BY Barb Minor, Editor
Main street in New Martinsville Thursday seemed like a step back in time as the city and county officials unveiled the newly-cleaned statue of Levi Morgan on the courthouse lawn.
The unveiling marked the centennial anniversary of the dedication of the monument honoring the frontiersman and Indian fighter.
County Commissioner Don mason welcomed the crowds lining the main thoroughfare and led the group in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. New Martinsville Mayor Jim Herrick gave brief history of the statue.
"The West Virginia Legislature of 1901 passed an act to appropriate money for the erection of a monument to Levi Morgan, one of the pioneers of West Virginia," Herrick said. "This act was passed don Feb. 16, 1901, and to be in effect 90 days from passage. The amount of money appropriated was $3,500."
"The monument was contracted for through the West Virginia Monumental Company which had its shop on the property of the present First United Methodist Church at Main and North Streets in New Martinsville," Herrick said. "The monument company, not having a likeness of Levi Morgan, had a picture of "uncle" Aaron Morgan of Porters Falls taken. He was posed with one foot on a box and this was made to look like a stone when the statue was cut, and the picture was taken in what is now a barber shop on the corner of North and Main Streets."
Herrick also laid rest the rumor that the statue rightfully belongs in Morgantown, where a likeness of Lewis Wetzel is said to stand.
"I have it on good authority that Wetzel County is the right place for the Levi Morgan Statue," Herrick said. "The monument is not for Wetzel County, or New Martinsville in particular, but for the entire state. The act reads: "Whereas, Levi Morgan was one of the great patriots and pioneers of our country and lived in West Virginia, and was of inestimable service to this country in preventing the attack of the Indians upon the early settlements of the State."
Bill Talkington spent several days cleaning the statue and removing the years of tarnish from the copper plates in the monument's base.
Herrick introduced Talkington, Bob Eller, dressed as pioneers, and Trey Hinrichs, the West Virginia Mountaineer, who all fired muskets in salute to the frontiersman honored that day.
H. John Rogers delivered the famous speech made by William Oliver Gallagher in the 1890's.
"...If asked where I hail from, my sole replay shall be, I hail not from Appomattox and its famous apple tree where the conquering hero wrestled the sword of victory from the vanquished foe. Nor did I with the embattled farmers stand and fire the shot heard round the world; nor with Napoleon, cross the bridge at Lodi and mingle the Eagles of France with the Eagles of the crags, whilst 40 centuries were looking down upon us,: Rogers read. "...I hail not from lands of palm and southern pine where close by the cottage door the sweet magnolia blooms, while through the dusky wildwood there throbs the mockbird's song, where the balmy jasmine-scented zephyrs gently waft across the perfumed fields, and wake to ecstasy the living lyre.
"...But- I do spring from the grand old county of Wetzel, where the soil is so fertile and so salubrious the clime, that her teeming harvests leave no space for the upspringing of that noxious week, Ignorance (which, I perceive, flourishes hereabouts in great luxuriance).
"I hail from the cloud-kissed hills of Wetzel, who snow-capped peeks (sic) lift up their shining fronts to greet the god of day whilst yet sluggards of the low land sleep, reclined on the couches of inglorious ease..."
Gallagher served a single term,
from 1929-1931, in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
The speech recited by Rogers at Thursday's celebration was originally delivered by Gallagher at the Fairmont Opera House in Fairmont in the late 1890's.
Additional copies of the speech are available at the GNMDC office.
Local entertainers, The Ebert
Brothers, provided musical entertainment before and after the unveiling