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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
Charles Town, West Virginia
April 18, 2018     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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April 18, 2018

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F C1 Wednesday, April 18, 2018 C4, Official Jefferson County sample ballots C5 and C6 O O Black History Preservation Society deserves credit By LINDA BALLARD Special to the Spirit the dawn of the new millennium in 2000 came the dawn of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. Four natives of Jefferson County - Jim L. Taylor, Nathaniel F. Down- ing Sr George C. Rutherford and James A. Tolbert Sr. - came up with the dream of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society and brought it to fruition in the fall of 2000. They were determined to establish a forum that would rediscover and preserve the legacy of black Amer- icans in Jefferson County. Nearly two decades of commitment later, the Jefferson County Black Histo- ry Preservation Society continues to fulfill that mission. Taylor served as the group's founding president and Rutherford as treasurer, with Downing, who died in 2004, as vice president and Tolbert, who died last year, as secre- tary. They were motivated, individ- ually and collectively, by their pro- found cultural interests. At the onset of this venture, each founder had already amassed his individual black history collec- tion. Just as important, each found- er brought a plethora of experience and knowledge abotlt local cul- ture and history that spanned more than a century, including lessons and memories from their boyhoods. These resources and the men's re- sourcefulness combined to cement a strong foundation. The Jefferson County Black His- tory Preservation Society was incor- porated by the state of West Virginia and was granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. On Wednesday mornings, the men met over doughnuts and coffee to work and to reflect. Their first noteworthy accom- plishment was procuring and donat- ing a color portrait of Major Mar- tin Robison Delany to the Jefferson County Museum. Until then, little was known in the community about Delany, and the museum was liter- ally void of any black history exhib- its. Delany was born in Charles Town, then part of Virginia, on May 6, 1812. His family relocated to Chambersburg, Pa, during his youth because his mother had taught him and his siblings to read and write at a time when Virginia had made it il- legal for blacks to become literate. After the Civil War started in 1861, Delany met and conversed with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Ed- ward Stanton. Delany was commissioned a major in the Union Army, becom- ing the high- est ranked black field of- ricer in the war between the Confed- eracy and the United States. Throughout his life, Dela- ny remained a strident advo- cate for free- dom for his ABOVE: The late Nathaniai F. Downing Sr. (from left) and James Tolbert were two of the founding members of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. Founders Jim Taylor and George Rutherford continue to lead the nonprofit organization, which has created and published books, brochures, museum exhibits and more to highlight the county's incredible black history. RIGHT: Martin Delany, a physician, Civil War hero and black history icon who died in 1885, was born in Charles Town in 1812. The work of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society put Delany's ties to the area in the spotlight. ROBERTSNYDER to Delany, the Jefferson County Black ABOVE: The late James Tolbert (far left) stands last summer with volunteers from the Boys History Pres- and Girls Club in Ranson who helped with a garden project at the historic Webb-Blessing House in Charles Town, The Webb-Blessing House had fallen into disrepair when the Jefferson ervation So- County Black History Preservation Society stepped in. It now houses a growing number of black ciety sought history exhibits. RIGHT: George Rutherford listens during an 2017 event at the Jefferson County and achieved Museum, where more exhibits tell the stories of African-Americans in the county. sub-naming a street in the southwest district of town to Mar- tin Robison Delany Place; naming the Martin Robison Delany Oppor- tunity Learning Center; installing a Major Martin R. Delany state high- bridge installed over the Shenan-. way marker; installing a Charles doah River on W.Va. 9 the Major Town wayside marker near Dela- Martin Robison Delany Bridge. ny's birthplace and providing the Though there is much to know requested narrative to state offi- (See TRIBUTE Page C3) cials for approval to name the new BRIAN M. CHRISTOPHER /" Learn how arts and culture contribute to the economic value of Jefferson County 51o8 Town If you are interested in attending the Open House, please email OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. YOU RE INVITED! RANSON C*TOWNARTS & CULTURE DISTRICT ./ 1