The war between the North and South (1861-1865) was one of the most tragic in all of our nation’s history with loss of life totaling more than those lost during World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. Our homeland was a “house divided”. Not only were upwards of 750,000 men lost, but women became widows, and children became orphans.
It is with the deepest honor that the people of Barbour County erected the flags that fly over the Blue and Gray Park. The flags are replicas of the five that flew proudly over Philippi during her dark days during the Civil War. The Blue and Gray “mini-park” is a memorial in honor of those who served and died.
Blue and Gray Park is located on the US 250/Route 119, at the west end of the covered bridge that spans the Tygart Valley River coursing through Philippi. Follow the sidewalk from the bridge to the park and you can reflect upon those who served in Barbour County. There are two concrete boat ramps near the park and bridge providing the perfect launch for a peaceful afternoon of boating or fishing on the river near this beautiful monument.
Located in a building that was constructed in 1911 and once served as the Philippi B&O Railroad station, the Barbour County Historical Museum in Philippi is a great diversion for visitors who want to know more about the area. The building is characterized by Mission Revival-style architecture and considered among one of the more unusual examples that style within West Virginia.
In addition to a collection of items that have significance to Barbour County (including Civil War artifacts), the museum holds two cadavers that were mummified in 1888 by a farmer named Graham Hamrick who had an interest in science. Intent on discovering the secrets behind the mummification methods perfected by the ancient Egyptians, Hamrick went to the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane and purchased the bodies. Before trying his methods on the cadavers, Hamrick tweaked his approach on snakes, vegetables, and even a man's head that he kept stored in a jar.
Obviously his methods worked very well, because the mummies are still well-preserved today in glass-topped wooden coffins inside the Barbour County Historical Museum. Hamrick was approached by the Smithsonian Institute and given an offer to have his mummies put on display in one of the famous Washington D.C. facilities. However, Hamrick refused to reveal his secrets. Although the mummies traveled briefly outside the state for temporary exhibitions, they are now permanently at rest in the Barbour County Historical Museum.
The Campbell School was built by Barbour County residents after the Civil War to ensure local children would have access to reliable and high-quality education. It was one of the first free schools in the United States, and it educated Barbour County’s children through the eighth grade. It closed in 1963 but was later restored through the joint effort of Elza and Nola Wilson.
In 1992, the Campbell School was moved to the campus of Alderson Broaddus University, a learning institution with over a century of history in the Barbour County area and a facility known for its well-established physician's assistant program. The Campbell Schoolhouse was transferred to the ABU campus due to a belief that it would be easier to maintain the preservation efforts there. It serves as a source of inspiration for campus scholars who are studying the evolution of education as well as to visitors of Barbour County who have an interest in the history of education.
Dr. Arch Hall, who performed the first open heart surgery in the United States, and Helen Reger, recipient of the West Virginia Teacher of the Year award in 1976, are just two of the students who got their educational starts in the small but practical Campbell Schoolhouse when it was in operation. Hundreds of other young people were also taught in the building.
The Barbour County Courthouse is situated on Main Street in Philippi and is an attraction to visitors and residents alike. The building with its beautiful courtroom is a splendid example of how many of the judicial facilities of decades past were architectural works of art, in contrast to the uniform, more modern buildings of recent times.
The courthouse has a rich and lengthy history. It was constructed in 1903 as a replacement for the county's first courthouse, which was built in 1843 and used as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War. In 1980, the Courthouse and Courtroom were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
With an exterior crafted of hand-cut Hummelstown stone, the Courthouse is a testament to the diligent work that went into its construction, and the care that was taken is still evident today. A restoration project got underway in 1995 to improve the original stained glass dome that has become a focal point on the building's roof. Chandeliers surround the dome, illuminating the environment in a way that's simultaneously functional and beautiful. Several years later, the restoration work was given the distinction of "Best Interior Rehabilitation Project" under the Main Street Project facilitated by the West Virginia Development Office.
The Tygart River Valley is resplendent with history. Perhaps it is most noted for the fact that Barbour County is the epicenter of the first land engagements between the North and South during the Civil War (1861-1865). The Battle of Laurel Hill is among the earliest invasions, and the war saw its first general fall here; General Robert S. Garnet lost his life defending his rear guard while on retreat from Laurel Hill. His defeat at the hands of the Union General, the “Young Napoleon,” General Thomas A. Morris, resulted in West Virginia’s coming under the control of the North. Read more about the history of the Battle of Laurel Hill.
For those who want to immerse themselves in the history of Barbour County, West Virginia, and witness the Battle of Laurel Hill, you can attend a Battle of Laurel Hill Reenactment. These educational and awe-inspiring demonstrations allow you to “time travel”, in a sense, and experience history firsthand. This is an incredible opportunity for young and old alike. The battles are not a regular annual event, so be sure to check the West Virginia Department of Commerce website for further information.
The battlefield is open to the public, has public parking, and features a memorial area with a marker and flag, a pavilion, and an expansive vista of the hillside battlefield and beyond. The battlefield is located near the Mill Creek Reservoir on Laurel Mountain Road in the community of Bellington.