Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘West Virginia’ Category

Sistersville West Virginia Oil Well History

Sistersville’s rich history begins with George Washington really sleeping there in 1770 when he surveyed the Ohio Valley. In his journal, Washington called this stretch of the river “the Long Reach of the Ohio River.”  The river is broad and deep here with hills covered in trees for as far as the eye can see.

Charles Wells was the first to settle here permanently in 1802 naming his settlement Wells’ Landing. While Wells was primarily a farmer, he also served as a representative in the Virginia state legislature. He’s remembered for having fathered 22 children by two wives. Child 20 was named Twenty and 21 Enough. But Betsy came along as child 22.

When he died in 1815, Wells bequeathed the property that makes up much of the business district of the present town to two of his daughters, 17 and 18, named Sarah and Delilah. Each of the children received some property at this time.

The Wells sisters were good businesswomen and laid out the land into 96 lots with eight streets. The town is named for them, Sistersville.

The Sistersville / Fly Ferry still operates to this day across the Ohio River.

In 1817, the Sistersville Ferry was started to take passengers across the Ohio River to Fly, Ohio. It is the oldest ferry in West Virginia and continues to operate until this day.

Before the Civil War, a 51-man military unit, the Sisterville Blues was formed. However, when fighting began, some of these men joined the Confederate Army while others went to the Union Army.  The great-granddaughters of Charles Wells had to hide their Confederate flag behind the wallpaper in their dining room.

When the Civil War ended, Sistersville returned to its quiet farm community. Their first public school was built in 1869 at a cost of $4,000. School lasted only four months then with the teacher being paid  $30 a month.

Peace and quiet came to an end in 1892 when oil was discovered in Pole Cat Hollow just up the river from Sistersville. Quickly, the Sistersville Oil Field began producing over 16,000 barrels of oil a day at 55 cents a barrel. This meant an increase in oil field workers and Sistersville boomed from a town of 600 to one of 12,000. Money flowed in that town as well as the oil wells.

The Big Moses Well is often said to be West Virginia’s greatest oil strike.

Twenty-two miles east of Sistersville, The Big Moses Well drilled on the farm of Moses Spencer is attributed as being the greatest oil well in W.V. Drilled in September 1894, it had a daily capacity of 100 million cu.ft. This well blew until December 1895.

You can imagine all the businesses that opened for so many new residents. Banks, a newspaper, boarding houses and of course, saloons, gambling parlors and brothels, many of which were located on Sinner’s Boulevard. With this quick growth in population, many lived in houseboats called floating shanties along the riverbanks.  Others lived in oil field shacks, which cost about $500. The only inside plumbing was usually a cold water faucet in the kitchen with outdoor toilets on every property.

This is the Sistersville view from the other side of the Ohio River.

The well-to-do lived in beautiful homes and five of them are still in existence today in Sistersville on Main Street. As the city grew, new sections opened. Old Rough and Ready, Cow House, and Happy Hollow are a few of the descriptively named neighborhoods. A washerwoman’s house in Happy Hollow bore the sign “Men’s Working Clothes Laundered While You Wait.”

During the oil boom, Sistersville imposed heavy taxes on saloon keepers and gambling house owners. The city also offered bonds for sale to finance improvements. In 1890, water works and a sewer system were installed. All the streets and alleys were paved with brick. A trolley line was built to connect Sistersville with its neighbors, Paden City and New Martinsville to the north and Friendly to the south.

This shows the town of Sistersville during its boom days.

The boom days produced an interesting mix of residents. The original farmers, business people, oil field workers, hooligans, and prostitutes lived side by side among oil derricks and pumping wells. A city resident who was a child during these heady days reported that Madam Stoddard, proprietor of a “sporting house,” was loved by the town’s children. Every year when the circus came to town, Madam Stoddard had her butler round up all the neighborhood children and take them to see the show. The Madam also happened to be the sister of the chief of police.

More respectable forms of entertainment also grew. Private social clubs were formed such as the Americus Club, The Sistersville Music and Literary Club, and the “selective, exclusive” Sistersville Mandolin and Guitar Society.

In the 1890s, Sistersville had three thriving theaters: the Columbia, the Auditorium, and Olsen’s Opera House. The Columbia specialized in vaudeville, and the Auditorium could accommodate 1,000 patrons. For less than a dollar, a person could enjoy a performance by the Boston Lyric Opera Company. Silent film star Ben Turpin performed at the Comique, a nightclub.

The Wells Inn opened in 1895 to give food and lodging to the oil field workers.

The Wells Inn was built in 1895 by Charles Wells’ grandson, Ephraim. It had 35 rooms, a bar, and a dining room. During boom days, when there were several hotels in Sistersville, the Wells Inn was considered the most elegant. Today it is the only hotel in town, and it has been nicely renovated.

In 1911, the Little Sister well was drilled in the Big Injun Sand to a depth of 1481 feet and was in operation for many years. That derrick is being restored by Quaker State Oil Refining Corp. and The W.V. Oil and Gas Festival, Inc.

Today Sistersville has an excellent display of the Little Sister Well on the banks of the Ohio River. While visiting, you’ll want to be certain to take a ride on the Sistersville/Fly Ferry.

Oglebay Festival of Lights Brings Winter Joy

A tunnel of twinkling lights welcomes you to the Oglebay Winter Festival.

Christmas wonder fills the air with a drive through the beautiful Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in Wheeling, West Virginia. Adults and children alike catch the holiday spirit as they witness six miles of ninety lighted scenes on 300 acres. Here you’ll find one of the largest light shows in the nation.

Oglebay’s Good Zoo continues to light up for the holidays.

In 1980, Oglebay’s Good Zoo staff decided they would decorate the Good Zoo with lights to attract more visitors in the winter months. “The Good Zoo Lights Up for You” began with dazzling lights and a holiday laser music show in the Benedum Planetarium.

The carnival atmosphere helps you enjoy the beautifully lit carousel.

Seeing the success of this project, the commission decided to expand it throughout Wheeling Park. Winter Festival of Lights began in 1985 when it had 125,00 lights placed on trees, buildings, and scenes. Five years later, the size of that show had doubled and continues to have added attractions and improvements each year.

Enjoy the lighted ferris wheel and the strong man ringing a bell.

No one tires of seeing the lights or driving in long lines of traffic to witness them. That just gives more time to enjoy the displays. Plan to spend the evening having a leisurely drive that captures the spirit of Christmas.

An Ohio River paddleboat sees its reflection at the park.

More than one million people enjoy this light display each year. It has become a popular drive-thru for tour buses as well as family cars. The ability to see the displays from a higher view makes tour bus visits extra special. Or you can catch the trolley at Wilson Lodge on a first-come, first-served basis unless you make reservations in advance.

There are still several original displays that are visitors’ favorites. These include the Candy Cane Wreath, the Twelve Days of Christmas, a 60′ tall Poinsettia Wreath, and the large Polyhedron Star. Some things never lose their charm.

A new feature this year is a 70′ tall Holiday Tree at The Hilltop

In 2021, a 70′ high Holiday tree is their newest feature. You can find it at The Hilltop. Enjoy thousands of dancing lights that combine color, music, light, and animation into the evening sky.

Santa directs the musical light display at Oglebay Mansion this year.

Sounds of the Season have been added to fourteen scenes so you might sing along as you drive the trail. Stop and watch Santa at the Oglebay Mansion as he conducts the musical synchronized light show there.

Families enjoy a walk through lighted blossoms in Gardens of Light.

They haven’t forgotten the reason for the season. Inside the Carriage Glass House, you’ll find a life-size nativity scene. It glows with the beauty of the season since the “Christmas Tree Garden” with 30 live decorated trees is nearby. Don’t forget to walk through the “Gardens of Light” with lighted hanging baskets and illuminated flowers along the path. It’s breathtaking!

Dinosaurs always catch the eye of youngsters.

The Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay runs from Nov. 4, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022. That gives you plenty of time to watch the light show after the holiday rush when you have more time to relax. It’s a great way to start the new year.

New this year is a Holiday Dinner Show “Jingle This” at the West Virginia Public Theatre in Oglebay. Enjoy a holiday meal, then listen to the music and stories of several talented performers. This happens two weeks in November and three in December from Sunday through Thursday. Check their calendar for dates and reservation information at www.oglebay.com.

Christmas tin soldiers guard the roadway.

The gates open at 5:30 each evening and there may already be a line at that time. They suggest a $25 donation per vehicle to maintain and improve the Festival of Lights. Every $25 donor receives a Festival of Lights Vehicle Pass valid throughout the holiday season as well as an Oglebary Rewards book. However, it is a free show…donations are appreciated but not mandatory since it is a public park.

Don’t miss the sights and sounds of Christmas at Oglebay!

Watching the Festival of Lights inspired Bob and Sue Ley to initiate a Christmas holiday tradition in downtown Cambridge. Dickens Victorian Village was created as well as their fantastic Courthouse Holiday Light Show.

Marbles Made in America at Marble King

Marlbe King bag of marbles    Many will remember going to school with your bag of marbles so you could join a game at recess. Someone drew a large circle on the playground, participants knuckled down, and the game began. Each player had their own special shooter marble which was usually their largest marble. Mine had a light blue swirl.

   The goal was to shoot a marble outside the circle. You then kept that marble for the rest of the game. Then students either played “for fair” in which marbles were all returned to their owner or “for keeps” – no explanation needed.

Marble King Berry

“Marble King” Berry Pink began selling marbles in the 1930s.

   Someone had to make those special marbles and this is their story. It all began in the 1930s when Berry Pink was selling marbles manufactured by Peltier Glass. By the 1940s, Pink was selling more marbles than Sellers Peltier could produce so they decided to combine their talents of manufacturing and salesmanship in a new company.

   Berry Pink gave away marbles as he traveled around the country hosting marble tournaments. He became known as the “The Marble King” to the children along the way. When the company was founded in 1949, Marble King seemed a fitting name for this new organization.

Marble King Building

The marble factory is located in Paden City, West Virginia.

   At that time the company was located in St. Mary’s, West Virginia. But in 1958, a fire destroyed the factory and the manager, Roger Howdyshell moved the plant to Paden City where it remains today.

Marble King Dad

When he was manager, Roger Howdyshell purchased Marble King in 1963 and his family still owns it today.

   Howdyshell left his mark on the marble industry in several ways. He led Marble King to the top of marble manufactures when he designed the first American made Cat’s Eye marbles. In 1983, Roger Howdyshell purchased Marble King and dedicated his life to making it a success. While Roger died in 1991, the Howdyshell family still operates Marble King and carries on that fine tradition set by Roger.

Marble Rollers

Hot glass is cut into small pieces and rolled into marbles.

   Today, Beri Fox presides over Marble King, the only factory in the United States that manufactures marbles. She was named for Berry Pink and worked at Marble King with her mom and dad all of her life. On summer vacations from college, Beri worked in the family business.

   At that time, most marbles were used in games and toys for companies like Mattel and Ideal. But when video games became popular, Marble King had to make the transition to other uses for their beautiful glass gems. Now, marbles are being used in floral designs, jewelry, architecture, and industrial applications.

Marble King Walt filling the furnace

Wal Lancaster fills the furnace with recycled glass.

   Beri explained, “You can be a broken piece of glass and we can transition you into something new again.” 90% of their marbles are made from cullet glass, which is scrap glass melted down for reuse from several area glass companies. They can make a million marbles a day when in full production.

Marble King Champions

National Marble King champions visit with Beri at the factory.

   This is a frequent stop for tour buses and school groups as they come to learn the history of marbles and have fun along the way. The gift shop includes a 12-foot ring like the one that is used at the National Marbles Tournament in Wildwood, New Jersey. Marble King has been a proud tournament sponsor since 1968. Winners are presented with a $2,000 scholarship for post-secondary education. This year, a virtual tournament was held due to the coronavirus; next year, Marble King will sponsor the West Virginia Marble Festival in Paden City.

Marble King Beri with children

Beri enjoys visiting with children as they play with marble games in the gift shop.

   Kids have a chance to play Ringer in the gift shop. This is one of the traditional marble games where 13 marbles are placed in an X inside a circle. The challenge is to see who can be the first one to knock out seven marbles. “The opportunity to work in an industry that involves kids is what is truly important,” stated Beri. She always enjoys a chance to play Ringer with the kids when they stop by.

Marble King demonstration

   Most people think of marbles being used in toys and games. However, there are many other uses for marbles. Some are used as decorations for weddings, jewelry, fish tanks, and infiltration systems. When you shake a can of spray paint, that rattle you hear is an industrial use of a marble. Special marbles are even used in making wine and beer. They have even been used by NASA for testing in their space balloons. The list of uses is amazing.

Marble King Marble Tower

Towers filled with Marble King marbles create a great conversation piece.

   Their marbles have even made the movies! “Goonies”, “Hook”, and “Home Alone” have featured Marble King marbles as props. Robin Williams used Marble King marbles when he recaptured his youth as Peter Pan.

Marble King marbles

   Marble King marbles are made using recycled glass in the U.S.A. seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Marbles have been shipped all over the world to over 17 countries, including Australia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. In 2000, Marble King won the Governor’s Award for Excellent in Exporting.

Marble King at Grave Creek Mound

Grave Creek Mound Museum in Moundsville, West Virginia, uses Marble King marbles to create their logo in a large mural.

   In Moundsville, West Virginia at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex an entire wall displays their beauty in a fantastic, colorful design. Here 47,523 marbles replicate the logo of Marble King.

Marble King Altard States

Altar’d State uses Marble King marbles with a lighted background in every store.

   Altar’d State stores use a clear glass panel filled with Marble King marbles as the backdrop in each store. Lighted from behind, this creates a very beautiful and glowing welcome.

Marble King Marbles 2    Visit their interactive museum and gift shop in Paden City to discover why Marble King is known for quality, tradition, and history all over the world. It’s extra special because today they are the only marble company still producing Made in America marbles.

Made in America parade

Marble King was recognized as an American Made Hero and served, along with others, as the Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston.

   After 70 years in business, Marble King marbles have earned the right to be called the world’s best-known, and best-loved marbles.

    Marble King is located in Paden City, WV. From Marietta take US-2 North and from Wheeling take US -2 South.  Turn on Park Street and then 1st Avenue. The Gift Shop will be at 401 S 1st Avenue.

Wheeling Jamboree Celebrates 85th Anniversary – The Country Music Show with Tradition Like No Other

 

Capitol Theatre

Capitol Theatre in downtown Wheeling, WV will host the 85th Wheeling Jamboree Anniversary.

Wheeling Jamboree lives on! The Historic 85th Anniversary of the Wheeling Jamboree will be held on April 7, 2018 at The Capitol Theatre in downtown Wheeling. Many of the stars will be familiar, and some new, but the country atmosphere will still fill the theater.

The jamboree originated in 1933 on the first Wheeling radio station, a 50,000 watt clear channel station – WWVA. One of its early announcers was Howard Donahoe, who later came to Cambridge to start WILE in 1948.

Mel Tillis

The late Mel Tillis was beloved by country music fans everywhere.

The working people of the Ohio Valley and the Northeast US have their roots in country music so the words in the songs ring true to their lives. That’s why the Jamboree became a popular Saturday evening entertainment.

A unique diversity also appears in Wheeling. The Jamboree and the Wheeling Symphony both take place in Capitol Theatre. So no matter what your musical taste, it can easily be satisfied in Wheeling.

JohnnyCashOnStageatJamboree1968_Enhanced

Johnny Cash made an appearance at the Jamboree early in his career.

William Wallace”Bill” Jones and the Sparkling Four was the first hillbilly act on the radio. They took requests over the telephone. Jones received many requests for yodeling songs and you may have heard him called Silver Yodelin’ Bill Jones.

Due to the popularity of the Jamboree music shows, it was decided to add a live audience to the Jamboree on Saturday nights. The first stage performance of the World’s Original WWVA Jamboree took place at the Capitol Theatre later in 1933 with all local talent, in front of an audience of over 3,000 fans. Then for decades, they broadcast from a different spot each Saturday evening.

Dolly_Parton_Jamboree_3_1976

Dolly Parton performed at Wheeling Jamboree in 1976.

During WWII, the Jamboree returned to the studio due to the war effort, then began stage performances after the war at Wheeling’s Virginia Theater. One of the most popular Jamboree stars at that time was honky-tonk vocalist, Hawkshaw Hawkins. Add to that the Sunshine Boys and “Yodelin’ Ranger” Hank Snow and people began looking forward to another evening of the Jamboree. If you were a top artist, you did the Jamboree.

Men would bring their cow bells with them as each bell had a unique sound. That way their family back home would know they were in attendance. Today, you’ll still hear the sound of cow bells over the radio on Jamboree nights on WBPS in Cambridge and WWOV in Wheeling.

JamboreeVirginiaTheater1946Color

The cast of the 1945 Wheeling Jamboree gathered on stage.

During the late 1940s, my parents took me on perhaps my first gypsy road trip to Virginia Theater to see the Wheeling Jamboree. Two names stick in my mind from that long ago show – Hawkshaw Hawkins with Dog House Boogie, and Grandpa Jones, who later starred in Hee Haw. At the time, this was quite the adventure from the hills of Indian Camp.

When the Virginia Theater was demolished after 16 years of hosting the Jamboree, their new home became the Rex Theater for four years. Then it was moved to Wheeling Island Exhibition Hall in 1966.

Brad young (259x194)

Brad Paisley began playing at the Jamboree when he was ten years old.

Over the years, the Jamboree provided the perfect place for young local talent to get their start. Brad Paisley, from nearby Glen Dale, sang on the Jamboree at the age of 10 and played with their band weekly for eight years before moving on to Nashville.

Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap will be one of the performers at the 85th Anniversary.

The 85th Anniversary will be celebrated with well known country stars including Country Music Hall of Fame Members Ronnie Milsap and Charley McCoy. Add to that Wheeling native Tim O’Brien along with Darnell Milller, Rachel Whitcomb and more surprises. Emcee for the evening will be long-time country music personality, Keith Bilbrey.

Craig Wayne Boyd Jamboree

Craig Wayne Boyd was a winner on The Voice, but appeared at the Jamboree long before winning.

Today the Wheeling Jamboree broadcasts on WWOV to the air waves of the greater Wheeling area. Dave Heath, president of Wheeling Jamboree, Inc. and WWOV, has been instrumental in keeping this musical program alive.

Capitol Interior Post Renovation

The interior of the Capitol Theatre has recently had a grand renovation.

Whether you know the Jamboree as the Original WWVA Jamboree, Jamboree USA or The Wheeling Jamboree it remains the 2nd oldest Country Music Radio Broadcast Stage Show in history, behind the Grand Old Opry. Celebrate their 85th Anniversary on April 7 at 7:00 at the Capitol Theatre.

Ticket prices range from $20-$65 and can be purchased online at www.capitoltheatrewheeling.com .You’ve got me thinkin’ that a trip to the Jamboree would be the perfect way to spend an evening.

Capitol Theatre in Wheeling, WV can easily be reached off I-70 at Exit 1A. Take Route 40 straight downtown. The Theatre is on the right hand side at 1015 Main Street.

Summertime Drive in Southeastern Ohio

Something my family has always done, anytime of the year, is take a Sunday drive. This Sunday my goal was the Fly Ferry, but along the way there were some interesting spots as well. Come ride with me!

Willow Island Hydroelectric PlantFor some reason, power plants attract me! This Willow Island Hydroelectric Plant was located across the Ohio River on my drive going up the river from Marietta, Ohio.

Farmers MarketIt was the perfect time of year for a Farmers Market to pick up some fresh Marietta tomatoes, sweet corn and a couple pieces of fudge. Valley View Farm Market even had a U-Pic section to pick your own peppers and tomatoes.

The JugThe Jug Restaurant in Newport, Ohio was a great stop for a refreshing drink and a chance to sit along the Ohio River for a while. They had a great mural of old cars on the side of their building as well as picnic tables and a nearby shelter.

Father son walkIt’s always nice to see families enjoying the day together. Here father and son walk along the pier as they enjoy the river scene.

TugboatThis Illinois tugboat going up the river was pushing thirty barges. Later in the day they came back loaded and covered. People were guessing they were loaded with steel.

Fly FerryReached the Fly Ferry in time for a couple rides at $1 per person from Fly, Ohio to Sistersville, WV. One time there were several motorcycles riding along.

Restaurant SignThe Riverview Restaurant is a great place for a tasty lunch while watching the river activity out the window. Guess that’s why they call is Riverview! Had to agree with this sign on their wall next to a picture of John Wayne.

PipelineHeading home over a crooked back road made for a perfect ending for the day. Along the way the cows were learning to live with the pipeline that was invading their pasture.

Ohio FarmlandMost of the way, farmland and beautiful homes and barns reminded me of a saying:

“In winter’s chill or summer’s heat, a farmer works so the world can eat.”

Seneca LakeAlmost home but stopped by Seneca Lake for a peaceful time by the water. This picture looks out from the dam area to that popular island for boaters.  Guess you can tell that hanging out near the water is a favorite pastime of mine.

Ice Cream ConeOne last stop before home to get a favorite ice cream cone from Orr’s Drive-In. Always enjoy that raspberry twist!

Maybe you can enjoy a Sunday drive in the country sometime soon. Actually, any day will work for me.

 

 

The Holiday Elegance of Oglebay Mansion Museum

oglebay-ice-sculpture-2

An ice sculpture of two reindeer pulling a sleigh grace the lawn of historic Oglebay Mansion Museum.

A yuletide dream best describes the Mansion Museum at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, West Virginia during the holiday season. The mansion is dressed luxuriously for the holidays. Its elegant decorations serve as inspiration for ideas to embellish your home.

When arriving at the Mansion Museum on a late November day, the first thing to greet visitors was an ice sculpture of a sleigh pulled by two reindeer. Each year an ice sculpture is placed at the museum and will last as long as the weather stays cool. You can even have your picture taken in the sleigh.

oglebay-oval-parlor

The Oglebay family used this Oval Parlor as their private retreat.

Near the mansion you’ll find the magical Christmas Tree Garden, which contains 30 live trees covered with colored lights. In the center of the garden stands a beautiful gazebo with a life size manger display created by a local artist in 1985. Nearly everyone who passes by, pauses to view the real meaning of the season.

oglebay-dining-room

The Dining Room is beautifully decorated for Christmas dinner.

The Mansion Museum, which was the summer home of wealthy industrialist Earl Oglebay, began this holiday tradition in 1973. Both professional decorators and amateurs help trim the mansion in period decorations as it would have appeared when it was built by Hanson Chapline back in 1846. Special care is taken not to damage the antiques on display.

oglebay-library

“Books of Yesterday” became the theme for the Library where Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls are being held by a young lady.

In 1900 Earl W. Oglebay purchased the estate and farm, which he called Waddington Farm. It became the most progressive model farm in the world. When Mr. Oglebay died in 1926, he left his estate to the people of Wheeling to be used as a park and an educational tool. They then turned it into what we know today as Oglebay Park.

oglebay-federal-bedroom-cinderella

The Federal Bedroom features Cinderella’s ball gown.

Thirteen Victorian period rooms overflow with Christmas décor to put you in the holiday spirit. “A Storybook Celebration” serves as this year’s holiday theme. Each room has been transformed with a touch of magic to fit a particular storybook idea.

oglebay-empire-sitting-room

Company would be entertained in the Empire Sitting Room decorated as “Deck the Halls” for this holiday season.

From “The Nutcracker” in the Child’s Bedroom to “Deck the Halls” in the Empire Sitting Room, you’ll find tasteful decorations to make you smile. “Not a Creature Was Stirring” in the Pioneer Kitchen, while they were “Stitching Family Tales” in the Sewing Room.

oglebay-bedroom

The Victorian Bedroom would be the perfect place for a bedtime story. “Nana, tell me a story!”

Throughout, there are recordings to tell you about the furnishings, paintings, and life of the family. But the mansion holds the history of the area as well.

oglebay-general-store

Wymer’s General Store is part of the Wheeling History Exhibition, which can be seen year round at Oglebay Mansion Museum.

A Pioneering Spirit Exhibit features the history of Wheeling. Included is Sinclair Pharmacy and Wymer General Store with candy case, meat wrapping paper and large thermometer. The store was especially enjoyed since it reminded me of my grandfather’s store in Byesville sixty years ago.

oglebay-mr-oglebays-office

Tigger and Winnie the Pooh visit Mr. Oglebay’s office for “A Pop Up Christmas”.

While you can visit Oglebay Mansion Museum throughout the year, Holidays at the Mansion create memories of days gone by. The Christmas decorations continue until January 8, 2017 so there’s still plenty of time to make a trip to Oglebay. While there you will want to stay until dark to view the delightful Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park, where 80 displays line a six mile drive, which covers over 300 acres!

Visit Oglebay Mansion Museum and the Festival of Lights, which inspired Bob and Sue Ley to create Dickens Victorian Village. Maybe you, too, will find inspiration there.

Oglebay Mansion Museum at 1330 Oglebay Drive can be found by following signs to Oglebay Park about four miles off Exit 2A of I-70 on Route 88 North in Wheeling, West Virginia. 

 

 

 

Down the Ohio River with Charles Dickens

messenger

The steamboat Messenger carried the Dickens party down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati.

A fine broad river always, but in some parts much wider than in others, and then there is usually a green island, covered with trees, dividing it into two streams.”

In 1842 at the age of 30, Charles Dickens made his first visit to America with his wife Kate, her maid Anne Brown, and Charles’ traveling secretary George Putnam. As part of their tour, the group boarded the steamboat Messenger in Pittsburgh to flow down the Ohio River to Cincinnati – a three day tour.

The Messenger held some forty passengers on board, exclusive of the poorer persons on the lower deck. Dickens wondered that its construction would make any journey safe with the great body of fire that rages and roars beneath the frail pile of painted wood.

As expected, he wrote in his journal daily while traveling, giving us a picture now, of what he saw on that trip long ago. Most of the time he wrote on his knee in their small cabin at the back of the boat. He felt lucky to have a cabin in the stern, because it was known that ‘steamboats generally blew up forward’.

ohio-river-diorama

This diorama from the National Road/Zane Grey Museum shows a scene at Wheeling that DIckens described of goods being loaded and unloaded.

Coming from the crowded city of London, this wilderness must have appeared strange with trees everywhere and cabins sparsely populating the banks along the river. For miles and miles the banks were unbroken by any sign of human life or trace of human footsteps.

Meal time was not pleasing for him as lively conversation was lacking. Each ‘creature’ would empty his trough as quickly as possible, then slink away. A jest would have been a crime and a smile would have faded into a grinning horror.

I never in my life did see such listless, heavy dullness as brooded over these meals. And was as glad to escape again as if it had been a penance or a punishment.

charles-and-kate

Charles and Kate Dickens came to America in 1842. This is a pencil sketch by a very dear friend, the late Mary Ruth Duff.

After the meals, men would stand around the stove without saying a word, but spitting, which was a bad manner Dickens deplored. Therefore, Charles and Kate spent much of the time sitting on the gallery outside their cabin. His description of the only disturbance outside was in true Dickens style:

Nor is anything seen to move about them but the blue jay, whose colour is so bright, and yet so delicate, that it looks like a flying flower.

mound-by-henry-howe-001

This sketch by Henry Howe in 1843 shows the mound Dickens described in his journal.

He noted that the steamboat whistle was loud enough to awaken the Indians, who lie buried in a great mound, so old that oaks and other forest trees had stuck their roots into its earth. The Ohio River sparkled as it passed the place these extinct tribes lived hundreds of years ago.

Evening steals slowly upon the landscape, when we stop to set some emigrants ashore, five men, as many women, and a little girl. All their worldly goods are a bag, a large chest and an old chair.

Those emigrants were landed at the foot of a large bank, where several log cabins could be seen on the summit, which could be reached by a long winding path. Charles Dickens watched them until they became specks, lingering on the bank with the old woman sitting in the chair and all the rest about her.

dickens-children

They carried this picture of their children – Katey, Walter, Charlie, and Mamie – when they came to America in 1842. As time passed, they had ten children.

When he reached Cincinnati, a booming frontier river town, Dickens viewed it as a beautiful city: cheerful, thriving and animated. He was quite charmed with the appearance of the town and its free schools, as education of children was always a priority for Charles Dickens. Here he could actually find people to engage in conversation.

While his first trip was a disappointment in many ways,in the 1850s, he was encouraged to make another trip to America to extend his popular England reading tour to audiences there. He was told  would be lots of money to be made in the United States.

But the outbreak of the Civil War, caused him to put those plans on hold. When the war was over, he again received encouragement to visit this New World. Despite his ill health and caution from his closest friends, Charles Dickens wrote a seven point “Case in a Nutshell” describing why he should visit America.

Once decided, he arrived in Boston on November 19, 1867. Even though his health was failing, Dickens never canceled a performance.

No man has a right to break an engagement with the public if he were able to be out of bed.

He stayed for five months and gave 76 performances for which he earned an incredible $228,000, helping to give him a much better view of the United States on his second trip. The country had much improved during those twenty-five years in his estimation.

How astounded I have been by the amazing changes I have seen all around me on every side – changes moral, changes physical, changes in the amount of land subdued and peopled.

fly-ferry

The Ohio River is a peaceful place to let your imagination flow.

The next time you visit the banks of the Ohio River, find a secluded spot and imagine what it must have been like when Charles Dickens viewed it in 1842.

Words in italics are Charles Dickens words from his journal “American Notes”, 1842 with the exception of the last one, which was of course written after his second trip.

 

 

 

Remote Sensoring Used at the Moundsville Mound

Bev at Mound 2 (2)

While climbing Grave Creek Mound, this young lady wonders about the past.

What’s inside Grave Creek Mound at Moundsville, WV? That’s a question many people are curious about. Years ago someone actually made a tunnel into the Mound and found some interesting things. An eight foot tall skeleton with copper bracelets and mica breastplate were discovered and actually placed on display for some time in a museum inside the Mound.

Mound Speaker

Alexander is doing a doctoral study on use of varied equipment to receive data on what is inside the Mound.

Now, archaeologists are not able to disturb ancient burial grounds so an alternative method of looking inside is being tried. In the spring of 2016, Alexander Corkum, a doctoral student at the University of Bradford in West Yorkshire, UK, used a non-invasive technique to investigate the Grave Creek Mound.

Modern equipment was used, such as: (ERT) electical resistivity tomography, topographic survey, GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey, and photogrammetry. Most of this equipment had never been seen before in the valley. Actually, Grave Creek Mound is the first place this combination of equipment has been used anywhere in America, according to Corkum. The only previous place for gathering data with this equipment was at England’s Stonehenge, where they discovered a new Super Henge.

Mound Explorer

This GPR produces a type of picture of the internal Mound as it gets readings from electronic currents sent into the ground.

In the past, archaeologists have had digs to find pieces of history hidden under the ground. With this new equipment, they are hopeful to find images that will give valuable information about the past without disturbing the ground. Corkum feels that archaeology is destructive.

His team feels that every place does not require excavation. They feel the best way to preserve history is to keep it in the ground, while doing a remote geological survey.

The GPR had been taken up and down the mound in several directions to get as many remote sensory readings as possible. An electronic current is injected into the ground and this produces a radargram. My mind wondered if this was similar to an MRI of the ground.

Mound Drone

This large drone contains a better camera, which produces clearer pictures.

Drones were also used to take pictures – photogrammetry. They were programmed to take pictures every foot and can then produce a model of the object being photographed, in this case the Grave Creek Mound.

When asked why they came to Grave Creek Mound, they replied, “There’s no other place quite like it.”

For several days, data was collected but little legitimate conclusions have been reached at this point in time. They expect valuable data will be available when the results are carefully analyzed. This could take several months.

One thing the data will not clearly show are fossils and artifacts. Radar will show different disturbances in the ground area such as stones, water and soil density.

Mound student

This high school student was lucky enough to get to assist with the experiments.

Jarrod, a sophomore at John Marshall High School, was fortunate to be able to assist with this project throughout the week. His youth enabled him to climb the mound time after time, pulling the equipment. Some days that included as many as seventy trips. Jarrod was very knowledgeable about the mound and interested in the process. Someday this exceptional young man hopes to become a geoarchaeologist.

Mound Drone Overhead

A drone flies overhead taking pictures during its flight.

After the lecture, everyone went outside to either walk to the top of the mound, or watch as they demonstrated the drones taking pictures.

The final result of all this imagery will be to construct a model of the mound both inside and out. There is always something new to explore in the interesting world in which we live.

 

Final Days to Tour the Historic Marx Toy Museum

Marx Toy Museum

Marx Toy Museum has been in Moundsville, WV for fifteen years.

Closing  June 30, 2016.

When this day arrives, the Marx Toy Museum will close the doors on a vast collection of Marx toys that have stood the test of time. Located in Moundsville, West Virginia at 915 Second Street, Francis Turner opened Marx Toy Museum in 2001. This former Boner’s Meat Market seemed the perfect place to display his large collection of toys, which he accumulated over thirty years. It’s the largest collection of Marx toys in the world.

Marx Big Loo (1)

Big Loo, the robot, is the only known one in its original box. This 1963 robot can shoot darts, squirt water and even talk.

Back in 1986, Francis began buying and selling Marx toys. Why Marx? Because many of the toys were made up the river at the Marx factory in Glen Dale, West Virginia from 1934-1980. There were also two plants in Pennsylvania. Over the years, they made everything from dollhouses to ride-on toys.

The plant in Glen Dale was the largest toy factory under one roof in the world for many years. Formerly, this location housed an airplane factory, Fokker Airplanes, who built the trimotor, Josephine Ford, flown by Commander Richard Byrd over the North Pole in 1927.

August 4, 1927 was a big day for the Fokker air strip in Glen Dale. That was the day that Charles Lindbergh, famous American aviator and explorer, landed there in his Ford Tri-Motor airplane. Over 140,000 came out to see this famed aviator.

Marx Doll House 2

This Colonial Dollhouse in its original box would have been quite the gift.

Francis is passionate about finding choice Marx toys from all over the world. When describing his extensive toy collection, his voice showed pride and enthusiasm. “All the toys in the museum are in their original condition. Nothing has been repaired or repainted.” He has no favorites as likes them all, and enjoys demonstrating them since they still work quite well.

Marx Creation center

The Marx Prototype Room displays original sketches and one-of-a-kind ideas that were never actually produced.

Tour groups always stop at the museum when in the Moundsville area. Francis recalled, “Visitors love the museum. There are a lot of memories here. It’s a piece of history.” People frequently shed a few tears as one of the toys brings back a memory of a gift they received as a child. This museum is packed with room after room of memories.

Marx Francis 2

Francis likes to use his Toy Chest to show visitors some of the oldest Marx toys. Pinocchio the Acrobat is 76 years old, while Marvel the Monkey is 80 years old. Francis holds the famous Climbing Monkey.

Louis Marx began working in 1912 at the age of sixteen in the office of toymaker Strauss, before Marx served in WWI.  In 1916, that company went bankrupt and Marx took one of their popular items, Zippo  the Climbing Monkey, and tweaked it just slightly to start his own business and make millions from this one toy.

Marx Louis Figures

Marx always had a passion for the military so made these famous figures in his own image: Commander Mao, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon.

Marx was the Henry Ford of toy-making as he wanted toys that everyone could afford. All the early toys were made of metal until WWII, when metal was needed for the military. Then it became necessary to find an alternative, and plastic seemed to be the best choice.

Over the years, Louis Marx earned the name, “King of Toy Makers”, throughout the world. His toys were not only creative, but of high quality. In 1955, one of every three toys made in America was made by Louis Marx & Co.

Marx Brad Paisley

A display of Brad Paisley’s toys shows his Big Wheel on the top. Francis said Brad used the Big Wheel most of the time, but drove the 727 Marx Jet when in a hurry.

The most popular toy ever sold was the Marx Big Wheel back in 1960. Disney even had Mickey Mouse riding Big Wheel. At the peak of its popularity, three assembly lines ran 24 hours a day at the Glen Dale plant, and made 9,000 Big Wheels each day. Brad Paisley’s Big Wheel is on display, since he grew up in Glen Dale and participated in the Big Wheel races there

Marx Diner

This vintage 1950s dining area provides a great place to relax while having a Coke and some popcorn as you watch old television commercials from that era.

Plans for the future include a virtual website of Marx toys with the intention of preserving the history of Marx around the world. Francis and his son, Jason, also plan to have traveling toy exhibits of the most popular Marx toys. These displays will be available to museums throughout the country, where Francis will be able to share his toys with more people than ever. Their goal is to keep Marx history alive.

Everyone will find something to enjoy at the Marx Toy Museum. It definitely brought back many memories of my childhood and that of my sons. Better hurry down and see this great collection before it closes at the end of June, 2016. Step back into The Toyland of Yesteryear.

Visit Marx Toy Museum at 915 Second Street in Moundsville, WV or at their website: http://www.marxtoymuseum.com for continued information about Marx toys.

 

 

 

 

Earth Healing Ceremony

Fog over Ohio RiverOn a rainy day at Grand Vue Park near Moundsville, WV, fog hung in the air making the valley below seem mystical. Through the mist you could see the bridge over the Ohio River. A celebration of our connection to the sacredness of earth was the focus of this Earth Healing and Water Blessing Day, but it seemed the rain had already performed the Water Blessing part.

Amanda DeShong and Mick Burk conducted the ceremony in a shelter at the park with help from many of their friends. This was a day of coming together for the healing of the earth and water, by participating in traditions of cultures from around the world.

Andy story teller

Andy Frankel, a multicultural storyteller, captured the group’s attention as everyone gathered around to hear this master narrator tell tales of other cultures and traditions. He told the story of Chief Seattle, who predicted that man’s appetite would devour this land. By request, he told a second story of a Jewish man looking for justice.

Paint Day

Some had just returned from the Festival of Colors at The Temple of Gold located nearby. The Festival of Colors is a family gathering of friendship, re-enacting a pastime of Lord Krishna with his devotees over five thousand years ago.  Bright colored powders are thrown on other participants until they appear to be in technicolor.

Water Purification

A water anointing was performed on the way to the Prayer Circle. Its intention was to generate energy to heal Mother Earth during this time of extreme turmoil and pollution. One young lady brought a bottle of water from Wheeling Creek to be blessed at the ceremony, thus beginning the purification process. She reported that when she poured the water into the creek that evening, the water in that area became clear enough to see the bottom of the stream.

The group then formed a circle around the Medicine Wheel to honor the Seven Directions Prayer. Everyone joined in the directional prayers, which were led by various people in attendance.

Prayer BundlesPrayer bundles were then made for a Despacho Fire Ceremony. A prayer request was written on a small piece of paper and placed inside a small piece of cloth with some special herbs. After praying over the prayer bundle, it was then tossed into the fire so prayers could ascend to the heavens.

Sunshine JonesSunshine Jones led the group in a session of drumming to connect with Spirit. Everyone had the opportunity to use some kind of instrument for participation in the event.

Deer Foot ShakerOne unusual instrument was the foot of a deer topped with a shaker ball, which made a delightful sound…and the foot was easy to grip.

DrummingMuch dancing and singing took place around the fire as people got caught up in the spirit of the afternoon of earth healing. That healing must begin within ourselves, so we can then spread our energy to influence everything we touch.

Druming

This was a great day for meditation and connection with like-minded friends. There was a feeling of peace on the hilltop that is not often found in our busy lives today. Everyone left looking for things to appreciate in the world around them.

 

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