Happy 200th Birthday Pocahontas County…
Come Celebrate with Us
History has a fascinating way of unfolding over time. The people and events that have coalesced in the past, it could be argued, have made an impact on our present, whether we realize it or not. And in most cases, if we’re willing to do a little digging into our local history, the stories we find can be just as captivating as any modern-day work of historical fiction we find in books or movies. At the very least, it sure beats anything on daytime television. When it comes to history, there is usually more to it than what first meets the eye.
Take, for instance, something as mundane as the name and location of your local town and landmarks. Places and names I’m willing to bet we take for granted. Well here in West Virginia, most of our towns and counties, as well as many of our rivers, streams, and mountains for that matter, have a back story associated with the names we know them by today. Let’s face it. If you live in a county with places referred to as Chicken House Run, Stamping Creek, and Mad Tom, you better believe there’s a story behind those names just waiting to be discovered. And part of the fun associated with the study of history (that’s right, I said fun), is uncovering the stories behind the places and names we encounter on a daily basis. It must be said, when we fail to take time to learn and appreciate our local history, we rob ourselves of a broader, deeper understanding of our roots. We become a little less of what we could be; we lose touch with our past – our heritage.
Well dear reader, take heart. If you’ve been guilty of wondering through life never taking the time to ask why your local fishing hole is called what it is, or who your hometown is actually named after, we here in Nature’s Mountain Playground want to afford you the opportunity of redemption, by extending our invitation to join us for the official kick-off celebration of the Pocahontas County bicentennial.
For the uninitiated, the meaning of bicentennial simply refers to the two-hundredth anniversary of a significant event. Think of it as celebrating a 200th birthday. Now people the world over have held bicentennials as long as there has been something 200 years old to celebrate. Whether it’s a town bicentennial or even a national one, as the United States commemorated in 1976, everybody loves a good birthday party. And Pocahontas County is no different. The big event for us begins with a ceremony slated for Saturday, December 18, 2021, in Huntersville, highlighting the mock signing of the 1821 bill that established this beautiful county. (You guessed it, here comes the back story).
The original bill that brought our county to life, enacted on December 21, 1821, was the result of a petition made by over 150 families living in the region we now know and love as Pocahontas County. The motivating factor behind this petition was, simply stated, the hardship of travel. The case laid out in the petition detailed the difficulties settlers faced in traversing anywhere from 40 to 100 miles of mountainous terrain in an attempt (and many times failing) to reach the courthouses of the surrounding counties. Don’t confuse this with our modern-day wrangling to get out of jury duty. These folks faced rugged mountains, deep valleys and dangerous rivers – on horseback at best and probably more often on foot. The request was therefore made for the creation of a new county-based on, as the writers of the petition put it,
“…they live in a section of country which appears to have been designed by nature to have little (if any) intercourse with that part of their respective counties in which the seat of justice has been located.”
In other words, saying to the powers to be, “We can’t get to neighboring courthouses so please award us permission to be a county of our own with our own courthouse.” The request was granted. And on December 21, 1821, by an act of the Virginia Legislature, and with land redesignated from Bath, Pendleton and Randolph counties, Pocahontas County was founded. Now here’s an interesting side note. As fate would have it, the Virginia Legislature also passed a second act at that time, creating two counties – Alleghany and Pocahontas. Somewhere along the way, a rumor surfaced that the names of the two newly created counties were transposed by an unknown clerk, resulting in each newly formed county getting the other’s name. See, I told you history could be fun.
Fast ward back to the 21st century. The Pocahontas County bicentennial kick-off, hosted by the Huntersville Historical Traditions committee, will be held December 18, 2021, at the Old Presbyterian Church in Huntersville – honoring the town’s 1821 designation as the original county seat. The public is invited to attend a signing reenactment of the 200-year-old bill that established Pocahontas County, as well as readings and proclamations celebrating the historic day. But the festivities won’t end there. Thanks to the efforts and planning of our bicentennial committee, other scheduled events throughout 2022 include dramas, time capsule ceremonies, traveling displays of bicentennial quilts as well as exhibits pertaining to the logging history of the county and a bicentennial mural to be located in Cass. That’s right. This bicentennial goes far beyond a town celebration or a one-time festival. We’re going to be celebrating Pocahontas County’s 200th birthday, county-wide, all year long, and we’d be thrilled if you’d joy us. We know you won’t want to miss an opportunity to help us say happy birthday to this beautiful county as we celebrate, not only her bicentennial but also much of the county’s history and heritage we love so much. And that’s really what the bicentennial celebration meaning is for us – connecting to our heritage. Be sure to keep up with all the event dates and further information at celebratepocahontas200.com. Pick an event or two, mark your calendar, and come celebrate with us.
We here at Nature’s Mountain Playground not only want to invite you along for our county’s big historic event, but we would also like to encourage you to take time to dig into your own local hometown history as well. Learning about your town or county beginnings can start with a visit to your local library. Most libraries are an invaluable source of historic information and would be happy to help you get started on your own journey of discovery. Newspapers, books and maps will cast light on the people and events of the past that have made your town what it is today. Also, don’t forget the human factor. Make some time to visit with the older folks of your community; those that may be willing to share what they recall from “back in the day”. The study of history is all about connecting. Connecting with those that came before us and those that are still with us; connecting with the people and the events that have shaped our world today. When we take the time to dig into our community history we come out on the other side better connected with our heritage. And who knows, you might have a little fun along the way.