If you, a Clay County native, were thinking about what in our county could be preserved, what would it be?
I was recently thinking about all the wonderful buildings that once lined the streets of Clay and how many are now gone. A few remain standing, but one has stood the test of time and is a monument to our county. I am speaking of our original county courthouse on the hill. We have a few landmarks in our county that many want saved, including the Elkhurst Swinging Bridge. That is also on our agenda. This is where the Clay County Historical Society and Landmarks Commission steps in.
The first thing I need to do is to acknowledge and thank the past and present Clay County commissioners for their ongoing support in keeping up the old courthouse. They realize(d) that what our group is doing affects all Clay County people. Without their financial support and providing us an area from which to work, we would not be able to continue working to preserve all of the historical content we have collected for decades.
The Clay County Historical Society and Landmarks Commission (HSLC) was appointed by the county commission to be the caretakers of this exquisite building. We started with one small room in the second floor courtroom area but now occupy the entire second floor. Our mission is and always has been to preserve this beautiful building for future Clay County citizens, especially our children.
The HSLC was an outgrowth of the Hickory & Lady Slippers project of Clay County High School, Clay, West Virginia. In 1977, with the help of local lawyer, Stephen Jon Alghren, many other people, and I formed this group. Five people from different county districts were chosen to sit on this newly formed five-panel board. Throughout the years, many high school students worked diligently and faithfully to gather stories, photos, dates, genealogy, and so forth to create our county’s beloved Hickory & Lady Slippers books.
Currently, we are working on starting up a past program called “Save Our Courthouse.” We believe that if we open our doors to the public certain times every month, it will spark an interest in those who may not know what we do. We have a lot of plans for the building and need a lot of help making those plans work. Our historical and genealogical library is one of the best in this part of the state.
On West Virginia Day 2019, we held our first open house event in the old courtroom. This event was well attended for a Thursday evening. People were excited as they asked questions about the county’s history. We are in hopes to see more people attend our next event, which will be announced soon.
On a personal note, I see that because there is so much more to share about this project and to project an understanding of its worth, I will be writing more. I hope you will enjoy my efforts as they are from my heart! Our biggest goal is to try and save some of our Allegheny/Appalachian Mountain heritage for future generations to enjoy, hopefully as a museum so incoming visitors can see what beautiful scenery we have to offer but most of all to see what good people we have.
President, Clay County Historical Society and Landmarks Commission