The last few weeks have been long weeks, and I apologize for the recent lack of articles. But before I dive back into the history of the county (and I have some great articles planned!), I thought I’d talk a bit about how Mason County is doing as far as history and culture go. After all, with everything is the news anymore, we could all use some positivity. Not to mention, though I know some professors that would debate this point, what happened yesterday is already history and a “Mason County Memory.”
There’s so much to talk about and hardly enough room to cover it all! Where to start? Festivals? Everyone always says, “oh, there’s nothing to do around here.” Well, there’s just about something for every month now! May has the Siege of Fort Randolph. June has Bike, BBQ, & Bluegrass, and that event gets bigger every year. The same can be said for the new Liberty Fest and Peckfest in July, a music festival headlined this year by none other than Hank Williams Jr.! Of course, August has the Mason County Fair, September has the Mothman Festival, and October has Battle Days. That pretty much rounds out the main festival season, but there are so many other events throughout the year!
All of those events bring in all kinds of people, but what do we have for them to do once they’re here? Well, we certainly aren’t lacking in museums. If you want to start at the beginning of Mason County’s history, I recommend Fort Randolph and the Mansion House. Follow that up with the Point Pleasant River Museum, the Mothman Museum, and the West Virginia State Farm Museum. Before the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Point Pleasant in 2024, they’ll hopefully be joined by another!
We here at the Society envision a Point Pleasant that can rival Harpers Ferry as a historical attraction. We’ve got a solid historic district, if we can keep it. It’s relatively well-preserved as far as West Virginia goes, and it gets better every year. And the trick is not to limit ourselves to the downtown historic district. If we’re starting at the very beginning, we have Native American mounds dating as far back as 6,000 BC. We have Fort Randolph, Tu-Endie-Wei, and the floodwall murals to testify to our beginning. We can say “George Washington slept here!” (And personally surveyed our first land grants!) We have generals from the War of 1812 and both sides of the Civil War, not to mention a few battles. There are still quite a few surviving slave plantations, and even more grand “gentleman farmer” estates of the 1880s. There are still a few remnants of the coal mines and salt works, and if the J.Q. Dickinson Works is any indication, one could be rebuilt. Uptown is a perfectly preserved “Roaring ‘20s” neighborhood, originally workers housing surrounding the Marietta Shipyard and Navy Yard. The TNT Area! Couple these resources, market them, and Point Pleasant could be the main historical attraction in West Virginia. It’s certainly something we’ll be working on.
If our visitors aren’t into history, we certainly have quite a few other things going on. I’ve covered quite a bit of this state, and Gallery 409 is right up there with the art galleries of Shepherdstown and Lewisburg. (And they can’t claim Jamie Sloane!) We have plenty of retail, and more are joining Main Street every year! Counterpoint, the Mason Jar, and the Mothman Antique Mall are easily my favorite places on Main Street right now, but I’ve heard many good things about Faithful & Free and M&Z Boutique and all the other businesses, and I hear two more businesses will be joining Main Street soon! Personally, I think we only need three more things to round out Main: a bookstore, a burger joint, and the State Theater. Add those, and we’ll have everything a tourist needs. Anything though, is an addition welcomed with open arms!
There’s a reason Point Pleasant got #2 in USA Today’s “Best Small Town Cultural Scene!” Clean up the last few historic buildings that need it, fill the gaps with new ones, round out the retail on Main Street, and market all 8,000 years of our history, and we could easily rival Harpers Ferry. Take it from someone who lived there for three years. Even better if we can partner with Gallipolis, Middleport, and Pomeroy to create a sort of “Mid-Ohio Valley Heritage Area.” And of course, the completion of Route 35 next year won’t hurt!
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.