50 Years of History: A Look Back

Article By Janie Kirk

In 1963, a goodly number of folks in Greenbrier County came together to make official an organization that had existed loosely for about 20 years.  Their interest in recording the stories of the area motivated them to establish an institution that would forever seek to research, educate and preserve the history of the Greenbrier area.  Fifty years have elapsed since the formation of the Greenbrier Historical Society (GHS), making 2013 a special year of celebration.

Far from being dead, history is made every day, and by 1963, there existed several hundred years to capture, compile and commemorate.  During 2013, special events and programs will highlight the work of the Society over the past 50 years.  The public will be invited to participate in a variety of activities, some of which will occur at the North House Museum, the home of the GHS. This beautiful house museum displays historical objects, and documents many of the high points of the nearly 200 years since the home was built.  This extraordinary museum is open free to the public, Monday through Saturday year-round.

Since the GHS represents all Greenbrier area residents, it is the job of the Society to introduce each new generation to the fascinating history of the area.  Watch for subsequent articles in this paper that will relate stories that have appeared in the pages of The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society during the past 50 years.

Volume I, Number 1 of The Journal, dated 1 August 1963, introduced the newly formed Society and provided information of the earliest times in the Greenbrier area.  It also introduced the official seal of the Greenbrier Historical Society, reproduced here.

The Greenbrier Historical Society Seal

The Greenbrier Historical Society Seal

What is a seal, anyway?  It is a pictorial representation of a group or family.  People who live in West Virginia know its flag contains the WV coat of arms that is also the basis of the state seal.  It’s distinctive center boulder shows the date of the state’s founding, June 20, 1863.  In the foreground, two crossed rifles and a liberty cap signify the importance of fighting for liberty.  Two men represent agriculture and industry with related symbols and implements.  The outer ring contains the state’s name and motto, “Montani Semper Liberi,”  Mountaineers Are Always Free.

WV statehood

               The West Virginia Seal

The Greenbrier Historical Society seal uses symbols to represent its concepts and aspirations, or the standards around which like-minded individuals can rally to accomplish a common purpose.  The Society’s description of its seal, as printed in Volume I, Number 1 of The Journal, is paraphrased here.                                                      

Two concentric outer circles represent the limits of the universe within which human thought and action are confined.  Between these circles and the inner circle are the name of the organization and its date of birth, and the artist’s concept of the plant from which the area derives its name – the green brier.  The triangle lines subtend equal segments of the inner circle and represent the span of life, bounded by youth, maturity and senescence.  The areas of interest of the Society are shown in the three words just outside the triangle – Research, Education, Preservation.  Prominently displayed across the base of the triangle is the word “VERITAS”, meaning truth, to emphasize the ultimate objective of the Society.  Immediately above this slogan, in a central position, is pictured a lighted silver lamp, symbolizing man’s capacity for combining art and utility in his quest for the truth and its promise of freedom.  Above the lamp, in the apex of the triangle, is pictured an open eye surrounded by a halo.  This is symbolic of alertness, perception, knowledge and wisdom required for the discernment of the elements of truth.  In each of the arcs surrounding the triangle are small symbols:  one represents the human male, another the female, and the third is the symbol of Eternity.  These ancient characters invite our respect for the accomplishments of our ancestors.

Writing for Volume I, Number 1 of The Journal was Dr. Harry E. Handley, born in the 1890s on Hartland, his parent’s farm about two miles west of Lewisburg.  A physician who developed a keen interest in public health, Dr. Handley returned to his home state, and to Greenbrier County, where he was instrumental in the formation and growth of GHS.  His article about the Mathews Trading Post provided a detailed description of the who, what, where and when of this activity along the banks of the Greenbrier River near the mouth of Howard’s Creek.

From the first Journal article comes the following:

by Harry E. Handley

“The first trading post, or store, within the confines of the present limits of Greenbrier, for which there is any known record, was owned by Sampson and George Mathews, and is said to have been located on the Greenbrier River, not far from the mouth of Howards Creek, at or near the shallows in the river now known as Mathews Ford.

“Two of the Day Books, in which were kept an accounting of the charges for purchases made and credits for produce sold to the store, have survived. They cover the time interval 8 April 1771 to 26 Jan. 1778.

“The names of many of the customers appear only once during the more than twenty-one months covered by the two books, but the names of others appear repeatedly, and from the various entries it is possible to gain considerable insight into the tenor of community life in this frontier area. It is proposed to explore this approach in considerable detail in a future article, but for the present only the names of those mentioned in the two books are being given, followed by the month and year of the first mention, the month and year of last mention, and occasional notation of relations or associates and types of purchases and sales. Names are spelled as shown on the first entry, with later spellings indicated in parentheses.

“Sampson and George Mathews were two of the sons of Capt. John Mathews, who with his family settled to the south of the Borden Grant, between Lexington and Buena Vista, in the present Rockbridge County, Va., during the period 1730-1737. Mention is made of other stores operated by the Mathews contemporaneously with the one in Greenbrier, which were located in Staunton and on the Cowpasture.”

The Journal article proceeded to list several pages of Mathews Trading Post patrons’ names, many of which are familiar in the area today.

The Journal Volume I, Number 1, and all issues up to the present, are accessible through the archives maintained at the North House Museum in Lewisburg.  Located at 301 West Washington Street, next to New River Community College, the public is encouraged to visit, do research, learn history of the area, and to preserve the stories of family and friends for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. All interested persons are invited to membership, and may be in residence anywhere in the world.  Please call the Greenbrier Historical Society at 304.645.3398 for additional information.

A Place to Call Home: A History of GHS (Part 2)

The Greenbrier Historical Society began in 1963 with a group of forty determined people on a mission “to promote interest in history of the Greenbrier area.” This year, its 50th Anniversary, the Greenbrier Historical Society has nearly 700 devoted members. In honor of 50 years, the GHS is reminiscing on their youthful days and the transitional periods that faced this society.

In the 1970’s, as the news of a historical society began to spread throughout the Greenbrier Area, so did its popularity. The Greenbrier communities, having a new found eagerness to preserve history, began flooding to the historical society with stories and historical artifacts. Almost daily, GHS would receive valuable artifacts and precious documents pertaining to the Greenbrier Valley history. Excited as they were about these historical treasures, the society was soon overwhelmed, as space and resources were limited. Lacking a location of their own, GHS became concerned that it would hinder fulfillment of their mission to promote interest in history. Finding a house for the society was the top priority!

GHS Collections Displayed in Cases

      GHS Collections                         Displayed in Cases

GHS searched several buildings over a span of several years within the Greenbrier Area but none seemed to fit just right. The home had to offer an environment that was safe, fireproof, and of decent size. The years continued to stretch on and the movement from a cinder-block building on Austin Street to the former Greenbrier Public Library caused wear on the artifacts and documents.

In 1974, 10 years after the start of the society, a home was finally within reach. Governor Arch Moore of West Virginia expressed his sincerest interest in working with GHS to find a headquarters. The “North House,” located in Lewisburg, had a rich history. For a long time, it was owned by the Greenbrier Women’s College and used as the President’s Home. When the college closed in 1972, the state of West Virginia took ownership. Governor Moore felt strongly that this house must be protected and gave it to the Greenbrier County Commission. With an agreement of one dollar per year, the GHS leased the historic North House from the Greenbrier County Commission in 1975. At last, the Greenbrier Historical Society could settle into a building that answered their every need.

The North House

                      The North House

Excitement for the North House swept throughout the Greenbrier community, but restoration was in need before the museum could ever open its doors to welcome the public. Money was tight and grants to restoration were hard to come by. For a brief time, it seemed as if the dream of having a home for the society might not be realized.

In 1976, with the support of the Greenbrier Valley communities, the North House was able to be restored. The City of Lewisburg took the restoration on as its Bicentennial Project, and additional money came from other supporters throughout the region. On July 4, 1976, GHS opened the doors to the long awaited museum, inviting the Greenbrier Valley community in to see the new exhibits and displays. The GHS archives found a new home on the second floor of the house, and people traveled from all across the county to see and learn of the histories that lay in these hills. The North House remained opened, greeting patrons every day, until the 1990s, when the growing organization, need for additional space, and the acquisition of the property brought changes to the North House.

The North House Dining Room after Restoration

         The North House Dining Room                                            After Restoration


New & Renewed 2013 Memberships – January, February, and March

The Greenbrier Historical Society would like to recognize those who renewed their 2013 Membership or became first-time members in January, February, and March 2013. Thank you for continuing to support the Greenbrier Historical Society – North House Museum and Archives!

  • G.R. Abbott
  • Julian Arbaugh
  • Houston & Beverly Arbuckle
  • John & Eleanor Arey
  • Erna Akers
  • Thomas & Janet Anderson
  • Aviagen Turkeys Inc
  • Dr. J. Jay & Debra A. Baker
  • Margaret Baker
  • Timothy Barber
  • Inez Berg
  • Jeanette Bodurtha
  • Dale Boggs
  • James S. Bonny
  • Rita Bostic
  • Franklin T. Brackman
  • Delores Brandon
  • Sandra Brown
  • Donna T. Browning
  • Amoret Bell Bunn
  • Mary R. Burdette
  • Joe & Cathey Buttram
  • Dr. R. L. Caldwell
  • Joyce A. Carney
  • Charlotte & Karen Carr
  • Robert & Georgia Clemens
  • Mr & Mrs George Collins
  • Catherine Coppersmith
  • Jim Costa
  • Stephen Crislip
  • William Davis
  • Theresa Estes
  • Karen Fankhauser
  • Allen T. Feamster III
  • Jewell Harvey Field
  • Jack C. Finks
  • First National Bank
  • James E. Fleshman
  • Vicki Ford
  • Genevieve Friedman
  • Steven Gardner
  • Thomas George
  • Max & Vivian Gibson
  • Jay Goldman
  • Helen Graves
  • Tom & Nancy Greenstreet
  • Carol Grissett
  • Kenneth R. Handley
  • E. Sterling Hanger, Jr.
  • Judith Hanson
  • Jane Harmer
  • Peggy Harper
  • Harold E. Hinds, Jr.
  • Walter E. Holcomb, Sr.
  • Lanny Howe, Jr.
  • James Humphrey
  • Ronald Hunter
  • George & Patricia Hutchinson
  • H. Frederick Hutchinson, Jr.
  • Billie Jean Hutsenpiller
  • Thomas & Elizabeth Isaac
  • John & Susan Jarrett
  • William Johnson
  • Bobbie Jones
  • Sara Jones
  • Virginia Kavage
  • Dale L Keairns
  • John W. Kesler
  • John Kight
  • Glenda C. Killen
  • Ron & Janie Kirk
  • H. Moffett & Louise Knight
  • Clair & Ann Law
  • Linda Layman
  • Charles C Lewis
  • Emory F. Lewis
  • Jane B. Lewis
  • W.J. Livesay
  • Charlotte A. Lucas
  • David & Mary Lou Lumsden
  • Sara Marcum
  • Nanci Markusson
  • Marie Martin
  • William & Gloria Martin
  • T.A. Mashburn
  • C.P. McAllister
  • Kim & Stephen McBride
  • Douglas McCartney & Family
  • Rick & Ann McClung
  • Curtis C. Meador
  • Lexanne & Chris Meldrum
  • William Mellin
  • Sandra Menders
  • Constance A. Metheny
  • Caroline Miller
  • Linda L. Miller
  • Joan Montgomery
  • Carol Moody
  • Mary Sue Napier
  • Sidney Nelson
  • James W. Nemitz
  • Marie Nickell
  • Anice Nolan
  • Toni & Howard Ogden
  • Allan & Carol Olson
  • Herbert & JoAnn Pearis
  • Tay Petrie
  • Judith Polan
  • Lin & Mason Preston
  • Melba B. Purkey
  • Wanda Rodgers
  • Ruth Rossow
  • Karen Royall
  • Alan Rudley
  • Carolyn Rudley
  • William Satterfield, Jr.
  • Mitch & Liz Scott
  • Gladys See
  • Jane Semrau
  • Keith Shaver
  • Dr. James C. Shires
  • Truman Shrewsbury
  • Richard & Nada Smith
  • Roger & Courtney Smith
  • Ronald & Suzanne Snyder
  • Mary Eleanor Spencer
  • Rod & Donna Stoner
  • Vera Tinney
  • Alice Carol Tuckwiller
  • Frank & Barbara Tuckwiller
  • Jean Tuckwiller
  • Lynn McClung Tuckwiller
  • Sam & Mary Lou Tuckwiller
  • Gary Watts
  • Marilyn P. Weigand
  • Bill Weikle
  • Angela Whited
  • Gaye M. Whitehead
  • Dr. & Mrs. S.R. Wiersteiner
  • Twila K. Wilfong
  • James & Edith Arbaugh
  • Clifford & Patricia Baker
  • Thomas & JoLynn Ball
  • Cheryl Bircher
  • W. Marlene Borgstrom
  •  Judy Coffman Bray
  • Richard Brockway
  • Lynne Brown
  •  William & Soile Burns
  • Carol Campbell
  • James Lee Campbell
  •  Sterling Coffman
  • Ronald Cooper
  • Robert C. Crane
  • Michael & Linda Cruse
  •  Patricia Daugherty
  • Debra Davis
  •  Larry Davis
  • Miriam Deolloqui
  • Ethel Detch, John Eary
  • Donna Fabian,
  • Dorothy Feamster
  •  Vicki Ford
  • Julian G. Frasier, III
  • Seldon  & Anne Fuller
  • Helen Garner
  • Julia & Allen Gaston
  • Douglas Wayne Harvey
  • Larry Heffner
  •  Lynn Hill
  • Maynard Hinkle
  • Sharon Hobart
  • Betty Jo Howard
  •  Lanny Howe, Jr.
  • Marilyn Kay Hunter
  • Nancy G. Jackson
  • Glenville & Carol Jewell
  •  Dean & Vicki Johnson
  • Mr. & Mrs. John Kay, Jr.
  • John W. Kesler
  •  Chester Delynn Lewis
  •  Fred Long
  • Judith Loughhead
  • Barbara McHale & David Lowrie
  • Mary Martin
  • C.P. McAllister
  • Bruce & Terry McClung
  • Margaret McCormack
  • Herbert & Crystal Montgomery
  • Herbert & Katy Montgomery
  •  James Gray Montgomery
  • John Solomon Montgomery
  • John  & LeAnn Montgomery
  • Betty Moutray
  • Thomas & Marie Murtaugh
  • Carol Nall
  • Kenneth Napier
  • Evamaria Neumaier
  • Todd Ninnemann
  • Howard & Toni Ogden
  • O’Sheas – All About Beauty
  • William Phillips
  • Dreama Rhodes
  • Salli Rice
  • Sue & Ed Rock
  • Cheryl Rodgers
  •  LeeAnn Rodgers
  •  Elaine Roeseler
  •  Norman Rowe
  • Patricia Sergent
  • Jon & Joanna Skaggs
  • John C. Taylor
  • Jackson K. Tuckwiller
  • W VA University Library
  • Sue Walkup
  • Homer & Amaryllis Walkup, Jr.
  • Elizabeth Wall-Cadle
  • Gary & Carol Waple
  • Leslie Weddle
  • William Weikle
  • Dr & Mrs S.R. Wiersteiner
  • Donald & Sallie Williams
  • Douglas Williams
  • Larry F. Willis
  • Charles D A Wilson
  • Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Frances Zicafoose
  • Fred & Barbara Ziegler

As the society’s first president said: “Membership is not limited to those who live in Greenbrier County and the Greenbrier Valley. We want members regardless of residence, if they have interest [in history]. History has never been contained by county or state lines, or by any other boundary lines.”

Interested in joining? Members receive a free copy of the society’s annual publication, The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society. Keep up with upcoming events and recent news through the society’s quarterly newsletter Appalachian Springs.  Member benefits also include one free query in Appalachian Springs and a 10% discount in the Star Tavern Gift Shop.

2013 GHS Membership Form

2013 GHS Membership Form

The Seal of the Greenbrier Historical Society

In honor of the Greenbrier Historical Society’s 50th Anniversary, we thought we would share the following article describing the significance of the GHS seal with you. It originally appeared in the first issue of the society’s Journal in 1963. Hope you find it as interesting as we did! – Beth McMullen, Executive Director

The Greenbrier Historical Society Seal

The Greenbrier Historical Society Seal

From ancient times man has been aware of the advantages which accrue from the use of symbols representing his concepts and aspirations. They provide him a ready means for establishing and maintaining communication; and they may serve as standards around which like-minded individuals can rally to accomplish a common purpose. For these and other good and sufficient reasons it seems fitting that this Society devise and adopt for the use of its officers and members a symbol in the form of a seal, and such a symbol is represented herewith.

This seal may be described as follows: The two concentric outer circles represent the limits of the universe within which human thought and action are confined. Between these circles and the inner circle, which represents the confines of the areas of interest of the Society, is the name of the organization, its date of birth, and the artist’s concept of the plant from which the area derives its name.

Three straight lines drawn to subtend equal segments of the inner circle form a triangle, which represents the span of life, bounded by youth, maturity and senescence. Prominently displayed across the base of the triangle is the word “VERITAS”, to emphasize the ultimate objective of the Society. Immediately above this slogan, in a central position, is pictured a lighted silver lamp; designed by a Mexican artist of Mayan ancestry, it symbolizes man’s capacity for combining art and utility in his quest for the truth and its promise of freedom. Above the lamp, in the apex of the triangle, is pictured an open eye surrounded by a halo. This is symbolic of the alertness, perception, knowledge and wisdom required for the discernment of the elements of truth.

Surrounding the triangle, in each of the three arcs is a word representing one of the major activities by which the Society seeks to attain its goals — Research, the effort to locate, verify and codify the evidences of man’s presence and his reaction to his environment; Education, to transmit to others current knowledge and understanding of this and other cultures; and Preservation, to maintain for future generations the heritage of the present and the past.

In each of the arcs is also a small symbol, one of which represents the human male, another the female, and the third is the generally accepted symbol for Eternity. These ancient characters invite our respect for the accomplishments of our ancestors; and serve as a reminder that life is short but art is long; and we are its masters.