Laura Dean Bennett
Marlinton Elementary School teachers Dondi Stemple and Susan Grant, along with substitute teacher Shenda Smith, took the fifth grade classes on a field trip back in time last week.
They were treated to a day of hands-on history education in Pocahontas County’s first county seat of Huntersville.
For the second year, Huntersville Historical Appreciation Day was sponsored by Huntersville Historical Traditions.
The group hopes to continue to sponsor these educational field trips for students to strengthen their appreciation of the county’s history and heritage.
Several community volunteers came together to give the students a glimpse of life as it was lived in Huntersville in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
Roy Gibson, Larry and Minnie Fay Taylor, Bob Sheets, HHT president Tim Wade, Mike Sheets, Stemple and Jason Bauserman were on hand to share their knowledge of the early history of Pocahontas County.
Lessons and demonstrations included the history of pioneer life, an old-fashioned country school, and Pocahontas County’s part in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
Bob Sheets, who owns Fort Warwick, discussed Pocahontas County’s place in the Revolutionary War and the many archaeological discoveries being made at the site of the fort.
He showed the fascinated students a gun carried by a Civil War soldier and told them the story of his service.
The classes also took great interest in the wealth of archaeological finds pictured in the Fort Warwick display.
Sheets explained Huntersville’s part in the Civil War and the strategic importance to the Confederate Army of the road that runs through it – Rt. 39 as it is called now – was then called the Huntersville-Huttonsville Turnpike.
The beautifully restored Huntersville School stood ready to greet and educate its guests indoors and out.
Minnie Fay Taylor told several interesting stories from her childhood days as a student in the beautifully restored two-room Huntersville School.
Stemple, in her schoolmarm attire, rang the old school bell to hasten “tardy” students into the schoolhouse for their old-fashioned lessons.
Huntersville native, “Major” Michael Sheets, is a retired Social Studies teacher who has been a Civil War re-enactor since 1976.
He owns the land that holds the Huntersville Civil War cemetery, and he takes a great interest in the history of Huntersville.
He travelled from his home in Huntington to share his Civil War expertise with the fifth grade students.
In 2008, Sheets founded the Western Virginia Military Academy of young Civil War re-enactors for students between the ages of 10 and 15.
Each fall, Sheets brings his “cadets” to demonstrate a typical Civil War encampment at the Huntersville Traditions Day.
It is always one of the highlights of the festival.
Sheets brought his officer’s campaign table which was laid out with the usual items an officer would be traveling with during the Civil War- including a bible, a drinking cup, plate and fork, hygiene kit, sewing kit and spyglass.
He gave the students a glimpse into the difficult life of a soldier of that time, and gave the students an opportunity to march and drill with a musket.
The students also toured the Huntersville Civil War Cemetery, where Wade told the students about the cemetery and how it came to be restored to its beautiful present state.
The many tombstones present there now, complete with name and rank of the deceased, were made by the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs after extensive research was done by Vonda Dixon and the Order of Confederate Rose.
Michael Sheets and his cadets erected the stones.
There are more graves at the site, and tombstones will be placed for them as research reveals the identities of the soldiers who are buried there.
The students also toured the historic Huntersville Presbyterian Church, which was opened by Masons Roy Gibson and Larry Taylor. Bauserman added to the history at this stop by portraying the famous circuit-riding preacher Elder Kline.
The Huntersville Jail was another highlight of the day, with Tim Wade explaining the historical significance of the jail as he led the students through what was the first jail in Pocahontas County.
The students asked many questions and seemed to truly enjoy learning about the history of Huntersville.