of War George Randolph fired off a note to Major-General William Wing Loring. Randolph informed Loring that “Pope’s letter-book has been captured,” and the Union forces in the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia were being shifted elsewhere. Grasping this opportunity, Secretary Randolph ordered General Loring to “Clear the valley of the Kanawha and operate northwardly to a junction with our army in the valley.” The Confederacy was set to invade West Virginia.
On September 6, Loring’s forces set out on their expedition. Over the next week, the Confederate army, approximately 5,000 men —including many Virginians who hailed from the western region of their state—fought a series of engagements with the Union. Today the clash of opposing forces on September 13th is recognized as the Battle of Charleston. “Capturing the town after a stout resistance from the enemy,” General Loring settled into an occupation of Charleston and secured the surrounding region.
Much of the action centered on the tiny town of Gauley Bridge. Settled in the early 1800’s, Gauley Bridge, prior to 1822, was originally known as Kincaid’s Ferry. The present name for the town came from the wooden covered toll bridge built in that year as part of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike. Located at the confluence of the New and Gauley rivers, where the Gauley and New meet to form the Kanawha, the town of Gauley Bridge overlooks the large, lake-like pool formed by the falls of the Great Kanawha Valley just one mile downstream. During the Civil War, Gauley Bridge was captured and recaptured three times; during these actions wooden bridges across the mouth of the Gauley were burned twice.
The region outside of Charleston offered a valuable commodity to soldiers and regiments during the Civil War: salt. The Kanawha Salines was an area of active salt production and salt was desperately needed to preserve the meat needed to feed soldiers.
The Kanawha Salines, the name given the salt fields of West Virginia, travel along both banks of the Kanawha River until the waters reach Charleston, a distance of approximately ten miles. The origin of the region can be traced back to the earliest times, 600 million years ago, to an ocean that predates the Atlantic, called the Iapetus Ocean.
This drawing below shows the buildings used in salt manufacturing. As early as 1808, the Kanawha Salines were put to production and a salt making and refining industry was developed by Joseph and David Ruffner, who drilled for brine and established furnaces to process it. This area, particularly around present day Malden, West Virginia, where the salinity was at a high point, would develop into an important resource for the meat packing industry. By 1815, furnaces dotted the landscape, leading to the development of the area as one of the great salt manufacturing regions in the United States, as the use of salt to pack meat for shipment ensured it would arrive to destinations in good condition.
Once the Confederates settled into occupation one of their first matters of business was to publish their own newspaper, the Guerilla, whose motto beneath the masthead states that the Guerilla is “Devoted to Southern Rights and Institutions.” The Guerilla was designed to keep Charleston’s citizens informed during this time and to promote the occupying forces as liberators, rather than occupiers. Published every afternoon by the Associate Printers, the newspaper sold for ten cents a copy, fifty cents a week.
In a proclamation published in the paper’s pages, General Loring declared the army’s desire “to rescue the people from the despotism of the counterfeit State Government imposed upon you by Northern bayonets, and to restore the country once more to its natural allegiance to the State. We fight for peace and the possession of our own territory…”
Other articles urged local merchants to open their stores to the Confederate soldiers, and likewise to set aside their “scruples about taking Confederate money.” Unionist Virginians were encouraged to defect to their Confederate counterparts.
Federal forces once again moved into the area following the creation of the new state of West Virginia on June 20th, 1863. That fall, the soldiers of the Fifth West Virginia Infantry found themselves stationed at Gauley Bridge in their newly-minted state.
Several Army camps were stationed just below the Chesapeake and Ohio Depot site near the mouth of Ferry Branch on the Kanawha River. One of these was known as Camp Reynolds. The sketch above shows Camp Reynolds, which served the Union Army at Kanawha Falls with 56 cabins and parade grounds for 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry commanded by Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes and Lieutenant William McKinley, both future U.S. presidents.
Portraits of Rutherford B. Hayes, above with beard, commanding officer of the 23rd Ohio Infantry, which had been stationed in Charleston since March 1863 and Private William McKinley, Jr., above without beard, of Company E, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. McKinley, a Poland, Ohio native, was a mere 18 years old. This photo was probably taken at Camp Chase, Ohio before he left for the West Virginia front.
McKinley, a fellow Ohioan, started the war as a private, but earned a battlefield commission to second lieutenant for showing courage and initiative during the Battle of Antietam. He rose to the rank of major by the time the war ended, and later, followed Hayes to the White House as the 25th president.
Proving to be a relatively peaceful posting, the men promptly set about establishing a regimental newspaper. Having formed the Fifth Virginia Publishing Association, they soon began issuing copies of the four-page Knapsack every Thursday morning at five cents a copy, 15 cents a month and held an active and widely distributed subscriber base for its short duration. Although only published for a few months, the paper illuminates much about soldier life and the politics of war. Within its pages, the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, still a newspaper of note for West Virginia, described the Knapsack as a “spicy little sheet.” WVU holds the Thursday October 8, 1863, Vol. 1, No. 6 issue.
The 1864 engraving of the Camp of 5th Virginia Volunteer Infantry, below, portrays the soldiers, singing, playing music, and holding a religious service. “Our Chaplain Gives each of us a copy of this engraving, to show our friends the way we sing and hold meetings in camp. He desires us to tell them to pray for us and him, that we may prove faithful to our country and our God, and not be found wanting in any day of temptation and trial.”
The engraving illustrates an important facet of the October 8, 1863 issue of the Knapsack which reports on the “schedule of religious services, praised the temperance of the soldiers in camp, and lamented their prolific profanity.” The pages of the Knapsack were filled with the good conduct of the men – with one exception – they were notoriously profligate users of foul language.
On the subject of profanity, the Knapsack states, “it would be well for those persons addicted to this ungentlemanly habit to consider one moment this fact, that at some time they will again return to civil life, and be seeking the society of ladies; then they will find it difficult indeed to abstain from the vulgar habit of swearing, and we presume no gentleman would like a reprimand or be sneered at on account of giving way to a habit.”
You can read both of these newspapers and others at the West Virginia and Regional History Center. Also, all known Civil War Military Camp newspapers held at WVU will be digitized and available free to read and download from the Library of Congress site, Chronicling America, thanks to grant funding from the national Endowment of the Humanities.
Special thanks to Zac Cowsert for sharing his research and his Chronicling America essays for the Knapsack and the Guerilla.
Jane Metters LaBarbara
March 13, 2017
Just in time for March Madness, the West Virginia and Regional History Center is pleased to release the online version of our 2016 West Virginia Day exhibit, “Jerry West: An American Icon.”
The exhibit can still be viewed in person by visiting the WVRHC (in the back of the 6th floor, Downtown Campus Library) and will remain open through May 19, 2017. For those who cannot visit us in person, we have made PDFs that capture the exhibit objects, text, and links to videos found in both galleries of the display. The links to these PDFs can be found here: https://wvday.lib.wvu.edu/exhibits/2016.
PDF versions of our previous West Virginia Day exhibits, from 2009-2015, can be accessed from the Exhibits webpage.
Jane Metters LaBarbara
February 27, 2017
Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC (with big thanks to Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager, for finding many of these great photos).
Since Stansbury Hall has been in the news recently, I decided to investigate the history of the building and the man for whom it was named. The first thing I learned: Stansbury Hall was once the Field House for our sports teams.
When was it built?
Wikipedia’s short article on Stansbury Hall tells us it was formerly the WVU Field House and it opened in 1928/1929. The full story is far more dramatic.
WVU Basketball got started around 1904. The basketball team first played in the basement of Commencement Hall, then the basement of the Armory, before a few years’ hiatus. Then, the Ark was built. (If anyone knows why they called it the Ark, please let me know.) A “barn-like structure” (Antonik 2010, p. 5), the Ark had playing space and seats for 900 but no dressing rooms or showers–players had to run to the adjacent heating plant building for that. The Ark was built in 1916, sitting where Stansbury Hall does now, and served as the home of Mountaineer basketball until it had to be deconstructed to make way for the Field House.
The Ark is the white building with a curved roof.
The Ark was apparently a bit drafty, and lacking in the space and amenities that the university’s sports program, students, and alumni wanted. The space was used for more than just basketball, as the headline below shows.
This clipping from the Morgantown Post’s March 14, 1925 article shows that seating in the Ark was inadequate for the events they wanted to hold. Apparently, complaints about the space were pretty regular. The construction of Mountaineer Field (1924) probably stoked the fires even more. Finally, enough was enough. Students got fed up. They got organized, and they took their fight all the way to the governor.
Daily Athenaeum article from May 19, 1925
WVU students had a mass meeting on May 16, 1925, and voted to take on the expenses of sending three student representatives to the state legislature to protest lack of appropriations for a gym. Apparently, they raised the money for this by selling little tags that said “Kick in for the New Gym.” The students also passed a motion stating “lack of confidence” in the University President at the time, Dr. Trotter. Trotter, for his part, said he was glad for the help that the students were providing.
The three student delegation went to Charleston, appeared before the joint legislative revenue committee, and dined with Governor Howard Gore on May 18th to talk about their proposal for appropriations for the physical education building.
Morgantown Post, May 19, 1925
It worked. The appropriations were approved!
Morgantown Post, May 19, 1925
Additional appropriations were gathered, and in the end the Field House cost $250,000 to build (and a further $60,000 to equip) and was probably finished in late 1928. The WVU Mountaineer basketball team played (and won) their first game in the Field House on January 3, 1929. Not only did the facility have the space (and probably the showers) the students wanted, it “gave WVU the biggest and most modern athletic arena in the tri-state area and it also housed the School of Physical Education” (Antonik 2011).
It was a good thing the Field House was built then; the stock market crash started the Great Depression in October 1929, and probably would have put dreams for the building on ice had the students not taken charge.
Interior View of the Field House
West Virginia University Field House: seating, facilities, general information pamphlet (undated), from the WVRHC’s Printed Ephemera Collection, P8742
The Field House served as more than just the site of WVU basketball games, where the likes of Hot Rod Hundley and Jerry West played. It was also the site of events like WVU presidential inaugurations, commencement, registration, and more.
A presidential inauguration at the Field House, 1929
Commencement inside the Field House, 1967
Registration inside the Field House, ca. 1966
Crowd Inside of Field House Watching ‘It’s Wheeling Steel,’ ca. 1943
When did the Field House get renamed, and for who?
The Field House was renamed for Harry A. Stansbury (December 9, 1891 to August 8, 1966), a native of Raleigh County, in October of 1973.
Stansbury actually started work as the WVU Athletic Director long before the Field House was built—he served from 1916 to 1938. In 1915, he was athletic director at his alma mater, West Virginia Wesleyan. His appointment was contentious—the sports rivalry back then between WVU and WV Wesleyan was bitter.
His contributions included pushing for the building of the old Mountaineer Field, the Field House, adding new sports (wrestling and boxing) to WVU, and overseeing successes of our football and basketball programs. “He also sponsored and directed the WVU Indoor Track Games that brought some of the nation’s greatest track and field athletes to the WVU Field House from 1929-39. The list included Olympic sprinters Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe and Eddie Tolan, Olympic 800-meter champion John Woodruff and broad jumper Eulace Peacock” (Antonik 2011).
In June of 1938, Stansbury resigned to become the director of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
In 1965, he was inducted into the Order of Vandalia (see above photo). Stansbury died August 8, 1966 in Beckley. In 1991, he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
The Building Through the Years
In 1947, a fire in the Field House destroyed the bleachers. Mrs. George Hardwick reported the fire in time for the building to be saved, and was awarded a lifetime pass to University games (Doherty 1980 p. 553 n. 104).
The building also had a few interesting next door neighbors. In the 1940s and 1950s, a school building beside the Field House was use as a grade school for training education majors. The building was an African-American school prior to that. In the 1951/1952 WVU student handbook, it is marked on the campus map as the “Alexander Wade School”—by the 1956 campus map, it became the “Laboratory Elementary School.” You can see what it looked like in the photo below. By 1957, the little school house had been replaced.
The 1957 campus map shows Engineering Building Number 2 (see below) occupying the old school’s space beside Stansbury Hall. I haven’t yet learned when they tore that down. Today, that space is lot 11, where I park every day.
Eventually, crowd sizes got the better of Stansbury Hall, and it ceased to serve as an arena in 1970 when WVU Coliseum opened.
On Friday, February 10, 2017, WVU announced that Bob and Laura Reynolds had gifted $10 million to the WVU College of Business and Economics to provide the initial funding for a new business school complex in their name. Fundraising is still ongoing, so there is no timeline for construction yet, but we do have conceptual drawings, one of which you see here:
If any of our readers have fond memories of Stansbury Hall, feel free to leave comments below. This blog is moderated, and I am sometimes slow to approve comments, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled!
Antonik, John. Roll out the carpet: 101 seasons of West Virginia University basketball. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2010.
Antonik, John. “WVU Sports Hall of Fame: Harry Stansbury.” WVU Sports, April 12, 2011. Accessed February 23, 2017. http://www.wvusports.com/hallOfFame.cfm?func=viewProfile&hofID=37
Doherty, William T. West Virginia’s University: Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State. Morgantown: 1980.
“Stansbury Hall.” West Virginia University Alumni Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 2, Fall 1973, p. 1.
Wyatt, Tim L. “Basketball Tournament-Boys.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 21 March 2016. Web. 24 February 2017. http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/400
For conceptual drawings and to learn more about the gift, the givers, and the College of B&E, check out: http://business.wvu.edu/reynolds