Monday, August 27, 2012

The Second Sunday Drive, Day Trip Five

Mount Tabor United Methodist Church
Near Wadesville, West Virginia

Day Trip Four ended just as had Day Trip Two.  I spent over three hours, covered approximately sixty miles, and never left Marshall County.  Day Trip Five, on the other hand, got me a bit further afield, even though it, too, ended with me being dissatisfied with my own progress.  Somehow my goals always seem to exceed my achievements.

On Thursday, August 23rd, I got an early start (7:20 am) and took off on the same roads I had used for Day Trip One.  That is I crossed the ridges of Marshall County, meeting U.S. Highway 250 at Bellton, then drove past the ruins of Littleton and the hamlet of Hundred.  This time, however, I turned north on West Virginia Highway 7 which led me into Monogalia County just a short time after leaving 250.

Monongalia County came into being in 1776 when the Commonwealth of Virginia divided up its West Augusta District into three counties, each named for the prominent river of the region—the Ohio, the Monongahela, and the Youghiogheny.  At the time, the line surveyed by Mssrs. Mason and Dixon had not yet been agreed to, and much of these three counties lay in what became southwestern Pennsylvania.  The section of West Virginia Highway 7 over which I was driving, is called the Mason-Dixon Highway as it parallels that famous division and is the closest highway to the actual line.

Once past the town (widespot) known as Wadestown, I saw a sign directing traffic to the Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, just two and a half miles off WV 7 to the north.  Why not capture another rural UMC, I thought and turned the Saab onto the dirt road behind the Shriver farmstead.  The road reminded me of the old joke about My Gal Sal—she lives on Tough Street.  The further you go the tougher it gets and she lives in the last house.  Just as I was thinking of giving up, I came around a bend in the road and there was the church, in perfect photographic light.

The Monongalia County Courthouse
Morgantown, West Virginia

After capturing several scenes of the church, the churchyard, the small cemetery attached to the church, the surrounding countryside (seemingly endless rows of ridgetops), and a herd of deer racing through the newer, larger Mount Tabor Cemetery, I climbed back in the Saab and found, to my amazement, that Nancy was now directing me, not back along the route I’d taken into the church, but forward, continuing along the same road, but now in much better condition.  In time, I came back out on WV 7, west of Wadestown, and I passed through that picturesque village a second time.

The highway brought me within several yards (I assume) of the Pennsylvania State Line, past the Mason-Dixon Historic Park and the site of the Catawba War Path along Dunkard Creek, before turning toward the southeast and delivering me to Morgantown, Seat of Monongalia County and home of West Virginia University—just rated the number one party school in the nation.  (Let’s hear it for higher education.)

You may remember that the last time I was in Morgantown, while looking for the county courthouse, I drove a circle route through downtown that took me past the same corner three times.  This time I had prepared myself with a street address for the courthouse, which only helped when I finally gave up and parked the Saab having driven the same circle as before with no luck.  Turns out the courthouse sits back from the street, behind a stand of trees in a small park.  The beautiful building is almost impossible to photograph because there is no place to get a clear vantage point.

By this time, I still hadn’t had breakfast, and had been looking forward to a “Morning in Morgantown” stop, but alas, I could find no place that was open, serving breakfast, and with a parking lot.  With no change in my pocket for the ubiquitous meters, I drove on, noticing as well that not just my stomach, but the Saab’s was getting empty.

As I crossed Interstate 68, I began to fear that I wouldn’t find any place to eat or fill the tank, so I turned back to the gas station/convenience store I had passed just a mile before the Interstate.  The pump wouldn’t latch, so I had to hold the handle while filling the tank, and then the pump shut off at $50, even though I could have used more gas.  Breakfast ended up being a bottled smoothie and some cheese I purchased at the local Walmart Supercenter.  Of course, once back on the road, this time U.S. Highway 119, I passed many gas stations and a few restaurants.  It’s what comes of not knowing the territory.

As a sideline on this travelogue, I recently read that the single largest private employer in West Virginia is Walmart.  It seems that every town of any size at all has one of the stores, and most seem to have a Supercenter—all of which make our Missoula Supercenter look small.

Highway 119 led me back to Grafton, in Taylor County, where Nancy had misled me so many times on the last trip through the county.  This time I determined to use the signs posted by the state, and thus was able to find Tygart Lake State Park with no problem.  

Tygart Lake State Park
Near Grafton, West Virginia

I spent a little time at the lake itself, and more at the site of Tygart Dam which forms the reservoir out of the Tygart Valley River, then drove back to Grafton and on westward using U.S. Highway 50, which took me right through the center of Harrison County and its seat, Clarksburg.

Once more I was relying on Nancy to lead me to the Harrison County Courthouse, and she directed me off US 50 right at the site of the First United Methodist Church.  (I can’t avoid them even if I wanted to.)  Just a couple of blocks away, I pulled up in front of the courthouse, finding a loading zone where I could park without worrying about feeding a meter.  Downtown Clarksburg is much like downtown Wheeling.  There are lots of beautiful old buildings I’d love to have pose for me.  But as with Wheeling, I decided to leave that for some future trip, and got back on U.S. 50 heading west.

My parents used to talk about driving between Parkersburg and Clarksburg.  I can only imagine what the road must have been like before West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd starting bringing federal money into the state.  Today, that section of U.S. 50 west of Clarksburg is part of the Robert C. Byrd Appalachian Highway System, a four-lane divided road that makes the trek much easier than what my parents faced.

There were two buildings I wanted to photograph in western Harrison County, both of them Methodist churches.  The community of Wolf Summit lies just off U.S. 50, and back in the 1940s it had at least two Methodist Churches.  Today I couldn’t find one.  Well, there was a building that quite obviously had been a church, but it had no sign of any kind, and the only church sign I did find led to a Wesleyan Methodist Church, not one my father would have served.  Seeing a man working in his driveway across from the “church-like structure,” I asked if he could direct me.  Unfortunately, he had lived in Wolf Summit only twenty some years, so had no idea what things were like back in 1942.  He did confirm that the building I was seeing had been, at one time, a Methodist Church, but now it was in private hands.

Relying this time on my map, and not Nancy, I crossed  Highway 50 and headed south toward Jarvisville.  Well, I thought I was heading toward that town.  Turns out I was on route 31 instead of 33, and while I passed beautiful countryside, I could not find my objective.   Directing Nancy to find Jarvisville, I ended up in a construction zone where I admitted to the flagger that I was lost.  Asking where I was headed, he agreed with my assessment, and directed me to turn around and wait for the truck traffic on the one-lane road I had just traversed.

Most Definitely NOT the Jarvisville United Methodist Church

Once back on U.S. 50, I passed the turn-off for the Jarvisville Road and continued on into Doddridge County.  The Doddridge County Fair was open for business at the fairgrounds south of U.S. 50, but I was beginning to feel the hours I had spent driving, and had determined that my original goal of seeing Doddridge County, Ritchie County and Pleasants County was a bit too ambitious.  Taking the exit for West Union, the County Seat, I looked for the courthouse.  Not hard to spot, as it is the largest structure in town and set on top of a hill.  It was, however, very difficult to photograph as it is an enormous building and again I found it almost impossible to fit in my frame from any conceivable angle.  I tried though.  Lord knows I tried.  I got lovely views of the back and sides of the building, but when I finally found a spot that would allow my widest angle setting to get the whole building, of course I was looking into the sun.  

The Doddridge County Courthouse is the kind of structure that grabbed my attention in Stanford, Montana, and started me on my project of collecting county courthouses.  It is hard for me to imagine why a county that at its peak had fewer than 14,000 residents (the 1900 U.S. Census counted 13,689 people in Doddridge County, and with few exceptions it’s been downhill ever since), why would they need such an extravagant building?  There were other beautiful buildings on the same hilltop, including (of course) the local United Methodist Church, but the streets away from the courthouse were peppered with parking meters, so it was back in the car to head north on West Virginia 18 toward Middlebourne, New Martinsville, and home to Roseland.

West Virginia 18 follows the path of Middle Island Creek, the longest creek in the state.  I followed along as well, taking a brief side trip at Alma to photograph Ripley Chapel UMC and the lake at Conaway Run Wildlife Management Area.

After a stop at the New Martinsville Walmart (which Nancy knew how to find) where I picked up some food supplies for the next week, it was back up on the mountain to Roseland and my home away from home.
The Doddridge County Courthouse
West Union, West Virginia

Today’s drive covered 258 miles and took ten hours and twenty minutes at 25 m.p.h., a new high-speed record.

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