Mom, daughter put love of history to good use in Hancock

April 04, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Lily Wolford, right, and her mother, Tracy Salvagno, are helping to plan commemorative events in 2012 for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Hancock.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HANCOCK — Lily Wolford shares her mother’s interest in history, and she is putting that interest to a practical use.

Lily’s interest in history has led her to research local history, and she is leading a group that is planning commemorative events for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Hancock.

“I’m sort of hoping to teach people the history of the town and its involvement in the Civil War,” said Lily, 15, who is in her second year of being home-schooled by her mother, Tracy Salvagno.

The confrontation between Union troops in Hancock and Confederate forces in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., took place Jan. 5 and 6, 1862. Shots were fired from both sides of the river, and Hancock received minor damage in the bombardment.

Lily said there were no deaths during the two days of the battle, but some soldiers died later as a result of infections and wounds.

Foxcroft, the home where Lily’s family lives, is atop a hill behind the Episcopal church in Hancock. It is thought the property was the site of a Union troop encampment, and Civil War-era bullets have been unearthed in the yard.

Tracy and her husband, Dr. Ralph Salvagno, have eight children between them. Lily is the second-youngest child.

Lily and her mother have been known to visit the church’s cemetery at dusk, flashlight and writing pad in hand, seeking more information about the town’s history. The lettering on many of the headstones has been worn down over the years, making it hard to read in daylight, Salvagno said.

Lily did a sixth-grade history project on local history and learned that St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hancock was used as a hospital during the Civil War. She has helped her mother decipher the handwriting in old letters, including one written by the Episcopal rector two days after the bombardment.

Salvagno said that when they first started talking about the historical anniversary, they pulled together a group of community members to help with the planning, including Hancock Mayor Daniel Murphy, her husband and about five others. A group in Berkeley Springs is planning a similar commemoration.

The commemoration is planned for Jan. 6 to 8, 2012. It will include a memorial service for the Union soldiers who died after the battle, historic vignettes, a re-enactment — perhaps coordinated with one in Berkeley Springs — and local musical groups performing period music.

The Battle of Hancock Committee is seeking stories, photographs and memorabilia from local families that will go into the town’s museum after the anniversary. Lily and her mother have volunteered to transcribe oral histories as people come forward with stories to share.

Despite Lily’s passion for history, she expects to major in the sciences when she goes to college.

“I think the past has an impact on how people deal with things. The conclusions drawn from it can be applied to other things,” Lily said.

More information can be found at the Facebook events page under Battle of Hancock Commemoration Events or by sending email to

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