MASON COUNTY — Mason County is rich in history, but lacks an organized effort to preserve it.
That will no longer be a problem however, if a young Hartford man has his way.
Chris Rizer, a student majoring in Historic Preservation at Shepherd University, is organizing a Mason County Historical Society. The inaugural meeting will be Tuesday, May 16, 6:30 p.m. at the Mason County Public Library, 508 Viand Street in Point Pleasant.
“In Mason County, we are currently faced with a dilemma,” said Rizer. “We are constantly losing more of our physical history in the name of progress. There is also a lack of interest in preserving local history. If the situation stays the same, we’ll soon reach a point where very few buildings will be left to tell our history.”
Rizer said the goal of the historical society will be to convince the rest of the county that the history is worth preserving.
He noted Mason County has one of the richest histories of any in the state. Among the claims of the county are having the only battle of Lord Dunmore’s War, the first successful cesarean section in the United States, heavy support for the Statehood Movement, a Confederate general, and one of only two TNT factories in the state.
Rizer has already been in contact with the Secretary of State’s Office on how to incorporate the society. He stated during the first meeting, those attending will ratify a constitution, elect officers, and set dues. Officers will include a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and three other members, who will make up a seven-member board of directors.
Rizer isn’t new to promoting historic preservation locally. As a senior at Wahama High School, he led the movement to clean and restore the long-forgotten Brown Cemetery in Hartford. During the restoration process, each burial there was documented. This year while on summer break, Rizer will not only help organize the society, but also lead a second cemetery project at the Bumgarner Cemetery, located off Union Campground Road in Letart.
A Mason County Historic Preservation site on Facebook has been initiated by Rizer, as well. The page has over 1,700 followers and boasts photos and stories of local history. He also writes a weekly history column for the Point Pleasant Register.
Rizer said if the county could preserve and restore its historic sites and structures, which he describes as “storytellers,” Mason County could capitalize on historical tourism. He said during his college studies, he has built up contacts not only in West Virginia, but Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
“I’m confident that if the public chooses to support the preservation of our history, we can find the funding and resources to accomplish it,” he stated.
Rizer said the library was chosen as the location for the first meeting because of the interest shown by the library system workers, and its central location within the county. He added the future location of the society will be discussed at the meeting, as well as how active a role the organization will take in the county.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.