Williamson’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to the Williamson Daily News.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Logan County, particularly the town/city of Logan, is saturated with history. While some of it may fall into the “good” category and some in the “bad” category, I find that nearly all of it is interesting and that much of it is simply fascinating.

I have numerous stories to share with readers in the hope that by so doing an internet record will be created allowing the past to always be available in the present. As an example, I have continuously enjoyed looking at people’s scrapbooks, particularly at estate sales, where items are being sold from a former household and where scrapbooks are too often just cast aside.

I’m always saddened when I enter into a place at an estate sale where someone usually has raised a family and where so many pleasant memories were created. It is just an unfortunate fact that, just like former Beatle George Harrison sang, “All Things Must Pass.”

Children grow up, often move away for work or college, and all of what they witnessed from childhood to adulthood is left behind — some of it reflected in scrapbooks that parents and grandparents thought important enough to preserve in the form of newspaper clippings and pictures.

In these computer savvy times, the days of scrapbooks, like so many other things — encyclopedias, etc. — are rapidly fading away. And, while people can quickly reserve today’s happenings via smartphones, it is those events of the past that must be revived, sometimes examined and explained, but at all costs, saved.

Rock ’n’ roller Rod Stewart sang the words “Every picture tells a story,” but I also believe that “every story paints a picture.” In other words, written words allow the reader to envision what the words may be describing. In short, the past is just sometimes worth reviving in words, so that a kaleidoscope view to the past is made available.

One may not want to believe it, but there is a unique story associated with every piece of property located in Logan — from a shooting death that led to the naming of Dead Man’s Curve to the twice burning of Logan Courthouse to casting people into the old furnace and smokestack that once stood at the Appalachian Power plant, there are stories awaiting their resurrection.

One story, though, did not occur in Logan, but is of interest in that it occurred near Chapmanville, the double murder shocking the county. After a great deal of research and a lucky break, I plan on telling that saga of how the murderer tricked everyone involved in the case, including the judge and prosecutor.

To name just a few other articles planned for the future, Bob Belcher, owner of Gino’s in Logan, and Kenny Grant, the founder of the Gino’s franchise, also are planned, as is the story of the beginning of Justice Feed Store and the formation of Justice Addition itself. For sure, both feed store owner Roy Justice and Gino’s owner Bob Belcher are two busy men with stories of interest.

For today’s purposes, however, I thought we might venture back into a time 69 years ago when the 100th celebration of the City of Logan was a statewide attraction that not only featured the first ever Aracoma Story outdoor theater production, which was held on Midelburg Island, but also when the three-day event drew (according to the Charleston Gazette) around 50,000 people to the occasion that featured a huge parade, and many other events that took place when Litz (Cuz) McGuire was mayor of Logan.

Like me, your first reaction to 50,000 people in Logan — even in a four-day period — is probably one of almost disbelief. Still, there are numerous photographs that feature various places within and around the city showing onlookers packed together during the parade session of the celebration.

The Gazette article reads: The big crowd turned out for the feature parade of the four-day-long celebration of Logan’s 100th birthday as an incorporated city. Grover Robinson, parade chairman, said 50,000 persons watched 22 floats, four high school bands and other exhibits move slowly along the city’s new boulevard to Midelburg Island.

Of interest is that the boulevard construction had started in 1948 and by 1952 was completed from Midelburg Addition to Dingess Street. However, it would not be until 1959 before the remainder of the boulevard was finished to reach Holden Road. It should also be pointed out that during the city’s centennial celebration there were approximately 75,000 residents in Logan County. It is projected that the county’s population today is around 35,000.

The Gazette’s story also relayed that “the crowd milled sidewalk deep over the mile-long course. It shuffled uncomfortably in 90-degree temperatures but waited patiently, even though the parade ran nearly an hour behind schedule.”

Aside from those people who came to watch what was described as the state’s largest parade ever, there were dignitaries and public officials from across West Virginia in attendance. The mayors of several cities, sheriffs from McDowell and Mercer counties, Supreme Court justices, supersonic speed pilot Charles Yeager, as well as numerous political candidates were in attendance, including William Marland, who that year was elected governor.

Despite numerous activities — including a square dance at the courthouse square, the installing of 19-year-old Mary Lamb of Kistler as Centennial Queen, the Queen’s Ball that was conducted at the American Legion Armory, a raccoon hunt, log sawing and log chopping contests, championship wrestling, a football game, and other gala activities — perhaps the highlight came when “Old 377” rolled up the Guyan Valley into Logan much as the first train came to Logan in 1904.

Like the crowds that had gathered at the Logan train depot some 50 years earlier, thousands again watched as smoke bellowed from the boilers of what was dubbed as the “Spirit of 1904.” The train traveled to the YMCA at Whitman Creek, where it turned and returned to the Logan depot, which is now the site of Logan City Hall.

With every civic organization in Logan County somehow involved in the centennial activities, it should be pointed out that a crowd of over 4,000 were in attendance for the Aracoma Story production on Midelburg Island, back then called Midelburg Park. Tickets for the outdoor show were $1.35 each and could be purchased at Aracoma Drug, the Smoke House restaurant and Crown Jewelers, all of which no longer exist in Logan.

It should be noted that Mary Faith Cox played the role of Aracoma and Tom Godby as Boling Baker in that first stage production of 69 years ago. Godby would later become the longest-serving assessor ever in Logan County. And it was during this initial performance that a sacred necklace was placed around the neck of Aracoma. Reportedly, the necklace had been unearthed at the final resting place in Logan for the leader of the Shawnee tribe, which was massacred in 1780 at the very site of the play.

As an example of the intensity of the centennial period, a typewritten program from that 1952 Aracoma production lists well over 100 people to be involved in the dramatic story dubbed as the “Battle of the Island.”

By 1960, Logan County’s population would be diminished by about 15,000 people and it has continued to dwindle ever since. Nevertheless, the county’s interesting history has never changed.

Perhaps, it just needs to be revived.

Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.

Recommended for you