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WEST VIRGINIA Is Almost Heaven

WVA Stamp

West Virginia celebrates 150 years of statehood

To stand at the mountaintop in West Virginia it feels as if you could almost reach out your hand and touch the hand of God. It is truly Mother Nature at her finest. That is probably why John Denver declared West Virginia  “Almost Heaven”.

West Virginia is in all likelihood one of the most beautiful states you will ever visit with its majestic green mountaintops peeking above a shroud of fog like emerald gemstones around a lady’s silken white shoulders. Much of the state is still undeveloped leaving the mountains standing as a testament of beauty, strength, and power. The state lies entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range earning it the name “the mountain state”. In the spring the mountains are dotted with large purple blooms of the rhododendron, the state flower, and in the fall the hills turn a brilliant mix of reds and golds from the state tree the sugar maple.

The mountains, however, are both a blessing and a curse for its residents. They have provided their natural resources of timber and coal to fuel the state’s economy but have also served as a physical barrier which shields the residents and cuts them off from the rest of the world. In fact, the Appalachian Mountain Ridge is what created the divide between Virginia and the western part of the state resulting in political divisions during the nation’s Civil War. The mountains were a physical barrier making communications between the two parts of the state difficult in the days before modern conveniences relying instead on having to physically cross the mountainous range for news of happenings in the capital of Richmond.

The mountains also served as a socio economic barrier between two distinct types of people. The eastern and southern parts of Virginia were composed mostly of people born in Virginia who were descendants from merchants and the wealthy classes of England. The western part of Virginia’s population was settled by immigrants of German and Protestant Scotch-Irish heritage. Many also came from Pennsylvania and states farther north.

In the eastern and southern portions of Virginia many owned large plantations where they grew cotton and tobacco and were heavily dependent upon its slave population. However, in the rugged mountainous regions of western Virginia where most owned small farms and grew small crops for their families, slavery was unprofitable. The mountains served as a divide between the two parts of the state thus emphasizing the social, political, economic and cultural differences. These differences came to a clashing climax during the Civil War over the vote of whether or not to secede from the Union. When the vote to secede was taken in Richmond on April 17, 1861 the counties in the western part of the state almost immediately voted to secede from Virginia and not go along with the secession from the Union. The counties in northwestern Virginia sent delegates to a convention in Wheeling May 13, 1861 where forming a new state was discussed.

However, things did not go smoothly in creating the new state. If you think politics are bad today they pale in comparison to the days during the Civil War. The delegates to the Wheeling Convention were never actually elected by the public.  Many were chosen irregularly—some in mass meetings, others by county committee, and some just appointed themselves. When this haphazard group met they appointed only Unionists to hold state offices.

The actual popular vote for statehood is also questionable. The vote was 18,408 for and only 781 against. The Union army that occupied most of the area at the time stationed themselves at the polls and prevented Confederate sympathizers from voting. It was reported in one county that of the 195 votes cast only 39 were by citizens of the state and the rest were cast illegally by Union Soldiers.

In spite of everything the application for admission to the Union was made to Congress and President Abraham Lincoln signed it on December 31, 1862. The rogue western counties of Virginia were finally recognized as the 35th state of the Union on June 20, 1863 known as West Virginia. However, their troubles weren’t over yet. The Virginia General Assembly repealed their act of secession and in 1866 brought suit against West Virginia asking the court to declare the counties as part of Virginia and declaring West Virginia’s admission as a state unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decided in favor of West Virginia in 1870.

In addition, the returning Confederate soldiers threatened to overturn the new government. In order to retain control, the new government stripped the returning Confederates of their voting rights. The property of Confederates might also be confiscated and in 1866 a constitutional amendment disfranchising all who had given aid and comfort to the Confederacy was adopted.

In a war that thrust brother against brother it was most evident in the new state of West Virginia. It is estimated that approximately an equal number of Union and Confederate soldiers came from the state. Also, approximately an equal number fought on both sides at Gettysburg.

West Virginia is the only state to be created by the Civil War. Nevada was admitted to the union in October 1864 however it was first a US Territory.

West Virginia is a unique state in that people can’t decide whether it is a northern or southern state. It is situated right in the middle and in fact the Mason-Dixon Line goes right through it. It has been called the most southern of the northern states and the most northern of the southern states. The accent seems to reflect this. When I have traveled north people ask what part of the south I’m from and when I travel south I’m asked where in the north I’m from.

West Virginians are known to be warm, friendly, helpful, and sometimes clannish. I recently talked with someone who lived in West Virginia for a while and he said the first time someone spoke to him on the street he was so shocked he didn’t know how to respond.

If you are looking for a change of pace, want to reconnect with life and nature, pay a visit to God’s beautiful garden. Take a thrilling rafting trip down the New River Gorge or a leisurely ride to the top of a mountain on the Cass Scenic Railroad. Take time to listen to blue-grass mountain music which goes back to the Scotch-Irish roots or tour an abandoned coal mine. Camp along a mountain stream or go to the posh White Sulfur Springs where presidents have stayed.

Time in West Virginia is time well spent.

 

Autumn appeals to all the senses

 

Autumn can best be described as a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells. It is nature’s last hurrah before she climbs into bed covered with a white blanket of downy snow.

Autumn is an array of colors in Mother Nature’s pallet of paints from the palest pinks to intense fiery oranges and reds. It is the faint rustle of leaves and the excited cheers of football fans. It is the smell of pumpkin pies and campfire smoke. It is the smoky taste of hot dogs and marshmallows toasted over a bonfire at a hayride. It is the sight of bright orange pumpkins and gleaming red apples at a roadside farm stand. It is hot cider and donuts. It is candy apples and candy corn. It is witches, brooms, black cats, and Halloween costumes. It is warm sunny days and cold frosty nights.

Here in Ohio the farmers are busy harvesting the corn and soy beans and getting their king size pumpkins ready for the Circleville Pumpkin Festival. The houses are decorated for Halloween and if you look closely you might see a witch flying across the face of the moon.

 

Yes, autumn is many things but it is also a very short season so get off the couch, shut off the computer and video games and come outside to play. Hurry before this beautiful parade passes you by.

Hot Summer

The Violet Meditation

A lonely violet growing among the ivy, how did you get there?

Did a bird pluck you from your bed and deposit you here to brighten my day?

Did you catch a ride upon the wind?

Or, are you there to point the way

To the beautiful flowers of May?

 

So pure and white, like a left over snowflake from winter

You hide among the green and white leaves of ivy

As if to say, I’m here today and gone in May

But, Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey

A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?

 

 

 

Translation:

If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey, sing:

Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.

A kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you”

 

Note:  my apologies to composers Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston for taking liberties with their 1943 silly song Mairzy Doats.

 

Spring time at the pond:

Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author’s soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted. Robert Benchley 

April is national poetry month so in honor of that I will take a cue from the above quote and let the poets and my photographs paint a picture of spring.

Spring is when life’s alive in everything.

—Christina Rossetti

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Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.

—Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.—Zen saying

An optimist is the human personification of spring.

—Susan J. Bissonett

Spring—an experience in immortality.

—Henry D. Thoreau