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History Heroes Honored

February 24, 2013
LINDA COMINS , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

The Wheeling area was well represented during History Day at the Legislature in Charleston Thursday, Feb. 21. Several history-related organizations from the Mountain State set up displays in the Capitol Rotunda for the annual observance.

Among the groups participating in History Day this year were the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. and the Cockayne Farmstead in Glen Dale.

Meanwhile, I was humbled to join my fellow honorees from Wheeling for the 2013 West Virginia History Heroes ceremony at the Culture Center. After a breakfast and the ceremony, we were escorted across the courtyard to the Capitol for the start of the House of Delegates session.

A total of 48 people throughout the state were designated as History Heroes for 2013. The honorees included a woman with a historic name - Betsy Ross. However, of course, this particular Betsy Ross wasn't selected for her flag-making abilities. Announcement of her name did bring a good-hearted chuckle from the audience assembled in the theater of the Culture Center.

Joining a long line of past honorees from the Friendly City, I was one of four Wheeling residents named as History Heroes this year. Douglas W. Breiding was nominated by the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society. Joanne Sullivan was chosen by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. Jamie Vosvick as recognized by the Cockayne Historic Preservation Commttee of Glen Dale. I was nominated by Friends of Wheeling.

Also cited as History Heroes were residents of Hancock, Brooke and Tyler counties.

As my friends and I, along with millions of viewers in the United States and across the pond in Great Britain, are enthralled by the PBS period drama, "Downton Abbey," attention also has turned to America's Downton Abbey-style mansions and the lifestyles that unfolded in those locales in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The Associated Press distributed a Feb. 15 article, written by Michelle R. Smith, that offered "A Glimpse Downstairs at America's Downton Abbey." The article described new tours at The Elms, one of Gilded Age "cottages" situated in Newport, R.I.

Smith reported, "Just as the Downton servants develop relationships downstairs ... servants in Newport carried on a lively social scene of their own. Many of their stories have begun to emerge after digging by researchers at the Newport Preservation Society, which owns several mansions.

"Newly discovered photographs, documents and family histories have inspired the creation of a tour about servants in one of Newport's most picturesque houses, The Elms, becoming one of the society's most popular tours."

The AP article noted that The Elms, which was completed in 1901 and used as a residence until 1961, was built as a "summer home" for Edward Julius Berwind, a coal magnate, and his wife. "It was the first home in Newport that was completely electrified, boasted modern amenities such as an ice maker and telephone, and was even featured on the cover of Scientific American," the article stated.

With my curiosity piqued, I did a bit of research and learned of a West Virginia connection to the coal magnate. The tiny town of Berwind, in McDowell County, is named for Edward Julius Berwind, who was the owner of the Berwind Co.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: Comins@news-register.net