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Vintage Valentines at Belle Boyd House

February 13, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Linda Rodgers and Ruth Potter admired the elaborate Valentine's Day cards of their youth on display Saturday at the Belle Boyd House.

"Valentines today just can't compare," said Rodgers, 82, of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Potter, 82, said the cards she bought for her grandchildren this year were entertaining, but she had to write the real message inside - how much her grandchildren mean to her.

The Berkeley County Historical Society used antique Valentine cards and candy boxes to decorate for an open house, held to show off the 1853 home's newly renovated entrance hall and several recent donations.

"It's almost unbelievable. Almost every day someone's donating something," said Don C. Wood, curator and president of the historical society.

The Valentine's Day decorations show a long tradition of sending cards and flowers for the holiday.

"They're so lovely," Wood said.

One from the early 1900s read, "Call me the candy kid of Gerrardstown, W.Va."

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Another featured a poem praising violets, not roses, as the consummate flower of true love:

"There are no flowers grown in the vale, kiss'd by the dew, woo'd by the gale, none by the dew of the twilight wet, so sweet as the deep-blue violet."

The Belle Boyd House, 126 East Race St., is named for the city's famous Confederate spy, who may be best known for shooting a Yankee soldier who was trying to wrest a Confederate flag from her mother.

Boyd was jailed briefly. But she would land in jail two more times before the Civil War was over for passing secrets.

She later became an actress, married twice and had five children. Boyd died in 1900 at the age of 57 in Kilbourn, Wis., where she is buried.

Attorney Laura Rose portrayed Belle Boyd on Saturday. Wearing a hand-made navy blue and white cotton ball gown, Rose said she was honored to bring to life such an important figure in local and state history.

"I like to look at her as one of the first strong women in West Virginia history," she said.

The historical society has applied for a state grant that would allow Rose to take Belle Boyd's story to other parts of the state through a living history exhibit.

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