CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Brooks F. McCabe Jr., former state senator and author, will present “History of Charleston, West Virginia, as Lived by Four Families” in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston, on Tuesday, June 7. The program begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
McCabe will describe Charleston’s story through a history of four families: Smith, Dickinson, Hale and James, who helped transform Charleston from an isolated settlement into a city. Benjamin Harrison Smith, son-in-law of early salt manufacturer Isaac Noyes, established a family of entrepreneurs that are still active in Charleston today. They were joined by the Dickinson family, another major player in the economic development of Charleston since the earliest days of the salt industry.
Dr. John P. Hale, grandson of Mary Ingles, whose experience in the Kanawha Valley of the mid-1700s is well known through historical and fictional accounts, also was a mover and shaker through Charleston’s formative years in the last half of the 19th century. The Rev. Francis James arrived shortly after the Civil War and his son, C. H. James, would ultimately become one of the key business leaders in the Kanawha Valley. C. H. James & Sons’ effort to create a business of lasting value illustrates the difficulties of minority businesses in challenging economic times.
These four families did much to create the atmosphere of Charleston today. The city’s growth and maturity over this 250-year history is a testament to the people who made it happen. The natural environment remains the backdrop in which these entrepreneurs molded what would become a significant small city in Central Appalachia. As McCabe will explain, they were not part of an isolated colonial economy; rather, they were active participants in a regional economy which played on the national stage.
McCabe has been in the real estate brokerage and development business for more than 30 years. From 1998 to 2014, he served in the West Virginia Senate and was chair of the Economic Development Committee for eight of those years. He played a leadership role in legislation relating to workers compensation, medical malpractice and insurance, and comprehensive community and regional planning. In 2014, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed him to the Public Service Commission.
McCabe has received several professional honors and has served on numerous boards including the West Virginia Roundtable, the Nature Conservancy WV Board of Trustees and the visiting committee for West Virginia University’s library and history department. He has written several articles including “Charles Ward and the ‘James Rumsey’ Regional Innovation in the Steam Technology on the Western Rivers” (West Virginia History, 1978) and “Benjamin Harrison Smith, Land Titles and the West Virginia Constitution” (West Virginia History, A Journal of Regional Studies, 2012).
For additional information about the Archives and History lecture series, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
Patrons may park behind the Culture Center after 5:30 p.m. on June 7 and enter the building at the back loading dock area. The new bus turnaround is open, and handicapped spots are available there. Visitors parking there should enter at the front of the building.
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 www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.