Civil War takes center stage at museum

PARKERSBURG – A new exhibit at the Oil & Gas Museum in Parkersburg is highlighting how the history of the Civil War and the formation of the state of West Virginia were tied together.

The Parkersburg Rotary Club held its weekly meeting Monday at the museum, 119 3rd St., at the invitation of Dave McKain, director of the Oil and Gas Museum.

With the state preparing to mark the 150th anniversary of its founding, McKain thought it would be a good time to show off additions for the museum’s Civil War Room.

It was during this week 150 years ago that a state convention was being held in Parkersburg with the intent to elect a governor for the new state who would take office on June 20, 1863. At the time it was between Arthur Boreman and Peter Godwin Van Winkle.

“This was a very historic week 150 years ago,” McKain said. “You would walk out on Market Street and pass all of the power players in the state of West Virginia and in the nation.”

However, a Confederate raiding party was said to be on its way to the area, causing many of the delegate to go to Wheeling.

McKain announced the museum has more than 100 Civil War-era lithographs on display that were found at Henderson Hall.

“The reason I wanted you all to come over here today is we have a very special exhibit of around 100 original lithographs,” McKain said. “They didn’t have photographs that they could print in those days.

“Everything was put on lithographs. The artist would go out and see a battle and do a sketch of the battle, send it back to New York, do up the details and that was how it got printed.”

The lithographs were used in publications such as Harper’s Weekly. The scenes were artist renditions of battles and other scenes of action in West Virginia during the Civil War, including Harpers Ferry and the 1861 landing of Union forces in Parkersburg.

“About 95 percent of them are originals,” McKain said. “There are some reprints.”

The lithographs are on display in the museum’s Civil War Room.

“Our Civil War Room is called the Swann House Tavern,” McKain said. “That was the tavern down at the point in the Swann House Hotel. That is where the politicians met and that is where the state was supposed to come together. A lot of the power players lived here in Parkersburg.”

The museum has a letter from Robert E. Lee, who was president at Washington College in Lexington, Va., to a family accepting its son to the college.

The museum has a document on display with President Abraham Lincoln’s signature on an officer’s commission into the Union Army. The document also features the signature of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

“That is very special,” McKain said.

The museum’s Civil War Room has memorabilia, uniforms and artifacts.

“It is probably one of the finest Civil War collections in the state of West Virginia and it is here in Parkersburg, West Virginia,” McKain said. “One of the reasons for the Civil War Room is to celebrate Parkersburg’s role in the Civil War and in the formation of the state of West Virginia.”