State Attracts Acclaim

As we continue to celebrate all things Wheeling in particular and West Virginia in general this weekend, it’s good to see the Mountain State getting some much-deserved national attention.

An astute newspaper reader pointed out that the July issue of Southern Living magazine contains several references to West Virginia. It was especially appropriate that the issue was delivered to local subscribers on Thursday, which just happened to be West Virginia Day.

An article on Southern Living’s choices for “the South’s best retirement town” included Lewisburg as the West Virginia entry in its listings.

The magazine writers said of Lewisburg: “With its own Carnegie Hall, professional theater and good shopping and dining, this charming small town balances its Allegheny Mountain culture with the sophistication of The Greenbrier resort just down the road.”

The article’s main illustration is a large photograph of Lewisburg’s Carnegie Hall.

The Greenbrier purchased a full-page ad in the publication, featuring a beautiful, color photograph of the iconic resort and its gardens. The ad is captioned “almost heaven,” borrowing the state’s slogan.

Meanwhile, the Southern Living issue includes a six-page feature article, headlined “West Virginia Stole My Heart,” in its Travel & Culture section. The article, written by Grace Haynes and illustrated with photographs by Robbie Caponetto, details a long weekend spent in the New River Gorge area.

The writer described the “scenic paradise” of the New River Gorge, with its landmark bridge and areas for camping and river rafting. She also shared information about the attractions in Fayetteville, dubbed a “cool small town,” and “local gems” such as the Historic Morris Harvey House Bed & Breakfast, restaurants and pubs.

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Congratulations are extended to the organizers and participants in Wheeling’s first Juneteenth celebration, which was held Wednesday evening on the Market Plaza. All of the speakers delivered eloquent remarks, filled with poignant and moving reflections and inspiring challenges to keep the sins of the past from being repeated.

We offer kudos to Mayor Glenn Elliott for insisting that the year-long Wheeling 250 observance examine “the bad and the ugly” along with the good aspects of the city’s first 250 years. During Wednesday’s ceremony, Elliott read Wheeling City Council’s resolution acknowledging the existence of slavery in the city.

The observance began at the north end of Market Plaza, near 10th Street, where a slave auction block was located. After the infamous site was cleansed symbolically with water, a wreath was laid at the spot where the heinous acts occurred.

It was heartening to see that a large number of area residents turned out for the Juneteenth celebration and stayed for the entire ceremony, despite frequent rain showers that dampened the crowd’s bodies but not their enthusiasm. It also was fortunate that thunder and lightning held off until after the ceremony concluded.

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Juneteenth-related events in Wheeling began Tuesday with an excellent dramatic presentation, “The Last Fugitive Slave,” at the Ohio County Public Library.

The original drama recounted the experiences of Wheeling’s Lucy Bagby, the final enslaved person in the United States to be returned to a master before the Civil War.

The script was written by playwright and performer Robin Pease of Cleveland, where Bagby fled after escaping from her master, William Goshorn of Wheeling. When Pease was conducting research for other projects at a library in the Cleveland area, a librarian introduced her to the story of Bagby and suggested that the former slave would be a good subject for a dramatic program.

Pease portrayed Bagby for the Lunch With Books presentation. Six members of the community also participated in the program.

Travis Henline took on the role of Goshorn, while Jeanne Finstein played Goshorn’s daughter, Isabella. Belmont County Judge Harry White portrayed Judge Daniel L. Tilden, who issued rulings in the Fugitive Slave Act case against Bagby.

Ron Scott Jr. played an Underground Railroad conductor who helped Bagby flee from Wheeling to Pittsburgh and eventually to Cleveland. Jon Coffield and Walt Warren performed the roles of abolitionists.

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

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