The Times West Virginian

March 28, 2013

History Expo April 6 at courthouse

By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — “History doesn’t have to be boring. History can be fun.”

Marion County Historical Society President Dora Grubb is about as big a fan of history as they come, and she thinks there’ll be something for everyone at the annual Mountain State History Expo coming up Saturday, April 6.

Organizer Diana George said the event will feature displays from all throughout West Virginia’s history.

“What interests me doesn’t always interest other people,” she said, so she and other organizers have made sure there’s a wide variety of exhibits ranging from the colonial period up through the 1950s and ’60s.

It’s “every period, every era, every type,” Grubb said. More than 30 exhibits will be on display.

The event gains new attractions every year, and one display that has many people excited will be hosted by Larry Dallison and Otis Anderson, who worked on Fairmont’s streetcars, or trolleys, back when the lines ran clear to Morgantown.

George said Anderson is “the oldest living trolley operator in the state,” and Dallison currently works at the Trolley Car Museum in Washington, Pa. Grubb said she was looking forward to meeting “the last Fairmont trolley conductor,” and George promises the men have many stories about the old streetcars.

Grubb said she’s also very excited to see a new display on the George Pinkney Morgan House, a pre-Civil War historic residence located in Rivesville.

As usual, JoAnn Lough will be conducting tours on the third floor of the Marion County Courthouse for people to see and learn the history behind the murals decorating the building. Grubb reminded visitors that, unlike last year, the courthouse elevator is working for people who have a hard time with the steps.

Considering the state was birthed out of in the throes of conflict, the Civil War will get its fair share of attention at the event as well. Grubb said people can come and learn to dance the Virginia Reel and other period dances.

Reenactors portraying Gov. Francis and Julia Pierpont, Fairmont natives instrumental in the birth of the state, and Sen. Matthew Neely and Mrs. John Carlile will also be attending the event.

On a more recent note, former Fairmont Mayor Nick Fantasia and County Commissioner Ernie VanGilder will be bringing classic cars to display in front of the courthouse, George said. And Jerry Vilar will be sharing information on the supper clubs and big bands throughout Fairmont in the 1950s and ’60s.

Musical entertainment will be heard throughout the day, with performances by the Kennedy Barn String Band from Fairmont State University’s Folklife Center, We Three and Almost A Song.

When people walk in, George said, “they just need to walk through there and see what it is that interests them.” They’re sure to find something.

“Where we are now is what happened in the past,” Grubb said, “and where we’re going to be in the future is what’s happening now.” History, she said, is always relevant.

It’s also a great way to see and remember all the things Marion County has provided to the state and nation over the years.

“So many things were originated in this area,” she said, and so many people have called to set up displays the society was forced to stop accepting new exhibits.

“We’re looking at broadening (the event),” she said, the demand has been so great.

The Mountain State History Expo will run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 6. For more information about the specific schedule of events, please visit the Marion County Historical Society next door to the courthouse on Adams Street in Downtown Fairmont or call them at 304-367-5398.

Grubb said anyone interested in becoming a member of the Marion County Historical Society is more than welcome to join.

Email Jonathan Williams at jwilliams@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @JWilliamsTWV.