A July 2005 trip
to Philippi by kjlouden
Quote: During "those . . . crazy days of summer," some folks head for the beach. I
stay in the cool car, drive shady Mountain State roads, and tour museums on the new
West Virgina Civil War Heritage Trail. First outing: Philippi, site of the first land
This diagonal highway was a more accurate division, spiritually and politically,
than the Mason-Dixon line, an hour north of here. In a psychic split, the upper portion of
the state was accustomed to industry and trade on rivers that run north (Tygart and
Monongahela). The first capital was established June 30, 1863, at Wheeling.
We find no huge battlefields--none of the greatest conflicts occurred in
West Virginia--but get up-close and personal with the schizophrenic personality of "the
only state born of the Civil War." Instead of battlegrounds, we visit the train
depot in Grafton (General McClellan’s Union headquarters) and the grave of the first
Union soldier killed by a Confederate. Private T. Bailey Brown is buried along with
1,215 from both sides (664 unknown) at Grafton National Cemetery.
On down the Pike, we see General McClellan’s desk and belongings in Ann Marie Jarvis’
dining room, where he set up his first headquarters at Webster.
No banner flew here, because the neutral, church-going woman with sons fighting on
both sides wouldn’t allow it. With Union forces encamped across the road (at Ocean
Pearl Felton Historical Park), she cared for injured Yankees and Confederates alike and spoke to
reconcile families torn by hostility. Across from the house stood the train depot that
stored Union supplies.
Troops moved along this 16-mile stretch between Grafton and Phillipi. First, rebels
moved into Grafton, where they controlled the train and telegraph until General
George B. McClellan routed them. Next, rebels retreated to Philippi, setting fire to
railroad bridges along the way (which McClellan termed "an act of war"!), and
established headquarters there under Colonel George Porterfield. US Colonels Kelley and
Dumont almost surrounded them in Philippi and made them sprint down Main Street all the way
"The Philippi Race" is reenacted annually. We were highly entertained by Olivia’s telling
of it at Barbour County’s Civil War Museum.
The Historic District surrounds Main Street, where Confederates camped at the
Courthouse and sprinted through town in retreat.
After the flood of 1985, residents were still finding cannonballs. Two Union
cannons placed in 1861 on Broaddus Hill, overlooking town, can be viewed in replica
at Alderson-Broaddus College. They were supposed to fire the first shot of the first land
battle, but Mrs. Humphries stole their fire to warn her rebel son! Cannons still volleyed, but
Confederates left so fast that there were few casualties. Colonel Porterfield and his men scrambled out of town so expeditiously, he didn’t finish
his hot toddy. As the story goes, US Colonel Kelley finished it for him.
All that didn’t totally silence the Rebel Yell. If the Road Commission hadn’t heard it,
the bridge wouldn’t be there today! Even when a boy fell through it in 1937, Philippi residents
wouldn’t hear of having it moved to a "monument site."
You can get the newest brochure of West Virginia Division of Tourism, Civil War
Heritage, by calling 800/CALLWVA or copy it here. Twenty-four sites
are described and shown on a map, but you’ll still need driving directions to some.
Tourists in West Virginia don’t have to go to Cass anymore for a sightseeing excursion.
New rail journeys in the Tygart Valley begin in Belington, Elkins, and Durbin. You can
get the details on the Tygart Flyer, Cheat Mountain Salamander, and Durbin Rocket here.
This small-town Main Street runs along the Tygart River with heavily forested hills on
both sides of the valley, so that no spot in this town of less than 3,000 people is without
its frilly green border, always in the corner of my eye. Shops and houses line the street,
and the courthouse with large lawn, front and sides, is a quiet spot with benches and this
clock that hints of yesteryear.
On down Main Street, we park on the curb in front of Medallion Restaurant, right in front
of the entrance. Even before we get out of the car, we see the sign straight out of another
decade. Was it the 1960’s when you could get all-you-can-eat for
One wall is lined with booths, and the long counter runs along the opposite wall. Tables
occupy the space in between, and the food bar is set up near the back--that’s where we sit.
I’m always disappointed by food bars that offer only iceberg lettuce, and that’s what I
sometimes find in a small town. Not here! Spinach salad is decorated with bits of
candied fruits, red and green peppers, and an oily dressing that is delicious. Pasta salad,
two kinds, contain black olives and red peppers galore. Wheat rolls appear to be
Second trip, my plate looks like this:
Okay, so the carrots are probably canned, and so are the green beans, but what can one
expect for $4.95? I would drive down here any day for that cabbage! It’s delicious, and I
feel as though I’ve been transported to Germany. The meatloaf is also good. Beautiful,
tall chocolate cake tempts me, but my dessert must be more of that cabbage. I get a soup
bowl full. It is cooked just right, tender and not overcooked.
David has fried chicken, meatloaf, and potatoes piled high on his plate, and I ask if his food
is good, too. His comment is that it reminds him of Cracker Barrel's. That’s fair,
especially since he loves their food. This little establishment puts out a pretty
good country-style buffet.
At the register, our waitress, who appears to be an owner, strikes up a conversation about
the hot weather and lack of rain in Philippi. This is a surprise to me, since my hometown
just an hour away has had flood and storm warnings many days running, on and off for
weeks. Not Philippi. (It’s been unusually dry for this time of year.) So, that’s the topic
of conversation around town, and just as she is about to reveal what else residents are
discussing, she’s called to the kitchen. The establishment is filling up with their
Wednesday evening crowd. Everyone can afford dinner here, and it’s too hot to
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 22, 2005
7 South Main Street
Philippi, West Virginia 26416
In case I am worried about authenticity, my informant at Barbour County Historical
Society Museum assures me that most of the charred wood was simply scraped away,
leaving enough thickness to be sturdy--after all, original local lumber was extra
think! Mostly roof and siding were replaced, but not much structure this time.
Philippi residents let the Road Commission hear their Rebel Yell in the 1930’s, when
some supports rotted away and a boy fell through and drowned. Locals wouldn’t have it
replaced with iron. They wanted this bridge and no other!
The Road Commission offered to set it up at another site as a monument, but residents
didn’t want a monument. They wanted to continue driving through it. The only answer
then was concrete supports, and the only answer to the fire was to restore the upper
two-arch wooden span. (Philippi-2: Road Commission-0) Now, it is more like the
original than at any other period in its cat-like history.
West Virginia still has seventeen covered bridges, but this is the only one in the nation
that operates as part of a federal highway.
It is a symbol of strength, we learn from one Philippi resident, who narrates with pride
how its designer, Lemuel Chenoweth, presented his two-part model at a contest before the
Virginia Assembly in Richmond in order to win the contract to build it. Hauled over the
mountains in two saddlebags, the model was strung between two chairs, and Chenoweth
jumped up onto his "bridge" and dared other designers to do the same with their
Chenoweth built many bridges for Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. This stretch
of road was Beverly-Fairmont Pike, eventually expanded to Wheeling-Staunton Pike.
Because it followed the B&O Railroad, it was a strategic focus of North and South in the
Civil War. The bridge housed soldiers and supplies for both sides, depending on who
occupied Philippi at the time. With its double-barrel construction and its long span across
the Tygart River, there was plenty of room inside!
One must admit that it’s the perfect bridge for this little town. With forests all around
and old-time craftsmanship the pride of the area, perhaps Philippi will keep its bridge
forever. Originally a Central European concept, covered bridges are an aesthetic
complement to West Virginia’s ancient streams. More authentic, more attractive red
poplar roofing shingles replaced the not-so-authentic green tarp, and Olivia Sue leans
forward to confide, "We didn’t need that anyway." Artists who draw and paint it
agree. Parks on both sides offer excellent views.
The Restored Philippi Covered Bridge
Philippi, West Virginia
Attraction | "Barbour County Civil War Historical Society Museum"
We’re late--after 4pm, closing time. No matter, the door is unlocked, and Olivia Sue
phones home without prompting to say she’ll be ready to leave at 5:15pm. I get the feeling she
can’t pass up any opportunity to show the collection.
We make short shrift of the mummies--recent mummies! National Geographic,
Fox News, and other media have covered the Philippi Mummies, and visitors can view the National Geographic video.
I take photos, but Olivia informs me that I must get
permission from the owner to publish them. This museum has so much Civil War
memorabilia that one can be fascinated for an hour without viewing mummies. (After
Olivia’s commentary on each display, every visitor becomes an authority on the
Battle of Philippi.) About the mummies, I’ll just say that a letter on display from the
female makes me wonder if she really belonged in Weston State Hospital for the Insane.
Colonel Kelley’s sword, with which he led the charge down Broaddus Hill and across the
covered bridge into Philippi, is on display along with many cannonballs, other
swords, muskets, homemade bullets, General McClellan’s saddle, and
The first amputation of the war occurred here, and (now) Hanger Orthopedic Group’s
prosthesis is displayed. Photos of Yankees and Confederates, including Colonel Porterfield,
commander of the southern detachment that occupied Philippi, and others decorate walls.
Guns, medicines, flags, tools, and more are accompanied with familiar narration, as
though Olivia had been there.
Her description of the fierce storm in which the charge was made; the exact location of each
officer and his path across town; the building, roof, or lawn where each artifact was
recovered; content of telegraph messages that were intercepted; mistakes that were made
by Confederate officers and lookouts--all is revealed. It may have been not the most
exciting battle, but it must be the most-intimately covered one!
Olivia demonstrates, too, as she does with this antique lawnmower.
Every item is explained with an appropriate twist of irony or sarcasm, and I’m so
entertained that I find myself confused by a myriad of details. No problem! With the
patience of Job, she begins at the beginning and retells that part of the story until I can repeat
it back to her: "Okay, so Porterfield was occupying the train depot in Grafton
when he intercepted McClellan’s message and passed it on to Robert E. Lee. When Lee
didn’t act upon it, Porterfield took it upon himself to burn railroad bridges."
She nods her affirmative the whole while, so I know I’m getting it right. She’s a born
educator! I must run down to the courthouse now to see the "new" one, since I know
everything that happened there and in the old one, too, when Rebels used it as their
One can buy beautiful books for children and adults about the battle and the bridge.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 22, 2005
Barbour County Historical Museum
200 North Main Street
Philippi, West Virginia
Attraction | "Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum"
Anna Jarvis, known as Founder of Mothers’ Day, was born here in 1864, near the end of
the Civil War. Her mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, has more interest for Civil War
buffs. She had learned a bit about medicine and sanitation from her brother, Dr. James E.
Reeves, and so she assumed a position of instructing nurses and caring for soldiers. In
addition, she hosted General McClellan when he commandeered her
The grounds are planted with rose bushes, black-eyed Susans, lilies, and other flowers.
We are attracted to the breezeway, where Olive suggests we begin. On this
90-degree afternoon in July, we feel cool enough on the wooden swing, and the cat sits
with us as we learn about the Jarvis family, Wheeling-Staunton Pike, and Webster.
breezeway between kitchen and root cellar was called the whistle way.
Servants were required to whistle when they brought food across it. That way, owners
knew that help weren’t eating food.
We see evidence of a benevolent family who probably would have fed their servants,
anyway. The home is full of items 100-150 years old: clothing of Anna and her mother,
including black wedding dresses and baby clothes; bed covers; Union military uniforms
and paraphernalia; the original kitchen sink. I’m especially impressed by the ladies’ hats
displayed on the wall, and our guide says, "Anna was a dresser." Friends with President
Woodrow Wilson, she met with him decked out to the hilt. Photos tell that story.
In travels around West Virginia’s Civil War sites, I have encountered several versions of
why Anna worked for years to honor her mother by establishing the national and
international holiday. One I like best cites Ann Marie’s work mothering soldiers and
reconciling her sons and others’, torn by loyalties to opposing sides. The woman kept
other mothers busy by rounding them up and putting them to work caring for injured so
that they wouldn’t dwell on their own losses. Read more here. Somehow, the war
connection got lost for a while, but now is reinstated. Now Anna Jarvis House is a Civil
War Heritage Site.
We tour nursery, bedrooms, kitchen, diningroom, and parlor.
All wallpapers have been faithfully reproduced except for this one. In General
McClellan’s office/diningroom, half the walls--a symbolic compromise!--feature
the same paper found in his office in Washington, D. C.
Anna Jarvis House
Village of Webster on U.S. Highways 119 & 250
Grafton, West Virginia 26354
West Virginia, United States