Lewis Dorcas: Art


In my post on Lewis Dorcas I noted he was recognized as “an expert draftsman, pen and brush artist.”  My grandmother had two of his pen and ink pictures hanging on her bedroom wall.  She told us that he had given the pictures to her.  One of the pictures was a moon over a still body of water.  The other picture was a seascape.  While I was searching through what I thought was a box of old frames I found the picture above and remembered it from my grandmother’s wall.

Automobile and Bicycles

Short post.  The first photograph is captioned:  “Paul and Lawson, Elkins, West Virginia, Paul’s car what a honey.”  I would guess this picture was taken sometime in 1920’s.  Among my grandmother’s many photos are a number of negatives.  The second picture was produced from that group of negatives.  Of course, there are no labels on the negatives and  I’m not sure of the timeframe for this photo.  I paired these two pictures as a transportation duo.  I think the light and shadow on the wet streets in the second picture make it quite striking.

Storer College


My mother, Mary Newsome (pictured above) entered Storer College, September, 1943, and graduated with a teaching degree in Home Economics in 1947.  Since she entered during WWII enrollment was low.  I discovered several snapshots of my Mom and her classmates on campus.  Most of them were taken during the winter.  The photographs are extremely small, approximately 1 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches in size.  The actual size of the image is approximately 1 1/4 x 1 3/4.  As a consequence most of the images are not very sharp.  Fortunately, however, my mother labeled most of the photos with her classmates’ names.  Click on the individual pictures for the names. Please see the following for a history of Storer College:  https://storercollege.lib.wvu.edu/.  Thanks to Christelle Venham, West Virginia University Library for her assistance.

Additional Postcards of Young Men

Here are a few additional portraits of young men on postcards.  Lawson Beard (1904-1976) is pictured in the first two photographs.  The second picture is labeled “Kid Beard 18 years”.  The next picture is of Herman Chapman.  The Find a Grave Index has a record for Rev. Herman Bennett Chapman, born in 1903, died 1957, and buried in Elkins, West Virginia.  A Reverend H. B. Chapman was present at the Virginia Chapel AME Church dedication in 1949 (See April 18, 2016 Post, Page 2 Dedication) .  The next picture is of Lee Dorcas, followed by a picture of Richard Green (Not same Richard Green pictured in tintypes).  Basil Lewis is pictured in the next photograph.  There is a 1910 Census record for Basil E. Lewis, born 1897 and living in Randolph County, West Virginia.  The picture that follows is of Ralph Johnson.  The next photo is labeled “Rev Mitchell”.  Charles Slaughter is the subject of the next photograph.  The last photo was taken at the Ferguson Studio in Elkins, West Virginia; however, the man in the picture is unknown.

Kelly Miller High School Choir


This photograph was taken by R. Lewis Hill in the gymnasium of Kelly Miller High School in Clarksburg, West Virginia, sometime between 1942 and 1946.  According to Wikipedia, the school opened in 1903 and closed in 1958.  It was established for the education of African American students during the legislated practice of segregation.  The names of the choir members are listed on the photo as follows:  Margaret Beard, Joan Rae, Grace Saunders, Erleen Robinson, Mavena Demby, June Wise, and  Augustine Johnson.

My cousin Margaret Beard (1928-2005), pictured standing next to the flag was the daughter of Oril and Grace Beard.  She was born in Elkins, West Virginia.  She earned a degree in Elementary Education from West Virginia State University.  She married Herbert Watson in 1951.  She died in Oxford, Ohio in 2005.

Margaret, known to friends and family as “Peggy” taught second grade for 32 years.  Singing remained a significant part of her entire life.  She was an excellent singer.  When Dr. Martin Luther King visited Mansfield, Ohio, she was asked to perform a solo song for the occasion.  She also taught many children (myself included) to play the piano.

Additional Portraits of Women

This is an additional collection of women’s portraits on both cardstock and postcards.   Four of the photographs were taken at the Ferguson’s Studio, 940 South Davis Avenue, Elkins, West Virginia.  The studio photographs are postcards of Mrs. Green, Alice Taylor, Nell, and the Woman Sitting Holding Gloves.  The photo of Brels Jones was taken in 1918.

Riverside School

This is a companion piece to the post on Virginia Chapel AME Church.  The above picture has the caption:  “My School and Church”.  It is written in my grandmother’s hand.  The picture would have been taken after 1928 when a second story was added to the building and before 1949 when the facade of Virginia Chapel changed.  It was taken from the banks of the Tygart Valley River.  The back of the church is on the right side of the school in the picture.  A history of the building can be found on the application for the building to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places:   http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/randolph/09001194.pdf.  In addition, there is a photograph of the building from 2009.

Below are snapshots in which Riverside School serves as a background.  Also, included are commencement programs from 1941 and 1942 and a program from an oratory contest held at the school.  As evidenced by the commencement programs, the history of these Virginia Chapel and Riverside are entwined.  Hopefully they will stand together for many more years.

Virginia Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church



During my research last week I ran across a legal posting on the internet announcing the sale of Virginia Chapel AME Church for taxes. As this church was a mainstay for members of my family for over four generations, I wanted to dedicate this post to its history. The following history of the church was written by my uncle, William McDonald on the occasion of the dedication of the newly renovated chapel August 14th 1949:

During the year 1904, the late Rev. John Griffith was assigned pastor of the Elkins A.M.E. Church. Not having a church building at the time the members decided to purchase land and build. The courageous women with the help of a few men were able to purchase in 1905 the present site and erect a one floor plan frame building.

In 1906, Reverend Griffith, John McDowell, Jack Dougherty, Dolliver Baxter, Reece Lewis, and Bud Blue, the Board of Trustees borrowed $400 from the bank and started the building.

The pastor did the carpentry work.

The church preceded Riverside High School Riverside High School in the community and was used for some time by the Board of Education.

The church was named in honor of Mrs. Virginia Griffith, the pastor’s wife.

At the beginning of the present quadrennium (1948) Bishop A.J. Allen appointed Rev C.N. Flannigan of the Ohio conference, pastor of Virginia Chapel.

At the first church conference Rev. Flannigan stated that he had come to help us build a new edifice. The congregation immediately accepted his program.

The first big drive was sponsored by the young women’s club and junior stewardess board. They presented three babies in a contest. Stephen Blake, Benjamin Lewis, and Robert Smith. This effort netted more than $800.

The century club, a weekly plan for meeting the building cost, membership pledges and donations from many friends added to the building fund treasury totaling more than $2000 at the time of construction.

The old Virginia Chapel was razed during the month of March and constructions started in April of 1949. The corner stone was laid in July.

We are highly elated over the beauty of our new church. We are thankful to God for His grace and mercy and to Mr. Phil Williams who gave inestimable advice and time and to Mr. Henry Yauthier who superintended the work and also drew the plans.

Above are several pictures of the church, a picture of one of the pastors, and the program from the 1949 dedication.  Hopefully the church will survive this difficult period.


Children: Cards/Cardstock

This group of photographs include both postcard and cardstock formats. Born in Elkins, West Virginia, James Henry Beard (1924-1988) is the subject of the first photo. Saylie Jane Beard (1900-1976) born in Huttonsville, West Virginia is the baby in the next picture. The next photo is on a postcard with the notation “Leonard Lee Dorcas, age 4 months, 2 days, Weight 18 lbs.” He was born in 1929 in Charleston, West Virginia, and died in 1981.   The next two children pictured are Lushia Dorcas (1921-2004) and Harvey McDonald (1926-1997). The photograph of Mary Katherine Newsome (1925-2002) is followed by a photo of the baby Billy Smith on a postcard. Dean Taylor is the baby in the next photograph. It is in postcard format and was taken at the Ferguson Studio in Elkins, West Virginia. The last labeled photo of Harold R. Vaughn (1909-1987) was taken at the Fischer Studio in Marietta, Ohio . It is also in postcard format. The next four photos were not labeled; however, the very last picture is a postcard from the Ferguson studio.


Brown Buddies


During the third decade of the twentieth century, a thriving music scene existed in West Virginia. Jazz and dance bands flourished both locally and as imports from other locales. According to Christopher Wilkinson in his book Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia 1930-1942, economics, migration patterns, government policies, and employment circumstances contributed to an environment that was conducive to this type of entertainment in African-American communities in West Virginia.

The Brown Buddies from Clarksburg, West Virginia was one of the local bands providing jazz music during this era. I interviewed a member of the Brown Buddies: Eugene Clark. Eugene joined the band when he was 17 years old. He was recruited when the band needed a new trumpet player. The leader of the band went to Eugene’s high school and asked the staff to recommend a student. Due to his age, Eugene had to ask permission from his parents, who consented with the provision that he could not play anywhere that required him to stay overnight. Eugene reports that his band was one of three in Clarksburg. The other two bands were white. Only one was playing the same type of music as the Buddies and therefore was the band’s chief competition. The Buddies played to both white and black audiences. The Buddies also played the largest hotel in Clarksburg, the Stonewall Jackson.

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Eugene Beard

When Eugene reached legal age he left the band to fight for his country during WWII. However, he did have the opportunity to play the trumpet while in the service. He served in the Pacific Theater including New Guinea, Philippines, and Okinawa. When he left the service he started a band called the “Jive Happy Five” which he discontinued after he was married. Eugene reports he hasn’t touched his horn in over 50 years. Now over ninety years old as an ordained deacon of his church he manages an outreach ministry.

I would like to thank my cousin Gene for graciously sharing his experiences with me.