Jim Weber officially joined the West Virginia State Park System in June when he was hired as the Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park superintendent. Although he is new to the park system, he is no stranger to the area.
A native of Richwood, Weber has ties to the battlefield through his ancestry.
“I had two great-great grandparents that fought in this battle for the West Virginia Calvary,” he said.
Weber hasn’t technically started his full-time position at Droop – that will happen November 16 – but he has been learning the ropes all summer with the help of Watoga State Park superintendent Jody Spen-cer and assistant superintendent Josh Feather.
“They let me work here in the summer,” he said. “They had an apprentice program for someone who wanted to be superintendent in the state park system.”
Weber has also been working at Marlinton Elementary School as a special education teacher. He was on the cusp of retiring after 32 years in the West Virginia education system when he was informed he needed a few more months before he could officially retire.
He taught in Nicholas County for 24 years, worked for the state department of education in Charleston and Huntington, was principal at Independence High School in Raleigh County and principal at Glade Elementary School in Webster County before he set his sights on Droop.
“I was trying to get the job at Droop Mountain, and the retirement board called and said I couldn’t retire until October,” Weber explained. “I thought I’d get a job in Marlinton, so if I got the Droop Mountain job, I could swing both. I applied for the special education job at Marlinton Elementary and was hired there. About a week later, I got hired at Droop Mountain.”
Weber worked it out with the Pocahontas County Board of Education to work until October 31 so he could retire, and he will start full-time at Droop in November.
While most retirees dream of relaxing on the beach or traveling, Weber wanted to find a job in a different field to work a little longer before fully retiring.
“I just thought it would be a fun job to have,” he said. “For me, I like the outside. I want something different. I’m not going to retire from teaching and sit at home, so I thought I’d start a new career. I’m fifty-five – fifty-five is the new thirty-five they say. So I figured I’d worked another twenty years, so this would be a good job.”
Weber resides in Richwood and is happy to have a job close to home and family.
With his teaching background, Weber fits in well at Droop Mountain, one of the most historic places in Pocahontas County. He said he enjoys welcoming guests and teaching them about the rich history, as well as sharing stories from their past visits and his own experiences at the battlefield.
“I just talk to them about the museum and all the artifacts that were all locally found and collected, except for one or two guns that were donated,” he said. “I talk about the tower, the five trails we have. Most people just want to do the museum and see the tower, and walk through the areas with monuments.”
Weber also likes to share ghost stories, which have been experienced by many visitors over the years. He’s had a couple encounters himself.
“I have a picture of the ghost up here in the cemetery right behind the residence,” he said. “I show them that picture and they think that’s so awesome. Most people believe, some people do not.”
The picture Weber shares shows a figure who looks like he is walking past the cemetery, behind a tree, and has a lantern in one hand.
The photo is similar to a photo taken by a student who visited the park in 2015. During a school trip, the student was taking pictures with his phone and when he reviewed them with a chaperone, they noticed a figure carrying a lantern, running through a tree.
“I actually saw that thing two weeks ago,” Weber said. “I was standing at the cemetery and it was probably 80 degrees, almost 11 a.m. The temperature dropped twenty degrees in two seconds and then this gray object just flashed in front of me. Then the temperature went right back up in about ten seconds.”
Weber has seen and heard many ghost stories since he started at Droop, and there surely will be more in the coming years.
In addition to offering a glimpse into the past at the museum, tower and on the trails, the park is also a place for re-enactment groups to do a living history of the battle itself.
The Bryan’s Battery re-enactment group will return to the park October 13 through 15.
Visit Battleofdrycreek.org/battle-droop-mountain for a full schedule of events.