Laura Dean Bennett
It only took from Thursday evening, September 30, to Monday morning, October 4, for a magnificent chainsaw sculpture of a bear to materialize north of the Veterans Memorial Bridge at the intersection of Rts. 219 and 39.
Richard Hamilton, a professional chainsaw carver from Pennsylvania, brought his 14 years of experience to town and created an immediate sensation.
Hamilton crafts hundreds of such sculptures each year and specializes in wildlife sculptures of deer, eagles, bears and the like.
Hamilton, his wife, Brittany, and their five young children arrived in Marlinton Thursday evening and the sculptor got right to work on his creation.
The sculpture was commissioned by the Mon Forest Towns Partnership and is designed to draw attention to the amenities in Marlinton, as one of the Mon Forest towns.
The Marlinton bear was fashioned from a sycamore log salvaged from a large tree near the mini-park on First Avenue.
The bear quickly became part of Marlinton’s landscape, drawing interested onlookers to watch Hamilton deftly wielding a chainsaw, turning a rough piece of timber into an evocative sculpture before their eyes.
“The statue was made possible by funding that was received by the Mon Forest Towns partnership,” said Cindy Sandeno, District Ranger for the Marlinton/White Sulphur Springs District of the Monongahela National Forest.
“This was part of our signage project to help draw attention to Mon Forest Towns.
“We saw this as a great opportunity to create a focal point at the intersection of Route 219 and Route 39, which we hope will draw the eye to the bridge and draw visitors across the river to explore all that Marlinton has to offer.
“With the logging history of the town, we thought a wooden sculpture was appropriate. We were so glad to actually be able to use a sycamore log from the Town of Marlinton.
“We love tying the sycamore log from which the bear sculpture is made to the history of Marlin and Sewell, the first ‘residents’ of what is now Marlinton,” Sandeno said.
As Pocahontas County residents know, the early history of Marlinton records that in 1751, land surveyors John Lewis and his son, Andrew, came upon two intrepid explorers – Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell, who had been living at the mouth of Knapps Creek.
The partners had built a cabin but had fallen out because of religious differences, causing Sewell to famously move from the cabin into a hollowed out sycamore tree.
So the chainsaw bear sculpture made from a sycamore tree represents history coming full circle in the 250-year saga of Marlinton.
“We’re really excited to have this bear here, greeting visitors to Marlinton and Pocahontas County,” Mayor Sam Felton said. “It will be a nice place for folks to stop and rest and take some pictures. They may even enjoy a picnic there at the picnic table beside the river.”
“We’d like to thank everyone who pitched in and helped make this happen,” Sandeno continued.
“David Buck and Mark Beverage created the base for the statue and helped get the log in place.
“Mitchell Chevrolet stepped in and provided the use of a small excavator and cement mixer, which they graciously donated,” she added.
“And Appalachian Sport and Chuck Workman donated the kayak.”
A charming signpost made from wooden directional signs has also been erected beside the sculpture.
It points visitors toward pertinent businesses and services available in and around town.
All in all, a vacant lot has been transformed into a welcoming spot for visitors and residents alike, with a dash of history thrown in for good measure.