West Virginia Centennial Celebration

Wheeling News-Register
April 21, 1963

Optimism Marks Centennial Fete

Barron Sees Challenge Of Future

Governor Urges Long Hard Look "At Ourselves"

West Virginia celebrated its 100th birthday here Saturday with a party from out of the past and a challenge for the future.

Optimism and pride rippled through the proceedings during Saturday's Centennial celebration.

Gov. W. W. Barron issued the challenge before an estimated 1,200 persons who attended Saturday afternoon's State Legislature session at the Capitol Theatre.

Citing the state's heritage, Gov. Barron declared:

"Now the opportunity to advance West Virginia to higher levels of prosperity and happiness is ours too. What are we going to do with it?

"Our Centennial gives us the chance to take a long, hard look at ourselves while we are deciding what the answer is to be."

Second Declaration

Following the governor's challenge, he and members of the State Legislature signed the second Declaration of Wheeling which sets the goals of the state for the second century.

Lt. Albert Sailer, head of the traffic division of the Wheeling Bureau of Police, estimated Saturday's crowds in downtown Wheeling as "at least 25,000."

Scenes from the tense Civil War era came alive in a happy, carefree atmosphere as Gov. and Mrs. Barron, state legislators, officials and other dignitaries wore costumes from a century ago.

Horses and buggies and oxen took over Market Street between Eleventh and Sixteenth Streets for eight hours Saturday as vehicles were banned.

Out of the Past

There was much to see. Almost 4,000 persons viewed the C. & P. Telephone Co. exhibit on Fourteenth Street. There also were antique automobiles, a Conestoga wagon pulled by oxen and the Town of Triadelphia's "U.S. Mail" wagon drawn by four ponies.

Hundreds of wide-eyed children engulfed a miniature steam engine and coal tender of Twelfth Street.

The Second Declaration of Wheeling was adopted after the opening of a special but unofficial session of the Legislature Saturday morning at the Old Custom House, now an office and store building on the corner of 16th and Market Streets.

The First Declaration of Rights was signed June 20, 1861, when Arthur I. Boreman was elected first governor of West Virginia.


The special session was part of a weekend of activities here commemorating a 100th anniversary of President Lincoln's signing of the West Virginia Statehood Proclamation. That proclamation became effective and West Virginia became the 35th state to join the Union the following June 20.

After a morning session, Barron and legislative leaders unveiled markers at the Old Custom House and the former Linsly Building, both of which Barron suggested Friday night should be purchased by local civic groups, restored and turned into West Virginia shrines.

They also unveiled a marker at the site of Washington Convention Hall which burned down in 1875.

During a legislative luncheon in the Colonnade Room on the mezzanine of the McLure Hotel, known in its early days as the McLure House, Barron was presented with a 35-star flag measuring 5-7 feet and mounted in a specially-made case. It was presented by Charleston's Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts and the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co.


The weekend program was capped Saturday night with a State Centennial Banquet at Oglebay Park's Wilson Lodge and a formal Governor's Centennial Ball.

During the evening banquet, Barron and members of the State Supreme Court were given souvenir gavels made of red oak from the first state capitol and wood of the state tree, the sugar maple.

The gavels, and souvenir desk plaques given to members of the Legislature, were made by R. J. Roberts, a retired farmer from Princeton.

Greeted With Flowers

Barron and his wife arrived at the Old Custom House Saturday morning in a surrey complete with fringe.

Already in front of the building were members of the Legislature who had been greeted by about 100 young girls distributing flowers as did their counterparts 100 years ago.

Except for some wind, the weather was perfect - the temperature was 63 degrees and skies were clear at noon - compared with the rain and strong wind that enveloped the merrymakers outside the McLure Hotel Friday night.

While waiting for the governor to arrive, the Wheeling High School Band performed for the spectators while surries, horse-drawn wagons and people on horseback stood by.

A group of young girls dressed in red, white and blue did a 19th century dance and a barbershop quartet, dressed in derbys and black mustaches, sang and played on washboards and other homemade instruments on the steps of the Old Custom House.

Highlighting the one-hour program on the second floor of the building was the adoption of the Second Declaration by members of the Legislature.

Hubbard Speaks

Republican Sens. Chester Hubbard of Wheeling and Jack L. Miller of Parkersburg, and Democratic Del. Harry L. Pauley of Iaeger took turns recalling events leading to the birth of West Virginia.

Hubbard noted that the occasion was especially memorable for him because his great grandfather had the same privilege of addressing a similar meeting 100 years ago.

The five women members of the Legislature surprised their colleagues by introducing a resolution urging "the talents, initiative of peculiar capacities of our women by utilized to the fullest in the solution of our varied problems and on meeting the challenges of the future."

House Speaker Julius W. Singleton of Morgantown delighted the crown by proclaiming the resolution adopted despite the loud chorus of tongue-in-cheek 'Nays' after he called for a vote.

State Senator Jack L. Miller of Parkersburg drew laughter when he told lawmakers at the Old Custom House that the name Kanawha was rejected for the new state and pointed out "So you see the sentiments against Kanawha were the same then as they are today."

Del. Harry R. Pauley of Iaeger quipped: "I don't care what you call it, just so you call it quits with Virginia." More laughter.

Serious Side

And there was a serious side.

House Minority Leader George H. Seibert, Jr., of Ohio County, remarked at the Capitol Theatre program that he hoped the weekend observance would see an end to the sectionalism which often divides West Virginians.

The crown began gathering early in the afternoon at the Capitol Theater where the Linsly military guard and drum and bugle corps added to the glitter of the occasion.

The opening scene had the audience spellbound.

Hal O'Leary's portrayal of Abraham Lincoln at the time West Virginia was admitted into the Union brought "oh's" and "ah's" from the estimated 1,200 persons.

O'Leary's voice boomed through the theater in a clear, bass tone as he give Lincoln's account of the struggle encountered by West Virginians to gain statehood.

When the curtain parted, the almost perfect image of the famous President was seen through a screen curtain standing beside Lincoln's chair.

Behind him were the members of the legislature, sitting motionless as O'Leary gestured through his delivery.

Throughout the Lincoln presentation, the roll of drums could be heard coming from outside, almost as if a Civ[i]l War regiment was stationed nearby just as it was 100 years ago.

Thunder of Ovation

When O'Leary finished with "I believe the admission of West Virginia into the Union is expedient," a thunderous ovation shook the building.

Then the screen curtain was parted to fully reveal the legislators in their colorful costumes of a century ago.

The hundred of viewers smiled their approval of the snappy procession down the outside aisles by the members of the Ohio Valley General Hospital Cap N' Bib Choir.

Their spotless, neatly pressed uniforms glittered under the bright stage lights.

The nurses' procession was started with soft music coming from the stage pit occupied by William Schweizer and his orchestra. As the young ladies lined up in front of the legislators the music reached its loudest pitch and ended with long, approving applause by the audience.

Flashbulbs popped continuously as the choir directed by Charles Taylor gave out with "It's a Grand Old Flag"; "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "This is My Country." Long, hearty applause lasted through the recessional.

Session Opens

Senate President Howard W. Carson walked to the rostrum and banged his gavel to officially call the second Wheeling Declaration of Rights session to order.

When the Rev. Arthur C. Freet, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, concluded the invocation, Carson introduced in order Senators John E. Carrigan of Marshall County and J. Horner Davis, III, of Kanawha, for remarks.

They were followed by Delegates William T. Brotherton, Jr., of Kanawha County; George H. Seibert, Jr. of Ohio County; Richard E. Ford of Greenbrier County; and Charles E. Lohr of Mercer County.

Former governors of West Virginia were the next to be paid recognition but only one of two was picked out in the theater box seats by the spotlight. He was former Gov. Okey Patteson. Former Gov. Cecil Underwood did not respond to his introduction.

When Del. Jack R. Nuzum of Randolph County finished his introduction of Gov. Barron, the theater audience gave the chief executive a standing ovation as the orchestra blared out with "Hail to the Chief."

Governor Signs

The governor, with the rolled declaration in his hands, strolled quickly to the rostrum. The scroll was passed on to the Senate president and then to Clark J. Howard Myers who read it after the governor concluded his address.

Carson then called on the governor to affix his signature which he did with the comment that he was honored and proud to be the initial signer.

The governor handed the quill to Carson who in turn presented it to Julius Singleton of Monongalia County and thence in order to all of the other legislators who lined up to affix their names to the document.

As the signing ceremony was being carried out the audience was treated to a musical program featuring former Wheelingites Rosalie Olinski and Rhys Ritter, as well as the Linsly Military Glee Club.

Gov. Barron led the procession of legislators out of the theater after Carson called for an adjournment motion as the crowd gave its final standing ovation.

Paul Zane, who took the part of the unknown messenger carrying the news of the new State's acceptance of the conditions of statehood, estimates that at least a thousand people took his picture Saturday.

The Cherry Hill Road pioneer descendant of the founders of Wheeling was wearing an authentic coonskin cap, and a simulated buckskin suit, with fringes.

Morning services today in churches throughout Ohio County will include commemorative programs observing the historic event of West Virginia being honored as the 35th State in the Union.

At 4 p.m., The Chapel Choir of Capitol University, Columbus, O. will perform in St. James Lutheran Church, 1409 Chapline St.

During the vocal concert, special messages from Gov. James C. Rhodes, Governor of Ohio to Gov. Barron will be read. Mayor John J. Gast of Wheeling will receive one from Mayor W. Walston Westlake of Columbus.

The choir performance, open to the public, is under the sponsorship of the Ohio Valley Lutheran Ministerial Association.

The weekend program began Friday night when a crowd of some 3,000 gave Gov. Barron a joyous greeting. Coordinator for the Centennial festivities was Joe Funk.

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