West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  Justice Statement On Presidential Visit to West Virginia

Governor Jim Justice issued the following statement on Trump’s visit to the Boy Scout Jamboree:

“Having the President of the United States in West Virginia is a tremendous honor. A visit from Trump will be the cherry on top of this year’s successful Boy Scout Jamboree. A presidential visit will help showcase West Virginia to the world and demonstrates that Trump hasn’t forgotten about our state. I look forward to welcoming the President and celebrating the mission of the Boy Scouts.”

►  Trump to visit Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia

The Boy Scouts of America says Donald Trump will visit the 2017 National Scout Jamboree next week in West Virginia.

On Monday, Trump will become the eighth U.S. president to attend a Jamboree. More than 40,000 Scouts, their leaders and volunteers are at the 10-day event.

Details of the visit were not immediately available. The Boy Scouts says the event is not open to the public.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the Jamboree on Friday.

Presidents dating back to George H.W. Bush attended the Jamboree when it was previously held at a military base at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. President Barack Obama declined an invitation from the Scouts to address the 2010 Jamboree in Virginia and the 2013 Jamboree when it was held for the first time in West Virginia.

►  Mine company owned by West Virginia governor’s family cited

A West Virginia mine owned by the family of Governor Jim Justice has been cited for safety violations after a worker’s death at a coal preparation plant in February.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration says in a news release that two safety violations were issued to Southern Coal Corp. subsidiary Chestnut Land Holdings LLC in the accident that killed 43-year-old Jason Kenneth Matthews of Bluefield, Virginia.

MSHA says Matthews wasn’t using a safety harness when he fell almost 19 feet from the top of a plate press onto a conveyor belt.
MSHA says the company failed to ensure that harnesses are used when there is a danger of falling and failed to provide a safe means of access to work areas.

A message left with Southern Coal seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Friday.

►  Lewis Grand Jury Hands Down 47 Indictments

Forty-seven indictments were handed down last week by the Lewis County Grand Jury. Among those were Whitney Chipps, 27, of Clarksburg, who is accused of a DUI resulting in a death, and Ralph Lunsford, 38, of Alum Bridge, who is accused of domestic battery—third offense. Both Chipps and Lunsford will be arraigned July 27.

Twenty-four of the defendants were scheduled to be arraigned July 14, and two were arraigned Tuesday. Trial dates have been scheduled for between September 18 and September 29. Not guilty pleas were entered for all those who were arraigned.

Steven Hawkins, 35, of Jane Lew, has been indicted on one count of fleeing in a vehicle with reckless indifference, one count of daytime burglary, one count of conspiracy to commit daytime burglary, felonies, one count of petit larceny and one count of conspiracy to commit petit larceny, misdemeanors.

Danelle Hawkins, 34, of Jane Lew, was indicted on one count of daytime burglary, one count of conspiracy to commit daytime burglary, felonies, one count of petit larceny, and one county of conspiracy to commit petit larceny, misdemeanors.

Travis Wiseman, 23, of Clarksburg, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Heroin, felonies.

Alex Paul Jordan, 28, of Jane Lew, was indicted on one count of destruction of property, a felony, and one count of battery on a government representative, a misdemeanor.

Matthew Wayne Jones, 23, of Bridgeport, was indicted on one count of failure to meet an obligation to provide support to a minor, a felony.

Jason Collin Ancell, 27, of Clarksburg, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Tramadol, felonies.

Dennis Wayne Ratliff, 45, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Hydrocodone, felonies.

Lozaro Abraham Diaz-Manso, 27, of Hialeah, FL, was indicted on two counts of fraudulent use of an access device a felony, and two counts of forgery of credit card, a felony.

Chapin Lynn Richards, 20, of North Salem, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, a felony.

Roger Lee Rowan, 47, of Weston, was indicted on one count of driving while license revoked for DUI third offense, a felony, and one count of driving while license suspended second offense, a misdemeanor.

David Eugene Bishop Jr., 26, of Buckhannon, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, a felony.

Christopher Mark Moriarty, 24, of Buckhannon, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Oxycodone, a felony.

Tyler James Weaver, 28, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Ellen D. Stover Keesecker, 55, of Weston, was indicted on one count of financial exploitation of an elderly person, and 49 counts of fraudulent use of an access device, felonies.

Ronald Lee Winneberger, 26, of Buckhannon, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, and one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance methamphetamine, felonies.

David Lee Marple, 44, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Donald Lee Bowers, 40, of Jane Lew, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance Tramadol, a felony.

Bobby Ray Johnson, 27, of Buckhannon, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, a felony.

Stewart Allen Goodman, 43, of Jane Lew, was indicted on two counts of grand larceny felonies, one count of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, five counts of entry of building other than dwelling felonies, five counts of conspiracy to commit entry of building other than dwelling, all felonies, and one count of petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Charles Earl Baxter, 53, of Clarksburg, was indicted on one count of driving while license revoked for DUI third offense, a felony.

James Fredrick Jeffries, 24, of Stonewood, WV, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver methamphetamine, a felony.

Anthony Lee Mar II, 22, of Monticello, KY, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance Hydrocodone and one count of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, felonies.

Brian Keith Bevans, 28, of Weston, was indicted on one count of fleeing in a vehicle with reckless indifference a felony, one count of reckless driving a misdemeanor, one count of driving while license suspended first offense, and one count of assault on a government representative, misdemeanors.

Harry Lewis Butcher, 43, of Weston, was indicted on one count of manuracture of a controlled substance marijuana and one count of conspiracy to manuracture a controlled substance marijuana, felonies.

Brittany Jane Myers, 27, of Weston, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance methamphetamine, one count of manufacture of a controlled substance marijuana and one count of conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance marijuana, felonies.

Roger Lee Clem II, 29, of Weston, was indicted on tow counts of wanton endangerment involoving a firearm, felonies.

Tyler Chad Evans, 21, of Weston, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Xanax a felony.

Tiffany Lynn Crum, 27, of Weston, was indicted on one count of fraudulent use of an access device, a felony.

Mark Chauncey Hamrick, 26, of Weston, was indicted on one count of entering without breaking, one count of conspiracy to commit entering without breaking and one count grand larceny, felonies.

Tyler Jameson Weaver, 28, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Michael Chad Jordan, 41, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of making terroristic threats, a felony.

Christopher Robin Peters, 35, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Timothy J. Wilt, 26, of Weston, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, a felony.

Ann Marie Thomas, 44, of Mount Clare, was indicted on 17 counts of fraudulent use of an access device, one count of nighttime burglary, all felonies, two counts of petit larceny, and one count of making false statements to officer, all misdemeanors.

Jesse Lee Barnett,74, of Buckhannon, was indicted on one count of obtaining money by false pretenses, a felony.

Adam Kyle McCourt, 33, of Webster Springs, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, and one count of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine within 1,000 feet of a school, felonies.

Zachery C. McKisic, 30, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Heroin, felonies.

Tristan L. Runner, 21, of French Creek, was indicted on one count of grand larceny and one count of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, both felonies.

Jeremy Denver Wagoner, 23, of Buckhannon, was indicted on one count of grand larceny and once count of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, felonies.

Samuel W. Grogg, 53, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance—marijuana, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, felonies.

Robert Lew Stout, 35 of Weston, was indicted on one count of domestic assault—third offense, a felony.

Roy Allen Larew, 62, of Thornton, WV, was indicted on one count of grand larceny, a felony.

Byron Lynn Spiker, 33, of 26 counts of forgery, 21 counts of uttering, and one count of taking the identity of another, all felonies.

Brent Ashley Satterfield, 28, of Weston, was indicted on one count of child neglect creating risk of injury, a felony.

Timothy Edward Berg, 54, of Jane Lew, was indicted on delivery of a controlled substance —methamphetamine,one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Hydrocodone, one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Oxycodone, one count possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver methamphetamine, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Clonazepam, all felonies.

Robert Joseph Hines, 26, of Weston, was indicted on one count of entering without breaking, one count conspiracy to commit entering without breaking, and one count of grand larceny, all felonies.

►  Man re-enacts 17th-century journey through Kanawha Valley

When he left Fort Henry near present-day Petersburg, Virginia, in May of 1673, Gabriel Arthur, believed to be the first European to lay eyes on the Kanawha Valley, had no inkling that he would soon become the most-traveled frontiersman of his time.

But during the year that followed, Arthur would travel with native people, either as a guest or a hostage, west to Tennessee, southwest to the Gulf Coast and northwest to the Ohio River Valley, making a layover to, among other things, swim and bathe in the Kanawha River with residents of a large Moneton Indian village before returning to Fort Henry on June 18, 1674.

The young Englishman arrived in colonial Virginia as an indentured servant to Abraham Wood, the region’s most successful fur trader and the commandant of Fort Henry, built in 1645 near the Falls of the Appomattox River. In addition to protecting nearby colonists, the fort was a trading post serving the needs of both settlers in the lowlands east of the fort and American Indians living in the foothills and mountains to the west.

Wood had assigned Arthur to accompany and assist James Needham, a business associate, in a bid to interest native people living west of the Occaneechi people — who then occupied portions of the Piedmont region of present-day Virginia and North Carolina — in dealing directly with Wood instead of using the Occaneechi as middlemen, as other tribes in the region had opted to do, during a blossoming beaver pelt trade. It was apparently Arthur’s first extended trip into the frontier beyond the fort.

“For me, Gabriel Arthur was a fascinating person to read about,” said Doug Wood, who recently added the 17th Century, English-born colonist to his repertoire of historic characters with ties to Appalachia that he portrays in living history presentations.

“He was young, illiterate and unfamiliar with the frontier, yet in one year, he managed to travel through 1,200 to 1,500 miles of it, learn the ways of the American Indians he met and get three nations of western Indians to take their beaver skins to his boss,” Wood said.

Last Week, Doug Wood portrayed Arthur in a living history presentation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s “History Wednesday” series, in his hometown of St. Albans, a locale Arthur may well have visited in 1674.

Since Arthur could not read or write, the only account of his far-ranging journey was a letter Abraham Wood wrote to financial backer John Richards in London shortly after Arthur returned to the fort and provided his employer a verbal recounting of the expedition’s major events. Arthur’s return was a surprise, since Abraham Wood had received word several months earlier that both Needham and Arthur had been killed by Indians.

“My poore man, Gabriell Arthur, all this time ecaptivated,” Abraham Wood wrote to Richards. “All this time in a strange land where never English man before had set foot, in all likelihood either slaine or att least never likely to return to see ye face of an English man, yet by great providence and God allmighty, still survives.”

According to Arthur’s account as told to Abraham Wood and forwarded to Richards, after a false start in April, Needham and Arthur began their journey on May 17, accompanied by an Appomattoc Indian guide and seven native porters. Four pack horses carried three months of provisions for a journey that would end up lasting a year.

After traveling more than 30 days, with stops at villages previously visited by Needham in what is now southern Virginia and northern North Carolina, the party met up with a group of Tomahitans, who lived in the mountains to the west. The Tomahitans agreed to guide Arthur and Needham to their settlement, but not until a delegation of 11 members of their tribe traveled back to Fort Henry with a letter of introduction from Needham to meet with Wood, view his trade goods and learn his trade policies.

When the delegation returned, satisfied with what they learned, the group set a westward course, crossed the Blue Ridge and traveled another 24 days through the mountains and valleys of North Carolina before reaching Tomahitan Town, most likely located along a river in eastern Tennessee, according to Doug Wood’s research of the journey.

The Tomahitan villagers “were very kindly entertained” by their European visitors and their sole surviving horse, Abraham Wood wrote in his letter to Richards. “A stake was sett up in ye middle of ye towne to fasten ye horse to and an aboundance of corne and all manner of pulse with fish, flesh and beares oyle for ye horse to feed upon” was provided by the villagers. A scaffold was erected nearby for Needham, Arthur and their Appomattoc guide to sleep on, allowing “theire people to stand and gaze at them and not offend them by their throng.”

Sometime during his nine days of rest at the village, Needham gave Arthur the assignment of staying with the Tomahitans until he returned the following spring, to learn the tribe’s customs and the basics of their language. The young Englishman’s reaction to the assignment is not known.

Unknown to Arthur at the time, Needham was killed by an Occaneechi guide on the way back to Fort Henry. The Tomahitans, allies of the Occaneechi, became convinced that retaliation would follow from Wood and the militia in his command.

In a panic, villagers tied Arthur to a stake, piled a mound of dried cane around him, and were preparing to set it on fire when the king of the Tomahitans arrived on the scene, shot one of the would-be executioners with a Spanish-made musket, and freed Arthur. Arthur spent the next several months at his benefactor’s side, doing what he later told Wood the tribe mainly did for a living: “to forage, robb and spoyle other nations.”

The Tomahitan king told Arthur he would personally take him back to Fort Henry the following spring, but only if he obeyed his commands, one of the first of which was to join a 50-man raiding party headed for a Spanish settlement in western Florida, where they ambushed, killed and stole a musket, pistol and sword from a Spanish soldier on the outskirts of the town. Two gold coins and a cold chain found on the soldier were given to Arthur, which he ended up losing, Wood felt compelled to note in his letter to Richards.

The next raiding party Arthur accompanied involved the looting of an Indian village near Port Royal, South Carolina, where the Tomahitans “made a very great slaughter” of the settlement’s occupants.

In 1674, Arthur joined 60 Tomahitans in a 10-day northern journey to the Kanawha River to pay a call on one of the tribe’s allies, the Monetons, who lived in “a great towne which a great number of Indians belong to” that was “situated upon a very great river.”

“The Moneton town Arthur visited could have been the one here in St. Albans, but it is more likely to have been the town site at Buffalo, since it’s on the side of the river that matches Arthur’s description,” Doug Wood said. Both towns meet the general location of the settlement cited by Arthur — about one day’s walk upstream from the point where a large, northwest-flowing river flows into an even larger river flowing to the west.

The Tomahitan king had one more combat mission for Arthur before escorting him back to Fort Henry: An attack on one of several tribes hostile to the Tomahitans who lived along a stretch of land south of the Ohio River in present-day Kentucky.

During that attack, one arrow pierced Arthur’s thigh and a second arrow may have struck his hand. Unable to flee the battlefield due to his leg wound, Arthur was captured. Arthur’s exceptionally long hair made it obvious to his captors that he was not a Tomahitan, who favored a close-cropped look. After scrubbing their captive’s skin with water and ashes, they also discovered that Arthur was white, a fact they “made very much of” before returning his weapons and preparing him a meal of roast beaver.

By using signs, Arthur informed his former captors that a great deal of value could be added to the beaver they killed by removing their pelts prior to cooking, explaining that good pelts could buy them guns, knives, hatchets and cookware from his boss, if he was able to get back to Fort Henry and make trade arrangements. Arthur was taken to a trail leading back to Tomahitan Town and sent on his way.

After accompanying the Tomahitans on a final hunting expedition to the south, where the party killed and barbecued bears, beaver and sturgeon, Arthur was sent on his way back to Fort Henry, where he arrived on June 18, 1674.

“No one really knows what became of him after that,” said Doug Wood.

Two years prior to Arthur’s journey, Abraham Wood financed an expedition by Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam to find an overland route to the Pacific Ocean, then believed to lie only a few hundred miles west of the Alleghenies. The two explorers did come across the New River and followed it to a point believed to be just across the border from Virginia in present-day West Virginia, making them the first Europeans to set foot in the state.

►  Day trips around West Virginia keep life interesting

From mountains and rivers to downtown shopping and history, West Virginia has a lot to offer those who live here and those who come to visit. And throughout the state, there are myriad options for day trips.

Some areas are filled with history, while others are made for adventure. There are places people can enjoy without spending a penny and areas where people can pay for a full day of activities. There is always something for someone to do in the Mountain State, even if he or she has to look high or low for it.

The Bridge Walk in Fayetteville offers visitors a unique perspective of the New River Gorge Bridge. The Bridge Walk gives people the chance to access the catwalk underneath the structure.

Benjy Simpson, managing member of the Bridge Walk, said it’s such a unique experience because there are very few opportunities like it around the world.

“We have been in business six years and have seen over 34,000 people,” he said. “People have visited from all 50 states and from 62 different countries.”

The walk is open for all ages and abilities, Simpson said. When the catwalk was designed, it was done in such a fashion as to be able to accommodate all kinds of things.

“The bridge was designed so people can go in a wheelchair if they need to. There are no steps, no stairs and some little hills to get to and from the bridge,” he said. “We’ve had blind and deaf people as well. It’s amazing to see how well they can hear and compensate for the loss of sight.”

One of the great things about the Bridge Walk is that people can proceed at their own pace, Simpson said. Groups are welcome to come out and spend their time taking in the views and enjoying the high-level walk.

“The bridge is six-tenths of a mile and we do self-guided tours. We have the longest continuous safety system in the world, so once you’re clipped in, you don’t unclip until you get to the other side,” he said.

People are able to get a 360-degree, panoramic view, Simpson said. They are happy to take photos of guests while they are on the catwalk to keep as memories.

“We like to share the different facts about the bridge, the history, tell them about all the things they can see,” he said. “We run every day of the year that we can. High wind prevents the tour, and high snow and ice when we can’t get to the bridge.”

At the middle of the catwalk, visitors are 851 feet above the New River, Simpson said. The view of rafters and kayakers is one people won’t be able to find anywhere else. People are able to sit on the catwalk and watch them from above.

“Some people come even with a fear of heights. So far we’ve had 122 people back out and not finish, and that’s OK,” he said. “Heights are a real fear for some people, but we work with them and get them across.”

Simpson said tours can range from one to two people up to groups of 20. It’s important to keep the groups smaller so they can hear all the information about the walk and have the opportunity to proceed at their own pace.

“We have the ability to discuss with people what they want to hear while they are out there or we could just take them out and not say anything,” he said. “We have had the same price since day one and we’ve tried our best to not raise it.”

At the Bridge Walk, officials do full moon tours, Easter Sunday sunrise walks, as well as celebrations for Bridge Day, West Virginia’s birthday and the upcoming solar eclipse.

The Centre Market in Wheeling offers the option of shopping and eating while also getting to learn some history. Kurt Zende, manager, said the center of the market is made up of two historic market houses that are owned by the city.

“Inside the houses are 10 different businesses that include art galleries, eateries, an ice cream store, pie place and a bakery,” he said. “Outside there are roughly 25 other businesses that range from antique shops to wine shops to gift shops.”

Zende said it’s easy for people to spend their entire day at the Centre Market because there is so much to see.

“This is just a quaint little area. It can be nostalgic for a lot of people because you have that experience of shopping in an open area downtown,” he said. “Along with that, the sights are just aesthetically pleasing as well.”

During the summer months, the market picks up and there are more things to do. Every first and third Friday from June to September, Zende said Centre Market host street parties.

“We have local and regional bands come in, the eateries cater out onto the street and bands play from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., ” he said. “The street is closed off and the bands play. People are welcome to enjoy spending time with friends, food and beverages.”

Businesses throughout Centre Market hold different events throughout the year such as wine tastings and different types of gatherings, Zende said.

The market is a great place to spend a day with the family or a group of friends while enjoying food and history.

For something a little more out of the ordinary, ACE Adventure Resort in Minden, Fayette County, offers the Wonderland Water Park that features inflatables on a 5-acre lake.

Although the park has been on the lake for some time and open to the public, it wasn’t always marketed, said Heidi Prior, the resort’s former marketing director.

“The water park really took off two summers ago, and we were blown away by the response,” she said.

Money received was put back into the park in the way of 40 new inflatable toys and two more water slides, Prior said.

The Blob is one of the most popular activities on the lake next to the water slide and zip-line that enters the water, Prior said. The Blob is a giant inflatable that launches one person into the air when another person jumps on the opposite end.

“Sometimes we hold Blob competitions to see who can go the farthest and people really seem to enjoy that,” she said.

The park also offers a pizza and grill area, as well as an outdoor bar that overlooks the lake, Prior said. The two wood-fired brick ovens are actually run on wood that is harvested and cut on the 1,500 acre base.

“Although people can make reservations, people are more than welcome to just walk up to the park,” she said. “We have full- and half-day passes, as well as special rates if people participate in one of the guided activities we offer.”

Wonderland Water Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Half-day passes can be purchased for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 3 to 8 p.m. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free with each adult full-price pass.

“One good thing about the water park is most people who come are from West Virginia. It’s exciting that this water park is really hitting it off with them,” Prior said.

There are also two different season passes available as well. The weekday season pass is Sunday through Friday, excluding Saturdays and holidays. The Unlimited Pass includes all days, as well as Saturdays and holidays.

Other activities are also included in park passes, such as a climbing wall, volleyball courts, a giant chess board and a bungee trampoline where kids can get strapped in and jump.

For more information about ACE Adventure Resort and the water park, visit

Quilt trails are another unique feature that can be found, especially in the southern part of the state. Mason County was the first in the state to have a quilt trail, according to Denny Bellamy, Mason County Convention and Visitors Bureau director.

“People are able to come here, pick up a map, and head on their way. There is so much more than just seeing the quilts on the trail,” he said. “There are all sorts of different things to see from the West Virginia State Farm Museum to the Amish country in our county.”

The quilts that are placed on barns are usually 8-by-8 or 6-by-6-foot squares with some sort of quilt pattern, Bellamy said. When those who have the quilts have them up, it’s an invitation for people to come on their property.

“This invitation allows people to visit with the farmers and quilters, and they love it,” he said. “This is a really neat way to see rural Mason County. We do have Amish in the interior of our county, and they are the real thing.”

The Quilt Trail also connects to other counties, Bellamy said. The trail offers visitors a unique look into different areas of the county that they might not otherwise see.

“This is one way to control where tourists go and we don’t want them to stop exploring,” he said. “We want them to keep on going, there’s always another quilt square going into the next county.”

The Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory is hidden off in Monroe County between Gap Mills and Waiteville. It’s located off the Allegheny Trail and is about a mile hike, said Rodney Davis, volunteer birder.

“We have visitors year round. In the summer we have anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 people a month just to come up for the view,” he said. “In the fall, we start around September 1 for our fall raptor count.”

Davis said there are a group of volunteers who count the migrating hawks, eagles and falcons. People are able to see anywhere from 4,500 to 6,000 migrant birds every year.

“Our vantage point is such that you get an excellent view of the birds. They are above us, around us and even below,” he said. “Sometimes we have eagles at eye level, and it’s very impressive.”

Davis said visitors are able to see about 40 miles on a clear day. The observatory is located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

Davis mentioned that people are able to even just hike up around the observatory and have a picnic if they like. Those interested in visiting don’t even have to know about birds.

“We encourage people to come out no matter what their experience with birds is,” he said. “They can help call our attention to birds because they can be anywhere. Everyone who goes regardless of their bird expertise can participate. We are always looking for people to help us count and watch for the birds.”

►  West Virginia firm gets paid after kickback scheme charges

State records show a company charged in a West Virginia highways kickback scheme continues to receive state payments on a traffic signal-repair contract.

Bayliss and Ramey has received nearly $800,000 since December.

The company was charged last year with conspiring to commit wire fraud. It agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and adopt measures to prevent fraud. In return, prosecutors plan to drop charges after 18 months.

Firm owner Mark R. Whitt awaits sentencing this month on a wire fraud charge.

Acting state Purchasing Director Mike Sheets says the agency usually waits until after sentencing to ban a company from doing business in the state.

Federal prosecutors allege Whitt and three others illegally diverted about $1.5 million worth of Division of Highways projects to South Carolina engineering consulting firm Dennis Corp.

►  West Virginia sends crew of 20 to fight Rockies wildfires

The West Virginia Division of Forestry has sent a 20-person crew to help fight wildfires in the Rocky Mountains.

The group of 14 state foresters and six volunteer firefighters departed from the Charleston Division of Forestry office on Saturday morning.

They headed to a rendezvous point in Pennsylvania to join crews from several other states before they all fly to Colorado.

►  Harpers Ferry father runs marathons for two

Jake Hall runs every chance he can. He runs four or five times a week around town, notching about 45 miles a week during the past two years.

Lean and muscle-toned from the disciplined mileage, he also laces up for competitive races now, mostly marathons and half marathons, enjoying the physical and mental release, as well as the fresh air that fills his lungs along the way.

But Hall’s main endorphin rush doesn’t come from a steady pace of footsteps. His motivation is more than physical. Because everywhere Hall runs, he’s never alone. When he runs, he always runs for two. His 6-year-old son Thad leads the way, rolling along out front in a jogging stroller, an indispensable part of the athletic duo and with every step its inspiration.

Hall, a 32-year-old Harpers Ferry resident, is a wheelchair push-team runner with little Thad, known as Thaddeus, too. Wheelchair push-teams are a small but growing athletic phenomenon of running partners, where one enabled runner provides the kinetic power for a disabled comrade. But both runners compete as one.

For push-team Hall, the story involves a strong father propelled by the love of his little boy.

“Personally, running is a way for me to connect with Thad,” Hall said. “There is nothing else I can do to connect with him this way. Sure, I can hold him. He likes getting into a swimming pool — things like that. But this is me and him. I love it. He loves it. It’s father-son time.”

Thad was born with a mysterious, extremely rare genetic condition that has only recently been identified. Hall said his son is one of six or seven children in the world known to have the condition, which is so recently discovered that is doesn’t yet have a name.

“When Thad was born, everything for him initially looked healthy and normal. Everything looked great,” Hall recalled. “Then within a few weeks, the doctors were concerned. He wasn’t responding as they would expect. Then he never hit the developmental milestones of talking, moving for a child his age.”

Then a steady physical decline appeared. By four months of age, Thad began having seizures on a daily basis that have progressively weakened him. By his first birthday, the boy lost his ability to eat, prompting doctors to give him a permanent feeding tube. Over the last six years, Thad gradually lost his ability to move his arms and legs as the seizures continued. His immune system also weakened, bringing on numerous life-threatening bouts of pneumonia and intensive-care vigils.

“Thaddeus typically has rough mornings,” Hall said. “Typically waking up is a challenge. A lot of seizures.”

The routine of Thad’s daily care is systematic and time consuming — and stressful, Hall admits. His boy undergoes daily respiratory therapy. He wears braces on his ankles and hands for support. A therapist comes to the Halls’ home four times a week to provide physical and speech therapy. Waking up, just like changing and bathing, follows a particular process. Thad’s lack of muscle control makes it difficult for him to cough, so a simple cold would be dangerous.

“Some days are just plain hard,” Hall openly acknowledges what becomes apparent after a few minutes of conversation. But those hard days are when the father and son’s team running offers the most relief, and sometimes even crystal-clear moments of joy.

“Our running story together didn’t start until last year,” the father offered. “It’s been a long journey trying to figure out how to give Thad experiences that he can’t have for himself.”

The boy enjoys dips in the pool and therapeutic horseback riding. Hall suspended bungee cords from the ceiling of their living room that attached to Thad’s wrists, which lets his hands and body float in a way that offers him different ways to sit, stand and move — a sense of physical freedom.

But the boy lights up when it’s a day he’s feeling well and simply running with his dad.

“Caring for Thad is stressful — emotionally draining,” Hall said. “To be able to get out there and run and bring him with me so my wife gets a break and Thaddeus gets a break, too, from just being inside all day.”

Thad’s mind, as far as his parents and doctors can tell, functions as well as any boy his age, Hall said. Though Thad can’t communicate with words, he is always present and observing, the father said. His son’s eyes constantly scan the world around him from whatever vantage point his wheelchair provides.

“It means the world to walk in the door and his eyes move toward you when he hears your voice,” Hall said. “He’ll try to pick up his head and look at you. That’s fantastic.”

What Thad conveys through nuanced expressions confirms an array of emotions and moods that anyone feels, Hall said.

“Thaddeus loves being around kids,” he said. “If kids are around and they’re having a great time, he just looks happy being in the same room.”

“Thaddeus loves lights, so if we go somewhere he will just stare at lights,” he continued. “We have Christmas lights in our house year-round.”

Through the challenges and hassles of Thad’s medical condition, Hall remains a steadfastly grateful and proud father.

“Obviously, he’s my boy,” he said, straightening up slightly at the opportunity to describe his son.

Thad is a “pretty chill kid,” Hall said. The boy really enjoys being around people. He loves his family. He just rolls with whatever they’re doing.

“It doesn’t matter if he’s in a hospital hooked up to IVs and monitors and he’s sick,” Hall said. “He’s so peaceful.”

In this way, his little boy with the roving gaze, Hall said, is as much a teacher as a joy to behold.

“I can look at my life and go like, ‘Wow, it’s hard because of X, Y and Z.’ Thaddeus doesn’t have the ability to do a lot of things that I enjoy,” Hall said reflectively. “He may never. And yet he can find contentment. I guess that’s the word I’m going for, contentment.”

“It’s so refreshing in our culture, which is so fast-paced — a lot of image management, a lot of going on to the next and the next and the next,” Hall continued. “Thad is just happy to be right here.”


Sporting a summer-styled military crew cut topped with a slight mohawk bouffant, Hall is soft-spoken but as wide-eyed and sharply observant as his little boy.

Hall grew up on the central-coast of California, and his wife grew up mostly in Akron, Ohio. The couple met at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, in neighboring Loudoun County, where they also attended the same church. They got married a year after they both graduated college. They first settled down in Leesburg before moving to Jefferson County and Harpers Ferry to acquire a single-level home that would accommodate the full use of Thad’s wheelchair.

“We just knew we wouldn’t be able to pick him up and walk down stairs easily,” Hall said.

His wife Rebekah is a full-time homemaker — “working evenings, weekends and days” — for Hall, Thad and the couple’s healthy and active 8-year-old daughter Magnolia. Hall works as a computer systems administrator for a nonprofit, Care Net, a Christian-based pregnancy counseling organization in Landsdowne, Virginia. He can telecommute from home several days a week, which allows him to help tend to Thad more often than if he had to commute to an office every day.

“I can take care of him, or help my wife take care of him,” Hall said. “We tag team.”

Hall says his family found more than a home, but a generous welcome in Jefferson County. Everyone has been friendly, helpful and encouraging, from neighbors to a coterie of local runners.

“The school system has been fantastic to work with Thad in the home,” he said.

Connecting with the nonprofit organization Horses with Hearts in Martinsburg, which offers a physical and emotional therapeutic horse riding program for disabled people, veterans and seniors, has been a marvelous opportunity for Thad and Hall’s family.

People in the county just don’t say they want to help, they really want to and they do, Hall said.

“We didn’t expect it to be this good,” he said of his family’s landing in Jefferson County. “This is the most it’s felt like home just because people seem to slow down and care about each other.”

Extending a “big thank you,” Hall also said he appreciates the support he has received, including a fundraiser from the Harpers Ferry community and significant discounts on running shoes he received from Harpers Ferry Outfitters in Harpers Ferry and Two Rivers Treads in Ranson.

Hall said he appreciates working for an organization that is so understanding and helpful.

“They’ve been a big part of our story as well with their support,” he said of his workplace. “Coworkers always love to hear about our running. My supervisor has been very flexible and really understanding.”

Hall and his family worship at a Christian church in Frederick, Maryland, a community he also credits with providing his family with an outpouring of support. His faith has given him patience, he said, to each day face the time-consuming challenges of Thad’s medical condition and the profound questions that come with them.

“You know my hope is not that doctors will find a cure. I would love that, absolutely,” Hall said. “But my hope is that one day Thaddeus is going to run around. It could be here and we get to see it, maybe not. But there’s a much bigger story than the day to day.”

A tattoo on Hall’s forearm shows an image of a wheelchair and a running figure. It includes the words “Morn Shall Tearless Be” from a favorite hymn.

“One day it’s going to make sense,” he explained the inscription.

“The Bible talks about every tear being wiped away,” he reflected. “And to me that means even if I don’t have all the answers, one day I will be able to say, ‘That makes sense.’ There’s a perspective here that I don’t have. I’m like a little kid asking his dad for something, and his dad is like, ‘You know what, you just don’t understand, but I do and it’s going to work out.’”


As a senior in high school, Hall’s first experience running was during two-mile warm ups while playing on his school’s soccer team. He enjoyed “slow and steady” longer-distance running as much or more than soccer, discovering a particular kind of fitness and clarity of mind through running. Occasionally, Hall ran three to five miles casually while in college and after college.

Push teams are starting to appear in footraces across the country, but still many running events don’t recognize or understand these teams enough to include them, Hall said. Fortunately, he said, the Freedom’s Run marathon and half marathon that take place in Jefferson County each spring and autumn allow him and Thad to participate. In fact, the race organizers, led by Jefferson County family physician Mark Cucuzzella, encouraged them on, giving the father-son team their first opportunity to run in a long-competition last spring.

However, Hall’s first introduction to push-team running came through the story he discovered before he had his son and daughter. The story is about a father-son push team from the Boston area.

“Team Hoyt,” involved Dick Hoyt, a father who started running races in 1977 with his son, Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy in a custom-made running chair. Rick, like Thad, could not speak but, unlike Thad, he could communicate through an interactive speech-enabled computer.

Over the past 40 years, the Hoyts competed in more than 1,000 races together, including marathon footraces as well as grueling triathlons that combine long-distance running, bicycling and swimming challenges into a single race. The Hoyts, who more famously biked and ran the 3,735 miles across the country in 1992, still occasionally compete in marathons today.

“I just thought that is fantastic,” Hall said recalling the first time he learned about the Hoyts through a YouTube video while he was in college. “I loved it.”

But just as inspiring for Hall, beyond how the Hoyts competed in so many races for so many years, was the first five-mile footrace the Hoyts entered together.

“Came in second to last,” Hall recalled. “He was not in great shape, but afterwards his son said, ‘When we run together I don’t feel disabled.’ And that was just a huge light bulb that went off for (Dick Hoyt) that he needed to do this-big time.”

Years later, Hall’s memory of the Hoyts — and what they accomplished with no athletic experience or training — would flash in his head after Thad was born.

In remembering the Hoyts, Hall, who at the time had only walked and jogged informally with Thad at first, never expected or even wanted to become part of an athletic dynamo performing inspirational feats. But in the back of his mind he thought he could draw on their example to start an adventure with Thad. With steady effort one simple step at a time, he could see what happens, he said. The possibility was what mattered, and that idea lingered.

But other people and events would help steer and encourage Hall and Thad toward push-team marathon running.

One day unexpectedly Hall’s mother mentioned the idea of running a marathon with Thad. She saw how Hall enjoyed walking and jogging with Thad. But the idea of marathon running was “crazy” to Hall — too extreme.

“Three to five miles and I’m done,” he said of his running ability and perspective at the time. “So there’s no way, and I’ve never pushed Thad.”

Later on, for his fifth birthday, Thad received some cash, however. And Hall found himself researching another jogging stroller purchase for his growing son. The stroller he eventually purchased has three wheels, safety straps and room for Thad to grow.

Then last year one spring morning Hall attended the opening reception for the Guide Shack Cafe, an eclectic coffee bistro, eatery and informal hang out place in Harpers Ferry, just down the street from Hall’s home. There he first met and talked with Chris Price, the cafe’s owner, and the two men became fast friends.

An intense Air Force military veteran, Price learned about Thad, and Hall learned about Price’s nephew with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair like Thad does.

“He looked me dead in the eye and said, ’Jake, we need to push these boys through a marathon,’” Hall said of the conversation with Price. “That’s just the way Chris is, right. He’s going to take it all the way.”

Soon after, Hall started researching marathon races and making phone calls to them. He found little awareness or flexibility for push-team runners from the various races he contacted. Some marathon races have rules against running strollers fearing possible liability if another runner were to trip or stumble over a stroller. The terms buried in insurance policies for marathons can also essentially block bar push teams from participating in many events.

By last May, Hall still could not find a race to run in as a push team with Thad. He mentioned this to Price, who knew that the Freedom’s Run half marathon race was the next day, and that he knew Cucuzzella, another Air Force veteran.

At the time, the longest stretch Hall had run alone was about eight miles, nothing close to the 13 miles of a half marathon. He had never run more than two miles while pushing Thad. But by then the short runs Thad experienced with his father were transforming for the child.

“He loved it,” Hall said of his son. “He loved being outside.”

Explaining his situation to the Freedom’s Run coordinators, Hall received immediate approval to participate in the half marathon. Moreover, the race coordinators gave him a free registration. Don’t worry about anything, we support what you’re doing, go for it, Hall was told.

“Here’s your tags. Here’s your T-shirts,” he remembers hearing. “Just show up and run.”

Price went along during that first half marathon and helped Hall with stairs and other obstacles a push team would encounter along the race route. He said he “crumpled” in pain with cramps during the race a few times. “But it was fantastic,” he said.

“We ran two and a half hours — not a single seizure” shook Thad, Hall recalled. “He just loved it. He looked happy. People were cheering. It was a beautiful day. We had a fantastic time.”

The father-son team also completed all 13 miles of the race, their first half marathon. And since then they have completed a full marathon and a half marathon, with hopes of finishing the Freedom’s Run marathon this fall.


Asked to share any of his perspective for people who also have a child with a disability, Hall said try running perhaps or try something else that feels bold and even out of reach.

“Give it a try,” he said.

Those families would probably be amazed at the number of new friends who suddenly show up in their lives, Hall said, who are eager to help — perhaps offering a gift of their time, their knowledge or their donation — any way they can.

“I’m not some all-star runner who just had a disabled kid and ran with him,” he pointed out. “Running this far is new, with the last year and a half.”

His push team running started with a goal, suggested by others, and it came about only a step at a time.

Hall would like to form a local running club for push-team runners. He already runs casually with a few friends on Saturday mornings. They meet up at the Guide Shack Cafe.

For people without a child with a disability, Hall just offered a thank you. So many people who have encountered him running with Thad have offered simple, spare words of encouragement that mean so much, he said.

Usually in races but elsewhere, too, people have mentioned how Thad looks so happy when they’re running together. Others have shared a similar love for a family member or friend with a disability, too. Some have simply called Hall an awesome dad.

“Those little comments — they mean the world to us,” Hall said, speaking for himself and his son. Of course, he doesn’t think he’s the best dad in the world, he added. But a little bit of encouragement has often been the most memorable part of more than a few challenging days.

“I’ve never felt when I’m at these races or running around town that I’m in the way,” he said. “People have never treated us like we’re somehow an obstacle to their progress or their race time. They’re always just encouraging. That’s fantastic.”

More and more, when he and Thad complete any run, whether it involves training or a formal race, Hall said he appreciates each experience as a gift to be thankful for and delight in. Sometimes the run goes smoothly. Or sometimes Thad might be having seizures and he’s uncomfortable. But every day is still a gift.

With four major races under his belt so far, Hall’s long-term goal is simply to keep running local races with Thad as long as possible.

“I would like to be able to do the Freedom’s Run marathon every year until I’m an old dude,” he said. “I think that would just be so cool.”

Once again Hall thinks about Dick Hoyt, who continued pushing his son in Boston marathons until he was 72.

“So if we go that long,” he said with a laugh, “I’ve got 40 years.”

Thanks to the Editor for posting the Lewis County indictments.  It’s good to see what’s going on locally and I’m glad the names are being posted.  Keep up the good work!

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