, West Virginia
September 15, 2005
David Houchin, genealogist, explains that most prominent families in Clarksburg today are
descendants of the first settlers, a small number who owned most of the land before 1800. Massive sell-offs and transfers made more work for the county. Family and land
are still important.
The present courthouse (the third) replaced another in 1932 and cost $700,000
during The Great Depression. It strikes me how different its arts moderne styling
is from the usual classical design. The buff limestone building and plaza have polished black granite decoration that seems official.
It’s a pleasant and well-used square and stage for public gatherings, displays, and
entertainment. Last weekend, the Italian Heritage Festival was here.
At the corner of the building, eight figures represent ethnic groups who populated the
city. I know that Irish, Scottish, and Italian images must be among them, but I can’t
identify each one.
At the opposite corner is the flagstaff from U.S.S. West Virginia, sunk at Pearl Harbor.
In front of the building is a war memorial of the Military Order of the Purple Heart,
Chapter 418 for combat wounded veterans, 1941-2000. The inscription demands
reverence: "Some gave all. All gave some." Central West Virginia is an area where
folks are always eager to serve.
Even without his hat and sword, the equestrian Stonewall Jackson dominates the
I am thinking that this may be the farthest point north where one can find the home of a
Confederate General. A local man asks if I know the exact birthplace and points to the
yellow brick building a few doors down on the other side of the street.
It’s where bankruptcy court is now held, but a hotel was there on the same spot in 1824,
when Jackson was born. After I cross the street, I can see the bronze plaque
commemorating the location.
Godfrey talks about the boyhood home. (That’s where we’re headed next.) A former
coal miner, he knows that Jackson’s parents died before he was 6, that he was raised by
an uncle at Jackson’s Mill, attended West Point, acquired his nickname at the
first Battle of Bull Run, and is buried in Lexington, Virginia. I’d say that in the "state born of the Civil War," knowledge of its heroes outstrips the national average!
From journal The State Born of the Civil War, Part II: Clarksburg