Princeton Times

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February 8, 2013

Three Mercer residents join ranks of History Heroes

PRINCETON —  Whether they re-enact lessons from the past, keep historical documents safe or work to restore heritage landmarks, three Mercer County residents have earned their place among West Virginia’s History Heroes.

James Blaine Hypes, of Bluefield; Lois Miller, of Princeton; and Robert L. Neely, of Pipestem; are among the 48 History Hero honorees for 2013. As such, they will be recognized Feb. 21, during a presentation at the West Virginia Culture Center and during a session of the House of Delegates.

“It’s a really big deal,” Miller, who serves as the president of the Mercer County Historical Society, said Wednesday. “It’s a sign that we’re doing what we should be doing, and that’s preserving our history for our community today and in the future.”

According to information released by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, “West Virginia History Heroes are nominated by historical, genealogical, preservation, museum, patriotic or like organizations from across the state. The purpose of this annual award is to give state-level recognition to individuals chosen for dedicated service on behalf of an organization’s programs or for a recent significant contribution to state and local history through research, interpretation, publication or preservation. The West Virginia History Hero award is a one-time-only recognition.”

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Hypes has been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans since 2009, and he is the current commander of Camp 1694 — The Flat Top Copperheads. He also serves as the chairman of the committee to restore the iron fence around the Lee Tree site in Maywood, which is situated in Fayette County. Efforts are also under way to plant another tree where the original stood and was later cut down to provide souvenirs for members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

As the story goes, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee pitched his tent under a sugar maple located at the site in 1861. He also reportedly first spotted his horse, Traveler, at that Confederate headquarters.

In addition, as a Civil War re-enactor, Hypes has participated in dozens of re-enactments across the eastern United States. He is also a living history interpreter who makes presentations or civic, historical and school-related groups.

He was nominated by the Flat Top Copperheads.

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Miller has been president of the Mercer County Historical Society since 2005.

Miller propelled the initial establishment of the society’s museum and genealogy library, known locally as the History House, which opened in 2010. As its leader, she has proven creative at grant-writing and finding ways to finance Historical Society activities and projects.

In 2012, she oversaw the collection of recipes and publication of a MCHS cookbook, and the Historical Society organized and hosted the county’s first Mercer County Heritage Festival, attended by more than 2,000 people.

MCHS leaders describe her as a “history dynamo” who brings history to the average citizen in an entertaining environment.

She was nominated as a History Hero by the Mercer County Historical Society.

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Neely has been a member of the Sons of the American Revolution since 2010, and he currently serves with Hypes on the committee seeking to restore the iron fence around the Lee Tree at Maywood.

Neely has marked the grave of Confederate Pvt. Robert A Christian, of the 60th Virginia Infantry in Beckley.

Neely is also a Civil War re-enactor and living history interpreter who has participated in dozens of re-enactments throughout the eastern portion of the United States.

He was nominated as a History Hero by the Gen. Hugh Mercer Chapter of the National Society of Sons of the American Revolution.

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The History Heroes will be saluted at the state’s capitol during West Virginia History Day at the Legislature.

“West Virginia History Day at the Legislature was begun by the West Virginia Archives and History Commission in 1997 and is officially designated by the Commission as a special day to recognize the state’s rich and varied history,” according to a statement by West Virginia Archives and History Director Joseph Geiger Jr. “This annual event, during which groups from around the state provide history displays in the capitol, is now in its 17th year.”

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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