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The Indy Issue from Friday March 12, 2021



Visions of the Development of Salem

By Kevin Zorn

An oil on canvas mural is displayed in the post office in Salem, West Virginia. It was painted by an artist named Berni Glasgow and its production was funded
through the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. It is titled “Visions of the Development of Salem” and depicts a group of people
receiving mail, in the background is a village and cattle.


Berni Glasgow was one of more than 800 artists commissioned to paint 1371 murals, the majority of which are featured in post offices.
Often mistaken as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative, these Treasury funded murals were created with the intent of fostering i
nspiration in the American people who were still feeling the devastating economic and social effects of the Great Depression.


It is a testament to the shift in the ideological landscape today that I cannot believe the US Government, in tandem with local governments,
was capable of doing what the WPA accomplished. Yet, here are just some of the facts: from 1935 to 1943 8.5 million unemployed men and
women were hired by the government to build over 10,000 bridges, 620,000 miles of streets and roads, 40,000 new and 85,000 renovated
buildings including thousands of schools, gymnasiums, auditoriums, playgrounds, parks, libraries, college dormitories, tennis courts, and skating rinks.


The WPA employed artists, writers, historians, and musicians whose work directly affected the lives of millions of Americans during some of the
country’s most painful years. Musicians hired under the Federal Music Project taught free lessons to 132,000 children and adults every week.
Those hired in the Federal Writers’ Project, in addition to their popular state tourism guidebooks, recorded over 2,300 slave narratives -
an invaluable collection for scholars and historians. Under the Federal Theatre Project 1,000 plays were performed across the country every month.
Incalculable is the number of children and adults inspired by this work.


Through the colossal endeavors of the WPA in both its pre-war effort and its public projects America achieved full employment by 1942,
the same year “Visions” was painted in Salem.


It is clear that the America many of us grew up in, the structures that supported our lives, the parks we enjoyed, the schools we attended,
the infrastructure we relied upon for travel, even the art classes that inspired the next generation of creators was largely built under the
auspices of the WPA and the New Deal.


This is a salient reminder that capital “H” History is not simply a collection of memorized facts and figures, dates and obscure names.
No, History is alive in the communities in which we live. It not only teaches us, it haunts us as well. It haunts us with what was
possible before and what is possible tomorrow.


Perhaps that is the greatest battle waged in the spectacle of media and politics today - the question of what is possible.
Our expectations are managed lower and lower. We learn that the climate crisis is inevitable, that homelesness is natural,
that workers are essential until they ask for a living wage. All to say that change is impossible. Visions of better futures recede from view.

But history haunts us with an alternative. By the time Berni Glasgow painted the mural in the Salem post office, the American
government had provided millions of meaningful jobs improving, with concrete and paintbrushes, nearly every community across the nation.


Nick Taylor, the author of “American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA”, writes this: 


“These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation.
They were golden threads woven in the national fabric. In this, they shamed the political philosophy
that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them,
thus fulfilling the founding vision of a government by and for its people. All its people.” 


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During Tuesdays commission meeting, the Doddridge County Library Board of Director requested their second Executive Session to discuss a new library facility.  It was announced after the session expired and regular session was called that Mr. Richard McMillan made the announcement that the county commission and the library board had negotiated a building rental that will be a lease to own contract in conjunction with Triple H Enterprises.  Triple H is owned by Mr. Stanley Webb who’s growing company needs to expand their office spaces.  The proposal begins with a new building site located diagonally across from the Shop n’ Save Express and the old Sunoco Station.  Several dilapidated houses in the area had been purchased by Triple H to build a new office complex for their business.  A connection was made with the DC Library and plans were underway to expand the project to a two story masonry structure that would house both Triple H and the new DC Library.


Speaking with Mr. Webb the morning after the meeting, he had indicated that the area was pretty well blighted and he wanted to help revitalize that area of West Union.  “We are in several negotiations with adjacent land owners to buy out their property and possibly provide more office or retail space.” he said.  “We feel that when this phase of construction is completed, other businesses will want to move into that area.”  

Triple H employs almost forty people from the area…from skilled laborers to engineers and others professionals.  Currently they have outgrown their Joy Cabin Run facility and want to move into town to have a more centralized operation.  Their clientele include Antero Resources, EQT, Dominion and many other gas and oil related companies.  The services they offer include Engineering, Surveying, Fencing, Oilfield Services and any related service to the industry.


According to their website “At Triple H, we strive for excellence! Our company name, Triple H stands for High standards, High quality, and High performance. Started in 2008, Triple H has performed numerous different contracting jobs including well pad engineering and surveying, county road upgrade projects, pipeline engineering and surveying, NACE certified painting, gravel hauling and spreading, fencing, and small excavating jobs for several different companies.”  “Our mission is to provide our employees and customers with the highest amount of professionalism and quality workmanship, while creating and maintaining a long-lasting, positive relationship.”


Details of the proposal

The details of this building proposal and lease have yet to be ironed out with the county commissions attorney and Triple H, but they proposal is close to what follows.  Triple H will build and maintain the facility for the term of the lease agreement.  The lease agreement will last (projected) twenty-five years.  The county commission will pay Triple H $9,500 a month for twenty-five years.  At the end of the twenty five year lease, the building will be handed over to the county commission upon completion of the terms set.  Mr. Robinson requested at the meeting the option of buying out early.  The total cost for the county will not exceed $2.85 million.  The total square footage of the entire building is 120,000 square feet.

The lower portion of the two story structure will house Triple H with several offices, a reception area, work area, and engineering and survey office, a print room, equipment storage for surveying, and a break room for employees.


The space assigned for the library includes, a conference area with seating and tables for 120, A kitchen and reception area, a story time room with supply closets and restrooms  While the upper floor, still accessible from street level will house the main library, a teen area, children’s area, a genealogy room, kitchen, offices as well as reading nooks and computer spaces throughout the floor.  The game of the lot will allow for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility to both floors.

While the cost may seem somewhat daunting, the overall price per square foot of the building will be in line with similar structures recently built.  With the 1899 Silas P. Smith Opera House being used for the current library, it will now be turned over to the county commission for what ever purpose it sees fit.  The valuation of the Opera House was estimated at $200,000 and has been maintained well for the past few decades.  Updating the technology in the building has become challenging to say the least as the structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and requires special care when remodeling or updating.

Several previous efforts were made by the Library Board to obtain a new or newer facility, but all had fallen through.  Mr. McMillan noted that they hoped this would come to fruition unlike the other failed attempts.

This is the first phase of the building process, approval of plans and contract negotiation.  As with any project, things will change, but the basics remain the same.


“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” 

Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx


I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves - you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories.

Ray Bradbury


When they were first built, before the negative connotations of shock therapy and trans-orbital lobotomies, mental asylums were a place of refuge. They were a place of safety. They were a society’s attempt at doing the right thing, providing a home and care for those who could do neither for themselves. Most of the grand asylums we think of today were built in the late 1800s. Work on the asylum in Weston began in Virginia and was completed in West Virginia, that should give you a clue to its age. Before the asylum system was created in America the mentally ill were typically placed in one of four categories. If they were connected to a family of wealth, they stayed in a hospital. If they had a very patient and capable family, they were cared for by loved ones. If neither of those were options, they ended up in jails or homeless on the streets. In the jails they were often separated in an outdoor cage or killed by other inmates. Their lives on the street were equally bitter and short.

Dorothea Dix, a god fearing, unmarried school-teacher, became aware of the circumstances of the mentally ill after a visit to a prison in her home state of Massachusetts. She was appalled by their conditions and quickly jumped to action. She travelled the state documenting their lives and lobbying for a place of refuge for the mentally ill. She spoke with congressmen and senators, fighting for the care of those who couldn’t care for themselves. She was immediately successful. An expansion of the prison in Worcester was built specifically for the mentally ill. Soon she travelled across the east coast, lobbying in each state on the way, all the while providing examples of the terrible conditions to leadership. Below is the first paragraph of Dorothea Dix’ plea to the General Assembly in North Carolina.


I admit that public peace and security are seriously endangered by the non-restraint of the maniacal insane. I consider it in the highest degree improper that they should be allowed to range the towns and country without care or guidance; but this does not justify the public in any State or community, under any circumstances or conditions, in committing the insane to prisons; in a majority of cases the rich may be, or are sent to Hospitals; the poor under the pressure of this calamity, have the same just claim upon the public treasury, as the rich have upon the private purse of their family as they have the need, so have they the right to share the benefits of Hospital treatment. Urgent cases at all times, demand, unusual and ready expenditures in every community… If County Jails must be resorted to for security against the dangerous propensities of madmen, let such use of prison-rooms and dungeons be but temporary. It is not long since I noticed in a Newspaper, published near the borders or this State, the following paragraph: ‘It is our fate,’ writes the Editor, ‘to be located opposite the County Jail, in which are now confined four miserable creatures bereft of the God-like attribute of reason: two of them females; and our feelings are daily excited by sounds of woe, that would harrow up the hardest soul. It is horrible that for the sake of a few thousand dollars the wailings of the wretched should be suffered to issue from the gloomy walls of our jails without pity and without relief.’”


Dorothea Lynde Dix, 1848


Some time after Dorothea’s address the Broughton Hospital for the Insane was created in North Carolina.

His story is taught in every classroom. His image fills our television screens every year. His voice has been played on every radio and radio station across the United States. Even his words, that towering statement built on four unbreakable blocks, each a single syllable I… Have… A… Dream... we’ve all read them. The man we know as Martin Luther King Jr. has become so great a hero, a herculean figure in our society that we quickly forget that he was a mortal man. He wrote letters and letters were written to him. He was a real tangible figure to which people were able to reach out. He had a mailbox that bursted with hate-mail and praise all at the same time. A letter of praise is what I offer today, not from some major figure in history, not from a politician, not even from a dear friend of Dr. King. I present a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Crosby of Newton Massachusetts…


“Dear Dr. King,

We enclose a check for $100.00 to be used in any way you need it for your cause. We are whites who have always been sympathetic to the Negro, but who felt for a long time that our best way to help was in our own small sphere of influence, as opportunities came, My husband was the first one to hire a Negro teacher on the faculty of Boston University, for instance. And in other ways we felt we did help, although we have also known it was not enough.

Nor do we pretend even to ourselves that this check in any way fulfills our obligation. But the stories and pictures in the newspapers this morning have at last stirred us this far, with their effect heightened by the movie we saw on TV last night, “Judgement at Nuremberg”. --I wonder whether additional showings of this picture, with its emphasis on individual responsibility and on the fact that injustice is just as wrong when it affects one person as it is when it affects thousands. It might be useful in your work. I know it had an effect on me…

...We shall try to send more from time to time if we can. May God protect you, your family, and your people in your struggle, and bless you with real success by opening the eyes and hearts of the rest of us. Sincerely yours,

Mr. and Mrs. Harry H. Crosby”


(This week’s letter was found in the archives of The King Center at


In May 1815, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley arrived with her husband, Percy Shelley, at a lakeside estate on the border of Switzerland and France. They had been invited by the famous writer and poet, Lord Byron, to stay for the summer on Lake Geneva. Among them were many other artists, writers, and poets who spent their time sailing on the lake, creating in their respective fields, and talking into the night. On one particular night, their host Lord Byron read to them a ghost story then suggested that the others create their own before the summer’s end. Each took to writing. Mary Shelley worried herself over what to write about, she read collections of other ghost stories but found no inspiration until she remembered a conversation the writers had about a famous philosopher Erasmus Darwin, who was said to have reanimated dead creatures. Her letter continues with the origin of Frankenstein:


June 1815


“I busied myself to think of a story,—a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One that would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things my ghost story would be[Pg 141] unworthy of its name. I thought and wondered—vainly. I felt that blank incapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. “Have you thought of a story?” I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative...


Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener. During one of these various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and, among others, the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated. They talked of the experiments of Dr. Darwin (I speak not of what the doctor really did, or said that he did, but, as more to my purpose, of what was then spoken of as having been done by him), who preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion. Not thus, after all, would life be given. Perhaps a corpse would be reanimated; galvanism had given token of such things; perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth...


At first I thought of but a few pages—of a short tale; but Shelley urged me to develop the idea at greater length. I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet, but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world. From this declaration I must except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him.”


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

This week’s letter is a Letter to the Editor with the intended audience being the readers of the newspaper to which it was written. Abraham Lincoln was the author and the year in which it was written was 1836, twenty five years before he was inaugurated President. What’s interesting about this Letter to the Editor is how Lincoln explains his early political views. Especially interesting is his call for women’s right to vote, a statement that was made nearly one hundred years before the 19th Amendment was passed allowing the right to vote without a basis on gender.


“TO THE EDITOR OF THE "JOURNAL"—In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication, over the signature of "Many Voters," in which the candidates who are announced in the Journal are called upon to "show their hands." Agreed. Here's mine.

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females).

If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.

While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing what their will is; and upon all others I shall do what my own judgment teaches me will best advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of the sales of the public lands to the several States, to enable our State, in common with others, to dig canals and construct railroads without borrowing money and paying the interest on it. If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White for President.

Very respectfully, A. LINCOLN.”

The Scottish novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson, was born in 1850 in Edinburgh. He was the son of Margaret Balfour and Thomas Stevenson who was a prominent lighthouse engineer. R. L. Stevenson is currently among the twenty-six most translated authors in the world. Among his plethora of literature, he is most known for writing Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Stevenson was a member of the small group of authors who happened to be famous for their work within their lifetime. Those who looked up to him include Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Vladimir Nabokov. Sadly, Stevenson’s life was cut short by what was most likely a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of forty-four. In the letter I’ve chosen below, Stevenson is in correspondence with his father. He talks a little about his recently re-published Treasure Island and laments not writing to his father more often. It’s also interesting to keep in mind that this letter is written one year before publishing The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.


MY DEAREST FATHER, - Get the November number of TIME, and you will see a review of me by a very clever fellow, who is quite furious at bottom because I am too orthodox, just as Purcell was savage because I am not orthodox enough. I fall between two stools. It is odd, too, to see how this man thinks me a full-blooded fox- hunter, and tells me my philosophy would fail if I lost my health or had to give up exercise!

An illustrated TREASURE ISLAND will be out next month. I have had an early copy, and the French pictures are admirable. The artist has got his types up in Hogarth; he is full of fire and spirit, can draw and can compose, and has understood the book as I meant it, all but one or two little accidents, such as making the HISPANIOLA a brig. I would send you my copy, BUT I CANNOT; it is my new toy, and I cannot divorce myself from this enjoyment.

I am keeping really better, and have been out about every second day, though the weather is cold and very wild.

I was delighted to hear you were keeping better; you and Archer would agree, more shame to you! (Archer is my pessimist critic.) Good-bye to all of you, with my best love. We had a dreadful overhauling of my conduct as a son the other night; and my wife stripped me of my illusions and made me admit I had been a detestable bad one. Of one thing in particular she convicted me in my own eyes: I mean, a most unkind reticence, which hung on me then, and I confess still hangs on me now, when I try to assure you that I do love you. - Ever your bad son,



The eighteenth President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, earned his popularity with the North through his leadership in the Civil War. He was the general who met with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and accepted the Confederate’s surrender. There are many interesting stories about Grant’s life before the Civil War. In one account, he showed his ingenuity by placing artillery in the bell-tower of a church during the Mexican-American War. From the elevated position, Grant’s troops were able to assail targets that were much further away, thereby providing cover for his men who had until then, been the recipients of the artillery fire.


It is clear that Grant attempted to maintain stability for his family between his service in both the Mexican-American and Civil Wars. He worked on a farm for a period of time selling oats and corn. Having grown tired of the farm life, he partnered with his father running a leather shop just before entering the Civil War. The letter below reveals Grant’s political and moral leanings in the tumultuous year of 1861. South Carolina had recently seceded along with other southern states, Fort Sumter was fired upon, Lincoln was inaugurated President, and Grant, looking to make a difference, wrote this to his father…


“April 21st, 1861


We are now in the midst of trying times when every one must be for or against his country, and show his colors too, by his every act. Having been educated for such an emergency, at the expense of the Government, I feel that it has upon me superior claims, such claims as no ordinary motives of self-interest can surmount. I do not wish to act hastily or unadvisedly in the matter, and as there are more than enough to respond to the first call of the President, I have not yet offered myself. I have promised, and am giving all the assistance I can in organizing the company whose services have been accepted from this place. I have promised further to go with them to the State capital, and if I can be of service to the Governor in organizing his state troops to do so. What I ask now is your approval of the course I am taking, or advice in the matter. A letter written this week will reach me in Springfield. I have not time to write to you but a hasty line, for, though Sunday as it is, we are all busy here. In a few minutes I shall be engaged in directing tailors in the style and trim of uniform for our men.

Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have but one sentiment now. That is, we have a Government, and laws and a flag, and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter, and I trust, the stronger party. I do not know but you may be placed in an awkward position, and a dangerous one pecuniarily, but costs cannot now be counted. My advice would be to leave where you are if you are not safe with the views you entertain. I would never stultify my opinion for the sake of a little security.

I will say nothing about our business. Orvil and Lank will keep you posted as to that.

Write soon and direct as above.

Yours truly,


It seems that the most interesting facets of Robert E. Lee’s personality appear in his letters to his children. If you may recall, in my second featured article I examined a letter Robert E. Lee wrote to his daughter, Mildred, in 1861. In writing it, Lee was able to take himself away from the cold and dreary surroundings in order to enjoy a quiet moment on the front writing to someone he loved. In this week’s paper I present a letter Lee wrote to Mildred after the war in 1866. In it Lee dispenses life advice and reminds his daughter how much the family misses her while she’s away visiting cousins. In an unexpected turn, he then describes to her the behavior of the cats at home.


“"Lexington, Virginia, December 21, 1866.

"My Precious Life (Lee’s nickname for Mildred): I was very glad to receive your letter of the 15th inst., and to learn that you were well and happy. May you be always as much so as is consistent with your welfare here and hereafter, is my daily prayer. I was much pleased, too, that, while enjoying the kindness of your friends, we were not forgotten. Experience will teach you that, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, you will never receive such a love as is felt for you by your father and mother. That lives through absence, difficulties, and times. Your own feelings will teach you how it should be returned and appreciated. I want to see you very much, and miss you at every turn, yet am glad of this opportunity for you to be with those who, I know, will do all in their power to give you pleasure. I hope you will also find time to read and improve your mind. Read history, works of truth, not novels and romances. Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret. Your friends here inquire constantly after you, and wish for your return. Mrs. White and Mrs. McElwee particularly regret your absence, and the former sends especial thanks for your letter of remembrance. We get on in our usual way…”


“Our feline companions are flourishing. Young Baxter is growing in gracefulness and favour, and gives cat-like evidences of future worth. He possesses the fashionable colour of 'moonlight on the water,' apparently a dingy hue of the kitchen, and is strictly aristocratic in appearance and conduct. Tom, surnamed 'The Nipper,' from the manner in which he slaughters our enemies, the rats and the mice, is admired for his gravity and sobriety, as well as for his strict attention to the pursuits of his race. They both feel your absence sorely. Traveller and Custis are both well, and pursue their usual dignified gait and habits, and are not led away by the frivolous entertainments of lectures and concerts. All send united love, and all wish for your return. Remember me most kindly to Cousins Eleanor and George, John, Mary, Ida, and all at 'Myrtle Grove,' and to other kind friends when you meet them. Mrs. Grady carried yesterday to Mr. Charles Kerr, in Baltimore, a small package for you. Be careful of your health, and do not eat more than half the plum-puddings Cousin Eleanor has prepared for Xmas. I am glad to hear that you are fattening, and I hope you will reach 125 lbs. Think always of your father, who loves you dearly.

R. E. Lee.”


This letter was made available by Project Gutenberg at

This week I have selected two letters that arrive in succession to the mother of the famous American poet and writer, Walt Whitman. Today, his writing is mostly recognized for its soft and playful language often evoking images of dancing in fields and watching butterflies. What is often overlooked is Whitman’s time spent healing the wounded soldiers as a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War.

After reading an obituary listing for a G.W. Whitmore, Walt was worried that his brother might have been killed while fighting for the North. He immediately travelled from New York to Washington where he found his brother, alive and well. Though during his journey, the images of wounded soldiers all around him affected Walt so much that he decided to stay and help as a nurse on the front line. Walt worked for two years before the toll it took on his health impeded his ability to continue.

“Washington, June 14, 1864.Dearest Mother. I am not feeling very well these days—the doctors have told me not to come inside the hospitals for the present. I send there by a friend every day; I send things and aid to some cases I know, and hear from there also, but I do not go myself at present. It is probable that the hospital poison has affected my system, and I find it worse than I calculated. I have spells of faintness and very bad feeling in my head, fullness and pain—and besides sore throat. My boarding place, 502 Pennsylvania av., is a miserable place, very bad air. But I shall feel better soon, I know—the doctors say it will pass over—they have long told me I was going in too strong. Some days I think it has all gone and I feel well again, but in a few hours I have a spell again. Mother, I have not heard anything of the 51st. I sent George’s letter to Han. I have written to George since. I shall write again to him in a day or two. If Mary comes home, tell her I sent her my love. If I don’t feel better before the end of this week or beginning of next, I may come home for a week or[Pg 198] fortnight for a change. The rumor is very strong here that Grant is over the James river on south side—but it is not in the papers. We are having quite cool weather here. Mother, I want to see you and Jeff so much. I have been working a little at copying, but have stopt it lately.


“Washington, June 17, 1864.Dearest Mother. I got your letter this morning. This place and the hospitals seem to have got the better of me. I do not feel so badly this forenoon—but I have bad nights and bad days too. Some of the spells are pretty bad—still I am up some and around every day. The doctors have told me for a fortnight I must leave; that I need an entire change of air, etc.

I think I shall come home for a short time, and pretty soon. (I will try it two or three days yet though, and if I find my illness goes over I will stay here yet awhile. All I think about is to be here if any thing should happen to George).

We don’t hear anything more of the army than you do there in the papers.