By Beth Sergent firstname.lastname@example.org
January 31, 2014
POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Commission is contemplating changing a chapter in the history books but before it does so, it wants the public’s input.
At Thursday’s regular commission meeting, resident Keith Biggs presented Commissioners Rick Handley, Tracy Doolittle and Miles Epling with a theory that Mason County was named after the wrong “Mason.”
Biggs handed out various documents to support his hypothesis. He told commissioners Stevens Thomson Mason was the county’s rightful namesake, not George Mason. Biggs has said in a copy of the 1916 West Virginia Blue Book, Stevens Thomson Mason was noted as the person Mason County was named for - not George Mason.
Biggs pointed out, as the years passed, the technology grew to the point where historic documents were digitized and review was as simple as looking at them on a computer screen as opposed to driving to Richmond, Va. Technology helped reveal the oversight, according to Biggs, an oversight which occurred in the 1927 West Virginia Blue Book. The Blue Books from 1916-1920 had Stevens Thomson Mason listed as the namesake for Mason County. The 1921-1926 Blue Books didn’t list a namesake. Biggs also told commissioners, this clerical error could’ve also been attributed to fires which destroyed the West Virginia State Capitol in 1921 and 1927 - these fires could’ve possibly destroyed the correct records.
He also noted that Virgil Lewis documented Stevens Thomson Mason as the rightful “Mason” for which the county was named, making a 1896 correction to his 1889 reference to George Mason as the county’s namesake.
Commission President Rick Handley said the evidence was compelling and that he, Doolittle and Epling felt this oversight needed to be corrected.
“I’m all for giving credit where credit is due,” Handley said, citing Lewis’ own correction of the mismatched “Masons” as a compelling piece of evidence.
The commission also felt before it passed any sort of motion supporting the name change, it would allow for public comment on the matter until Feb. 28. Handley said if there were no challenges to Biggs’ theory, the commission would pass the motion which could be used to send to the West Virginia Legislature to possibly introduce a bill to make the name change official.
Biggs reiterated he hopes the debate of just who was Mason County’s namesake will stir up a love of local and state history.
In other business:
Doolittle asked County Administrator John Gerlach about the recent failure of a duress alarm to be activated during a tense incident in the magistrate’s courtroom. Gerlach said the alarm had been fixed and a backup system put in place should the alarm begin to malfunction. Doolittle felt these alarms throughout the courthouse needed to be checked at least on a monthly basis. Gerlach said the person who provides the alarm system can do that for a charge or courthouse employees can be trained to do the tests.
Commissioners approved Carrie Supple (R) and Matt Clark (D) as ballot commissioners.
Gerlach reported the ATM machine on the second floor was bringing in about $40 a month, more than enough to cover electricity and phone line costs.
Commissioners approved renewing its membership in the Polymar Alliance Zone - dues are $500 annually.
Present at Thursday’s meeting, Handley, Epling, Doolittle, County Clerk Diana Cromley and Gerlach.