PHILIPPI, W.Va. — The nation roads of West Virginia usually expose concealed delights for inquisitive tourists who are fascinated by quirky and often touching bits of neighborhood history and lore.
My household and I discovered these types of a delight previous month even though creating a detour for a rest end in Barbour County, about 40 miles south of Morgantown.
The end discovered stories about the initially land struggle of the Civil War, a poignant and macabre instance of 19th-century psychiatric remedy and professional medical experimentation and, very last but not least, a community tie to The Addams Family members — indeed, that Addams Spouse and children.
Despite the fact that we’ve typically driven via north-central West Virginia, this was our initially halt in Philippi, a city of about 3,000 folks situated at the intersection of U.S. routes 119 and 250.
The sight of a lovely and unusual lined bridge spanning the Tygart Valley River initially lured us away from the fuel station we’d stopped at around the heart of city.
All through our explorations, we uncovered that the 312-foot-long, two-lane “double barrel” bridge was developed in 1852 and was the moment employed as a barracks by Union troopers for the duration of the Civil War.
But our actual dive into nearby heritage would commence at the outdated train station future to the bridge, where by stood a historical marker titled “Philippi Mummies,” and a banner hung proclaiming the dates for an forthcoming “Lurch Fest.”
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Thankfully, the solutions to all the apparent queries awaited us inside of the previous B&O Railroad depot, designed in 1911 and now the Barbour County Historic Museum (www.barbourcountyhistoricalmuseum.org).
When we stepped inside of, the 1st factor we saw was a mannequin depicting the substantial character “Lurch” from “The Addams Family members” television series.
We had been instantly welcomed by museum manual Marisa Terwilliger.
“Admission is absolutely free, but it is $1 to see the mummies,” she educated us.
Terwilliger, who will work at the museum by way of AmeriCorps, was a wonderful information who informed good stories.
Philippi, we discovered, was the web-site of the very first structured land fight — actually additional of a skirmish — of the Civil War, on June 3, 1861.
Reportedly, no one was killed at the Fight of Philippi, in which Union troops attacked and scattered a Confederate force. But the struggle did end result in the to start with amputations of the war, such as a leg of 18-yr-previous Confederate soldier James Hanger. Hanger would afterwards style an articulated synthetic leg for himself employing barrel staves, then discovered a business producing synthetic limbs. The Hanger Orthopedic Group is still a foremost provider of prosthetics.
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The Struggle of Philippi was also the 1st in history in which both sides arrived at the battlefield by prepare, according to some accounts.
As for our admission to the mummy home, it was money nicely-invested.
Displayed are two human bodies preserved in 1888 by community farmer and amateur (mad?) scientist Graham Hamrick, who was hoping to provide his magic formula mummification formula, and really received a patent on the process.
The bodies he employed have been two deceased inmates of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in close by Weston, whose continues to be went unclaimed by their people.
Hamrick by no means made funds from his method, but the mummies did tour Europe with P.T. Barnum right before ultimately locating their way back again to Philippi.
However, the actual story in the mummy room isn’t the odd science and weirder marketing and advertising of the 19th century, but the unfortunate destiny that frequently awaited these whom culture deemed irregular.
Terwilliger recounted the somber situation of those people unfortunates who located them selves committed to the condition lunatic asylum.
The pretexts for determination had been lots of, especially for unconventional or inconvenient women of all ages. The mummies are thought to be two this kind of woman inmates, just one who died of tuberculosis, one who died in childbirth.
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Amid the interpretive displays is a duplicate of a letter a single of the girls experienced sent to her family members, asking to be authorized to occur house to Philippi.
The letter was returned unopened.
On a lighter, if no less ooky, be aware, the creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky existence of Lurch was, as it turns out, conveniently defined. The 6-foot 9-inch actor who portrayed the character in the 1960s tv series, Ted Cassidy, grew up in Philippi and is even now, understandably, a hometown hero. Cassidy, who died in 1979, will be celebrated Aug. 6, exterior the museum at the town’s annual Lurch Fest (research “Lurch Fest” on Fb).
The competition will also aspect live music, craft beer, arts and crafts sellers, and a costume parade and contest. (Certainly, I’d almost certainly go as Uncle Fester.)
For more details about Philippi, pay a visit to www.philippi.org.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Electronic mail him at [email protected].