Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beverly Heritage Center

I think everybody is familiar with Elkins (the county seat for Randolph County), but most folks don’t know much about Beverly, a smaller town a few miles down the highway. Beverly was the original county seat, but eventually lost that title to Elkins (formerly known as Leadville) in 1899, which had suddenly become a railroad hub just ten years earlier. How this happened (and how close it came to becoming a bloody intra-county war) is just one of the interesting stories explained in different display areas at the Beverly Heritage Center, which I had the pleasure of visiting recently.

An example of the nice signs inside the museum.

Another major component of this museum is Beverly’s involvement in the Civil War. Many people don’t realize how much western Virginia (prior to statehood in 1863) was in the national spotlight during 1861. One of the most significant early battles was fought near Beverly—the Union victory at the Battle of Rich Mountain. This key victory helped to drive the Confederates out of northwestern Virginia, protecting the vital B&O Railroad and setting the stage for West Virginia’s statehood. Later, the town was briefly raided by the Confederates four times over the course of the war. This museum has lots of artifacts and interesting displays about both the Civil War in the region as well as West Virginia’s statehood.

Beverly got its start as an early community along a route that became the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, an important road across the Appalachian Mountains from the Shenandoah Valley to the Ohio River. The history of transportation in the area is another focus at the Beverly Heritage Center. They cover the evolution from horses and stagecoaches, to the massive changes brought by the railroads, and finally to the automobile and how it changed American culture. The old Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (which followed a path that is now covered by U.S. 250 from Staunton to Elkins, U.S. 33 from Elkins to the community Linn in Gilmer County, and Route 47 from Linn to Parkersburg) still runs through the heart of the town and in front of the museum.

The Beverly Heritage Center also focuses on the town of Beverly itself. This museum is actually four adjacent buildings (the 1808 Courthouse, a bank built in 1902, a former store built in 1912, and a residence from 1850) that have been combined together, forming an intriguing interior space filled with high quality displays telling about life in a small town in the old days, along with the other topics previously described.

While the Beverly Heritage Center provides a perfect place to capture the interesting history of this town and its surrounding, there is so much more to see there! After spending an hour and a half enjoying the displays, I didn’t have time to take the self-guided walking tour or to check out the Randolph County Museum diagonally across the street. Plus there are numerous antique shops and historical markers to read. I need to come back in warmer weather and check out the entire town as well as the nearby Rich Mountain battlefield.

The front of the museum along the highway through town
(the entrance and parking are around back).

[This story appeared in the March issue of Two-Lane Livin' magazine.]

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