When originally formed from Ohio County, Va., the boundaries of Tyler County incorporated Pleasants County, Ritchie County, Doddridge County, and much of Wetzel County.
"When West Virginia became a state, part of the constitution stated that all county seats had to be within one day's horseback ride of all residents," explained Planning Commission Director Eric Peters. "They had to make smaller counties so that you could ride your horse to the courthouse in a day. That's why the counties were divided up as they were."
This information was shared when the Tyler County Planning Commission (TCPC) met with the public on Thursday in Sistersville's Gaslight Theater to discuss plans for Tyler County's upcoming bicentennial.
While the 200th anniversary occurs in December 2014, those present agreed that the celebrations should last all year, with a multitude of events not only commemorating the county's rich history but also welcoming community participation.
TCPC members present included Barb Vincent, Eric Peters, and Jim McMullen.
McMullen cited the recent year-long celebration by Hampshire County for its 250th anniversary.
"Different organizations in the county did something to highlight the anniversary," he said, encouraging various entities within Tyler County to participate in the same manner. "We as a planning body felt it was important to bring it to everybody's attention."
"We want everyone to take ownership of this and be a part of it," said Peters, asking that all organizations present make efforts to incorporate the 200th anniversary theme into their yearly events.
They discussed the possibility of holding a large celebration countywide on June 20, coinciding with West Virginia Day.
"If we choose to do that, we've got to get planning now," said Peters. "That's why we've called together these meetings."
Options listed for a June 20 celebration included: fireworks; cultural and historical displays; music acts; reenactors; areas designated to county organizations; and the appearance of local and state politicians.
Rev. Bill Dawson of the Sistersville First United Methodist Church suggested that the June 20 gathering take place at either the fairgrounds or Tyler Consolidated Middle/High School. He proposed doing something to unify the entire county.
"That's what was in my mind when we thought of this," said McMullen of having a unified celebration.
McMullen also said he would like to see the churches get involved in the year-round events.
Wells Inn owner Charles Winslow said he would be happy to include the bicentennial on any hotel advertisements. He also said he was planning more historical activities at the hotel, such as reenactors, and he would like to include the bicentennial in them.
Marble Festival Coordinator Jim King announced that this year's commemorative marble will depict an image of the Tyler County Courthouse.
"In everything that we do we're going to also mention that it's the 200th anniversary of Tyler County," he said, noting that it would be the 15th annual Sistersville Marble Festival.
He then showed a template for "Design Your Own Marble," a coloring contest which elementary school children participate in each year.
"This year's theme will be scenes from Tyler County, and those will hang in the windows of stores during the Marble Festival," he said.
Ann Winslow suggested taking measures to get the youth of Tyler County involved in planning and participating in bicentennial events.
Barb Vincent and Terry Wiley mentioned the possibility of handing out forms during the Christmas Parade to encourage suggestions. The suggestions could then be dropped off at a designated place.
Eric Peters explained that he would like a standard graphic element to be included in all of the events and advertising. He is also working on a standard motto for the celebration.
Sistersville Mayor Ann Doig said she had discovered old newspaper articles in City Hall and would enjoy going through them to see what interesting and historic events she could find.
Other ideas proposed at the meeting included: a time capsule; reenactors; postings of original maps; signs for the county line; banners sponsored by clubs and organizations; a contest for creating a county seal; a possible display of photo collections and billboards on the ends of the counties; use of the old streetcar line as a symbol for a unified county; and highlighting Tyler County residents, such as veterans, who led distinguished lives.
"Sounds like we've got plenty of ideas," said McMullen. "What we need to do is go back to our respective groups and talk it over and then come back together again at a later date."
The next meeting to generate ideas will occur in the Gaslight Theater on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m.
"The more the merrier," said McMullen of community participation.