CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Billy Joe Peyton will present a talk titled “The History of Charleston” on Tuesday, March 5, in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Through words and images, Peyton will share glimpses of historic Charleston. The city has a rich history that spans 225 years, starting with the founding of Fort Lee at the mouth of the Elk River in 1788. The little settlement grew slowly to about 100 residents by 1810. The presence of abundant natural resources like salt, timber and coal helped Charleston grow into a busy river town of more than 1,000 by 1860.

Peyton will recount some of the extraordinary moments in the city’s past, such as the Civil War. Charleston was occupied alternately by Union, Confederate and then Union forces during the conflict. After becoming the permanent state capital in 1885, the city entered into a period of rapid growth and development. By 1920, Charleston was a mid-sized city of 40,000 people. It reached its peak population of 85,000 in 1960 when downtown streets bustled with business.

Peyton has worked as a public historian at WSWP-TV in Beckley and for the National Park Service in Mississippi and West Virginia. He also taught high school history, and worked for an historic architectural firm. In 2002, Peyton joined the faculty at West Virginia State University, where he is associate professor of history and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He holds his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in history from West Virginia University.

Active in local preservation efforts, Peyton has worked as a writer and historian on several documentary films, including Ghosts of Green Bottom, winner of a 2005 Bronze Telly Award, and The 50 States, a series that airs on the History Channel. He is the author of Charleston Then and Now, and recently completed a manuscript for a second book on the history of Charleston.

On March 5, the library will close at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 for participants only. For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required to attend. To register in advance, contact Bobby Taylor, library manager, at or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163.

Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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