By Allen Hamrick
for the Clay County Free Press
On June 20, 1863, President Lincoln signed a bill admitting West Virginia to the Union. Finally, a state we can call home; a place where we can live free and breathe fresh air.
Mountains ran wild with game, all a person had to do was be wilder than the mountains they were trying to tame. The new state was majestic, and to live here was a gift and an opportunity to be free. All down through the ages, our great state has been given the poke in the ribs due to our accents and our way of life. Television has painted this picture of weed eating varmints who never wear shoes and are poorer than Job’s turkey. However, most who actually visit this state know better. Sure, in our state’s history there was a time when life was very difficult, a time when the first pioneers built cabins and forts along rivers and streams. Through that difficulty we have risen from the ashes and become one of the greatest suppliers of coal and timber in the country.
Since then, times have flourished, as well as diminished, over the years, but the state stays the same. Towns have boomed and then become ghost towns as industry came and went, but the people moved on and forged out lives for themselves, regardless of the situation.
We live in the hills and valleys of some of the most spectacular scenery east of the Mississippi. Our mountains and hills allow some of the best views in the world, and they are covered with a blanket of lush green forest, and valleys are littered with streams that have world class fishing and boating opportunities. People travel great distances to camp, hike, hunt, fish, bike, sight see, star gaze, eat and shop in this state because the people here are unique.
The traveler can meander through the state on its miles and miles of back roads, for a year even, and never see all there is to see. The story of our rich history is like a living story book, full of wonder and imagination. There is a passion of many people that maintains the history of this state and its counties, represented through pictures, books and in the preservation of our landmarks. Because of this, West Virginia’s history remains vivid with the idea that in some ways we can be a part of those who have walked before us; we can walk and talk and stand where they once stood. We owe it to those who forged this state to remember; else their efforts were in vain. Woodrow Wilson said it best, “It is easy to forget the details of what one reads; one never forgets what one sees.” Once someone travels this state, they never forget and continue to return to her drawing power.
Our small county of Clay, like other counties, has yielded a great deal of resources of coal, timber and gas, all in the name of progress and financial gain for our state and jobs for our people. Is it not our duty to preserve our state and history instead of letting it fall to ruin? I say it is without a doubt for the good of our generations that we now embark to preserve our great state so that the generations of the past can still teach the generations of the future. This state is strong because we stand together, and that alone is the only way we move forward. If we let her majestic story fall into the pages of a book that is never opened, then you, as well as I, along with everyone else stand liable to our past generations who held fast the struggle for killing our history. The worst thing we can do is to lose the highlights, especially now when the cynics and scoffers are so barefaced in our state. Yes, changes must occur, but every generation since we became a state has had its heroic peoples, and they always moved forward. They have inspired us to make this state a great place to live and raise families.
This state we live in that we proudly call WEST Virginia is a great place. She inspires creativity and an insatiable desire for adventure; one just simply looks at the horizon of so many hills and gets lost in the infinity of the dreams of exploration. Be proud of your state! She is as old as time itself, yet so young at 158 years. Her story continues to be told through time, whether we are here or not, so leave your mark in the state. Create your own story, and take a journey. This is your right of passage – you are a West Virginian after all. Be proud to be among the mountaineers!