West Virginia Univeristy
9:30am - 4:30pm

News Blog

Springtime Selections from the Green Photography Collection

Jane Metters LaBarbara
March 12, 2019

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

The James Edwin Green photography collection of over 500 glass plate negatives at the History Center contains a variety of images that document life in western Pennsylvania and Pleasants County, West Virginia.  This blog will sample images that are seasonal, relating to the theme of springtime and warmer weather.

The first image shows the photographer, James Edwin Green (1878-1952) with his family at Orchard View Farm:

Family seated outside eating watermelon in an orchard, with text "Who Said Watermelon!"

James Edwin Green (1878-1952) and family at Orchard View Farm,
Pleasants County, West Virginia, ca. 1905-1910.
(From collection A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer,
Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material.)

In this picture we see his wife Edith Sarah Taylor Green with their three children (left to right) Virginia, Jeanette, and James Edwin, Jr.  If you look closely, you can see James Edwin, Sr. holding a string.  This string was attached to a camera in order to trigger its shutter.

James Green, Sr. also used his photography for creating Easter greetings as shown in the following example:

Girl in Easter dress, holding a toy bunny, next to an Easter basket

Easter Greeting card featuring a Green child; 1909.
(From collection A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer,
Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material.)

Woman in orchard, with blooms on the trees, with text "Down in Blossom Row"

A view of Orchard View Farm, Pleasants County, West Virginia, ca. 1905-1910.
It may be the photographer’s wife, Edith Green, who is strolling through the orchard.
(From collection A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer,
Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material.)

Man in orchard with three children, with text "Spring Time"

A portrait of James Edwin Green and his three children, Orchard View Farms,
Pleasants County, West Virginia, ca. 1905-1910.
(From collection A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer,
Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material.)

Many photographs in the collection were shot in Foxburg, Pennsylvania, where many members of the Green family lived, like the following:

Four children seated on a horse or mule, surrounded by family members

Children of James Edwin Green playing with relatives at Foxburg, Pennsylvania, ca. 1905-1910.
(From collection A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer,
Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material.)

In this picture we see Mrs. Edith Green on the left, her son James Edwin Green, Jr. on the horse, and her daughter Virginia on the right with hands behind her back.  Aunt Roseanne Green of Foxburg is holding a child up on the horse.

Three children in orchard surrounded by chickens, with text "Easter Greetings -1909- From St. Mary's W. Va."

Another Easter Greeting with Virginia, Jeanette, and James Green; 1909.
(From collection A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer,Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material.)

For more information about the James Green photograph collection, see the blog:
The Photographs of James Green and the Democratization of Photography

Sources consulted:
A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer, Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material, box 15/folder 15a for genealogy information
A&M 3460, James Edwin Green, Photographer, Glass Plate Negatives and Other Material, box 15/folder 16a for identification of subjects in photographs

Comments

New Books on Frederick Douglass at the West Virginia and Regional History Center

Jane Metters LaBarbara
March 8, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

The life of Frederick Douglass is infinitely compelling.  Born enslaved, he barely knew his mother, who died when he was young, and never knew his father.  As a young man he escaped enslavement to become a prominent activist and one of the finest orators of the 19th century.

With the publication of David Blight’s new biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, it seemed an appropriate time to share the West Virginia and Regional History Center’s extensive book collection on Frederick Douglass. 

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.
David W. Blight

Cover of book Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, showing a color portrait of Douglass

An award winning author, David W. Blight has written what is called the definitive biography of Frederick Douglass. 

Frederick Douglass: A Life in Documents
Frederick Douglass

Cover of book Frederick Douglass: A Life in Documents, showing a portrait of a young Douglass

The University of Virginia Press describes Douglass as “the most prominent African American activist of the nineteenth century.”  His life is well documented and he left behind a vast amount of documentary evidence on his life in slavery and achievements in freedom. This volume gathers and interprets valuable selections from a variety of Douglass’s writings, including speeches, editorials, correspondence, and autobiographies.  This book is part of the series: A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era. 

Picturing Frederick Douglass:
An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s
Most Photographed American
John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier

Cover of book Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century's Most Photographed American, showing a color portrait of a middle aged Douglass

Paging through this volume the reader is overwhelmed by the quantity, and the variety of photographs.  This rich collection shows Douglass from his youth to old age.  Highly recommended.

Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass & Abraham Lincoln
John Stauffer

Cover of book Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass & Abraham Lincoln, showing portraits of Douglass and Lincoln

This dual biography looks at the life of two men, both self-made, who rose to prominence from the unlikely sources; Lincoln from poverty and Douglass from slavery. 

John Brown:
An Address by Frederick Douglass, at the Fourteenth Anniversary of Storer
College, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, May 30, 1881.
Frederick Douglass

Cover of book titled John Brown: An Address by Frederick Douglass, at the Fourteenth Anniversary of Storer College, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, May 30, 1881

Frederick Douglass was the keynote speaker for Decoration Day, May 30, 1881, at Storer College.  It was also the 14th anniversary of the college, the first institution of higher learning for African Americans in West Virginia, as well as the Storer College commencement.  This speech, printed here in its entirety, is one of the most important speeches on John Brown. 

Two Autobiographies:
My Bondage and My Freedom
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

My Bondage and My Freedom Book Cover, showing a portrait of a younger Frederick Douglass
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass Book Cover, showing a portrait of Douglass when he was older

Frederick Douglass wrote three autobiographies during his lifetime; two of them, My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, examine different times in the author’s life.  The first, My Bondage and My Freedom, published in 1855, expands on his first autobiography, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, and recalls his life as a slave.   The second book, Life and Times, looks at the latter part of his life. 

To see these books, and others on the life of Frederick Douglass, please visit the West Virginia and Regional History Center.  Several of these books are currently on display on our New Arrivals shelf.  

Comments

February is for the Birds

Jane Metters LaBarbara
February 27, 2019

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC

Happy National Bird-Feeding Month, everyone!

February was initially proposed for this month-long observance because winter can be a hard time for birds to find food (more on the official resolution here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Bird-Feeding_Month). The month is now celebrated by the National Bird-Feeding Society and bird enthusiasts across the country. The WVRHC has a few collections about birds and birding that will be of interest to other hobbyists and scholars.

Boy scout holding bird feeder

West Virginia has two extant chapters of the National Audubon Society—the Mountaineer chapter based in Morgantown, and the Potomac Valley chapter based in Shepherdstown. The Mountaineer Chapter, chartered in 1971, gave some of its records to the WVRHC.

The Mountaineer Chapter created a packet titled “Identifying and Feeding Your Winter Birds.”

page showing descriptive text and/or images for the following birds: Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Blue jay, Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse

They let people know what birds to expect in the winter, and some useful facts about them.

Clipping with heading "What kind of feeders should I get?" showing seven types of bird feeders

The packet also gives a quick primer on the types of feeders you can use. (No word yet on which feeder will keep the raccoons away from my suet.)

Other accomplishments reflected in the chapter records are bird counts and activism, including an interim report for the ca. 1984-1985 Morgantown Screech Owl Habitat Improvement Research Project.

Newspaper "feature publication" cover with image of owl and headline "Whooo gives a hoot?"

The WVRHC also has the collections of Earl A. Brooks (WVU class of 1897) and Maurice Brooks (WVU professor from 1932-1969), both of whom had a keen interest in birds.  Earl kept notebooks recording his and co-workers notes on sites where specific species were observed, nesting sites, habits, etc.  His notes really helped Maurice Brooks with his work—in his A Check-List of West Virginia Birds, he writes, “Special use has been made of unpublished notes of Rev. Earle [sic] A. Brooks and of Professor E. R. Grose.” Below are two of the maps from Earl’s papers, and text for those same birds out of Maurice’s work a few decades later.

Map of West Virginia showing sighting spots for the White Pelican

Pelicanus erythrorhynchos, or White Pelican: “Of accidental occurrence in the state. Two records for this species were made during the last week in April 1910. E. A. Brooks examined one of two specimens taken in Braxton County on April 23, 191, and mounted by E.J. Hughes. Dr. Roy Bird Cook noted a flock along the Ohio River in Wood County during the same week. In the autumn of 1943 a single individual spent some weeks along the Great Kanawha River, near Charleston, Kanawha County, where it was seen by hundreds of persons. The West Virginia University Museum* has a specimen taken by a Mr. Dawson along the Cacapon River, Morgan County.”

*Blogger’s note: WVU doesn’t have just one museum, and I don’t yet know which of them might have a white pelican specimen.

Map of West Virginia showing sighting and breeding spots for the Purple Martin

Progne subis subis, or Purple Martin: “Local summer resident, seemingly much more restricted in range than formerly. Its colonies are scattered throughout the state, save in areas of heavy forest.” (The National Audubon Society website confirms this species is still somewhat in decline today.)

Anyone who wants to begin backyard bird feeding may not need more than some seeds and a feeder to get started, but knowledge of what birds you are likely to attract can make it easier to find the right types of feeders and food. Additionally, birdwatchers who keep tabs on the population can help identify problematic declines and help keep an eye on bird habitats. If you want to learn more about early 1900s bird populations in West Virginia or more modern bird-related activism, drop by and check out our collections.

Dark colored bird sitting on top of a bird cage that is affixed to a wall.

References:

Brooks, Maurice. A Check-List of West Virginia Birds. Agricultural Experiment Station, College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Home Economics, West Virginia University, 1944. (Bulletin 316)

Comments

Alpheus Poage Willson, 1794 to 1835, Morgantown Attorney

Jane Metters LaBarbara
February 5, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

While I was browsing volumes in the Rare Book Room recently I came across an early book of Virginia law, the Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia, published in Richmond by Thomas Nicholson and William Prentiss, 1785. 

Opening the cover I could see that this particular book has an interesting provenance history.  The bookplate showed that this book had once belonged to a Morgantown attorney, Alpheus P. Willson.   The inscription at the top of the pastedown reads: “Presented to the West Virginia Historical Society, Nov 8, 1870, L.S. Hough.”  Another Morgantown attorney, Hough was known locally as a collector of rare books as well as law books.  The West Virginia Historical Society may well be the Monongalia Historical Society that operates in Morgantown today. The second bookplate, marked West Virginia University Libraries, shows that this book was donated in 1933 by A.P. Willson’s son, also named A.P. Wilson, though he chose to spell the family name without the extra “l” his father used.   

The photos below show the cover, the pastedown with provenance information and the title page of the book, the Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia.

Cover of book, Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia
Pastedown of book, Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia, showing Alpheus P. Willson provenance via stickers
Title page of book, Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia

Alpheus Poage Willson was the son of attorney and politician Thomas Wilson. The first son of eight children born to Thomas and Mary Wilson, A.P. is the only child to use the variant spelling of the Wilson family name, Willson, using two “l”’s instead of one.  

His father, Thomas, was born in Eastern Virginia in 1760. Thomas read law and apprenticed with Judge Stuart in Staunton, Va. until he was admitted to the Bar there. Thomas married Mary Poage (1777-1817) and they moved to Morgantown where Thomas was admitted to the practice of law in September 1781. He practiced in Morgantown until his death on January 24, 1826. 

Thomas Wilson’s political career spanned twenty five years. Wilson served two terms in the Virginia State Senate (1792 – 1795, 1800 – 1804), two terms as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1799 – 1800, 1816 – 1817) and one term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s 1st congressional district, March 4, 1811 – March 3, 1813.  Thomas Wilson is also noted as the first Monongalian to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.   

Portrait of Thomas Wilson

Of the eight children born to Thomas and Mary Wilson, six sons and three daughters, five sons are known to have been lawyers.

Alpheus was a lawyer for only a brief period of time due in large part to his untimely death at age 35. Four of his younger brothers also trained in the law, while the occupation of the fifth son, George Washington Wilson, is unknown.

Born on March 2, 1794.  Alpheus would later read law with his father Thomas.  He initially followed him into politics, and was elected to the Virginia Legislature in 1819.  The year 1821 was a year of great success for Alpheus, he was admitted to the bar, married Eliza Evans on September 20, and was elected to the Virginia State Senate, serving in the Senate from 1821- 1825. 

Besides his duties as a lawyer and political figure, Alpheus also served as the county coroner.  Although he campaigned for this position, he hated the job, serving only one year. Alpheus married Eliza Evans, daughter of Jesse Evans, the operator of one of the local iron works, known as Hanway’s Rock Forge for the original owner, Samuel Hanway. Rock Forge is also referred to as Dicker’s (or Decker’s) Creek Ironworks. John Stealy, who took over the iron works from Hanway, advertised for hands at the Furnace in 1815. From 1815 – 1824, Watts and Kiger, Stealy’s sons-in-law, ran the works. Jesse Evans succeeded Watts in 1824. After Alpheus married Eliza, Evans placed him in charge of the Valley Furnace, which smelted iron bloom, a rough mass of iron produced at a bloomery or furnace.

Alpheus’s tenure at the Valley Furnace was short. His death, at age 35, was accidental, resulting from his work at the foundry. The Swem Library at the College of William and Mary houses the papers of Archibald Woods, an uncle of Alpheus P. Willson, who lived in Wheeling. Among the Woods Papers at William & Mary is the following letter, exchanged between two of Alpheus’s brothers, Edgar and Washington, relating the tragic events of his death. The original punctuation and spelling have been retained. 


Brownsville, Monday evening

Dear Washington

You have no doubt heard before this some rumor of the death of Alpheus – and painful as the information may be, I am under the necessity of saying it is too true.

On Thursday evening last, he Mr. Brady of Grandville and Mr. Brand, started from Grandville in a boat loaded with bloom, etc.  The river then rising rapidly, it appears they attempted several times to land above this place but could not, the night being so tempestuous and dark, and river so high.  When opposite this place they approached the shore so close, as to (allow) Brady & Brand to jump out with the cables, Alpheus staying in the boat but the current was so strong that the cables was torn from their hands, and the boat continued onward, and it being dark about 2 o’clock, it soon went out of sight of Brady.  Alpheus (so far as Brady could see) continued to row the boat, and nothing more was seen of him.  Brady got a skift and a hand and immediately followed, and continued to Pittsburgh without any tidings – but the boat was found Friday morning safe in the mouth of Redstone about a mile before town, in a bottom which was overflown, and after the water fell Alpheus’ hat was also found not far from the boat, his saddle bags in the boat.  Since that time every possible search has been made and will be continued.  He most probably attempted to get out of the boat a short distance above the creek, where the shore was very steep and being dark, slipt in and was lost – I have been here since Sunday morning together with . . . Samuel Evans also.  This event is most distressing.  I left home before Eliza heard anything of it.  I will write you again in a few days.  

your Brother

E.C. Wilson


Sadly, the body of Alpheus Willson was never found.

1803 map showing Brownsville and Redstone Creek
1803 map showing Brownsville and Redstone Creek, from Wikipedia

Since his death was sudden and unexpected, Alpheus died without a will.  Following her husband’s unexpected passing, his wife Eliza was forced to sell the contents of the estate to pay his debts.

Snippet of legal proceedings surrounding the settlement of the estate of Alpheus P. Willson
Photo by author of scan provided by Barb Howe

The book came into possession of L.S. Hough when he purchased it from the estate sale of another Morgantown attorney, Mathew Gay, whose estate sale was advertised in the local Morgantown paper.   

Willson was in the habit of inscribing his name inside his books, on the title page, and even on the paper fore edge.  Often Willson added a book plate as well, like the one pasted into this book.  He was determined to make his ownership mark on his books, and this habit has proven to be a great resource for researching his life in Morgantown. 

"A P Willson" written on a book page
"A Willson" written on a book's fore edge

If you’d like to see this book, as well as other early law books in the rare book collection, please stop by the West Virginia and Regional history Center or contact Stewart Plein, Curator, Rare Books.


Resources:

Information on the descendants of Thomas Wilson can be found at: http://www.wvgenweb.org/calhoun/twilson.txt.  This website repeats erroneous information regarding the birth order of sons Alpheus and Norville.  Alpheus was the first son. 

Additional children of Thomas and Mary Wilson are listed at the Find-a-Grave website:  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=WI&GSfn=t&GSpartial=1&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSst=52&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GSsr=201&GRid=7619438&df=all&  This site also has the engraving of Wilson posted online that was used for this article.  There is no attribution on Find-a-Grave for this portrait.

Letter from Alpheus P. Wilson, Morgantown, [Virginia] [West Virginia], to Archibald Woods, Ohio County, Virginia [West Virginia], 30 January 1815.  Archibald Woods Papers, Manuscripts and Rare Books Department, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.  http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=wm/viw00093.xml

Letter from Edgar Campbell Wilson, Brownsville, [Pennsylvania] to George Washington Wilson, Wheeling, [Virginia] [West Virginia], 14 February 1832.  Archibald Woods Papers, Manuscripts and Rare Books Department, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.  http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=wm/viw00093.xml   

Stewart Plein. “From Hand to Hand: Early Virginia Lawyers and the Value of a Book.” Proceedings and Papers of the Monongalia Historical Society. No. 13, December 2015 (Published May, 2016).

Comments

REMIX the WVRHC Archives: Call for digital collage work

Monte Maxwell
February 4, 2019

Altered historic photograph

The West Virginia University Arts in the Libraries committee wants people to get creative with history.

“REMIX the WVRHC Archives,” an exhibition and online project by the Art in the Libraries program, encourages people to use the West Virginia & Regional History Center’s online resources to design unique artistic works, such as collages, memes, GIFs, creative writing, redaction poetry and other agglomerations.

“While archives are used for research, they can also inspire contemporary thought, perspective and fun, which is the aim of this curated project,” said Sally Deskins, exhibits coordinator for WVU Libraries.

The WVRHC, located on the sixth floor of the Downtown Campus Library, collects, preserves, and provides public access to materials that show the history and culture of West Virginia and the central Appalachian region.

WVRHC digital collections include:

Email submissions and questions to Deskins, sbdeskins@mail.wvu.edu. The deadline is midnight on March 28. The Art in the Libraries committee will select images to be uploaded to the exhibition page as well as 20 images to be displayed in the Downtown Campus Library, Room 1020 this summer.

“REMIX the WVRHC Archives” is modeled after REMIX/ARCHIVAL ODDITIES, a project by the Virginia Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.

For more information and submission details visit the Libraries website, exhibits.lib.wvu.edu/remix.

Comments

More…