Mountain State Residents look toward the future in Wheeling as state celebrates 154th birthday

By JOSELYN KING and DREW PARKER

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — West Virginia’s residents wish the state a happy 154th birthday today, and offer hope that the future brings prosperity and more time with family to the people of the state.

The statue of Francis Pierpont, one of the Mountain State’s founding fathers, overlooks downtown Wheeling from in front of West Virginia Independence Hall.
(Photo by Ian Hicks)

They also wish the state could establish a better identity nationwide, and that the rest of America would recognize West Virginia is not the western side of the state of Virginia — and hasn’t been since 1863.

It also wouldn’t hurt if elected officials could achieve accord, and that the officials make certain to pay their own taxes, they said.

West Virginia Day activities take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at West Virginia Independence Hall, where many of the key events leading to statehood took place.

Life-sized cardboard cutouts of Union and Confederate soldiers with open face holes will be available for photographic opportunities, and visitors also can listen to a recording of the reading of “Proclamation 100: Admitting West Virginia into the Union.”

Refreshments, including birthday cake, will be offered.

As West Virginia marks 154 years of statehood today, local residents reflected on the past, present and future of the place they call home.

“My wish is that people outside of West Virginia recognize us as a state,” said Ashley Derrow of Wheeling. “Many still recognize us as the western part of Virginia.”

It is the hope of Anna Brinkmeier of Wheeling that people will be able to find safe and adequate shelter.

“We need more affordable housing,” she said. “We have plenty of available housing, but not affordable housing. With the influx of outsiders coming in, housing costs are going through the roof.”

Brinkmeier said she would also like to see more coooperation among those in state government to help make West Virginians’ lives better.

Wheeling attorney Martin Sheehan directed his comments at Gov. Jim Justice — the state’s only billionaire — in his birthday wish for West Virginia.

“I would like to see the governor pay his taxes,” Sheehan said, referring to reports that Justice-owned companies owe the state millions in back taxes.

Gary Sacco hopes more jobs come to West Virginia so that children can find jobs in the state and families won’t be separated.

“I hope the economy improves so young people can stay here and be gainfully employed,” he said. “I also think West Virginia needs to improve the way we project ourselves to the rest of the country. We should encourage more people to come here.”

Lawrence Bruce Sr., a longtime South Wheeling resident, said he believes the state has progressed over the years. But he would like to see some changes at the local level.

“The progress has been very good and the state has been moving ahead more than I ever thought it was going to in my life,” Bruce said. “I’ve noticed better housing for one. I do they think should cut down on these parking meters so people will want to come to town in Wheeling and not have to pay to do it.”

His son, Dan Bruce, said he would like to see the state invest in more parks and recreation facilities.

“I’d definitely like to see more parks and maybe even water parks,” Bruce said. “West Virginia needs more things to do.”

Allie Crutchfield, a Los Angeles resident originally from Wheeling, said she appreciates the friendly nature of West Virginia and enjoys the occasional pepperoni roll — considered by many as the Mountain State’s unofficial state food — for nostalgia.

“I’ve moved away, but I love coming here and I can’t see that changing,” Crutchfield said. “I live in L.A. but I talk about it all the time. West Virginia is very friendly. When you move somewhere where people are so involved with their own lives, it’s nice to be around such nice people.

“It doesn’t change, which is actually a good thing for me,” Crutchfield said.

Locally, West Virginia Day-themed events also will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville and from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center.

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