St. Michael Students Win Francis Pierpont Essay Contest

Winners of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation’s writing contest are St. Michael Parish School eighth-grade students, from left, Elizabeth Wolf, first prize; Noah Blair, second, and Erin Brogan, third. In the back row, from left, are foundation committee members Leslie Liedel, Lynne Exley and Pattie Hershey. Photo by Linda Comins

WHEELING — Three students from St. Michael Parish School are the winners of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation’s eighth-grade writing contest.

Elizabeth Wolf won first prize for her essay and received a $100 award from the foundation. Noah Blair captured second place and earned a $50 prize. Erin Brogan received third-place honors and a $25 prize.

The top three finalists read their essays during a brief program held in West Virginia Independence Hall’s historic courtroom Tuesday evening, prior to the announcement of winners. A reception honoring the students was held on the hall’s lower level after the presentation of awards.

The theme of this year’s writing contest was an excerpt from Francis H. Pierpont’s speech to the Second Wheeling Convention on June 17, 1861, supporting the adoption of a Declaration of the Rights of the People of Virginia.

Wolf’s essay, titled “A State of Necessity,” described the “irreconcilable differences” and “valid reasons” for the split between western and eastern Virginia.

She explained that residents of western Virginia were concerned about having less representation in the state’s legislative body, being subjected to unfair taxation and fear of trade barriers. “These reasons helped West Virginia form a new state,” Wolf said.

Blair’s essay, “The Road to Statehood,” stated that a new agreement regarding slavery proved to be “the turning point” in the decision of western Virginians to seek the formation of a separate state. With West Virginia as a state, “its independence would not be defeated by the Confederacy,” he said.

In an essay titled “A State Split in Two,” Brogan wrote that the two parts of Virginia had little in common, with different ideologies, values and beliefs. “West Virginia was right in its decision to become a separate state,” she said.

Other finalists, all from St. Michael Parish School, were Daniele Agcaoili, Emma Norduft, Nathan Stryker, Alexandria Tarr, Andrew Tiu, Sydney Warman and Tommy Woods. Each finalist received a West Virginia Independence Hall T-shirt from the foundation.

The writing contest was open to all eighth-grade students in public, private, parochial and home schools in Ohio County. All 25 entries in this year’s competition were submitted by St. Michael Parish School.

Lynne Exley, chair of the foundation’s contest committee, commended Marcy Hartzell, an English teacher at St. Michael, for being “the driving force” behind her students’ participation in the writing contest.

Also serving on the contest committee were foundation members Dr. Joseph Laker, Dr. Leslie Liedel, Jon-Erik Gilot and Pattie Hershey.

Erin Rothenbuehler, the foundation’s new president, and Debbie Jones, the hall’s site manager, welcomed the students and their parents and guests to the state’s birthplace for the awards ceremony.