Welcome to Parkersburg, WV

Welcome to Parkersburg, WV


Paddle boat on the river in Parkersburg

Paddle boat on the river in Parkersburg


My mind is wrapped around the civil war with my hero and heroine, Rork and Leila, who are stuck right in the middle of it. They ended up on the Ohio River, on a steamer, trying to get to Parkersburg, a city that supplied critical provisions during the war, like transportation, oil and gas. I had an opportunity to discover the town when I visited my editor, Sandy Tritt, of Inspiration for Writers, Inc., and decided to poke around town before we left on our way to Nashville.

Ohio and . . . Rivers, Parkersburg

Ohio and . . . Rivers, Parkersburg

So, where is Parkersburg? Do you know what state it’s in? It was part of Virginia until the secession and then it became the thirty-fifth state, West Virginia. There wasn’t always a West Virginia, at least not until June 1863, when a group of citizens were determined to break away from the southern slave states south of this part of Virginia.

P1070226 P1070213 P1070205 P1070193According to David L. McKain’s book “The Civil War and Northwestern Virginia,” many voters favoring the Union felt intimidated by radicals favoring secession from Virginia. However, Virginia declared itself part of the Southern Confederacy and the Northwestern counties, not wanting to join that infamous cause had decisions to make. That’s when in May 1861, the area got bombarded by the Confederate troops and guerillas and burned the B&O Railroad facilities and bridges between Parkersburg and Grafton. Railroad President Garrett was forced to declare that the B&O would not carry Union troops.

Within days tens of thousands of union troops began to pour into and through Parkersburg and the city became a crucial route for transporting troops. The Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad and the river steamers transported troops. I could see the whole town below as I stood on top of the hill in Fort Boreman Historical Park and saw the B&O train go by. This town has a long, wonderful history, but during this time of the civil war, the people were split in their views of slavery. Disagreements split families, marriages, brother pitted against brother, father against son.

Slaves escaping the interior of West Virginia could follow the Kanawha River to Point Pleasant. From there they could follow the Ohio River north to Parkersburg. Across the river from Parkersburg was the Ohio town of Belpre where a Col. John Stone acted as an agent for the railroad. Fugitives were hidden at Parkersburg by a black woman called “Aunt Jenny” until they could cross the river. The first school for blacks was founded in Parkersburg in the 1870’s.

Little did I know about this amazing state. It’s packed with history, has charm, has paddle boat tours and if you want a beautiful car trip, take a ride on route 78, anytime of the year, but especially in the spring or the fall. To get there, you will pass Shenandoah, one of the sites where civil war fighting took place.

Do you know your American history?



I thought passion pushed the artist. A gargantuan gut tumult right in the center of your body and words whirling in your head.

Threads of Wisdom by Gail Ingis Claus 36x36 Oil on canvas

“I must paint, I must write, I must sing. The drive is all consuming.

In last Sunday’s April 22, Connecticut Post, was the article, Art, religion collide in ‘My Name is Asher Lev.’ The article addresses the Chaim Potok novel “My Name is Asher Lev.” It tells the story of a Jewish boy determined to pursue a life in the world of modern art despite the opposition of his parents and the New York City religious community within which his family lives.

Potok set the novel in a very specific time and place, but the tale of a son having to battle his father to find his own way in the world has resonated with readers of all faiths since the book was first published in 1972.

Asher’s deeply religious father is puzzled and then outraged by his son’s fascination with drawing – from a very early age – ultimately forcing the boy to choose between his religion and his passion for art.

Hasidic praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

You don’t have to be Jewish or an artist to identify with Asher’s quest to be his own man and the result is a coming of age classic that has been added to many high school reading lists over the years.

My issue with this article are the words “quest to be his own man.” The passion to do art and the quest to be your own person are two separate issues. Writers must write, painters must paint, sculptors must sculpt. But growing up, finding your way in the world, the quest to be your own person is part of life. I am an artist, I must paint, I must draw, I have a quest to do art in some form, design, create, fill the negative space, but I am still finding my own way.

The recent stage adaptation, written by Aaron Posner, will be receiving its Connecticut premiere at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Starting May 2.

Hasidic with Shawls

“It’s a universal story. It’s about Hasidic Jews and a painter, but I think  you could substitute almost anything you want,”

Actor Ari Brand

actor Ari Brand said of the way so many diverse people have related to the Potok tale for the past 40 years.

“The stronger the pull of the parents and the stronger the pull of a child’s passion, the greater the conflict,” Brand said of the battle so many young people have to go through over their career paths.

The quest to find your own way is a lifelong ambition. So tell me, are you still finding your own way? How, where, why?

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