Last week we discovered the origins of the 4-H Club and the reasons that produced this educational program. We pointed to the many forces that made it grow into a national program.
This week, I want to delve into the WV 4-H Club which is offered by the federal Cooperative Extension Service, and locally by the WVU Extension Service office here in Doddridge County. The program is funded by the U.S.D.A. (U.S. Department of Agriculture), state land-grant universities, and our local county commission. It’s important to note that this worthy program could never have happened without federal, state, and the local extension staff, as well as the many volunteer leaders throughout the county who were, in most cases, once 4-H members themselves. In West Virginia, 4-H is conducted under the direction of the West Virginia University Extension Service.
It was in 1908 that the first WV 4-H clubs were organized in Monroe County. The organization of the clubs was an effort to teach farm boys and girls better farming and homemaking methods. These corn clubs and canning clubs were patterned on educational youth groups that had been developed in 1902 in Ohio and Illinois.
Then in 1914, the Smith-Lever Act was passed. This action brought the necessary funding for each state to develop its agricultural extension program. As I said last week, this youth movement was conducted by extension agents, but realizing the need for extra eyes, ears, and hands, local volunteer leaders were trained to work with the boys and girls who joined the clubs.
As a West Virginian, we can be proud of the fact that the first organized camp ever held in the United States was held in Randolph County, WV. It took place in 1915 and was sponsored by the WVU Extension Service. J. Versus and his wife, Bess, along with William H. “Teepi” Kendrick directed the camp. Then in 1921, Kendrick established and directed the first state 4-H camp in the United States at Jackson’s Mill.
Jackson’s Mill was the boyhood home of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson located near Weston in Lewis County. After his death, the property was owned by Jackson’s sister, Catherine Jackson White. After her death, the property was purchased by Monongahela Power Company in 1915. On 1924, the property was donated to the state of West Virginia as a statewide meeting place for youth enrolled in the 4-H program. Today Jackson’s Mill is a 500-acre property that is a nationally recognized camp and conference center, and many of West Virginia’s counties have permanent 4-H camps that host year-round learning and recreational experiences.
On April 22, 2004, a WV 4-H Club made WV proud when they won the President’s Environmental Youth Award. President George W. Bush congratulated the Busy Bison of Barrackville, WV on receiving the President’s Environmental Youth Award in the East Garden. Members of this club include from left to right, James Taylor, 15, Katie Ridenour, 16, Cody Gallagher, 9, and Derek Swiger.
Doddridge County 4-H
On a local level, Doddridge County’s first 4-H Clubs were organized about 1928 at Currydale (Blandville) and Fallen Timber-Leopold. In those early days of 4-H, most of the one-room schools had 4-H Clubs.
In 1933, a 12-year-old Doddridge County girl named Pearline Smith wrote a touching story for her Work and Win 4-H Club Project. Miss Pearline’s handwriting was done in cursive and was amazingly perfect. Miss Smith’s moral to the story was that 4-H had taught leadership and work ethics which made her character successful enough to buy his own home. In her mind, this made him rich. Remember that this was during the time of the Great Depression (1929-late 1930s). The Historical Society has the original copy of that great story. We would be happy to make a copy of it available for reading.
Doddridge County 4-H Clubs have included Big Isaac Cloverettes, Center Point Flyers, Flint Arrows, Greenwood Wildcats, Saint Clara Supernovas, Sedalia Indians, Smithburg Lucky Stars, Smithburg Owaissa, West Union Dare Devils, West Union Scooby Doers and others. Special interest clubs include 4-H Farmers Club, Livestock Club, and Shooting Sports Club.
For years Doddridge County youths have been enthusiastically engaged in 4-H Clubs and have awaited summer camp with great anticipation and enthusiasm. 4-H Week (as it was and is called) often included such events as the long jump, standing broad jump, frisbee throw, three-legged race, sack race, crab race, 5-yard dash, 100-yard relay, and other special events. In more recent years after the camp was moved to the Doddridge County Park with the addition of a swimming pool, tennis court and basketball courts, activities have included swimming, various sports events, exercise sessions, and educational classes.
Workshops have included such interesting classes as canning, heritage foods, blacksmithing, early crafts, Indian lore, sewing, quilting, and weaving. Council Circle activities were and are still an especially important part of the evening traditions.
Today workshops include computer science, environmental learning, energy express, earth science, consumer science, nutrition, wildlife and the ecosystem, music, web development, jewelry design, gardening, livestock, and other traditional workshops. Workshops are all virtual this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
But back to the beginning, did you know that in the 1930s, Doddridge County 4-H Camp was located on Rt. 18N on the Don Stewart property? The camp was reached by turning left onto Mastons Rd. just before reaching Don and Beulah Stewart’s home.
I learned this from a great conversation I had with James Richards from the Center Point area this past week. According to Mr. Richards, the view of which was breathtaking with its massive trees was as fine as
any national forest. What a warm and knowledgeable man he is. He was kind enough to fill in some of the blanks I had regarding the period from 1950 to 1960. He shared with me that his 4-H project on curing hams won him the state championship 2 years in a row when he was a youth. Mr. Richards said that before moving to the Doddridge County Park, our 4-H camp was located at the site where the furniture outlet once was and the nearby area where the pipe yard near Smithburg which can be seen from the north side of Interstate 50. The 4-H building had dorms for both boys and girls which were separate as well as a dining hall. As many as 50 to 80 students would attend the camp. He said that the livestock judging was done at the livestock yard that used to be at Snowbird just after crossing the bridge. There is a small compressor station there now. Members would bring their animals to the holding pens to be judged.
Mr. Keith Harvey was the extension agent at the time that Mr. Richards was a member of the Doddridge County 4-H. Mr. Harvey and Assistant Dick Clark traveled to other locations such as Parkersburg and Salem for the purpose of judging cattle and sheep.
4-H Songbooks are a common part of the 4-H program, and in the early years they included such old favorites as “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” as well as “Dreaming,” “The Pride of the Land,” “4-H Field Song,” “4-H Ceremonial Song,” “and the “National 4-H Pledge Song.”
Today, there are still eight 4-H Clubs in Doddridge County which are under the direction of Doddridge County Extension Service Agent, Zona Hutson. They are: Center Point Flyers (still active), Greenwood Wildcats (still active), Saint Clara Supernovas (still active), Smithburg UM Church Owaissa (still active), Doddridge County High School Teen Leaders and Teens (both active).
Other special interest clubs are the 4-H Farmers Club with Amanda Martin, Livestock Club with Richie Cantarelli and Stephanie Forinash, and Shooting Sports Club with Scott Hutson.
Doddridge County 4-H has been an irreplaceable leadership building organization for more than 100 years. If anyone would like more information, please contact your WVU Extension Service Office at 304 873-1801. The good people there will be happy to answer any questions you might have about it.
God Bless and Stay Well
Patricia Richards Harris
Doddridge County Historical Society