Fayetteville celebrates special milestone

Nov. 23—FAYETTEVILLE — Fayetteville's rich history and the anticipation of further growth and expansion fueled in large part by the current-day tourism industry were among topics of conversation Monday during a downtown event.

Community leaders from the Fayette County seat of government welcomed members of the local public and visitors from outside the area — including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) — to the Fayette County Courthouse Monday morning for a special ceremony hosted by the Fayetteville Woman's Club honoring the 150th anniversary of Fayetteville's incorporation.

According to www.fayettevillewv.gov, Fayetteville's history traces back to 1837 to a small community known as Vandalia, where Revolutionary War soldier Abraham Vandal lived and farmed. On Nov. 21, 1872, Vandalia was incorporated as the Town of Fayetteville in honor of Marquis de Lafayette, a revered military officer who was a key figure in both the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution. As event attendees arrived for the ceremony Monday, many walked past a statue of Lafayette erected on the courthouse lawn several years ago.

"Since that time, Fayetteville has been a part of fascinating Civil War stories, and our area has been immersed in the boom of timber, coal and railroad history" over the years, according to the historical sketch on the town website. The town is also at the very core of the New River Gorge area as it provides a destination for countless visitors, allowing Fayetteville to transform into an outdoor mecca for adventure seekers from both home and abroad, including making an ongoing adjustment following the 2020 designation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in the town's backyard.

"I think it gives us an opportunity to have people recognize the significance of the history of the community, and the complexities of it," Fayetteville town historian Dr. Lewis A. Cook said Monday following the event.

Cook, who grew up in Beckley and later became a longtime physician in Fayetteville, penned a book on the 100th anniversary of Fayetteville and will publish a book further exploring the town's history in coming weeks, with proceeds earmarked to the town. (For more on that, write to: Town of Fayetteville, Historic Projects, 125 N. Court St., Fayetteville, WV 25840, or call 304-574-0101.)

According to Cook, the second tome analyzes the town's buildings and sites. "Every building site in Fayetteville has a multitude of uses over the years. Other kind of buildings, other kinds of uses. Buildings that have been torn down or burned down or rebuilt. All different kind of businesses. ... The ability to make our citizens aware of that wonderful history of ours I think hopefully will create more pride in the community, more participation in the community and more preservation in the community."

Cook also hopes that an interest in history will continue to be fostered in the coming years.

"There seems to be a tendency for people to not be as interested in history as they once were, or as interested in their communities as they once were, or participate like they once did," he said.

"Every generation has their own way of doing things."

The key with current residents, he said, is to "stimulate their interest in the community itself" as time marches on.

During his remarks, Cook discussed the town's transformation over the years, Fayetteville becoming the Fayette County seat, and other points of interest.

For her part, Capito said she was "very excited" to visit Fayetteville and help celebrate the town's sesquicentennial milestone.

Addressing the crowd assembled in Circuit Judge Paul M. Blake Jr.'s courtroom, the senator described "looking forward to the next several days of family and fellowship and friendship and gratitude," and said she was grateful for her interaction with Fayetteville Mayor Sharon Cruikshank.

"I don't have to tell you what Fayetteville means to Fayette County and the surrounding region," Capito continued.

"I love seeing the growth" in the area which supports the new national park, she said. "I love seeing the appreciation for what we have always known is so beautiful, but also the communities that surround it.

"Thank you for being the face of what so many people coming from all across this country are coming to see.

"From the unique and bustling downtown, to our beautiful New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Fayetteville in many ways tells the story of America. and it represents the best of West Virginia," Capito said in a follow-up press release. "I was thrilled to join residents, leaders, business owners and others today to celebrate this exciting milestone, and I'm grateful for all they do to promote this community and help tell the true and complete story of West Virginia."

"The Town of Fayetteville was thrilled to have Senator Capito in attendance with us to celebrate Fayetteville's sesquicentennial," Cruikshank said.

"It is always an honor to welcome the senator to our corner of Almost Heaven West Virginia."

Zenda Carte Vance, Fayetteville recorder, thanked all those who participated in, attended and made the event possible.

"My family for many generations have happily called Fayetteville our home. It's nice to live in a town where everyone knows you and its residents are always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need ...," she said. "Since Fayetteville was incorporated 150 years ago, it has remained a small town. I am so proud to call Fayetteville my home town."

Attendees at Monday's event were able to peruse meeting minutes from 1873-77, the constitution and by-laws of the Fayetteville Fire Department, a copy of the town's original charter, and names of past and current town leaders. Dennis Hanson, a former Fayetteville mayor, introduced family members with a mayoral or council connection.

The Fayetteville Community Choir performed several musical selections.

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe