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Roadside park to recall long-defunct Brooke County village of Power

BEECH BOTTOM — It was home to hundreds of people and a power plant that served more than 1 million customers, but little remains of the former Brooke County community of Power.

But former residents of Power and Beech Bottom officials have been working to change that, and on Aug. 15 a dedication will be held for a roadside park acknowledging the place it once occupied in the county and in local history.

Beech Bottom Mayor Becky Uhlly said the dedication will be held at 1 p.m. near the historical marker recently installed along state Route 2 just south of Mac Barnes Drive, the access road to the Brooke County Animal Shelter.

Uhlly said the sign has been posted, in cooperation with the West Virginia Division of Highways, at the former site of Wickham’s, a general store once frequented by hundreds of Power residents.

The community was named for a nearby power plant built in 1917 by the American Gas and Electrical System’s Central Power Co. and West Penn and Central Power Co. to serve 1.2 million customers in the Northern Panhandle, Western Pennsylvania and as far as Canton in Eastern Ohio.

Fueled by the nearby Windsor Coal Mine, it employed about 330 people, many of whom lived in houses the company built for them. Others traveled to work in a streetcar that passed through the community.

By the 1940s the community included a post office, community hall, restaurant and bowling alley.

But in 1973, the plant was closed, replaced by other facilities, and the community’s many structures were razed.

Assisting Beech Bottom officials with the dedication is guest speaker Jack Ernest, a retired Marine Corps sergeant and missionary to Vietnam who lived in Power.

Uhlly said establishment of the Power Memorial Park was a team effort between Beech Bottom Council and a small group of former Power residents calling themselves the People of the Village of Power.

Former residents Susan Cunningham, Diane Lamb and Ella Weaver organized solicitations for monetary donations for the park.

Their proceeds, funds from the Village of Beech Bottom and a donation from FirstEnergy are funding the park, which also will include two benches and a replica of the monument to local veterans that once stood in Power.

Uhlly said a bronze plaque at the center of the former brick monument was found by her cousin and former Beech Bottom Councilman, Don Hubbard, in the basement of his home.

She said it was discovered that the house’s former owner, Blanche Music, had salvaged it from the monument’s remains.

The mayor said a photo of Music and three other women at the monument was used to produce the replica.

Uhlly said a divider also has been created between the park and the highway to safely direct drivers to the site.

She said it will guide motorists into it from the south and out toward the north because of issues of visibility that otherwise would create a traffic hazard.

Uhlly said the park may not yet be completed as the People of the Village of Power hope to raise funds to light the park at night.

She noted the dedication falls close to the 103rd anniversary of the power plant’s completion on Aug. 19, 1917.

Uhlly added the park has been a few years in the making, with plans for it launched in 2017 at the same time village officials set about creating the Courtney Lambert Memorial Park near Beech Bottom’s north end.

She said a historical marker is on the way for that roadside park, which pays tribute to a young pilot who was killed while training for service in World War I at a private airfield that once existed near the site.

The airfield was established by Louis Bennett, a Weston native and student of Yale University, who intended to form a squadron to support the war effort in its early days.

Unable to secure support from the U.S. government, Bennett instead joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto, Ontario. Known as a flying ace, he was killed in aerial combat near Marquillies, France.

The Courtney Lambert Memorial Park also includes a display detailing the airfield’s history and a wooden bridge leading to the nearby Brooke County Pioneer Trail. Both were built by volunteers.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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