Are we losing our local history?
I’m willing to bet a large portion of the area’s current residents can only trace their families’ living here to the early 1900s.
That’s the time the Weirs brought their steel mill to what would become Weirton, which resulted in an influx of immigrants to the Ohio Valley.
The old company town of Weirton was founded, sitting north of Hollidays Cove, with the valley overlooked by Weirton Heights and Marland Heights. Eventually, the four separate communities would be merged into one and the city of Weirton would be born.
The point is, there are probably few of us with family members who could have provided first-hand accounts of our area during its pre-steel identity.
That means there really is much of our local history which has been hidden away in obscure writings, or lost entirely. It’s something that’s been sitting with me the last several days after attending a discussion by Michael Nogay on the recently released update to his book, which traces information about many of the forts and blockhouses located in the Tri-State Area.
Most of us have probably heard about Fort Pitt and Fort Henry. How many people know about Hollidays Cove Fort, though? How many know about the various forts in Hancock and Brooke counties?
I’ve lived just outside of the city of Weirton most of my life, and until I read Nogay’s book, I had no idea there once had been a fort in my neighborhood.
I grew up hearing the story of Logan, but didn’t realize those events took place so close to my hometown.
We know about Betty Zane, Lewis Wetzel and Samuel McColloch, for example, because there are books — both historic and fictional — written about them. There are counties and towns which carry their names and monuments built to recall some of their daring adventures.
We have some roadside historical markers to denote various people and events, but how many have actually taken the time to stop and read them?
We are fortunate in our area to have so many museums which work to preserve our history. Facilities in Weirton, New Cumberland and Wellsburg showcase various aspects of our region, looking at particular times, places and people.
But do you ever actually visit any of these museums?
Is there any focus on our area schools on our local history? I know students learn about various points in our world history and national history. Some even have a chance to learn about state history.
When I was young, we had field trips to Meadowcroft Village in order to get some understanding of how earlier residents lived. Maybe there is something similar which can be done for today’s students in order to foster a better appreciation of the Ohio Valley’s history.
That way, they can learn about George Washington’s connections to the area, about why the Northern Panhandle is shaped the way it is, about Simon Girty, Samuel Brady, and more.
We don’t have much in the area in the way of Civil War history, with the obvious exception of West Virginia being created during that time. People probably don’t really think of the last 100 years or so as history, because it’s still fairly recent.
We do have a great deal of it from the times of the American Revolution and the early frontier days, though.
It should all be preserved, and we should all take the time to learn about it.
It is our history, and a part of our lives. It shaped the communities we know today, and it should all be remembered and preserved for future generations.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)