Work to chronicle our communities

One of the coolest things I’ve found in my various explorations of our local history — usually spurred on by assignments involving our area museums — has been the opportunity to see the various photographs of our Ohio Valley.

There’s, obviously, not much beyond the early 1900s, although there are sketches and maps which can be just as informative. However, to me, the interesting part is seeing the people and places which used to populate our towns and cities.

To see, not just the VIPs such as Thomas Millsop or E.T. Weir, but the everyday folks who really helped to build our home as they went to and from work, sat with their families, lined the street to watch a holiday parade or take part in some other festivity is always great.

It’s interesting to see some of the buildings which once stood, comparing it to how that same area now appears.

I sometimes get to hear stories from residents about how things used to be, but to actually be able to see it really helps to add that extra dimension.

To know Cove Commons wasn’t always there, to see the original St. Paul School, to get a glimpse into the lives of some of the immigrants who came here to work in the steel mills as they shared their cultures with their new neighbors. It all informs as to where we’ve been, and that, in turn, can help determine where we go.

The landscape of our communities have changed quite a bit in the last 100 years. With the various developments and ideas floating around today, several aspects will look vastly different in the next 10 to 20 years. It won’t just be a few new buildings or some differences in who is around the lead the way.

Our economy is changing, the population is changing and much of what drives the Ohio Valley will not be the same.

In recent months, in the few spare moments presented to me, I’ve caught myself grabbing a camera or my phone and snapping a couple of pictures.

It’s not a bad habit for all of us to get into, even if it is just taking some shots of the family while you’re out and about.

One of the things that continues to bring this to mind is seeing the continuing demolition of the Basic Oxygen Plant at ArcelorMittal. At one point, that facility was to be the “mill of the future,” and by sometime next year (according to recent estimates) it will be gone forever.

People in Chester probably thought the former TS&T factory would always be standing. It is now gone and a new business park is in its place.

Go further back, though. Brooke Hills Park was once a farm; Wellsburg once had several glass factories; New Cumberland was known for its brick production.

Most of us have a camera built into our phones, and can easily find a way to quickly document an occasion or a special landmark.

It’s important to preserve our history for future generations.

We don’t have any textbooks used in schools to teach local history. There are, fortunately, a few individuals who have researched our area and written a variety of books.

Our children and their children should have the opportunity to see some of the structures, celebrations and people who have come before them.

They should know what the past was like while they are building the future.

We can all have a part in making sure that happens.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)