New lecture series to examine the history and culture of West Virginia

Four regional scholars will present talks on the forces that shaped the commerce and identity of West Virginia in a lecture series at Marshall University sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts.

“The History and Culture of West Virginia: A Lecture Series” features one event per month from January through April. Each lecture takes place at 7 p.m. in the Marshall University Foundation Hall, home of the Erickson Alumni Center.

“Farming, railroads, river boat commerce and the Civil War have each defined this great state,” said Dr. David J. Pittenger, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The speakers in this series are expert in their fields and have done much to preserve our history and tell compelling stories. Each lecture will be an interesting glimpse into the past.”

All four lectures are free to the public.

Here is the schedule for the lecture series, along with a brief look at each speaker:

Tuesday, Jan. 22 – Gerald W. Sutphin will speak on “Steamboats, Rivers and West Virginia.” He is a native of Mullens, W.Va., and a graduate of Marshall. After completing degrees in art and journalism, he served in the U.S. Army, and then returned to Huntington to begin work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For the next 18 years he specialized in creation and presentation of various exhibits the Corps sponsored.

During this time, he began to learn about the history of riverboats that navigated the river systems feeding the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. His accumulated expertise has allowed him to write numerous articles and book chapters on the topic. He also has overseen the creation of various exhibits at the Smithsonian and The Huntington Museum of Art. One of his most recent contributions is a chapter in the book, Full Steam Ahead: Reflections on the Impact of the First Steamboat on the Ohio River, 1811-2011, copies of which will be available for sale at the presentation.

Tuesday, Feb. 5 – John C. Allen Jr. will speak on “The Early Houses of Jefferson County.” Allen is an architectural historian living in Jefferson County.  A graduate of Tulane University, he is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians and the Vernacular Architectural Forum. Allen serves on both the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission and the board of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

A native of Harrison County, Allen’s passion is the study of West Virginia’s historic architecture. Last year, West Virginia University Press released his book, Uncommon Vernacular: The Early Houses of Jefferson County 1735-1835. This title won several publishing awards including the Gold Medal for Architectural Publishing and was a finalist for the prestigious Historic Preservation Book Prize. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the presentation.

Wednesday, March 6 – Jack Dickinson will speak on “Every Bloodstained Mile: A Railroad History of Southern West Virginia.” He is a West Virginia native and a 1966 graduate of Marshall.  He is the bibliographer of the Rosanna Blake ConfederateCollection at Marshall.

The author of 12 books and numerous magazine articles on the Civil War, he is the 1999 recipient of the Jefferson Davis Historical Writing Award from the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the History Writer’s award from the West Virginia Department of Archives and History. Dickinson will sign copies of his book series on the history of the N&W Railroad he coauthored with his wife, Kay.

Tuesday, April 16 – B. J. Peyton will speak on “Civil War in the Kanawha Valley.” He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in history from West Virginia University. He has worked as a public historian at WSWP-TV, a local PBS affiliate in Beckley, and for the National Park Service in Mississippi and West Virginia.

Peyton also served as associate director of a research institute at WVU, worked for a local historic architectural firm, and taught high school history. Peyton joined the full-time faculty at West Virginia State University in 2002, where he is currently associate professor of history and chairman of the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences.