February 19th, 2015
Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC.
Since we celebrated President’s Day this week, I thought I would highlight a few of the items at the West Virginia & Regional History Center that are connected to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of our most beloved and admired presidents.
While the Center works primarily with paper records, we also have a substantial collection of artifacts. A spectacular example is Samuel Jackson’s surveying equipment (A&M 3705). This includes a compass, two rulers, and metal cable. One of the rulers is inscribed “GW” and the year “1781.” This six inch ruler is believed to have been a gift from George Washington to Jackson. Samuel Jackson was a prominent businessman in Fayette County, Pennsylvania where Washington had considerable land holdings. Washington mentions Jackson several times in his correspondence. Read more about the compass, George Washington’s surveying work, and Samuel Jackson’s iron industry in Monongalia County in the West Virginia & Regional History Center newsletter: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/news/newsletter/2005-2014/v25n2.pdf
The Samuel Jackson compass and ruler.
Another Washington artifact in our collection is a 1932 bronze plaque memorializing Washington that formerly stood in WVU’s Core Arboretum (A&M 5028). That year, America celebrated the 200 year anniversary of Washington’s birth. Photos in West Virginia History OnView show additional markers that were placed in Monongalia County during this bicentennial to commemorate Washington’s visit to the area in 1784.
The Elizabeth Hagans Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) erected this plaque noting Washington’s crossing of the Cheat at Ice’s Ferry. It was placed at the east end of the old Ice’s Ferry bridge crossing Cheat Lake. The tablet is about 30 feet above the ground and is set in the rock cliffs.
Another DAR group, the Col. John Evans Chapter also placed a marker in 1932. This monument marks the location of Col. John Evans’ homestead where Washington stayed during his 1784 tour of the area. He was particularly interested in the navigating the Monongahela and Cheat rivers. The marker is at the corner of North Pierpont Road and the Old Cheat Road. It is quite close to where North Pierpont Road crosses over Interstate 68.
The Center also holds wonderful resources relating to Abraham Lincoln among our archives and manuscripts. Roy Bird Cook, a preeminent collector of West Virginia history, donated many items that document West Virginia’s formation and Civil War history. One of the items donated by Cook is an 1860 election ticket.
Included in A&M 858, this ticket names the Virginia Republican ticket for 1860 including Lincoln and Hamlin as well as the names of electors.
Lincoln has an intimate connection to West Virginia. As President during the Civil War, he authorized the creation of the state. Although he was uneasy about dividing the state of Virginia, he did not want to lose the support of loyal western Virginians. His telegrams to Francis H. Pierpont during the Civil War era as well as the Proclamation declaring West Virginia a new state can be seen in the Pierpont Civil War Telegram Series digital collection.
Lincoln advises Pierpont to “make haste slowly” with a proclamation for the new state – i.e., act quickly but not so fast that you make mistakes.
Another fascinating Lincoln item is a letter from Achilles Dew (A&M 2239) to Lincoln written in early 1861. Dew had grave concerns for the President’s life and warned him of possible assassination.
Dew advises Lincoln that he could be murdered by “Pretended Friends” and that Presidents Harrison and Tyler were likely poisoned.
These items represent only a fraction of the materials relating to Washington and Lincoln at the West Virginia & Regional History Center. Please search our manuscripts guide and online collections to discover more! Happy belated President’s Day.