Tyler Native’s Legacy Honored
SISTERSVILLE – After reading a recent article in the Tyler Star News about a Civil War soldier and an early state leader, the state’s Division of Culture and History will be placing a special historical marker near the man’s grave.
A trio of local historians – Eli Henthorn, Richard Neff and Gene Bell – called attention to the final resting place of Col. Daniel Johnson, who is buried in a small cemetery by an abandoned church near Long Reach. His gravestone is not ostentatious, but simple particularly compared to the multi-ton monuments several yards away, but his legacy endures. This Tyler County native was present at the Wheeling Conventions that set in motion a break from Virginia and led to statehood.
Johnson joined the Union Army as a major in August 1862 and was promoted about a year later in July 1863. He fought in major battles during the Civil War and served as state Senate President.
Matthew McGrew is the coordinator for the Highway Historical Marker Program/Archives and History Section for the state Division of Culture and History. He said the DOCH is currently working to erect 160 new markers during the next two years that focus on the Civil War and West Virginia statehood. One of the markers will commemorate Johnson.
“I believe that it is vitally important to commemorate the individuals and events that have shaped our state’s history,” McGrew said. “Most people are familiar with the old axiom that ‘those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it, but I would offer that it is only through studying history that we can understand and contextualize the world in which we live.”
McGrew said it is important for present and future generations to connect with the state’s past.
“By promoting an understanding of our past through the brief vignettes that are highway historical markers, the State Archives hopes to foster a deeper appreciation of where we are today as a state,” he said. “The highway marker program is an excellent way to convey the rich heritage of West Virginia to both residents and out-of-state tourists alike. Additionally, many individuals and deeds that would otherwise be lost to history and popular memory are immortalized by these simple, yet poignant reminders of the past.”
The DOCH wants to speak to that trio Henthorn, Bell and Neff about where to place the marker.
“We are wanting to discuss the project with them and ensure that the marker is placed in a suitable location,” McGrew said.
Though the cemetery was covered in weeds and tall grass, that’s changed in recent weeks. As with the historical marker commemorating the Wells family along W.Va. 2 in Sistersville, Johnson’s marker must placed in a spot that commands attention, not weeds.
“We’ll need to find a place real close to the grave site where the brush won’t grow up, hurt the marker,” Bell said.
Henthorn said he was pleased Johnson will be given his due honor.
“I think it is a great idea that pays tribute to one of Tyler County’s prominent citizens who served his country and did a lot for our state. It definitely highlights a tumultuous period in this state and county’s history,” said Henthorn, 16, of Middlebourne, a student at West Virginia Northern Community College.
Neff added, “It’s amazing that its been more than a hundred years since Johnson’s death and nothing like this has not happened before. I’m am surprised.”
Bell said his former college roommate, Jim Cramblett, who is buried a few years back in the cemetery, had ties to the Johnson family. Certain that Cramblett, somewhere and somehow, may know the news about the marker, Bell said, “I’m sure Jim is clapping his hands in grave right now.”