The following letter, written by Senator Robert C. Byrd, of West Virginia, was made official record on June 6, 2006;
Mr President, among the beautiful rolling, green hills of northern W.V., there is a little town with a big history. I am speaking of the town of West Union, the county seat of Doddridge County.
Once a center for railroading and other forms of transportation as well as oil drilling, coal mining, and other forms of businesses and manufacturing. West Union was an important and thriving commercial center in the late nineteenth century. Unfortunately, like too many small towns in West Virginia and across the country, West Union has fallen into some hard times.
Nevertheless, West Union retains its rich and colorful history. Indeed the entire downtown district of West Union has been placled on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown section contains buildings that feature a wealth of architectural styles with four of them having been listed on the National Register. These historic buildings include the Doddridge County Courthouse with its Romanesque architecture and the Silas Smith Opera House which was built at the turn of the last century and now serves as the county library.
For a small town in the hills of West Virginia, the town of West Union has been the home of a number of prominent American citizens. General Bantz Craddock, who rose to be the Commander of U.S. Southern Command and is responsible for military operations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, was raised in West Union.
For many years, West Union was the home to Clyde Ware, a novelist who has been actively involved in television and film production. In fact, Mr. Ware wrote and directed many episodes of what was one of my favorite television series, "Gunsmoke."
The town's most famous historic resident was the legendary Ephraim Bee. Mr. Bee was a pioneer, a blacksmith, the U.S. Postmaster for West Union, and the owner of a highly popular inn and restaurant, appropriately referred to as the "Bee-Hive." At the age of 60, Mr. Bee served as captain of the Doddridge militia which protected the area from Confederate forces, thieves, and outlaws.
In 1863, Mr. Bee was elected to the West Virginia State Legislature, defeated Joseph H. Diss Debar, the person who later designed the State seal of West Virginia, whic is still in use today, without change.
Another contest that Mr. Bee won was being named the Ugliest Man in the State of West Virginia. For that victory, he was awarded a beautiful pocket knife, a proud possession which he was forced to relinquish a few years later when the State found a man whom it deemed to be even uglier.
In 1845, Mr. Bee originated the Ancient and Honorable Order of E. Clampus Vitus, ECV, of which he became Grand Lama. ECV was originally formed as a secret order for playing practical jokes, but as it spread across the country, it took on different purposes and missions. Today, ECV has become an important historic preservation society, with more than 100,000 members.
Mr. Bee also operated an important station on the underground railroad. He hid his guests in a nearby cave until it was filled, then, it appears, he used ECV to create a diversion so that the escaped slaves could be sent on their way to freedom.
What became the town of West Union was originally settled in 1807. It was incorporated on July 20, 1881, which means the town of West Union will be celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer. The town will be using this milestone anniversary in an effort to promote and celebrate the town's history and as a jump start toward the economic revitalization of the town. The festivities are planned for July 22, and they promise to be a time of fun, entertainment, and education as the town wants to share its unique and colorful history with the world.
The town of West Union has adopted as a slogan, "We love our history - that's why we're still making it!" With its history - and its energetic, creative residents, I am confident that the town of West Union will be making history for a long time into the future.
I wish them the best on their 125th anniversary.
-Robert C. Byrd
United States Senator
Senator Robert C. & Ephraim Bee