It's Happening: Celebrating USA and Almost Heaven

By Julie Perine on July 03, 2020 from It’s Happening via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Happy Birthday USA! 
 
It was 244 years ago when 13 American colonies were declared the United States, free and independent of British monarch. How thrilling that must have been. I wish our citizens could still feel that united spirit.
 
Hopefully, you will be celebrating this weekend; cooking out, swimming and perhaps catching a fireworks show. I love fireworks, which have been part of Independence Day festivities since the very first anniversary. It is said that John Adams, one of our nation’s founding fathers, hoped from the get-go that the 4th would be celebrated annually with illuminations. Thanks Mr. Adams!
 
Just last week, we noted the 159th birthday of our own state of West Virginia. It was in 1861, at the brink of the Civil War, when northwestern Virginia counties broke away from Virginia and became its own state.
 
Just eight years later, Michael Late Benedum was born in Bridgeport, West Virginia, a town that formerly was part of Virginia. Settlers first arrived in Bridgeport in the early 1770s, building a protective fort from the Indians and the town was named for the first bridge built across Simpson Creek. It was Joseph Ellis Johnson who initiated a charter for a new town to be built on his 15 acres. We officially become a town in 1816 and Johnson become governor of Virginia in 1852.
 
Benedum, who was celebrated annually for years through the Benedum Festival, went down in history as the greatest benefactor of our city. After earning money in the oil and gas business (in Pittsburgh), he financed many of our city icons, including Bridgeport United Methodist Church and Benedum Civic Center – crafted after and located at the site of the very home in which he was delivered by Dr. Michael Late.
We have so much rich history in our city and region; building blocks that have resulted in the beautiful place we call home.
 
A very patriotic city, nearby Grafton is home of Grafton National Cemetery and one of the first American cities to celebrate Memorial Day. The red, white and blue continues to be prominent in the former railroad town, where two other national holidays originated: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The International Mother’s Day Shrine, as well as the birthplace of founder Anna Jarvis, are among frequently visited landmarks. You might not know that the Anna Jarvis Birthplace is among longstanding support projects of our own GFWC Woman’s Club of Bridgeport.
 
Home of “Frontier Days,” Shinnston is where a man named Levi Shinn constructed a log home in 1778. Located on Route 19, that structure is the oldest standing one in NCWV. The Shinnston Historical Association takes care of the log home and opens it for tours. It was originally named Shinn’s Town, but changed through the years. When the town celebrated its 100th birthday in August of 1952, “Centennial Days” was born and continued through the years as “Frontier Days,” celebrating the past, present and future.
 
Nearby Clarksburg is known for its Italian culture and delectable foods. It is Clarksburg where immigrants of San Giovanni in Fiore settled, bringing those scrumptious culinary talents along. Famous pizza and pasta dishes are available throughout Bridgeport and Clarksburg. The latter city is home to the world-renowned West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival, typically held Labor Day weekend in the city’s downtown.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Italian Heritage Festival is a virtual one this year. Read about it HERE. Shinnston City Council voted to cancel this year’s Frontier Days event, but there may be a festival during the fall months.)



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