Museum Collections

The Marion County Historical Society Museum contains various artifacts, collections and historical items that are relevant to West Virginina, Marion County, Coal Baron, Black, Revolutionary War, Civil War, Industry and Railroad history.

WV History & Marion County

West Virginia is one of two American states formed during the American Civil War (1861–1865), along with Nevada, and is the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state. It was originally part of the British Virginia Colony (1607–1776) and the western part of the state of Virginia (1776–1863), whose population became sharply divided over the issue of secession from the Union and in the separation from Virginia, formalized by admittance to the Union as a new state in 1863. West Virginia was one of the Civil War Border states.

West Virginia's history was profoundly affected by its mountainous terrain, spectacular river valleys, and rich natural resources. These were all factors driving its economy and the lifestyles of residents, as well as drawing visitors to the "Mountain State" in the early 21st century.

Coal Barons

In 1883, thousands of European immigrants and a large number of African Americans migrated to southern West Virginia to work in coal mines. These coal miners worked in company mines with company tools and equipment, which they were required to lease. Along with these expenses, the miners were deducted pay for housing rent and items they purchased from company stores. Furthermore, the coal companies went as far as creating their own monetary system so the miners could only shop at company owned stores.

In addition with the poor economic condition, safety in the mines was a great concern. West Virginia fell behind other states in regulating mining conditions. Between 1890 and 1912, West Virginia had a higher mine death rate than any other state. In fact, West Virginia is the site of the worst coal mining disaster to date. With the Monongah Mine disaster of Monongah, West Virginia 6 December 1907. This explosion was caused by the ignition of methane gas (also called "firedamp"), which in turn ignited the coal dust. The lives of 362 men were lost in the underground explosion. As a result, this disaster impelled the United States Congress to create the Bureau of Mines.

As a result to the poor working conditions and low wages the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) was formed in Columbus, Ohio in 1890. Finally in 1902, the UMWA achieved recognition in West Virginia. Consequently by 1912, the union had lost control of this area. So when the UMWA miners on Paint Creek in Kanawha County demanded wages equal to those of other area mines, they were rejected. As a result, the miners walked off the job on April 18, 1912 beginning one of the most violent strikes in the nation’s history. After the Cabin Creek miners joined the Paint Creek miners it started the mining war of West Virginia.

Black History

The African- American community took it upon itself to create the first schools in the state for blacks. In 1862, a year before the state's creation, a black school was opened in Parkersburg. In 1866, the state agreed to take over the Sumner School, making it the first publicly financed black school in the entire South. Black schools sprang up in other towns, including Charleston, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Grafton, Keyser, Lewisburg, Malden, Martinsburg, Morgantown, Piedmont, Point Pleasant, Ronceverte, Shepherdstown, Union, Weston, Wheeling, and White Sulphur Springs. There was a growing need for individuals to teach the increasing number of black students. Storer College, established at Harpers Ferry in 1867, was comprised of two components, a grammar school and a normal school for the training of teachers. In the 1890s, the state created two additional black normal schools, West Virginia Colored Institute (later West Virginia State College) and Bluefield Colored Institute (later Bluefield State College).

Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) or American War of Independence, or simply Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.

The Revolution War in Western Virginia featured none of the sprawling battles and large marching armies that characterized the war in the east. Nonetheless, westerners participated on both sides of the conflict and on battlefields throughout the country. Patriotic citizens answered at least ten troop calls, most famously including the riflemen who rushed from Martinsburg and Winchester to reinforce George Washington at Boston in the Bee Line March of 1775. Western Virginians supplied the materials of war, as well, including food, clothing, and wagons.

Civil War

The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a civil war in the United States of America. Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America, also known as "the Confederacy". Led by Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy fought for its independence from the United States. The U.S. federal government was supported by twenty mostly-Northern free states in which slavery already had been abolished, and by five slave states that became known as the border states. These twenty-five states, referred to as the Union, had a much larger base of population and industry than the South. After four years of bloody, devastating warfare (mostly within the Southern states), the Confederacy surrendered and slavery was outlawed everywhere in the nation. The restoration of the Union, and the Reconstruction Era that followed, dealt with issues that remained unresolved for generations.

Building West Virginia

West Virginia became a state following the Wheeling Conventions, breaking away from Virginia during the American Civil War. The new state was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, and was a key Civil War border state. West Virginia was the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state, and was one of only two states formed during the American Civil War (the other one being Nevada, which separated from Utah Territory).

The Census Bureau and the Association of American Geographers consider West Virginia part of the South. The northern panhandle extends adjacent to Pennsylvania and Ohio with the West Virginia cities of Wheeling and Weirton being just across the border from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, while Bluefield is less than 70 miles (110 km) from North Carolina and Harper's Ferry is considered to be a part of the Washington metropolitan area. The unique position of West Virginia means that it is often included in several geographical regions, including the Mid-Atlantic, the Upland South, and the Southeastern United States. Notably, it is the only state which entirely lies within the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is a common definition of "Appalachia".

Coal Industry

Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock normally occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure. Coal is composed primarily of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, with smaller quantities of sulfur, oxygen and nitrogen.

Coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce electricity and heat through combustion. World coal consumption was about 6,743,786,000 short tons in 2006 and is expected to increase 48% to 9.98 billion short tons by 2030. The USA consumes about 14% of the world total, using 90% of it for generation of electricity.

Glass Industry

The glass industry in West Virginia is uniquely situated at the intersection where art, science and technology meet. Glass products made in West Virginia are famous throughout our country and the world for their functional beauty and fine craftsmanship.

Beautiful art glass pieces are produced by companies such as Fenton Art Glass, Blenko Art Glass, and Glassworks WV for museums and as awards. Elegant dinnerware is produced by Judel Products for homes and restaurants. Attractive and functional lighting fixtures are produced by companies such as Davis-Lynch Glass for schools as well as hotels. Decorative glass gems and marbles are produced by companies such as Mid-Atlantic of WV and Marble King; Marble King is one of only four toy marble producers in the nation. Industrial flat glass and artistic stained glass are produced by companies such as AFG Glass, Blenko Art Glass, and Paul Wissmach Glass; Eagle Convex Glass uses flat glass to make shaped glass for appliances. Scientific glass products are produced by Schott Glass for chemical laboratories. Commercial fiberglass is produced by Guardian, John Mansville and Hollinee, often for special fiberglass-related products.

Bridges & Railroads

The Fairmont, Morgantown and Pittsburgh Railroad Company was incorporated in West Virginia on December 10, 1883 to construct a railroad from Morgantown to Fairmont, WV.

The railroad, apparently backed from the start by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), was created to extend the B&O's line from Fairmont to Morgantown, and also to connect with the B&O line at Uniontown, PA. Construction of the route was delayed by legal disagreements with the West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad over right of way rights -- in 1884 at Fairmont, and later at Point Marion and along the Cheat River, where there was room for only one railroad.

The railroad line was finally opened to South Morgantown by January 30, 1886, and to Morgantown a few days later, but by this time the railroad was operated and controlled by the B&O. The extension of the railroad from Morgantown to Uniontown, on which grading began in the spring of 1892, was practically completed early in 1894; and after some delay occasioned by the bridge across Cheat River at Point Mason, was opened to traffic the following summer -- soon resulting in the opening of many new coal mining operations in the Fairmont Coal Field and Monongalia County.

At first inadequate for the vast freight which it carried, in 1907 the road was improved by equipment with new 85 pound rails and by a double track over part of its route.