WV History on a Cold, Snowy Day

~the 6th in a series of articles~
Click here to start at the beginning of the series.

Did you know that a shy furniture maker from Randolph County rode for days on horseback to Richmond, Virginia, where he entered and won a contest to build a bridge over the Tygart Valley River at Philippi prior to the Civil War?  With only a third-grade education and his bridge model packed in his saddlebags, Lemuel Chenoweth competed against an intimidating array of trained architects and engineers.

The Great Bridge-Building Contest by Bo Saunders tells the story of how, after a compelling demonstration of his unique design – constructed entirely without nails – Chenoweth was awarded the state contract to build the renowned 308-foot Philippi Covered Bridge, the only covered bridge in the United States currently incorporated into the national primary highway system, and still standing today.  This celebrated West Virginia bridge-builder, who began as a carpenter and self-taught architect, went on to become a legislator and one of 19th-century America’s master covered bridge builders.

We hope this glimpse into the Mountain State’s past inspires your family to plunge into some West Virginia History!  Your study can flow with the turning of the seasons. With the days getting colder, it might be time to cuddle up with a good book or watch a movie with a big bowl of popcorn.

The West Virginia Book Company is a great place to get resources!  Tamarack, too, on the WV Turnpike in Beckley, offers a grand selection of West Virginia books and authors.  Or, of course, check out your local library for both books and films.


  • A History of West Virginia by Anna Smucker
  • The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi
  • Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant
  • John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry by Jason Glaser
  • The Great Bridge-Building Contest by Bo Saunders
  • Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank
  • The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck
  • Kids’ West Virginia Activity Book by Erin Turner
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel)
  • Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam


  • October Sky
  • We are Marshall
  • Matewan
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Patch Adams
  • Hidden Figures
  • West Virginia: A Film History
    Narrated by Richard Thomas, this 6½ hour DVD series weaves historic photographs and motion picture footage, quotes from letters and diaries, first-person interviews, and live cinematography into a rich and compelling narrative enhanced by a haunting musical score. It sells for $29.95 at http://wvhumanities.org/online-store/ .
  • A Moving Monument: The West Virginia State Capitol (All public libraries in WV have a DVD copy.)

*Please note that some of these books/movies have strong thematic elements and coarse language.

Read the next article in the series here.

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