Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 20, 1976 · Page 78
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 78

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 20, 1976
Page 78
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Page 78 article text (OCR)

50 -June 20,1976 Sundav Cawttv-Mail -Charleston. West Virginia TUG OF WAR Wheeling-Charleston Struggle Developed Over State Capital By Ann Johnston Haas Wheeling, Charleston, Wheeling, Charleston. Maybe Clarksburg or Martinsburg That, in brief, is the tug-of-war story of the location of West Virginia's capital city. No permanent capital was established by the new state's governing body but early General Assemblies were held in the U.S. Court Room in the Custom House and in the Linsly Institute Building, both in Wheeling. The latter building served as Capitol until 1869 when the legislature passed a: bill naming Charleston as center of state government. West Virginia 1876: Adolescent State--3 The move excited and heightened Char- lestonians' interest in their new state. A stock company, the State House Co., was formed by city residents to build a tempo- 1 rary home for government, pending erection of a permanent structure. The contract went to Dr. John P. Haley. But, the new 579,000 structure in what is now downtown Charleston was not finished by the April 1,1870, deadline and until completed in December that year some state officers were quartered in the Bank of the West. The state treasurer's office was in the Merchants Bank and the state library used St. Johns P.E. Church. A steamer was chartered to bring government to Charleston for the first time. On board was a reception committee of Dr. Albert Summers and Dr. Spicer Patrick of Charleston, Col.J.T. Bowyer of Winfield. and Col. Hiram Howard and John Phelps of Point Pleasant. The capital's coming to Charleston sparked other construction in the Kanawha County city, including erection of the ."largest and finest hotel" in West Virginia. ! It was the Hale House, built on Kanawha Boulevard where today the Frankenberger parking lot is located. It also was the site of the former Ruffner Hotel. The four-story hotel built by Dr. John Hale contained 100 bedrooms, a bar, billiard room and barber shop. It had one bathroom. By 1876 when the Hale House was leased by W.T. Thayer, it was recognized as "one of the finest hotels in the South." Northern West Virginians had not resigned themselves to Charleston becoming the Capital City, however, and in February 1875 the legislature passed a bill returning the government to Wheeling. Sparking the change was the Wheeling City Council's offer to build an impressive Capitol. City bonds totaling §100,000 were provided for the structure, but when government offices returned to Wheeling they temporarily were put in the Linsley Institute. Technically, the bill approving the capital's move was termed "temporary." Reasoning for the change was based on a need for a capital in a "more accessible and convenient point" than Charleston, a town which also lacked commercial and hotel facilities. Kanawha Countians were disappointed and they bitterly charged that the City of Wheeling had "bought" the capital for an $80,000 building. In March 1875 a group of Charlestonians, including John Slack Sr., applied for a restraining order against the capital's move and an injunction was granted. In May, State Librarian John Cole asked the Kanawha County Court to dissolve the injunction. This was done but the judge suspended the decree so plaintiffs could appeal to the State_ Supreme Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, Gov. John Jacob notified department heads to have office materials ready for shipment by May 21. He employed carpenters to build packing boxes and others to carry them to the steamer "Emma Graham," but the workers were arrested for violating the injunction. "Government" left Charleston, however, and after cargo was switched to the "Chesapeake" at Parkersburg it arrived in Wheeling May 23, 1875. The new Capitol was not occupied until more than a year later, December 1876. But, only a month later, January 1877, a Gilmer Countian submitted a bill providing for a popular election to decide Ihe capital's site. Charleston received 41,288 votes. Clarksburg 31.075. and Marinsburg 8.049 in August balloting. The bill also provided $50,000 for site purchase and construction of a Capitol building but the move did not become effective until May 1. 1885. The old State House Co. of Charleston conveyed the former Capitol building to the State Board of Public Works in August 1878 and it was extensively rebuilt at a cost of $389.923. Government offices were yet to find a permanent home but at long last they had stopped their wanderings up and down the Kanawha and Ohio. It Took Clowning Around To Make Charleston Capital It took some clowning around for Charleston to permanently become West Virginia's capital. Young Charleston attorneys John E. Kenna and Romeo H. Freed were discouraged men in the early summer of 1877 when they awoke to the sound of a steam calliope in Huntington. "A circus! No one will listen to us now." Kenna lamented. The young men had been traveling throughout the state campaigning for Charleston to win the August election to decide West Virginia's capital city. Martinsburg and Clarksburg were other contenders. The duo had had little luck. Few people in the apathetic southern part of the stale stopped to listen to their message given at crossroad stores, schoolhouses and county courthouses. Now, in Huntington, they were forced to compete with a circus! Discouraged, Ken-, na and F'reed decided to get something to lift their spirits. While they were drinking they struck a conversation with a friendly man who listened to their story. The stranger finally told them he was John Ludlow. clown with the circus which had just arrived in town. Anxious to help the young attorneys. Ludlow told them they could have five minutes to give their Charleston pitch at each West Virginia circus apperance. For a week Kenna and Freed traveled territory where they had failed previously to get a crowd. They spoke to audiences of 5,000 to 10.000 persons. The "clowning around" worked. Char- leston won the election, getting 10,000 votes more than the second-highest contender. Kenna and Freed went on to successful law and political careers. Representing opposing paiiies. Kenna became a senator and Freed a judge and West Virginia attorney general. Years later Kenna took a senatorial party to the circus when it was playing in Washington. And who called him from tlio audience but John Ludlow. the clown who helped make Charleston a capital city. Garden of Eden Secretary s 1980 Trumble side chair J 308 Invest in registered and numbered, authentic antique reproduction. We are pleased to offer an exclusive selection of outstanding Colonial reproductions in solid cherry by Station. To celebrate the Bicentennial, Station has designed and executed this registered and numbered limited edition of truly beautiful reproductions. We are showing 8 pieces including an ox bow chest. Tavern Oandlestands, Tea Table, Lowboy, Needham Folding Card Table and the pieces pictured above. Prices starl al SIGH. Invest in a valuable piece of American History. Buy a limited edition reproduction from Boll Furniture. BOLL FURNITURE 900 Virginia Si. East. Shop M o n d a y ' l i l 9 Phone i Use Want Ads. Dial 348-4848 1890-1976 West Vtafinia Wcskyan College AFTER 86 YEARS of growth, service, goodwill and support. . . We move into a promising future with confidence, opportunity and an obligation to provide Educational opportunities for this nation and its leaders in all professions. PRESIDENT RONALD E.SLEETH WEST VIRGINIA WESLEY AN COLLEGE BUCKHANNON, W. VA. 26201 T ' Kanawha Banking Trust Co. N. A. CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA Celebrating Our 75th Anniversary in the Year of America's Bicentennial CAPITOL STREET, SOUTH FROM POST OFFICE SQUARE. CHARLESTON, W. VA. AS IT LOOKED IN 1916 ·' 3

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