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West Virginia and the Vietnam War

Jane Metters LaBarbara
December 12, 2017

Blog Post by Catherine Rakowski, Administrative Associate at the WVRHC

The United States’ involvement in Vietnam (also known as French Indochina) began as early as 1950 in an effort to contain the spread of communism.  Throughout the next 25 years, the American support for the anti-communist government of South Vietnam escalated from supplying funding, military advisors and equipment to a full-scale involvement of U.S. forces fighting the war.

By the end of America’s most controversial war in 1975, more than 3 million Americans had served and 58,220 had died.  The state of West Virginia sent 36,578 troops of which 1,182 died. West Virginia suffered the highest casualty rate in the nation.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center is now displaying through December 2017, in the Rockefeller Gallery (2nd floor of the Wise Library) the exhibit, “West Virginia and the Vietnam War.” It includes political papers, maps, photographs, correspondence, artifacts, ephemera and the stories of individuals involved in the war on the front lines and at home. The photographs in this blog are from that exhibit. 

The display case pictured below contains: A map of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, ca. 1965; a 1965 photograph of West Virginia Congressman Arch Moore with General William C. Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, 1964-1968; a topographical map of the Indochina Area, ca. 1965.

Display case containing maps


The case pictured below includes photographs, maps, and reports regarding the Unites States congressional delegation sent to Vietnam in November 1965. Among the delegates was Rep. Arch Moore from West Virginia. During their visit the group came under sniper fire from the Viet Cong, a communist guerrilla force embedded in the south.  The location where the delegation received the sniper fire is marked in red on the map.

Display case containing maps, photos, and printed material related to the Vietnam War

(From the Arch C. Moore Papers at WVRHC, WVU Libraries)


Below are pictured display cases containing several items loaned to the West Virginia & Regional History Center by Paul Casto from his tour of duty with the Marines.  Among the items are several letters to his family; photographs taken in Vietnam and a portrait of Paul Casto in his “greens”; a “Souvenir from Vietnam” album given to the military personnel; Casto’s combat helmet; and his medals.

Display case containing Vietnam War materials related to veteran Paul Casto

Display case containing Paul Casto's military uniform helmet, among other items.

Display case containing letters and Vietnam War medals

Paul Casto enlisted in the Marines on his 18th birthday in 1967 and was deployed to Vietnam in January 1968, attached to B Co. 60 Mortar, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines outside Da Nang. Five months later he was severely wound in a rocket attack. After release from a stateside hospital, Casto volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam and was attached to the 1st Battalion 9th Marines, 3rd Division. The 1/9 suffered the highest killed in action rate and earned the nickname, “The Walking Dead.”  In January 1969, Casto’s division was engaged in a major offensive along the DMZ in the A Shau Valley, “Operation Dewey Canyon.” During the battle Casto came down with malaria and was evacuated to a hospital ship in critical condition. His service earned him two Purple Hearts.

After being discharged, Casto enrolled at West Virginia University in 1970 and became involved in the anti-war movement. He eventually took the lead of the WV state chapter of “Vietnam Veterans Against the War”, organizing and participating in several local and national protests. Today he lives in Morgantown and is active in veteran affairs.

In 1970 the WVU campus erupted in demonstrations and protest against the war in response to the killing of four Kent State students during on campus demonstrations and riots and against President Nixon’s escalation of the war. Tensions eased after finals, but marches and rallies continued throughout the duration of the war.

The image below, of items in the wall case, includes several anti-war broadsides, ephemera, newspapers and flyers. Most are on loan from Paul Casto.


Several American men sought ways to stay out of the military during the war. Tom Bennett, a 1965 Morgantown High graduate, found a way to serve while also honoring his strong convictions against taking a life.

After losing his draft deferment when he was placed on academic probation at WVU, Bennett chose not to shirk what he felt was his patriotic duty and requested classification as a conscientious objector, willing to serve. He was inducted in the Army in 1968 and trained as a medic. Bennett wrote home: “If I am called to Nam I will go. Out of obligation to a country I love I will go and possibly die for a cause I vehemently disagree with.”

In late January 1969 Bennett joined Bravo Co. 1st Battalion 14th Infantry in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He quickly earned the respect of the other men for his determination to save the lives of others without regard for his own life while under heavy enemy fire. In early February, the men in Tom’s outfit had requested platoon sergeant, James McBee put Bennett for a Silver Star. McBee reported to the Company Captain, “…He’s (Bennett) been doing an outstanding job . . . He took a lot risks to help the guys who got hit. In fact I had to chew him out for taking too many risks.” On February 11, enemy snipers attacked Bravo Co. wounding several. Bennett, ignoring McBee’s order to stay back, jumped out from his cover to aid the wounded and was killed instantly.

On April 7, 1970 President Nixon presented Tom Bennett’s posthumous Medal of Honor to his parents, making him only the second conscientious objector to earn the Medal.

Display case that includes Tom Bennett’s posthumous Medal of Honor next to a book about him

Bennett’s Medal of Honor was donated by his family to West Virginia University. It is displayed in the exhibit along with a copy of a biography by Bonnie McKeown, Peaceful Patriot: The Story of Tom Bennett; a newspaper clipping, “Two Prayers by Tom Bennett” published in the Morgantown Post, and copies of the recommendation for the Medal of Honor.

(From the Thomas Bennett Papers, at WVRHC, WVU Libraries)


Mirroring the LOC: Mirror Images in the Collection of the WVRHC

Jane Metters LaBarbara
December 4, 2017

Blog Post by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

One of my favorite parts of my job as an archivist is seeing what other museums and archives around the world are doing through social media.

The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division uses a blog to let people see their collections online. I love seeing their posts about the items they have, the projects they are working on with the public, and their new acquisitions. The newest post on their “Picture This” blog, “Double Take: Mirror Images,” was especially intriguing, as I knew the WVRHC had a number of photographs of mirrors in our own collections. Photographs of mirrors can be particularly fascinating due to the images captured, deliberately or unintentionally, in the mirror itself.

Check out the original post here, then keep scrolling to see some of the WVRHC mirror photos! 


Chest of drawers and mirror in men's dorm room

View of men’s dormitory room in Episcopal Hall at WVU, ca. 1898.  Two students and a window can be seen reflected in the mirror. ID # 039724.


Interior view of a pub in Morgantown, WV

Interior of a pub in Morgantown, W. Va. A large mirror behind the bar reflects decorations on the opposite wall, as well as a front door or front window. ID # 012104.


Interior of a restaurant in Clarksburg, WV

Interior of a restaurant in Clarksburg, W. Va.  Mirrors lining the left wall give a clearer view of the cabinet along the back wall. ID # 005654.


Interior of a drugstore in Morgantown, showing the soda fountain/counter area

Interior of the Moore and Parriott Drugstore in Morgantown, W. Va., ca. 1900.  A large mirror behind the counter allows viewers to see a large staircase on the opposite side of the room. ID # 008243.


Interior of the Four Corners Restaurant in Grafton, WV

Interior of the Four Corners Restaurant in Grafton, W. Va., ca. 1950.  The photographer is visible in the mirror on the back wall. ID # 005888.


Interior of a home in Franklin, WV, where photographer can be seen in mirror

This photo, not yet released on West Virginia History OnView, shows the interior of a home in Franklin, W. Va.  In the mirror on the left, the photographer and his camera setup are both visible.  Will be ID # 052632 once released.


For more historical photos of West Virginia and the region, check out our online photo database, West Virginia History OnView.



Our Apple Heritage

Jane Metters LaBarbara
November 29, 2017

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

Fun fact of the day: apple trees are a member of the rose family, and are not native to North America—they spread from Asia through Europe and colonists brought them to this continent in the 1600s.

Two African-American men with apple sacks, in front of an apple bin in an orchard

Apple Pickers, 1975

There were once 1000 to 1600 varieties of apples grown in the southern and central Appalachian region, which is pretty astounding considering that they aren’t native and that Wikipedia tells us there are over 7500 cultivars of apple.  As of 2011, one study suggested there were still over 600 distinct varieties grown in the region.  At least two of these cultivars are special West Virginia contributions.

The Grimes Golden apple cultivar was discovered about 1805 on the farm of Thomas Grimes at Fowlersville near Wellsburg.  It is apparently “Considered by some to be the best frying apple ever.”  Following in those delicious footsteps, a chance seedling of Golden Delicious was discovered by Anderson Mullins in Clay County in 1912.  It rose to become, in my humble opinion, far more delicious than Red Delicious (no relation), and the number 6 most purchased fresh apple variety in 2016. West Virginia is suitably proud of this accomplishment: legislators named the Golden Delicious the West Virginia state apple in 1995.

The Original Grimes Golden Apple Tree

Original Grimes Golden Apple Tree, Brooke County, ca. 1907

In the early 1900s, WV apples were more likely to be sold as fresh fruit.  By 1955, apple crops sales in Appalachia were roughly divided 50/50 between fresh and processed apples.  Now, only around 20% of the state’s apples are sold as fresh fruit. (I don’t have any data on what the processed apples become, but I’m hoping that many of them go toward making cider).  Some of this change in the final disposition of our apples may have to do with a change in tastes: in 1912, apple consumption in the US was 74 lbs. per person, and by 1969 the per person consumption was down to 12 lbs. Researchers affiliated with WVU’s Agricultural Experiment Station have done studies to investigate why consumption is changing, if you’re interested in reading up on that.

Bare tree with men in the branches

Pruning Apple Tree, West Virginia University: Not content to just study apples, Mountaineers grow them.
WVU continues to grow apples at its Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research & Education Center, and sells the fruits of its labor every fall.

Apples used to make artwork that depicts a harvest cornucopia

Harvest Cornucopia Mosaic Made from Apples, Martinsburg, W. Va.:
“Apples used to make art” is not listed as a use category in any of the stats I’ve seen…

While many folks across the state enjoy the fruits of the apple trees in their own yards, commercial apple production in WV has generally been most robust in the Eastern Panhandle.  The map below shows that the Eastern Panhandle has been an apple orchard region since at least 1901, likely due to their great Shenandoah Valley climate.

Map depicting best apple growing areas in WV

Map of WV Showing Areas Suggested or Reported as Suitable for Apple Growing, and Commercial Orchard Areas, ca. 1901

Man with branch of apples over his shoulder

Apple Farmer, Martinsburg, W. Va.

Thousands of Apples Mounded between buildings

The caption on this postcard reads:
“A million bushels of apples at Martinsburg, West Virginia, the apple center of the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
This area is the apple basket of the world with large canning and vinegar plants processing the fruit, even utilizing the core and the seeds for stock feed.”

For your enjoyment, I have collected a few apple-related recipes from our great selection of cookbooks in the WVRHC.

From West Virginia’s Treasured Recipes: A Collection of Early West Virginia Food and Philosophy, by West Virginia Extension Homemakers Council (Morgantown?, West Virginia Extension Homemakers Council, 1974):

KETTLE CIDER APPLE BUTTER (From Treasure Mountain Festival, Pendleton County)

20 gal sweet cider
l T. oil of cinnamon
8 gal. apple snits (cut in 1/8’s)
15 lbs. sugar
Use 40 gallon copper kettle and wooden apple butter stirrer.

Put cider into kettle and heat to boiling. Let cook until reduced to one half. Add 1/2 of the apples and cook until soft. Add remaining apples and cook until soft, stirring continuously. Add sugar. Cook slowly, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Cook approximately 3 hours after sugar has been added. Take out small portion in a saucer and cool. If it jells and is spreading consistency remove kettle from fire, add oil of cinnamon and mix thoroughly. (Apples and heat determine cooking time and this will vary.) Makes 12 gallons. Prepare enough jars ahead time to hold apple butter. Have jars hot Pour in apple butter. Let cool before covering.


From Betsy Jordan Edgar’s Pocahontas County Cooking Yesterday and Today: A Collection of Recipes Used by the Early Settlers, Ways to Cook Wild Game and Wild Plants (Parsons, W. Va., McClain Print, 1973):


Winter was long for the early settlers. The women of the house tried all their cooking skills and came up with many ways of cooking the same foods to keep their family interested in eating and enjoying their meals. I imagine that is where this January Pudding was first mixed up and found to be very good.

4 eggs
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. melted butter
4 apples
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon

Peel, core, and chop the apples finely. Add the bread crumbs, sugar, salt, and spices. Beat the eggs well and use them to moisten the pudding. Blend in melted butter. Turn into a greased baking mold, cover closely and steam about 2 hours at 350 degrees. Serve with your favorite hot sweet sauce, or thick cream.


From the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Beckley, W. Va.) book titled Recipes from the Mountains (All Recipes at Least 100 Years Old) (Beckley, W. Va., Society, 1963):

AUNT JANE’S APPLE DUMPLINGS (Submitted by: Mrs. Wilson Taylor, Beverly, W. Va.)

Use 1 quart flour, 1 tablespoon lard, l tablespoon cow butter, 1 small spoonful of soda, dissolve in a small amount of hot water. Two small spoonsful of cream tartar, sift through flour, add enough milk to make a good dough. Roll the dough out to ¼-inch thick, cut into squares big enough to cover a good size apple, core the apple and put in center of square. Sprinkle apple with nutmeg or cloves and a little sugar. Bring the corners of the dough together and place each dumpling on a floured square of cloth, tie top and leave enough room for the dumpling to swell. Cook for about three quarters of an hour. Put a pinch of salt in the boiling water. My grandmother made these dumplings, the entire meal consisted of just the dumplings served with sugar and thick cream or sugar and sour cream. The dumplings  were a real treat.


Resources consulted:

Images from WV History OnView.

“Apple.” Wikipedia. Web. 28 November 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple

Corbett, L. C. Apple Districts of West Virginia. Morgantown, W.V., West Virginia University Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin No. 75, 1901.

Evans, Homer C, and W. S Hutson. Marketing Appalachian Apples. Morgantown, West Virginia University Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin No. 372, 1955.

Jack, Robert L, et al. Fresh Apple Utilization in West Virginia. Morgantown, Division of Resource Management, West Virginia University, 1974.

Lundy, Ronni. Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes. New York, Clarkson Potter/, 2016.

Schwarz, Bob “Apples.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 11 October 2010. Web. 28 November 2017. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/260

Sperow, Charles “Agriculture.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 04 September 2012. Web. 28 November 2017.

“U.S. APPLE ASSOCIATION FORECASTS A STRONGER THAN AVERAGE HARVEST; GALA, RED DELICIOUS AND FUJI MOST POPULAR VARIETIES; HONEYCRISP AND PINK LADY FASTEST GROWING.” US Apple Association. 13 September 2016. Web. 28 November 2017.  http://usapple.org/u-s-apple-association-forecasts-a-stronger-than-average-harvest-gala-red-delicious-and-fuji-most-popular-varieties-honeycrisp-and-pink-lady-fastest-growing/


Rahall Collection now open to the public

Monte Maxwell
November 29, 2017

Thousands of archival records and digital photographs from the Congressman Nick Joe Rahall II papers are now open for research at West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center.

In 1976, Nick Rahall II, a 27-year-old native of Beckley, WV, won the race for the West Virginia Fourth Congressional District and went on to win re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives for another eighteen terms (1977-2015), making him the longest serving congressman in West Virginia history.

Congressman Rahall with senators Jennings and Byrd

Before he was elected to Congress, Nick Rahall worked in the office of then U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd and as assistant to the Majority Secretary of the Senate. He is pictured with senators Jennings Randolph, Mike Mansfield and Byrd in June 1976.

The materials in his collection document Rahall’s numerous contributions to national policy and state projects. Throughout his career, Rahall was recognized for his expertise relating to transportation, infrastructure, technology, energy and the environment. He led the development of federal highway and transit legislation and authored legislation to establish the New River Gorge National River as a unit of the National Park Service and to designate the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River.

As the grandson of Lebanese-Protestant immigrants, Rahall took an interest and leadership role in national and foreign policy related to the Middle East, making numerous delegation trips to the region during his congressional service.

The opened materials come primarily from the press files and include speeches, press releases, and newspaper clippings from 1976-2014. Numerous photographs document Congressman Rahall at various events, hearings and meetings with West Virginians in his Washington, D.C., office. Photographs also capture moments from his numerous overseas trips and visits to West Virginia. A large portion of the photographs have been made available online at rahall.lib.wvu.edu.

Congressman Rahall donated his papers to WVU Libraries in 2015. The collection is one of the largest in the Libraries’ holdings at more than 2,089 record cartons, and it continues to be processed. Researchers interested in using the collection should contact the Assistant Curator, Congressional and Political Papers Archivist.


Talking Turkey: Celebrating Thanksgiving in West Virginia

Jane Metters LaBarbara
November 20, 2017

Group of turkeys on snowy ground

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Many people would argue that Thanksgiving is just not complete without a turkey as the centerpiece of a loaded dinner table surrounded by loved ones.  Every other dish, no matter how elaborately prepared or presented, seems to be relegated to side dish status once the turkey comes out of the oven.  But there’s more to talking turkey on Thanksgiving than the meal of the day, there’s the way we celebrate, from turkey calls, to hunting wild game, to watching parades, and cooking the bird.  It’s all part of that most American of holidays, Thanksgiving. 

If bringing home the bird from the wild is your idea of supplying the family table, then the first thing you have to do is learn how to gobble!  Here, a contestant from a 1975 Turkey Calling contest in Webster Springs gives it his best shot!

Candid photo of man imitating a turkey call

Once you’ve got that down it’s time to hunt! At left, Gottfried Aegerter cleans his gun after bringing this turkey home to his wife Marianne in Helvetia, around the turn of the twentieth century. At right, Helvetia hunters show off their game.

 Gottfried Aegerter cleaning his gun, with dead turkey on steps in front of himFour hunters displaying the turkeys they caught

Once you’ve got your turkey, you’ve got to pluck him!  These men are hard at work plucking more than half a dozen turkeys for their Thanksgiving table at Fort Seyhert, Pendleton County.

A group of men plucking turkeys

Turkeys were also raised in West Virginia.  J. W. Ruby raised turkeys on his farm in this photo from 1967, in Preston County. That’s a lot of birds!

Flock of turkeys, on J. W. Ruby farm in Preston County, 1967

These turkeys were raised on a rural farm for West Virginia University’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

Turkeys near a fence on WVU's Agricultural Experiment Station

This fine group of birds was raised by William Currence at Bulltown, 1931.

Close-up of group of turkeys

On their way to market, turkey drive through Lewisburg, about 1900.

Turkeys being driven through a Lewisburg street, ca. 1900.

Ninety-nine years ago, during World War I in 1918, Thanksgiving dinner was served at Camp Logan.

Thanksgiving dinner at Camp Logan, 1918, with men and women seated at long tables

Now that we’ve had our meal, let’s go downtown and watch this tractor pull a WVU float in the Thanksgiving Day parade in Morgantown!

A tractor pulling a WVU float in the Thanksgiving Day parade in Morgantown

If you’d like to see more photographs on Thanksgivings in West Virginia, including lots of photos of the great Thanksgiving snow of 1950, or select a recipe from one of our many cookbooks, stop by the West Virginia and Regional History Center and we’ll be glad to help!