Barbour County

Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

I get asked all the time if where I work, The Golden Rule, is haunted? For a building to be built in 1902 and not be haunted is a surprise. I would say that the building is not haunted in the traditional way. Not in the way horror movies show hauntings, full of evil spirits and terrible outcomes. I don’t have slamming doors, lights turning on and off or cold chills in the building. I rarely hear strange unexplained noises. I work for hours alone in the large empty building day and night, never feeling a cold chill. But, this building does have visitors.

Black and white photo of the side of the Golden Rule, Belington WV.

I have worked in the building around 18 months and after about 6 months of clearing out the building I gave up on experiencing anything unusual. That is until one warm summer evening when the rain poured down and lightning flashed that I meet someone amazing.

This usual Wednesday evening I was working alone doing inventory and getting ready for the antique auction we were planning as a fundraiser. Tables were lined with items from the 1920s to items used in the 1970s. I would list each item on an inventory sheet and photograph it, so we could either sell the item or place in on display in the future. The storm came in about 4pm and darkened the sky and made the inside of the building dreary enough I needed to turn on the lights. With my back turned to the front glass doors I worked listening to the rumble of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain. A few minutes into the storm I head a pecking sound on the glass that brought my attention to the double glass doors at the front of the building. Standing under the aged front arch, was a man. A small aged man, maybe 5’2″ around 70 dressed in an unusual way.

Front view of the arched entry of the Golden Rule after a rain.

The man wore a blue and white striped engineers cap over his head of short white hair. His face was light with a short groomed beard and mustache with crystal blue eyes that twinkled when he spoke. He wore an insulated blue work coat in the style of a1970s coal miner. He wore dark blue work pants rather than blue jeans. The blue of his eyes, hat, and coat contrasted with his healthy pink skin so much it appeared he had just showered and still had the rosy glow of the heat.

I walked to the locked door and smiled at him through the glass. I opened the door slightly to speak to the petite man. I asked if I could help him and he replied that he had worked in the building years ago and had seen the lights on. That he saw my car parked outside as he drove by and wanted to see what was happening with the old place.

His accent was pure West Virginia, charming and educated. I felt the urge to let him in from the cold gray outside and felt no fear bringing the stranger into the building. We stopped at the front of the first floor and he began to ask questions about who owned the building and who worked for the company and what were the future plans for the Golden Rule.

He was so filled with love for the place that he excitedly asked if I knew the Shinn family. He also asked if I had known him or his brother back in the 1970s when he worked at the store. I explained that I was not in West Virginia then and shared who I worked for. He preceded to share that everyone called him Hatchet and he had a brother named Don who worked there off and on too. He explained he helped Don moved the furniture and did deliveries for Mrs. Shinn, who owned the Golden Rule for close to 50 years.  He had run the historic water-powered elevator and trapped bats on the third-floor rafters over the years. I asked if he had been in the building recently and he said, “no not for years and years. I spend most of my time fixing up old cars now.”

We visited for an extended time on the first floor then I offered to show him around.  He was a fit older man, so we talked about what was on each floor when he worked for Wanda Shinn. He shared stories about selling mattresses and box springs and having to wait on the elevator to raise and lower. “It was so slow that you would pile everything you sold on one trip to save time,” Hatchet said.

G.R. historic photo

We talked about his life as we looked out the windows on the third floor. He said,” I have always loved the view of the rail yard back here.” We stood side by side looking at the aging trains and cars parked behind the Golden Rule. He talked about his last days at the Golden Rule before going to work for the Mines. How being a coal miner had been the best thing he could have done for the pay and retirement. He had made enough money to buy a house and a couple acres of land when he was in his 50’s and had put plenty away for retirement so he could keep rebuilding old cars. We talked about how Belington had changed and how he used to drag race through town on Saturday nights and go to the movies in Philippi. He shared about how everyone for miles around shopped at the Golden Rule. He listed some of the things he bought for his mining job. Finally, he asked me if they were going to save the old elevator or if it was going to scrap. I was excited to tell him that the old water-powered elevator was staying and that we would be looking for someone to work on it soon. I asked if he wanted to see the elevator and if he had any idea how it worked. He was happy to take a look at the old mud covered basement and tell me a little bit about how it worked. He remembered swabbing the piston and waiting on the elevator to slowly carry its cargo up the shaft.

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Empty elevator shaft on the 2nd floor of the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia.

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water Powered elevator pullies in the basement of the Golden Rule, Belington West Virginia.  

 

Finally, after about an hour of visiting and laughter, he said he should go. That he needed to get back to the house it was getting late and dinner would be ready soon. I realized that it was about 5:00 and I would need to leave for home too.  He walked to the door and said: “Thank you so much for showing this to me, it looks like she is in good hands.” He stepped down the stairs to the ground and I waved out the door and said: “Hatchet is was a pleasure to meet you, I hope you come back to visit soon”. Locking the glass door behind him I watched out the door for a classic blue car he had told me about. Soon a blue 1970’s Chevy drove by the building towards the town of Elkins. I couldn’t help smiling the rest of the night thinking of my visitor.

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Old umbrella on the third floor of the Golden Rule building Belington West Virginia.

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Furniture Polish bottles found in the basement of the Golden Rule Building, Belington WV.

A couple weeks later my boss and I found another person who had worked in the building operating the elevator for several years. We invited Charlie to lunch at a local cafe and planned to talk about the mechanics of the elevator and how it worked and if it could be made to operate on just the basement and first floor. Charlie was happy to meet and talk about how the elevator worked. As we eat and visited I casually told Charley and my boss that I had met another man who worked at the Golden Rule. I said I had met Hatchet and that we had talked for about an hour about the building and elevator. Charlie started shaking his head violently “no” and making a throat noise as he tried to swallow his bite of potatoes. Clearing his mouth he blurted out,”You did not meet Hatchet! He’s been dead 25 years! There is no way that is who you met.”

Being  surprised by his tone of voice  I replied with, “if it was not Hatchet then maybe it was his brother Don.”

Charlie’s face grew grave and serious leaning into the cafe table and said, “it wasn’t Don either, he has been dead 30 years or more”.

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Glass shoe sales sign found at the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia. 

At this my poor boss about choked on his sip of coffee. Charlie continued to ask me questions about how I had heard of Hatchet and Don. I told him that I learned their names from the man who visited me at the Golden Rule. A short white-haired man who wore a railroad cap.

“That’s impossible!” Charlie said, “You must have met someone else!”

I gave a description of the white-haired man that I met and told about him leaving the Golden Rule for the Coal Mines. I shared his love of the old cars that he often worked on.

My boss and Charley looked at me as if the world had ended. Confused and in disbelief of my description they looked at one another. Finally said, “I have no idea how I would know this information any other way than from the source.”

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Cleaned off shelves at the Golden Rule before floors were cleaned 2019 Belington WV

 

I  joked that I gave a ghost a tour at the Golden Rule and both men laughed at the silliness of the statement. They blew off the strange story I had told them over our lunch. They were both ready to think that I  had somehow gotten the information from some other old man around town and that I couldn’t have met Hatchet. Neither one wanted a haunted job site and no one wanted to share gossip of a stranger at the Golden Rule for fear of scaring off contractors and laborers.

My experience with the Ghost of the Golden Rule was not one that anyone would call scary. Hatchet is happy to see his workplace coming back to life and seemed content to look the place over with me. He made me aware of several things about the building and the town of Belington that I did not know. So If you had asked me if I had seen a ghost at the Golden Rule before that lunch date my answer was “No!”  In my mind, Hatchet is as real as anyone else. But after that lunch date with Charlie, I still find myself wondering who I met that afternoon and if he meant it when he said he would come back to visit me when the building was finished? I just hope he is as happy to see me as I will be to see him!

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Categories: About me, Barbour County, Benefit auction, ghost stories, ghosts, Golden Rule, Haunted House, historic locations, history, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pick Your Own Blueberry Pie.

It has been an ongoing wish of mine to go to a pick your own blueberry farm and spend a lazy morning picking, eating and baking my personal favorite pie from the harvest. So when a friend was visiting from out of town for a few weeks the two things collided and I ended up with a fresh blueberry pie.

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Cindy and David Proudfoot at their farm in Barbour County, West Virginia.

I was lucky enough to meet David and Cindy Proudfoot and visit their farm and gardens in Barbour County just after the 4th of July. So one warm morning my friend Dominic, who was visiting from out of town, and I  spent about 2 hours picking berries and about an hour just visiting with the Proudfoots. We shared a rambling conversation about their century farm and how it was passed from one family member to another and is still in operation for over 100 years after David’s grandfather bought the land. This year the farm will receive an official state listing and a beautiful white sign to place at the entry to their driveway. The sign will state that this farm is a West Virginia Century Farm and is family owned and operated. The farm is used mostly as a vegetable andblueberry farm. They sell the blueberries as a “Pick Your Own Blueberries” operation, from 420 blueberry bushes they maintain. They also sell vegetables and flowers at the local farmer’s markets.

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Heritage Tom turkey that the Proudfoots use for breeding.

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David explains information about this huge flower.

Cindy and Dave have worked for 12 years to develop and cultivate several large vegetable gardens, flower gardens, two fields of blueberries and a couple of ponds. The gardens are full of native and heirloom plants and feed their honey bees. Their shared knowledge and understanding of plants and mushrooms is an immense and amazing experience to be a part of. They teach classes on the farm and enjoy sharing their knowledge with anyone who is interested. You can see what is happening on the farm at Proudfoot Mountain Farm- mountainfarmwv.blogspot.com or on Facebook at Proudfoot Mountain Farm. 

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Dominic Piacentini picking blueberries at the Proudfoot farm in Barbour County, WV

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large ripe Blueberry ready to pick.

So after picking around 12 pounds of the ripest berries Dominic and I headed home to wash, sort and cook with our berries. I made a pie and froze about 4 pounds of berries to use over the winter. Dominic made a dump cake and eat the berries fresh with his roommates. It was a wonderful day spent with some of the most interesting people I know. I have included here two simple recipes to make a coffee cake and a deep dish blueberry pie and a reminder about freezing the berries on cookie sheets.

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Deep dish Blueberry pie.

Just quick reminder if you plan to use your berries for things like cakes, pies, muffins it is nice to be able to measure out how many cups of berries you are using. So after cleaning and sorting my berries, I let them stand in a colander for a couple hours to drain off any excess water. I then spray two cookie sheets with a cooking spray and fill each one up with berries, trying to keep any of them from touching. Then place the berries in the freezer at least overnight. Then bring them out and place both cookie sheets of berries in one large gallon zip lock bag and refreeze. Two cookie sheets equal about 1/2 of a gallon bag or 4 cups of berries. This way you can pour the berries out of the bag and they are not frozen in a huge clump.

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looking for stems on cleaned blueberries.

For a traditional Blueberry coffee cake, the National Blue Berry Council shared this recipe.

Blueberry Buckle

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup oil

1 1/2 cup cake flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg

10 oz of blueberries about a heaping cup full.

mix and pour into 9″ square pan and top with crumb topping;

crumbs:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup soft but not melted butter

bake at 350 deg for 45 minutes, serve warm.

 

Blueberry pie or the Recipeless Fruit Pie;

enough dough for two pie crusts and a deep dish pie pan

1/2 cup sugar if the berries are fresh and sweet more if they seem tart

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cornstarch… depending on the juiciness of the fruit. (  apples, peaches, pears need less )

5 cups of clean ripe fruit with stems removed.

two teaspoons salted butter to top fruit

heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a deep-dish pie pan with one crust. In large bowl mix dry ingredients together, add berries and mix well, pour berries into crust and top with small pads of butter and top crust. Seal edges and cut a whole to vent the steam off the pie. Bake 45 minutes until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden brown.

We serve the pie with vanilla ice cream while it is hot from the oven on a hot evening out on the patio.

As Dominic and I picked and talked that morning, it was wonderful to have time to visit. It reminded me why we both like to cook and how families used to spend their time together doing activities just like this. It brought me closer to nature, to friends and to my family. At the end of my long day, I  even got to eat the rewards of my labors, nothing in the world I love better! Thank you, Cindy and David Proudfoot for spending your time with us and sharing the bounty of your farm IT WAS WONDERFUL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, blueberries, friends, Pie, wild food, you pick farm | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Spring Snow at Pleasant Grove Cemetery

This weeks Spring weather has had it all, sun, high winds, rain and snow. It is as if the Gods of winter and spring are having a fight to see who will control the weather. Even the resting souls in the local cemetery noticed the fight.

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Early morning snow in Barbour County

With this maybe being our last snow of winter I was just lucky to have a camera in the car and time to stop several places along my route to work last week. It takes about 28 minutes of winding country roads to get into Philippi West Virginia and along the way I always see something interesting. Often I see deer or turkey in the farm fields, tractors mowing hilly farms and lots of barns. I also see lots of cemeteries and this one was just beautiful on this cold  snow-covered morning.

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Hwy 119 headed to Philippi, West Virginia. 

These photos were taken at a small country cemetery name Pleasant Grove Cemetery just outside Century, West Virginia. Many of the head stones date back into the mid 1800’s. I love to photograph cemeteries, I have been doing it for years. I think there is something about old historical cemeteries that is fascinating. Maybe it’s because the tradition of stand up headstones is fading, or idea that every community and/or family owning a cemetery is not as popular anymore,whatever the reason, I find these small old cemeteries wonderful. Then with a little light snow you have a place that magic.

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Pleasant Grove Cemetery Fence

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Unique headstone at Pleasant Grove Cemetery near Century, WV.

So while visiting I did find one very unusual head stone. A type that I had never seen before.This marker looks finished and carved on one side but other half is just ruff chiseled stone. I have no idea what it means or if it was done on purpose, but it was fascinating to see such a different marker dated so long ago. I now wonder even more about the life this woman and her unique headstone.

 

As you can tell the cemetery is old and most of the headstones dated back to the middle 1800’s and some have faded and toppled over. There is no church standing watch over these families, so I wonder who cares for the graves and who clean up the dead flowers. The Donation Box makes me think that someone is looking after several generations of families without much help.

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Donation box for the Cemetery 

 

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Snow falling on mail boxes across from Pleasant Grove Cemetery ,Barbour County,WV.

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Front Gate of Pleasant Grove Cemetery.

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Deer trail at Pleasant Grove Cemetery

The weather continued to snow and I had to get to down the road to work so I quietly left the headstones behind.  I will never get the answers to my questions about the cemetery or the families who rest here. I will wonder about them for a long time. This beautiful place made the last snow of the year a little more bearable. I am glad that I took time to look a little closer at what beauty is all around me.

HAPPY SPRING!!!

 

Categories: Barbour County, Cemetaries, Philippi, photo review, Snow day, Uncategorized, West Virginia, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Making Murals in the Mountain State

I was just recently asked some interesting questions  about a mural I recently finished painting at the Barbour County Development Authority’s office in Philippi, West Virginia. This new mural was unveiled on January 23 of 2018 and a guest at the reception asked,”When did you start painting murals, and how long did this one take to paint.” I had to really stop and think about my response. My response was,” I have been making them for over 35 years in public and privet, and this one took about 125 hours to paint.”  I never really went looking to paint murals, painting murals can looking for me!

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General Store Mural Painted at the Barbour County Development Authority office 2018.

I painted my first mural at age 11 or 12 at my hometown elementary school Majestic Heights Elementary  in Boulder Co. I was asked by a teacher if I would come into our class room a few days before the school  year started  and help her decorate a large empty wall in the class room. She asked if I could paint her a lion and some text underneath. I had no idea what she wanted and the only skill I had at the time was to use her over head projector to enlarge a image and trace the image on the wall. I was given a sheet of clear acetate and told to find something in the library to use.  I eventually found a wonderful lion image and proceeded to make a large lion mural on the wall of our class room. I do remember her saying that the reason she asked for me to help her was because I could draw well and she thought It would be fun for me. It was a nice experience and my mom enjoyed seeing the mural during parent teacher conferences.

It seems funny now, when I look back, that I have painted murals for churches, schools, barns, down towns and now businesses offices on and off my whole life. I have never pursued painting these large images, but I seem to get asked more and more to do them.

closeup of tree of life quilt block

Some are very simple and only take a day or two to prepare and paint,while others are large detailed images like the one at the Barbour County Development Authority. This is one of the larger murals that I have painted measuring 12 feet wide by 8 feet tall or ruffly 96 square feet of paint. I painted off and on, over about 4 months. Some days drawing and painting 5 hours and then some weeks not painting at all. The the value of the mural came to about 1800.00 dollars that was donated to the BCDA from Woodlands Development Group to cover the expense of my time.

The mural concept had three full color drawings as different options for the layout and figures in the mural. In the end the we actually had real people who worked in the actual store as models for in the mural. The Director of the BCDA was able to find photos for me to reference when adding the little girl and the meat cutter to the image. Then we were lucky enough to have the little girl behind the sales counter (Anna)  come to the unveiling with her two brothers. Their father, the owner of the building and Smith Grocery , is represented in the mural as the meat cutter in the mural.

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Children of Robert Smith ( man in Mural) and owner of Smith’s Grocery in Philippi WV. Anna Smith is photographed with her likeness as a child in the mural. Jan 2019.   

 As I have matured as an artist I have slowly become less and less realistic with my painting and drawing. I have a degree in fine art and have skills to draw very realistic images but with age and failing eye sight I have begun to make images that are more representative of a feeling or style then realistic. The style of this mural has been described as Folk Art, because its very flat and has little depth. The colors I chose also add to the “Old Timey” feel of the piece . 
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Golden Rule Window replacement mural “Hope” 2018.

The “General Store”mural is only one of four planned art and mural projects for downtown Philippi. I will be working on teaching others in the community how to make panel murals this spring. This time we hope to create three panels with images of quilt blocks and the city seal to be displayed on a downtown building as part of a Philippi  “Gateway Project”. The project includes instillation of a large welcome to Philippi sign, a flower planter, the murals, lights and flowers.  This project is the first time I have worked with some many organisations who want to contribute to making a downtown look better. It is amazing what small communities can do if they join together.  The “Gateway Project” is scheduled to be unveiled in Aug 2019 with about 25 volunteers doing the work.

My hope is that one day I will look back at all the beauty I have helped to create, and feel that I made a difference. I hope my art has made their towns and communities more colorful, friendly and welcoming. That I have begun to help wash away the stereotypes that portray our communities as empty, dead or forgotten. I plan to keep adding more life, color and happiness to every place I work  and adding more positive images to the story of West Virginia.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: About me, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Creative Place Making, murals, West Virginia, West Virginia artists | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

JoLynn Powers AmeriCorps, Returns 1920’s Christmas Cards to Local Resident.

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1902 Golden Rule Department store at beginning of redevelopment 2018.

When redevelopment on the Golden Rule Department and Furniture store began, no one knew what was hiding in the 1902 building. Woodlands Development Group bought the Belington, West Virginia building in spring of 2018.The plan for redevelopment included 10 apartments with a lower level retail space. Never knowing that the building was a time capsule of Wanda Shinn Mitchell’s life. With help from a local Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps, JoLynn Powers, the nonprofit is preserving the past and returning it to a local family.

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Wanda Shinn Mitchell former owner of the Golden Rule Building age 93, 2018.

When redevelopment began at the Golden Rule the three upper floors over flowed with remnants of the stores past. Empty boot boxes and signage from past decades filled the walls and shelves. “It was like walking into a time capsule. 1970’s shoe boxes filled shelves on the first floor and 1920’s office equipment covered a table on the second floor, nothing had really changed,” said JoLynn Powers AmeriCorps service member responsible for cleaning the building. While working to remove the debris from the building JoLynn Powers discovered that personal and work related items from the first owner’s family were still in the building.

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Table on Second Floor of the Golden Rule with antique office equipment.

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Boot boxes line shelves at the Golden Rule.

When Christmas post cards post marked 1922 address to Luther Shinn and his wife Ida, (builder of the Golden Rule building and father-in-law to Wanda) were discovered in a hole cut in the wall of the second floor storage room, everyone was excited by the find. However, Woodlands Development Director Dave Clark wanted to make sure the cards found their way back to the Shinn family.  With the help from the Barbour County Development Authority, The Belington Revitalization Committee and the Belington Library, JoLynn Powers was able to reach out to Wanda Shinn Mitchell and return them to her. At 94 years old, Wanda was excited to see Luther P. Shinn’s name on the cards dating back to 1920’s and 1930’s. The collection of cards included post cards to a sister-in-law, blank cards and several photos of people.

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Christmas Card sent to L.P. Shinn and his wife Ida, 1920’s.

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Christmas card found in wall of Golden Rule Building circa 1920’s.

When the appointment was made to return the cards JoLynn Powers invited Terri Kettle, of the Belington Revitalization Committee and Freedom Bank, to join her to help record the oral history of the visit. During the visit Terri Kettle asked Mrs. Mitchell if she knew how the cards and photos got inside the wall of the building. Wanda replied, “She had no idea.”  So the mystery of the hidden Christmas Cards continues.

Director of Woodlands Development Group, Dave Clark, is pleased to see the history of Belington preserved and shared with the community. As the buildings remaining assets are inventoried, there are plans for another open house with food, drinks, and a benefit silent auction planned for May of 2019. We hope to make the event a fundraiser for redevelopment costs for the retail space by selling tickets to attend. It is planned that the items not sold during the action will be sold  on-line later in May so that everyone has a chance to support the Golden Rules rehabilitation.

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JoLynn Powers AmeriCorps Volunteer in Elkins, WV.

JoLynn Powers continues to serve the Belington Community as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the next few months at the Golden Rule building. She leaves AmeriCorps with three years of community service to her home state of West Virginia. Future plans are to continue to work at the Golden Rule with Woodlands Development Group and to continue to work in the field of Community Development in the North Central Region of West Virginia.

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, antiques, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Chris, Golden Rule, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not having WIFI Made Me a Terrible Blogger.

Ok maybe WIFI is not the only problem I face as a blogger, but it sure made writing harder. It has been over 9 months that my old laptop lost it’s ability to connect to my wireless router. That meant two things for me, I could not read in bed anymore, where I read most of your blog posts and I had to work connected to an Ethernet cord. That was the killer for me. I had enjoyed time writing in the comfort of my recliner or in bed but now I was forced to sit at my kitchen table on a hard wooden chair. Who wants to do that for a couple of hours every evening. So I got lazy and just stopped reading and writing as much. I miss all of your stories and photos so much.So when the old lap tops brain finally said” I am full ” and slowly died I was so happy get a new laptop and get to back to reading and writing.

So I hope to see more of all of your blogs and get more time to comment. I kinda hate reading for pleasure on my phone, the eyes are shot and the screen is tiny, so I just skipped many of the notices I got about your posts.

The other good news is that I have finally eaten up all the free media space that WordPress gave to me 5 years ago. So I am preparing to get my own domain address and make this blog a real  website. I think this will take place about the 15th of Dec. but I have to get the new machine up and running completely before I go changing everything here. All I can say is that having a free blog was one of the very best things I have ever done for myself. I hope I feel the same when I start hosting my own website. This also means that address will change and I will share that info several times over the transition

I have so much catching up to do. I hope to pop into all the blogs I fallow over the next few weeks and get back in touch. All of this will give me something to do while it is so cold and snowy outside. It should be 18 deg F in the morning…. burrr.

So here are a couple of photos from Christopher’s 1st trip to the Barbour County Fair and his first ride on a fares-wheel.  I thought I would just show off the beautiful view we had at the top during that afternoon. Maybe this will be my first blog post at the new site? Who Knows??

carnival rides at Barbour county fairview from Barbour County Fair Grounds

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Changes to blog, childhood memories, Fairs and Festivals, rural life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Volunteers Impact the Future of The Golden Rule Building.

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Often time’s volunteers don’t get to see the impact they have on a project. This is not the case with the volunteers who have helped begin the redevelopment of The Golden Rule building in Belington,WV this spring. Over 32 volunteers have spent over 220 hours donating their time and skills to bringing the 116 year old building back to life.

The Golden Rule volunteers have worked on everything from painting murals for the buildings windows while the frames are restored, to helping to remove up to 6,000 pounds of garbage, and pulling up over 6,000 square feet of old carpet and linoleum on the first floor. The work is hard and dirty but that does not seem to slow the volunteers down.

.logan and Patrick AmeriCorps members volunteer to toss out 4,000 pounds of trash

AmeriCorps Service members volunteer to help remove trash from the Golden Rule: Patrick Facemire and Logan McDonald AFHA 2018 service members.

AmeriCorps volunteers at the GR volunteer day

AmeriCorps Service Member and Preservation Alliance of West Virginia members volunteer to remove linoleum: Sarah Heuer a Elizabeth Satterfield.

Many of the volunteers are local church members who have an interest in community service but others like Mary Streets, of Belington, remembers her husband working at the Golden Rule in the 60’s and 70’s. She wants to see the building reopen and be an important part of the downtown area again. Mary spent her 83rd birthday with her daughter Stacy Streets and other volunteers at the building on July 21st of this year.

After a long hot afternoon working, I asked Mary about why she spent her birthday with us at the Golden Rule Building. She shared that the Golden Rule was full of good memories for her. She said, “It was nice to come back and visit a place where she often shopped and bought things for her kids.” She went on to say,  “My husband worked here for many years and we all felt like family here.” She was the most joyous member of our volunteer crew and explained that she was happy to be part of the rehabilitation that would make her home town a better place.

Mary and Stacy Streets at Golden Rule.Mary Streets and Daughter Stacy Streets help to clean debris at the Golden Rule.

Volunteers like Terri Kittle from the Belington Revitalization Committee have worked for 6 years trying to get the historic building redeveloped. Terri, head of the committee is passionate about the building and its future for Belington. Terri says, “The Golden Rule is vital to bringing downtown back to life. So working with Woodlands Development Group a non-profit developer in the region just made since.”

Woodlands Development Group purchased the building in April of 2018 and the work to clean out the building began a few weeks later. Dustin Smith project manager says “The Golden Rule project is a unique case when it comes to volunteerism; it is not often that we use volunteers but everyone is so interested in the project that we are happy to have the help.”

Volunteers clean out first floor of the GR

Volunteers from Mountain Valley Bank of Elkins work with Missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints

Volunteer days will continue throughout the next few months until the Open House that will include refreshments, tours and discussions about planes for the building. Many of the antique items found in the building will be on display and some will be for sale to the public. The Open House is planned for Saturday, Sept. 15th at the building at 122 Crim Ave. in Belington.

It is hoped that the volunteers that have worked on the project will come to the open house to share their experiences with the community and celebrate their hand in making the Golden Rule a better place for everyone in the community.

May 2018 mess first floor of the GR

Before photo of the main floor of the Golden Rule Building taken a week after purchase in May 2018

This is the after photo of the main floor after two volunteer days and hundreds of hours of sorting, tearing up flooring and removing trash.

Clean first floor of the Golden Rule before demo

The success of this project has been a grass-roots effort and will continue to be for the next few months. We had a wonderful turn out for the Golden Rule Open House with about 75 visitors stop to learn about the project or take a tour. It is hoped that new construction will begin at the start of the new year and we will have some work on the 10 upper story apartments done by summer. The Main floor will have a new elevator and a new fire safe stair well installed over the course of the next two years. Then a train depot, ticket counter with a coffee shop and retail space will be the last to be built-in the front of the first floor space.

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Building rehabilitation, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Trash to treasure, Uncategorized, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trash to Treasure DYI: Waterslide Decal commemorative Plates

Summer has been busy and my work on the rehabilitation of the Golden Rule Building is really fun and taking up lots of my time. One reason is that we are trying to prepare for a  public open house of the project. If you want to know more about this 1902 building and what we are planning to do to save it, check out my first post about the Golden Rule.

Golden Rule Belington Wv

So as part of the reason for the open house is to let the community see the building, take tours, get information about the project and get a chance to see some of the wonderful items we will be selling at a public sale this fall. As part of the Fall Festival Open House we are going to offer for sale a few small items that came from the building that are unique but not real expensive. One of the items will be a commemorative plate that another AmeriCorps member and I designed and made from some of the chipped and crazed dishware that had been left in the building.

The idea came to me as I took my first tour of the building. I realized that their were around 60 or more white and tan dishes in the basement of the building that were just wasting away due to cracks, chips, crazing or staining. I thought it was so sad to just toss all of them into the dumpster even if they were just generic white dishes. So I spent some time on-line and came up with a plan if a friend AmeriCorps was willing to help me. I asked my friend Reid Saunders to do a drawing of the building that I could used for a collectors plate image.Together we could create a very inexpensive souvenir for the up coming events that could be a fundraiser item for the building.

Golden Rule

drawing done by Reid Saunders 2018 of the Golden Rule Cir 1902

I then took the dishes that I found in the basement and washed and sorted them. We chose to use all the large platters and about a dozen salad and dessert size plates for the project. I then took the image and adjusted the contrast and color so the image would print more clearly on to a waterslide decal and added the text.

dirty dishes in the Golden Rule

Abandoned white plates found in the basement of the Golden Rule

large image for plater

Blue image ready to print.

The image is printed on to clear decal paper that I ordered off Amazon. I bought from two different companies and found that I liked the thinner decals better for this project but either seemed to work fine and in the same manner. Also there are two different kinds of paper and two ways to process them depending on your printer. I happen to have two different Laser printers at work so I bought the paper that works for those. I think either printer is good for the decals but I do believe that you have to seal the decals with clear spray sealer if you are using an ink jet printer. In the case of  a laser printer, all you have to do to finish the decals in a low heat oven at 200 degrees for about 20 to make them water-resistant.

Once they are printed, I cut them to a workable size. You should soak the decals in slightly warm to the touch water. They release faster in warmer  water but they also  get stickier and more melted with hot water. Warm Water Only! It will take about 3 minutes to get a decal to release from its paper backing and begin to float. I soaked mine in a very shallow paper plate for about 2.5 minutes, while the decal is soaking I rise my plate in a water bath and drain all the extra water off. Their will be enough water trapped on the plate to move the decal around until you are happy with the placement of the decal. Once the paper is free from the decal, remove it and allow the decal to float free. I place a finger or thumb on the edge of my decal and drain some of the excess water off the area and then pour the decal and remaining water onto the platter. Usually the decal stays on top of the water and rides right onto the surface where you want it to be located. Sometimes they get a fold or roll when poured onto a project, just  wiggle the decal under the water and it will usually unfold itself. If the water is to hot it may melt together and stick. Then place the decal where  you would like it, drain any excess water off the plate and squeegee out any remaining water from under the decal and let dry. Then bake in an oven to finish the platter. I bought my sqeegee off line from a Car Wrap supplier. I loved it and found it very useful I would recomend the felt covered type so you do not scratch your image.

The next step is to bake the decal to the plate. If  you are baking several plates at a time watch them closely. It is possible to singe the decals if they get to hot. Out of 40 plates I had one turn a golden brown around the edges, I knew something was up when I began to smell burning plastic.

baked plates

When the plates are done cooling they are now water-resistant and can be hand washed in warm water without the decal sliding back off the plate. DO NOT PUT IN DISHWASHER! These are now one of a kind hand-made commemorative plates.

Each sheet of decal paper is about .90 cents. So over all we did pretty good on the production cost for the project. The plates were free from the building and each sheet was printed with two images of the building so each plate cost about .45 cents to make plus my time.

Over all this was a fun and creative way to make something out of what would normally be tossed out. The prices on the plates will range from 20 to 60 dollars each. Hopefully the public likes them and we sell out during our events. Wish me luck on raising a few hundred dollars for the buildings rehabilitation.

GR platter

Golden Rule Platter for sale at the Fall Festival Open House Sept 15th

Categories: antiques, Barbour County, Collector Plates, DIY projects, Drawing, Fairs and Festivals, Fall Festival, Golden Rule, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

1st Land Battel of Civil War reenacted in Philippi, W.V. every June.

My family enjoyed a day full of history, music and food at this spring downtown event.The Blue and Gray Reunion brings history to life in the small town of Philippi, West Virgina every 3rd week in June. People crowd the streets to see re-enactors recreate the 1st land battle of the Civil War. Where men dress as Union solders march their way through the city’s trade mark covered bridge to face Confederate solders who fire muskets at the foot of the bridge. The 3 day celebration is packed with history, music, food and crafts.

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Philippi Covered Bridge build 1876 then burned in the 1980’s then rebuilt. 

Being the only state created during the civil war, West Virginia’s history is forever linked to that tumultuous time in American History. So when I  learned that the first land battle was fought only 25 minutes from my house and they had a festival about the event, that  made it impossible for me to miss.

Our day started on the beautiful Barbour County Court House lawn only two blocks from the Philippi Cover Bridge were most of the canon and musket fire would happen. We took Christopher out to the grass fields where the  solider encampments were set up. He got a first hand look at historically accurate solders accommodations. He asked many questions that the re-enactors answered with responses that were historical correct. The question and answer that surprised even Tom was, “what do you do when not fighting?” The man answered we play rag ball. Christopher and I had no idea what he was talking about and finally he explained that often times soldiers would roll rags into a hard ball and hit it like a baseball with a stick or spend evenings playing cards. We also visited a woman in her tent who had a portable, foot powered, sewing machine and watched as she created a panel for a quilt.She explained that she often made clothes for the solders or did repairs on their tents.

We wandered through the vendor tents on the court-house square seeing a black smith, candle maker and other crafts made by local artists.  Then in the distance we heard solders marching and calling out orders along the back street behind the Court House. They were getting ready for the battle at the bridge. Tom and Christopher chose to stay on the downtown side of the bridge where the  Confederate troops had their camp and were ready to defend the town of Philippi. I crossed the cat walk of the bridge to get some photos of the Union soldiers following them as they marched across the bridge to have a fire fight at the base of the bridge. Canon fire rang out in the valley surrounding the bridge and the smell of sulfur filled the air. I could hardly believe how loud everything was… Compared to a normal day along main street in Philippi.

 

 

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Cannons fired across the Tygert River in downtown Philippi.

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Union troop members march through the covered bridge to meet Confederate troops on the other side and begin the battle. 

As the battle moved to the field along the river I was able to talk to a woman who was wearing a beautiful dress along side the battle field. She had made her own dress and crafted her hat. She explained how each  person at the event had done research on the clothing and uniforms that they wore. She said that correct portrail of the roles was a key point to the people who did historical reenactments. They loved to learn everything that they could the lives of people that they portrayed.  She explained that it was a labor of love and some people would have hundreds of hours of research done before their 1st reenactment. The day before she had been dressed as a morning widow at a memorial service held for those who lost their lives in battle. Dressed in black from head to toe for the funeral services. She and a friend had walked down main street to the local Civil War area church were singing and poetry had been part of the “services”.

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Lovely hand-made dress at the Blue and Gray Reunion. 

The kids loved to see the solders reload their muskets and shoot round after round of black powder into the air. When the battle was over many of the men shook hands and walked away as friends to the local gas station for a cool drink. But only in West Virginia have I ever seen three men walk casually into a “Sheets” gas station with large rifles slung over one shoulder and no one seems to mind. GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole town becomes part of the action during these three days. Walking down the street we stop under a tree in the shadow of a house that was used as a hospital  during the war. We see an army doctor performing the first Civil War amputation with a dummy. The “Dr.” explains how the procedure was preformed and how to care for the amputation wound after the limb was removed.  Christopher was amazed that they could do this kind of thing in a tent on the grass. The only thing I could think of was how lucky we are today to have hospitals and better medications than these young men had back then.

 

We then followed the crowd up the street for some live music and a hot lunch on the court-house steps. Then to our surprise the music stopped and a ring filled the air as someone tolled the iron bell in the county house belfries for those who were “killed”. An emotional reminder of the history of my state and the generations of people who lived and died as part of the Civil War.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

 

With our part of the events over we headed home while many more people enjoyed spending time with friends and family at a late afternoon and evening concert. The Blue and Gray reunion was as much fun as education can get for young and old. I only wish that I had planned more time to enjoy the activities that the event offers. The Blue and Grey Reunion organisation website or their  Facebook page  can help you make plans for next years event or help you learn more about the battle and the history of Philippi and the first land battle of the Civil War.

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Friends take time a hot afternoon to get a cool drink and visit while sharing their history knowledge.

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Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Blue and Gray Reunion, Civil War, Covered bridges, historic locations, history, Philippi, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Joy of CreatingCommunity Art

When I graduated from college with a degree in art, I never thought that I would be a public art advocate or a muralist. Of course, I never thought I would be on TV or an AmeriCorps Service Member either. Today working on community art projects is one of the things that gives me the most joy.

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AmeriCorps Volunteer murals start to appear in the windows of the Golden Rule Building, Belington, WV

Art has always been a passion of mine but taking my skills to the size and scale of murals to be displayed in public spaces is new. I have always used art as a tool for my personal  expression, never thinking about doing art for the public. Now as a mature artist, I am sharing the feelings and passions of communities, programs, and groups of people. The change is fundamentally new to my understanding of what it means to create and to be a creator. I see my work now as a tool for positive change in a community. A gift that will have lasting effects in many of the small rural towns where I live and work.

 

Over the last month, two more quilt panels that I was the project manager for and head artist have been installed, 6 window murals have been installed that I helped to create with volunteers, and the beginnings of an office mural, that I am personally painting, is ready for paint application. I am also on the board of an Art organization called Mountain Arts District that is in the process of installing a collection of student art work  in a city park in June. It is over whelming when I stop and look at the amount of people and projects that have passed through my life in the last 3 years.  Yet, this is not my main job and I only do what I can for non-profits who rarely have the funds to pay for such projects. I am doing most of this work as a part of my AmeriCorps service but also as an educational experience to those around me. Public art is a niche skill just like any other field and the leaders of our communities rarely understand or feel comfortable talking with arts, I aim to change that.

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line drawing on the wall of my new office Barbour County Development Authority, Philippi, WV

 

I often paint with non-artist volunteers and spend much of my time helping and teaching interested community members skills that they can use to make community art themselves. It is a joy to share in the process of watching an idea come to life, then see people learning to make art, then watch the pride that comes to their faces when they walk through a downtown seeing art that they have helped to make. It is sometimes the only real change that they can point to and say “I did that” in their community.

Community art is best when people who live and love a place take part in the creation of their culture. That could mean painting murals,  taking part in community dances, attending festivals of live music or creation of community gardens. It is when people begin to see that they have the power to create positive change that things begin to thrive.

Even if I never planned to be doing this kind of work and I am surprised everyday that I get paid to create these images, I am thankful to AmeriCorps for allowing me to share my skills.I am fortunate to work at sites that have allowed me the time away from the “office” to work on these up lifting projects and I will have the best memories of my service time.  It is my final wish that as I leave AmeriCorps next spring that I can continue to make a difference in my community with art in some way. I know that it has changed me for the better and I hope it is always part of who I am.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

installation of one of the 8 panels I helped to create for the Elkins Main Street project 2017

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Elkins Main Street, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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