Item of the Week – Gatewood Gown


Item of the Week: August 29, 2014

Worn by three generations of one family, this dress was made for Hannah Moffett Gatewood in 1842 for her wedding to John Woods Warwick. On June 27, 1906, Hannah’s granddaughter, Georgie Pendleton Ligon wore it when she married William Blakely King in Clover Lick. In 1932,Hannah’s great granddaughter Louise Jackson Coyner also wore the dress. It was the oldest dress on display in the Greenbrier Brides Exhibit at the North House Museum. Tomorrow, Saturday, August 30th is the last day to see the exhibit. The North House Museum will be open from 10am to 4pm.


Invisible Roots and Legends: African American Education


Earl C. Clay, Sr., Principal of former Bolling High and Elementary School

Earl C. Clay, Sr., Principal of former Bolling High and Elementary School

 There is an old joke, likely in all cultures and times, about the older folks trying to impress the younger ones with how hard they had it when they were young.  One version goes, “When I was young I had to walk to school barefoot, through the snow, and uphill both ways.”

From April 7, 1869, when the Board of Education for the township of Lewisburg acquired a building for the purpose of a free school for African American children, to the rocky course of actual integration in the 1950s this struggle was all too true.

And in the end, it was people who made the difference.  People such as Professor Edward A. Bolling who, in a biography posted on the WV Archives and History site, was noted to have been an educator in this area for over 40 years.  He was born in Greenbrier County on November 28, 1860 on the eve of the Civil War.  He grew up in Richmond and was graduated from Morgan College in Baltimore, MD.  In 1877, after teaching in Richmond for four years, he returned to Greenbrier County where he was appointed principal and teacher at the Lewisburg Colored School.

WV Archives and History site indicates that “For five consecutive summers, 1910-14, Prof. Bolling was one of the instructors in the State Summer School for colored teachers at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute. In 1915 he was granted a State Life Certificate by the West Virginia State Board of Education. This Board is composed entirely of white men who are among the leading educators of the State. This high honor has been conferred on only a comparatively few white persons and on only about ten colored men of the entire State. In Mr. Bolling’s own county of Greenbrier only two white and no other colored persons have been awarded this honor.”

Professor Bolling was so well respected that, in 1933, Earl Charles Clay, then principal, renamed Lewisburg Colored Junior High School as Bolling Junior High and Elementary School, after its original principal. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1939 and rebuilt and opened again in the fall of 1941.  In 1935, Bolling became a full twelve grade high school and was one of only four African American high schools in the entire State of West Virginia.

Earl Charles Clay was also impressive, having received his secondary education in the high school department of West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State College, and his college education in the same institution, graduating with the degree of Bachelor of Science in 1930. In the summer of 1940 he enrolled in Virginia State College to work toward the degree of Master of Science in Education.  (From the biographical sketch taken from his dissertation and transcribed by Carol Haynes.)

His father, Dr. Samuel Clay was a physician in Lewisburg.  Dr. Clay practiced out of his home on Walnut Street and had an office over the Pioneer drug store in downtown Lewisburg.

The “Invisible Roots and Legends: A Photographic View of African American History in Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia” exhibit which will be held at the Cooper Gallery from September 20 to October 4, 2014 will consist of a collection of photographs and artifacts, from post-civil war to today, of African Americans, such as the three above, who have contributed to the growth and development of this area in business, religion, education, sports, politics, and entertainment as well as general family life.

Sponsored by the Cooper Gallery, the Greenbrier Historical Society, and Curator Janice Cooley, the exhibit will present information and also encourage viewers to share information they may have about African Americans in the Greenbrier Valley before it is lost.

Closed for Labor Day

The Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House Museum & Archives will be closed on Monday, September 1, 2014 for Labor Day. We will resume our regular operating hours on Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

We apologize for any inconvenience. If you are only in town for the weekend, please call 304.645.3398 to schedule a special appointment in advance.

Ogden Receives Certificates

Toni Ogden

Toni Ogden, Museum Coordinator at the Greenbrier Historical Society (GHS), recently completed certification training with Northern States Conservation Center, one of the few schools in the United States offering advanced classes in museum topics. Ms. Ogden has qualified for the title of Collections Manager, having met the requirements for NSCC’s Certificate in Collections Management and Care.

The nearly three year course of study required completion of individual certificates in Registration, Cataloging and Storage of Collections; Preservation Environments; Disaster and Emergency Planning; Care of Museum Artifacts and Textiles and Grant Writing among other topics. For a final project Ms. Ogden created a Museum Handling Manual for the Greenbrier Historical Society.

Ms. Ogden said, “The past 15 years has seen a tremendous change in expectation of professional care and management of museum collections all around the world. It’s an exciting time to be a part of that community. Small museums across our country hold the collective history of our nation. As such, small museums are every bit as important as say, the Smithsonian. It is a privilege to work as we do as a public trust, preserving local heritage and the history of our material culture for the education and delight of generations to come.”

Ms. Ogden manages the North House Museum’s collection and exhibits, and with the assistance of the Mary Nickell Foundation, is the Director of Educational Programs at GHS. She also serves as Vice-President of the board of the Monroe County Historical Society and recently received a West Virginia Humanities Council grant to improve exhibits and displays in advance of the seasonal opening of their museum. Ms. Ogden represents Greenbrier Historical Society as a board member of the West Virginia Association of Museums.

Item of the Week: Morgan Wedding Dress

Item of the Week: August 22, 2014
Worn by Mary Noel Morgan in her 1944 wedding to James Morgan. Mary’s family owned the General Lewis Inn when she met James who was visiting his mother in Lewisburg, WV during World War II. Mary and James went on to own the popular Inn for many years.

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Dickson & McCue Wedding Suits



Item of the Week – August 15, 2014

Lula Dickson married William M. McCue at the Dickson home on Second Creek, Greenbrier County on October 15, 1890. Lula’s dress was a two-piece cream silk bodice and skirt, embroidered with green and gold thread. It has a long beautiful train that is trimmed with lace. William wore a three-piece tuxedo and top hat. As was fashionable at the time, the black jacket has tails and the shirt would require a separate starched collar to wear with a bow tie. Pictured below are Dickson’s wedding shoes and McCue’s  black Beaver fur top hat with black silk band and lining. It has a vent on top to keep the gentleman cool.

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The wedding outfits of Lula Dickson and William McCue are on display as part of the North House Museum’s Greenbrier Brides exhibit. This special exhibit will be open free to the public, Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm until Saturday August 30th.

What Goes Into an Exhibit: Invisible Roots and Legends

People may wonder what goes into developing a great exhibit that is interesting to many people, informative, accurate and timely.  In the case of the “Invisible Roots and Legends: A Photographic View of African American History in Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia” exhibit which will be on display at the Cooper Gallery in Lewisburg from September 20, 2014 to October 4, 2014 it all started with a great idea.

Janice Cooley, Exhibit Curator and Board Member of the Greenbrier Historical Society, had always had a passion for African American history, especially in the Greenbrier Valley as that included the roots of her family.  Even before she retired, she started doing research in the Archives of the Greenbrier Historical Society.  During this time she became very comfortable with using the archives and working with Archivist Jim Talbert and other volunteers there.   When she retired and moved back to Lewisburg and into her parents’ home, she was able to devote more time to the project.  In between re-modeling projects and visits from friends, Cooley was pouring over records and making contacts with others who had information and photos to share.

Cooley said, “I found that contributions African Americans had made for over 100 years to the growth and development of Greenbrier County had not been truly recognized nor celebrated in the typical venues throughout the county – neither through photographs nor storytelling.  As one Greenbrier Historical Society archives researcher said to me “they are almost invisible” That comment helped give me the title and focus for my effort–to create an awareness, to educate, and to inspire members of our community”.

Soon, she made contact with Marilyn Cooper of the Cooper Gallery who shared her enthusiasm for presenting African American history to the public and offered to help.  In addition to using her space to host the exhibit, Cooper became actively involved by helping design the story boards and organize them for printing.  She re-produced, enlarged and matted photos and used her experience in staging to help organize them for the gallery.

Cooper said, “My interest in history began at an early age.  My grandmother told me family stories about the migration of her mother and father from the Greenbrier Valley to the Kanawha Valley by covered wagon.  She also said that a lot of the slaves took the family names when they were emancipated.  I have abhorred the prejudicial treatment of African Americans all of my life so this exhibit is allowing me to give a positive awareness of the contribution that has been made to our beautiful valley by the African American community.”

Enter the Greenbrier Historical Society represented by Executive Director Elizabeth McMullen and Board President Margaret Hambrick.  They were alerted to the project by Archivist Jim Talbert who was working closely with Cooley.  Recognizing an excellent opportunity to educate, McMullen and Hambrick offered to help and co-sponsor the exhibit.  They have helped get out mailings and McMullen wrote a grant requesting advertising funds.

Hambrick said, “This exhibit was not in our budget for this year but helping with it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  The history of our area is not just the history of the majority but is also the history, sometimes uncomfortable, of all those who lived and worked in this valley.”

When the exhibit opens on September 20, people from all over the eastern US will have been invited to examine this history, learn from it, and use it to improve the future.

Item of the Week – The Wedding Cake


This is a replica of a traditional Victorian era wedding cake, complete with sugar flowers (although in many cases real flowers would have been used). Cake is an old wedding tradition. The Romans shared a cake during the ceremony itself, while in Scotland cake was crumbled over the bride’s head to promote fertility. King Charles II of England introduced the iced cake in the 17th century and by the late 19th century, very grandiose cakes were fashionable. The shape of the modern 3-tiered iced cake is believed to have been inspired by the spire of the Saint Bride’s Church in London.

The “Greenbrier Brides” exhibit will be on display at the North House Museum Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm through August 30, 2014.


2014 Annual Banquet and Member Meeting

Join the Greenbrier Historical Society for the Annual Banquet and Membership Meeting on Thursday, September 11th at 6:00pm. The Banquet and Meeting will be held at the Lewisburg United Methodist Church, located at 214 E. Washington Street in Lewisburg. The Society’s Board of Directors and staff will provide a report on the growing organization, followed by a delicious meal prepared by the Methodist Women.

bridgeburn-2After dinner, author Michael P. Rucker will discuss his book Bridge Burner: The Full and Factual Story of Dr. William Parks Rucker, Slave Owning Union Partisan. As Mr. Rucker wrote, “Dr. William P. Rucker never did anything in a mild or tentative manner he invariable struck a nerve with any who opposed his views….Combative and controversial to the end, his life is illustrative of the tensions that gripped the nation during that tumultuous period.” William Rucker, a Greenbrier County resident, served as a scout for the Union Army before being expelled for indiscretions and, after the war, served as the defending attorney for two controversial cases – including the infamous Greenbrier Ghost trial.

The Annual Banquet and Member Meeting is open to everyone. Tickets are $16 per person and can be purchased at the North House, located at 301 W. Washington Street in Lewisburg, or by calling 304.645.3398.  Tickets must be purchased BEFORE Wednesday September 3, 2014.

Upcoming Exhibit: Invisible Roots and Legends

Students and Principal from the Christopher Payne School in Ronceverte, West Virginia prior to the end of segregation which ended in Greenbrier County in January 1956.

Students and Principal from the Christopher Payne School in Ronceverte, West Virginia prior to the end of segregation which ended in Greenbrier County in January 1956.

Photography really came into its own during the Civil War.  Before then, there were few photographs of anyone or thing and almost none of African Americans.  Even after the Civil War and for many years, photographs remained the purview of the wealthy and there are few of those who were considered second class citizens.  Finding photographs which exist and using them to tell the heretofore “invisible” history of African Americans in the Greenbrier Valley is the mission of the “Invisible Roots and Legends: A Photographic View of African American History in Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia” exhibit.

The Greenbrier Historical Society (GHS) is excited to partner with the Cooper Gallery and Exhibit Curator and GHS Board Member Janice Cooley to present this unique exhibit of African American history in the Greenbrier Valley at the Cooper Gallery in Lewisburg from September 20th to October 4th, 2014.

Marilyn Cooper, owner of the Cooper Gallery, said, “When Janice came to me with this idea, it was very exciting and I am happy to partner in the development of the exhibit and to host it here at the Cooper Gallery.  ”

The exhibit will consist of a collection of photographs and artifacts, from post- civil war to today, of African Americans who have contributed to the growth and development of this area in business, religion, education, sports, politics, and entertainment as well as general family life.

Janice Cooley, Exhibit Curator, said, “I have a passion for the history of African Americans in this area.  My own roots go deep here and I realized that so many of my contemporaries as well as the younger generations had no idea of the struggles and achievements of our ancestors.  If this information is not preserved, it will soon be lost.”

The exhibit will open with a reception beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 20, 2014 and continue through October 4 at the Cooper Gallery in Lewisburg, WV.