Item of the Week – The Lewis Theater

lewis theater011

Item of the Week – September 27, 2013
This photograph, from the GHS Archives, depicts the four women in front of the Marquee of the Lewis Theater on Court Street in Lewisburg (circa 1950s). The Lewis first opened in 1939 and has operated continuously as a theater ever since. Today, the Lewis is raising money for the necessary switch to digital projectors.
For more information, check out the Lewis Theater Facebook page: 
Or the fundraising website: 

The Battle of White Sulphur Springs

civil war 3

This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of White Sulphur Springs, also known as the Battle of Dry Creek. As rival armies moved across the Greenbrier Valley and camped in close proximity of one another, it is not surprising that several battles and small skirmishes took places in Greenbrier County. The bloodiest battle was the Battle of White Sulphur Springs, which took place on August 26-27, 1863.

Union troops under General William W. Averill were marching from Covington, Virginia by way of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike with the purpose of capturing the law library in Lewisburg. Believing that Averill’s target was the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, members of the Confederate army under Colonel George Patton and Colonel George Edgar marched down Anthony’s Creek Road toward the junction of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike. Determined to head off the Union army, Patton’s army marched for nearly 24 hours. Col. Edgar ordered his men to tear down a split-rail fence and create a barricade. Even so, the bodies of dead and wounded soldiers quickly filled the road. At the end of the first day, the two armies rested barely 300 yards apart. Fighting renewed the next morning with Averill ordering a retreat to Beverly. The Union army suffered approximately 218 casualties while the Confederates lost approximately 167 men. Wounded soldiers were treated at the Old White Hotel at White Sulphur Springs.   

A historic Marker commemorating the battle now stands at the intersection of Route 92 and US Route 60 – yards from where the fighting took place.

The 25th Annual Battle of Dry Creek Re-Enactment will be held this Saturday and Sunday August 17th and 18th, 2013 in the Greenbrier State Forest. There will be a Saturday morning tactical at the park and a live artillery demonstrations at 1:30pm. On Sunday at 2pm, the Battle of Dry Creek will be held. There is no charge and the public is invited to come out and enjoy the day. For more information on this event, go to


The Greenbrier Valley Fair

In September 1938, LIFE Magazine wrote a cover story about the Greenbrier Valley Fair – which later grew to become the State Fair of West Virginia. The following are the pages of that article and select captions that show how different today’s fair (or at least our perception of it) really is!

IMG_0646 Life Goes to a County Fair: With 100,000 West Virginians to Look at the Bodies of Men, Women and Beasts

“The first Greenbrier Valley Fair was held just 80 years ago. The few hundred farmers who attended gaped at the wonderful Howe sewing machine and admired a stalwart yearling who grew up to become Traveller, the big gray horse who carried General Lee through the Civil War. Today, the Greenbrier Valley Fair is one of the best-known in the South. This year, from August 29 to September 3, 100,000 people paid admission to the fair grounds near Lewisburg, West Virginia. They watched the trotters race and went around looking at entries in contests for the best buckwheat, the best bread, the best begonias, the best “article made of sealing wax.”

“But their major preoccupation was bodies – human bodies, animal bodies, bodies that looked half-human, half-animal. The “girlie” shows, which were hot and smutty, drew smaller audiences than the freaks from crowds made up of farmers, breeders and hillbillies. Only a few city people were present although some urban sophisticates have discovered the county fair and are beginning to make rural America’s great harvest-time diversion a city-folk fad.”



“For the kiddies and for adults who weren’t interested in gypsy dancers, the big attractions were the twin Ferris wheels and the monkey auto race. Those who paid a dime to the races watched for little electric autos on rails run around a track with monkeys at the wheels. The monkeys just sat, however, as a man on the sidelines ran the cars.”


“The free show open to everyone who paid the 50 cent admission to the grounds, was billed as “an intricate and pleasing dance routine.” It was performed by the Polly Ann dancers who, after the show, were closely chaperoned and protected against the wiles of country slickers.”


“The daily chores of carnival life were done between performances by the Polly Ann dancing girls. Students of a Reading, Pennsylvania dancing teacher, the Polly Ann girls are all young, get $20 a week, do precision dancing in the best big-movie-palace fashion.”


Civil War in Greenbrier County: The Battle of Lewisburg

At 5 o’clock on the morning of May 23, 1862, the inhabitants of Lewisburg awoke to the firing of weapons and the yelling of Confederate troops, who confidently stood in battle formation along the eastern edge of town. The Confederates of the 22nd and 45th Virginia, as well as the untrained Finney’s Battalion, were under the order of General Henry Heth, a professional solider from the West Point Class of 1847. They were prepared to defend the town of Lewisburg against the raiding 3rd Provisional Ohio Brigade under the command of Colonel George Crook.

The Confederates, believing it an easy victory, informed some Lewisburg residents of their plan to attack the Union Brigade. Assuming a southern advantage in numbers and artillery, the townspeople of Lewisburg prepared a great feast in honor of the Confederates “soon to be” victory. General Heth’s Brigade had previously marched from Pearisburg, through Monroe County and seized the Greenbrier Bridge in Caldwell before advancing on Lewisburg.


         General Henry Heth

General Heth planned to take the Union soldiers who were camped upon a hill in Lewisburg by surprise, but his plan was discovered by members of the 44th Ohio Division who quickly alerted Colonel Crook. The Union officer ordered his 44th and 36th Ohio men to advance toward the Confederate battle line. The confident Southerners opened fire on the advancing skirmishers and shouts of “Scatter!”and “Lie down!” were heard throughout the town. As the Union men began to fall back against the might of the Confederate soldiers, Colonel Crook divided his soldiers to attack the southerners at three different points.

General Heth split his forces to combat these advancing troops. Against the advice of his artillery men, Heth ordered that the cannons be moved into town. Lt. Col E.H. Harman, Heth’s advisor, suggested that the cannons remain on the high ground in order to overlook the town and reach the Union lines.

As the fighting began, the inexperienced Finney’s Battalion was the first to fall. The untrained militia came under heavy fire from Ohio’s 44th and sustained heavy losses. The collapse of Finney’s Battalion exposed the 45th and 22nd Virginia to a hailstorm of bullets from the Ohio troops. Private George Caldwell recalls “the balls flew like hail…you ought to have heard the balls whiz past us.” With no choice left, General Heth ordered for the remainder of his troops to retreat. The Confederates sped across the Greenbrier River, burning the covered bridge to prevent any Union troops from pursuing.

Colonel George Crook

Colonel George Crook

The Battle of Lewisburg lasted twenty-seven minutes, with the Confederate casualties greatly outnumbering their rivals. Eighty Confederate lay dead, one hundred were wounded, and an additional one hundred fifty-seven were taken prisoner. Colonel Crook recovered over three hundred small arms, twenty-five horses, and four artillery pieces, including an old 12-pounder cannon that was taken from the British at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. In comparison, the Union only suffered thirteen dead, fifty-three wounded, and had seven taken prisoner.

As the sound of gun shots faded and the smoke cleared, a local sniper shot and killed a Union soldier who was returning to camp. Colonel Crook was furious, threatening to burn the entire town and hang all of the snipers found. An investigation led the colonel to the home where the shot had been fired, but the Confederate supporter had long fled. The home was burned, but no person was executed for the crime.

Under order of Colonel Crook, the people of Lewisburg were not allowed to bury the Confederate dead. The soldiers were laid out in a trench at Old Stone Presbyterian Church and slowly a sense of peace and quiet returned to Lewisburg – but it never forgot the battle fought that early morning in May.


After the war, the remains of 95 Confederate soldiers were removed from the churchyard and respectfully buried in a cross-shaped mass grave in what is now known as the Confederate Cemetery in Lewisburg. The Union soldiers who died in the battle were buried on an unidentified hill north of town. After the war, they were reinterred and laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia. The Confederates, who were captured as prisoners during the Battle of Lewisburg, traveled to Camp Chase near Columbus, Ohio and were later exchanged for Union prisoners in September 1862. Colonel Crook received much praise for his victory in Lewisburg and became a prominent general in a number of Civil War battles. Although General Heth was harshly criticized and blamed for what took place at Lewisburg, he remained highly regarded by Robert E. Lee. No other man would see more action in the Civil War than Henry Heth.

The Civil War in Greenbrier County: An Overview

Greenbrier County was not immune to the hardships of war. Over 2,000 Greenbrier County men fought for the Confederacy throughout the course of the war, the vast majority enlisting within the first two years. Located on the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, once a major stagecoach route, Greenbrier County saw an estimated 60,000 Union and Confederate troops move through the area— at times meeting in a number of engagements and often setting up encampments across the countryside.

One of the largest and wealthiest counties in western Virginia, Greenbrier County had no desire to split from the commonwealth of Virginia and form a separate state. No Greenbrier County delegates attended the First or Second Wheeling Conventions, which began the movement toward West Virginia statehood, and Greenbrier, like other southern and eastern counties, became part of the newly formed state for strategic reasons. Despite new political boundaries, most of the citizens of Greenbrier County remained southern sympathizers, with 81% of eligible men enlisting with the Confederacy. Greenbrier County was even home to a number of Confederate Post Offices, operating at various times in Frankford, Lewisburg, and White Sulphur Springs.

With the Shenandoah Valley to the east, the Kanawha Valley salt mines to the west, and the railroads of southwestern Virginia close by, the Greenbrier Valley was a strategically important location for both armies. Throughout the war, troops spent anywhere from a few nights to a few months camped on the farms across the valley.

The Blue Sulphur Spring Resort

The Blue Sulphur Spring Resort

The Blue Sulphur Spring Resort, once located 12 miles outside of Alderson, closed in 1859 and was used as a campsite and hospital throughout much of the war. Most notably, a Confederate regiment from Georgia camped at the spring in the Winter of 1863. Not accustomed to the climate, approximately 100 of them became ill and died. They were buried high on a hill about 200 yards northwest of the Blue Sulphur Spring. In 1864, Union troops burned, either deliberately or by accident, all that remained of the former Blue Sulphur Spring Resort with one exception—the Greek-style springhouse.

During the Civil War, one of the Greenbrier Valley’s greatest contributions was saltpeter which is used in the manufacture of gunpowder. Saltpeter, archaically spelled “salt petre,” is a nitrate mineral found naturally in local caves. In Greenbrier, Monroe, and Pocahontas counties, 28 caves have been discovered that contain definite evidence of saltpeter mining.  Saltpeter was obtained by filling wooden hoppers with the “peter-dirt” and leeching water through the dirt. The water would come out of the hopper and be collected to boil down with lye to convert the cave nitre into true saltpeter or potassium nitrate. Gunpowder was made by mixing 75% true saltpeter, 15% sulphur, and 10% charcoal.

A hopper from Crowder's Cave used in the production of Salt Peter

A hopper from Crowder’s Cave used in the production of Salt Peter

Saltpeter was particularly important to the Confederacy, who needed to use domestic resources to supply their army with gunpowder. The Greenbrier region, part of Confederate Nitre District Number 4, produced a large amount of saltpeter which was transported to Union, in Monroe County, then to Dublin, Virginia to be loaded on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and finally to the large powder mill in Augusta, Georgia. Constant raids by the Union Army slowed the manufacturing of saltpeter in the area. Although some caves were mined under the supervision of the Confederate government, others were mined by private individuals— often those too young or old to enlist, or those wanting to make a profit on the high prices paid by the Confederate government. 

100 Years of History in Rainelle, West Virginia

The Greenbrier Historical Society would like to congratulate the Town of Rainelle on this historic milestone! Centennial events are planned for Thursday April 25, 2013 thru Saturday April 27, 2013 in Rainelle, West Virginia. 

On early maps, Rainelle is called the Sewell Valley, named for the first settler, Stephen Sewell, who was killed by Native Americans in the mid-1700s. The area was once a buffalo migration trail. Until the twentieth century, the Sewell Valley contained few farms and businesses. It was not until 1790 that the first grist mill was built by James Coggin along the Little Clear Creek. William McFarland built the first saw mill in 1848 on land later owned by the Meadow River Lumber Company.

The James River and Kanawha Turnpike was established in 1827 with a weekly stage line between Lewisburg and Charleston, West Virginia. Soon the trips were increased to three times per week and then daily.  A few taverns and stage coach stops grew up in the Grassy Meadows district. By 1850, traffic on the James River and Kanawha Turnpike slowed as changes in transportation affected the stage coach lines. The turnpike was almost quiet at the outbreak of the Civil War when troops, both Union and Confederate, began marching through the Greenbrier Valley.

The Raine Brothers

The Raine Brothers

In 1906, brothers John and Thomas Raine formed the Meadow River Lumber Company and purchased 32,000 acres on the Meadow River in Greenbrier County for $960,000. The Sewell Valley Railroad was established in 1907 to connect the Meadow River Lumber Company mill site to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad 19 miles away at Meadow Creek. Once the difficult landscape could be crossed easily via railroad, laborers were brought in to begin construction on a steam-powered triple-band mill.  The first log was sawed on September 10, 1910 at 5:00pm, and in the mill’s initial year, 3 million feet of lumber were produced. Meadow River Lumber Company remained in continuous operation for the next 14 years.


With approximately 150 employees needed for full production, construction soon began on houses and living quarters to entice young men and families to move to the area. By 1912, four rows of houses extended from the main street (US Route 60) for individual families and a large boarding house was built. John Raine built a large home and moved his own family to Rainelle in 1913. The Bank of Rainelle was formed in 1911 to serve the community with 88% of stock owned by the Meadow River Lumber Company. The first store was a small commissary operated by the lumber company, but as early as 1927 the Meadow River Store was privately owned.

In February 1912, the community, with a population of 335 individuals, held an election to consider incorporation and a majority voted in favor. On April 25, 1913, a charter was issued to the town of Rainelle, named for the Raines brothers who remained active in both Meadow River and the community.  J.W. Gray, one-time president of the company, was elected the first mayor and John Raine became a councilman.

The First School in Rainelle

The First School in Rainelle

Rainelle High School

Rainelle High School

That same year, the first school building, a white frame structure, was built by the Meadow River Lumber Company near the center of town. It was used as both the grade school and “pay” high school until 1923 when a separate elementary school was completed and the district formed a public high school in the building. A new brick high school was built in 1947 and continued to be used after consolidation in 1968 as the Rainelle Elementary School. Another staple of the community, the Rainelle Methodist Church was dedicated on June 28, 1914. The wood used for its construction came entirely from the Meadow River Lumber Company.

On August 28, 1924, a devastating fire began at the Meadow River Lumber Company.  As soon as the last embers were extinguished, clean-up and construction of a new mill began – it opened six short months later on March 9, 1925. Three years later, the company saw a record year for production with 2,900 acres of timber cut and 31,655,220 feet of lumber produced.Rainelle004

The Meadow River Lumber Company became known for their high quality hardwood floors, and even furnished the parquet flooring in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. At the peak of production, 500 employees were needed for full production and approximately 1 million feet of finished flooring could be produced each month. In addition to flooring, Meadow River also produced interior trimming, furniture, and wooden coffins. In 1932, a shoe heel plant was established to fabricate wooden heels for women’s shoes. Between 5 million and 6 million pairs of heels were manufactured annually and shipped to shoe factories throughout the country.


                           “Slab Town”


             East Rainelle, West Virginia

As business continued to boom for the Meadow River Lumber Company in Rainelle, the community of East Rainelle was quickly becoming a commercial center for western Greenbrier County.  Located across the Big Sewell Creek from Rainelle, the community of East Rainelle began to form as early as 1910 when the Levelton Land and Improvement Company bought a tract of land and began selling lots for residential and commercial use with the hope that the town would be called Levelton. The first few houses in this area were sided with slabs from a portable sawmill and the community began to be known as “Slab Town.”

With no real industry aside from the mill, development was slow. On March 15, 1921, the town of East Rainelle was incorporated with a total population of 446 people and only a few businesses – including the Hughart Brothers Store, the J.F. Jones Store, and the F.E. Flint Store.

As smaller lines branched off of the Sewell Valley Railroad toward logging sites, private coal companies were developed in the areas surrounding Rainelle. In 1921, the Imperial Smokeless Coal Company in Quinwood shipped its first load of coal down the Greenbrier and Eastern Railroad and over the Sewell Valley Railroad to Meadow Creek.

Sewell Valley001

In 1923, the first movie theater built by Dick Raine and Howard Gray opened in Rainelle, a sign of increasing prosperity. With the introduction of “talkies” the theater declined to convert, and instead became the 34-Room Pioneer Hotel in 1929. The 500 seat auditorium was transformed into the hotel’s lobby, dining room and kitchen. The same year, a group of local individuals opened the Maple Oaks Hotel, but when the great depression hit the Maple Oaks was forced to close. It was purchased by Coleman Gore, a man from Virginia, who renamed it the King Coal Hotel around 1935. A large lump of coal was placed in front of the building and a golden crown set on top. Both the King Coal and the Pioneer Hotels were popular stops for salesman travelling from Charleston before Interstate 64 diverted traffic through Beckley.


                  The Pioneer Hotel

The King Coal Hotel

                    The King Coal Hotel

By the 1960s, life in Rainelle was beginning to change. Meadow River Lumber Company’s production practices were out of date and the plant suffered from high production costs. In 1969, the plant was sold to Georgia-Pacific who closed the original mill and built a new one on the other side of town. The company-owned homes and businesses were either sold or donated back to the community. On a positive note, the two communities of East Rainelle and Rainelle merged on July 1, 1969.

Unlike most company towns, Rainelle developed into a commercial center that lasted beyond the closing of the mill. The Raines family cared not only for the company, but for the community as well – leading to businesses, recreational areas, and dedicated individuals who would ensure its survival.

In 2013, the town of Rainelle celebrates its 100th Anniversary with celebrations and events that commemorate this community’s rich history.

Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion Donated to GHS


The Greenbrier Historical Society is very excited to announce that it will begin to stabilize and restore the Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion thanks to the dedication of several wonderful individuals.

On April 16, 2013 in the office of Attorney Jesse O. Guills, Jr., who prepared the deed as his gift to the people of the Greenbrier Valley, Mrs. Rebecca Fleshman Lineberry donated the Blue Sulphur Spring Pavilion and 2 acres surrounding it to the Greenbrier Historical Society for restoration and preservation.

Mrs. Lineberry said, “This is a very good thing.  It is for a very good cause.  History is so long and the younger generation needs to find out what happened in the past.  There are so many stories that can be told.”

Mrs. Rebecca Lineberry

Mrs. Rebecca Lineberry

The Blue Sulphur Spring Pavilion, located approximately 9 miles north of Alderson, is all that remains of the historic Blue Sulphur Spring Resort. By the early 1800s, sulphur water was believed to have healing qualities, and resorts were quickly established around the springs that exist throughout western Virginia. The spring at Blue Sulphur was known for its pleasant, crystalline water which appeared “blue as the Sea of Galilei (sic).”

Unlike most springs which originate on hillsides, the Blue Sulphur Spring bubbled up from the ground in the middle of a large field, discharging as much as 15 gallons of water per minute. It was first known as a lick, where herds of buffalo and other animals would gather. In 1816, the land was purchased by Joseph Martin and Charles Caraway for the sum of $3000. They made a few improvements, building wooden or log cabins for those who came to the spring for its healing powers. After a few years, Martin and Caraway sold the land to George Washington Buster for twice what they paid for it.

In 1834, the Blue Sulphur Spring Company was officially incorporated by the state of Virginia. The Blue Sulphur Spring Resort consisted of an elaborate brick hotel, 108 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 3 stories tall. The hotel had a grand ballroom, dining rooms, and sleeping quarters for guests, who came from as far away as Philadelphia, New Orleans, and even Europe. Beside the main hotel, brick cottages and frame cabins were built for additional guests – increasing the resort’s capacity to as many as 220 individuals.  A few notable visitors include Andrew Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Henry Clay, and Jerome Bonaparte.

The spring itself was enclosed with a marble slab, 5 feet in diameter. A large square Greek-style temple with 12 round brick columns encased in plaster was built to cover the spring. This springhouse is the only remaining structure of the original Blue Sulphur Spring Resort.


Late 19th Century Visitors to the Spring

In 1840, Dr. Alexis Martin, a surgeon in the Imperial Army of Napoleon, came to the Blue Sulphur Spring Resort and headed the medical staff until 1859. He claimed the water would “aid in the cure of dyspepsia, hepatitis, indolent ulcers, skin diseases, nervous conditions in women, and other ailments.” Bath houses, steam rooms, and mud baths like the ones in Europe were built.

In 1859, the resort was floundering and its owners decided to sell it to the Baptist Association who began Allegheny College, a private academy that offered courses in the languages, science, history, and philosophy. After a successful first year, Allegheny College anticipated a large student body in 1860. Unfortunately, two serious things happened to hinder the college’s future success. First, a fire, believed to have been accidentally started in the laundry, destroyed the resort’s main building. Second, the outbreak of the Civil War caused many students to leave school and join either the Union or Confederate armies. Allegheny College officially closed its doors at the end of its second school year.

Throughout the Civil War, troops passing through used the Blue Sulphur Spring as a campsite. Most notably, a confederate regiment from Georgia camped at the spring in the winter of 1863. Not used to the climate, approximately 100 of them became ill and died. They were buried high on a hill about 200 yards northwest of the Blue Sulphur Spring. In 1864 Union troops burned, either deliberately or by accident, all that remained of the former Blue Sulphur Spring Resort with one exception – the Greek-style Springhouse. Soon after the war, ownership of the property returned to George Washington Buster when the courts ruled that the payments made by the Baptist Association were not valid since they were made in Confederate money.

The property was in the possession of Bernard H. Buster when he sold it to Lewis A. Fleshman on April 24, 1964.  Mrs. Rebecca Fleshman Lineberry inherited it from her father.

The Blue Sulphur Spring Pavilion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 1992 and has been named to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s 2013 Endangered Properties List. The Endangered Properties List brings attention to at-risk properties that contribute to our local heritage. Lynn Stasick, representing the Preservation Alliance was present at the deed signing.

Lynn Stasick with Mrs. Lineberry

Lynn Stasick with Mrs. Lineberry

Elizabeth McMullen, Executive Director of the Greenbrier Historical Society (GHS) said, “GHS is so grateful to Mrs. Lineberry for her marvelous gift to the people of the Greenbrier Valley.  Her generosity and farsightedness set an excellent example of preservation for generations to come.”

Margaret Hambrick, President of the Board of Directors of the GHS said, “While the Pavilion will not be immediately available to visitors because of the need to restore it and for safety, we all look forward to the day when it is again a destination for a Sunday afternoon drive or an ice cream social.”

In thanking Mrs. Lineberry, Ron Kirk, Vice President of GHS said, “By presenting this piece of history to GHS to preserve and protect, we can keep the memories of the resort and the area alive.”

The “Friends of the Blue” Committee of the GHS, chaired by Alex McLaughlin, will manage the restoration process.  Other members include Cathy Bolt (Mrs. Lineberry’s daughter), Irma Cadle, Skip Deegans, Raymond Tuckwiller, and Margaret Hambrick.


L-R: Elizabeth McMullen, Executive Director, Greenbrier Historical Society; Karen Lee McClung, Board Member; Ron Kirk, Vice President; Mrs. Rebecca Fleshman Lineberry, donor of the Blue Sulphur Spring Pavilion; Margaret Hambrick, President; Cathy Bolt, daughter of Mrs. Lineberry; Karen Fankhauser, Board Member; and Alex McLaughlin, Board Member and Chair, Friends of the Blue Committee.

On Tuesday, March 19, 2013, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin presented a $35,000 Survey and Planning grant to the Greenbrier Historic Landmarks Commission in partnership with the Greenbrier Historical Society – Friends of the Blue Committee. This grant was provided by the Department of Education and the Arts through the Division of Culture and History. The Greenbrier County Commission has pledged to match the grant when the property is donated to GHS.  These grant funds will provide for an architectural and engineering study of the Blue Sulphur Spring Pavilion to determine the best way to proceed with its restoration and to develop plans and specifications for bidding the work.

Alex McLaughlin, Chair of the Friends of the Blue Committee and Board Member of the Greenbrier Historical Society, said “We are so appreciative of Susan Pierce, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer and Pamela Brooks, Grants Coordinator for their support of this project. There is a sense of urgency about this project because of the condition of the pavilion.”

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.

GHS Turns 50 This Year

The Greenbrier Historical Society is pleased to be celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2013! In honor of this milestone, we will be writing several articles about the history of the organization as well as some of the memorable events and projects throughout the years.

The Greenbrier Historical Society officially began in 1963, but as early as 1941, a group of dedicated individuals began collecting artifacts and documents. The town of Lewisburg acquired and restored James Frazier’s 1834 law library, once used by the Supreme Court of Virginia. The building was dedicated as the Greenbrier County Library in 1941 and the city opened the Greenbrier County Museum on the second floor.

The Old Greenbrier County Library was the first location of the Greenbrier Historical Society

The Old Greenbrier County Library was the first location of the Greenbrier Historical Society

In 1963, the Greenbrier Historical Society was officially incorporated “to promote interest in the history of the Greenbrier Area, including its past and present inhabitants, and their interests, works, and aspirations.” They continued to operate the archives and museum in the second floor of the Greenbrier County Library until 1976 when the need for more space led them to lease the North House from the State of West Virginia.Among the 300 original members are many individuals who have been instrumental to the organization over the years – including the first officers: President James P. Baker, Vice President Norman Blake, Secretary C. Thomas Sydenstricker, Treasurer William M. Dickson, and Archivist Gladys C. Agsten.

GHS Volunteers from the 1970s

GHS Volunteers from the 1970s

The first President, Mr. James P. Baker, wrote in the 1963 Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society that “history is more than records of great battles, than chronicles depicting the rise and fall of empires, than stories of famous or infamous men; it is the story of life…History has [also] never been contained by county or state lines, or by any other boundary lines.” As the society moves forward into the future, it will continue to embrace this definition of history—expanding its knowledge of local events and giving voice to individuals and communities from across the Greenbrier Valley.

Please join the Greenbrier Historical Society in celebrating our 50th Anniversary this year by sending us your photographs and historical society stories. Tell us about the great projects undertaken, the fun events hosted, and the amazing volunteers who have been dedicated to our organization over the years. We will be compiling all of our information to create a “Greenbrier Historical Society Remembers” exhibit in the Fall of 2013.