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Martinsburg's heritage includes start of Hack Wilson's Hall of Fame career

W.Va. city's celebration Saturday includes look at its baseball past, dedication of redesigned public square

May 11, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Lewis R. "Hack" Wilson is pictured during his major league career. Wilson, whose 191 runs batted in for the 1930 season set a major league record that still stands, got his minor league start in Martinsburg, W.Va., and is buried in Rosedale Cemetery there.
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Nine years before Hall of Famer Lewis Robert “Hack” Wilson set the yet-to-be-broken Major League Baseball single-season record for runs batted in, he got his professional start in Martinsburg.

Wilson, who is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Martinsburg, started in 1921 as a catcher for the Mountaineers, the city’s minor league team, according to historical accounts. 

Wilson’s success led to a major league career, which was highlighted by his 56-home run season in 1930 with the Chicago Cubs. That same season, he notched 191 RBI, which has yet to be topped.

Martinsburg’s minor league team will be the focus of a presentation at 1 p.m. Saturday by author Robert P. “Bob” Savitt at the Berkeley County Historical Society’s museum at 136 E. Race St.

“They were (called) the Blue Sox for Hack’s second year with them,” said Savitt, who wrote a book about the Blue Ridge League, which was comprised of minor league teams from the Tri-State area.

Wilson memorabilia owned by county resident Mike Miller is being displayed for the event and he will be at the museum to answer questions about his collection.

The events at the museum are among several being held in conjunction with Martinsburg’s annual Heritage Day celebration.

Multiple historic sites in Martinsburg, including Boydville, the B&O roundhouse and shop complex and Aspen Hall, will be open to the public and tours will be given free of charge as part of event.

“Right now, it’s a two-day event squeezed into one day,” said Todd Funkhouser, president of the historical society.

The newly redesigned square will be dedicated by city leaders at 9 a.m. Vendors and entertainment also will be staged in the square through the afternoon.

At the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad roundhouse and shop complex in Martinsburg, retired workers will be giving tours of the historic industrial site where the nation’s first railroad strike began in 1877.

A trolley will be available to take people from one historic site to another, Funkhouser said.

Events at the following sites will be held between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.;

Sumner-Ramer Memorial School/Museum, 515 W. Martin St. - Hosted by Helen & Leonard Harris, the former school house for African Americans will feature the historical society’s Paul Planchon, who has written about Douglas Grove and Mt. Pleasant communities, and storyteller Viola Johnson.

Gen. Adam Stephen House and Museum, 309 E. John St. - Hosted by the General Adam Stephen Memorial Association, events include tours of the town founder’s home and a traditional 18th century lunch provided by the Lions Club. Folk painting inspired by Martinsburg history will be on display. Craft demonstrations, ceramic decorating for children and tunnel tours will be provided by Tri-State Grotto. Rutherford’s rangers Virginia regiment are to depict a French and Indian War camp. 

Roundhouse complex, East Martin Street - History and significance of the railroad will be presented by the Historical Society’s Don Silvius and B&O retirees who worked at the site will be giving talks during the day. Civil War living historians will be on site and the Bunker Hill Train Club, Shenandoah Potomac Garden Railway Club will have model train displays.

Boydville, 601 S. Queen St. - Tours of the 200-year-old mansion will be given and a picnic lunch of “Buddy’s Bean Soup,” cornbread, apple butter, tea and homemade desserts will be available. An exhibit of vintage and antique clothing and couture spanning from the 1850’s to 1950’s will be on display.  Craft and gardening demonstrations will be held. The historical society’s Chris Cox will present "The War of 1812” at 11 a.m. Handicapped parking is available, but general parking is restricted.

Aspen Hall, 405 Boyd Ave. - Hosted by the William Henshaw Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, tours of the restored, privately owned 18th-century property will be available and the property’s role in the French and Indian War, Revolution and Civil Wars.

Belle Boyd House, 136 E. Race St. - Tours will be given of the house and museum. Current exhibits include depression glass, Civil War and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Hack Wilson. Refreshments will be served in the herb garden gazebo to celebrate Confederate spy Belle Boyd’s birthday.

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Caperton Station, East Martin Street - Celebration of National Train Day, Amtrak Jr. conductor hats, activity books, stickers and buttons. 
 
More information about Heritage Day events can be found at http://www.orgsites.com/wv/adam-stephen/ and http://www.bchs.org/

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