In Pocahontas County, history isn’t just a story shared between friends or an interesting fact about life in the “olden days.” History is tangible and alive, thanks in part to the Pocahontas County Historic Landmarks Commission.
Not the kind to sit idly by and watch as landmark structures disappear from the landscape, commission members, led now by newly elected president Jason Bauserman, take action to preserve the county’s history – one building at a time.
“We’re just trying to preserve the historic landmarks before they deteriorate,” Bauserman said.
The first, and biggest, project the commission took on was restoration of the Pocahontas County Opera House.
“That’s when Ruth Morgan was gung-ho to save the Opera House,” Bauserman said. “In 1985, when the [commission] started, it was Moffett McNeel, Ruth Morgan, Jessie Powell and Madge Bledsoe. They were the ones who had a book with one hundred fifty places they actually thought should be included in Pocahontas County Historical Landmarks.”
After the success of restoring, remodeling and reopening the Opera House, the commission moved on to a new project – one that was literally hiding behind vinyl siding.
In 2007, the St. John Neumann Catholic Church purchased land next to the church to extend its parking lot. A house on the land, which had been converted to apartments, had to be demolished, and as workers peeled away the vinyl siding, they discovered a log cabin.
Through research, it was discovered that the cabin was built by Squire Hugh McGlaughlin and was the oldest house in Marlinton.
As he went through old meeting minutes, Bauserman said he read that the cabin nearly left Pocahontas County before the commission could intervene.
“I read in these minutes that the Barnwood Builders from Lewisburg, evidently offered $15,000 for the cabin and were ready to take it down,” Bauserman said. “I think they were to take it to Iowa to put up, and I guess the Landmarks Commission got wind of it and said, ‘no, we want to keep that here. That’s the oldest building in Marlinton, and it needs to stay here.’”
The commission managed to match the Barnwood Builders’ offer and purchased the log cabin. When the time came to move it, Marlinton residents Ernie Shaw and John Mutscheller volunteered to take on the painstaking task of numbering each log and rebuilding the cabin on land near the Marlinton Depot on Fourth Avenue.
“That was a lot of work to tear it down,” Bauserman said. “They even had a little graph. They got some directions for how to do it and how to number it.”
The cabin was completed with the help of Andrew Must – a descendant of McGlaughlin – Harley Squires, Ezra Ceaderleaf and Colt Zendik. The restoration of the McGlaughlin cabin is now complete and will be open to the public at a special open house during this summer’s Pioneer Days.
Along with buying and restoring buildings, the commission also helps other county organizations keep history alive.
“There’s been quite a few things,” Bauserman said. “A lot of times we don’t give the full amount that’s asked for. I know Huntersville has asked us numerous times to upgrade some of their buildings. Down in Hillsboro, Pearl Buck’s place, we quite often kick some money in there. We gave to the museum to help with the new roof.”
The commission also gave funds to help restore the Durbin Jail and more recently approved a grant proposal to purchase interpretive signs for the town of Durbin.
“Here in Durbin, we’re hoping to put up some interpretive signs around town,” Bauserman said. “Mostly down around the depot area to catch tourists that come off the bus. We’d like to make it a better experience for all the people coming in. We want to put a sign exactly where the water tank is [to tell about the tannery] and one for the old school with a picture of the school on it.
“These are the kind of historical landmarks that we want to point out that were there at one time and just kind of preserve the history like that before it disappears,” he continued.
As he looks to the future of historical sites, Bauserman has a few ideas for places he’d like to preserve next.
“I’ve thought, too, about the Liberty Presbyterian Church [in Green Bank],” he said. “[Member] Bruce McKean says there’s only a handful of people going to that church, and it’s hard to keep up. Churches are an important part of the community. A lot of times it [the church] was the school, it was the community center.”
While he doesn’t attend that church, Bauserman does have a connection to it. A few years ago, Bauserman portrayed circuit pastor Elder John Kline, who wrote about the Liberty Presbyterian Church.
“[He] has in his diary about stopping at the new Liberty Presbyterian Church to preach a sermon, and he has exactly what the sermon was and what he talked about that day in 1853,” Bauserman said.
While the commission may not know right now what its next big project will be, you can rest assured that this group will have its eye out and its hands on preserving the history of Pocahontas County.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org