McWhorter’s Wheeling Ties Noted

It turns out that a Wheeling native — Ellen McWhorter — is one of the educators searching for the burial site of America’s first published poet.

McWhorter, an associate professor of English at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, and Christy Pottroff, an assistant professor of English at Merrimack, are leading several students in a project called “Finding Anne Bradstreet.”

Anne Bradstreet’s 1650 book of poetry, “The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America,” reportedly fascinated readers in the American colonies and in her native England. The poet died in 1672, but the location of her grave remains unknown.

The efforts by McWhorter and Pottroff to solve this mystery have attracted considerable media attention. The Associated Press interviewed the professors; the resulting article was published in the Wheeling News-Register and The Intelligencer in late March.

The coverage drew the notice of McWhorter’s mother, who shared her local connections with me.

McWhorter, 42, grew up in Wheeling and graduated from Linsly School in 1995. She is the daughter of Deborah and Leland McWhorter of Wheeling.

She completed undergraduate studies at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

After finishing her doctorate in English, McWhorter joined the faculty at Merrimack. She has spent her entire career at the school. According to her mother, “she always wanted to go to the Northeast.”

McWhorter’s interest in Bradstreet began in 2009, when she interviewed for the position at Merrimack. At that time, it was thought that Bradstreet was buried on the college campus, but that theory proved to be untrue.

She and Pottroff received an innovation grant through the college to launch the project to search for Bradstreet’s burial place.

McWhorter’s mother related that her daughter is surprised by the attention that their project has drawn from the media and local residents in Massachusetts. Deborah McWhorter said the PBS station in Boston plans to produce a special program on “Finding Anne Bradstreet” in a few months.

At Merrimack, “she loves what she does,” her mother related. “She also is the director of their honors program.”

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On another literary note, Kelli Shapiro from Preservation Alliance of West Virginia will appear at the Ohio County Public Library’s Lunch With Books series at noon Tuesday to discuss her book, “Historic Movie Theatres of West Virginia.”

Sean Duffy, Lunch With Books coordinator, said that Shapiro conducted much of her research on Wheeling’s theaters at the Ohio County Public Library. Ten Wheeling theaters are featured in the book: Capitol, Colonial, Court, Downs, Liberty, Lincoln, Mayfair, Rex, State, Victoria and Virginia.

Of that number, only the Capitol and Victoria theaters are still in use as performing venues. The Court Theatre space is part of the Board of Trade building at 12th and Chapline streets. The former Liberty Theatre is now the home of West Virginia Northern Community College’s Applied Technology Center at 1535 Market St.

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Jay Frey, chair of the Wheeling 250 committee, shared the good news that the George Kossuth photography exhibit at the federal building’s atrium in downtown Wheeling will remain in that venue until May 6.

Originally, the exhibit was slated to leave the U.S. District Courthouse at the end of March. After the exhibit’s extended downtown run concludes in May, it will be moved to the Driehorst Gallery at Oglebay Institute’s Mansion Museum in Oglebay Park.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net

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